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Impeachment Could Be A Trap—For Democrats (#GotBitcoin?)

Everything about President Trump’s history suggests he likes a clearly identifiable enemy, and he likes a fight. Impeachment Could Be A Trap—For Democrats (#GotBitcoin?)

What if President Trump actually wants Democrats to try to impeach him?

OK, so that isn’t likely. Nobody would wish to go through the embarrassment of impeachment in the House of Representatives and the public spectacle of a follow-up trial in the Senate.

Still, the fact that the idea would even seem plausible illustrates the risks Democrats are running in considering a move toward impeachment. The backfire potential is large. It’s telling that the Democrats who lived through the last impeachment—and remember how that movie ended—are the least eager to move down that path now.

Everything about Mr. Trump’s history—before and since assuming the presidency—suggests he likes a clearly identifiable enemy, and he likes a fight. He is the famously self-proclaimed counter-puncher, defining himself by those with whom he is battling and distinguishing himself by the way he conducts the battle. In an impeachment fight, he could do exactly that.

It’s illuminating to look at how Mr. Trump summarized the situation in an off-the-cuff remark at the White House on Friday. “Democrats are obsessed with hoaxes, delusions and witch hunts,” he said. “We can play the game just as well or better than they do.”

In sum, Mr. Trump appears ready to portray himself as both a victim of his enemies, and the pursuer of them, in any impeachment battle.

In such a scenario, Mr. Trump would have the opportunity to offer to his base—and for the president, it’s all about that base—the ultimate proof of the ultimate conspiracy theory: That the whole investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections was, from the beginning, a pretense to bring him down.

One of the mysteries of the president’s political calculus remains why he exerts almost no effort trying to expand that base, which is a minority of the country and, it would seem, simply not enough to give him a re-election victory in 2020. Perhaps, though, the calculation is that his voters will care a lot more about stopping any impeachment effort than Democratic voters will care about pursuing one.

If that’s the case, the intensity edge will be on his side in an impeachment fight, and that will translate into a similar advantage in the 2020 presidential election. And perhaps, in a close election, intensity can overcome the raw numbers.

That thought leads to the broader, underlying risk for Democrats if they pursue impeachment: What if average voters just don’t care as much about the Russian interference/Mueller investigation saga as do Democratic party activists and the political intelligentsia in Washington? What if they think the fight is just too damaging to the country?

Moreover, if Washington’s conversation becomes all about impeachment, nothing else will get done. The calendar will turn to 2020, and Democrats will have fewer substantive accomplishments to tout after two years in control of the House. Meanwhile, it appears Mr. Trump will have a solid economy to tout.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already is complaining, justifiably, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans in the Senate are simply ignoring legislation the Democratic-controlled House has sent on to them: election reform, net neutrality, violence against women and gun-background checks. Yet the effort to draw attention to those substantive Democratic actions would be drowned in an impeachment fight.

Mrs. Pelosi and her Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, are set to meet with Mr. Trump on Tuesday to talk about ginning up some big federal money to spend on improving America’s infrastructure. That’s an issue where they might lure Mr. Trump into cooperating. But that opening also figures to close rapidly amidst an impeachment battle.

Some Democrats believe they have a constitutional and civic duty to pursue impeachment regardless of the political calculations. Still, there’s no escaping a practical math problem. A president can be impeached with a majority vote in the House, which probably is achievable under Democratic control there. But then, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict the president. That’s 67 Senators. There currently are 45 Democrats and two independents leaning Democratic in the Senate, meaning there would need to be 20 Republicans voting to convict Mr. Trump. Can anybody imagine that happening?

This is where history comes into play. Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer were around to watch Republicans try to pull off this play against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. The country was sufficiently unimpressed that Republicans actually lost seats in the House amidst the impeachment fight.

Mr. Clinton was impeached in the House anyway, but then as now with Mr. Trump, there weren’t enough votes in the Senate to convict him. He survived. The man who lost his job in the process was his main pursuer, Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Mr. Clinton finished his term with a 66% job-approval rating. For the impeachers, it was not a happy ending.

Pelosi Announces Impeachment Inquiry of President Trump

President’s dealings with Ukraine spur more lawmakers to back his removal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would move ahead with an “official” impeachment effort after reports that President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine while he was pressing the country to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

After months of resisting an impeachment investigation, Mrs. Pelosi said at the end of a day of meetings with House Democrats that she was directing six House committees already investigating Mr. Trump to continue their probes “under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.”

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution,” said Mrs. Pelosi (D., Calif.), who has expressed concern about the political risks of impeachment.

Her chosen route avoids a full House floor vote on opening a probe, a step that has occurred each of the three previous times the House has launched impeachment proceedings against a president. Such a resolution would require 218 votes to pass; as of Tuesday evening, after several Democrats said they were joining the cause, there were more than 190 lawmakers who publicly supported moving forward on impeachment.

The move is a culmination of what has been a nearly yearlong debate among Democrats about how hard to push for Mr. Trump’s removal from office, particularly since they took control of the House this year. Earlier, Democrats’ focus was on Mr. Trump’s campaign ties to Russia, the subject of a special counsel report earlier this year, among other issues involving the president.

Now, some lawmakers are arguing that the Republican president using his position to pressure a foreign entity to investigate a political opponent for his own gain is an impeachable offense.

Mrs. Pelosi’s decision also represents a bet that voters, whom polls have shown to be wary of impeachment, can be persuaded once more facts emerge.

“The dam has broken because this is a form of betrayal of his presidential oath and national security that is taking place in real time,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), who supports an impeachment inquiry. “Trump’s not just a candidate now, he’s president of the United States.”

Mr. Trump, tweeting from his home in Trump Tower in New York City after his appearance at the United Nations, called the inquiry “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!”

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Trump called the allegations a “witch hunt,” repeating a refrain that he frequently used to describe the nearly two-year-old probe of his campaign’s dealings with Russia.

Mr. Trump said he approved the Wednesday release of a transcript of a July call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he repeatedly pressed his Ukrainian counterpart for a probe of the Bidens. But Democrats are seeking the release of a full whistleblower complaint made to the inspector general of the intelligence community that includes the July phone call and has become the subject of an unusual standoff.

The White House is preparing to allow the whistleblower complaint to be turned over to Congress by the end of the week, according to a person familiar with the matter. The complaint must first be declassified, the person said.

Mrs. Pelosi’s statement came after a meeting with all Democratic House lawmakers to discuss how to handle the Ukraine matter. After the meeting, more Democrats joined the speaker in backing an impeachment inquiry, though some members wanted to see the whistleblower report and learn more about Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky.

“We need the whistleblower complaint, we need to know what the whistleblower has to say,” said Rep. Susan Wild (D., Pa.). “You don’t just proceed to a trial without having the facts. But these are very, very serious allegations.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) on Tuesday asked the whistleblower to speak to the Intelligence Committee on a voluntary basis on Thursday. He said he would arrange a format that would ensure the whistleblower’s privacy.

Mrs. Pelosi has been reluctant to move toward impeachment, saying she would prefer to defeat Mr. Trump at the ballot box in 2020. She spent the weekend and Monday making calls to on-the-fence Democrats and her allies, taking the temperature on where members stood.

Reports of Mr. Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine spurred Mrs. Pelosi to act. The president asked his acting chief of staff to place a hold on $391 million in aid to Ukraine more than a week before a July phone call in which the president urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Mr. Biden’s son, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have argued, without evidence, that the then-vice president’s anticorruption push in Ukraine was designed to head off an investigation of a company for which his son, Hunter Biden, was a board member. Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general at the time, said earlier this year he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son.

Mr. Trump said on Tuesday that he held up aid to Ukraine over frustration with Europe’s level of contributions to the country. A day earlier, he suggested there was a link between his delay of aid to Ukraine and what he said were concerns about corruption in the country.

On Capitol Hill, two significant groups backed an impeachment investigation on Monday, leading to the shift in the caucus: Democratic lawmakers in competitive districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016; and close allies of Mrs. Pelosi, who had been watching for her lead, such as Reps. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.

Prominent Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), long seen as a bellwether on impeachment in the House, got behind the effort Tuesday, saying that “the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come.”

The House Judiciary Committee will take the lead on the inquiry, said a person familiar with the matter. The panel is already investigating the president over allegations in former special counsel Robert Mueller ’s report that Mr. Trump obstructed justice while being investigated over campaign links to Russia in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has denied any obstruction or any connection to Russia.

Three House Democratic committee chairmen on Tuesday pressed their case against the White House in light of the new reports about Mr. Trump asking for a delay in aid to Ukraine. Without directly using the word “impeachment,” Mr. Schiff, along with Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) warned that the president’s conduct, as described in news reports, may meet standards that many Democrats see as a bar for determining that Mr. Trump had engaged in behavior that would justify his removal from office.

“If the recent reports are accurate, it means the President raised with a foreign leader pursuing investigations related to a political opponent in an upcoming election. That is the very definition of corrupt abuse of power,” the three chairmen wrote.

The Democratic-controlled House needs a simple majority to impeach the president. If Mr. Trump is impeached in the House, the matter would move to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would face long odds of conviction by the necessary two-thirds supermajority. No Republican senators support removing the president from office, and many have shrugged off the president’s actions concerning Ukraine.

At his regular Tuesday afternoon news conference, a reporter asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell what he would do if there were to be articles of impeachment regarding the president sent over from the House.

“Wait a minute. What we have here is an allegation related to the Ukrainian aid by whistleblower that’s about all we know now,” Mr. McConnell said, later adding: “I’m not going to address all these various hypotheticals that have been aired out about what may or may not happen in the House. And I think all of that is quite premature.”

Updated: 10-9-2019

Trump Opens Door To Cooperate With House Impeachment Probe

Biden, campaigning in New Hampshire, joins other Democrats in calling for impeachment.

President Trump said he would participate in the House impeachment probe if the investigation was authorized by a House vote and if Democrats commit to following rules he views as fair, a sign of potential cooperation a day after the White House said the inquiry was unconstitutional.

Asked if he would participate in the proceedings if the House voted and followed the same rules as when Congress has previously charged sitting presidents with wrongdoing, Mr. Trump said, “Yes, if the rules are fair.”

“If Republicans get a fair shake,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks Wednesday in the West Wing added a caveat to the White House’s eight-page letter a day earlier that described the president’s broader refusal to cooperate with the investigation, citing the lack of a vote authorizing the probe amid other purported shortcomings. The letter followed a decision from the White House to block testimony of a key witness in the investigation.

The comments marked the first time the president outlined specific conditions for his participation, putting pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to respond as the two leaders battle over how to proceed over an impeachment inquiry that stems from the Republican president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Democrats are investigating Mr. Trump’s effort to have Ukraine probe former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and other election-related matters. Mr. Biden called Wednesday for Mr. Trump to be impeached, joining nearly all of his fellow Democratic candidates.

The House inquiry focuses on Mr. Trump’s efforts to press the president of Ukraine on the subject in a July 25 phone call. The call, and the events leading up to it, were the focus of a whistleblower complaint by an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency who alleged that Mr. Trump abused his power by targeting political rivals.

Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing related to Ukraine and called the impeachment effort a “kangaroo court.”

The president hired former Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy to represent him, bolstering his legal team’s ranks. Mr. Gowdy, who had been a prosecutor in South Carolina, retired from the House in January.

In the two weeks since Mrs. Pelosi announced the House had officially begun impeachment proceedings, Republicans have criticized her for skipping a House-wide vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry, breaking with precedent. Before Congress went on its recess, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the chamber’s Republican leader, had forced a vote on the matter that went down in defeat when Democrats voted to table his resolution.

Mrs. Pelosi has rejected demands for a formal House vote, saying it isn’t required for the investigation.

There is some support among Democrats for a vote to begin an inquiry. Rep. John Garamendi (D., Calif.) said Tuesday on CNN that the House should formally open impeachment proceedings with a vote, to put the full weight of the House behind the effort.

During the Nixon and Clinton impeachment inquiries, the House adopted impeachment procedures that allowed the president’s attorneys to attend all impeachment-related sessions, review all the evidence and cross-examine any witnesses.

Mr. Trump and his Republican allies have been arguing that they ought to get the same consideration in the probe being conducted by the House under Mrs. Pelosi. So far much of that investigation has been conducted in closed session without Mr. Trump’s attorneys present. Aides have said the hearings behind closed doors are to allow witnesses to discuss classified material, which is common practice.

Democratic leadership aides said Wednesday the president’s comments don’t give them confidence that he would comply and pointed to the White House’s letter from Tuesday. Democratic leaders have said that White House obstruction could be considered an impeachable offense and have noted that the administration has failed to cooperate with a variety of congressional probes.

Mr. Trump said Wednesday that no White House officials had ever expressed concern about his handling of the July 25 call. The whistleblower has said that at least one White House official was alarmed by Mr. Trump’s behavior on the call and that the transcript of the conversation was moved to a secret server in a breach of protocol.

The president said Wednesday he didn’t know why the transcript, which he has since declassified, was given additional security. “I assume it was for leaks,” he said.

Democrats have become increasingly unified around impeachment, with most House lawmakers and presidential candidates backing the inquiry.

A vote on impeachment would force Democratic lawmakers to take a clear side as the president runs for re-election. Of the 235 Democrats in the 433-member House, fewer than 10 haven’t come out in support of the impeachment inquiry. There are 31 House Democratic lawmakers defending districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016. To take back the majority, House Republicans must net 19 seats.

Mr. Biden, who was in New Hampshire Wednesday, said Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by refusing to comply with congressional inquiries and had committed impeachable acts in plain sight.

“In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts,” Mr. Biden said. “To preserve our constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.”

Mr. Trump, in a tweet, called Mr. Biden’s comments pathetic and wrote: “I did nothing wrong.” Later, he attributed Mr. Biden’s decision to come out in favor of impeachment to his standing in national polls, where he is now neck and neck with a surging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

“You know he didn’t say that until right now, and he sees what’s happening to him,” Mr. Trump said. “I guess he’s no longer the front-runner.”

Before Wednesday’s address, Mr. Biden had faced calls within his party to offer a more confrontational approach to Mr. Trump as House Democrats seek to build momentum toward impeachment.

House Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council, asking her to appear Monday for a deposition in relation to the impeachment inquiry, a person familiar with the matter said. It couldn’t be determined if Ms. Hill, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, would attend.

Updated: 10-15-2019

Trump In A Landslide? This Historically Accurate Model Predicts Exactly That

President Donald Trump has a love/hate relationship with polls, surveys and predictions. He loves the ones that paint him in a positive light, and, of course, he hates all those “fake” ones that don’t.

He’s going to absolutely adore this one.

According to Moody’s Analytics, Trump is headed toward another four years in the White House. And, if the numbers are right, it won’t even be close.

In fact, his Electoral College victory could very well be wider than the 304-227 margin he enjoyed over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Since 1980, Moody’s has managed to nail the outcome every time but once — it didn’t see 2016 coming. Here’s the Moody’s track record:

Will it return to its winning ways? The team takes into account how consumers feel about their finances, the performance of the stock market SPX, +1.00% and their job prospects. Essentially, today, they’re feeling pretty good.

“Under the current Moody’s Analytics baseline economic outlook, which does not forecast any recession, the 2020 election looks like Trump’s to lose,” the authors wrote. “Democrats can still win if they are able to turn out the vote at record levels, but, under normal turnout conditions, the president is projected to win.”

Moody’s uses three models to come up with its forecast. In each case, Trump gets at least 289 Electoral College votes.

The “pocketbook” measure, which focus on how people feel about their money situation, is where Trump shines brightest, grabbing a whopping 351 electoral votes. “If voters were to vote primarily on the basis of their pocketbooks, the president would steamroll the competition,” the report said.

The stock-market model gives him the slightest edge of 289-249, as investors continue to navigate a volatile investing landscape. Then there’s the unemployment model, which leans heavily in his favor at 332-206.

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