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On the roster: It’s Mueller time, at last - Harris doing best with major donors - Fox News Klobuchar town hall on deck - DNC considers higher standards for debates - Snot Otter 2020
IT’S MUELLER TIME, AT LAST
Fox News: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released into Washington’s partisan scrum Thursday showing investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Moscow – as Attorney General Bill Barr declared last month – but outlining an array of controversial incidents involving the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction inquiry. This included President Trump allegedly telling his White House counsel in June 2017 to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller had conflicts of interest and ‘must be removed.’ The report said Trump also fumed over the original appointment -- lamenting it would mean the ‘end of his presidency’ -- first telling then-DOJ leader Jeff Sessions he should resign, and later trying to get Session to take back control of the probe. Mueller ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether the president's conduct amounted to obstruction. ‘Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’ the report says.”
Voters still skeptical - Fox News: “But don’t expect the release of Mueller’s report to put the issue to rest. The poll finds 35 percent of voters think the Russia investigation proves there was no collision, while 64 percent disagree or have no opinion. In addition, 57 percent think it is at least somewhat likely U.S. intelligence agencies broke the law when they started investigating the Trump campaign in the first place…”
[The Wall Street Journal has helpfully provided a graphic overview of the entire report. Click here to see it.]
THE RULEBOOK: SIGN OF THE TIMES
“The plan, like every thing from the same pen, marks a turn of thinking, original, comprehensive, and accurate; and is the more worthy of attention as it equally displays a fervent attachment to republican government and an enlightened view of the dangerous propensities against which it ought to be guarded.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 49
TIME OUT: THAT SPORT ROCKS
Nat Geo: “Last weekend, 450 of the world’s best rock climbers convened in the outskirts of Moscow at the CSKA Sports Complex for the second stop on the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s (IFSC) World Cup tour. All eyes were on Czech climber Adam Ondra, the reigning king of really hard rock climbing and a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. A week prior, Ondra had made a win at the first bouldering World Cup of the 2019 season, proving he deserves to be considered a frontrunner for competitive climbing’s first Olympics. With rock climbing’s debut in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo less than 16 months away, the effects are already being felt. Top athletes are vying for Olympics slots while a rush of business dollars and media attention bear down on the emerging sport. While most of the competitors in Moscow were not household names, the high level of competition highlighted how far the nascent sport has come.”
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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: up 1.2 points
[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.]
HARRIS DOING BEST WITH MAJOR DONORS
Politico: “Hundreds of the biggest Democratic fundraisers in the past two presidential elections are already picking candidates for 2020 — and Kamala Harris has a significant early edge, while Pete Buttigieg and his from-scratch campaign has scrambled into the second tier. Harris has already received donations from 176 people or couples who raised at least $100,000, and sometimes many multiples of that, for Hillary Clinton in 2016 or at least $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2012, according to a POLITICO analysis of new campaign finance disclosures and ‘bundler’ data from the Center for Responsive Politics. While the Democratic presidential campaigns have been focused on building small-donor armies this year, bundlers mine their networks for checks to pass along to campaigns six or seven-figures at a time, giving them a potentially massive role in a crowded primary. Donations from these key fundraisers signal the out-of-the-gate interest the candidates are generating among many of the most wealthy and connected campaign supporters in the country.”
Buttigieg uses Obama and Hillary fundraisers for gains - CNBC: “Pete Buttigieg’s increasingly popular presidential run has drawn the support of more than two dozen top Democratic fundraisers, including people who bundled big-dollar donations for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during their White House bids, according to a list CNBC obtained from campaign aides. The financiers on the roster range from former U.S. ambassadors to real estate executives, the latest evidence that the South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s underdog bid to challenge President Donald Trump next year is catching on with Democrats as the party sorts through a crowded primary field. Particularly, Buttigieg’s sincere approach is generating enthusiasm among the Democratic donor class. One of the leading names on the list, lobbyist and former John Kerry 2004 campaign official Steve Elmendorf, decided to back Buttigieg on Sunday, the day the mayor officially launched his campaign with a speech in South Bend.”
Former Obama campaign boss says Bernie can’t beat Trump - WaPo: “Jim Messina was Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012 when the former president won reelection. On Wednesday, Messina spoke with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl about the reelection bid of Obama’s successor. Specifically if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could beat President Trump — a question that Messina answered in the negative. ‘I think if you look at swing voters in this country, they are incredibly focused on the economy,’ Messina said. ‘I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues.’ This is a somewhat baffling comment. It suggests that Sanders’s rhetoric won’t be able to match Trump’s on economic issues, which seems detached from what we know about each candidate. But it also leverages a consistent argument that we’ve heard elsewhere: The strength of the economy generally will make Trump hard to beat.”
FOX NEWS KLOBUCHAR TOWN HALL ON DECK
Politico: “Fox News announced Wednesday that it will host a town hall with Sen. Amy Klobuchar next month, its second event of the nascent 2020 campaign with a Democratic presidential candidate. The town hall is scheduled for May 8 in Milwaukee and is to be hosted by Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. News of Klobuchar’s town hall with the Trump-friendly network comes just days after Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the Minnesota senator's opponents for the 2020 Democratic nomination, participated in well-received town hall put on by Fox News. It also comes as Democrats reach out to voters outside their typical audience in an effort to defeat President Donald Trump next year.”
McAuliffe bows out of 2020 race - WaPo: “Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday he will not join the crowded field of Democrats running for president, citing the need to raise money and campaign for Virginia General Assembly candidates as his successor, Gov. Ralph Northam, tries to recover from a blackface scandal. ‘My heart was with Virginia, as much as I wanted to run for president,’ McAuliffe said. ‘It kept tugging at me. . . . I just didn’t think I could walk away from Virginia.’ The 62-year-old Democrat has been publicly mulling a White House bid since leaving the Executive Mansion in January 2018. He originally said he would decide by March 31 but stayed mum as he continued visiting early-primary states. … Just last week, McAuliffe created a buzz by saying in a speech and on Twitter that he’d dispatch Trump — a onetime campaign donor — like the 280-pound alligator he wrestled in a 1980 fundraising stunt.”
Harris shares regret over California truancy policy - WaPo: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the former California attorney general whose prosecutorial record is drawing criticism from some as overly harsh, expressed ‘regret’ on Wednesday for a truancy program she implemented and said she would not support expanding nationally if she becomes president. While district attorney of San Francisco, Harris tried to combat waning school attendance by criminalizing truancy. She was then able to use the threat of fines or jail time for parents of children who missed too many school days. … [W]hen she became attorney general of California in 2011, she implemented the policy statewide. … On Wednesday, speaking on the left-leaning podcast Pod Save America, Harris lamented what she called ‘unintended consequences’ of the policy — in other words, that the policy was never intended to criminalize parents, just motivate them to ensure their children attended school — and distanced herself from the detentions that resulted from it.”
Yang: Companies like Amazon will fund my Universal Basic Income plan - Fox News: “Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang promoted his ‘Freedom Dividend’ plan while appearing on ‘Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream’ Thursday and revealed that tech companies like Amazon would fund his proposed program which aims to give American adults $1,000 dollars monthly. ‘We all can see that Amazon paid zero in federal taxes last year despite record revenues. And so, if we know that the big winners in the new technology age are going to be paying zero taxes then of course were not going to have enough money to go around,’ Yang told Bream when pressed about how he would fund Universal Basic Income plan. ‘But if we follow other countries examples and create a mechanism where we all benefit from these innovations, then we can pay for a $1,000 dividend for every American adult. Our economy is up to a record $20 trillion.’”
Of 2020 senators running Harris, Booker miss the most votes - AP: “Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have each missed more than one-fifth of the Senate’s votes so far this year as they campaign for president, according to an Associated Press analysis of congressional data. With 16 missed votes of the 77 that the Republican-controlled Senate have held in 2019, Harris and Booker far outpace the number missed by their fellow senators also vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders has missed seven votes so far this year, while Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar have each missed three and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has missed one vote, the AP found. Seeking the presidency as a sitting member of Congress requires a logistical juggling act that often results in candidates taking hits for missed votes as the pace of campaign season picks up.”
The women of 2020 provide a choice, that’s not Hillary - The New Republic: “During the 2016 campaign, there was scant discussion of which women candidates were available besides Hillary Clinton—as if she were the only woman in the political world. Now, the post-Hillary truth emerges: The Democratic Party had a bench. And because they are not Hillary, this group will present a purer test of how voters and members of the chattering classes react to women. ‘Although they all have baggage and have all made missteps, they don’t have the Hillary Clinton baggage,’ [Jennifer Lawless, a UVA political scientist]. Lawless observed. The 2020 election will not be a referendum on Clinton and everything she and her husband represented. Instead, it will be ‘an actual choice’ between women whose backgrounds, careers, and accomplishments have nothing to do with their husbands.”
DNC CONSIDERS HIGHER STANDARDS FOR DEBATES
RCP: “The Democratic National Committee may have an overcrowding problem on its hands, and is considering ways to address it. After relaxing its rules, the party must now accommodate a sprawling field of presidential candidates who have qualified for the first two primary debates this summer. Based on the current formula, 15 hopefuls have already earned a spot on stage for the first nationally televised debate, which will be spread over two nights, June 26-27. But following the second debate on July 30-31, some of those same candidates might not make subsequent cuts. Sources with direct knowledge told RealClearPolitics that the DNC is considering a rule change. ‘This sort of low entry point into the debates is not going to last forever,’ one party official said before mentioning possible higher standards in terms of fundraising and polling that would create ‘a natural winnowing before we get to Iowa.’”
THE JUDGE’S RULING: THE MEANING OF EASTER
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why with Easter, there is still hope: “Freedom is the ability of every person to exercise free will without a government permission slip or watchdog. Free will is the natural characteristic we share in common with God. He created us in His image and likeness. As He is perfectly free, so are we. When the government takes away free will, whether by fiat or by majority vote, it steals a gift we received from God; it violates natural law; it prevents us from having and utilizing the means to seek the truth. … What does Easter mean? Easter means that there's hope for the dead. If there's hope for the dead, then there's hope for the living. But like the colonists who fought the oppression of the king, we the living can achieve our hopes only if we have freedom. And that requires a government that protects freedom, not one that assaults it.” More here.
Fox News Poll: Immigration, economy top list of voter concerns - Fox News
AUDIBLE: FOREVER COUPLE GOALS
“She gave him permission to live, he gave her permission to die — and you know what they did then? They had a drink.” – Susan Page, author of ‘The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty,’ detailed one of the last moments shared between Barbara and her husband George H.W. Bush on America’s Newsroom on Wednesday.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“It is sad that we are discussing this topic in light of the fire at Notre Dame, but I wanted to recommend a video series by the late Francis Schaeffer, one of my favorite Christian authors. The series, ‘How Should We Then Live,’ originally came out in 1977. It was updated in 2009 and discusses Western culture from a Christian perspective. I believe it was Schaeffer’s response or alternative to Sir Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’ series. If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it highly. As always, I wish you and your family God’s richest blessings!” – Paul K. Schnier, Shoreham, N.Y.
[Ed. note: Not only have I seen it, but Schaeffer is a graduate of my alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Fun fact: his follow up “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” was narrated by future Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.]
“I've almost finished reading Accidental Presidents. I am confused about whether it's possible to participate in the book club discussion - or to listen in real time - or do we simply listen once the ‘I'll Tell You What’ podcast has been released next week?” – Nancy Hemstreet Eaton, Glastonbury, Conn.
[Ed. note: I think I may have gotten us all a one-week extension from Professor Perino. Stay tuned!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
SNOT OTTER 2020
NPR: “Pennsylvania's soon-to-be official amphibian has more than its fair share of nicknames: snot otter, mud devil, Allegheny alligator, devil dog, lasagna lizard. In short, it's not exactly a looker. But the Eastern hellbender salamander was the overwhelming choice of lawmakers for amphibian representation in the state. On Tuesday, the state's House of Representatives voted 191-6 on a bill that would name the aquatic creature its state amphibian. The Senate passed the bill in February. The hellbender is a nocturnal salamander that can grow more than 2 feet long. The mud-colored creature, covered in a layer of mucus, breathes primarily through loose flaps of thick, wrinkled skin that look a little bit like lasagna noodles. The hellbender is also a canary for environmental degradation.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I think we have an electorate that’s beginning to feel soiled, and in need of a shower. The hypocrisy, and the real damage is to both parties and the political system.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) on “Special Report with Bret Baier” on Oct. 12, 2016.
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.