Saturday, January 19, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 3

The new year is firmly underway as the news cycles whirl about and headlines are plentiful.

Most of the stories this week were not about potential challengers but about the incumbent in the White House and the continuing government shutdown that has him at loggerheads with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

While polls are showing that the public might not yet  be feeling too much pain as a whole from the shutdown, most have placed blame with Donald Trump and Republicans. The President and the Speaker also engaged in a demonstration of power politics this past week, which many may describe as childish.

First Pelosi sent a letter which in effect dis-invited Trump from delivering the annual State of the Union Address later this month. It was claimed that the shutdown and the resulting lack of paychecks for Secret Service, etc, would make it too difficult to secure the House chamber for the big event where the federal government (minus the infamous "lone survivor") is all theoretically together in one place. Claiming it was all or mostly about security concerns was probably a bit disingenuous by Pelosi. She simply did not want to give him the prime time exposure at this time. I can also envision people aligned with Trump if the event was not postponed asking for it to be so because of security and how "dangerous" it would be for Trump to be in a room with all those leftists, (including some Muslim Democrats in Congress.) Not many people outside of political junkies would miss this event. If a deal is not struck to re-open the government, it remains to be seen if Trump's message will instead be given in the Senate chamber, at a MAGA rally, the Oval Office, delivered in writing, or Tweeted line by line at 4 am.

A bit of over 24 hours later, Trump responded by cancelling the CODEL military transportation that Pelosi and other House Democrats were literally minutes away from departing on to Afghanistan and other locales. He wrote her a snarky letter and suggested she fly commercial. Democrats claim that by exposing this trip put the security of Americans at risk. This was a pretty petty move by Trump but still, there is the issue of whether it was appropriate for Pelosi to be leaving the country for several days while the shutdown continues. A Trump Administration trip to Davos was also subsequently cancelled, although Melania Trump was allowed to fly to Mar-A-Lago as scheduled.

The behavior of both parties in the Belway shows how much it is needed for a grown-up to emerge, but there does not seem to be many of them in leadership these days. Today, Trump, perhaps feeling political pressure, made a speech from the White House in which he offered a deal to re-open the government in exchange from over 5 billion dollars in "physical barriers" along the southern border, as well as a lot of money for other things, in exchange for a three year extension for DACA and TPS recipients. Apparently, the idea of declaring a "national emergency" and attempting to fund "The Wall" himself will not happen.

It is interesting though that Trump is now proposing ideas that he had previously threatened to veto. A deal had been in place for 20 billion dollars in "wall" money in exchange for lifetime protection from deportation of the "Dreamers." Frankly, I think it is sad these issues are combined and are being used as a bargaining chip in the shutdown battle. Those who were brought to the country as small children through no fault of their own, and who meet conditions, should definitely be given legal status permanently . There also should be money allocated for greater border security although the entire concept of "The Wall" was always a ridiculous, bad-faith, waste of money. In theory though, a wall is not "immoral", just unfortuante.

Not surprisingly, Pelosi immediately rejected Trump's offer today. While she is never going to have strong favorability numbers nationally, she is popular within her party and Democrats do not want to see her back down. I would be surprised if the public does not continue to give the lion's share of the blame to Trump on this matter. In the meantime, many hard working Americans have been furloughed or having to work without receiving a paycheck. The longer this goes on, there is nothing good that can come of it.

We also saw various and frankly incredible headlines this week about how the FBI had opened an investigation to determine if Trump was working for Russia. While no "smocking gun" was found, it is amazing that such questions persist. Trump's fans though claim this is a sign the FBI was out of control and overly political. There may be at least a speck of truth to that, but overall, I trust the FBI.

Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani continued to make things worse for his client by claiming that he never suggested that the Trump campaign had not colluded with Russia (many had claimed that all along) but simply that Trump himself had not.  This was a pretty substantial admission, considering so many people under suspicion may be related to Trump. Sadly, I believe a large number of Trump supporters would not care one bit if he conspired with the Russian government in an attempt to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Late this week, a sensational story in BuzzFeed suggested that there was proof (while it was not offered) that Trump had personally asked his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Suborning perjury would pretty much guarantee impeachment proceedings (justifiably so), but on Friday evening, the office of the Special Prosecutor issued a short but rare public statement in which they said that some of BuzzFeed's claims were not accurate. Trump even had to praise Mueller's team for "clearing him" on the matter.

BuzzFeed has had credibility issues in the past and may have even more now, though they claim they are sticking by their story. Cohen's anticipated upcoming Congressional testimony may prove to be interesting in regards to what he says about that matter such as Trump specifically asked him to commit a crime or if he did so himself out of loyalty to Trump.

Pushing back against this story though by the Special Counsel should make it clear that they are merely conducting a "witch hunt" (which is the opinion affirmed by Trump's new Attorney General nominee, who we now know is an old field of the special prosecutor.) So, put one in the bank who are willing to stand by the integrity and seriousness of Robert Mueller, who is currently as big of a player as anybody else in Campaign 2020.


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