Good Friday Morning! Halloween is over, November is here, and we’re really in the holiday season now. This year, Democrats plan to put impeachment on top of the holidays — so it’ll be a busy end-of-the-year in the nation’s capital. I’ll get into the vote held on Thursday below, links to follow.
One quick hit — ISIS named a new leader/caliph, and Rukmini Callimachi, the best reporter at the New York Times, has the details:
The Islamic State announcement said that Mr. al-Baghdadi had been succeeded as leader by Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, whom it identified as the “emir of the believers” and “caliph.” Almost nothing is publicly known about Mr. al-Qurayshi, including his real name, and counterterrorism analysts were scrambling Thursday to try to figure out who he is.
“Nobody — and I mean nobody outside a likely very small circle within ISIS — have any idea who their new leader ‘Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi’ is,” Paul Cruickshank, editor of the CTC Sentinel at the Combating Terrorism Center, said in a tweet on Thursday. “The group has not yet released any meaningful biographical details which might allow analysts to pinpoint his identity.”
The US killed the top two people in ISIS, so the group is attempting to reform. There’s plenty of internal issues in ISIS, which we know from people who have left and also the various non-ISIS groups that have sprung up. The fight against Islamic terrorism continues, even as the groups and allegiances shift.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the Beltway Outsiders Podcast host Daniel Vaughan discusses the Katie Hill resignation and what word he didn’t like learning, a quick hit on the impeachment polls in battleground states, the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Kanye West’s new album JESUS IS KING, and a recent study on how conservative YouTube videos lead de-radicalization away from extremist videos.
Conventional wisdom is wrong: GOP should force Dems to answer impeachment questions – The Conservative Institute
My piece from earlier in the week arguing that the convention wisdom in DC is wrong about impeachment — Republicans are right to challenge the Democrats process.
Baghdadi’s death proves the importance of American military power abroad – The Conservative Institute
Killing the number one terrorist in the world is a big deal — and it provides the best case for American military force abroad.
Democrats hold a vote… on the process, not inquiries or impeachment
The House held a vote on Thursday over a resolution that will dictate some of the rules on how the impeachment inquiry will go moving forward. The resolution passed 232-194, with all Republicans voting against it and two Democrats joining them. All support for the measure came from Democrats.
There are three broad points you have to know about impeachment and what is happening: the resolution, the effect of the resolution, and the politics driving the resolution.
The actual resolution is eight pages long, and you can read it here.
You may recall that the Republicans made the process a central part of their critique, the White House even had a letter drafted up by one of their counsel, Pat Cipollone, that laid out many of their complaints. The Cipollone letter, as it now called, got mocked widely in DC circles because it made many legal arguments that little basis in law.
Remember, in an impeachment proceeding, the House can mostly follow whatever rules it wants. The Constitution gives it broad leeway in charting a course for impeachment. My argument on the Cipollone letter was that it couldn’t be understood as a legal argument — it was a political argument using legal language, which meant none of the legal critiques launched against it, from the left and right, mattered. It was setting the main narrative from the White House.
The fact that we’re sitting here at this resolution, with Pelosi trying to blunt that criticism and still protect her caucus speaks volumes to the political impact of that letter and the overall narrative shift it produced. From that point forward, Republicans launched a non-stop drumbeat against the closed hearings, lack of access, and methods employed by Adam Schiff and others.
The resolution, in turn, claims to set out to describe procedures for a more open and transparent process on impeachment. As I said, you can either read the resolution yourself or read NBC News’s summary of it here. I’m not going to bog you down with the details.
The point is, this resolution is both a step forward and a non-move at the same time.
The effect of the resolution
The main impact of the resolution is that it shoves all the impeachment proceedings into the committee chaired by Adam Schiff. Republicans had wanted anyone else to lead the committees responsible, preferably the judiciary, but Democrats want Schiff to run the show — despite him being a total liability.
So while you’ll see more open hearings and a lot more of Adam Schiff, Republicans won’t be getting the full access and transparency that they want to participate in the conferences. Republicans wanted more capacity to question and subpoena witnesses, but everything has to get approved through Schiff. Everything is bottle-necking through Schiff and his office.
Schiff leads the intelligence committee — which means he can keep certain things classified and behind closed doors if he so chooses. He can claim classified privilege and keep reporters out — while still leaking what he wants to the press. Everything that has come out so far, while a lot of it is bad for Trump, is also only one side of the story. Schiff and his cohorts are only leaking their side of the story to help create a constant drumbeat in the media for impeachment.
Schiff isn’t trusted by any person on the right, which is why not a single Republican joined it — including those who are retiring and openly critical of the President. Which brings us to the most vital part…
The politics of the impeachment inquiry
Everything playing out here is about politics — every single thing. Pelosi has to do two things: 1) Keep her caucus in line, and 2) protect the vulnerable Representatives in Trump territory. There are two significant votes, historically, that the House has on impeachment. The first is a vote that opens an inquiry into an impeachment and investigates, and the second is a vote on the actual articles of impeachment.
The resolution voted on by the House was neither of those things. It’s an inquiry-lite vote. The vote only directed how the impeachment process would go in these committees but didn’t launch an actual inquiry. Pelosi maintains this is something she does not have to do — which is true — but it’s telling on why she won’t seek the full power of an inquiry: she doesn’t have the votes.
Here’s the reality: this vote was impeachment inquiry-lite, it’s the most favorable thing polled. FiveThirtyEight shows support for an inquiry sitting at 51.2% in poll averages, with 42.1% against an impeachment inquiry (42% is Trump’s average level of approval rating — so this number makes sense).
And while those numbers have leveled off/dropped some from peaks, it’s still a majority. And Pelosi isn’t holding a vote on that — she’s holding a vote on process/procedure, something even less controversial than an investigation inquiry. Even with that step removed, two Democrats voted against it, and all Republicans felt comfortable voting against it. Pelosi couldn’t convince one Republican — even the ones retiring and nothing to lose — to join her.
Harry Enten at CNN noted that impeachment, both inquiries, and complete removal, are unpopular in battleground states and swing districts. Impeachment support in those states is around five points below the national averages, and the redder a state is, the less support it gets.
Democrats can’t afford a situation where one person is the deciding vote in an impeachment vote because then no one will vote. No one in those battleground states wants to get defined by this issue, though that’s an impossible task at this point.
The vote on process keeps her members safe from any hard votes for the time being while trying to build up a case in the media and party. If Pelosi can’t get the polls juiced for impeachment through Adam Schiff’s committee, getting articles out of the House and before the Senate gets harder and harder.
The Senate is sitting pretty…
The Senate is in an interesting position too. Technically, they could call their own committees and get the real story behind all the deception from Schiff and his ilk. They’re choosing not to do this though. There are several reasons for that.
First, every mistake the House makes — and they are litany — makes it easier for the Senate to reject impeachment as quickly as possible. Schiff is the gift that keeps on giving — making it easier to dismiss whatever the House produces.
Second, the pressure is on the House to deliver — and fast. If the Senate were to hold an impeachment trial, all the Senators would get forced to attend the hearing. If you’re a normal Senator, this is no big deal. If you’re Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, or Corey Booker, this is a disaster because you could get forced off the campaign trail near the Iowa caucuses. They need a Senate trial this year — not next.
Observe how these Presidential campaigns start to shift on this issue — they desperately need an impeachment vote and a trial to wrap up before the end of the year. If they don’t get that, and the House does get the votes to pass articles of impeachment, Mitch McConnell could play some serious hardball. He could force those candidates to get off the campaign trail and sit quietly in the Senate chamber, listening to speeches on the topic of Trump’s impeachment.
The million-dollar question is, can Pelosi cobble together the votes necessary to impeach Trump? The answer on that was unclear, but she’s already losing people in a process vote that means little, while off-setting that with zero Republicans. The political pressure, despite the media narrative, is on Democrats. Republicans aren’t under any pressure to defend Trump — if Democrats want to impeach, they’ll have to prove it.
Voting on the process is not a reliable indication they want to do that just yet…
Links of the week
The 2010s Have Broken Our Sense Of Time – Katherine Miller, Buzzfeednews
Erdogan Ally Met With Omar, Contributed to Her Campaign – Zachary Evans, National Review
Another Smear Campaign From the American Bar Association: The lawyers group declares Lawrence VanDyke ‘not qualified’ based on claims from anonymous critics. – Adam J. White, The Wall Street Journal
The Blue State Model Is Failing: You get what you vote for. – Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine
Trump’s Deficits Are an Existential Threat to Conservatism – Philip Klein, The New York Times
Primary Challenges Might Keep These Republican Senators From Voting To Remove Trump – Geoffrey Skelley, FiveThirtyEight
Have 1 in 5 Americans Been in a Consensual Non-Monogamous Relationship? – Charles Fain Lehman, The Institute for Family Studies
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
Hundreds Of Christian Denominations Scramble To Recruit Kanye West – The Babylon Bee
U.S.—After Kanye West converted to Christianity, Christian denominations across the country immediately began scrambling to woo him over.
Kanye West says he’s been flooded with gift baskets, swag, and monetary offers from Christian denominations looking to get him to join their church.
The Baptists sent West a gift basket full of casseroles, while a local Reformed church sent him a 12-pack of craft beer. A charismatic congregation sent a representative to speak in tongues, while the Catholics sent a priest to exorcise his house and also offer him a gift basket of crackers and wine.
“I am keeping all my options open,” West told reporters. “My agent and I are looking through all the offers to see what the best deal is, what the greatest deal of all time is. Of all time.”
Thanks for reading!