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On the roster: A Burr in their britches - Trade war stokes GOP worries - DNC complicates debate qualifications - Audible: A new side of ‘Momala’ - Step three: President Bobcat
A BURR IN THEIR BRITCHES
Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have done everything but build a moat and a drawbridge to keep House Democrats from pursuing President Trump.
So the idea that they would then turn and eat one of their own to save Trump’s eldest son another day of testimony was foolish on its face.
Depending on your point of view, you may think that Senate Republicans acted out of patriotic virtue, partisan self-interest or even malign intent. But work no one could reasonably argue that that they have not acted to protect Trump.
Not only have the members of the Senate GOP made it clear that they will not convict the president on the charges House Democrats are considering for impeachment, but they have generally used their chairmanships and control of schedule to deny Democrats the chance to harass or genuinely threaten the Trump presidency.
In addition, the Senate Judiciary committee under Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has enlisted itself in the war against the Deep State. If you say “Mueller” north of Statuary Hall these days you’ll get 14 “Bruce Ohrs” and two dozen “Page and Strzoks” for your penance. Whether you like these probes of probes or not, they too are just as easily explained by honest dealing and pursuit of truth as those run by Democrats in the lower chamber.
Hey. It’s Washington. Barely surmounting low bars is kind of our jam.
So here’s the gag. Even as Republicans are carrying their pikes and torches forward in battle against the Democrats when it comes to testimony, documents and whatever else House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York deems he might ever want; even as the whole government considers potential interventions in three increasingly hot zones; even as we go bite China on its nose to see what will happen on trade; even as our government makes no discernible progress on the matters that most consume the hearts of its citizens — even amidst all that — the idea that the place for Congress to stop would be to punish Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for making Donald Trump Jr. testify was as rock-headed as anything we have heard in some time.
Which is saying something.
Republicans are very right in believing that they have a great advantage in the general disinterest of the American electorate for long, complicated matters.
We have known for months that for 60 percent or so of the electorate, nothing Special Counsel Robert Mueller found — short of Trump taking a bag of rubles on camera a la Abscam — would make any difference.
This issue stopped moving voters almost as soon as it began. Which is not surprising, given the fact that those people who are interested enough in the news to follow the details of the case are probably already so ideologically oriented as to be beyond the reach of persuasion.
It’s possible that there is some sliver of the electorate that fluctuates depending on incremental news concerning allegations of either scandal in the White House or kookism in the House. Maybe these are intensifiers that can nudge up a few sleepy partisans, but we can’t find any evidence that there are swing voters here.
What persuadable voters seem to have done is three things, none of them unwise. First, they seem to be rather studiously ignoring the discussion. As dumb, slanted, self-serving and repetitive as it has been, who could blame them? Second, they concluded in poll after poll after poll after poll that the president is somewhere between a liar and a crook. Third, they repeat in an unambiguous voice to not impeach him. Nope, nope, nope, nope...
Democrats can fluster and bluster all they like, but unless they’re willing to bank all of 2020 on the ability of House Democrats to successfully execute an impeachment and trial (with a leadership opposed to the idea) amid a presidential election in which every Senator born after the Spanish-American War is running, then they’re bluffing.
So for a few weeks we are going to get to watch them all do the dance. Subpoenas and executive orders and posturing and more stuff that no voter absent extreme partisans would even endure outside of extreme duress. And if Democrats go too far for too long or look slovenly doing it, that will become the story. Telling moveon.org to move on will have a certain poetic justice that not even the hardest heart would be able to resist.
So Republicans are, of course, out here looting like it’s the intersection of Florence and Normandy.
No testimony on anything. No subpoenas. No more negotiations. Nada. The rain falleth on the just and the unjust, and whether you’re a genuine political target of the House or if you’re somebody’s nephew in a crummy job in a third-rate cabinet agency accused of slopping the trough, the rain is falling now.
The administration, which ordinarily communicates with the precision of a chili dipper, has been clear on one point: Anything that Democrats want that could hurt the president is disallowed because Democrats have political motives.
But it doesn’t matter why the House wants what it wants. Courts, obviously, will now have to sort through some of this mess between the bickering branches. But the White House would lose plenty of rounds given the almost limitless power of the House for inquiry. Much may be hidden, but only for so long.
Republicans rightly complain about headlines that highlight GOP pouncing and seizing over the actual misdeeds that merited the conservative kinesis. It’s an unmistakable, lazy trope among headline writers. But that does not mean that a Republican can’t ever pounce or seize.
As we watched the White House, the president himself and their allies on air and online rise up and furious anger over Burr’s request, it occurred to us that many have forgotten the lesson of each cycle: elections have consequences.
Had House Republicans not managed last year to lose everywhere from the richest parts of New Jersey to the leafy lanes of suburban Dallas, we’d darned well be having a different discussion about the Mueller Report. It would have been frozen in carbonate for safe keeping and buried under the National Archives.
But had not Republicans not kept the Senate, Burr would not be the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It would be Mark Warner of Virginia. Just imagine for a second if House Democrats had straight shot to Senate Judiciary. What would that look like? The Schiff-Warner Expressway would be jammed.
But in order to keep the Senate, Republicans have to keep senators like Burr. He’s good friends with John Boehner. He doesn’t wear socks with his loafers. He was first elected in 2004 and remains popular in a state that has at least twice thrashed Republicans since then. He thinks the Senate Intelligence Committee matters.
Burr earned his spot and has been a party man through and through. Team Trump can try to beat him if he runs again in 2022. But he is where he is and duly empowered by the laws of these United States.
And what he thinks is that Mueller‘s report or something else has cast enough of a shadow on the president’s son’s prior testimony to make him come back in. And a majority of his committee agrees.
So amid all of that clatter we discussed before — foreign and domestic — why would Team Trump come for Burr? That’s like trying to light a Camel while you’re trying to pull off a back handspring.
If you are sincerely fool enough to believe that somehow the executive branch will never have to submit to the legislative branch ever again, then hold the line. But if you think that there will eventually have to be some negotiation between the branches, especially as adult concerns like the end of the federal fiscal year impinge, then why would now be the time to attack old-guard Republicans?
As the list of Burr supporters grows and other old hands in the Senate sharpen their sticks against the White House, the Trump campaign will come to wonder, one imagines, whether this was a good strategic choice. You can only palpate the glands of the base for so long before persuadable voters start to notice.
Economists have an aphorism, or we suppose what passes for a joke among them: A trend will continue until it can’t.
That holds true just as much for Republicans as it does Democrats in this current game of chicken.
THE RULEBOOK: YOU AIN’T LYING
“As the powers delegated under the new system are more extensive, the government which is to administer it would find itself still more distressed with the alternative of betraying the public interests by doing nothing, or of violating the Constitution by exercising powers indispensably necessary and proper, but, at the same time, not EXPRESSLY granted.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 44
TIME OUT: A ROCKIN’ DISCOVERY
Smithsonian: “In 1958, archaeologists summoned a diamond-cutting business to help reinforce a fallen Stonehenge trilithon—the site’s signature structure consisting of two large vertical stones topped by a horizontal one. Three holes were bored into one of the stones so it could be filled with supportive metal rods, which, in turn, produced three cores from the interior of the stone. Robert Phillips, an employee of the diamond-cutting company, decided to take one of the cores… For six decades, Phillips proudly held onto his piece of Stonehenge… Phillips’ two sons brought the core from Florida, where Phillips now resides, to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England around one year ago. … English Heritage waited until now to announce the recovery because it wanted to have a better sense of the core’s significance. Experts hope that with further study, the piece, which measures around three-and-a-half feet in length, may offer new clues into the mysterious origins of the site’s massive pillars.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 43.6 percent
Average disapproval: 52 percent
Net Score: -8.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 2.2 points
[Average includes: IBD: 43% approve - 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; Gallup: 46% approve - 50% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 42% approve - 54% disapprove.]
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TRADE WAR STOKES GOP WORRIES
Politico: “President Donald Trump is gambling that the American economy can stomach even steeper tariffs on China as he heads toward a 2020 reelection bid. As trade talks between Washington and Beijing started to fall apart this week, the president’s top trade and economic advisers were urging Trump to move forward with the tariffs that took effect Friday, according to current and former administration officials and close White House advisers. … Wall Street economists warn the strategy could incite a costly trade war and derail the economy just as Trump embarks on his reelection campaign. … Escalating his trade fight with China is a huge wager for a president who constantly touts the growing economy and surging stock market as evidence of his presidency’s success. At the same time, Trump won election in part by vowing that he would stand up to China on trade and economics in a way that his predecessors never dared.”
DNC COMPLICATES DEBATE QUALIFICATIONS
FiveThirtyEight: “On Thursday, the DNC updated its debate qualification rules to outline how it will handle tiebreakers. If more than 20 candidates qualify under the first set of debate rules, then meeting both the polling and donor requirements will become very important — candidates who do so will get first dibs on debate lecterns. … If more than 20 candidates hit both the polling and donor thresholds, the 20 candidates with the highest polling average would be included in the debate. … If fewer than 20 candidates meet both standards but more than 20 qualify via the polling method, those who meet both criteria would qualify first and the remaining spots would be filled by those with the highest polling average. To calculate this, the DNC is planning to average the top three survey results for each candidate… That is, the tiebreaker will be calculated using the polls where a candidate performed best, not necessarily the most recent polls.”
Beto breaks with Booker on gun control - Fox News: “…Beto O’Rourke says that Sen. Cory Booker’s new proposal to mandate the federal licensing of all gun owners goes too far. Asked by Fox News this week if he agreed with the U.S. senator from New Jersey, O’Rourke answered, ‘I don’t know that we need to take the additional step of licensing every single firearm to every single owner. I think that may be too far.’ … [Beto is] a proponent of universal background checks for gun sales, an assault weapons ban, and so-called ‘red-flag’ laws to remove firearms from people who pose a danger to themselves or others… ‘I think relying on the responsibility and accountability that gun owners feel -- matching that with universal background checks, stopping the sales of weapons of war, red flag laws -- that’s the perfect way to compliment the responsible gun ownership that we see in this country right now,’ O'Rourke continued.”
Beto and the art of failing forward - Politico: “The presidential run of Beto O’Rourke is a profoundly personality-driven exercise … so it’s surprising to listen to his speeches on the stump in which he doesn’t talk a whole lot about himself. … And almost always, when he [does] talk about himself, it would be back to the time he fell just short. … Celebrating defeat is unusual for a politician, and doing so makes O’Rourke notably different from the rest of the unwieldy field of Democrats running for president. In contrast to the 20 or so other 2020 candidates … O’Rourke instead presents his loss to [Sen. Ted] Cruz as a prominent selling point. … His near-miss against a prominent Republican in a red state was such a high-quality failure, so epically heroic, he seems to suggest, that it should be considered something of a victory.”
Biden rakes in big bucks at Hollywood fundraiser - CNBC: “Joe Biden raked in over $700,000 on Wednesday at a Hollywood fundraiser, one of the biggest hauls so far in the former vice president's campaign to take on President Donald Trump in 2020. The evening reception had a host committee of Hollywood luminaries including DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, executive and producer Peter Chernin, actor Rob Reiner and Terry Press, the president of CBS Films, according to the event's invitation. It took place at the home of interior designer Michael Smith and James Costos, a former ambassador to Spain under President Barack Obama, the invite shows. … More than 300 people showed up… People familiar with the planning told CNBC that it was ‘opened up to young professionals,’ including some who gave $500 to get in the door.”
Iowa Dems learn from 2016 Bernie-Hillary wars - Politico: “Ask just about any Iowa Democrat about the state’s 2016 fight-to-the-death caucuses and it elicits a similar response: a long pause, a deep breath and a plea to talk about something — anything — else. The ghosts of Hillary Clinton’s razor-thin victory over Bernie Sanders are still so vivid, and the vitriol of their Iowa battle is still so fresh, state and local Democratic Party leaders are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure the 2020 caucuses are as peaceful and bloodless as possible. They’re shutting down the conspiracy theorists at local meetings who continue to insist the 2016 caucus outcome was rigged for Clinton. They’re holding back on candidate endorsements in the hopes of avoiding conflict. They’re even encouraging the individual candidates to save the aggression for the general election, while going so far as to hold social events to help rival Democratic campaign staffers build a rapport.”
Democratic hopefuls making a lot of executive action promises - Bloomberg: “Many of the Democrats running for president are vowing to use executive action to deliver on campaign promises from gun control to raising the minimum wage, breaking with a tradition of paying lip-service to bipartisanship on the stump. Commitments to unilateral action have become a go-to campaign tool this year in response to a political landscape where congressional gridlock and GOP threats to thwart Democratic proposals have all but ended any hope of bipartisan cooperation on contentious issues. … Some of the focus on these actions is a tacit acknowledgment of the difficulty Democrats will face in picking up the three seats they would need to capture the Senate majority from Republicans in 2020. … Executive actions have been frequent targets of criticism by both parties and have faced lawsuits.”
MoveOn to host Dem cattle call - Politico: “The grassroots progressive group MoveOn will host a 2020 candidate forum on June 1 in San Francisco that will be streamed to its vast network of members across the country. It’s the first time that the activist group has hosted a forum of this kind, an in-person event featuring multiple candidates, according to MoveOn officials. Five Democratic primary candidates —Julián Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — have confirmed their attendance. … Candidates will be on stage individually to pitch ‘one big idea’ that’s central to their candidacy and moderators will ask follow-up questions for about 20 minutes.”
Dana Perino's six tips for successful Fox News interviews... for Democrats - Fox News
Continetti: ‘The Real Democratic Agenda’ - Free Beacon
AUDIBLE: A NEW SIDE OF ‘MOMALA’
“Time is precious, and so many of us understand the struggle to seek balance.” – Sen. Kamala Harris wrote in a piece for Elle magazine, ahead of Mother’s Day this Sunday, about her step children and being their “Momala.”
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
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STEP THREE: PRESIDENT BOBCAT
Fort Myers News-Press: “How did the bobcat get to the top of the power pole? It climbed there, of course, sometime Thursday along Interstate 75 in Collier County [Florida] near mile marker 78. ‘It’s not an uncommon type of a behavior,’ said Carol Lyn Parrish, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. … But unlike your cat at home, which may not climb higher than the couch, this bobcat clawed its way to the top of a power pole, well above a fence designed to keep Florida panthers and other wildlife from getting onto the Alligator Alley portion of I-75. … FWC biologists were able to coax the cat down. … ‘One of the biologists was in a bucket truck, and DOT was out there because it was their power pole,’ Parrish said. ‘And you kind of create a presence and the bobcat just kind of got down on its own.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Americans have healthy aversion to foreign policy. It stems from a sense of thrift: Who needs it?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) speaking at the Irving Kristol Lecture AEI Annual Dinner on February 10, 2004.
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.