Former Department of Justice official Robert Driscoll says Attorney General Bill Barr has an amazing reputation for integrity and will release as much of the Mueller report as possible.
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On the roster: To many voters, Mueller hasn’t mattered – For Biden, campaign headaches without a campaign – Buttigieg passes $7 million in first quarter fundraising – House Dems will vote to subpoena Mueller report – No one likes a road hog
TO MANY VOTERS, MUELLER HASN’T MATTERED
Well, the first benchmark of success for Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already been met. Both sides are absolutely infuriated.
We know that when Mueller’s work is revealed in fuller form, there will be plenty more unhappy people. And having watched the gyrations on both sides when the Justice Department was only tracers and not live rounds, we’re ready for anything.
But as a matter of political consequence so far, it’s been a dud. Not that the narratives aren’t being shaped for longer-term consequences. And not that the narrative can’t be exploded if the final report due later this month has something really shocking.
But for now we are still in the rain shadow that followed the sheltering peaks of ‘no collusion’ that Attorney General William Barr generously provided for the president. For Republicans to do anything but feel the sunshine on their hindquarters and generally be still is a mystification.
And yet, here we are.
The truth here is that Republicans already succeeded in their work of discrediting Mueller to those who were persuadable to that end. That is not a small number of people! It would take John Delaney times John Hickenlooper to the power of Elizabeth Warren equal these numbers.
But just 10 percent of respondents in the latest WSJ/NBC News poll said that they had a more favorable attitude toward Trump’s innocence as a result of Barr’s letter characterizing Mueller’s findings as politically non-lethal to the Trump presidency.
That should seem low to you.
This is a consequential matter. No one will remember what camera-starved back benchers in Congress of both parties have to say, or who voted on the dead-end legislation in what is guaranteed to be a do-nothing Congress. Such things are blights upon every age. But the question before the court of public opinion — did the sitting president obtain his office by corrupt means — is no small matter.
And yet, only 10 percent saw their confidence in the president’s innocence increase after the announcement of his non-collusion. And that’s less than the 12 percent who were actually more suspicious.
We certainly understand why that number is so static, relatively speaking.
For everybody paying attention, this hasn’t just been a big story, it’s been the background music for everything going on in Washington for two years. It’s “House of Cards” meets “Veep” with “The Americans” thrown in for good order.
And for everybody paying attention, attitudes about Trump and Russia and Mueller and collusion and the deep state and everything else pollsters can think of to ask about the subject have been quite steady.
There’s some broad agreement in the electorate about big issues. People generally disapprove of hostile foreign powers interfering in our politics. People generally think Mueller is a good egg. People generally don’t want the president impeached unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Those aren’t the numbers to pay attention to here, though.
Cast your eyes instead of the 61 percent of the electorate which said it had not heard “a lot” about the story. Holy croakano!
It surely is not for lack of trying on the part of the political press. We have been knee-deep in Russia stories and counter-Russia stories and shady lawyers and hostile witnesses and ostrich-skin costs for years.
So when you are tempted to overstate the importance of what has transpired so far in the investigation into the 2016 campaign and election, just remember that the rest of the country, outside the 39 percent that’s deeply invested, is now treating this like a typical Washington issue: Assume both sides are lying to some degree and do their best to ignore it.
Manage your expectations for political consequences accordingly.
THE RULEBOOK: TERRIBLE TWOS?
“Have we any reason to infer, from the spirit and conduct of the representatives of the people, prior to the Revolution, that biennial elections would have been dangerous to the public liberties?” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 52
TIME OUT: A DUTCH MASTER IN THE NUTMEG STATE
AP: “A painting at a Connecticut museum that has long been thought to be by Vincent van Gogh has been authenticated by Dutch researchers. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford announced Friday that ‘Vase With Poppies,’ a still life oil painting, has been verified by researchers at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam as having been made by the Dutch artist in 1886, just after he moved to Paris. … The painting’s authenticity was called into question in 1990 by the art historian Walter Feilchenfeldt, who raised concerns about many purported van Goghs around the world, the Hartford Courant reported. The artwork was taken out of museum displays and shelved. Years later… It was examined initially at the Atheneum, where a digital X-ray revealed an underpainting that looked like a self-portrait, which added to confidence about its authenticity. The museum in Amsterdam analyzed the artwork’s paint, materials and style to conclude it was indeed done by van Gogh.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.6 percent
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent
Net Score: -10.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.2 points
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 41% approve – 55% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 50% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve – 55% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve – 51% disapprove.]
FOR BIDEN, CAMPAIGN HEADACHES WITHOUT A CAMPAIGN
NYT: “Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. scrambled on Sunday to contain a quickly growing crisis for his likely presidential bid, putting forward several former female aides and allies to praise his treatment of women after Lucy Flores, a former Nevada legislator, accused Mr. Biden of kissing and touching her. Mr. Biden also issued a sweeping statement acknowledging that he had shown ‘expressions of affection’ to people during his years on the campaign trail, but said, ‘not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately.’ It was the second damage-control statement to come from his team since Ms. Flores made her allegation on Friday… [S]ome of the former vice president’s would-be rivals in the 2020 Democratic field and some allies said that Ms. Flores’s claim should be taken seriously. … Mr. Biden’s advisers indicated on Sunday that the accusation would not dissuade him from entering the 2020 campaign, which they suggest he still intends to do at the end of April or just after.”
Warren fundraiser quits prompting new worries – NYT: “…Senator Elizabeth Warren began a swing through the South by proclaiming that [her campaign would] not include high-dollar fund-raisers but was entirely reliant on grass-roots contributions. … [S]he defied the pleas of her longtime finance director and declared that she would stop pursuing big donations altogether, leading to his resignation. But as the first fund-raising deadline arrives at midnight on Sunday, Ms. Warren — who last year was widely considered a would-be front-runner — finds herself in a political vise. Her rivals on either ideological flank will raise substantially more money in the first quarter than she does, and her focus on policy has not yet translated in the polls. Ms. Warren’s early troubles reflect the broader challenges confronting the vast Democratic field…”
Dems’ invisible primary is ‘truly invisible’ – NYT: “Publicly, the 2020 hopefuls are all about attracting low-dollar donors, trying to prove their grass-roots appeal and populist bona fides by touting large numbers of small donations — an ascendant force in Democratic politics. But privately, most Democrats also badly need the big checks and are still going behind closed doors to woo the wealthy, whose money is critical to pay for campaign staff, travel and advertising. As a result, a traditional part of presidential races early on — candidates trumpeting big-money and well-connected contributors as a show of political strength — has gone virtually underground, the invisible primary turning truly invisible. The jockeying for major donors remains as intense as ever, but the usual campaign announcements of powerhouse finance committees and boldfaced bundler lists have all but disappeared.”
Harris’ past catches up with her – AP: “Within months of [Kamala Harris’] swearing-in, she sponsored a bill urging states to eliminate cash bail, denouncing the system as a scourge on the poor and communities of color. That position would become a key part of her criminal justice reform platform. … Now a presidential candidate, Harris is casting herself as a progressive who consistently leveraged her power in the justice system to further civil rights causes and advocate for the disadvantaged. She has pledged a wholesale overhaul of the country’s fractured criminal justice system, arguing for marijuana legalization, bail reform and a moratorium on the death penalty. But when she had a chance to take a bold stand on these issues as a top law enforcement officer, Harris often opted for a careful approach or defended the status quo. Observers of her career note some of her key positions, like her opposition to cash bail, came at politically opportune moments, after public views had shifted on race, inequality and bias in the justice system.”
Beto’s Lone Star candidacy – Real Clear Politics: “Beto O’Rourke officially launched his presidential campaign Saturday, heavily focusing on a Texas narrative that he’s used to rise from El Paso council member to Senate candidate to contender in the Democratic race for the White House. From his El Paso hometown, O’Rourke drew a stark contrast with President Donald Trump, telling Americans that the nation can do better on many fronts, including developing a compassionate immigration system that secures the border. [He said:] ‘This is a campaign for America, for everyone in America. Like so many of you here, like so many more across the country at this defining moment, Amy and I want to know that we’ve done everything within our power for this country.’”
BUTTIGIEG PASSES $7 MILLION IN FIRST QUARTER FUNDRAISING
Bloomberg: “Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor whose stock and poll numbers have risen in the last weeks following a breakout performance in a CNN town hall, will report more than $7 million raised in the first quarter for his presidential bid. Buttigieg announced the preliminary total on Twitter, where he said his campaign was ‘out-performing expectations at every turn.’ Presidential candidates will release their first quarter fundraising totals for the period between January 1 and March 31 no later than April 15. For most of them, this will be the first key test of their ability to raise money at a presidential campaign level. Beyond mere viability to continue a campaign operation, and test of organizational strength, fundraising will also be a criteria for inclusion in the first Democratic presidential debates.”
Buttigieg grows in fame, his campaign needs to catch up – Politico: “Pete Buttigieg has the mojo. Now he needs a campaign. The South Bend, Ind., mayor is earning glowing press coverage and enjoying a polling spike after a fiery rebuke of Vice President Mike Pence during a CNN town hall. But, so far, he’s got almost no on-the-ground operation in the early states, as he has to figure out how to convert his Twitter-trending bid into a sustained national campaign. ‘Up to now, I haven’t seen or heard of anything he’s built here in Iowa,’ said Jerry Crawford, a longtime Iowa Democratic operative. … The challenge for Buttigieg goes beyond teaching America how to pronounce his last name. Local operatives said the 37-year-old lags behind the rest of the sprawling pack of 2020 candidates in building infrastructure in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — a problem Buttigieg’s campaign is racing to correct as money starts rolling in.”
Does he really have a chance? – NBC News: “He was described as ‘the longest of long shots’ when he decided to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, and for good reason. … Larry Agran from Irvine, California, the last candidate before Buttigieg to attempt the audacious leap from a midsize City Hall to the White House. Agran ran in 1992, a generation ago, when the media ecosystem was far narrower and more constricting. To compare what he endured as a candidate then to what Buttigieg has already experienced now is to recognize just how drastically that ecosystem has been revolutionized — and what that revolution has made possible. Two months after announcing his bid, Buttigieg has already attained something akin to political celebrity status, at least with a slice of the public. … To call his ’92 campaign ‘forgotten’ would be a misnomer; few ever knew he was running in the first place.”
HOUSE DEMS WILL VOTE TO SUBPOENA MUELLER REPORT
WaPo: “The House Judiciary Committee plans to vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain the full report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, escalating a feud with the Justice Department over a lengthy document detailing findings about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Monday announced plans for the panel’s vote, which would take place a day after a deadline the committee set for Attorney General William P. Barr to share the report. Barr pledged last week to release a redacted version by mid-April, well after Nadler’s deadline. Nadler’s committee is seeking to obtain the ‘full and complete report,’ which spans nearly 400 pages, as well as underlying evidence. ‘As I have made clear, Congress requires the full and complete Special Counsel report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence,’ Nadler said in a statement Monday, in which he urged Barr to reconsider meeting his Tuesday deadline.”
Ross Douthat: ‘The Mick Mulvaney Presidency’ – NYT: “So why revive the Obamacare debate? Why set yourself up for ‘Trump Defunds Special Olympics’ headlines? The answer is that there are effectively two Trump presidencies. One offers something like what the president promised on the campaign trail — a break with Paul Ryan’s green-eyeshade approach to entitlement reform, a more moderate tack on health care, an indifference to Obama-era conservative orthodoxies on fiscal and monetary policy. The other offers a continuation of the Tea Party’s insistence on spending cuts and Obamacare repeal, and appropriately its present leader is a former Tea Party congressman — Mick Mulvaney, the Zelig of the administration, whose zeal is apparently the main reason that the Obamacare lawsuit now has administration support.”
VIRGINIA DEMS TEST THE WATERS AFTER SCANDAL
WaPo: “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has begun doing something normal for most politicians but risky for him: appearing in public and taking questions from reporters. Tarnished by a blackface admission and a racist photo on his page in an old yearbook, Northam defied widespread calls to resign and spent weeks in a cocoon of private meetings and tightly controlled events. But the glare of national attention has faded. Northam dismissed his outside crisis management team when its two-week contract expired. And, with increasing confidence, he has begun exercising the power of his office. His reemergence coincides with the General Assembly’s return to Richmond on Wednesday for a one-day session to tie up loose ends. … Northam isn’t going away… And neither is Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who denies two separate allegations of sexual assault, nor Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), who admitted wearing blackface during his college days.”
Graham begins re-election campaign in S.C. with help of Vice President Pence – WaPo
McConnell: ‘Time to stop the Democrats’ obstruction’ – Politico
AUDIBLE: HEAR, HEAR
“The only conclusion anybody should draw right now is they shouldn’t draw any conclusions. … I can’t think of a Democratic field comparable to this.” – Joel Benenson, a top strategist for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, told the WaPo.
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NO ONE LIKES A ROAD HOG
KMSP-TV: “Officials in Chisago County, Minnesota are sharing a strange encounter to warn others about distracted driving. … [Sergeant Jason Foster] was responding to a complaint about someone driving north on I-35 near Harris having a tough time staying in their lane. But, when he stopped and approached the pickup, he learned the distracted driving wasn’t being caused by a cell phone ‘hogging’ the driver’s attention as he suspected. ‘It was kind of shocking. He had this 250 pound pig on his lap. In fact, it was leaning against the steering wheel he was muscling the steering wheel to keep it in its lane,’ he said. Sgt. Foster said there was not one, but two pigs in the picture. … Rather than roast the driver, Sgt. Foster gave him a warning and sent them on their way, but even though this passenger was a bit of a ham…”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Here’s the central question: if you thought this was obstruction of justice when Trump was asking [James Comey] to drop the Flynn thing, why didn’t [he] resign? … Anyway, this is a man, I don’t know if cowardly is the right word. But he sure has post-facto integrity.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) on “Special Report with Bret Baier” on June 8, 2017.
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.
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