By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi portrayed herself Thursday as the protector of the Constitution, Congress and the country as House Democrats braced for war with President Donald Trump over his refusal to give them full access to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, related documents and witnesses.
“This is very methodical, it’s very Constitution-based, it’s very law-based, it’s very factually based,” Pelosi said about House plans to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for withholding documents. “It’s not about pressure. It’s about patriotism.”
Trump and his Republican allies say Democrats are simply dressing up a partisan witch hunt in the haberdashery of constitutional principle. They express confidence that recent polls showing a lack of support for impeachment, particularly among independents, are evidence that the public agrees with them and that Democrats will only hurt themselves — and help the president — if they continue on their current course.
“If we’re already seeing that before any of the investigations begin, then moving toward impeachment will more than likely result in a backlash for Democrats,” said one source close to the White House who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of Trump.
While the courts are likely to decide the scope of what Democrats can get their hands on, the fight over the terms of the public debate — partisan or constitutional — figure to have a significant impact on the political outcome, especially during a period in which the Trump’s assertion of executive privilege limits the House’s ability to produce any new evidence.
In any period in which one party controls the House and the other controls the White House, the impeachment process is inherently both a matter of solemn constitutional duty and partisan politics.
All of that helps explain why it’s Pelosi’s defense of another institution — the Democratic caucus — that is at the core of her approach to the investigations and possible impeachment of Trump. Though the cable talk shows and digital press have been full of speculation about what Pelosi wants — or believes — about impeachment, people who know her well say that she is driven in large measure by keeping solidarity in her ranks.
“She’s moving at a pace that all the spectrum of her caucus can tolerate right now,” said former Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards. “She is very protective of the institution and the prerogatives of the institution, and you can see that, that she wants to insulate this from the politics and the electoral politics, and that is in keeping with her protection of the unity of the caucus.”
In other words, when Trump’s liberal critics put the impeachment cart before the process horse, moderate Democrats are quick to jump out. But when the question is framed as one of pursuing legitimate oversight of the executive branch, following investigations where they lead and maintaining the Constitution’s balance of power, it is much easier for her to keep her troops in line.
In that way, Trump’s actions have helped Pelosi start to resolve the conflicts in her caucus.
“There’s a deep concern, particularly among institutionalists, about the balance of power,” said a senior aide to one moderate Democrat who noted that the administration’s refusal to comply with subpoenas has angered some lawmakers who had been reluctant to escalate the fight.
That is, the pace is speeding up even for most Democrats who have been reluctant to go down a path that could lead to impeachment.
Pelosi has said she believes Trump is “goading” Democrats into impeaching him, and many Republicans and Democrats in Washington believe that a House impeachment followed by a Senate acquittal would be a political gift to Trump and House Republicans.
There’s even some concern among House Democrats that the very act of impeaching Trump would hand over power by giving the savvy Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., control of the timetable and process for trying the case with the 2020 election approaching.
And yet Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress on the Mueller report and a range of other issues, from declining to provide his tax returns to declaring a national emergency so he could shift funds to build a border wall, has put Democrats in the position of acquiescing or escalating.
“The president and the attorney general have left the Congress, and the House in particular, not many choices,” Edwards said.
For the moment, Democrats may have been handed some ammunition by an unlikely source as they try to make their case that Trump is tampering with the Constitution’s checks and balances. It was reported Wednesday that The Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, issued a subpoena to Donald Trump Jr. after the panel was unable to secure a second round of testimony from him in its Russia probe.
While Trump Jr. is not an administration official — and the subpoena was actually sent in mid-April —the off-pitch sound from the GOP’s previously harmonious message was discordant enough to trigger a response from Burr’s fellow Republicans.
“The Mueller report cleared @DonaldJTrumpJr and he’s already spent 27 hours testifying before Congress,” GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, Burr’s home-state colleague, wrote in a tweet. “Dems have made it clear this is all about politics. It’s time to move on & start focusing on issues that matter to Americans.”
To win, Pelosi has to convince Americans that the fight is more about checks and balances than partisan politics — and that they should side with House Democrats over the Republican in the White House.
A divided caucus undermines that message. A united one helps to sell it.
Democrats still haven’t figured out how to fight Trump
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann
Five months into their majority, what do House Democrats have to show for it?
Not an infrastructure deal (the subject of today’s meeting with President Trump, which is unlikely to go anywhere, especially after Trump told Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that Congress should pass his U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal first).
Not any progress on health care, which was Democrats’ No. 1 priority in last year’s elections.
Not HR-1 — the campaign-finance and ethics bill that they passed in March, but which isn’t going anywhere in the Senate.
And the summer and fall is expected to be spent dealing with thorny issues like budget caps and raising the debt limit.
So Pelosi and House Democrats have to ask themselves: What does success look like heading in 2020 – beyond the presidential race, which is shaping up to be a 50-50 proposition?
And what’s the plan for 2019?
Is it triumphing over Trump in the courts?
Is it finding damaging information that could hurt Trump next year – a la how House Republicans Benghazi-ed Hillary Clinton in 2015?
Because one reason why House Democrats are growing restless – and increasingly talking about impeachment — is that they have little to show for their majority.
At least right now.
Biden or a Biden-slayer?
Unless your name is Joe Biden, no Democrat looks all that great in the early 2020 polling.
And, yes, it’s still really early.
But that early Biden strength is a potentially rewarding situation for the rest of the Dem field: Beating a strong Biden makes you a stronger candidate.
It would be akin to Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2008 — remember, she was far from a lightweight in that race.
In fact, Obama’s win over Clinton ultimately proved to be more difficult than his general-election triumph over John McCain.
So it sets up a potentially virtuous situation for Democrats: They could end up with Biden as their nominee, or they could end up with the man or woman who ultimately beats him.
Of course, that assumes Biden remains formidable and healthy over the next year. And it also assumes the Dem nomination doesn’t devolve into chaos (contested convention, mass protests, a party that’s unable to come together).
Because anything is possible in American politics…
Kentucky governor: It’s going to be Bevin versus Beshear
State Attorney General Andy Beshear won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Kentucky last night, and he’ll face incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in the fall.
Beshear got 38 percent of the vote, while state House Minority Leader got 32 percent and former state Auditor Adam Edelen finished third at 28 percent. (It’s a reminder that going negative – like Edelen did – can have consequences with voters.)
Strikingly, Bevin won just 52 percent in his own GOP primary, with state Rep. Robert Goforth taking 39 percent of the vote.
And as we’ve said before, November’s election could be a canary in the coal mine for 2020.
A relatively unpopular Republican incumbent. A relatively strong economy. And a state with a considerable urban-versus-rural divide.
Tweet of the day
2020 Vision: Breaking down Beto’s town hall
NBC’s Garrett Haake reports on the highlights of Beto O’Rourke’s CNN town hall appearance last night.
- On impeachment, O’Rourke said it is time to begin, damn the political consequences.
- On abortion, he said any federal judge he nominates must understand that Roe v. Wade is settled law.
- And he defended two positions that sometimes don’t sit well with progressives — his support for Medicare For America versus Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All, and his past vote to lift a ban on oil exports.
On the campaign trail today
Pete Buttigieg visits New York, including participating in a 92nd St. Y event with Jonathan Capehart… And John Delaney stumps in Iowa.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 71 percent and 38 percent
Seventy-one percent and 38 percent.
That’s the share of American voters who say that the state of the economy is good or excellent (71 percent, the highest percentage in almost 18 years) and the share who say that they approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president (38 percent, a typical but decidedly poor number for the commander-in-chief), according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
It’s a striking difference between the record high economic optimism and a presidential approval rating mired in the high 30s.
Asked specifically about Trump’s economic performance, 48 percent of voters say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove.
Still, 54 percent said they “definitely” would not vote for him in 2020.
The Lid: Pelosi and the Giant Impeach: Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we look at the numbers behind the impeachment debate.
ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss
The Washington Post reports that a confidential draft IRS memo says the White House must turn over the president’s tax returns to Congress UNLESS he invokes executive privilege.
Today’s the day for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school to release the findings of its investigation into a racist yearbook photo.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson misheard real estate term “REO” as cookie “OREO.”
Former Ohio State University students don’t think that Jim Jordan has been exonerated in the school’s molestation cover-up scandal.
Trump agenda: Riders on the (tweet)storm
Here’s Trump’s impeachment tweetstorm from this morning.
Trump is hiring Ken Cuccinelli for a senior DHS job. Here’s why that matters.
How exactly does the Trump administration plan to pay for its huge infrastructure plan?
2020: About last night
Here’s the Courier-Journal’s look ahead at the general election in KY-GOV.
And here are the results from that special election in Pennsylvania, where Republican Fred Keller easily won in a heavily red district.
North Korea is taking aim at Joe Biden.
NBC’s Benjy Sarlin asks: Do Democrats have TOO MANY new ideas?
Elizabeth Warren’s plans are built around a huge tax on the wealthy. But will the rich avoid it?
Bernie Sanders is exploring new ways to raise cash.
Meanwhile, Biden raised $2.2 million from two Florida fundraisers.
Kirsten Gillibrand is out with a new “Family Bill of Rights.”
Brexit Party polls latest: Policies and manifesto – What does Brexit Party stand for?
THE BREXIT PARTY is tipped to score a major victory against the Conservatives and Labour in the European Elections 2019 – but what does the party stand for and how is it faring in the latest polls?
California considers health care for undocumented immigrants
By Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lilian Serrano’s mother-in-law had lots of stomach problems, but she always blamed food.
Doctors at a San Diego-area clinic suspected Genoveva Angeles might have cancer, but they could not say for sure because they did not have the equipment to test for it and Angeles, who had been in the country illegally for 20 years, could not afford to see a specialist and did not qualify for state assistance because of her immigration status.
In September, Angeles finally learned she had gallbladder cancer. Serrano said she was in the hospital room when Angeles, in her late 60s, died about two weeks later.
“We don’t know if she would have survived treatment, but she was not even able to access it,” said Serrano, chairwoman of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.
“She never had a chance to fight cancer.”
Stories like that have prompted California lawmakers to consider proposals that would make the state the first in the nation to offer government-funded health care to adult immigrants living in the country illegally. But the decision on who to cover may come down to cost.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spend about $98 million a year to cover low-income immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 who are living in the country illegally.
The state Assembly has a bill that would cover all immigrants in California living in the country illegally over the age of 19. But Newsom has balked at that plan because of its estimated $3.4 billion price.
“There’s 3.4 billion reasons why it is a challenge,” he said.
The state Senate wants to cover adults ages 19 to 25, plus seniors 65 and older. That bill’s sponsor, Sen. Maria Elana Durazo, scoffed at cost concerns, noting the state has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus.
“When we have, you know, a good budget, then what’s the reason for not addressing it?” she said.
The Senate and Assembly will finalize their budget proposals this week before beginning negotiations with the governor. State law says a budget has to be passed by June 15 or lawmaker forfeit their pay.
At stake, according to legislative staffers, are the 3 million people left in California who don’t have health insurance. About 1.8 million of them are immigrants in the country illegally. Of those, about 1.26 million have incomes low enough to qualify them for the Medi-Cal program.
“Symbolically, this is quite significant. This would be establishing California as a counter to federal policies, both around health care and immigration,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If enacted, it could prompt yet another collision with the Trump administration, which has proposed a rule that could hinder immigrants’ residency applications if they rely on public assistance programs such as Medicaid.
The proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security says the goal is to make sure “foreign nationals do not become dependent on public benefits for support.”
California is also considering a measure requiring everyone in the state to purchase health insurance. People who refuse would have to pay a penalty, and the money would go toward helping middle-income residents purchase private health insurance plans.
“We’re going to penalize the citizens of this state that have followed the rules, but we’re going to let somebody who has not followed the rules come in here and get the services for free. I just think that’s wrong,” Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said about coverage of people in the U.S. illegally.
Many immigrants who are in the country illegally are already enrolled for some government-funded programs, but they only cover emergencies and pregnancies.
Serrano was one of hundreds of immigrant activists who came to the Capitol on Monday for “Immigrant Day of Action.” She and her husband spent the day meeting with lawmakers, sharing the story of Angeles.
“The conversation that I have is about the cost,” she said, describing her interactions with lawmakers. “The conversation we want to have is about our families.”
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