WASHINGTON — The last race of 2018 pretty much played out the way the other ones did the last cycle, especially when it comes to special elections.
The good news for the GOP: They won last night’s special election in North Carolina’s Ninth District, with Republican Dan Bishop narrowly defeating Democrat Dan McCready, 51 percent to 49 percent.
That keeps the magic number of seats they need to flip to win back the chamber in 2020 at a net of 18 – instead of raising it to 19. It also means Republicans won’t have to spend the same kind of resources next November to defeat McCready, which would have been a definite target.
That money can now go elsewhere.
The bad news: They barely won a district that both Donald Trump and Mitt Romney carried by 12 points, suggesting — at least for this one special — that the overall political environment hasn’t changed much since 2018.
Indeed, the Cook Political Report identifies more than 30 GOP-held House seats that are less friendly to Republicans than NC-9, per NBC’s Ed Demaria.
They include TX-23 (the open Will Hurd seat), PA-1 (Brian Fitzpatrick), MI-6 (Fred Upton), NE-2 (Don Bacon), IL-12 (Mike Bost), OH-1 (Steve Chabot) and FL-16 (Vern Buchanan).
Mr. Below 40 Percent
Speaking of a political environment that hasn’t changed that much since last November, three new national polls all have Trump’s job rating below 40 percent.
So, nearly a year after the midterms, the president’s approval rating is still stuck in pretty much the same place; Democrats are making more and more races competitive but the bottom still hasn’t fallen out for the GOP; and — in districts with just enough Trump supporters — the president can still show up for a rally and make the difference.
The question for the GOP is, of course, whether there are enough of those Trump-friendly areas in 2020.
By the way, this unchanged political environment is bad news for backers of new gun legislation, too. Without a jarring loss in NC-9, there’s no reason to think Republicans will have any incentive to make policy concessions — on guns or anything else.
National Security Advisor John Bolton is out after a series of disagreements with Trump, most recently over potential negotiations with the Taliban at Camp David.
Bolton is the fourth person to hold the job during the president’s tenure. He served just 520 days (per Foreign Policy), which still made him the longest-tenured official in the position during the Trump administration. Michael Flynn held it for just 24 days before stepping down and later pleading guilty to lying to the FBI; H.R. McMaster was in the job for 412 days; and Keith Kellogg briefly served as acting NSA for seven days.
Trump has tried to make the case that the constant churn is “shaking things up” — but does he have anything to show for it, especially on foreign policy? Other than the public dismissal of people he hired?
As our colleague Benjy Sarlin points out: “There’s no one reason why Trump’s approval isn’t great, but “Everyone I hire ends up being an incompetent loser who betrays me!” continues to be an interesting choice of re-election theme.”
Data Download: The number of the day is … 15.3 percent versus 1.1 percent
15.3 percent versus 1.1 percent.
That’s Democrat Dan McCready’s margin of victory in North Carolina’s Robeson County in the 2018 election and the 2019 special election redo, respectively.
Robeson is a majority-minority county, due in part to about 42 percent of residents who identify as Native American. (Black residents make up another 24 percent.)
And/but: It’s worth noting that the turnout in the special election was far lower — by nearly 10,000 votes in Robeson County alone — compared with 2018.
By the way, Trump won Robeson in 2016 by 4.3 points.
Tweet of the day
2020 Vision: Texas Two-Step
A new Quinnipiac poll in Texas finds Elizabeth Warren now in second place among Democratic primary voters in the Lone Star State, while Beto O’Rourke has slipped since June.
Here’s how the poll — out just a day before the Democratic debate in Houston — shows where the top four candidates stand.
Biden: 28 percent
Warren: 18 percent
Sanders: 12 percent
O’Rourke: 12 percent
And here’s where things stood in the same poll back in June.
Biden: 30 percent
O’Rourke: 16 percent
Sanders: 15 percent
Warren: 11 percent
(No other candidates cracked double digits in either the June or September Texas polls.)
On the campaign trail today
It’s debate-prep day for the major candidates, and they don’t have events… Tom Steyer, who appears to have qualified for the October debate(s), stumps in South Carolina… And Joe Sestak is in New Hampshire.
Dispatches from NBC’s embeds
Elizabeth Warren kicked off debate week in Texas with a town hall in Austin, where she was introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar’s primary challenger, Jessica Cisneros. Warren endorsed Cisneros on Monday. Per NBC’s Benjamin Pu, “Warren reiterated calls to abolish the electoral college” and hunkered down on running her campaign without closed-door fundraisers. Pu flags this Warren remark: “I don’t spend my time at fundraisers for bazillionaires and corporate executives. I just don’t do it.”
And while that could be a wink and a nod to Joe Biden’s fundraisers, Warren deflected when asked how she plans to, or if she plans to, take on Biden directly during the debate on Thursday. Instead, Warren pivoted to discussing how she’s building a grassroots movement and to “talk about what’s broken in this country.”
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
Here’s NBC’s reporting on what went wrong for Trump and John Bolton.
Bolton’s departure “removes one of the last constraints on Mr. Trump’s sense of the possible in world affairs,” writes the New York Times.
Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire say they’re sticking with their caucus and primary.
Is Andrew Yang ready for prime time?
TRUMP AGENDA: Trump targets homelessness in CA
Trump is pushing for a crackdown on homeless camps in California.
POLITICO looks back at how Mike Pence convinced Trump to pick him as VP.
The president is again attacking “boneheads” at the Fed.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus is backing an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
2020: Ten’s a crowd
Most voters think that there are still too many people on the debate stage.
The New York Times previews Biden v. Warren in Houston.
Democratic Senate candidates in Texas are going big on guns.
Labour poll: Should Jeremy Corbyn admit how he obtained ‘nonsense’ leaked documents – VOTE
JEREMY CORBYN attempted to turn the tables by presenting a report which claims Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal would lead to customs checks between the UK and Northern Ireland – a claim the Prime Minister has rubbished as “complete nonsense”. But should the Labour leader admit how he obtained the secret document?
Corbyn bombshell: Labour leader campaign group has shock links to Soviet supporters
JEREMY CORBYN’S quest to win next week’s general election and oust Boris Johnson as Prime Minister is being backed by a campaign group that has shock links to the Soviet past, it has been claimed.
Democrats’ impeachment report cites Trump obstruction and withholding aid, warns of ‘grave harm’
WASHINGTON — The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee released a report Tuesday containing a summary of the evidence it has collected in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The 300-page report cited two instances of misconduct by the president: obstruction of the House inquiry and withholding an official White House meeting and U.S. military aid from Ukraine on the condition of investigating a Trump political rival.
“This report chronicles a scheme of the President of the United States to coerce an ally, Ukraine, that is at war with an adversary, Russia, into doing the president’s political dirty work,” said Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., at a press conference outlining his committee’s findings.
The House Intelligence Committee voted 13-9 in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday evening to send the report to the Judiciary, which will start proceedings on Wednesday.
While the report, which was also prepared by the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, didn’t explicitly include recommendations of articles of impeachment, it strongly implies that obstruction could be one. The report noted that past presidents who were the subject of impeachment inquiries, unlike Trump, complied with subpoenas and requests for information from Congress.
On obstruction, which was described as a “campaign of intimidation,” the report cast Trump’s efforts to “flout” congressional oversight as unprecedented because of his refusal to hand over documents and make certain witnesses available. But it also noted that “the House gathered overwhelming evidence of his misconduct from courageous individuals who were willing to follow the law.”
“No other President has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent,” the report said.
“If left unanswered, President Trump’s ongoing effort to thwart Congress’ impeachment power risks doing grave harm to the institution of Congress, the balance of power between our branches of government, and the Constitutional order that the President and every Member of Congress have sworn to protect and defend.”
The report also constructed a detailed timeline of Trump’s alleged efforts to withhold military assistance to Ukraine, as well as an official invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to meet with Trump in the White House. The timeline was based on the testimony of various aides and diplomats who have been questioned by impeachment investigators.
Ukraine “desperately wanted and needed” U.S. security assistance as well as a White House meeting between its president, Zelenskiy, and Trump, Schiff said.
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“At the same time, there was something President Trump desperately wanted and believed that he needed — and that was an investigation that would damage the rival that he feared the most, Joe Biden, as well as an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in our last election,” he said.
The report included a number of new details that stemmed from AT&T phone records obtained by the House, which showed someone who was using a phone number associated with the Office of Management and Budget called the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in early August during the period when the U.S. aid to Ukraine was frozen. That same day, call records show Giuliani also called the White House Situation Room five times as well as the OMB number.
To freeze the security assistance — which was announced to Trump administration officials on July 18, and not reversed until Sept. 11 — Trump inquired about the aid starting in mid-June and around July 12 “directed that a hold be placed” on the aid to Ukraine, the report said.
“In making the decision to move forward, we were struck by the fact that the President’s misconduct was not an isolated occurrence, nor was it the product of a naïve president,” the report said.
“President Trump does not appear to believe there is any such limitation on his power to use White House meetings, military aid or other official acts to procure foreign help in his re-election.”
The president’s conduct, which put “his own personal and political interests above the interests of the American people,” Schiff said, is “exactly why they prescribed a remedy as extraordinary as the remedy of impeachment.”
“We have a very difficult decision ahead of us to make,” said Schiff, who explained that it will be a decision made by the House Judiciary Committee in conjunction with the House Democratic Caucus.
The report puts the White House summary of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president at the center of the inquiry, calling it “stark evidence of misconduct” and “a demonstration of the President’s prioritization of his personal political benefit over the national interest.”
But, the report claimed, this conversation was “neither the start nor the end of President Trump’s efforts to bend U.S. foreign policy for his personal gain.”
“Rather, it was a dramatic crescendo within a months-long campaign driven by President Trump in which senior U.S. officials, including the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Acting Chief of Staff, the Secretary of Energy, and others were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President,” the report said.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the impeachment inquiry
During his Tuesday remarks, Schiff said Americans should care deeply about whether the president is “betraying their trust in him” and betraying the oath he took to the Constitution.
“If we don’t care about this, we can darn well be sure the president will be back at it doing this all over again,” he said.
The release came ahead of a Tuesday evening meeting scheduled for the panel to consider and vote on adopting the report. The report, along with views provided by Republicans, will then be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which is taking over the next phase of the inquiry.
Much of the evidence came from 17 closed-door interviews with key witnesses, and over two weeks of public hearings last month with a dozen of those witnesses.
In their public testimony, a number of those 12 witnesses confirmed and elaborated on the efforts allegedly made by Trump, his associates and administration officials to get Ukraine to announce investigations into those two issues, and why they believed delayed U.S. aid to Ukraine would only be released once that nation followed through on those demands.
Republicans on the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees released a 123-page minority report Monday evening that argues that Democrats have failed to establish any impeachable offenses by Trump. They said that they didn’t find that Trump engaged in any wrongdoing, and that there was no quid pro quo.
Republicans said there was no evidence that Trump improperly withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine or pressured Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden to help benefit his 2020 re-election campaign, arguing that much of Trump’s action regarding Ukraine actually stems from his “longstanding” skepticism of the country due to “its history of pervasive corruption.”
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first impeachment hearing, which its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said will “explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump.”
Nadler extended an invitation to Trump and his counsel to participate in Wednesday’s hearing, but the White House said Sunday that they had declined the offer. The president is in London this week for the 2019 NATO summit.
It has not yet been decided how many hearings Judiciary might hold or what charges potentially might be wrapped into articles of impeachment. Some lawmakers have recently raised the possibility that other cases could be considered, such as those stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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