Dec 4, 2019

Kamala drops out of the race.

Kamala drops out of the race.

Plus, a question about the Senate trial and three stories that matter.

Today’s read: 9 minutes.

Kamala Harris drops out, what it means, three stories that matter and a question about the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial.

Yesterday’s poll.

Thanks so much for responding to the poll yesterday. 17% of you chimed in. The most interesting number: 25.8% of you said you identified as independents. The winner of the Tangle poll was Elizabeth Warren, who got 29.9% of the first-place votes and 27.2% of the second-place votes. Here are the full results of the first-place vote:

  1. Elizabeth Warren - 29.2%
  2. Bernie Sanders - 25.9%
  3. Pete Buttigieg - 16.3%
  4. Andrew Yang - 9.2%
  5. Joe Biden - 5.6%
  6. Michael Bloomberg - 3.2%
  7. Tulsi Gabbard - 2%
  8. Someone else - 2%
  9. Amy Klobuchar - 1.6%
  10. Cory Booker - 1.6%
  11. Kamala Harris - .8%
  12. Deval Patrick - .8%
  13. I wouldn’t vote - .8%
  14. Michael Bennet - .4%
  • No other candidates received a first-place vote.
  • Of Independent-identifying Tangle readers, Bernie Sanders was the top-chosen candidate.
  • Of Republican-identifying Tangle readers, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg were the top-chosen candidates.

Here is the first-place vote data visualized:

Thank you, again, for everyone who responded. I am going to keep incorporating these polls going forward!

What’s happening now.

The impeachment hearings start back up. Yesterday, Democrats released their report on impeachment. The biggest news was a series of phone records that were published, showing phone calls between House Rep. Devin Nunes and Lev Parnas, the now-indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. Some people think the call records implicate Nunes in the Ukraine scheme, despite the fact he’s the very person being tasked with investigating it. Republicans say Democrats overreached by publishing Nunes’s phone records (Democrats responded that they got Giuliani and Parnas’s phone records, and Nunes appeared only because of his contacts with them). Currently, lawyers are currently testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on the question of whether Trump’s actions, as detailed in the Democrats’ report on the inquiry, constitute impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee is known for being a partisan, circus-like scene in Congress, so you can expect some fireworks. So far, Professor Pamela S. Karlan has made the biggest splash and is quickly becoming a liberal hero for how she has described Trump’s conduct.

What D.C. is talking about.

Kamala Harris. Yesterday, less than 30 seconds after I pressed “send” on this newsletter, the Democratic nominee for president and California senator unexpectedly dropped out of the race. Tangle recently covered how Harris’s campaign was in disarray, but her exit still shocked a lot of people. She was one of just seven Democrats who had already qualified for the next debate, and just a few months ago she was seen as a frontrunner. In a statement to supporters, Harris focused hard on the finances of the race: “I’m not a billionaire,” she said. “I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.”

What the right is saying.

Good riddance. Harris was loathed by most people on the right, for flip-flopping on Medicare-for-All, for focusing so much on race issues, and for attacking Tulsi Gabbard (one of the few Democrats some Trump supporters and Republicans on the right actually like). Her exit yesterday was roundly mocked by pretty much any conservative who has a platform. In the National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke summed up many of the views on the right in a scathing op-ed that ended like this: “Everything that is wrong with American politics is summed up in Kamala Harris. She’s a weather vane. She’s dishonest. She’s a coward. She’s condescending. And she’s a phony. She’s the answer to no useful or virtuous question. Nothing good has come from her election. She has nothing of value to offer America. Goodbye. Bad luck. That’s all, folks.”

What the left is saying.

Depends which left. A lot of people on the far-left are happy to see Kamala go. Progressives have long been wary of Harris’s history as a prosecutor, and younger supporters of Bernie Sanders took to calling her “Kamala the cop.” Supporters spent the day eulogizing Harris as if she had died, thanking her for everything she’d done for the country. A lot of women of color, especially those in politics, said Harris was an inspiration to them and blazed a trail that they hoped to soon follow — besides Shirley Chisholm, the first black Congresswoman, Harris may be the best-known woman of color to ever run for president. Speaking of race: perhaps the most common reaction to the news on the left is that the next Democratic debate, later this month, currently features six white candidates: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer. Harris dropped out and the other nonwhite candidates (Yang, Gabbard, Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Deval Patrick) have all failed to qualify.

My take.

When news broke that Harris’s campaign was ending, I was genuinely shocked. Not because I thought she had a chance at the nomination (the reports about her campaign did not sound good), but simply for how quickly she fell. A year ago, Nate Silver was saying that “however you analyze the primary, Kamala Harris is one of the frontrunners.” On October 30th, Silver said it was “a little nuts” Harris only had a 1.6% chance in the betting markets. Harry Enten, another gainfully employed pollster, had Harris #1 on his CNN power rankings of the 2020 candidates last year. And now this.

Frankly, there is a lot about Harris and how she’s run her campaign that I don’t like. She has flip-flopped over and over again on her Medicare-for-All stance, enough that I’m not even sure where she stands. In fact, she’s been elusive about most policy stances she’s taken, and even when she isn’t being elusive her words and actions often don’t line up. She derided billionaires in the race, but she had more billionaire donors than any other candidate. And, while there were plenty of bad faith criticisms lobbed at Harris yesterday, it’s absolutely true that her record as a prosecutor would make a lot of Americans cringe. She’s aided in the violation of basic constitutional rights, kept innocent people in prison and advocated prosecution for parents whose kids missed school. Even on legalization, Harris scoffed in 2014 when asked if she’d support legalizing marijuana, and then reversed course in 2018 when her presidential ambitions were becoming apparent. I’m not taking a stance on any or all of these moves (I have my own doubts about legalization and there have been plenty of well-written defenses of Harris), but I do think she’s been disingenuous about her past, even if she seems like one of the more genuine candidates on stage.

I also agree, though, that it’s disheartening to see Democrats end up with an all-white stage in December. This is still a diverse field (already a Jewish candidate, two women and a gay candidate have qualified for the debate), but 2018 exit polls showed 39 percent of Democratic voters were nonwhite. It’s not hard to understand why so many people of color are expressing disappointment at Harris dropping out: to have zero of the six qualified candidates on stage be nonwhite when nearly half of all Democratic voters are nonwhite is not really representative. At the same time, though, the simple reality is nonwhite voters have generally coalesced behind Sanders and Biden. Biden has 43% of the black vote in the latest Quinnipiac poll while Harris only had 5%. Those numbers aren’t an accident, and they reflect genuine support for Biden over a candidate a lot of voters had trouble connecting with. Now, the question is where will Harris supporters go?

Your questions, answered.

Your questions can be answered, too. All you have to do is write to me by replying to this email. Give it a shot!

Q: This is a great overview but how does the Senate trial work? Senate Republicans are preparing to defend the president but isn't it their job to be the jury.  Can you explain the Senate trial piece?  New witnesses? Etc. What about the main characters: Bolton, Perry, Mulvaney — will they ever be called to testify?

- George, Atlanta, GA

Tangle: Thanks for the question, George! In retrospect, I’m regretful my “Impeachment Overview” didn’t cover more of the Senate trial phase, but I suppose I may have to dive back into that if and when we get there.

Assuming the House impeaches Trump and things go forward as expected, the Senate trial would be quite the spectacle. First, the Chief Justice of the United States — John G. Roberts — would preside over the trial. He’d be sworn in and the Senate would adopt guidelines and rules for the trial much like the House did for the inquiry (except this time, Republicans would have the majority). Trump would then be asked to respond to the articles of impeachment (the charges) against him. He can decline to respond, which is essentially a not guilty plea, or he could set forward his own telling of the events.

At this point, it’s entirely possible that Senate Republicans could shut down the impeachment trial. As The New York Times notes: “Depending on the rules set by this Senate, any senator may propose a motion to dismiss the charges, and the Senate would deliberate and vote on the move for dismissal. A simple majority vote would be required.” That being said, McConnell has repeatedly vowed that he would hold a trial, enough times that it seems unlikely he’d change course now.

Once a trial is in motion, it will resemble a courtroom in many ways. Witnesses will be called and cross-examined, the White House will have a counsel representing them, and “House managers” will present evidence to try to convince the Senate to remove Trump. The process would take days or weeks, and witnesses that were brought forward in the House impeachment inquiry could be called to testify again. Of the witnesses you inquired about, Bolton is probably the most likely to end up testifying — but I wouldn’t bet on it. New witnesses, like the indicted Lev Parnas (who was associated with Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani), could also end up testifying even though they didn’t in the House impeachment inquiry.

Throughout this process, it’s worth noting that the power dynamics will be a lot different than in the House. An acquittal for Trump is considered a foregone conclusion, though the trial itself could do political damage to him. But some Senators, like Lindsey Graham, have made it clear they would do their best to make the trial about Joe and Hunter Biden.

Once the trial phase is over, Senators will convene in what is usually a closed-door deliberation (again, this will be only the fourth impeachment of a president, so there isn’t a ton of precedent here). After the private deliberation, the Senators will publicly vote yay or nay on whether they believe Trump is guilty and should be removed from office. One liberal pipe dream that’s been floated around is that the Senate votes to have a “secret ballot,” thus removing the political pressure on senators and allowing them to vote their conscious in private. Changing that rule, though, would require a supermajority (67 votes in the 100-person Senate) just as removing Trump would require a supermajority. Both seem unlikely.

All this being said, what actually happens at the Senate trial is really anyone’s guess. There are plenty of rules that outline how things go down, most of that I’ve touched on here, but when it comes to witnesses, evidence, how serious it will be taken, how people will vote, etc., anyone telling you they know what will happen is selling snake oil. The truth is this political moment is unlike any we’ve had before it, and impeachment as a whole is a historic, incredibly rare and wildly powerful constitutional tool that has not been tested nearly enough to know how it will all play out. A few votes here and some clever procedural moves there, the entire process as we know it could be flipped on its head. It’s just so hard to say. The best-detailed account I found of the rules we do understand was just published in LawFareBlog. You can read those here.

A story that matters.

There were several stories that broke in the last 24 hours that I felt qualified for today’s “Story that matters” section, so I’ve decided to include them all here.

  • American teenagers have been stagnant in reading and math since 2000, according to the latest results from a rigorous international exam. Despite efforts to raise America’s teenage performance, the achievement gap between high and low performers is widening and the U.S. continues to lag behind other nations. You can read more here.
  • As part of ongoing negotiations in a trade deal between the U.S., Canda and Mexico (USMCA), Mexico may agree to drop language in the deal that gives brand name drugmakers 10 years of market protection from generic spinoffs. Big brands say they need market protection to ensure profits from their research to produce the drugs. Generic spinoffs say the protections stifle competition and keep drug prices soaring. The new terms of the deal could fundamentally change the big pharma market. Click.
  • The Department of Agriculture has agreed to a new rule that is expected to remove 755,000 people from the federal food-stamp program. The rule makes it harder for states to give food stamps to able-bodied adults without children if they are within a 36-month period of not working. 140,000 public comments, overwhelmingly negative, flooded the department when the rule was proposed. The Trump admin says the economy is strong enough able-bodied adults should find work and stop leaning on the government. Opposition groups say the unemployment rate measures the whole market, not people without high school degrees or transportation who are still facing huge hurdles to work and could end up starving or on the streets under the new rules. More from The New York Times here.


  • 11.6 million. The number of views, still climbing, on a video that apparently shows world leaders mocking and laughing at President Trump during a NATO reception at Buckingham Palace.
  • 68.2%. The approval rating for Republican Ron DeSantis, the Florida Governor and Trump-backed politician who won a hotly contested election last year, according to a recent St. Leo poll.
  • 63%. DeSantis’s approval rating amongst African Americans.
  • 57%. DeSantis’s approval rating amongst Democrats in Florida.
  • 51%. The percentage of Florida voters who said they disapproved of Trump in the same poll.
  • 300. The length, in pages, of the House Intelligence Report on the Trump-Ukraine scandal.
  • The breakdown of references in that report:

Have a nice day.

A Saudi surgeon has completed 48 procedures to separate conjoined twins, according to ABC News. The surgeon has completed so many of the surgeries he said his own, non-conjoined twin daughters once asked when he separated them, assuming they must have been part of his past operations. The hospital he works at brings in children from across the region for the surgery, which can be very dangerous for the twins. In a photo, you can see Dr. Abdullah al Rabeeah posing with dozens of the kids he’s operated on. Click.

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