September 18, 2019

Corey Lewandowski Testifies

“President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager on Tuesday acknowledged that his former boss enlisted him to try to limit the Russia election interference inquiry but defended Trump and tangled with Democrats during pugnacious testimony to a U.S. congressional panel mulling whether to impeach the president… [The White House had instructed] Lewandowski on Monday not to discuss conversations with Trump after he became president by invoking a doctrine called executive privilege.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is critical of Trump’s attempt to claim executive privilege, Lewandowski’s behavior, and the seeming lack of strategy on the part of Democrats.

“To be clear, the president has no authority to tell a witness not to show up. The president has no absolute immunity to prevent ex-aides from testifying. And he really has no basis for instructing a private citizen who never served in the White House to obstruct an investigation.”
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

“[Lewandowski] rolled his eyes. He shook his head. He questioned Democrats’ patriotism. He mocked former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s work: ‘Nobody’s actually read the report.’ He made a crack about Hillary Clinton’s emails and attacked ‘bad’ and ‘shameful’ federal agents… It was a depressing scene, and quite a way to honor Constitution Day. Five hours of nastiness made clear that the revolting politics of this moment, though aggravated by Trump, are larger than him — and will outlast him if people such as Lewandowski gain election.”
Dana Milbank, Washington Post

“Through all the sarcasm, personal insults, and tortured debate about Congressional procedure, Lewandowski confirmed that Trump instructed him to have then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervene in, and derail, a criminal investigation of Trump and his close associates. This is a big deal -- or should be. But it also was nothing new. The entire summer 2017 episode is set forth in detail in the Mueller report. Lewandowski's testimony simply confirms that Mueller got it right -- contrary to the repeated claims of Lewandowski's chief benefactor Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Mueller's impartiality and veracity…

House Democrats need to address this question squarely: Is the conduct in the Mueller report enough to impeach? If so, then why are we wasting time with the kind of absurd hearing we saw on Tuesday? (Note: they don't need more -- the House impeached President Bill Clinton based on the written report of Independent Counsel Ken Starr, without calling live witnesses). And if not, they're not going to magically get some brand new, previously unknown smoking gun, especially not from partisan, dishonest favor-seekers like Lewandowski.”
Elie Honig, CNN

[This] was the first big test for whether Democrats could win over the public — either through bombshell new revelations, or simply by putting on an effective hearing that communicates their political message. Neither really happened…

“The central topic of the hearing was about how Trump told Lewandowski to deliver a message to Jeff Sessions that he should rein in the Mueller investigation. It’s scandalous stuff. But it turns out the message never even got to Sessions, and the Mueller investigation got to continue — making it another case in which Trump’s obstruction attempts ended up being more incompetent than effective. So for those Democrats hoping to change the political dynamics of impeachment, this hearing will likely go down as a failure — and a sign of potential trouble to come.”
Andrew Prokop, Vox

“There is tremendous confusion about what the Judiciary Committee is up to… even Democratic lawmakers don’t seem to know whether they are engaged in an impeachment inquiry. Representative Pramila Jayapal has said ‘yes.’ Representative Jim Himes has said ‘no.’ Last week, Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, said ‘no’ — then backtracked, claimed he’d misheard the question and offered a non-answer instead…Democrats need to clarify to the public — and to themselves — where they are headed.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is generally skeptical about executive privilege applying to Lewandowski’s testimony but condemns the overall investigation as political theater.

From the Right

The right is generally skeptical about executive privilege applying to Lewandowski’s testimony but condemns the overall investigation as political theater.

“Trump wants to shut down Nadler’s endless investigations and will play the executive privilege card for as long as it works. This looks like one play too many… Lewandowski is, strictly speaking, a civilian when it comes to privilege. Traditionally, executive privilege has been extended toformal advisers to a president. Lewandowski might have been a friend, but he’s never been appointed to a post in the White House, nor did he serve any official role in the transition. Usually, one has to be in the executive branch to qualify for a claim of executive privilege.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“The assertion of privilege here is ludicrous. Congress rightfully enjoys oversight privilege over the conduct of the executive branch… Lewandowski is a material witness. He was not a White House employee. He is asserting, and can assert, no Fifth Amendment privilege, because there is no suggestion that he himself broke any law. He is under duly issued congressional subpoena. Therefore, he must answer Congress’ questions.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

Some, however, counter that “we want the president to be able to have candid conversations with worthy advisers in and out of government in order to make the best decisions for the country. Moreover, our system is based on separation of powers, so Congress should not intrude on communications the president has in furtherance of exercising his legitimate authority… If some future Democratic president phoned Henry Kissinger to consult on China policy or the most efficient structure of the State Department, I believe those communications would be covered by executive privilege even though Dr. Kissinger is not a government official…

“[But] this is less about high constitutional principle than low political theater. We all know what President Trump told Corey Lewandowski to do. We also know the Democrats are not going to impeach the president over it — regardless of where we come out on whether it comes close to an impeachable offense.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

“House Democrats fully earned and deserve Corey Lewandowski's trolling… No offense, but what the hell did you expect? This is just like when House Democrats demanded that Mueller speak when he adamantly didn't want to testify. Except this time, instead of bringing in someone who was reluctant and had nothing to say that would benefit their cause, they brought in the bloviating embodiment of white, male mediocrity who's currently trying to curry favor with Trump for a Senate run in New Hampshire. If you were dumb enough to believe that this would be anything less than Lewandowski's shameless show for Trump, you deserve to be publicly humiliated by his completely unsurprising behavior.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“Democrats spent more than two years talking about Russia, Russia, Russia seven days per week. It was their way of keeping the story in the news in the hopes that it would eventually bring down Trump. Now that the Russia thing has blown up in their faces, they need to trot out a new totem to raise against the President and the magic word is impeachment… This isn’t about actually impeaching Donald Trump. This is a strategy to have people hearing the word impeachment associated with Trump on a daily basis to give the impression that he’s going to crumble any day now. And they need to keep that going until next November.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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