Good Friday Morning! It’s the end of the week and the government shutdown already feels like it was a month ago. It’s amazing to watch the news cycle turn so quickly with this President. I posted a small piece on the site entitled: “It’s not complicated: Democrats chose a shutdown.” Between that and the column, I wrote at the Conservative Institute, that covers most of my thoughts on the 69-hour government shutdown.
The big news breaking overnight is the White House’s immigration proposal, which I’ll cover below. This is the next stage in the DACA legislation fight. If Democrats reject the deal, it could lead directly to the next government shutdown in February. I’ll also cover the verdict in the sex abuse scandal involving US Women’s gymnastics, and wrap things up with a look at the news story from the NYT saying Trump almost fired Robert Mueller from the Russia probe. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
The title may seem harsh, but it’s playing off a Politico news article of the same name. Government shutdowns are bad politics and bad policy. I’ve yet to find a historical example where a party has shut down the US government and won politically. Republicans lost very prominent battles in the 90’s with Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, and again in 2013 against Barack Obama. I can’t fathom a single reason on why Democrats chose a shutdown, but if they’re going to make blunders like this, Republicans should let them.
Trump’s DACA Proposal: A great deal – but will anyone take it?
Multiple outlets are reporting that White House advisor Stephen Miller has briefed members of Congress on Trump’s initial offering to solve the DACA problem. In brief, this is what the plan does:
- Offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamers.” Double the 900,000 request by Democrats.
- Establishes a $25 billion trust fund for border security
- Eliminates the visa lottery (here’s what that is in a nutshell)
- Curbs chain migration. Families could have their immediate family members immigrate with them, spouses and children, but the extended family would have to migrate without chain migration.
On both merit and tactics, this is a brilliant plan. Hardliners on the right and left will bellyache about various things in it, but this is an excellent plan from the White House. Here’s why.
First, it goes beyond solving the immediate problem of DACA. It grants a path to citizenship to those who want it, and those who haven’t asked for it. Roughly 900,000 of those who fall under the DACA category wish to become US citizens, but can’t due to US law. This proposal goes beyond that and extends citizenship to those not even asking for it.
As an opening bid, Trump is daring Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to reject the offer. It’s more than they requested and ends the issue of DACA. If they balk at restricting chain migration or the price tag of $25 billion, he can simply say they’re being unreasonable. And they would be because he’s doing more than Democrats planned on accomplishing. I tend to agree with Allahpundit over at Hotair on this one:
Leaking this also creates some leverage over Schumer. Publicizing such a generous offer will build excitement among DREAMers when Schumer’s already under heavy pressure to make amnesty happen by February 8. As that excitement builds, Trump and Miller can start twisting Schumer’s arm on limiting chain migration for family members of the newly legalized DREAMers. WaPo has a detail about that, in fact, although it sounds like Trump wants to scale back chain migration for all immigrants, not just DREAMers: “[T]he president will propose significant curbs to legal immigration channels, restricting the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for visas only for spouses and minor children and ending categories for parents and siblings.” Will Schumer roll over on that? He’ll probably never get an amnesty offer from Trump this robust again. If “the wall for DACA” was the obvious deal, “the wall plus caps on chain migration for DACA-plus” was the less obvious but more ambitious one.
Democrats and progressives blasting the plan would prove that they wanted their version of immigration with absolutely no compromise. And the talking will be: Are Democrats willing to hold up citizenship for 1.8 million people just because they can’t get perfection? This is basically DACA amnesty Trump is offering up, and if Democrats walk away from that, then what deal would they ever accept?
The deal is also perfect for red-state Democrats and blue-state Republicans. It gives them a moderate area to work with and shove back against the hardliners on their extremes.
The hardliners on the left and right are where this will be fought. Ironically, I’m not worried about Trump’s base leaving him. They’ve stuck with him through far worse, why would they leave now? I fully expect him to lose his far-right pundit class, the people like Ann Coulter, Breitbart, and others. But it won’t matter to him because he’ll gain the rest of the conservative media establishment which will praise him profusely for the plan. He can point to chain migration and $25 billion for the wall, which will look like major victories.
It’s the far-left that’s interesting. Tactically, I’d say Schumer should try to negotiate a little bit to see where there’s wiggle room, but otherwise, he should accept the deal. It’s more than he could ever negotiate. But the Democratic base will attack this rapidly because it was proposed by Trump. The problem is that this is the same crowd that believed shutting down the government, as the party of pro-big government and responsible governing, was a good idea. In short, these people are clowns.
Chuck Schumer is going to have a bad three weeks as we head towards potential government shutdown 2.0. If I’m Trump and the White House, I play hardball the entire time. Democrats are reeling from the shutdown fiasco and they lack any plan or strategy on DACA. Remember, they don’t even have a bill to put forward on DACA — they’ve just obstructing. There’s no messaging, no plan, and no leadership.
The position I expect the far-left to take: This proposal is racist.
Really. They’re going to say giving citizenship to 1.8 million people – more than they were asking for – is racist. They’ll play that card on the chain migration part, but that’s going to be a tough sell when Democrats literally lack any plan themselves. It’s going to be an even harder sell to Democrats in Trump-won districts. As an aside, if this happens, the question needs to be asked whether or not they want to solve immigration, or just enjoy it as a pet issue for elections.
This is an A+ job by the White House. It remains to be seen on whether or not they can sell this and pull it off, they’re prone to horrific gaffes, but they have positioned themselves perfectly. After the blunders, absurdities, and horrible rollouts of the travel ban, health care reform, tax reform, and everything in between, this is a pleasant surprise. That doesn’t mean it will succeed, just that he’s getting better at the political game.
Larry Nassar gets life for abusing women on the US Olympic Gymnastics Team
That’s the number of women who came forward and accused Larry Nasser, a former doctor for Team USA, of molesting them. 156.
The victim impact statements, written and delivered by the women, was a powerful testament to their strength and resolve at seeing the case through. The NYT printed Aly Raisman’s entire statement to the court in full. He deserved the sentence. The prosecutors, journalists, and victims all deserve commendation for their acts. This was one instance where the legal system worked in the way it was designed.
Except in one crucial area, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina took time from the victims and prosecutors to editorialize. She made multiple comments during and after the trial which went over the line for a judge:
Aquilina’s remarks were unusual in how fiercely she championed the victims over the four-day sentencing hearing, emerging more as an advocate than a dispassionate judge.
“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you, because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again,” she told Nassar on Wednesday as she sent him to prison for 40 to 175 years. “I’ve just signed your death warrant.” She also went so far as to suggest that he deserved to experience the pain of sexual abuse himself.
On the first day of the hearing, she mused about allowing “many people” to sexually assault Nassar if she were permitted to.
“Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment,” she said. “If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls ― these young women in their childhood ― I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others.”
I don’t even disagree with her remarks, but a judge cannot make them. Especially a judge presiding over a trial or sentencing of a defendant, as Aquilina was doing. For one, it raises the prospect of judicial bias. If Nassar appealed on those grounds, doubtful in this case because it was sentencing, the entire process could have to be redone. That’s not what you want to show victims or the world when everyone is watching.
Judges often make negative comments towards defendants or others in their courtroom, but comments like this go over the line. Her grandstanding also took the limelight away from the victims, whose actual statements were far more potent than anything Aquilina could ever say. Her actions were more “I’m running for higher court office” than standing up for victims.
The legal system is already in need of reform. Comments like Aquilina’s do more to damage the court than help it.
Trump allegedly almost fires Mueller
This story broke as I was writing the newsletter. The New York Times is reporting: Trump Ordered Mueller Fired but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit. The key passage:
Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.
First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.
After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.
The second key passage:
Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
Mr. Trump has significantly ratcheted back his criticisms of Mr. Mueller since he hired Mr. Cobb for his legal team in July. A veteran of several high-profile Washington controversies, Mr. Cobb has known Mr. Mueller for decades, dating to their early careers in the Justice Department.
He advised Mr. Trump that he had nothing to gain from combat with Mr. Mueller, a highly respected former prosecutor and F.B.I. director who has subpoena power as special counsel. Since Mr. Cobb’s arrival, the White House has operated on the premise that the quickest way to clear the cloud of suspicion was to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, not to fight him.
The rest of the story is largely dressing around those two key points. Trump wanted to fire Mueller and Rosenstein, and he was only prevented from doing so by his lawyers.
The legal advice Trump is receiving is valid and I agree with it. Cooperating with Mueller likely clears Trump in the end. I’m of the opinion that if the Russia-probe had connections directly to Trump, we’d have seen it by now. It wouldn’t surprise me if the probe hit Jared Kushner or one of his children, but I’ve yet to see anything saying the investigation can hit Trump directly.
I hope Trump’s lawyers win him over again by convincing him not to testify before Mueller in any capacity. Trump’s track record under prior testimony under oath hasn’t gone well and his lawyers likely know as much. He’s better off taking the 5th and not testifying (contrary to popular belief, the 5th amendment doesn’t mean you’re guilty).
Trump’s legal team has so far convinced him to stay within defined boundaries. If he obeys them, they’ll keep him safe. If he ignores them, he will feel the pain in this investigation.
Democratic Immigration Extremism and Warnings of Extremism to Come – David French, National Review
The Progressive Left Goes Philistine: It used to be conservatives who sought to censor art. Now the dynamic has flipped. – Nick Phillips, The American Conservative
Anthony Kennedy Can’t Be Allowed to Die – Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review
Serve the Law, Not the Court – Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review
What Syria Teaches Us About ‘America First’ – Johnathan S. Tobin, National Review
Blaming the parents of Nassar’s victims is a coping mechanism. But it won’t help anyone: People want to believe that they can prevent harm from coming to their kids. But tragedy is rarely orderly or preventable. – Bethany S. Mandel, NBC Think
The Photo That Never Saw The Light of Day: Obama With Farrakhan In 2005 – Esme Cribb, Talking Points Memo
California Considers $1,000 Fine for Waiters Offering Unsolicited Plastic Straws – Christian Britschgi, Reason Magazine
Hating Gerrymandering Is Easy. Fixing It Is Harder. – David Wasserman, FiveThirtyEight
A New Reality? The Far Right’s Use of Cyberharassment against Academics: A firsthand account by a targeted faculty member. – Joshua A. Cuevas, The American Association of University Professors
On Leaving Fox News – Erick Erickson, The Resurgent
Satire piece of the week
BLUE EYE, MO—Squashing accusations that President Trump had a sexual encounter with porn star “Stormy Daniels” while he was married to Melania, televangelist Jim Bakker explained to his audience Friday that he had confirmed that Trump was merely scheduling private time with the woman in a hotel suite in order to share with her the good news of Jesus Christ, as he had become acquainted with her and was very concerned that she was not a Christian.
“It is preposterous to assert that a virtuous believer like Mr. Trump would cheat on his beautiful wife so callously, and while their child was only months old,” a solemn Bakker said into the camera as colorful balloons provided a backdrop for some reason. “He was so concerned with the eternal state of Miss Daniels’ soul that he scheduled some alone time with just the two of them, so he could share with her how Jesus Christ had changed his life and how He could also save her from her sins.”
Thanks for reading!