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Today’s read: 9 minutes.
The stories you missed since Thursday, how Bloomberg is the center of the conversation, a question about re-impeaching Trump, and UFOs.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum. Photo: Gage Skidmore
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- Today is President’s Day, a day to celebrate the birthday of President George Washington and all the presidents since.
- The House of Representatives is on recess until Feb. 25th, and the Senate is on recess until Feb. 24th.
- President Trump has a few big campaign rallies this week, including one in Nevada.
- There will also be another Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
- Then, the Nevada caucuses take place on Friday (the third state in the Democratic primary to vote — and the second to use the caucus system like Iowa). Much like Iowa, volunteer officials in Nevada are already warning of a caucus disaster, saying they’re having trouble with the technology to report caucus outcomes and they haven’t received a good explanation on how “key parts of the process will work,” according to The Washington Post.
What you missed.
Before we jump into today’s big story, here are a few major news items that broke since Thursday’s newsletter.
- The U.S. government and the Afghan Taliban agreed to the first step of a peace deal, setting up a potential troop drawdown in a war that has lasted 18 years. U.S. and Taliban officials agreed to a seven-day violence reduction period that, if successful, could kick off the removal of some 13,000 U.S. troops. Click.
- Conservative reporter Matt Drudge said he had an “exclusive” story this week that Michael Bloomberg was considering Hillary Clinton as his Vice President, should he win the nomination. Clinton has previously said she was not considering entering the race in any fashion. "We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation,” Jason Schechter, Bloomberg’s communications director, said in a statement. Click.
- Former deputy FBI director and Trump target Andrew McCabe will not be charged in an investigation of whether he lied to investigators about leaking to the media. The decision ends a case against McCabe that Trump supporters long said would land him in hot water or prison. It was also taken as a sign that Attorney General William Barr was trying to ensure the Justice Department appeared independent from Trump, as the president had made McCabe a sworn enemy. Click.
- Over the weekend, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), billionaire Tom Steyer and Mayor Pete Buttigieg all did interviews with Telemundo while campaigning in Nevada. They were each asked to name the Mexican president during their interviews. “I forget,” Tom Steyer said. “No,” Klobuchar responded when asked if she could name him. Buttigieg, who is fluent in Spanish and conducted part of his interview in Spanish, was the only candidate who knew the president of Mexico’s name (President López Obrador). Click.
- More than 1,100 former Justice Department lawyers are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign after he intervened to lower the sentencing recommendation for Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone. The line between the Justice Department and president is considered sacred and even the appearance that Barr was acting at Trump’s behest set off alarm bells. Around 85% of the lawyers calling for Barr to resign served in Republican administrations and over 100 served under Trump. Click.
What D.C. is talking about.
Michael Bloomberg. He’s everywhere you look over the last 72 hours. Bloomberg is rising in national polls, poised to qualify for Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas (his first debate appearance), being dragged by liberal and conservative activists for comments he made a few years ago and is apparently occupying space in President Trump’s head, who can’t seem to stop tweeting or talking about him. BuzzFeed just published a story titled “Michael Bloomberg’s Huge Campaign Is Too Big To Be Ignored.” Over the weekend, he also surpassed $400 million in ad spending, an absolutely unfathomable number for a presidential candidate running without donors. To put that number in context, consider this tracking of ad spending below, which shows only one person hitting close to half of Bloomberg’s spending — the other billionaire in the race, Tom Steyer.
What the left is saying.
It’s exposing some fractures. Bloomberg is loathed by the progressive, Sanders-Warren wing of the party. Some Bernie surrogates have come out and said that they would vote for any Democrat against Trump, except Bloomberg. Activist and Sanders surrogate Shaun King said Bloomberg is where he would “draw the line.” Briahna Joy Gray, Sanders’ national press secretary, described Bloomberg as “a racist authoritarian.” Current Affairs writer Nathan Robinson wrote a widely shared, excruciatingly detailed piece on all the harm Bloomberg has done to communities of color, women and progressive causes. In the meantime, Bloomberg and moderate Democrats seem to be hitting back. Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times columnist, wrote an op-ed titled “Paging Michael Bloomberg” and asked, “On which planet in the Milky Way galaxy is an avowed ‘socialist’ — who wants to take away the private health care coverage of some 150 million Americans and replace it with a gigantic, untested Medicare-for-All program, which he’d also extend to illegal immigrants — going to defeat the Trump machine this year?” Friedman said we know the strategy to win because it’s already worked: “appeal to independent, moderate Republicans and suburban women.” Bloomberg himself has hit back, sharing a video on Twitter of all the mean things Sanders’ supporters have said about him or other Democrats online, and telling his followers, “We need to unite to defeat Trump in November. This type of ‘energy’ is not going to get us there.”
What the right is saying.
They’ve got their own qualms. Over the weekend, Bloomberg drew criticism from both the left and the right for a 2016 clip where he’s seen belittling farmers and talking about the “gray matter” in the brain required to do something like farming versus a job in the modern information economy. Bloomberg claims, “I could teach anybody in this room” to be a farmer. “You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on to, add water, up comes the corn.” He went on to say the modern information economy is fundamentally different, requiring an embrace of technology and skill to think and analyze in a way (implicitly) farmers don’t. “Bloomberg wouldn’t last 3 seconds as a farmer,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “But like his comments on minorities, you can tell he really hates regular hardworking Americans.” Fox News host Brit Hume said, “Bloomberg seems to have acquired his knowledge of farming by watching Hee-Haw.” The right is also enjoying the carnival show of the Democratic primary and watching Bloomberg ascend past candidates like Biden, Warren and Buttigieg. Many conservatives note that Bloomberg is enjoying strong and growing support from people of color despite so many Twitter libs screaming that he’s racist. While the left always pretends to be the party of the people, the party that wants money out of politics and the party of diversity, they’ve now got a field of leading candidates that includes two billionaires, three old white guys, and not a single person of color.
I think the disgust over Bloomberg is reasonable. He is a living, breathing example of how easily money can buy political success. His comments about farmers aren’t just ignorant and self-defeating, they’re offensive. They’re also illustrative of a huge problem on the left: that “college-educated” or “urban” has somehow become synonymous with intelligence. I know some really miserable, urban idiots who graduated from great colleges and some really happy, brilliant and successful rural Americans who didn’t graduate from high school. Bloomberg — like Trump — seems to view huge swathes of rural America as rubes who are only useful for votes. The big difference is Trump has done a better job hiding his real opinion (or at least covering up that real opinion since he decided to run for president).
Bloomberg has a real shot to win the Democratic nomination, or force an open Democratic convention (i.e. delegates will choose the nominee because there is no clear voter consensus), and I can’t imagine a more damaging thing to happen to the party longterm. While I could cite many of Bloomberg’s less than savory bullets on his record, as could many New York or D.C. journalists, the simple reality is most of the country doesn’t know or doesn’t care about his past comments. They’re not living on Twitter. Instead, they’re being inundated with thousands of Bloomberg ads on television, radio, on the pre-roll for videos online, on podcasts, and pretty much anywhere you look. These ads depict a moderate who has the support of Barack Obama and a strong record of job creation, gun control reform and getting things done. It’s tough to overstate the power of Bloomberg’s ad machine apparatus and it’s clear that it’s working.
As for his odds vs. Trump: it’s really hard to say. On one hand, I believe that his unlimited funding and more moderate political beliefs could get it done. On the other hand, he’s quickly becoming the single Democratic candidate many progressives say they wouldn’t vote for. Not Joe Biden or Tom Steyer — but Bloomberg. As Rachel Bitecofer told Tangle last week, pretty much the only way Trump wins in 2020 is if a sizeable chunk of liberals cast a protest ballot or support a third-party run. That seems most likely if Bloomberg is the nominee (I see a lot of moderates saying they’d vote for Sanders, I see a lot of progressives saying they wouldn’t vote for Bloomberg). His ads can buy support but they can’t buy the kind of enthusiasm behind Sanders or Biden or Buttigieg or Warren. But his path to the nomination is still viable because if no candidate comes out with a majority of delegates before the Democratic national convention, party heads will decide — and there’s good reason to think the establishment would prefer a divisive billionaire Democratic donor over a radical self-avowed socialist (if the race keeps going how it’s going right now).
Your questions, answered.
Reminder: Anyone can ask a question. All you have to do is reply to this email and write in or tweet at Tangle News. I usually use people’s first names and location but can keep you anonymous if you prefer.
Q: Now that impeachment is dead in the Senate, and Trump has not been removed from office, what happens if he wins reelection in 2020? Democrats have argued that the reason for the rushed process is that court rulings on the legality of subpoenas would take too long. If Trump gets reelected, there is more time to wait for some of these court rulings. Can Democrats re-open the inquiry? Would they do that if they could?
- Ben, Pittsburgh, PA
Tangle: First off, yes: it’s totally possible that Democrats try to impeach Trump again if he is re-elected in 2020. There are all sorts of questions around the political wisdom of doing so (which I’ll get to), but there is absolutely no rule that they can’t impeach him twice.
“There is nothing in the Constitution prohibiting another impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” Sarah Burns, an impeachment expert at the Rochester Institute of Technology, told The Washington Post. “They could even retry him for these charges if they so choose. For example, if John Bolton (Trump’s former national security adviser) or anyone else can prove that there was a threat to national security, the House could reopen the case.”
It’s not entirely clear how another Trump investigation would look, though. They could re-open the Ukraine investigation once subpoenas make their way through the courts and they have the legal authority to compel new witnesses. They could open a new investigation into something like the president’s “interference” in Justice Department investigations. But there is no so-called “double jeopardy” clause and no reason to think that they couldn’t come for him again.
But would they? That’s a lot more complicated. The question has obviously been floated — and was floated before the trial was even done. Remember that members of the House are up for re-election every two years. If Democrats are spending their time trying to impeach Trump from office, especially with an unfavorable balance in the Senate they can’t overcome, there is a lot of risk politically. Draw the ire of enough conservatives in your district and you may soon be out of a job. The question is equal parts self-preservation and concern about Republican apathy. Is this worth going through if it may cost me my seat? Is it worth going through if I know Republicans won’t ever consider removing Trump from office?
Considering all that, if Trump were to get re-elected I think he would have to make a pretty grievous mistake for Democrats to go through this whole process again. It’d either need to be another, more belligerent national security threat, a clear body of evidence that he broke a law that’d resonate with the public, or enough accessible evidence (i.e. recordings, documents, etc.) that Americans could turn against him in the polls even after having handed him another election victory.
All of that seems fairly unlikely to me, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility. So yes, Democrats could impeach him again — on the same charges or on new charges — but I don’t think they’d opt to go through it unless they pick up a healthy majority in the Senate (while losing the 2020 presidential election at the same time). Which seems impossible to imagine.
P.S. Democrats are already considering whether to open new investigations into Trump between now and the election, though Nancy Pelosi has hedged by saying the party isn’t going to “spend all of our time going after every lie that the administration henchmen make.”
A reader note.
In Thursday’s newsletter, I took on the voice of Bernie haters and tried to articulate what people didn’t like about him. At one point, I wrote that Bernie’s climate change plan “would pretty obviously box out private companies that currently employ hundreds of thousands of people from the power industry, and has no clear plan for what to do with the workers who would lose their jobs if they weren’t supplying power for Americans.”
One Tangle reader took a particular issue with that second clause (in bold), noting that Bernie’s plan does include a “just transition for workers” on his website. “They clearly are thinking about the jobs that will be lost,” this reader said. I would contend this part of the plan is lacking details, but I did wrongly give the impression Sanders has not considered this, so I want to correct the record. You can see the plan bullet point below:
A story that matters.
The secret programs our government covers up are some of my favorite things to read and research. Few things get me excited like stories involving UFOs, and the last few years have seen a trove of leaks from government documents originating with the Air Force, Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency, and secretive programs showing that we have been investigating bizarre aerospace activity for some time. While the documents don’t show any proof of extraterrestrial life or non-human tech, they do indicate that there are things happening all over the country’s airspace that we can’t explain by anything our government currently understands. Whether it’s another country using high-tech flying instruments beyond our current abilities or aliens entering the ether, you can count me intrigued. This week, Popular Mechanics released the single best breakdown of what’s been happening in the UFO space over the last few years. It’s an absolutely enthralling out-of-a-movie piece of journalism. You might be thinking, “this seems like an unusual choice for my ‘A story that matters’ section.” Usually, I am writing here about health care, education, immigration or other things that impact people’s daily lives. That’s fair. But the reason I think this matters is that it exemplifies so many of the things our government keeps from us, so much of the onion that the public is still peeling back. “What you’re dealing with is the very core of government secrecy and how things they absolutely don’t ever want to discuss are kept hidden away,” one contractor told Popular Mechanics. And because — well — it’s pretty important if we’re being visited by aliens or encountering flying objects we can’t explain! Click.
- 25%. The percentage of likely caucus attendees in Nevada who said they planned to vote for Bernie Sanders, most of any Democrat, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll.
- 24%. The percentage of self-identified Democratic primary voters in Texas who said they would vote for Bernie Sanders, most of any Democrat, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
- 12%. The percentage of self-identified Democratic primary voters in Texas who said they would vote for Bernie Sanders in October, according to the same University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
- 17%. The percentage of voters who said Joe Biden had the best chance to beat Donald Trump in a general election, a 12 point drop, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
- $3.8 billion. The amount of money the Pentagon is expected to transfer to help fund the construction of President Trump’s border wall.
- 14. The number of Americans who were infected with coronavirus on a cruise ship in Japan that have now returned to the U.S.
- 454. The total number of virus cases aboard the Diamond Princess ship.
- 2.3%. President Barack Obama’s average annualized GDP growth during his second term as president.
- 2.5%. President Donald Trump’s average annualized GDP growth during his first term as president.
Have a nice day.
A cab driver in California suspected something was wrong when his 92-year-old passenger told him she was headed to the bank to withdraw $25,000 and settle a debt with the IRS. Rajbir Singh decided he’d try to intervene, but when the woman didn’t believe him that she was being scammed, he took her to a police station. There, an officer explained to the woman what was going on and helped talk her into not taking the money out. Singh called the number posing as the IRS and confronted the man on the other line, who eventually hung up and blocked the number. These IRS scams, in which a person poses as an IRS agent and targets someone by telling them they need to pay off a tax debt or go to jail, are exploding in popularity across the U.S. They are most commonly deployed against senior citizens. I’ve gotten the calls myself and typically try to keep the folks on the phone as long as I can before berating them. You can read the CNN story on how Singh intervened here.