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On the roster: Is Trump trying to get impeached? - What would a Biden v. Bernie race look like? - Dem candidates line up in Las Vegas - Boom: U.S. economy shows strong first quarter - Don’t mess with a bride tribe
IS TRUMP TRYING TO GET IMPEACHED?
Does President Trump want to be impeached?
Maybe so, and maybe, strategically speaking, it’s not the worst idea in the world. At the very least, he certainly doesn’t seem to mind stoking the already hot fires on the subject.
Let’s start first with the fact that impeachment is a political, not legal matter. The House of Representatives gets to decide what constitutes a president’s “high crimes and misdemeanors,” not a court or prosecutor. The Senate gets to sit in judgement on the charges, and may remove the president if 66 of 100 members agree.
So beware those who talk about things like “an impeachable offense” or say that “Congress must/must not act.” The Constitution gives Congress the “sole power” over the process, so that only question is how members vote.
So it wouldn’t be right to say that the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller ruled in or ruled out impeachment. It certainly seems to have made it less likely since the findings fell short of what would have forced enough congressional Republicans to join the call to remove the president.
Certainly Democratic leaders don’t want impeachment. Their argument is clear and convincing: With a presidential election next year, the party’s focus should be on defeating Trump, not impeaching him.
Rather than trapping themselves in a lengthy, almost certainly futile bid to convict and remove Trump, Democratic leaders argue that they should instead use their lesser constitutional power to investigate the president. It’s a hard sell with some members from the bluest of blue districts.
But Trump now seems determined to deny Congress that power. Trump has issued an edict that his administration will comply with none of Congress’ subpoenas rather than contesting matters individually. Trump says congressional demands are illegitimate because Democrats are trying to hurt him.
While this is probably true of some, it also provides a powerful pretext for an administration that has already many times colored outside the lines to reject even appropriate, needful oversight.
That’s not going to be sustainable. The idea of the executive branch engaging in a complete stonewall with Congress doesn’t just fall outside the Constitution, it would also leave an army of bureaucrats and political patronage recipients accountable to no one but the president and his team.
But what can Congress do about it?
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, warned Thursday of “possible incarceration” for administration officials who refuse to testify. But considering how long it would take to move through the system and how reluctant judges would be to mediate constant turf battles between the other two branches, it still sounds a little far-fetched.
If the standoff had already reached that point, it’s hard to think that Congress by then wouldn’t have impeached the president. And it’s equally hard to imagine that Trump’s executive effrontery wouldn’t by then also have put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in impossible positions.
So maybe it’s not that Trump is trying to become only the third president ever impeached, but rather that he sees plenty of political upside to keeping Democrats in knots over the question. And knowing the Senate GOP has his back, the president is free to take his chances.
THE RULEBOOK: AND THAT’S A FACT(ION)
“The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to [the violence of faction].” – James Madison, Federalist No. 10
TIME OUT: WHAT’S YOUR HURRY?
National Geographic: “Fresh evidence suggests that the universe is expanding faster today than it did in its infancy… If confirmed, the changing rate—which is nine percent faster than had been projected—would force us to reconsider a fundamental aspect of the cosmos. The result, announced in a new report publishing in the Astrophysical Journal, marks the latest in a long-running controversy over the Hubble constant, a key measure of the universe's age and expansion rate. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that measurements of the Hubble constant … are at odds with estimates from far younger stars, such as those in our Milky Way, even after taking into account other mysterious cosmic forces such as dark energy, which is accelerating the universe's expansion. ‘[The universe] is outpacing all our expectations in its expansion, and that is very puzzling,’ says lead study author Adam Riess…”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 52 percent
Net Score: -9.2 points
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; GU Politics/Battleground: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 52% disapprove.]
WHAT WOULD A BIDEN V. BERNIE RACE LOOK LIKE?
NBC News: “They’re both white men in their mid-to-late 70s. And they’re both current/former creatures of the U.S. Senate. But Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders — the two 2020 candidates who lead in almost every Democratic poll — represents one heck of an ideological contrast, if the race ultimately comes down to these two men. So in addition to the not-so-subtle shot that the Sanders campaign took at Biden’s high-roller fundraiser last night, the two candidates disagree on: health care (Sanders is for a single-payer system; Biden likely will work to protect/strengthen Obamacare); trade (Sanders opposed the TPP trade agreement; Biden backed it as Barack Obama’s VP); and their vision for 2020 (Sanders is once again calling for a political revolution; Biden is running on a political restoration project). Of course, a full-out Biden-versus-Bernie ideological fight — if it comes to that — could create an opening for the other 2020 Dems, whose messages are in between a revolution and a restoration.”
Amy Walter: ‘Restoration versus revolution’ - Cook Political Report: “What compelled Biden to run was President Trump’s response to the white supremacy march in Charlottesville in 2017 — an event that Biden called ‘a defining moment for this nation in the last few years.’ … In this way, Biden is a lot like the many Democratic candidates who flooded into congressional races in the 2018 cycle. They were much less politically seasoned than Biden, but were similarly propelled into action by the Trump presidency. And, like Biden, most of those Democratic congressional candidates emphasized not a radical change but a check; a check on Trump’s presidency and his policies. But, most of those candidates were also running in suburban, swing districts where a message of moderation was a winning strategy. Biden is running to win in a much more diverse and ideologically fragmented primary contest.”
Former Bernie press secretary joins Team Biden - AP: “Joe Biden has hired Symone Sanders, a prominent African American political strategist, as a senior adviser to his newly launched presidential campaign. The move adds a younger, diverse voice to Biden’s cadre of top advisers, which has been dominated by older white men. It suggests Biden is seeking to broaden his appeal to a new generation of Democrats. Sanders, 29, rose to prominence during the 2016 campaign as press secretary for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She then became a high-profile political analyst on CNN and is likely to be a forceful Biden defender on television. Democratic strategist and former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile called Sanders ‘battle-tested’ and said the hire was ‘one of the best moves’ the Biden campaign could make.”
Biden called mother of Charlottesville woman killed - WaPo: “ The mother of Heather Heyer, the Charlottesville woman killed during the 2017 protests there, said Friday that former vice president Joe Biden called hours after invoking her daughter in the video announcing his presidential campaign launch. … Susan Bro, the mother of Heyer, who was killed when a self-proclaimed white supremacist drove his car into the crowd, said Biden called her later in the afternoon Thursday. … Biden called around 4:30 p.m., Bro said during a Friday morning appearance on CNN, and told her he didn’t reach out initially because he didn’t know how that would make her feel. … Bro said that for most of the call they spoke about bereavement, a subject Biden is intimately familiar with after losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident and more recently his son to cancer.”
Anita Hill says Biden’s apology isn’t enough - NYT: “Joe Biden knew Anita Hill was going to be an issue for him. So a few weeks ago, as he prepared for his presidential announcement, he reached out to her through an intermediary and arranged a telephone call, hoping to assuage her. It did not go how he had hoped. On Thursday, the first day of his presidential campaign, the Biden camp disclosed the call, saying the former vice president had shared with Ms. Hill ‘his regret for what she endured’ 28 years ago, when, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he presided over the confirmation hearings in which she accused Clarence Thomas, President George Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, of sexual harassment. But Ms. Hill says the call from Mr. Biden left her feeling deeply unsatisfied.”
Report: Trump shows he’s worried Biden can win - Politico: “Hours after Joe Biden posted an online video announcing his 2020 White House bid, President Donald Trump responded on Twitter. ‘Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe,’ Trump taunted the former vice president on Thursday. ‘I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign.’ Trump’s insults were actually masking respect — and genuine concern about Biden’s potential to win, Trump advisers say. As early as last fall, Trump was talking privately with aides about the threat Biden posed: ‘How are we gonna beat Biden?’ he would ask. … The conversations, relayed by a Republican strategist with direct knowledge of the interactions, reflect the president’s assessment that Biden poses the biggest threat to his re-election, uniquely capable of competing with him in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that carried him to victory in 2016.”
DEM CANDIDATES LINE UP IN LAS VEGAS
WaPo: “A low point of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign came in the spring of 2007 during a forum sponsored by the Services Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. … Obama’s problem was that he didn’t have a health care plan, so he spoke in bromides and generalities. … SEIU and CAP’s political arm are co-hosting a forum again in Las Vegas tomorrow to push the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates for specifics, but this time the focus is on income inequality instead of health care. Six presidential candidates will face 30 minutes of questioning from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific: Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, plus the former congressman Beto O’Rourke, governor John Hickenlooper and housing secretary Julián Castro. … Coming into the event, Warren has been widely commended for offering a cornucopia of policy proposals… Harris and O’Rourke have been criticized … for tending to speak more in abstract terms. The bar is higher for them to clear tomorrow.”
Sanders gets heckled at event for women of color - Fox News: “2020 presidential contender Bernie Sanders faced an aggressive and, at times, outwardly combative audience at the She The People Forum devoted to women of color in Houston on Wednesday, as the self-described democratic socialist struggled to convince attendees of his commitment to minority and underprivileged communities. The tense moments underscored the challenges Sanders' campaign still faces despite its frontrunner status. The 77-year-old Vermont senator, long a champion for progressive causes, has sought to win over voters who turned out in massive numbers to support former President Barack Obama.”
Tulsi Gabbard’s freelance campaign - Daily Beast: “Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Democratic presidential campaign had just one full-time employee in the first three months of the year. A review of Federal Election Commission records show Gabbard’s campaign made a single payment of less than $2,600 to field staffer Amaury Dujardin. Every other member of Gabbard’s campaign staff, including her campaign manager, was paid as a consultant, not a full-time employee. By contrast, the campaign spent $30,850 on billboard advertisements over the same period. It’s not uncommon for campaigns to structure their payrolls that way. Classifying staff as contractors instead of full-time employees allows them to avoid payroll taxes and the costs of providing benefits to its employees, which can be substantial.”
BOOM: U.S. ECONOMY SHOWS STRONG FIRST QUARTER
CNBC: “The U.S. economy grew at a faster pace than expected in the first quarter and posted its best growth to start a year in four years. First-quarter gross domestic product expanded by 3.2%, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Friday in its initial read of the economy for that period. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected growth of 2.5%. It was the first time since 2015 that first-quarter GDP topped 3%. ‘The upside beat was helped by net trade (exports jumped while imports contracted sharply) and inventories which combined contributed almost 170 bps of the rise,’ wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. ‘Personal spending though, the biggest component was up just 1.2%, two tenths more than expected as an increase in spending on services and nondurable goods offset a decline in spending on durable goods.’ Exports rose 3.7% in the first quarter, while imports decreased by 3.7%.”
Andrew Ferguson: ‘A republic too fractured to be funny’ - Atlantic
Kushner says Trump to receive immigration plan favoring high skills over family ties - Fox News
Federal judges threw away Michigan’s congressional maps on Thursday - Politico
FBI to discuss potential Russian hackings in Florida with Scott, DeSantis - Politico
AUDIBLE: ‘THE YOUNGEST’
“I am a young, vibrant man.” – President Trump said to reporters on the White House lawn Friday morning.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Chris Wallace will sit down with Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. 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.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
DON’T MESS WITH A BRIDE TRIBE
WZTV: “Bachelorette parties are in for a real treat as they navigate the NFL draft. Closed roads, peddle taverns pushed off Broadway, and hundreds of thousands of people infiltrating Nashville forced many to change their plans. ‘We come here to listen to country music, not hang out with football boys,’ bride Cara said. ‘I’ll tell you who’s going to pay for this. My husband. No football next season. No Super Bowl. Because my friend only gets married once, draft happens every year,’ bridesmaid Cyndi said. Other bachelorette parties said they planned to fight their way through the crowds. ‘We’ll use our elbows if we have to,’ one bridal party said. ‘If we have to wait two hours to Uber, we’ll do it. It is what it is,’ another bridal party said. Many had no idea they’d be traveling to the Mecca of NFL football when they planned their bachelorette parties, but they still plan to have a good time.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“But [Trump] represents a huge constituency of tremendous support and enthusiasm. … That's his appeal, that is how he won the election. He's reminding the elites that that appeal is still there.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) speaking on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Aug, 4, 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.