Grassley says White House ‘failed’ on watchdog firings

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told a top Republican senator on Tuesday that President Donald Trump acted appropriately when he fired two independent government watchdogs.

The long-awaited response, which Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) demanded after Trump fired the inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department, comes after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern with the president’s actions and asserted that he did not comply with a statute requiring a detailed explanation for those firings.

In a subsequent statement, Grassley said Cipollone’s response “failed to address” that requirement, which was codified in a 2008 law that Grassley co-authored.

“I don’t dispute the president’s authority under the Constitution, but without sufficient explanation, it’s fair to question the president’s rationale for removing an inspector general,” Grassley said. “If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is. Otherwise, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self interests are to blame.”

Cipollone, however, focused his response on the president’s sole power to hire and fire officials within the executive branch, and said Trump “acted within his constitutional and statutory authority” when he fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general, and Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general.

“When the president loses confidence in an inspector general, he will exercise his constitutional right and duty to remove that officer — as did President Reagan when he removed inspectors general upon taking office and as did President Obama when he was in office,” Cipollone wrote.

Cipollone also defended the president’s decision to place Atkinson and Linick on administrative leave for 30 days. Grassley and other senators had said the move could have been an effort by the president to skirt the 30-day congressional notification requirement.

In his official notifications to Congress, Trump said only that he had lost confidence in both Atkinson and Linick — a response Grassley said was insufficient. But Cipollone argued that current law requiring such a notification “raises serious constitutional concerns.”

Cipollone also defended Trump’s replacements for each watchdog post, both of whom are serving in their roles in an acting capacity. Grassley raised concerns about this rationale in his statement, and said political appointees should not be serving in a leadership role in an inspector general’s office.

“The White House Counsel’s letter does not address this glaring conflict of interest,” Grassley said. “Congress established inspectors general to serve the American people — to be independent and objective watchdogs, not agency lapdogs.”

Grassley is crafting legislation to prevent political appointees within executive branch departments and agencies from being tapped to serve as acting inspectors general, “in order to preserve the independence required of the office.”

In the days after Trump fired Linick, it was revealed that Linick was looking into allegations that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directed political appointees to run personal errands. Linick was also looking into the Trump administration’s sale of $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last year in a way that circumvented Congress’ authority to override those sales.

Pompeo later said he made the recommendation to Trump that Linick be terminated.

Atkinson, meanwhile, had drawn the president’s ire months ago when he transferred a whistleblower complaint to the House Intelligence Committee that later became the basis for the House’s impeachment inquiry.

Democrats have raised concerns about what they view as a campaign by the president to seek revenge against those who sought to hold him accountable.

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Pentagon's No. 2 IG official resigns after being passed over

Pentagon's No. 2 IG official resigns after being passed overThe No. 2 official in the Pentagon's office of inspector general, Glenn Fine, resigned Tuesday, several weeks after he was effectively removed as head of a special board to oversee auditing of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief package. On May 15, Trump fired the State Department's inspector general, Steve Linick, whose office was critical of what it saw as political bias in the State Department’s management. In April, Trump also fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who forwarded to Congress a whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment in the House.


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Dem Group EMILY’s List Is Meddling in a GOP Primary—Hoping to Boost a Trumper

Dem Group EMILY’s List Is Meddling in a GOP Primary—Hoping to Boost a TrumperDemocratic super PACs are reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending against a conservative House candidate in New Mexico. But a closer look at the television ads and direct mail pieces suggest that the groups are actually looking to boost her candidacy at the expense of a wealthier, more business-friendly primary opponent.“New Mexico Republicans have to choose,” declared a mail piece sent last week by the super PAC Women Vote, which is affiliated with the progressive-leaning women’s group EMILY’s List.The mailer offers recipients two options in the competitive primary in New Mexico’s second district: Claire Chase, who it labels a “Santa Fe corporate lobbyist” who “called Trump an a**hole,” or Yvette Herrell, who it says is “100% loyal to President Trump” and has earned the endorsements of “eleven pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump.”The mail piece appears designed to boost Herrell’s prospects in next week’s GOP primary contest, where loyalty to Trump has been the central issue of the campaign. But for accounting purposes, Women Vote has described the mailer differently. The only expenditures in the race the group has reported to the Federal Election Commission are about $23,000 on mailers opposing both Herrell and Chase.Both candidates have pledged their fealty to Trump. But each has accused the other of insufficient loyalty to the president. Chase, the former head of New Mexico’s oil and gas lobby, endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Carly Fiorina during the 2016 presidential election in a Facebook post, subsequently unearthed by Breitbart News, that dubbed Trump an “a**hole unworthy of the office.” She’s since recanted that view. Chase “voted for President Trump in the general, celebrated his election, supports him now and thinks he has done a great job as President,” a spokesperson told Newsweek last year.Chase has shot back with allegations that Herrell’s backing for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the same Republican presidential primary amounted to “undermin[ing] Trump’s campaign.” She’s also blamed Herrell, a former state representative, for Trump’s impeachment this year. Had Herrell won her 2018 House race, Chase claimed, Trump might never have been impeached.In that battle over who is more loyal to the president, EMILY’s List’s PAC has come down firmly on Herrell’s side. Its mailers appear to be part of a larger, coordinated strategy among Democratic political spenders to boost Herrell at the expense of Chase. Herrell has been endorsed by the political arm of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, but the campaign to promote her appears to signal that Democrats believe Chase would be a tougher candidate for freshman Democrat Rep. Xochitl Torres Small to face in the general.That larger advocacy effort suggests Democrats are working to boost Herrell’s primary candidacy through tactics that obscure their true ideological leanings. EMILY’s List did not return a request for comment. The strategy of surreptitiously courting another party’s voters is not a new one, and Democrats in particular have used it in the past. In the waning days of the 2018 midterm elections, the Indiana Democratic Party began running Facebook ads attempting to boost a Libertarian Senate candidate at the expense of the Republican in the race. Just this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched ads boosting one of four Republican candidates in a primary to take on a vulnerable South Carolina Democrat. Most famously, former Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaign purchased ads supporting the 2012 primary campaign of Republican Todd Akin. Akin won the nomination, only to subsequently implode and hand a win to McCaskill.Disgraced Former Rep. Todd Akin Donated to Steve King After ‘White Supremacy’ CommentsAs the Women Vote mailers went out, another Democratic super PAC, Patriot Majority PAC, was going on air with a $250,000 television ad campaign that relayed similar messages to Republican primary voters—down to the very same data points in the Women Vote mail piece.“There’s Santa Fe lobbyist Claire Chase, who opposed President Trump, calling him an (expletive) unworthy of the office,” says Patriot Majority’s ad, first reported by the Associated Press last week. “Or there’s Yvette Herrell. She’s 100% loyal to Trump, backed by 11 pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump.”Like Women Vote, Patriot Majority reported those ads to the FEC as opposing both Herrell and Chase.Both candidates are vying for the chance to take on Torres Small, who flipped a Republican seat in 2018 that the GOP desperately wants to retake this cycle. The race has already drawn some big spenders, including House Freedom Action, the political group associated with the hardline House Freedom Caucus, which is going to bat for Herrell. The group has dubbed Chase a “Trump-hating liberal.”It’s also drawn the involvement of other strange political bedfellows. Republican Women for Progress PAC, a group founded by a pair of anti-Trump GOP operatives, has purchased Facebook ads backing Torres Small, according to Facebook’s political ad database. The group also purchased ads opposing Herrell’s 2018 House candidacy.In spite of its branding, Republican Women for Progress is largely funded by a handful of wealthy Democrats, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Kathryn Murdoch, the wife of former 21st Century Fox executive James Murdoch.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


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Mike Pence Says ‘We’re Just Not Going To Tolerate’ Censoring Conservatives On Social Media

Breitbart News reported Monday that Vice President Mike Pence told the outlet that the Trump administration is “not going to tolerate” big tech companies that try to silence conservatives on social media, particularly during the 2020 election.

Pence: ‘We’re just not going to tolerate’ censoring conservatives

Pence said that when it comes to Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major internet platforms,  President Donald Trump has “made it very clear” this censorship of Republican-favorable views won’t be unacceptable.

“Well, the president has made it very clear that we are not going to tolerate censorship on the Internet and social media against conservatives,” Pence told Breitbart News during an interview on SiriusXM.

RELATED: Cop Faces Termination For Upholding U.S. Constitution Against Infringement

 

President Trump Considering a Review Panel

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was thinking of forming a panel to review bias against conservatives by big tech.

“President Trump is considering establishing a panel to review complaints of anticonservative bias on social media, according to people familiar with the matter, in a move that would likely draw pushback from technology companies and others,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The plans are still under discussion but could include the establishment of a White House-created commission that would examine allegations of online bias and censorship, these people said.”

Outspoken Hollywood conservative James Woods was suspended by Twitter earlier this month.

Pence Praises Conservative Media

Pence told Breitbart News that conservatives weighing in will be crucial to informing the public with  accurate information during the election.

“The great news is there are—in addition to Breitbart—there are great and consistent voices bringing the facts to the American people,” Pence said. “While many in the mainstream media have been after this president, after this administration, since before our inauguration, it’s been that chorus of voices on the Internet that have brought forth the truth and the facts to the American people.”

 

The Vice President continued, “Whether it be the whole Mueller investigation or the Russia hoax or whether it be the impeachment that was brought forward and rejected by the Senate, it’s been those voices that’s made a difference for America, and we have every confidence going forward that we’re going to make sure the First Amendment rights of people who cherish freedom and cherish what this president has been able to do for this country are preserved, and I have every confidence that with that great army of conservative thinkers on the Internet we’re going to drive toward a great victory come November.”

RELATED: Michael Moore Trashes Joe Biden: He Lacks ‘Necessary Enthusiasm’ To Beat President Trump

Pence later said, “Look, I couldn’t be more proud to be vice president to President Donald Trump. In our first three years, this is a president who rebuilt our military, who appointed more principled conservatives to our courts than any president in history. This is a president who revived the American economy after the slowest post-cession recovery in history under the Obama administration. Millions of jobs created through tax cuts, regulatory relief, unleashing American energy, free and fair trade.”

“And this is a president who has led our nation through one of the greatest challenges in the last century that has saved lives,” Pence said, referring to Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The post Mike Pence Says ‘We’re Just Not Going To Tolerate’ Censoring Conservatives On Social Media appeared first on The Political Insider.

Michael Moore Trashes Joe Biden: He Lacks ‘Necessary Enthusiasm’ To Beat President Trump

Radically leftwing filmmaker Michael Moore just spoke out to blast Joe Biden, saying that he does not have what it takes to beat President Donald Trump.

“Biden does not generate the necessary enthusiasm that it’s going to take to get people out,” Moore told Vanity Fair. “The Democrats are cynically counting on everyone’s desire to remove Trump.”

“This has been a crazy year, a crazy election year, a crazy year on so many levels,” Moore continued. “Anything you would have predicted back in December or January is out the window. The year we thought we were going to have on any level is out the window. So if it’s all out the window, what else is out the window?”

“Nothing is lined up right this year. Just because he’s got the most delegates and everybody’s conceded, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be the nominee,” he added of Biden. “They’re not even going to have a real convention. Anything can happen.”

Moore, who was a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said the Democratic Party “ditched” Biden earlier this year when he “was losing everything so badly.”

“The Democratic establishment ditched Biden back in January when he was losing everything so badly. What’d they do? They changed the debate rules to let Bloomberg in. They were so desperate,” Moore explained. “They were ready to dump Biden like a hot potato, and they will do it again if they need to.”

This comes after Moore warned Democrats that Trump might win again, saying that the president is “going to do well” in November because he hasn’t lost “any of his support.”

“None of us should take him for granted,” Moore told Bill Maher, referring to the president. “We need to behave as if he will win a second term,” he added. “Anybody who right now says, ‘Oh no,’ you’re really part of the problem because you’re not taking this seriously. He [Trump] knows exactly what he’s doing. He was just in Michigan this week. It’s the third time he’s been in Michigan in three weeks. He believes he’s going to somehow pull this off.”

Here’s hoping that Moore is right, and that Trump trounces Biden come November!

This piece was written by PoliZette Staff on May 25, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Democrat Michigan Attorney General Nessel lies about Trump at Ford auto plant tour
Alyssa Milano gets relentlessly mocked for posting crocheted face mask: ‘Masks keep people safe and healthy’
Senator Amy Klobuchar reluctantly admits hydroxychloroquine saved her husband’s life

The post Michael Moore Trashes Joe Biden: He Lacks ‘Necessary Enthusiasm’ To Beat President Trump appeared first on The Political Insider.

Pandemic jumbles House agenda

The House was already facing a deadline crunch this summer, with a slew of must-pass bills threatening to overwhelm lawmakers for months.

And that was before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi will summon members back to Washington this week to begin work on an election year to-do list that has grown longer and more urgent amid the nation’s dual economic and health crises. If Congress falters, the government could shut down, and millions of Americans facing unemployment amid the pandemic could suffer more.

“We have a full agenda that people have been working on for a long time, so it’s a continuation of that, but also an intensification,” Pelosi told reporters late last week, ticking off looming deadlines for appropriations and a defense policy bill, on top of more pandemic recovery packages.

It’s the start of a monthslong slog of spending and policy fights, with Republicans and Democrats battling over everything from the border wall to expanding transit lines to transgender troops. The partisan warfare will only ramp up as Democrats fight to keep their House majority, take back the White House and potentially flip the GOP-held Senate — all in the uncertain political terrain of a global pandemic.

In a typical election year both the House and Senate would hardly be around in the waning weeks leading up to November. Instead, lawmakers would be campaigning for themselves, other candidates and their party’s presidential nominee.

But much of that schedule has been scrambled this year, as the House and Senate were forced to recess for several weeks this spring to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The Senate returned in early May to focus on nominations and held a handful of coronavirus hearings, but the House has continued to operate on a limited schedule with leaders warning that previously scheduled off days in the coming months will likely be scrapped to make up for lost time.

The House has voted only on coronavirus-related bills since the pandemic shuttered much of the U.S. in March — a total of $6 trillion in relief bills, though only half that amount has become law. Pelosi has already said she plans to do more but Senate Republicans — who have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the next relief package — have ignored the most recent $3 trillion House bill.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters last week he didn’t expect negotiations on more relief bills to start until the “third or fourth week of June.”

“We just had a lot of our colleagues lecture us about the fact that the tens of billions of dollars aren’t even out yet,” Grassley said. “And we need to know what the need is. You hear about the governors wanting $500 billion for state aid. You got Pelosi putting in $1 trillion.”

For now, with the next tranche of coronavirus relief in limbo, Democrats will pivot to Congress’ other major priorities for the year.

The first vote, expected to take place Wednesday, will be to restore expired federal spy powers, which lapsed in March amid disagreements about how to balance U.S. privacy and security, even among the two parties. The House will also vote on two bills dealing with the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides coronavirus-relief loans to small businesses. The votes will represent the first time in the chamber’s history that proxy voting will be used on the floor.

But there’s far more to do in the coming weeks, with annual chores like crafting spending legislation and the Pentagon policy bill that will become far thornier — if not virtually impossible — in the middle of a heated presidential campaign.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump's last big demand in a funding bill, the border wall, led to the longest-ever government shutdown, and that was nearly two years before his reelection. And this year's defense policy bill is already attracting attention from House progressives, who say they want to cut Pentagon funding to shore up domestic programs amid the pandemic.

Then there’s the less frequent but equally challenging bills that also come due this year, such as a massive federal highway bill, flood insurance and water infrastructure. That’s on top of the long-delayed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

What’s more, the House and Senate will likely need to revisit key parts of Congress’ behemoth coronavirus relief programs, which expire in the coming months. A massive expansion in unemployment benefits ends July 31 — which top Republicans are already saying they won’t renew — and loans through the Paycheck Protection Program end June 30.

The cries for help from state and local governments facing shortfalls amid the pandemic will only grow more desperate as the start of the next fiscal year approaches on July 1.

“Clearly, this is a year without precedent. And, of course, many of us know the old adage is ‘You can't get anything done in an election year,’” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who co-authored a small-business loan flexibility bill that is expected to reach the floor for a vote this week with conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas.).

But the House will need to negotiate with the Senate, which is nearing a deal on its own version of a loan flexibility bill. The Senate's would give businesses up to 16 weeks to use their loans, while the House bill would provide businesses 24 weeks. Pelosi said on a private caucus call that the House could pass its bill this week.

“Nobody, I think, amongst the people with whom I’ve been working with, believes that we can't get things done,” Phillips continued. “The question is, do we have the fortitude and the intention and the power in collaboration to do so.”

The House initially planned to pass all 12 of its appropriations bills on the floor by June. That timeline has slipped as top Democrats raced to draft this month’s $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, which passed on May 15. And now leaders of the House Appropriations Committee say they won’t move to marking up its bills until Congress can agree on another massive infusion of federal coronavirus relief, which may be weeks down the line.

Still, many senior lawmakers and aides are already predicting Congress will do what it does best — punt.

Any decision on the next coronavirus relief measure will require close coordination among House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House — a relationship that’s grown more fraught as Democrats have demanded trillions more in aid for states, localities, workers and businesses from a resistant GOP.

And now the House, which was forced to remain largely homebound for the past two months, has some catching up to do on its yearly to-do list.

Many of the chamber’s hearings and markups, which might normally have taken place before Memorial Day, are still in the works. But they will now largely be moved online after lawmakers voted along party lines last week to allow committees to hold them remotely.

House leaders have just begun mapping out which bills will come to the floor first, confident that both Appropriations and Armed Services panels can complete their work in the coming weeks.

The House will be able to vote remotely for the next 45 days, but some members have privately pushed their leadership to roll together several votes into a single week — rather than coming back every week in June.

Senior Democrats argue, though, that they can complete their agenda.

“We can’t worry — you can get bogged down worrying,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a senior appropriator, when asked about this year's truncated schedule. “You’ve got to adjust, step up and do the work.”

Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.

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Mike Pompeo is the number one evangelist of Trumpism in the world

Mike Pompeo is the number one evangelist of Trumpism in the worldWhen it comes to foreign policy, Pompeo’s penchant for undermining America’s credibility is top-notchDonald Trump’s disdain for the people, country and values his office is supposed to represent is unmatched in recent memory. And he has found in the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a kindred spirit who has embraced his role as Trumpism’s number one proselytizer to the world.Pompeo doesn’t wield nearly as much power or have the jurisdiction to inflict damage on as wide a range of issues as the president. He’s not as crass or erratic as Trump, and his Twitter feed seems dedicated more to childish mockery than outright attacks. But when it comes to foreign policy, Pompeo’s penchant for undermining America’s credibility is top-notch.At Pompeo’s recommendation, Trump fired the state department’s inspector general, who is supposed to be an independent investigator charged with looking into potential wrongdoing inside the department. Steve Linick was just the latest in a series of inspectors general across the government that Trump had fired in an attempt to hide the misconduct of his administration – but it also shone a spotlight on how Pompeo has undermined his agency.According to news reports, Pompeo was being investigated by the inspector general for bypassing Congress and possibly breaking the law in sending weapons to Saudi Arabia, even though his own department and the rest of the US government advised against the decision. He was also supposedly organizing fancy dinners – paid for by taxpayers – with influential businesspeople and TV personalities that seemed geared more towards supporting Pompeo’s political career than advancing US foreign policy goals. And he was reportedly being scrutinized for using department personnel to conduct personal business, such as getting dry cleaning and walking his dog.But these revelations merely reaffirm a pattern of activities by Pompeo unbecoming of the nation’s top diplomat. When the House of Representatives was in the process of impeaching Trump over his attempt to extort Ukraine for personal political purposes – an act that Pompeo was aware of – Pompeo defended Trump while throwing under the bus career state department officials, like the ousted US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who spoke out. Pompeo has regularly ignored Congress, withholding documents from lawmakers – including during the Ukraine impeachment investigation – and refusing to appear for testimony. In 2019, the IG released a report detailing political retaliation against career state department officials being perpetrated by Trump officials. And Pompeo has spent considerable time traveling to Kansas and conducting media interviews there, fueling speculation that he has been using his position to tee up a run for the Senate, a violation of the Hatch Act.Pompeo is a natural Trumpist. In her fantastic profile of the secretary of state, Susan Glasser notes of his first congressional race: “Pompeo ran a nasty race against the Democrat, an Indian-American state legislator named Raj Goyle, who, unlike Pompeo, had grown up in Wichita. Pompeo’s campaign tweeted praise for an article calling Goyle a ‘turban topper’, and a supporter bought billboards urging residents to ‘Vote American – Vote Pompeo’.” Later, as a member of Congress, Pompeo made a name for himself by helping to fabricate the Benghazi conspiracy theories that shamelessly used the memory of a deceased foreign service officer to undermine the state department.Next to Trump’s assault on US values, Pompeo’s role as top Trump lackey may seem insignificant. But the secretary of state is often the most senior US official that other countries and publics hear from on any number of issues. Even with Trump in the Oval Office, a secretary of state that was committed to the constitution - not Trump - would at least be able to fight for the values that US foreign policy should embody, and shield the department’s day-to-day business from Trump’s outbursts. The work that department professionals conduct around the world – helping American citizens abroad get home in the early days of the pandemic or coordinating assistance to other countries to cope with the coronavirus – is vital to American national security, and at the core of the image that America projects abroad.> Trump is undermining American leadership in incalculable ways, and Pompeo has weaponized the state department on his behalfThe world today needs principled and active US leadership as much as ever. In a normal world, the US secretary of state would be working through international organizations like the WHO to lead the response to the coronavirus, not threatening to withdraw from the global body. The secretary would be pushing for robust foreign assistance to help other countries fight the pandemic, not cutting funding. They would be trying to find a path that balances working with China on responding to the pandemic with pushing back on the Chinese Communist party’s disturbing behavior – like signaling it may end Hong Kong’s autonomy – instead of scapegoating China.But Trump is undermining American leadership in incalculable ways, and Pompeo has weaponized the state department on the president’s behalf. Like Trump, Pompeo’s behavior is sending signals to other countries that the US government is acting more like the autocratic and corrupt regimes that Pompeo so regularly calls out. As Trump hurls daily attacks on the media, Pompeo has taken to berating journalists. These assaults by America’s leaders on the free press are giving cover to dictators around the world to criticize their countries’ media. Firing government watchdogs who are investigating top officials is exactly the kind of behavior that the United States would normally criticize in its annual human rights reports.The fish, they say, rots from the head. And Pompeo, like his boss, is actively undermining the values embodied by the state department, its professionals and the Americans they represent.


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How the Trump Effect Could Lift Democratic Senate Candidates

How the Trump Effect Could Lift Democratic Senate CandidatesA driving theme of Republican Party politics circa 2020 is consolidation.The GOP has tightened its ranks; its reliable voters, hovering at around 40% of the electorate, tend to approve of almost anything that President Donald Trump does.Yet throughout his term, from the 2017 battles over health care and tax cuts to his impeachment and subsequent acquittal early this year, very few people from outside the party have been coming aboard.Trump has led the charge, but his effects are being felt far down the ballot. Two years after Democrats swept the midterm House elections by a historically wide margin and with historically high turnout, polling suggests they have a shot at a similar showing this year.And in the high-stakes Senate, GOP incumbents in swing states have struggled to disentangle their numbers from Trump's stubbornly minoritarian status. That is putting Democrats in a strong position as they look to take back the Senate in the midst of a pandemic."The Republican brand seems depressed across the board," Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist and founder of the New Democrat Network, said in an interview. "A lot of time senators can insulate themselves from the vagaries of the national electorate, but that doesn't seem to be happening this time."A net loss of four Senate seats -- or three, plus the vice presidency -- would hand the chamber to the Democrats, and Republicans this year must defend almost twice as many seats as their opponents. And GOP incumbents in many swing states are looking at a hard battle if they cannot expand beyond the taut Trump coalition.That includes candidates in some states, like Arizona and Georgia, that have trended more Democratic of late but have still voted Republican in every presidential election since the 1990s."The Senate majority has not been a certainty at any point this cycle," Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, acknowledged during an interview last month with Fox News Radio. "I've said consistently that it's going to be a dogfight."The Senate is of vital importance to Republicans, no matter who takes the White House. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, it had been the lab of the GOP's major political pursuit these days: confirming the president's conservative appointees to federal judgeships. Even amid the virus' spread, McConnell was eager to bring the chamber back into session to continue confirming judges and federal appointees.And if Joe Biden wins the presidency, the Senate would most likely be the only backstop against full Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches.The Trump coalitionTrump has shifted the Republican coalition toward male voters and less educated ones. At the same time, the party's advantage among older voters has all but disappeared.Those trends have played out in various statewide races since 2016, and they are likely to repeat themselves in the battle for the Senate this year.In the 2014 midterms, for instance, college graduates supported Republicans by 3 percentage points, according to exit polls. By 2018, they had swung widely in the Democrats' favor, supporting them by 20 points. In that time span, the Republicans' advantage among voters 65 and older dropped from 16 points to 2 points.In Arizona, this year's Democratic Senate candidate, Mark Kelly, held a 3-point edge over the Republican incumbent, Sen. Martha McSally, in a Marist College poll this spring, and among independent women he was ahead by 20 points.To the north, in Colorado and Montana, Democratic governors have entered the race for Senate. Polls in Colorado have shown a remarkable parity between voters' support for Trump and for Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican incumbent; at the moment, both appear to be trailing by double digits.Two Republican senators in politically mixed states -- Susan Collins of Maine and Joni Ernst of Iowa -- have seen dips in their approval ratings since they voted to acquit Trump on impeachment charges, and they are both locked in close races.Two Senate seats are up for grabs in Georgia after the resignation of Sen. Johnny Isakson last year created a vacancy. An increase in voters of color, particularly African-Americans, has combined with a softening of Republican support in the suburbs to create a new opportunity for Democrats.In North Carolina, which has voted Democratic for president just once since the 1970s, surveys show that the race between Trump and Biden is up for grabs. The race for the state's open Senate seat, held by the Republican Thom Tillis, is equally tight.The Democrats' most threatened incumbent this year is Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who won an upset victory in a 2017 special election against the scandal-plagued Republican former judge Roy Moore. A Mason-Dixon poll in February found Jones trailing a range of potential Republican nominees, but mostly by single digits.With a polarized electorate, turnout mattersThirty-four states elected senators in 2016, and in each case, their choice for Senate lined up with their pick for president. Political persuasions have hardened significantly in recent years, partly a result of an increasingly polarized media landscape and online consumption habits.Lee Miringoff, who runs Marist's polling institute, said the starkly partisan nature of Trump-era politics had changed the way elections must be fought."We're so polarized that there's no trade-offs going on, there's no persuasion, so it's all about the turnout and the enthusiasm," he said.In this regard, Trump and Republicans see room for hope. In key early-voting states this primary season, Republican turnout was strikingly high, considering that the party's presidential nomination is uncontested this year. And GOP voters remain more motivated to vote in November than most Democrats, according to recent polls -- although that trend could reverse itself as Biden amps up his campaign in the summer and fall.The registered electorate leans more Republican than the general population by a few points, and the Electoral College adds to the Republican tilt by increasing the influence of rural states. In the days leading up to President George W. Bush's reelection in 2004, approval of his job performance was split, 48-47%, among all Americans, according to Gallup, but Bush went on to win by a 2-point margin. Republicans also outpaced Democrats by 2 points in House elections nationwide that year.In 2012, President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by 4 points, shy of his 7-point Gallup net approval rating just before the election, more evidence of the electorate's crimson tint.This year, Republicans are looking to a similar calculus: Trump's approval rating has yet to hit 50% in most major polls -- a first in modern history -- but it has generally remained in the 40s. If he finishes the campaign strong, he could feasibly eke out a win despite minority approval, as Bush did in 2004.That would most likely provide some coattails to Republicans running for the Senate, given the lack of variation in people's voting habits nowadays.When turnout matters, access matters (especially in a pandemic)There is another complicating factor that could play to Republicans' favor: The very process of voting during a pandemic is different from voting in normal times.While the electorate always skews a little bit more affluent and white than the population as a whole, access to the ballot may be particularly limited for voters in urban areas hit hard by COVID-19, and in areas with large populations of people of color who are disproportionately affected by Republican efforts to limit access to the ballot."There's an open question about what kind of electorate you're going to be seeing in the fall," Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said in an interview. "Many of us prior to the public health crisis were expecting a turnout probably higher than 2016, at least in a lot of places. Interest in politics was high, the midterm elections had a historically high turnout."All of that has been scrambled now, as demonstrated by the experience of Wisconsin's fractious elections in April, when all of Milwaukee was left with just five polling places serving a city of 600,000."How easy will it be to vote in the midst of the pandemic?" Kondik said. "We don't know what the situation is going to be in November."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


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