Today’s read: 9 minutes.
The insanity of impeachment, Trump mocks a dead Congressman, a new Tangle poll where you can shape the future of this newsletter, and some crazy numbers.
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As impeachment fell into place yesterday, several internet sleuths time traveled on Donald Trump. Here is a tweet from precisely five years before he got impeached as president when Trump was promoting a spot on ExtraTV:
And here he is talking to Wolf Blitzer in 2008, saying how impressive Nancy Pelosi is and how George Bush should be impeached:
What D.C. is talking about.
Impeachment. Officially. Yesterday, Donald Trump became the third president in the history of the United States to ever be impeached by the House of Representatives. The House passed two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The abuse of power article passed 230 to 197, with only two Democrats opposing and all Republicans opposing. One Democrat, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, recently announced he was switching parties to the GOP. The other, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, faces a tough reelection in a pro-Trump district. On the obstruction of justice charge, the vote was 229 to 198, with three Democratic dissenters (Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, another centrist freshman, voted against the obstruction charge.) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a presidential candidate, voted “present” on both articles, saying that while she thought Trump was guilty, "removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process."
The vote for impeachment came after a full day of debate, which essentially amounted to individual floor speeches from members of Congress who parroted almost identical opposing talking points over and over. After the vote, Nancy Pelosi seemed to signal that she was considering holding onto the articles of impeachment and not sending them to the Senate, fearful of an unfair trial. As Congress voted to impeach Trump, he took the stage in Battle Creek, Michigan for a rally in front of thousands of supporters. During the rally, Trump said that the Republican party had never been so affronted and so united. He also mocked former Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress, who died earlier this year. Trump said he gave Dingell “A+” treatment after he died, and his wife — Debbie Dingell, who still serves in Congress and voted for impeachment — told him it was the “nicest thing that’s ever happened” and John was “looking down.” Trump then joked that maybe Dingell was “looking up,” as if he were in hell, which got mixed reactions from the Michigan crowd. Dingell served a district in Michigan just two hours from where Trump’s rally was, and Debbie was elected to take over the district after he retired.
What the right is saying.
Throughout yesterday’s hearings, Republicans framed Donald Trump as the victim of an unjust, unhinged impeachment proceeding. They went very far in this criticism. First, Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk compared Trump to the persecution of Jesus. “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” he said. “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded to this president in this process.” Then Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly compared impeachment to Pearl Harbor, saying this day would similarly live in American infamy. Then Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson called for a moment of silence for the 63 million voters who cast a ballot for Trump who are now being “disenfranchised.” And, apparently, members of Congress and the press sat silently at his request. Two dozen Republicans stood up and bowed their heads in silent prayer. Unlike Democrats, who conceded Bill Clinton did something wrong but argued it was not an impeachable offense, Republicans mostly held the line saying Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing. Though, a good majority of their attacks were on the process, not on the merits of his actions. Fred Upton, a Republican member from Congress, did also respond negatively to Trump’s attacks on Dingell.
What the left is saying.
Mostly, the left spent the day mocking the right for comparing Trump to Jesus or comparing impeachment to Pearl Harbor. Rep. John Lewis gave perhaps the most shared floor speech of any Democrat, saying he delivered his words with a “heavy heart,” and “we didn’t ask for this, it is a sad day, it is not a day for joy.” He called the constitution our “compass” and said everyone had a moral obligation to do something when they saw something that was not right, or not fair. All told, the party was breathing a sigh of relief. A few weeks ago, there were concerns there would be far more defections, but Nancy Pelosi is getting a lot of credit for rallying the troops. Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi to be the Democratic leader after 2016, admitted that he probably couldn’t have done what Pelosi has done. She “is the absolute best politician that the Democratic Party has seen since LBJ,” he said, just two years after challenging her. Yesterday, a reader wrote in asking whether Democrats might hold off on sending articles of impeachment to the Senate until the election, and I said: “definitely not.” While that’s still unlikely, there were rumors yesterday that Pelosi is considering holding onto the articles of impeachment for at least some period of time. Last night, she wouldn’t commit to sending them to the Senate. After Trump’s comments about Dingell at his rally, everyone turned their attention to that.
I hate to say this first, but I really have to: the John Dingell stuff is disgusting. And it’s exceedingly stupid. He’s not just the longest-serving member of Congress ever (read: that means he was really well-liked and kept getting re-elected), he’s also a really well-liked dead Congressman in a crucial battleground state. I know people make this kind of comparison all the time, but it’s shocking to just consider it: imagine if Barack Obama had trashed a dead Republican member of Congress and joked that he was “looking up” from hell while mocking his wife’s somber voice on the phone after he died? And patted himself on the back for lowering the flag to half-mast? I mean, can you freaking imagine? That kind of thing could have started a Civil War four years ago. It would have ran on every television station for weeks. And this will blow over by lunch.
Second, the comparisons of Trump’s victimhood to Pearl Harbor or Salem Witch trials or Jesus’s crucifixion were also absurd and over the top. I really couldn’t believe how far some folks went and thought all of that was a bit unsettling. It seemed like a play or script that had gone off the rails. I also didn’t buy the Democrats’ story that this was a “solemn” or “sad” day for them, though I’m sure a small few did feel that way. The truth is Democrats in Congress, like many Republicans (privately) in Congress, loathe Trump. And they were probably delighted that he gave them solid ground to impeach him.
As for impeachment itself, things are going pretty much as expected. Remember: this doesn’t mean Trump is being removed from office. You can read Tangle’s impeachment explainer here if you missed it. Tulsi Gabbard’s present vote was a little surprising (more on that below), but otherwise, Republicans and Democrats both got what they wanted. Democrats impeached Trump and had very, very few defections. Republicans got three Democrats to dissent on at least one article, which gives them the case they are the ones acting in a bipartisan fashion. This whole business about holding the articles of impeachment is fascinating, and it’s totally unchartered territory. Legitimate constitutional grey area. I really don’t think anyone has any idea what’s going to happen. Pelosi’s calculation here is that by holding the articles, she can pressure Republicans into forming Senate trial rules how she wants, perhaps even forcing witnesses to testify. It’s a very clever move because she knows that Trump and Republicans want a quick acquittal so they can move on. By denying them that, impeachment stays in the news. And if they fold and allow witnesses, the trial could be devastating for Trump (so far, the evidence points to him doing what he’s been accused of).
Of course, it’s an enormous risk. The polling on impeachment isn’t great with swing voters, and this could blow up in Democrats’ face if Republicans successfully message that Democrats are going to extreme lengths to disrupt the process. I really don’t know what Pelosi’s long-term play is, but I’m captivated by what this sets up: a Pelosi vs. Mitch McConnell showdown. For years, people on both sides have considered them master politicians. But McConnell is in the Senate and Pelosi is in the House, so they rarely bump heads so directly. Now we’ll watch as the two try to outmaneuver each other on perhaps the biggest political event of the 21st century.
Your questions, answered.
Reminder: you can ask questions, too. All you have to do is reply to this email and write in or tweet at TangleNews or Ike_Saul.
Q: Why Biden is ahead in the polls is a mystery to me. He’s old, rude and as disingenuous as always. Why can’t people see through that. And, why aren’t people talking about Tulsi???
- Terry, Austin, TX
Tangle: First, on Biden: I think people continue to underestimate his appeal. He isn’t just “Obama’s best friend,” he is also the most moderate person running (on either side of the aisle). There are a lot of people who are exhausted by and hate Trump. There are a lot of people who think Bernie or Warren’s policies will ruin the economy and amount to a government takeover. And for the people left from those groups, there are basically two options: Biden and Buttigieg. Biden has been Vice President and served for decades as a Senator. He’s older and experienced. He’s got the personal story, too: he’s lost close family members like his first wife and son. He’s experienced the ravages of cancer. He’s been around the block. That’s his vibe. Buttigieg’s experience amounts to his time as mayor of a small town, in the army, and working in the private sector. For a lot of older voters, there’s no comparison. It’s also true that despite all the pontificating and punditry, Biden still has a huge bloc of support from black voters, which does big things for him in the polls. Broadly speaking, I think people want a lot of the policies that Warren and Sanders support, but they want them packaged in a moderating voice like Biden’s. His unyielding, stubborn presence at the front of the polls does seem to be a mystery to a lot of people, though. And I think most voters see him as the most likely person to beat Trump, which helps immensely.
As for Tulsi, I think her “present” vote last night basically answers your question. She’s just too evasive on the biggest issues. Her entire campaign has been based on a persona where she’s positioning herself as a bold truth-teller unafraid of the establishment or her opponents, but she didn’t even pick a side on impeachment. What does she stand for? #TulsiCoward immediately started trending on Twitter. She’s also done herself no favors by chumming it up with enemies of the left like Tucker Carlson, who has spewed some pretty disgusting anti-immigrant stuff on his primetime show viewed by millions of people. The truth is, Gabbard hasn’t gotten a lot of traction because she doesn’t really have a base or a coalition. The only thing steady about her is that she’s critical of the Democratic party, and for most voters hellbent on getting Trump out of office, that’s not really a helpful stance. Otherwise, her views oscillate enough that I think a lot of liberals just see her as a stuntman and one who occasionally takes Republican stances that they hate.
A story that matters.
The U.S. economy is hitting all-time bests in the stock market, on unemployment, and over a number of other metrics commonly used to measure economic health. But nearly half the country is still struggling. What gives? As Axios reported, and as Tangle has written about before, some 44% of the U.S. workforce — or 53 million people — are working jobs with a median hourly wage of $10.22 and median yearly earnings of $18,000. In other words, people are employed, but they are employed in low-wage jobs where they can hardly make enough to survive. One-quarter of those low-wage workers are the only income earners in their household. Axios has more on the dire situation here.
- 230. The number of votes for the abuse of power article of impeachment against Trump, the most votes ever in the history of the United States for an article of impeachment.
- 238. The number of former Obama staffers who signed a letter endorsing Elizabeth Warren for president.
- 50.2%. Trump’s odds of winning re-election this morning, according to the Election Betting Odds model created by Maxim Lott and John Stossel.
- 32.5%. Trump’s odds of winning re-election in April, according to the same Election Betting Odds model.
- 5%. The increase in Trump’s odds of winning re-election over the last week alone.
- 11. The number of federal district judge nominations that were pushed through Congress by Mitch McConnell as impeachment was being debated.
- 54%. The percentage of black workers who are employed in low-wage jobs.
- 66%. The percentage of Hispanic workers who are employed in low-wage jobs.
- 37%. The percentage of white workers who are employed in low-wage jobs.
Have a nice day.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy restored the voting rights for 80,000 people on probation or parole yesterday. The bill is one of the most progressive expungement laws in the nation, and it will give more people the opportunity to vote after they served their time for a criminal conviction. While bills like this are often controversial, the argument that someone who has “done the time” for their crime should be afforded their right to vote is a simple and strong one. New Jersey joins 16 other states who have restored voting rights to similar groups. Click.
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