This is a photo enhancement of a picture I took on the campaign trail, in Keene, New Hampshire, in October 2019. It seems so long ago – before COVID-19, before the primaries that dramatically broke for President-elect Joe Biden, before the full bitter and rancor of Election 2020, and before the insurrection on Capitol Hill.
‘No Good Explanation’ For McConnell ‘Thumb Twiddling’ On Election Security Bills, Schumer Says
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2019 — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday said he doesn’t know why Mitch McConnell won’t allow the Senate to vote on a host of election security measures, but he hopes it’s not because the Senate Majority Leader wants President Donald Trump and his party to benefit from foreign interference.
“It’s hard to come up with any good reason why one should block this,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., who noted that McConnell’s stonewalling extends to bipartisan measures offered by Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and James Lankford, R-Okla.
“I have no good explanation, and I hope it’s not because he thinks that Russian interference will benefit President Trump or his party,” he said, adding that the tools Russian President Vladimir Putin used for the pro-interference campaign he mounted in 2016 could easily be turned around and used to obtain a result that McConnell would not like.
Efforts to craft a comprehensive election security bill that would shore up American elections against foreign meddling and deter adversaries from attempting to interfere have been a priority for Democrats and some Republicans since early 2017, after intelligence officials revealed that Russia had put its thumb on the scales during the 2016 presidential election.
President Trump and many of his allies have often tried to downplay the significance of the Intelligence Community’s findings as a “hoax” perpetrated on the American people as part of a “deep state coup” by unelected bureaucrats.
During a joint press conference with Putin at their Helsinki summit last year, Trump said he believed the Russian strongman’s denials over the assessments of his own intelligence chiefs.
But a two-year investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller largely confirmed what intelligence officials had already revealed to the public.
In his report to Attorney General William Barr, Mueller found that Russia “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” using networks of “troll farms” and social media bots to hijack the public discourse, and by weaponizing information stolen from the Democratic National Committee and members of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Mueller and his team found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy or any sort of direct coordination between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government. But the evidence they unearthed showed that the Russian government “perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome,” and that senior members of the President’s 2016 campaign were aware of Russia’s efforts and had expected to benefit from them.
While the 2018 midterm elections appear to have gone off without incident, Schumer said it is “irresponsible” for McConnell to suggest that the mission of securing future elections is complete, citing FBI Director Christopher Wray’s warning that America’s adversaries “are going to keep adapting and upping their game” for the “big show” in 2020.
“Director Wray says things are going to get a lot worse in 2020 and [McConnell] just stands there and twiddle[s] [his] thumbs,” he said, calling the majority leader’s stance “totally inconsistent with the warnings from the Special Counsel and the FBI Director.”
“Intelligence Committee community leaders have repeatedly warned that foreign powers will interfere with elections again, and it’s not just Russia — China, North Korea, Iran, all could do it.”
Schumer added that Democrats will continue to press for votes on many of the election security bills that have been bottled up by McConnell, as well as the bipartisan sanctions bills like the DETER Act, sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
“Leader McConnell has plenty of good options to choose from. There’s no reason why the Senate can’t take up and debate any of these bills,” Schumer said.
When asked to explain the GOP leader’s refusal to allow votes on bills related to election security, Majority Whip John Thune said Republicans would be willing to take up any measures judged “constructive and helpful” that were “more than partisan exercises.”
“We shouldn’t tolerate any foreign interference in American elections. But I do know that a lot of discussion around this issue is, I think, designed to attack the President,” he said.
Sen. Jon Kyl Refuses to Commit to Continuing to Serve Beyond Next Year
WASHINGTON, December 10, 2018 – In a brief interview with Beltway Breakfast, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, refused to commit to serving past January 3, 2019.
“January 3 would be an obvious time frame” for a switch in service, Kyl said before an appearance at the Federalist Society here.
“But,” he hedged, “I have to have a conversation with the governor” of Arizona.
Kyl, a former senator, returned to Washington following the death on August 25, 2018, of Sen. John McCain, the state’s senior senator. Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey tapped Kyl to go back to the Senate to fulfill the remainder of McCain’s term, which lasts until the end of 2022.
In order to make to the end of the term at the end of 2022, however, that senator must face the voters for re-election in 2020 — and Kyl has said that he has no interest in doing that.
During the Federalist Society event, Kyl said that Gov. Ducey should pick another person who “might have an interest in running again.”
Kyl said he had committed only to “seeing it through at least until the end of this Congress.”
The timing of Kyl’s length of service is sensitive because if Kyl does not commit to continuing to serve — and if Ducey fails to pick a new replacement by January 3, 2019 — then Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, would become the state’s “senior senator.”
In the space of a few months, Arizona has gone from having two relatively-long serving Republican senators – McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake — to conceivably having two relatively fresh faces: Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, and a replacement that would be named Gov Ducey, should Kyl not continue to serve.
During the discussion at the Federal Society event, Kyl discussed his role as the guide to help Brent Kavanaugh through the confirmation process to be a justice on the Supreme Court.
“I helped to shepherd Kavanaugh” through the relatively painless process that occurred prior to the time that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault by a 17-year-old Kavanaugh became public.
Kyl was appointed to McCain’s seat on September 5, 2018, one week before Dr. Ford’s allegation became public. Then, as senator, Kyl said, “It was like parachuting into the middle of a war zone. The police literally had to clear the hallways of the office building.
“It was a particularly raucous environment, and that was not particularly enjoyable,” said Kyl.
Asked by Beltway Breakfast whether he was enjoying his second tour of service in the Senate, Kyl said, “Enjoy is not the right word, but it is good to be back.”
Defense Secretary Mattis Weighing 2020 Bid, Predicts He’d ‘Kick Trump’s Ass’
WASHINGTON, August 7, 2018 — Secretary of Defense James Mattis believes he would easily defeat President Donald Trump in a 2020 primary matchup and has been actively considering mounting a White House run for some time, according to sources close to the secretary.
Mattis, 67, has been weighing a run for the presidency since May of this year, when he began bankrolling the efforts of a presidential exploratory committee.
That effort has thus far stayed under the radar through the use of non-disclosure agreements with vendors, solidarity among the Mattis loyalists involved and because exploratory committees are not required to file any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.
Still, rumors of his possible ambitions have been whispered in high-level Republican circles.
Speaking more openly about a challenge to President Trump
The retired four-star Marine Corps general has recently begun speaking more openly about the possibility of challenging the president who convinced him to return to public service after six years in retirement.
Mattis, one of his senior aides said, raised the issue of his electoral potential last week during a high-level Pentagon meeting, in which he, along with 10-15 of the country’s top civilian and military defense officials, discussed ways to maintain continuity of Defense Department operations in the event that Mattis abruptly resigns or is fired from the cabinet.
“I’d kick Trump’s ass in 2020, and I just might have to!” Mattis said, according to a source.
A Mattis candidacy might make the 2020 election as unprecedented as the 2016 contest
A Mattis primary run might make the 2020 GOP primary as unprecedented as its 2016 predecessor, pitting a complete newcomer to electoral politics against a president who, with only one primary and one general election victory under his belt, is almost as inexperienced.
Trump rode to his 2016 victory over a massive slate of GOP hopefuls on the strength of widespread name recognition from years of hosting a hit television show, and further took advantage of natural divisions in the electorate with at least 17 candidates.
He was also able to successfully define and diminish the few candidates who might have stood out by perfecting his use of base insults and nicknames like “Liddle Marco [Rubio] and “Lyin’ Ted [Cruz]” before deploying the same tactic against “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.
Would a divide and conquer strategy work against Trump’s military chief?
However, the same divide-and-conquer strategy might not work against a single challenger. Further, Trump may have trouble finding traction for schoolyard taunts when confronted with an opponent like Mattis, someone on whom Trump has frequently lavished praise.
Mattis came out of retirement to become the 26th defense secretary, after having risen through the ranks of the Marine Corps to become a four-star general.
A Mattis confidante who holds a major role in his exploratory committee told BeltwayBreakfast that even at this early stage, there are plenty of reasons for optimism when it comes to his chances.
Despite the low public profile Mattis has kept as Secretary of Defense, the committee’s internal polling shows that he would start a campaign with significant support from a wide swath of the electorate, said the longtime Mattis aide.
The aide said their polling shows that even before any sort of campaign announcement or publicity, Mattis would begin with support from 50 to 60 percent of white men (depending on the state), a key GOP constituency and one of the demographic groups that normally make up the backbone of President Trump’s loyal base.
Mattis also polls at 45 to 50 percent support among urban and educated women, and has what the aide called “decent electability numbers” among minority groups, coming in at 35 to 40 percent.
Because both of the latter two groups make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party base, if that support is translated into votes, Mattis could garner enough significant crossover to give him a boost in states that hold open primaries.
Veterans are among Mattis’ most enthusiastic supporters, the aide noted, adding 80 percent of veterans on record as supportive of his candidacy.
Mattis could begin with a level of support among Republicans in Congress, too
Mattis could also start out with a level of support from Republicans in Congress that would be unheard of for a Republican challenger to an incumbent Republican president. Indeed, the aide said, some of the most senior Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed interest in his potential candidacy.
The same aide told BeltwayBreakfast that two even more senior Republicans are contemplating throwing their weight behind a Mattis run: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Neither father nor son were among Trump’s supporters in 2016, and the aide said the only two living Republican former presidents are “almost on board” with lending their support to help add Donald Trump to their ranks.
Another reason for optimism, the aide said, is that in the past three months, Mattis’ exploratory committee has put together the resources necessary to have an organization ready to go from the moment an official announcement is made.
“The day we launch we open up a field office in almost every state,” he said.
This will be possible, he said, because Republican donors would be behind Mattis in enough of a big way that the RNC and Trump’s campaign “are in big trouble if Mattis decides to run.”
Asked to elaborate further, the aide offered a bold prediction: “If Mattis were to announce that he decided to run for President, his war chest would be equal to that of Hillary Clinton by June of next year.”
As for when — or if — that announcement will come, Mattis’ longtime aide and confidante explained that whatever decision gets made, it’ll be made based on the defense secretary’s belief that a second White House term for his boss would be “devastating” for the country.
Mattis “is ready to run,” he said, even if he may not yet have admitted it. “You can see it in his eyes.”