By Chris Stirewalt
Published November 29, 2018
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On the roster: All together now: We’ll see what happens - Cohen pleads guilty to lying to Congress - Pelosi fights for full support for speaker bid - The Judge’s Ruling: Chief justice takes on the president - Better out than in
ALL TOGETHER NOW: WE’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS
Given the profusion of news today how about some nuggets to get started?
- We suppose you are as tired of reading it as we are of writing it, but Lord does it bear repeating: Don’t rush to conclusions about Mueller matters. There are lots of newsy notes today on the developing investigation, as you will see reflected below, but regardless of what new things we know, bear in mind the most important consideration: We have no idea about what Donald Rumsfeld would call the “known unknowns.” What does Robert Mueller know? What does President Trump know? What kind of evidence is there? How does Mueller intend to proceed? How do Trump and his man at the Justice Department, Matt Whitaker, intend to respond? Trump waited until after the midterms to respond to Mueller’s questions and so now it’s logical that we would see movement again. But insofar as is possible, resist the urge to connect dots when we don’t have any idea how many dots there are.
- One thing that is clear: Both the president and his most persistent detractors are both intent on whipping up frenzied speculation. For the detractors, it’s about wish casting. For Trump, it’s about keeping his loyal supporters in an anxious froth. It is within your power to avoid both froth and frenzy.
- The most important demographic trend of our time is on disheartening display today. From the WSJ: “Data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Thursday show life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, to 78.6 years, pushed down by the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from powerful opioid drugs like fentanyl. Influenza, pneumonia and diabetes also factored into last year’s increase.” After a century of longer lifespans fueled by medical and lifestyle advances, America is losing ground. Coupled with a declining birthrate, this is strong evidence for a nation not just in decline, but in despair. We would submit that part of the story here is political – and not just in the ways that white, working-class voters are responding to this crisis. America’s current political mania is in substantial part the product of misdirected energies. As we have socially and culturally come apart, energies that belong in close quarters – home, family, houses of worship, schools, clubs and other little bands – have been directed into national politics. Politicians have drawn and exploited these energies in ways that make us sicker with real hatreds and false promises. Our political class is failing the test of our era of massive cultural and social disruption. It is perhaps time that we quit expecting them to succeed and start looking closer to home for answers.
- Jon Van Maren wrote up for National Review the first performance of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s 13-city, two-person show. It sounds like a groaner, but a groaner of specific purpose: To create opportunities for her to be asked about running for president a third time. “Hillary’s response was both unsatisfying and unfunny: ‘Actually, Frank, I’m considering standing for Parliament here in Canada.’ Ha ha. And thus the Clintons’ tour began in Toronto with the predictable game of coy cat-and-mouse that will be sure to keep her demure deferrals in the headlines and the theoretical existence of a rematch with Donald Trump among the topics discussed by political analysts. Hillary Clinton is Schrodinger’s candidate.” Or maybe The Onion was actually on to something with this one: “Hillary Launches Campaign To Raise $100 Million Or Else She’ll Run For President”
- An interesting insight from NYT’s Katie Rogers from the White House: “The president is not as technologically savvy as the first lady. His aides slip him paper copies of news articles, and when he travels on Air Force One, an aide is often spotted carrying around these mysterious-looking cardboard boxes. They are full of paper documents. The president will often sift through the papers when he needs to refer to something — which can be where that famous Sharpie of his comes into play. Mrs. Trump is more tech oriented. She uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, mainly on her phone. Like her husband, she is very interested in her coverage but also uses those tools to keep track of things she’s interested in, including fashion design, magazines and astrology. (She’s a Taurus…)”
- Did you hear that they’ve made a movie about, who else, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y.? The documentary, “Knock Down the House,” offers profiles of four female Democrats running in 2018, with Ocasio Cortez as the star attraction. Filmmakers Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick have won a screening at the Sundance Film Festival, thanks in part no doubt to the media obsession with Ocasio Cortez. While hers is certainly a compelling story, we wonder whether the celebrity status will be helpful to Ocasio Cortez or her party. The expectations seem pretty far out of whack for a freshman congresswoman from a politically uninteresting New York district. But then again, we thought the same thing almost three months ago when she won her primary…
- Way back in 2003, bachelor Ron Bonjean hosted his fellow young flacks and humble hacks like us for a campy, fun Christmas party at his house. Over time, the party went from subversive alternative to the biggest bash of the season. And as it did with Ron generally, the arrival of wife Sara classed things up a great deal. But the party never lost its funky roots, thanks in part to the arrival every year of a surprise gonzo, retro celebrity guest – we can attest to having met Erik Estrada and the guy who played the principal on Saved by the Bell as well as a truly, truly harrowing encounter with Gary Busey. What’s the surprise announcement about this year? There will be no party. The Bonjeans are “getting off the hamster wheel” and we say good for them. The party grew into a wonderful institution where young journos and politicos got to rub elbows with the elites of their fields in a low-stress atmosphere. But imagine the pressure of perennially topping yourself for a more over-the-top bash than the year before. Ron says that this is just a hiatus and that the doors of their Alexandria home will in the future once more swing wide to revelers. But after 15 years, we’d say they’ve earned it. Just make sure you check under the bed and in the closets for Gary Busey.
THE RULEBOOK: EQUAL PORTIONS OF EACH
“The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70
TIME OUT: EVEN ANCIENT HUMANS KNEW GOOD FOOD
Smithsonian: “Protein analysis of ancient food particles found clinging to ceramic pots at the Friesack 4 archaeological site in Brandenburg, Germany, suggests humans have feasted on caviar for at least 6,000 years. The findings, newly published in PLoS One, act as a Stone Age cookbook of sorts, outlining ancient humans’ food-preparing process in unprecedented detail: First, Andrew Masterson writes for Cosmos, early cooks likely gathered fresh carp roe eggs—the prime ingredient in caviar—and dropped them into a pot of boiling water or fish broth warmed by poaching on embers. Then, they covered the pot with leaves, either seeking to trap heat within or add another flavor to the meal. According to Nature, lead author Anna Shevchenko of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, identified the elements of this prehistoric recipe by conducting protein analysis of charred food traces left on a clay cooking vessel dated to around 4,000 B.C.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 40.6 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent
Net Score: -14.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.4 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve - 60% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CBS News: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve - 49% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 57% disapprove.]
COHEN PLEADS GUILTY TO LYING TO CONGRESS
WaPo: “Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to President Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday in New York to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued during the months he was running for president. In a nine-page filing, prosecutors laid out a litany of lies that Cohen admitted he told to congressional lawmakers about the Moscow project — an attempt, Cohen said, to minimize links between the proposed development and Trump as his presidential bid was taking off. Cohen falsely said efforts to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow ended in January 2016, when in fact discussions continued through that year, the filing said. Among the people Cohen briefed on the status of the project was Trump himself, on more than three occasions, according to the document.”
Police raid Deutsche Bank in money laundering investigation - NPR: “German police raided Deutsche Bank offices on Thursday, seeking evidence in a money laundering investigation into the practice of hiding money offshore to elude tax collectors and government regulators. … According to investigators, in 2016 alone, more than 900 Deutsche Bank customers were served by a subsidiary registered in the British Virgin Islands. Those 900 customers did business totaling 311 million euros (about $350 million), the Frankfurt prosecutor's office said. … In recent years, Deutsche Bank has been in the news not only for its prominence in the Panama Papers, but also for its ties to President Trump, in a tumultuous relationship that goes back some 20 years. Trump and the bank once sued each other after he failed to repay a $300 million loan. And the author and reporter Luke Harding has described a ‘shuffle of money’ between the bank's dealings with figures in Russia and its business with Trump.”
Feds raid lawyer’s office who did tax work for Trump - The Hill: “Federal agents have reportedly raided the Chicago City Hall office of a lawyer who previously did tax work for President Trump. The Chicago Sun Times reports that federal agents removed everyone from the office of Chicago Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke on Thursday morning, covering the floor-to-ceiling windows with brown paper. … Burke worked for Trump for more than a decade doing property tax work. Burke’s law firm of Klafter & Burke has worked with Trump’s companies repeatedly to reduce the property tax that Trump Tower and his other properties in Chicago have had to pay, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Over his 12 years working for Trump, Burke was allegedly able to cut the property taxes on the downtown tower by more than $14 million. Burke stopped working for Trump this summer, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ in letters filed with the Illinois State Property Tax Appeal Board.”
Trump cancels Putin meeting en route to G20 summit - Free Beacon: “President Donald Trump announced late Thursday morning that he would not meet as scheduled with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the upcoming G20 summit. Trump explained in a tweet that the cancelation was a result of Russian military conduct following an altercation with Ukranian ships in the Azov Sea. Since 'the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine,' Trump said, it would be inappropriate to meet with Putin. Trump was scheduled to meet with Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Kremlin confirmed as recently as Thursday morning. Speaking to reporters on the White House's South Lawn Thursday morning, Trump said he would 'probably' meet with Putin. Trump subsequently departed for Joint Base Andrews to board Air Force One. In transit to the summit, Trump sent the update, announcing the meeting was cancelled.”
Mueller taking a closer look at Trump, Stone’s relationship - WaPo: “[The] nocturnal chats and other contacts between [President Trump and Roger Stone] have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails. Mueller’s keen interest in their relationship was laid out in a draft court document revealed this week in which prosecutors drew a direct line between the two men — referring to Stone as someone understood to be in regular contact with senior Trump campaign officials, “including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”
Flake won’t budge on Mueller bill, consequently holding up Senate Judiciary hearings - Politico: “The Senate Judiciary Committee cancelled a Thursday hearing on judicial nominees as Jeff Flake’s stand for a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller continues to wreak havoc in the lame duck session. The panel was scheduled to advance six Circuit Court nominees, 15 District Court nominees and several bipartisan bills on Thursday to prepare them for possible floor action over the next month. But Flake, who is retiring at the end of this year, is holding firm to his vow to vote against judicial nominees on the floor and in committee unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) schedules a vote on the bipartisan special counsel legislation.”
PELOSI FIGHTS FOR FULL SUPPORT FOR SPEAKER BID
Fox News: “Nancy Pelosi ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Speaker of the House this week – but she didn’t have the full support of her party. Ahead of her nomination, 16 Democrats circulated a letter calling for ‘new leadership’ when Congress reconvenes in January with Democrats in the majority. To get the gavel back, Pelosi, who was the first female Speaker, needs to win an ‘absolute majority’ of votes cast on the House floor. If just 17 Democrats vote against Pelosi on the floor, she might not have the votes to secure the leadership post she previously held. While no Democrat has launched a challenge to her, those opposed to Pelosi as Speaker have said new leaders could emerge in a floor fight. ‘The battle is on the floor,’ California Rep. Linda Sanchez said. She was one of the lawmakers who signed the letter calling for new leadership. … ‘Are there dissenters? Yes,’ [Pelosi] said. ‘But I expect to have a powerful vote going forward.’ Already, she’s managed to reach deals with Democrats who previously said they would not vote for.”
Next DCCC chair will start off with debt - NBC News: “The new leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee … will inherit $18 million in debt from this year's midterms, a source familiar with the group's finances told NBC News. It’s common for campaigns and party committees to finish election cycles in the hole as they throw everything they have — and then some — at an election, but the $18 million will have to be made up through fundraising before the new chairman can start building a war chest for the next election cycle. The National Republican Congressional Committee also spent heavily this year as it fought to defend the GOP majority, taking out a $12 million line of credit that still has to be paid off, according to the committee's communications director, Matt Gorman. Democrats racked up the debt while flipping at least 39 seats, taking control of the House and enjoying unusually strong fundraising year, with the DCCC taking in $272 million, including $106.3 million online. But they spent heavily in an unusually large number of races and faced deep-pocketed opponents in GOP outside groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund, which spent roughly twice as much as their Democratic super PAC counterpart.”
Maloney drops out of race to be next DCCC chair - The Hill: “New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) has dropped his bid to become the next chairman of the Democratic Party's congressional campaign arm, according to a letter sent to House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). In the letter obtained by CBS News, Maloney thanked Pelosi for her consideration of his candidacy and pointed to his recent hospitalization over a bacterial infection as the reason behind ending his campaign. … The race to lead the DCCC, currently led by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), now remains a three-way contest between Reps. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Cheri Bustos (Ill.) and Denny Heck (Wash.). A decision to delay the election would have been made by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who won a narrow victory Wednesday to become the Democrats' new caucus chair.”
THE JUDGE’S RULING: CHIEF JUSTICE TAKES ON THE PRESIDENT
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano writes: “On Nov. 9, President Trump issued a proclamation directing the Border Patrol to deny entry to all migrants… Judge Jon Tigar prevented the government from complying with the president's proclamation. … Trump dismissed Judge Tigar's ruling as meritless because the judge was appointed to the bench by former President Obama. … Shortly after Trump publicly blasted Judge Tigar, Chief Justice John Roberts came publicly to Tigar's defense. … [T]he judiciary has the final say on the meaning of the Constitution and the laws. The judicial branch is anti-democratic. Federal judges shouldn't care what the public thinks. Their job is to apply the Constitution and interpret federal laws as they have been written, come what may. For these reasons, federal judges and justices have life tenure. They do not need and should not seek public approval. And they should not enter public disputes -- other than by their judicial rulings -- for by doing so, they can appear as political as those in the other two branches.” More here.
Senate advances measure to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-Yemen war - WaPo
Lawmakers reach deal on farm bill - Politico
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not on the Beto 2020 train - WashEx
George Will: ‘Colorado’s changing tint from purple to blue is bad news for Republicans’ - WaPo
Search for next U.N. ambassador continues - Politico
AUDIBLE: SORRY NOT SORRY
“I congratulated her on her caucus vote, and I offered my condolences.” – House Speaker Paul Ryan talking to WaPo’s Paul Kane about Ryan’s call to Minority leader Nancy Pelosi about her victory in a Democratic conference vote on who to elect as the next speaker.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Hi Chris--I enjoy reading Halftime Report each day but have to question how a true WV boy could talk about Barn Dance and Grand Ole Opry and neglect the WWVA Jamboree from the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, WV. Went to college there and married a Wheeling girl from our graduating class some 52 years ago!! One of the best parts of the Jamboree was watching the audience, especially when they would race to the stage ringing bells when a favorite performer appeared!” – Tony Gurley, Tierra Verde, Fla.
[Ed. note: Ha! You’d better believe it was much discussed in this very office when we picked the Time Out. I didn’t want to interfere with the Opry’s birthday so left my thoughts aside, but the Jamboree USA from Wheeling’s Capitol Music Hall was a big part of life where I grew up. One of my earliest memories is my father taking me to see George Jones and Tammy Wynette – an event so important that he knew one day I’d want to be able to say I’d been there. I saw Johnny Cash, who many years before had a momentous encounter with his future wife, June Carter, that was memorialized in “Walk the Line” while they were in Wheeling. You can read some history of the Jamboree here, but suffice it to say that I was very well aware.]
“Hey Chris, I’m so glad you are back and I that you are feeling better! I sincerely hope you & your man-children had all the turkey and pepperoni rolls that your hearts desired!” – Katie Hacker, Evington, Va.
[Ed. note: We’ve been discussing the prevalence of scalloped oysters as a thanksgiving staple. I’ve been shocked to learn that my family is not the only one! But I think you’re on to something. Next year let’s ditch the oysters in favor of pepperoni rolls. One other point on that subject. My home state’s humble offering has gotten a great deal of attention since a CBS News story on the subject. But let’s be clear about a couple of things. Cheese DOES NOT belong on a pepperoni roll and the pepperoni is there for flavor, grease and texture. It is not a stuffing, people. A smallish, light, sweet, white, pillowy-soft roll that includes just five slices or so of pepperoni. That’s all you need for perfection.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
BETTER OUT THAN IN
ABC13: “A Florida woman was arrested after she allegedly pulled a knife on a man who was offended by her loud farting. Shanetta Wilson, 37, was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities said she pulled a knife on a man who was offended when she allegedly passed gas while waiting in line. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said Wilson and the man got into a verbal dispute over her ‘farting loudly’ while in line at a store. That is when she reportedly pulled out a knife and threatened the man before leaving the location.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It's not the way of life, the enterprise with the most dignity, as we've seen over the last few weeks, it's the one on which everything else depends.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) said on “Fox & Friends” on October 23, 2013.
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.