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On the roster: The chaos caucus gets its way – I’ll Tell You What: Resting Pete face – Outpouring for Elijah Cummings, lion of the House – Late in the race, Dem fault lines emerge – Flea market cheese? Really?
THE CHAOS CAUCUS GETS ITS WAY
If you read this note you certainly have more than a passing interest in politics. In fact, you’re probably one of the people to whom your friends and family turn when it comes to sorting out questions political or governmental.
That’s why one of our goals each day is to so equip you. We like it if you’re the smartest political person in the room.
So if they ask you today what in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on, just tell them this: The two most powerful people in the American government – the system conceived by the Founders, purchased and defended with the lives of more than a million men at arms – is the specific insult the president used toward the speaker of the house.
President Trump said that he called Nancy Pelosi a “third-grade politician.” Pelosi and others at the brief, useless meeting on the ongoing debacle in Syria say that Trump called her a “third-rate politician.”
We will not waste your time or test your credulity by talking about how unworthy this is of our republic or of the armed forces the two were supposedly meeting to discuss, or any of that “School House Rock” goody-goody stuff. It’s 2019. We get it.
But ask yourselves what comes next.
On the 1,000th day of Trump’s presidency we find a city and a system unraveled. If we take the long view we can observe that this is, in fact, what Americans voted for in 2016. Trump promised to bring combative, disruptive partisan warfare to levels unseen even during recent low points like the Clinton impeachment and the Iraq War.
Trump has delivered on his promise to disrupt, a promise he made to core supporters starting in June 2015. One of the reasons that his devotees are attached to him in a way that sometimes border on the religious is because he has kept faith with these voters every day of his presidency. Trump likes to boast that he is a builder, but his base hired him for a demolition job.
To win the presidency, though, Trump relied on the support of voters who felt differently – a bloc at least as large as his core followership. The mandate from these voters was not to turn Washington into an apocalyptic hellscape of turgid partisanship but rather just not be Hillary Clinton.
We imagine that those voters have watched the events of the past two months in some combination of fascination, shock, amusement and horror. The cause of such consternation is pretty simple: There is very little left in Trump’s administration that reflects the winning coalition of 2016 between Trump’s populist pitchforkers and the center-right Republican establishment.
Think of it this way – Trump succeeded in an audacious hostile takeover of the Republican Party. But after the establishment was defeated, many members of the old firm stayed on in this new joint venture.
Reince Priebus, Nikki Haley, James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly, Kirstjen Nielsen, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Elaine Chao, Dan Coats, Mick Mulvaney and Mike Pence all hitched up for the new joint venture between Trump Inc. and the GOP.
It’s down to Mulvaney, Chao and Pence, and if we were Mulvaney we wouldn’t worry about renewing our parking pass for next month.
What that means is that Trump is substantially getting the government he wanted and promised, one in which he is unconstrained by convention, tradition or nearly any rules of the road. He envisioned that as president he could operate in the same way he did as the CEO of his family business.
Of course, as it turns out, he cannot. But he has run out of those individuals who, for the first 900-or-so days, managed to make things run in some kind of orderly way.
Consider the twin snares in which Trump now finds himself bound: Impending impeachment and the foreign policy meltdown in Syria. Both are the result of Trump doing things his way rather than the Washington way.
Any chief of staff worth his salt would have dived in front of that phone call to the Ukrainian president like it was a runaway dump truck. Whether you think Trump acted appropriately or not, he conducted himself in such a way that gave his critics all the ammunition that they needed. One day after Robert Mueller’s testimony snuffed out the already dying embers of impeachment talk in Congress, Trump picked up the phone and started a conflagration.
Any national security adviser in any previous administration would have done everything but swat the phone out of the president’s hand if he was telling Turkey’s strongman president that the U.S. would clear the way for Turkish forces to pummel our Kurdish allies.
Again, you may actually agree with the policy of feeding the Kurds to the Turks, but we are left in a situation where the American Air Force is bombing American military installations to keep them out of the hands of rapidly advancing hostile forces. Those are procedural, not policy problems.
The next 12 months will determine what, if any, legacy Trump will leave behind. Trump re-elected, Trump defeated, Trump impeached but preserved by the Senate and Trump impeached and removed are all real possibilities. And no one will have as much to say about which of those eventualities comes to pass as Trump himself.
His team is in disarray and his administration lurches daily from disaster to disaster. If he does not find a way to change that it won’t matter how bad the Democrats’ nominee is, Trump will never see a second term.
Given the fact that today’s White House press conference was to announce Trump’s decision to host world leaders next year at one of his family’s golf resorts, we get the sense that maybe that reality has not yet taken root in the West Wing.
THE RULEBOOK: FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES
“They have chosen rather to dwell on the inconveniences which must be unavoidably blended with all political advantages; and on the possible abuses which must be incident to every power or trust, of which a beneficial use can be made.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 41
TIME OUT: TIMELESS JULIE ANDREWS
Atlantic: “Home Work, [Julie Andrews] second memoir (this one co-published with her eldest daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton), is an account of what happened between Andrews’s film debut in 1964’s Mary Poppins and her performance in the 1982 movie Victor/Victoria. The motivation for the book, Andrews told [The Atlantic], was twofold. After the 2008 publication of her first memoir, Home, which detailed her difficult childhood and her earliest days as a performer, fans and friends had urged her to dive into the next phase. ‘The first one ended as I was heading to Hollywood,’ she said, ‘so of course everybody said, ‘When, when, when are you going to do the next one?’ Because they wanted to hear all that.’ Home, in other words, ended right before the moment when Andrews took the role that would change her life. The book is a dance between candor and diplomacy, as Andrews navigates the imperative of honesty with the courteousness that seems to be her governing instinct.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 28.2 points (↑ 0.8 point from last wk.)
Warren: 26.4 points (↑ 1.4 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 13.4 points (↓ 1.2 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 6.2 points (↑ 0.6 points from last wk.)
Harris: 4.4 points (↓ 0.2 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, Fox News, IBD, Monmouth University and NBC News/WSJ.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42.2 percent
Average disapproval: 54 percent
Net Score: -11.8 percent
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.4 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 39% approve – 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve – 55% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 45% approve – 51% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 43% approve – 53% disapprove.]
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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: RESTING PETE FACE
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt give their thoughts on the fourth Democratic Presidential primary debate, the continued controversy between the NBA and China and Dana has fun with Chris’s new memoji. Plus, Chris answers some primary trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
OUTPOURING FOR ELIJAH CUMMINGS, LION OF THE HOUSE
Baltimore Sun: “U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, a committee chairman known for his devotion to Baltimore and civil rights and for blunt and passionate speechmaking, died of longstanding health problems early Thursday morning, his office said. He was 68 years old. The Democrat, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, died at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate, at approximately 2:45 A.M., a spokeswoman said. Cummings, who had been absent from Capitol Hill in recent weeks while under medical attention, had health issues in recent years. In 2017, he underwent an aortic valve replacement. The procedure, which aides described as minimally invasive in Cummings’ case, is used to correct narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart. The surgery led to an infection that kept him in the hospital longer than expected.”
LATE IN THE RACE, DEM FAULT LINES EMERGE
WaPo: “As the party’s fourth debate concluded, the Democratic primary contest opened a more robust and unpredictable clash over the ideological direction of the party, with moderates attempting to ignite the kind of passion that the liberal candidates have harnessed with large crowds and grass-roots donor networks. After months in which the race was largely static amid a crowded, free-ranging field, the nomination fight is showing signs of narrowing its focus to fewer candidates, divided into parallel feuds in the liberal and moderate wings of the party. [Elizabeth] Warren (Mass.) is entering a crucial phase of her campaign, taking attacks from all sides for the first time since she ascended in popularity, and attempting to demonstrate she can withstand the kind of scrutiny that previously fell mostly on [Joe] Biden, who until recently held an unchallenged lead in the polls. Yet as she attempts to coalesce support on the party’s left flank, Warren faces a renewed challenge from liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)… The left’s feud is replicated in the center, where Biden faces challenges from [Pete] Buttigieg, [Amy] Klobuchar and others.”
Biden dismisses Warren as a fellow front-runner – Fox News: “One day after being overshadowed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Democrats’ latest debate, Joe Biden repeatedly criticized the progressive senator from Massachusetts, whose status has risen in recent months, making her a presidential primary front-runner alongside the former vice president. In Columbus, Ohio, Biden questioned Warren’s honesty and pushed back against the media’s labeling of Warren as a ‘co-front-runner.’ ‘I haven’t seen any polling showing that nationally, on average, that anybody else is a front-runner,’ Biden said. ‘You guys keep talking about that.’ Biden did acknowledge, in referencing the latest polls, that ‘Warren has done very well. She’s moved.’”
RNC raises record-setting $27.3 million in September – Fox News: “The Republican National Committee raised a record-setting $27.3 million in September and had $59.2 million cash on hand last month amid the impeachment push against President Trump — which has fueled GOP campaign contributions heading into the 2020 election. The RNC’s September fundraising haul is the best off-cycle month in the history of both the Republican and Democratic parties. This cycle, to date, the RNC has almost tripled the Democratic National Committee’s fundraising efforts, according to the GOP, which also noted that the Democrats, as of last month, carried $7.3 million in debt. ‘While Democrats focus on fighting President Trump, Republicans have prioritized voters and we have another record-breaking fundraising month—the highest ever off-cycle—to show for it,’ RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News.”
DEMS FACE TIMING QUESTION WITH IMPEACHMENT
Politico: “Democrats are in an impeachment bind. For the first time, they’re receiving a gusher of evidence to support charges that President Donald Trump abused his power for political and personal gain, pressuring Ukraine’s fledgling government to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. But as more witnesses come forward to spill more secrets, the more Democrats are nervously eyeing the dwindling congressional calendar and wondering: When should we be satisfied with what we have and bring articles of impeachment to the floor? … Some Democrats say the investigation should continue until the evidence is so overwhelming it pries loose a few Republican votes, delivering a symbolic victory as Democrats hold out hope that impeachment isn’t a purely party-line issue. Others believe Democrats should exhaust the list of willing witnesses before drafting formal articles. And still others say the House already has enough evidence to move forward with impeachment immediately — from Trump’s own admission…”
McConnell readies party members for impeachment trial – WaPo: “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican senators Wednesday to be ready for an impeachment trial of President Trump as soon as Thanksgiving, as the Senate began to brace for a political maelstrom that would engulf the nation. An air of inevitability has taken hold in Congress, with the expectation Trump will become the third president in history to be impeached — and Republicans believe they need to prepare to defend the president. While McConnell briefed senators on what would happen during a Senate trial, House GOP leaders convened what they expect will be regular impeachment strategy sessions. In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a PowerPoint presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.”
Perry says Trump sent him to Giuliani – Fox News: “Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose name has been mentioned in connection with President Trump’s Ukraine dealings, said in an interview published late Wednesday that the president told him to seek out Rudy Giuliani earlier this year to look into possible Ukrainian corruption. The Wall Street Journal sat down with Perry for an extensive interview and reported that the spring conversation was a sign of how closely Giuliani — a personal lawyer for Trump — worked on Ukraine policy. Giuliani’s business dealings with the country were reportedly looked at by federal investigators. He denied any wrongdoing. ‘Visit with Rudy,’ Perry recalled Trump telling him. He told the paper that Trump was not convinced that Kiev ‘straightened up’ its act. Perry told the paper he never heard Trump or Giuliani talk about an investigation into the Bidens.”
Volker’s testimony revealed more concerns about Giuliani – Axios: “New details from Kurt Volker‘s closed-door interview indicate Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, was deeply conflicted about whether to take the job because of concerns about Rudy Giuliani’s shadow involvement. Why it matters: The testimony by Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, earlier this month may help the president in the sense that it paints Giuliani, not President Trump, as the mastermind behind a campaign to get foreign leaders to investigate the Biden family and Burisma, according to sources with direct knowledge of his testimony. But it also amplifies concerns that Trump was more interested in what his personal lawyer had to say than the professionals in government. Taylor was also worried that Trump might be willing to trade away Ukraine’s interests as part of a grand bargain with Russia, Volker told lawmakers. Taylor is expected to appear before members of Congress next week.”
The Judge’s Ruling: It’s impeachable if the House says it is – This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains if President Trump right when he says the impeachment inquiry is unfair: “The illegitimacy argument contended that since the House has yet to vote to authorize an investigation of the president, its committees lack subpoena power. This argument contends that since impeachment seeks to overturn a valid election, it is a thinly veiled coup and thus is in violation of the Constitution. And the argument about unfairness states that the president is entitled to due process at every stage of the impeachment proceedings. These are valid political arguments. But as legal offerings, they are profoundly misguided. … Impeachment is always constitutional if it originates in the House and if its basis is arguably for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” More here.
Karen Pence emerges into spotlight as campaigner for Trump – Politico
Chelsea Clinton shoots down congressional run rumors – NBC News
Colorado pushes SupCo for decision on faithless electors – The Denver Post
AUDIBLE: UMMM KAY?
“You’re just jealous of my eyebrows, aren’t you?” – Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau said to a crying child during a campaign stop on Tuesday.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
FLEA MARKET CHEESE? REALLY?
Fresno [Calif.] Bee: “Lemoore [Calif.] police are investigating the theft of $50,000 in cheese in a crime that is believed to reach back to 2017. The investigation, launched in late August, centers around products from Leprino Foods Plant in the 300 block of Belle Haven Drive in the South Valley city. A police spokeswoman said multiple subjects have been linked to the thefts and the cheese has been sold from Fresno to Riverside counties: door-to-door, on the street, at flea markets and on social media sites. After serving warrants, detectives recovered a large amount of cheese and arrested Jairo Mariano Osorio Alvarez, 24, and Roderick Domingo Ransom, 34, both of Lemoore.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It’s a charming dilemma, but it raises a more fundamental question: What is with this rooting business in the first place?”– Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 15, 2005.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.