Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bernie Is the Frontrunner... For Now


New national polling shows that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is now the undisputed frontrunner in the Democratic national primary. A spate of new polls show that Sanders now has approximately 30 percent of support from national Democrats with Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, and Elizabeth Warren vying for second place.

Three polls released over the past two days confirm that Sanders now enjoys a double-digit lead over his nearest rivals. Here are the results of those polls:

ABC News/Washington Post conducted Feb. 14-17 with 408 registered voters:
Sanders – 32
Biden – 16
Bloomberg – 14
Warren – 12
All others are under 10 percent.

Emerson College conducted Feb. 16-18 with 573 likely voters:
Sanders – 29
Biden – 22
Bloomberg – 14
Warren – 12
All others are under 10 percent.

NBC News/Wall St. Journal conducted Feb. 14-17 with 426 likely voters:

Sanders – 27     
Biden – 15
Bloomberg – 14
Warren – 14
Buttigieg -13
All others are under 10 percent.

The polling undisputedly shows that Bernie Sanders is moving away from Joe Biden. Sanders has not only climbed in the polls after his strong showing in Iowa and his victory in New Hampshire, but Biden has also dropped off sharply.

But it isn’t only Sanders - and perhaps it isn’t even predominantly Sanders – who has benefitted from Biden’s misfortune. A look at the Real Clear Politics polling average graph shows that Biden’s decline mirrors Bloomberg’s rise almost perfectly. It appears that Bloomberg is drawing many of the moderate Democrats who were once Biden supporters.

However, as with the Electoral College, the nuts and bolts of the delegate race are at the state level. As I pointed out last week, there is a dearth of polling in Nevada, South Carolina, and the Super Tuesday states so there is room for surprises. What polling there is shows a muddled race. Some various recent state polls show Sanders up by 19 points in Nevada and somewhere between four and 18 points in California. Meanwhile, the most recent South Carolina polling shows Joe Biden with a narrowing lead, last reported at eight points. In most cases, Bloomberg and Biden are competing for second place.

Biden’s concern for his South Carolina firewall is evident in the fact that his campaign is deploying John Kerry, famously described by Wall St. Journal columnist James Taranto as “the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam,” to rally his forces in the Palmetto State. The State reports that the 2004 presidential nominee will join a bus tour with Biden’s surrogates as it swings through the state.

I wrote several times earlier this year that the Democratic primary might follow the model of the 2016 Republican race in which the moderate candidates split the vote, allowing the radical outsider to win with a plurality. Only this year, I surmised, the effect might be the reverse with progressive radicals splitting the vote and allowing the moderate Biden to cruise to victory. Michael Bloomberg’s late entry into the race changed all that.

Bloomberg’s ad blitz paired with Biden’s underwhelming performance seems to have established the New Yorker as a spoiler. With Bloomberg drawing from Biden’s support, both of the moderates are weaker than Bernie Sanders, but their combined shares of support are larger than Sanders’ share in most cases. If both candidates stay in the race, Bernie seems likely to come out on top.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Bernie will win, however. There seems to be a growing chance that none of the candidates will be able to claim the nomination outright, leading to a brokered convention in which a deal has to be struck to determine a nominee. The FiveThirtyEight model recently put the chances of a brokered convention at about 25 percent.
Even if Bernie emerges with a plurality of delegates, he may be denied the nomination in a brokered convention. The fail-safe scenario in which moderate Democrats unite to prevent a Bernie nomination could give the Democrats a more electable candidate, but it could also split the party. Either scenario could make it difficult for Democrats to beat Donald Trump.

The next big tells will be South Carolina and Super Tuesday. If Bernie strongly outperforms Biden and Bloomberg, he could be unstoppable on the way to the nomination. If Biden’s Southern firewall holds, it may be a close three-way race to the convention.

Tune in next week to see what other changes happen in this topsy-turvy race.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Klobucharge! Is Amy The New Moderate Choice?

The surprises from the New Hampshire primary were not the top two finishers. Everyone knew Bernie Sanders would take the Granite State. The big news above the fold was how poorly Bernie fared relative to his performance in 2016 when he did not face a bevy of challengers. Likewise, Pete Buttigieg’s strong second-place finish was not unexpected after his win in Iowa.
The big news from New Hampshire came from further down the list with Amy Klobuchar’s surprisingly strong showing in third place. Last week, Klobuchar was polling in single-digits and this week her share of the vote pegged at just below 20 percent. What happened in the meantime?
There were two big reasons for the shift in polling. First, there was Klobuchar’s formidable performance in last week’s New Hampshire debate. Second, there was Joe Biden’s underwhelming finish in Iowa and his subsequent self-immolation moment in which he called a voter at a town hall meeting a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”
Aside from the question of what a pony soldier is and how it would apply at a town hall meeting, the lesson here is that candidates should probably refrain from insulting voters if they want to win votes. Even if Biden was joking, he has now built a history of attacking town hall attendees after calling an Iowa man “a damn liar” in December.
If we compare the recent polling trends on Real Clear Politics with the actual results, we see that Sanders, Biden, and Warren all underperformed relative to expectations while Buttigieg and Klobuchar did better than expected. I don’t think it is unreasonable to speculate that part of Klobuchar’s surge (dubbed the “Klobucharge” by the FiveThirtyEight podcast) came at the expense of Biden and Warren who both had lackluster performances in the recent debate. With Biden failing and Sanders’ success alarming the party, it is possible that Klobuchar is emerging as the moderate in the race.
When I discuss moderate Democrats, I always get comments that say that no Democrats are moderate so let me stipulate that the term is relative. A Democratic moderate is not the same as a Republican moderate, but there is a range in the Democratic platforms. Biden and Klobuchar are not identical to Bernie and Buttigieg by any stretch of the imagination.
The big question is what comes next. Well, next after Nevada where no one has any real idea of what is going to happen (but where Sanders is under attack by the Culinary union).
What about South Carolina?
Joe Biden has been betting big on South Carolina with its large black population, which has been the base of his support. But now new polling shows that Biden’s support among black voters is falling as blacks turn to… Mike Bloomberg? [Checks notes.] Yes, Mike Bloomberg has cut sharply into Biden’s minority support in a new Quinnipiac poll that shows the mayor at 22 percent in the demographic versus 27 percent for the vice president. If Biden’s support among blacks is slipping then he’s toast.
But will blacks stick with Mayor Mike? Bloomberg is already in hot water as an embarrassing clip has resurfaced in which he blames “male minorities, 16 to 25” for “95 percent of your murders.” The comments relate to the unpopular stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD in which police were permitted to stop and search minority men.
Black voters represent the kingmaker of the Democratic primary in almost every presidential campaign. The question is who they will coalesce around if they desert Joe Biden. The three remaining likely contenders are all white northerners with little minority support.
Bernie Sanders has not caught the imagination of black voters even in his second campaign. Pete Buttigieg has little traction in states after Iowa and New Hampshire and may be too liberal for black voters. That could conceivably leave Amy Klobuchar as the heir apparent to the moderate lane.
However, it is premature to count Joe Biden out. Despite the media narrative that his campaign is freefall, he is still the frontrunner in national polling, if only just so, and still holds a double-digit lead in South Carolina polling. As I pointed out last week, there is a dearth of polling in most Super Tuesday states so no one is really sure what will happen.
The most recent polling average in South Carolina shows Biden with 31 percent, surprisingly followed by Tom Steyer at 19 and Sanders at 17. Warren, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar are all at less than 10 percent. Mike Bloomberg doesn’t even register.
However, South Carolina is still two weeks away and the field is in a state of upheaval. A poor showing in Nevada could deepen Biden’s descent in the polls and impact his performance in the Palmetto State.
With the situation changing rapidly and little hard data to look at, especially relating to the minority vote, all eyes are on South Carolina and Super Tuesday. This year, the race could be described like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates.
“You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, February 7, 2020

Trump Fires Vindman And Sondland In Friday Night Massacre



In a move reminiscent of President Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly after the 2018 elections, the White House has dismissed two prominent impeachment witnesses within days of the president’s acquittal by the Senate. Numerous sources are reporting tonight that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland have been fired from their jobs in the Trump Administration.
Lt. Col. Vindman, an army officer posted to the National Security Council as an expert on Ukraine, and his twin brother, Yevgeny, a lawyer serving on the NSC, were both reassigned back to the Defense Department.
In a statement, the army confirmed the firings of the Vindman brothers to Politico, saying, ” “We can confirm that both Lt. Cols. Vindman have been reassigned to the Department of the Army, out of respect for their privacy, we will not be providing any further information at this time.”
Hours after the news of Vindman’s firing, news also broke that Sondland had been recalled.
“I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement quoted in The Hill.
I am proud of our accomplishments,” Sondland added. “Our work here has been the highlight of my career.”
The firings came shortly after Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told attendees at the Maine Chiefs of Police Association that retribution against witnesses who testified against the president would be “inappropriate” per a report by the Portland Press Herald. Collins voted to call witnesses but cast her ballot to acquit the president of the impeachment charges.
At this point, it is not known whether there will be additional firings. A number of witnesses have already left their government posts, but others are still in their Trump Administration jobs. Among the witnesses still serving are Laura Cooper, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and George Kent, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Marie Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor, and Tim Morrison have all left their government jobs while Jennifer Williams, formerly an advisor to Vice President Pence, was transferred to a new job with Central Command in January.  
It is not clear how the federal whistleblower statute will apply to the fired witnesses. However, the Government Accountability Project points out that “the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects public employee whistleblowers from retaliation when they make truthful statements while giving compelled testimony.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Welcome To The Imperial Presidency


Sometimes you can know what’s coming and still be disappointed at the outcome. That was the case yesterday with the Senate’s votes to acquit President Trump. There was really never any serious doubt that the Senate would allow the president to keep his job yet there was always the hope that Republicans would rise to the occasion and do their civic duty in removing a man who has repeatedly shown that he cannot be trusted with power. Of course, that didn’t happen.

Even though several Republicans admitted that Donald Trump had done what he was accused of doing, only Utah Senator Mitt Romney dared to break ranks and vote to convict the president. For that, Mr. Romney is of course not being thanked for objectively upholding the rule of law and acting to restrain an abuse of presidential power, but rather is being attacked for what Republican partisans see as traitorous behavior.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is representative of the Republicans who acknowledge Trump’s bad behavior yet voted to acquit him anyway. In his statement explaining his vote against calling witnesses, Alexander said, “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a 'mountain of overwhelming evidence.’”

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” Lamar continued. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.”

Nevertheless, Alexander and the other Republicans argue that the Senate has no power to remove a president for such an abuse of power, a statement that flies in the face of the original intent of the Founders.

“I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday,” Alexander said.

Alexander and the other Republicans also reject punishment of the president short of removal. The Tennessee senator also failed to support a resolution of censure floated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

Yet, despite their handwringing over Trump’s “inappropriate” actions and their professed belief that the people rather than the Senate should decide whether to remove the president, Alexander and the other Republicans support Donald Trump’s re-election.

“Whatever you think of his behavior,” Alexander told the New York Times, "With the terrific economy, with conservative judges, with fewer regulations, you add in there an inappropriate call with the president of Ukraine, and you decide if you prefer him or Elizabeth Warren.”

At least he’s not Elizabeth Warren.

To put it succinctly, the Republican position on Trump is that the president does bad things but he should not be removed or even punished a little bit for his behavior. The people should decide the president’s fate and the people should send him back to Washington where he can engage in more bad behavior over the next four years.

I have no doubt that if the positions were reversed and Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren had done what Trump has done, Republicans would have no problem overcoming their aversion to partisan impeachments and their belief that the people should decide the president’s fate. For that matter, I’m equally certain that the Democrats would suddenly become proponents of executive privilege and limited congressional authority.

The difference between the two is that I expected more from the Republicans. As a lifelong Republican until 2016, I identified as a member of that party because of its adherence to objective principles that were not dependent upon who occupied the Oval Office. Among those principles were the ideas of equal application of the law, limited governmental authority under the Constitution, and the belief that good government requires good character in its officials. Such notions now seem quaint in the new Republican Party.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched Republicans shift from promising to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire to making excuses for him as he flouts not only conventional behavior but the law as well. Earlier this week at the State of the Union, Republicans gave an ovation to the President who proposed a laundry list of big government items that would have gotten him denounced as a RINO in the Republican Party of yesteryear. Instead, Republicans now celebrate big government from the right.

Hunter Baker at The Federalist admits as much outright. “In essence, the president told Americans that he agrees with Democrats that we need a big, energetic government, but not their kind of big, energetic government.”

And that is the new Republican Party in a nutshell. It is okay with big government as long as it isn’t the left’s version of big government. It is okay with government corruption as long as it isn’t a corrupt Democrat. It is okay with government overreach as long as the overreach is for something that the Republican base wants.

With the Democrats having long ago embraced the politics of the end justifying the means, the Republicans were our last hope at maintaining a limited, constitutional government. Now that Republicans have abandoned the idea of impartially resisting the growth of executive power, it seems unlikely that there will be any serious limitation on a president as long as he has a majority to back him.

The Democrats will find Trump’s precedents helpful when they return to power, as they certainly will one day.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Welcome To The Imperial Presidency

Sometimes you can know what’s coming and still be disappointed at the outcome. That was the case yesterday with the Senate’s votes to acquit President Trump. There was really never any serious doubt that the Senate would allow the president to keep his job yet there was always the hope that Republicans would rise to the occasion and do their civic duty in removing a man who has repeatedly shown that he cannot be trusted with power. Of course, that didn’t happen.
Even though several Republicans admitted that Donald Trump had done what he was accused of doing, only Utah Senator Mitt Romney dared to break ranks and vote to convict the president. For that, Mr. Romney is of course not being thanked for objectively upholding the rule of law and acting to restrain an abuse of presidential power, but rather is being attacked for what Republican partisans see as traitorous behavior.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is representative of the Republicans who acknowledge Trump’s bad behavior yet voted to acquit him anyway. In his statement explaining his vote against calling witnesses, Alexander said, “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’”
“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” Lamar continued. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.”
Nevertheless, Alexander and the other Republicans argue that the Senate has no power to remove a president for such an abuse of power, a statement that flies in the face of the original intent of the Founders.
“I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday,” Alexander said.
Alexander and the other Republicans also reject punishment of the president short of removal. The Tennessee senator also failed to support a resolution of censure floated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).
Yet, despite their handwringing over Trump’s “inappropriate” actions and their professed belief that the people rather than the Senate should decide whether to remove the president, Alexander and the other Republicans support Donald Trump’s re-election.
“Whatever you think of his behavior,” Alexander told the New York Times, “With the terrific economy, with conservative judges, with fewer regulations, you add in there an inappropriate call with the president of Ukraine, and you decide if you prefer him or Elizabeth Warren.”
At least he’s not Elizabeth Warren.
To put it succinctly, the Republican position on Trump is that the president does bad things but he should not be removed or even punished a little bit for his behavior. The people should decide the president’s fate and the people should send him back to Washington where he can engage in more bad behavior over the next four years.
I have no doubt that if the positions were reversed and Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren had done what Trump has done, Republicans would have no problem overcoming their aversion to partisan impeachments and their belief that the people should decide the president’s fate. For that matter, I’m equally certain that the Democrats would suddenly become proponents of executive privilege and limited congressional authority.
The difference between the two is that I expected more from the Republicans. As a lifelong Republican until 2016, I identified as a member of that party because of its adherence to objective principles that were not dependent upon who occupied the Oval Office. Among those principles were the ideas of equal application of the law, limited governmental authority under the Constitution, and the belief that good government requires good character in its officials. Such notions now seem quaint in the new Republican Party.
Over the past few years, I’ve watched Republicans shift from promising to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire to making excuses for him as he flouts not only conventional behavior but the law as well. Earlier this week at the State of the Union, Republicans gave an ovation to the President who proposed a laundry list of big government items that would have gotten him denounced as a RINO in the Republican Party of yesteryear. Instead, Republicans now celebrate big government from the right.
Hunter Baker at The Federalist admits as much outright. “In essence, the president told Americans that he agrees with Democrats that we need a big, energetic government, but not their kind of big, energetic government.”
And that is the new Republican Party in a nutshell. It is okay with big government as long as it isn’t the left’s version of big government. It is okay with government corruption as long as it isn’t a corrupt Democrat. It is okay with government overreach as long as the overreach is for something that the Republican base wants.
With the Democrats having long ago embraced the politics of the end justifying the means, the Republicans were our last hope at maintaining a limited, constitutional government. Now that Republicans have abandoned the idea of impartially resisting the growth of executive power, it seems unlikely that there will be any serious limitation on a president as long as he has a majority to back him.
The Democrats will find Trump’s precedents helpful when they return to power, as they certainly will one day.

Monday, February 3, 2020

New Poll Shows Biden’s Lead Narrowing In South Carolina

Joe Biden has been looking forward to South Carolina but a new poll shows that the former vice president may have cause to worry in the Palmetto State. While Biden has consistently been strong in South Carolina, the new poll from the Post and Courier and Change Research indicated that Biden’s lead has been cut to five points over Bernie Sanders.
The poll showed Biden with 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters while Sanders nips at his heels with 20 percent. Tom Steyer, who has blitzed the state with ads in an all-out attempt to stay in the race, polled third with 18 percent. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg followed with 11 and seven percent respectively. No other candidates polled above five percent.
Although the poll is likely to set off alarm bells at the Biden campaign, it is far from certain that the Sanders surge in South Carolina is real. The only other recent polls in the state, a GQR Research poll taken from January 9-13 and a Fox News poll taken from January 5-8, both showed Biden with a lead of more than 20 points. On the other hand, as other outlets were showing double-digit leads for Biden, another Change Research poll from December showed only a seven-point lead for the vice president.
This leaves a couple of possibilities. There could be a real Sanders surge underway that developed since mid-January. Alternatively, Change Research could be habitually overcounting Sanders supporters. The relatively small sample size and Change Research’s previous outlier poll from December suggest that Biden’s lead is larger than the poll indicates. It is very suspicious that only Change Research shows a close race.
South Carolina’s primary is set for Saturday, February 29. There will undoubtedly be several new polls as the Palmetto State’s Election Day draws near. My bet would be that they show a larger lead for Joe Biden than what Change Research found.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Iowa Caucuses Are Too Close To Call

Okay, political junkies, it’s time. A campaign season that already seems to be endless finally gets its official start today with the Iowa caucuses. As is fitting for a year with so much uncertainty, the Iowa race is too close to call.
If you’ve followed the polling, you know how topsy-turvy the Iowa race has been over the past few months. Elizabeth Warren led throughout the early fall and then Pete Buttigieg surged in November. As the new year dawned, Bernie Sanders was ascendant but then Joe Biden, who seemed to have written off Iowa months ago, was suddenly thrust back to the top of the polls.
The polling situation is made all the more difficult by the absence of the Des Moines Register poll that is normally considered the gold standard in the state. The paper decided not to release the poll results after reports that operators at the call center had adjusted the font size on their list of questions. The change caused Pete Buttigieg to be inadvertently dropped from the list of options and skewed the poll results.
Other recent polling alternated between favoring Biden and Sanders. Currently, the polling averages of both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight show an edge for Sanders, by four points and one point respectively, but neither average reflects the new CBS poll that was released this morning.
The plot thickens if we throw the CBS poll into the mix because it shows Biden and Sanders tied at 25 percent. The CBS “Battleground Tracker” is actually more than a poll. It’s a model that blends multiple polls and considers the stated intentions of more than 35,000 likely voters.
Beyond the top two candidates, CBS found Pete Buttigieg in a close third at 23 percent and Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent. Amy Klobuchar, who you may remember was near the 15-percent threshold for earning delegates in a recent Emerson survey, is now polling at five percent. All other candidates were below five percent.
Under the current polling, Biden and Sanders can be expected to win an almost even number of delegates, regardless of who the top finisher is. Buttigieg and Warren are also likely to earn Iowa delegates.
The nature of caucuses, which require much more effort than simply casting a ballot in a primary, would normally favor Sanders since the Vermont senator inspires a zealous following among his Bernie Bro backers. However, the current state of alarm in the Democratic Party over a possible Sanders candidacy may mobilize establishment Democrats to spend the time to caucus for Joe Biden.
As I’ve said before, Sanders may well win Iowa and will almost certainly win New Hampshire, but the long term race still seems to favor Biden. Nevertheless, Bernie is peaking at the right time to give the former vice president a run for his money.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Neither Side Looks Good On Impeachment


As the impeachment process begins its final phase this week, there is already debate over which side got the best of the other and who stands to benefit most in this year’s election. The one thing that can be said for certain is that neither side has emerged from impeachment looking good.

On one hand, Democrats look bad because of problems with their handling of the impeachment process. The House rushed its impeachment vote and then, perhaps realizing that they had committed a strategic error in placing the decision on whether to dig deeper in Mitch McConnell’s hands, inexplicably sat on the referral to the Senate for weeks. Republicans had a legitimate point when they asked why the House felt the need to urgently impeach the president and then delay his trial.

Republicans also had a good point when they asked why more witnesses were needed when House Democrats had said that there was overwhelming evidence. Even though about half the country seems to have agreed with the Democrats according to numerous polls, including a recent Fox News poll that showed 50 percent support for the president’s removal, House Democrats obviously did not convince their Republican counterparts in the Senate. Words like “inarguable,” “undeniable,” and “undebatable” are almost always proven to inadequate descriptors, especially in political matters, because both sides are adept at arguing, denying, and debating.

The Democratic error was a two-fold miscalculation in both rhetoric and wrapping up the investigation prematurely. While the House hearings way back in October did a good job of convincing a plurality of Americans that the president had committed impeachable acts, every new revelation that emerges in the Ukraine scandal is a reminder that House Democrats quit investigating after they had barely scratched the surface.

A final Democrat error was in not throwing the book at the president. Robert Mueller had already investigated and documented other obstructive abuses of power in his report. The president’s abuse of national emergency authority to subvert the will of Congress could have been another article of impeachment as well. The articles could have easily become a laundry list.

On the other hand, Republicans have acted to mislead voters in nearly every claim made in defense of Donald Trump. Since the news of the president’s quid pro quo deal attempting to exchange aid for an investigation of the Bidens was revealed back in September, the party’s members have continually shifted the goalposts and attempted to prevent the full truth of the president’s activities from being revealed.

First, Republicans claimed that the transcript of the July 25 phone call didn’t contain evidence of a quid pro quo. In reality, the document, which is not a direct transcript of the call, indicates that when Zelensky asked about getting Javelin anti-tank missiles from the US, the next word out of Trump’s mouth were “I would like you to do us a favor….”

That favor turned out to be two investigations. In his first request, the president raised the issue of Crowdstrike and the DNC server from 2016. This conspiracy theory had already been thoroughly debunked by Trump’s own Homeland Security staff before the call was made. The second investigation was into “talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution.” The president asked Zelensky to cooperate with Rudy Giuliani in looking into the Bidens. The Dispatch does a good job of laying out the facts of the Biden allegations, which turn out not to hold water.   

Second, Republicans argued that President Trump was not accused of a crime and that the Founders had intended impeachment as a punishment only for criminal acts. They are wrong on both counts.

The Constitutional Rights Foundation describes the history of “high crimes and misdemeanors” thusly: “Some of these charges were crimes. Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.”

The Republican constitutional witness to House impeachment hearings agreed. Jonathan Turley told House investigators that Alexander Hamilton had defined “impeachable offenses” in Federalist 65 as “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” What Turley objected to was not that the president’s actions were not impeachable, but “the paucity of evidence.” Turley thought that Democrats needed to keep digging and building their case.

Looking back through our history, about half of US impeachments have not involved criminal offenses. Abuse of power was a common charge in impeachment cases. If only presidential impeachments are considered, the Republican argument is still wrong. Andrew Johnson was impeached for violating a noncriminal statute as well as “designing and intending to set aside the rightful authority and powers of Congress….”

To the second point, President Trump broke numerous laws leading up to his impeachment. His freeze on the Ukrainian aid violated the Impoundment Control Act, a noncriminal violation of the law similar to Andrew Johnson’s violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Trump also likely violated campaign finance laws that prohibit soliciting or accepting help in an election from foreign governments.

The president almost certainly committed criminal acts as well. Several Trump supporters have made the case that there is no law against “obstruction of Congress.” While this may be true in the strictest sense, it is wrong in terms of case law that covers contempt of Congress. Obstruction of Congress is covered by series of other laws notes the Congressional Research Service. The statute isn’t called obstruction of Congress but laws against obstruction of federal proceedings and witness tampering are among the laws that prohibit obstructing Congress. The Democratic authors of the articles of impeachment should have specifically referenced these statutes.

Republicans were also less than honest when they claimed that it was abnormal for witnesses to appear in Senate impeachment trials. While Republicans claimed that Democratic handling of impeachment violated congressional tradition, it was the Republican refusal to hear witnesses that broke the tradition of every prior impeachment trial in US history.
   
Finally, I’m most disappointed in the Republican claims that the president has absolute immunity and a seemingly unlimited executive privilege. As I discussed in detail last week, legal precedent reaching back to the days of Thomas Jefferson does not support claims of absolute immunity and privilege. In fact, precedent points in the opposite direction, particularly when the president is attempting to use executive privilege to hide wrongdoing.

It’s hard to imagine that the Republican Party, which for most of my life proudly claimed to be the party of constitutionalists, is now twisting the original intent of the Constitution to protect presidential behavior that is exactly what the Founders were worried about, but that is where we are in 2020. In This bizarro world, the process errors of the Democrats are worse than the abuses of power by the president.

There were problems with both sides’ handling of the impeachment. The House should have subpoenaed more witnesses and asked courts to force the Administration to comply. The White House should have done its legal duty and complied with constitutional requests from Congress or at least fought them in court rather than ignoring them. The Senate could have chosen to rectify the errors of both sides by hearing witnesses and examining evidence that came to light after the House voted in December. Justice called for the Senate to find the truth.

The biggest error of Senate Republicans, however, was the almost total lack of curiosity about their president’s behavior. A new poll showed that 75 percent of voters, including about half of Republicans, wanted the Senate to call witnesses. Less than four percent of Senate Republicans honored the will of the people. Many of those voters will remember Friday’s vote when they cast ballots this November.

Republicans who do not want to hold President Trump accountable have said from the beginning that the people should decide his fate. When the president is acquitted next week, Trump’s fate will fall to voters after all. While the Senate was able to plug its collective ears and not hear the evidence against the president, the White House won’t stop other revelations in the media so easily. The witnesses that the Senate refused to hear will be splayed across newspaper headlines and television screens between now and Election Day.

When voters go to the polls, they will have a choice between the Democrats, who carried out an incompetent investigation, and the Republicans who, when faced with presidential corruption of YUGE proportions, chose to look the other way. The GOP may not be pleased to see how voters reward the actions of President Trump and his defenders.

Originally published on The Resurgent