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Today’s read: 8 minutes.
Hillary comes for Sanders, the impeachment rules are released and a story about Uber.
Photo: WikiCommons | Marc Nozell from Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA
Yesterday, Bernie Sanders surrogate and Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout wrote an op-ed in The Guardian making the case that Joe Biden was corrupt. Teachout recently ran for governor of New York and is a well-liked progressive on the left. But less than 24 hours after the op-ed ran (and was widely shared), Sanders issued the first apology to Biden of the campaign. "It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I'm sorry that that op-ed appeared," Sanders told CBS News.
Hillary goes after Bernie.
Just hours after Sanders apologized to Biden, The Hollywood Reporter released an interview with Hillary Clinton about the upcoming Hulu documentary on her life. In it, the reporter quotes Clinton from the documentary on her feelings about Sanders:
In the doc, you're brutally honest on Sanders: "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." That assessment still hold?
Hillary responds, “Yes, it does.” The reporter then follows up and asks if Sanders gets the nomination, will Hillary endorse and campaign for him. “I’m not going to go there yet,” Clinton said. “We're still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it's not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.” To think that Hillary Clinton was unwilling to say whether she’d campaign for Sanders in a general election race against Donald Trump was absolutely stunning to me, and I’m certain that the new documentary — and these comments — are going to play a role in the Democratic primary over the next few weeks. Click.
What D.C. is talking about.
Impeachment rules. The trial will begin around 1pm EST on Tuesday. Late Monday night, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released details of his plans for how the Senate trial will be run. The rules were crafted in a way that was largely seen to benefit the White House: Trump’s legal team can make a motion to dismiss the charges immediately after the trial begins, even though McConnell wants to avoid doing that to protect vulnerable senators in upcoming elections. He also crafted rules that would allow the GOP to block new evidence. During Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, any record compiled in the House of Representatives was automatically admitted into evidence. This time, any new evidence will only be admitted for trial after a Senate motion and vote to do so. Some Democrats are still hopeful that a group of moderate Republicans will vote in favor requesting additional witnesses and documents, but McConnell seems confident that won’t happen.
What the right is saying.
Trump’s lawyers filed a 110-page legal brief to the Senate, marking the first legal argument in defense of Trump. It’s been widely reported that Trump’s lawyers make “no defense” of his actions but instead argue they aren’t impeachable offenses. That’s not quite true. Trump’s lawyers do claim the charges against him — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — don’t state any specific violation of the law and therefore don’t constitute impeachment (past presidents have been charged with clear violations of law). They essentially make the case that even if every charge from the Democrats is true, it still wouldn’t be enough to constitute impeachment. “They do not remotely approach the constitutional threshold for removing a president from office,” the legal brief said of the charges.
But they also don’t simply accept the Democrats’ narrative. The legal briefing goes through Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky line-by-line, makes the case that “burden-sharing” is part of the president’s platform and claims repeatedly that Trump never withheld meetings in exchange for investigations. It also notes that Zelensky has maintained he didn’t feel any pressure. This, in many ways, is the robust defense Republicans in D.C. have been wanting from Trump’s team. As for the McConnell rules: Republicans have been mostly silent on them. Everyone is waiting to see how vulnerable moderate Republicans react, but so far it appears they’re falling in line behind McConnell and will support the rules as he laid them out. Even Mitt Romney, who many Democrats were hopeful would throw a wrench into McConnell’s plans, said the package met his requirements and tracked “closely with the rules package approved 100 to 0 during the Clinton trial.”
What the left is saying.
They’re calling it a disgrace. For weeks, Mitch McConnell has said he was going to run Trump’s impeachment trial just like the Senate ran Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. “What was good enough for President Clinton in an impeachment trial should have been good enough for President Trump,” he said. But the draft of his resolution makes notable departures from Clinton’s trial. It will speed up the process of opening statements, questions and up or down votes on whether to consider witnesses and new evidence. Evidence from the House inquiry will not be automatically admitted to the Senate trial unless a majority of Senators vote to approve it (Republicans have a healthy majority so it would require their support).
The resolution also does not guarantee the trial will include witnesses, which was the case in the Clinton trial, but comes with a slight difference: in the Clinton trial, senators voted on motions to consider additional witnesses and documents after their opening questioning concluded. This time, there will be a vote on whether to include new evidence at all, a motion Republicans are likely to shoot down to immediately stop any new evidence from being presented throughout the trial. “Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,” Democrat Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “It’s a cover-up.” Nancy Pelosi also joined in the outrage: "McConnell's process is deliberately designed to hide the truth from the Senate & from the American people, because he knows the President's wrongdoing is indefensible and demands removal. No jury would be asked to operate on McConnell's absurdly compressed schedule."
A few months ago, I wrote in Tangle that if Republicans would just accept the reality of what Trump had done and argue that it didn’t rise to an impeachable offense they’d be a lot better off and a lot more honest. It looks like that — in part — is his team’s plan now. I’ve also written before that I think there is plenty of evidence Trump and his team was pressuring Ukrainian officials into digging up dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for meetings or military aid. The scheme was simple. And the hard evidence Lev Parnas has brought forward recently (the texts, voicemails and documents, not his television appearances) only add to that evidence.
What McConnell is doing, in my mind, is contemptible. When the House was running its impeachment inquiry, Trump refused to submit testimony or documents because he did not want to “dignify” it. Republicans claimed he’d get his day in the Senate. Fine. The articles of impeachment passed and now we’re in the Senate, and Trump is refusing to comply and saying he will invoke executive privilege to stop any of his associates from testifying. McConnell said repeatedly we should stick to the same rules as Clinton’s impeachment. Fine. Now the rules are out and they’ve been changed in ways that only serve to keep the president’s closest aides from testifying and to keep any additional incriminating documents from being read into the record. It’s okay to think the impeachment of Trump is a sham and that Democrats have been out to get him since day one — I certainly wouldn’t make the case they gave him much of a shot. But if you’re actually interested in the truth of this matter, in whether Trump did use his office to pressure a foreign leader into investigating a political rival, this is no way to run a trial. There’s simply no reasonable reading of the rules McConnell has put forward that indicate he wants to get to the bottom of what happened, and after all the criticism of how Democrats in the House ran their inquiry, this reeks of hypocrisy.
Yesterday, I told you about the new facial recognition app being used by police departments across the U.S. to identify suspects. A good friend of mine who works as a detective in New Jersey wrote into Tangle to tell me that their department started using the app about two months ago. So far, they said, the app did not produce a single hit on about a dozen different suspects they ran through the system. The detective also said they tried it on about 30 or so of their colleagues and had about a 30 percent success rate. “Obviously the younger and more involved in social media the people were, the better chance I had at finding them,” they said. The quality of the picture was also important in getting a hit, and they described it as “nearly impossible” to successfully ID someone with your typical security footage cameras. So there’s some insight into how a detective who recently started using the app views it.
Your questions, answered.
Reminder: Tangle is all about answering reader questions. If there’s something you want to know about politics, just write in with a question and I’ll dig in to give you the best answer I can. All you have to do is reply to this email.
Q: Would any of these Dem candidates still keep running in 2020 even if they didn’t get the Democratic nomination? Is that allowed? Or would they know that the best chance of beating Trump is to just support whoever the Dem nominee is?
- Katelyn, Pittsburgh, PA
Tangle: So far, every Democratic candidate has committed to supporting whoever the eventual nominee is and staying on the sidelines of the general election. That’s part of what made Hillary Clinton’s comments at the top of this newsletter so noteworthy: there is such a unified front against Trump that it was pretty remarkable she wouldn’t commit to supporting Bernie Sanders if he won the nomination.
On a technical level, the Democrat on the ballot will be whoever wins the Democratic nomination. So none of the nominees will be able to run as an alternate Democrat option. But every year there is typically someone running as a third-party candidate (in 2016, Gary Johnson ran as a libertarian and Jill Stein ran as the Green Party candidate). Like every year, there’s speculation this year about who may jump in as a third-party candidate. If I had to make odds on a current Democratic primary candidate running in the election after losing the primary, I’d say the most likely is Tulsi Gabbard. She’s expressed a lot of discontent with the establishment and has played enough footsies with Fox News and Trump that I think her supporters could rile her up into burning the whole thing down. But even that I’d put at about 100 to 1. I don’t think there’s any real chance she does it, and I think deep in her heart she’d rather keep her seat in Hawaii than get crushed in a general election trying to steal one or two percent of the vote from each candidate.
What seems far more likely than any of this is a Republican running as an alternative to Trump. The “never-Trump” movement is basically dead — POTUS has a stranglehold on the party, everyone is falling in line and he’s crushed all of his challengers from the right. Guys like Joe Walsh and Bill Weld can’t even get on a Republican ballot in most states, let alone make waves as a primary challenger to Trump. That being said, they could play an outsized role in the general election. Remember that Trump essentially swung the electoral college on 77,744 votes across three states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. That margin of error is unthinkably small. If a Republican like Walsh or Weld ran as an independent, they could easily pull off those votes in 2020 and damage Trump. Shoot, Gary Johnson got over 146,000 votes in Pennsylvania alone in 2016. Jill Stein got over 49,000. And they were essentially running as protest votes to the two-party system. I could see far more conservatives who want to vote against Trump but can’t stomach casting a ballot for Sanders or Biden or Warren giving their votes to someone else.
A story that matters.
Uber is testing a new feature that will allow drivers in California to set their own fares. The move comes after a new gig-economy law required companies to treat workers as employees rather than independent contractors. That could mean sick days and benefits for Uber drivers. Uber is fighting the bill in court, arguing that it’s a technology platform not a transportation company. In the meantime, it’s changing the way it does business to try to adapt to the new climate around its company. This update is one such change, and it gives drivers far more autonomy. But it also fundamentally changes the app. In the pilot program, drivers will be able to increase Uber’s price for a ride in 10% increments. Riders will get to choose the driver who sets the lowest price, effectively setting up a bidding system between drivers and riders. All this could be a preview of what’s to come across the country, where similar gig-economy laws are being lobbied for. Click.
- 1. The total number of people arrested during the pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia yesterday, which included 22,000 heavily armed demonstrators who spent the day peacefully protesting the right to bear arms.
- 13. The number of days until the Iowa primary voting begins.
- 365. The number of days until the next president of the United States is inaugurated.
- 35-57. Joe Biden’s favorability-unfavorability rating in Georgia, where some Democrats had hoped to get traction. It’s the best of any Democratic candidate for president.
- 69%. Percentage of respondents in a new CNN poll saying the Senate trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify to the House.
- 18%. The percentage drop in Mitt Romney’s approval rating among Republicans over the last four months of 2019.
- 4%. The percentage increase in Mitt Romney’s approval rating among Democrats over the last four months of 2019.
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55,000 motorists in Illinois will regain their right to drive after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new law that ends the practice of suspending licenses over unpaid parking tickets. For years, thousands of Illinoisans lost their licenses simply because they didn’t have the money to pay parking tickets. The offenses never had anything to do with their ability to drive, but the punishment was so severe it could change lives for good. Without licenses, the Illinoisans lost their ability to legally drive to work, get their kids from school or simply run an errand. Often times, without a car, they’d lose their job, and then their ability to pay off the tickets would become totally out of the question. Now those motorists are getting their licenses back thanks to sensible reform. Click.