The most important accomplishment of impeaching Trump was its impact on Joe Biden

Impeaching The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote was incredibly important, and not only because it was the right thing to do. Yes, he committed crimes and abused the power of his office, and yes he deserved to be impeached and removed from that office—the record of every Republican Senator other than Mitt Romney will be forever stained by their votes to acquit. History will remember their cowardice.

Beyond the morality, impeachment has had a clear, long-lasting political benefit, one that will pay dividends for Vice President Joe Biden this November. Thanks to impeachment, everyone knows that the charges Trump leveled against Joe and Hunter Biden on Ukraine—the ones he tried to blackmail that country’s president into investigating, or least announcing an intention to investigate—are utter malarkey.

Trump always feared running against Biden, and he acted corruptly in a failed bid to get enough dirt to derail the former VP’s quest to win the Democratic nomination. The impeachment process shone a bright light on Trump’s actions, and on his lies about Biden, ensuring that the smear campaign ultimately backfired.

Since the end of the impeachment trial, Trump and his minions have continued to bleat on with their completely invented and thoroughly debunked stories about the Bidens. I won’t dignify them by repeating the specifics here. Recently, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have been “investigating”—i.e., trying to keep the story in the media—this bullshit.

Never mind that by falsely smearing Biden over Ukraine, Johnson and his fellow Republican senators are all but doing the work of Vladimir Putin for him, as this Associated Press article explained

But the stark warning that Russia is working to denigrate the Democratic presidential candidate adds to questions about the probe by Johnson’s Senate committee and whether it is mimicking, even indirectly, Russian efforts and amplifying its propaganda.

The investigation is unfolding as the country, months removed from an impeachment case that had centered on Ukraine, is dealing with a pandemic and confronting the issue of racial injustice. Yet allegations about Biden and Ukraine remain a popular topic in conservative circles, pushed by Russian media and addressed regularly by President Donald Trump and other Republicans as a potential path toward energizing his supporters.

[...] “Particularly as a public official and somebody who’s responsible for keeping the country safe, you should always be suspicious of narratives that are trying to sort of damage or target the electoral process in your country,” said former CIA officer Cindy Otis, a foreign disinformation expert and vice president of analysis at Alethea Group. “You should always be suspicious of narratives that foreign countries are pumping out.”

As Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld pointed out, Johnson even admitted that his so-called probe would “would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.” It amazing; these Republicans always manage to say the quiet part out loud, which I guess is helpful. Nevertheless, to paraphrase what Otter said to his nemesis (and professional Republican, according to the character futures provided) Gregg Marmalard in Animal House, “Gee, you’re dumb.”

Then the Orange Julius Caesar himself got into the act. On August 16 he retweeted material that our own intelligence agencies had previously identified as Russian disinformation—part of its effort to directly influence the presidential election by “denigrating” Biden. As CNN put it: “By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda -- and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday -- Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain.” Here’s Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner:

The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda. https://t.co/9y6L6uMKbM

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 17, 2020

Then came the four-day marathon of lies known as the Republican National Convention. Former Florida (where else?) Attorney General Pam Bondi went before a national audience and, once again, did Putin’s bidding by lying about the Bidens and Ukraine. The truth? When Joe Biden sought the removal of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shukin he did so, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post noted, “because the prosecutor was corrupt.” Sargent added some more important facts: “This was U.S. policy, backed by international institutions. GOP senators had no problem with it in real time. As The Post’s fact-checking team puts it, Bondi’s story is ‘fiction,’ and in reality, Joe Biden ‘was thwarting corruption, not abetting it.’” Bondi told some other lies about Hunter Biden, which the WaPo fact-checking team also debunked

When these latter day Marmalards now issue their breathtaking press releases or repeat Russian disinformation about the Bidens and Ukraine, the media—thus far at least—has been taking them for what they are: Utter horseshit. I won’t say the media has learned their lesson, but unlike 2016, when “but her emails” was literally the most reported story of the campaign, this year everyone who isn’t directly sucking at the Trump teat is treating these debunked charges with the (lack of) seriousness they deserve. 

For that, we can thank the impeachment of Donald Trump, which exposed the lies against the Bidens for what they are. The impeachment process inoculated the media and the American public by preparing them for what Trump is now trying to pull on this matter. So thank you Nancy Pelosi, thank you Adam Schiff, thank you Val Demings, thank you Jerry Nadler, and thanks to the rest of the Democratic impeachment team. I’m sure Joe Biden is thanking you as well.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Morning Digest: Dems need four seats to flip Michigan’s House. Our new data shows the top targets

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Gov-by-LD, Senate-by-LD: Republicans have controlled the Michigan House of Representatives since the 2010 GOP wave despite Democrats winning more votes in three of the last four elections, but Daily Kos Elections' new data for the 2018 elections shows that Democrats have a narrow path to win the four seats they need to flip the chamber this fall.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette 53-44 to become governor and carried 56 of the 110 seats in the lower house—exactly the number that her party needs to take a bare majority. You can see these results visualized for the House in the map at the top of this post (with a larger version available here).

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However, because Republicans heavily gerrymandered the map to benefit themselves, the Democrats’ presidential nominee will need to decisively defeat Donald Trump in the Wolverine State to give their party a chance. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s successful re-election campaign illustrates this hurdle: Even though she beat Republican John James 52-46 statewide, she only took 54 House districts.

The entire state House is up for re-election every two years, and members can serve a maximum of three terms, making Michigan's term limits among the most restrictive in the country. Democrats made big gains in the House last cycle and reduced the GOP majority from 63-47 to 58-52.

Most importantly, four members of the GOP caucus sit in seats that backed Whitmer, making those the four ripest targets for Democrats. At the same time, no Democratic incumbents hold seats won by Schuette. However, three of these GOP-held Whitmer seats also supported Donald Trump when he narrowly carried the state two years before, so sweeping them all be a difficult task.

Team Blue’s best pickup opportunity in the state looks like HD-61 in the Kalamazoo area, which supported Whitmer by a wide 54-43 margin and backed Stabenow by a 53-45 spread. The seat also went for Hillary Clinton 49-45, making it the one GOP-held district in the entire chamber that didn’t back Trump. Republican incumbent Brandt Iden won his third term 51-49 in 2018, but term limits prevent him from running again this year.

Two other Republican seats, both located in Oakland County in the Detroit suburbs, also went for both Whitmer and Stabenow, though Trump carried them both. HD-39 backed Trump 50-46, but it supported Whitmer 53-45 and Stabenow 51-47. Republican Ryan Berman was elected to his first term by a wide 54-42, but that election took place under unusual circumstances: The Democratic candidate, Jennifer Suidan, was charged with embezzlement during the race and was sentenced to five years’ probation after the election.

Nearby is HD-38, which went for Trump 49-46 before supporting Whitmer and Stabenow 52-46 and 51-48. This seat is held by GOP state Rep. Kathy Crawford, who won her third and last term by a narrow 49-48 in 2018.

The fourth and final GOP-held Whitmer seat is HD-45, which is also located in Oakland County, but it supported her just 49.2-48.8, by a margin of 181 votes. Trump took the seat by a wider 51-44 margin, while James defeated Stabenow here 50-49. Republican incumbent Michael Webber won 55-45, but, like Iden and Crawford, he’s termed-out this year.

Democrats have a few potential targets if they fail to take all four of those seats, but they aren’t great. Another five House districts backed Schuette by a margin of less than 2%, but Trump took them all by double digits in 2016. Democrats also will need to play defense in the 10 seats they hold that voted for Trump (though two years later they all went for Whitmer). All of this means that, while Democrats do have a path to the majority, they’ll need essentially everything to go right this fall.

As for the state Senate, it’s only up in midterm years, so the GOP’s 22-16 majority is safe there for almost another three years, barring an unlikely avalanche of special elections. The good news for Democrats, though, is that 2022’s races for the legislature (and Congress) will be held under very different maps than the GOP gerrymanders in force now.

That’s because in 2018, voters approved the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw the new lines in place of the state legislature. These new maps could give Democrats a better chance to win (or hold) the House as well as the Senate, where the GOP has been in control since it successfully recalled two Democratic legislators in early 1984.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

4Q Fundraising

The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is Jan. 31. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available next week.

NC-Sen: Thom Tillis (R-inc): $1.9 million raised, $5.3 million cash-on-hand

VA-Sen: Mark Warner (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $7.4 million cash-on-hand

AZ-06: Karl Gentles (D): $104,000 raised, $80,000 cash-on-hand

CA-25: Christy Smith (D): $845,000 raised, $592,000 cash-on-hand

FL-27: Maria Elvira Salazar (R): $315,000 raised, additional $50,000 self-funded, $717,000 cash-on-hand

IL-17: Cheri Bustos (D-inc): $531,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand

MN-08: Pete Stauber (R-inc): $347,000 raised, $722,000 cash-on-hand

NC-02: Deborah Ross (D): $301,000 raised, $262,000 cash-on-hand

NH-02: Annie Kuster (D-inc): $452,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $918,000 raised, $7.12 million cash-on-hand

TX-22: Pierce Bush (R): $660,000 raised (in three weeks)

Senate

AL-Sen: The extremist Club for Growth is going back on the air ahead of the March primary with a TV spot they first aired in November against Rep. Bradley Byrne, an establishment-aligned Republican whom they've long hated. The commercial takes aim at Byrne for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which is another favorite Club target.

GA-Sen-B: Pastor Raphael Warnock announced Thursday that he would run against appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler in November’s all-party primary, giving Democrats their first high-profile candidate in Georgia’s special election for the Senate.

Warnock quickly earned an endorsement from 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who was Team Blue’s top choice until she took her name out of the running last year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote earlier this month that national Democrats, as well as Abrams, wanted Warnock to challenge Loeffler, though the DSCC has not formally taken sides.

Warnock, who would be Georgia’s first black senator, is the senior pastor of the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. once held the pulpit. Warnock has never run for office before, but he’s been involved in politics as the chair of the New Georgia Project, a group founded by Abrams with the goal of registering people of color to vote. Warnock has also used his position to call for expanding Medicaid and reforming Georgia’s criminal justice system.

Warnock joins businessman Matt Lieberman on the Democratic side, and another local politician says he’s also likely to run for Team Blue. Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said Thursday that Warnock’s entry hadn’t changed his own plans to run, adding that he plans to kick off his campaign in the next few weeks.

GOP Rep. Doug Collins also entered the race against Loeffler this week, but legislative leaders quickly dealt him a setback. On Thursday, state House Speaker David Ralston, despite being a Collins ally, announced that a bill that would do away with the all-party primary in favor of a traditional partisan primary would be unlikely to apply to this year’s special election. The legislation cleared the Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this week but was returned to the committee for revisions. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has threatened to veto any measure that would change the rules of this year’s special Senate race.

As we’ve noted before, both Democrats and Collins would almost certainly benefit from the proposed rule change, but it looks like the status quo will persist this year. However, Collins is arguing that he’d still have the advantage in a November all-party primary, though the data he released isn’t especially persuasive. Collins released a poll this week from McLaughlin & Associates showing Lieberman in front with 42% while Collins leads Loeffler 32-11 for the second spot in a likely January runoff.

McLaughlin is a firm that’s infamous even in GOP circles for its poor track record, but this survey is also rather stale. The poll was conducted in mid-December, when Loeffler had just been appointed to the Senate and had little name recognition. But the wealthy senator has since launched a $2.6 million ad campaign, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend $20 million to get her name out.

Lieberman was also the only Democrat mentioned in the poll, but Warnock’s Thursday announcement means he’s now no longer Team Blue’s only candidate, scrambling the picture further. And if Tarver does go ahead with his planned campaign, he could complicate matters even more by potentially splitting the vote on the left three ways and allowing Loeffler and Collins to advance to an all-GOP runoff.

Collins, meanwhile, hasn’t been on the receiving end of any negative ads yet, but that’s about to change. Politico reports that next week, the Club for Growth will start a five-week TV campaign targeting the congressman for a hefty $3 million.

IA-Sen: Businessman Eddie Mauro raised just $73,000 from donors during the fourth quarter of 2019, but the Democrat loaned himself an additional $1.5 million and ended December with $1.4 million in the bank. However, during that same quarter, Mauro repaid himself $850,000 that he'd previously loaned to his campaign. It's not clear why Mauro made this move.

The only other Democrat to release fundraising figures so far, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, previously said she brought in $1.6 million in the final three months of last year and had $2.1 million on hand. Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she raised $1.7 million and had $4.9 million left.

House

FL-27: This week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed 2018 GOP nominee Maria Elvira Salazar's second bid for this Miami-area seat against freshman Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. Salazar, who lost to Shalala 52-46 last cycle, doesn't face any serious opposition in the August GOP primary.

GA-09: State Rep. Kevin Tanner announced Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to succeed Senate candidate Doug Collins in this safely red seat. Tanner was first elected to the legislature in 2012, and he serves as the chair of the influential Transportation Committee.

IN-05: Former state Sen. Mike Delph recently told Howey Politics that he would not seek the GOP nod for this open seat.

NY-15: This week, Assemblyman Michael Blake picked up endorsements in the June Democratic primary from SEIU 32BJ and 1199 SEIU, which represent building workers and healthcare workers, respectively. These groups make up two of the "big four" unions in New York City politics along with the Hotel Trades Council and the United Federation of Teachers. The Hotel Trades Council is supporting New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, while the UFT does not appear to have taken sides yet in the crowded primary contest to succeed retiring Rep. Jose Serrano in this safely blue seat in The Bronx.

Last month, Blake also received the backing of District Council 37, which represents municipal workers.