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Is Joe Biden Is Getting Closer to Supporting Marijuana Legalization? – Reason.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden has a long history as a drug warrior. While he’s come a long way since the 1990s, Biden is still struggling to adjust to the modern reality of the Democratic Party.

But like the rusty weather vane that he is, Biden seems to be inching closer to the current consensus among Democrats, 78 percent of whom believe marijuana should be legalized. Yet even as he seeks the Democratic Party nomination for president, he remains unwilling to take the final step of supporting full legalization.

That internal struggle was on full display in an answer Biden gave during a campaign event in New Hampshire this week. The former vice president was confronted by a staffer from the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit that supports legalization, and asked to explain his position on legalization.

“It is at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized,” Biden says in an audio recording obtained and published by Politico.”But I’m not prepared to do it as long as there [are] serious medical people saying we should determine what other side effects would occur,” Biden added, mentioning that he would have the Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health weigh-in.

Biden’s stance on legalization has been a bit confusing during the early stages of the 2020 campaign. He accidentally tripped over some long-debunked drug war propaganda in November when he characterized marijuana as a “gateway drug” while talking to an Iowa audience. Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) took Biden to task for that comment during a subsequent debate, but even then Biden would not abandon his study-first-legalize-later approach. But he appears to have learned a lesson about messaging. In the audio clip published by Politico, Biden twice says he doesn’t consider marijuana a gateway drug.

Officially, Biden’s campaign says he would “decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions.” Biden would also allow the states to decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. At the federal level, he would fully legalize marijuana for medical purposes and would ask Congress to reschedule cannabis so it would no longer be so difficult to study. 

That’s a set of positions that could be fairly accurately summed up as “basically legalized,” as Biden put it in New Hampshire.

But it’s not the same as actually legalized. And even though Biden has laid out a set of policies that would have been radical in any previous presidential election, he now seems to be lagging behind his fellow Democrats.

“Joe Biden has only recently evolved his position on marijuana policy,” Violet Cavendish, communications manager for MPP, said via email. “He may hold a more progressive view on marijuana reform now than he has in the past, but his position still remains far behind nearly all of the other presidential candidates and it comes with a caveat: He’s indicated that he won’t move forward with legalization without scientific research to back his case.”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the only other Democratic candidate in the 2020 field who does not support ending marijuana prohibition. Like Biden, Bloomberg’s stance has shifted just a bit. Last year, Bloomberg called legalizing weed “perhaps the stupidest thing we’ve ever done,” but he’s more recently said that “putting people in jail for marijuana” is “really dumb.”

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DNC calls for a ‘recanvass’ of Iowa results after delays

By STEVE PEOPLES, JULIE PACE and BRIAN SLODYSKO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday called for a “recanvass” of the results of the Iowa caucuses, saying it was needed to “assure public confidence” after three days of technical issues and delays.

”Enough is enough,” party leader Tom Perez wrote on Twitter.

With 97% of precincts reporting, Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are nearly tied for the lead, and both candidates have declared themselves victorious.

The Associated Press said Thursday that it is unable to declare a winner in the contest. Beyond technical issues and Perez’s concerns, the Iowa Democratic Party has yet to report results from some satellite caucus sites, from which there are still an unknown number of state delegate equivalents to be won.

The state party apologized for technical glitches with an app that slowed down reporting of results from Monday’s caucuses and has spent the week trying to verify results. However, it was unclear if the party planned to follow the directive of the national leader to recanvass those results, a process that would likely require state officials to review caucus math worksheets completed at more than 1,600 caucus sites to ensure the calculations were done correctly and matched the reported results.

Iowa chairman Troy Price suggested in a statement Thursday that he would only pursue a recanvass if one was requested by a campaign.

The caucus crisis was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting Iowa as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled 2020 field. Instead, after a buildup that featured seven rounds of debates, nearly $1 billion spent nationwide and a year of political jockeying, caucus day ended with no winner and no official results.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Sanders called the Iowa Democratic Party’s management of the caucuses a “screw-up” that has been “extremely unfair” to the candidates and their supporters.

“I really do feel bad for the people of Iowa,” said Sanders, who added that it was “an outrage that they were that unprepared.”

Iowa marked the first contest in a primary season that will span all 50 states and several U.S. territories, ending at the party’s national convention in July.

As first reported by The New York Times, numerous precincts reported results that contained errors or were inconsistent with party rules. For example, the AP confirmed that dozens of precincts reported more final alignment votes than first alignment votes, which is not possible under party rules. In other precincts, viable candidates lost votes from the first alignment tally to the final, which is also inconsistent with party rules.

Some precincts made apparent errors in awarding state delegate equivalents to candidates. A handful of precincts awarded more state delegate equivalents than they had available. A few others didn’t award all of theirs.

The trouble began with an app that the Iowa Democratic Party used to tabulate the results of the contest. The app was rolled out shortly before caucusing began and did not go through rigorous testing.

The problems were compounded when phone lines for reporting the outcomes became jammed, with many callers placed on hold for hours in order to report outcomes. Party officials said the backlog was exacerbated by calls from people around the country who accessed the number and appeared intent on disrupting the process.

“There was a moment in the night where, it became clear, ‘Oh, the phone number just became available to the entire country,’” said Iowa state Auditor Rob Sands, who was answering calls for the party. “It was a pretty big problem.”

President Donald Trump relished in the Democratic turmoil.

“The Democrats, they can’t count some simple votes and yet they want to take over your health care system,” Trump said at a White House event Thursday celebrating his impeachment trial acquittal. “Think of that — no, think of that.”

The chaos surrounding the reporting breakdown seems sure to blunt the impact of Iowa’s election, which typically rewards winners with a surge of momentum heading into subsequent primary contests. But without a winner called, Democrats have quickly turned their focus to New Hampshire, which holds the next voting contest on Tuesday.

The results released so far show Buttigieg and Sanders locked in an exceedingly close contest. They lead Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The two early leaders, Buttigieg and Sanders, are separated by 40 years in age and conflicting ideology.

Sanders, a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, has been a progressive powerhouse for decades. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former municipal official, represents the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. Buttigieg is also the first openly gay candidate to earn presidential primary delegates.

Sanders narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses in 2016 to Hillary Clinton and pushed the party to make changes to the process this year, including releasing three different sets of results: a tally of candidate support at the start of the caucuses, their levels of support after those backing candidates with less than 15% got to make a second choice and the number of state delegate equivalents each candidate receives. The AP will determine a winner based on state delegates.

Given the tight race, former DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile said the party needs to “get this right” so the eventual nominee isn’t saddled with questions of legitimacy.

“It’s a combination of embarrassment and not being prepared for the various mishaps that can take place when you try to do something new and different,” she said.

Party activist John Deeth, who organized the caucuses in Iowa’s most Democratic county, Johnson, said he welcomed a recanvass and would help as needed.

“It makes sense to look everything over again and get it right,” he said.

Deeth said that he believed the review would uncover some data entry errors as well as some math and rounding errors in how delegates at each precinct were awarded. Volunteers running the precincts did their best, he said, but likely made some minor mistakes.

___

Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, Will Weissert in Manchester, N.H., Bill Barrow in Atlanta, and Stephen Ohlemacher and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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‘I Just Don’t Recognize the Democratic Party’

Democrats might want to listen to Don Peebles, before they get deeper into disaster.

He’s a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. He was a member of the Barack Obama National Finance Committee for both of Obama’s presidential elections.

And he’s one of the wealthiest black men in the United States, who had an estimated net worth in 2015 estimated net worth of about $700 million, according to Forbes. In 2017, his Peebles Corp. real estate firm was named “Company of the Year” by Black Enterprise magazine.

So it’s a safe bet to assume Peebles knows a thing or two about the Democratic Party, about American politics, and about success in general.

And when Peebles looks at today’s Democratic Party, he doesn’t see success at all.

TRENDING: Top Democratic Convention Organizers Placed on Leave, Investigation Underway

“Look, I just don’t recognize the Democratic Party right now,” Peebles told “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy on Thursday.

There are probably millions of Democrats who know how he feels: Decent, honest men and women who’ve watched a once-proud political party – one that used to be proud of being American – degenerate into an unpatriotic mass grievance-mongering, open class warfare and identity politics.

For conservatives, of course, that described the Democratic Party during the Obama years.

Now, the party has gone too far even for a man who was part of its financial nerve center as recently as 2008 and 2012.

RELATED: Turnout Disaster for Dems Paints Grim 2020 Picture – Only 217 in County of 97K Showed Up To Caucus

In the “Fox & Friends” interview, Peebles not only the party’s growing push away from mainstream American politics, but also the behavior of its representatives at President Donald Trump’s State.

“I mean, the party has turned so far-left. Also, to see members of Congress jointly dressing up in white as some form of protest or solidarity at the State of the Union address is astonishing,” Peebles told Doocy.

Equally astonishing, he said, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s grandstanding gambit of ripping up a copy of Trump’s speech while the cameras were on her – a signal to her base and to the entire country that any idea of cooperation between the executive branch and at least one branch of Congress was going to be farfetched for the rest of Trump’s term.

And Pebbles wasn’t buying it at all.

“I just think was unprofessional, undiplomatic, disrespectful act. Not just to the president, but to the country as a whole,” he said. “And I think it makes people who see her there wonder about her leadership, which has already been called into question.”

That has to sting.

Even worse for Democrats is that they really have no rational response. Judging by the results that are known from the continuing fiasco of the Iowa caucuses, the Democrats’ two top candidates for the presidential nomination are an aging socialist who always seems to be shouting and a 38-year-old former mayor of a medium-sized Indiana city who’s best known for being a homosexual who, according to People, met his “husband” via a dating app.

Do you think many Democrats feel the way Peebles does?

This being America, liberals can think anything they want about gay sexuality or gay rights. But it’s sheer insanity to pretend that’s a resume that’s going to win a general election in the United States. (Considering Vice President Mike Pence was Indiana’s governor before joining the Trump team, Buttigieg probably couldn’t even win his own home state.)

This is a party where a flaming liberal like former Vice President Joe Biden is considered too “moderate” by base voters. It’s a party where a New York nutcase like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez holds such outsized sway she’s said to be considering a Senate run already.

And it’s a party currently facing a Trump who’s not only survived the latest Lilliputian attack on his presidency in the form of Wednesday’s impeachment acquittal, but has also has a three-year record of a booming economy, low unemployment and foreign policy successes to show voters.

Democrats heading for disaster might want to listen to sane voices like Peebles.

But it’s about the surest bet going in 2020 that they don’t want to hear a word he says.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Iowa caucus results: Bernie Sanders declares victory, without the final results

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) declared victory in the Iowa caucuses Thursday afternoon, minutes after Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez called for a “recanvass” to audit too-close-to-call Iowa results.

“We are now at a point with some 97 percent of the precincts reporting, where our campaign is winning the popular initial vote by some 6,000 votes,” Sanders told reporters in a Manchester field office. “In other words, some 6,000 more Iowans came out on caucus night to support our candidacy than the candidacy of anyone else. And when 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory.”

The Iowa caucuses have still not officially been called for any candidate, but the results show an extremely close race between Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg declared victory on Monday night before any results were released, but has not spent much time touting a win since then on the trail in New Hampshire.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg arriving at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, on December 28, 2019.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

This is the first year the Iowa Democratic caucuses have reported popular vote tallies — making it the first time a candidate could make an argument like Sanders’s. With 97 percent of precincts reporting in caucuses after major delays, there is a razor-thin margin of 0.1 percent separating the top two candidates in the traditional metric the Iowa Democratic Party has reported in the past: “state delegate equivalents” (also known as SDEs), which determines how many delegates each candidate will get at the Iowa state convention.

“As it stands right now … either I or Mr. Buttigieg will end with a tiny fraction of an advantage in the SDEs. That may change, we may go in the lead by a little bit,” Sanders said. “Given the remaining precincts outstanding and mathematical errors which we are discovering in the data, we could well end up with more SDEs.”

Even though the number of SDEs had determined Iowa winners in the past — and is the metric the Iowa Democratic Party is prioritizing — Sanders argued that the race for national delegates and raw vote totals are a much bigger determinant of who won in 2020. He and Buttigieg are tied for their number of national delegates: 11 each, so far.

“But this difference — no matter who inches ahead in the end — is meaningless because we are both likely to receive the same number of national delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee,” Sanders stressed. “Those national delegates, not the state delegates, are the ones that really matter in the nominating process.”

Iowa’s real importance isn’t delegates, however, it’s the momentum generated by winning here. The first-in-the-nation contest bestows momentum on a frontrunner or frontrunners. In declaring himself victorious and highlighting the popular vote tallies, Sanders is trying to capture the narrative and focus it squarely on himself.

As Sanders pointed out repeatedly on Thursday, he is leading in the popular vote in Iowa, on both the first and second realignment.

Sanders told reporters he had just minutes before learned of DNC Chair Tom Perez calling for a recanvass, or “hand audit” of the results, but insisted it would not change the raw vote totals his campaign had received in Iowa. On the first alignment vote, Sanders received 42,672 votes compared to Buttigieg’s 36,718. On the second and final alignment vote, Sanders’s vote totals increased to 44,753 while Buttigieg went up to 42,235.

“We won an eight-person election by some 6,000 votes, that is not going to be changed,” Sanders said. “What may be changed in this so-called ‘recount’ is a few SDEs here.”

After Perez called for a recanvass on Thursday, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price issued a statement saying recanvasses may be requested by individual candidates, rather than the DNC.

“Should any presidential campaign in compliance with the Iowa Delegate Selection Plan request a recanvass, the IDP is prepared,” Price said. “In such a circumstance, the IDP will audit the paper records of report, as provided by the precinct chairs and signed by representatives of presidential campaigns.”

Sanders — along with other top candidates — seems eager to put Iowa behind him and move on to New Hampshire’s traditional secret-ballot primary on Tuesday, February 11, which officials here anticipate will proceed much more smoothly than the chaos of the Iowa caucuses. Sanders won the state in 2016 by 22 points, and many are watching to see whether he can replicate that with another win next week.

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Not a single member of the Senate believes there was no quid pro quo

The funniest part of this CNN scoop is how the strategizing about whether to admit at the trial that there was a quid pro quo is presented as some sort of eureka moment by “legal eagles” Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. For months commentators on both sides of the Trump divide made the point that the president would be on much firmer ground legally if he gave up fighting on the facts and focused on fighting on the law. By insisting there was no quid pro quo in the teeth of all kinds of witness testimony he was boxing Senate Republicans in. Better to just say, “Whether you believe there was a quid pro quo or not, it’s clearly not a high crime or misdemeanor that warrants removal.”

And because “high crime or misdemeanor” is such a gassy term, there was really nothing effective Democrats could say in reply.

I was writing about the “bad but not impeachable” defense within two weeks of the Ukraine news blowing up. (I’ve used it in 26 other posts, per a quickie search of our archives.) Trump-friendly lawyers like Andy McCarthy at National Review argued over and over during the process that “bad but not impeachable” was the way to go, since it would give the likes of Collins and Murkowski an easy reason to dispense with the charges instead of having to wade into what Trump may or may not have said about pressuring Ukraine to the likes of Bolton, Mulvaney, Pompeo, and so on.

Evidently it took an idle comment by Adam Schiff during the trial itself to get the Cruz/Graham spidey sense tingling.

On Wednesday, the first day of questioning, while making the case for Bolton to appear as a witness, Schiff inadvertently gave Cruz and Graham an idea. Schiff argued it was necessary to hear from Bolton, since the White House disputed his account.

But what if it didn’t? What if the President’s lawyers simply acknowledged that Bolton’s recollection may be accurate? Why would you need witnesses?

As Schiff spoke, Cruz and Graham immediately looked at each other from their seats in the Senate chamber…

“What if we get the White House to stipulate to this?” Cruz asked Graham in the cloakroom. “Do you think this is something that could get Lisa and Lamar’s vote?”

In other words, the Cruz/Graham innovation on “bad but not impeachable” was simply to apply it not just to the ultimate verdict but to the thorny issue of calling witnesses. If what Trump did wasn’t a high crime or misdemeanor then obviously he should be acquitted, even if the facts set forth by Democrats were true. Annnnnnnnd if what he did wasn’t a high crime or misdemeanor then we shouldn’t really need a full account of what happened from a willing firsthand witness like John Bolton either, should we? Except that’s nonsense: Obviously there are things Bolton might hypothetically have said under oath about the Ukraine pressure campaign that would have amounted to a high crime. If Trump had said something about physically threatening Marie Yovanovitch, for instance, that would have been big news and a potential gamechanger. But Cruz and Graham understood that they didn’t have an impartial jury on either side. What they had in their own caucus was a group of people who wanted to get to acquittal with the least amount of political pain inflicted and needed a fig leaf to do it. So they provided that fig leaf. If what Trump did isn’t impeachable then we don’t need to find out what Trump, er, actually did.

In fact, said Cruz to CNN, he told Trump’s lawyers frankly that it was time to let go of the idea that Trump did nothing wrong. “Out of 100 senators, zero believe you on the argument there is no quid pro quo,” he claims he told Trump’s lawyers. “Stop making it.”

They did stop making it, sort of. One of Trump’s lawyers eventually admitted during Q&A that this matter wouldn’t warrant impeachment even if everything Democrats alleged was true. Cruz and Graham made a shrewd — and really obvious — calculation that the process would go a lot more smoothly if everyone stopped pretending that Trump wasn’t guilty and just let the Senate hand him a farking free pass already. There’s just one wrinkle: The president spent a lot of time since September insisting that there was no quid pro quo and a lot of Republican voters believed him. Monmouth asked about it in January:

Republican voters split 17/70 on the question. Sean Hannity did a segment on his Fox News show nine days ago titled “Trump, Zelensky confirm there was no quid pro quo.” The Dispatch did a head count of Republican senators based on public statements and found that fewer than half were willing to acknowledge that Trump did anything wrong.

Note that our friend Lindsey, whose cynicism is bottomless, is in the “Trump did nothing wrong” category even though he was allegedly part of the effort with Cruz to get the White House to stipulate to a quid pro quo. In one sense, Cruz and Graham are just doing what lawyers do: Your job is to win the case, and if arguing the opposite of what you were arguing five minutes ago will help you do that then that’s what you should do. But there’s an Orwellian odor to a political effort that spent months trying to inculcate the idea that our leader did nothing blameworthy only to conveniently shift at the last moment in the name of shielding him from accountability. No quid pro quo, no quid pro quo, only a Democrat or human-scum Never Trumpers would believe there was a quid pro quo — and then, as if by magic, “fine, there was a quid pro quo, let’s wrap this up.”

Cruz is going to feel so cheated in 2024, having devoted so much time and energy to trying to ingratiate himself to Trumpers, when they opt for Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton or whoever in the primary instead.

In lieu of an exit question, read this piece by Peter Beinart arguing that the big loser from Trump’s impeachment is Joe Biden. What the process did, notes Beinart, is give Trump exactly the sort of media megaphone to promote the Biden/Burisma matter that the Ukraine quid pro quo was supposed to generate in the first place. I’ve made that point myself, although I’m not totally sold on Beinart’s argument that Burisma news has been a meaningful contributor to Biden’s polling slide. I think that had more to do with Democrats making up their minds and finding Biden to be a lackluster candidate, which he is. If he’s right, though, that the Burisma hype hurt Joe then Cruz and Graham may have inadvertently done Trump a disservice by convincing their colleagues that the Senate didn’t need to hear witnesses. Trump was going to be acquitted no matter what Bolton said (barring a truly nuclear bombshell like the one I imagined above) but the spectacle of Hunter Biden squirming under questioning could have done major, major damage to his father. Eh — given Joe’s polling lately, he’s probably sunk either way.

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Trump celebrates impeachment acquittal and blasts rivals

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US President Donald Trump has taken a victory lap one day after his impeachment acquittal, in a White House tirade against his political enemies.

“I’ve done things wrong in my life, I will admit… but this is what the end result is,” he said as he held up a newspaper headlined “Trump acquitted”.

“We went through hell, unfairly. We did nothing wrong,” he said at the White House. “It was evil, it was corrupt.”

He earlier criticised impeachment foes who invoked their religious faith.

“Now we have that gorgeous word. I never thought it would sound so good,” Mr Trump said from the East Room, which was crammed with supporters and cabinet officials.

“It’s called ‘total acquittal’.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Mr Trump thanked his lawyers and Republican lawmakers

Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but was acquitted on Wednesday after a two-week trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which did not include any witnesses.

Mr Trump also used a swear word to describe the justice department inquiry into whether his 2016 election campaign had colluded with the Kremlin.

“It was all bullshit,” he said. “This should never happen to another president ever.”

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Media captionPelosi defends tearing up Trump’s speech during State of the Union address

The heroic political outlaw

Analysis by Gary O’Donoghue, Washington @BBCBlindGazza

So what was that?

According to the president, it was neither speech nor news conference; it was “nothing”, it was a “celebration”.

It was certainly about 62 minutes long and veered wildly between self-congratulation, via self-justification, to self-pity with a smattering of bilious expletives and insults to describe his political opponents en route.

It was both a lap of honour and an emotional rollercoaster, all played out in front of his Republican flock, the nation and the world.

Frankly, it was hard to keep up.

One moment the president was railing against liars, leakers and “dirty cops”; the next we were into an anecdote about a wrestling team from Penn State University.

The acquitted, no doubt, enjoy a moment of catharsis – the moment of euphoria when the pall of guilt is lifted and renewal can begin. But don’t expect this president to put this one behind him – it’s far too valuable an electoral stick with which to beat his rivals right up to polling day.

President Trump’s appeal in 2016 was as the outsider, the man to “drain the swamp” and give power back to the people.

The impeachment process will allow Trump 45 to once again assume the mantle of the heroic political outlaw.

Follow Gary O’Donoghue on Twitter

The president’s tone on Thursday suggested he is confident of Republican party loyalty ahead of November’s White House election.

Mr Trump’s post-acquittal celebration contrasted with President Bill Clinton’s address in 1999, when the impeached Democratic president offered a sombre apology to the American people.

“I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people,” Mr Clinton said.

As he concluded his remarks, Mr Trump also offered a rare apology – to his family, for having to “go through a phony, rotten deal”.

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Media captionTrump attacks Romney at National Prayer Breakfast

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump spoke about his “terrible ordeal” of impeachment during the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual cross-party event in Washington DC to celebrate religious freedom.

Mr Trump continued: “I don’t like people that use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.

“Nor do I like people that say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that’s not so.”

On Wednesday, Senator Mitt Romney cited his deep Mormon faith as he became the only Republican to vote to remove Mr Trump from office.

In December, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who launched the impeachment inquiry, cited her own Catholic faith as she said she prays for Mr Trump.

Mr Trump cited the matter again later in the East Room, saying: “I doubt she [Pelosi] prays at all.”

Reacting to Mr Trump’s prayer speech, Mrs Pelosi, who sat near Mr Trump as he spoke, told reporters: “He’s impeached forever, no matter what he says or whatever headlines he wants to carry around.

“You’re impeached forever. You’re never getting rid of that scar.”

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Media captionThe impeachment saga from beginning to end

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Observations on the State of Things

Back in 2008, Rush Limbaugh conducted his “operation chaos” to prolong the Democratic nomination struggle between Hillary and Obama. Now Democrats are doing it for us for free.

(Or maybe we are seeing one of Will Rogers’s best old jokes come to life: “I’m not a member of an organized political party; I’m a Democrat.”

The big winner of the Iowa caucus debacle may well be Michael Bloomberg. He is now reported to be increasing his TV ad buys, and is hiring more campaign workers, bringing his paid campaign staff to nearly 2000—all with employment guaranteed through November! Bloomberg’s new ads running out here in California essentially claim Obama’s endorsement, showing lots of high-def clips of Obama saying nice things about Mayor Mike. Pretty slick trick.

I still say Bloomberg is preparing to run as an independent if Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, but if Bloomberg doesn’t and merely turns his formidable campaign apparatus into an adjunct independent expenditure campaign on behalf of the eventual Democratic nominee, it raises a new issue: There are strict rules against coordination between federal candidates and independent groups. A Bloomberg independent adjunct campaign on behalf of the Democratic Party is going to be very difficult to carry off at this scale and not trip over these rules. It would provide a field day for Federal Election Commission investigations.

Bernie Sanders raised $25 million in January:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised $25 million in January, his campaign said on Thursday, a staggering sum that gives him an enviable financial advantage at a crucial moment in the Democratic primary race.

He plans to use the windfall to immediately buy $5.5 million in television and digital ads across 10 states, at a time when some of his rivals are shifting or cutting their existing ad reservations.

The $25 million haul is more money than any other candidate raised in any full quarter during 2019, including several presidential hopefuls who hold the big-dollar fund-raisers that Mr. Sanders forgoes.

I have no idea what to make of the Democrats’ Iowa fiasco, but it is hard to resist wondering whether the fix is in by the DNC to derail Sanders now instead of at the convention. The obvious dilemma for Democrats is that they need Bernie Bros to turn out in November, and if Bernie is blocked at the convention they will lose many of those progressive voters.

The ever-sensible moderate liberal Bill Galston made this case in the Wall Street Journal a couple days ago in “Stop Bernie Sanders Now.”

Before the end of February, the leading representatives of the center-left must coalesce around the candidate who has best demonstrated the ability to unite the anti-Sanders vote and lead the party to victory in November. The alternative could be an epic disaster for Democrats and the country. . .

Good luck with that Bill. (Meanwhile, if you want to see Bill Galston’s views of me, see this short video clip from a few years back.)

Notice, by the way, with the count closing in on complete numbers that show Sanders with a lead, the DNC has called for a complete re-canvas of the entire vote. Another anti-Bernie delay?

Forget popcorn. I’m going to start investing in clown noses. (If Sanders had a sense of humor, he’d start using tracks from Insane Clown Posse at his campaign rallies.)

One takeaway from the Democrats’ impeachment fiasco is now obvious but has been largely overlooked. They are setting up the ground for contesting the results of the election in November if Trump wins. That’s one reason for the talking point that if Trump is acquitted, he’ll “cheat” again in November.

Here is the current status of Joe Biden according to Monty Python (55 seconds long):

Or, if you like, you can think of Biden as a deceased parrot instead. (Actually, the famous lumberjack song appended here also traces out the recent history of the Democratic Party.)

In other news. St. Greta of Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, because of course she has.

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Will America Fix Its Impeachment Process? Neal Katyal Responds

Last Tuesday at Second Home in Hollywood, comedian-director Judd Apatow sat down with Supreme Court lawyer and former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal to talk about Katyal’s new book, Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump. In the conversation, the two discussed the then-in-progress impeachment trial, which we now know ended with the Senate acquitting Trump, as many suspected it would. (Katyal, for one, was holding out hope, saying, “I don’t think that this is a foregone conclusion at all, that they’re going to vote to acquit him. The degree of allegations here are incredibly serious.” Sigh.)

Neal Katyal and Judd Apatow

John Sciulli

During an audience Q&A toward at the end of the conversation, an attendee asked the constitutional law pro an important question: Given what we’ve seen in this impeachment trial—gagging witnesses, suppressing documents—is there a chance America will reform the impeachment process to prevent the executive branch from exerting so much influence on the proceedings?

In short, that would be a great idea—but it isn’t likely to happen.

Here is his answer in full:

“I do think that there are some procedural reforms for impeachment. The problem is, it’s hard to do it in the abstract. After this impeachment’s over, nobody’s going to know who the next president is and there’s going to be a lot of fatigue over this and as a result, I think it’s unlikely, but I hope that’s wrong.

“I hope that people will come to realize whether you’re Republican or Democrat or independent, the idea that a president can say, ‘I’m going to stonewall and not give a single witness or document.’ This is, as I was saying a moment ago, this is our ultimate check as the American people against the president who’s abusive. And [Trump lawyer Alan] Dershowitz went on the Senate [on January 27] and said, ‘Oh, there has to be a crime in order for something to be impeachable.’ There was a guy named Alan Dershowitz 20 years ago who said the opposite, but that’s so fundamentally wrong. That’s not what impeachment is about because if you think about it, lots of stuff that’s horrible isn’t a crime, but that is impeachable. So if the president got upset with Justin Trudeau because Justin dissed him at a global summit, he can’t go and nuke Canada and then say, ‘Well, it’s not a criminal offense to nuke Canada so you can’t impeach me.’

“Even Putin and the Soviets wouldn’t have a trial with no witnesses.”

“Or, to take an example that might be a little more realistic. Suppose Putin invades New York city and Los Angeles and the president does nothing. That’s not a crime, but it is obviously impeachable behavior. The impeachment is our last resort as a people against abuse. It won’t work if you can’t have witnesses and documents and if you can have a fake trial. Even Putin and the Soviets wouldn’t have a trial with no witnesses. So, there’s something very fundamentally off about this guy and his view of the constitution. I think it’s incumbent on all of us.

“Even if, for example, my party, the Democrats win, I think one of the most important conversations that will need to happen is how to reign in some of these executive powers that the president has asserted because they’re going to want to assert it on behalf of their strong liberal causes. If they can get that done with the support of the Congress, fine. But, this unilateral presidential decision making is a recipe for abuse and bad government.”


RELATED: Adam Schiff Says Impeachment Acquittal Is No ‘Vindication’ of Trump


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Hunter Biden & Ukraine — Treasury Department Grants Request from Senate Republicans

Joe Biden with his son Hunter as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, January 20, 2009. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Treasury Department has granted a request from Senate Republicans for financial documents related to Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian gas company, according to Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, who criticized the move.

Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Finance Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson, chair of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, obtained the sensitive financial records as part of their continuing investigation into former vice president Joe Biden’s son’s possible conflicts of interest involving his lucrative position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

“Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests — no subpoenas necessary — and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin,” said a spokeswoman for Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee. “The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans’ sideshow at lightning speed.”

The Republican committee chairmen, along with Senator Lindsey Graham, chair of the Judiciary Committee, are moving forward with their probe even after President Trump was acquitted by the Senate Wednesday, ending his impeachment trial.

They have requested records on Hunter Biden as well from the State Department, the Justice Department, the FBI, the National Archives and the Secret Service.

“It’s unfortunate that Democrats whom we’ve kept in the loop on our investigations would recklessly seek to interfere with legitimate government oversight,” a spokesman for Grassley said.

Hunter Biden’s position on the board of the Ukrainian company became a focal point of the impeachment inquiry. House Democrats launched a formal impeachment probe after Trump appeared to suggest in a July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that he wanted Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden over allegations that the elder Biden leveraged his position as vice president to benefit his son. As vice president, Biden was in charge of addressing corruption in Ukraine at the time.

In the meantime, the White House temporarily froze $391 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine intended to help the country ward off Russian aggression, prompting suspicion of a quid pro quo scheme in which Trump is accused of making the aid contingent on the Ukrainian president’s promise that Biden’s conduct would be investigated.

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Buttigieg Reacts to Iowa Voter Who Pulled Support After Learning He’s Gay: ‘It Will Happen’ (VIDEO)

Pete Buttigieg responded Wednesday to the viral video of an extremely low-information Iowa voter who rescinded her support for his presidential campaign after learning he’s gay.

“How real is that? How big of an issue is that for you?” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked Buttigieg during an interview that aired Thursday.

“It will happen,” Buttigieg responded, adding that he just saw the video Wednesday.

“First of all, I felt proud of our organizer … who on my behalf was speaking to her, and speaking to her with respect, living out the values that this campaign has been asking our volunteers and organizers to live by the whole time, and trying to reach out in the name of compassion to that woman’s heart,” Buttigieg said, referring to precinct captain Nikki van den Heever. “I’m sad to see that it doesn’t seem that she reached her, but [I] also think that is part of what change looks like — deep, real change — is looking people eye to eye and engaging them with compassion.

“If someone like me in Indiana, while Mike Pence was governor, could come out and get re-elected with 80 percent of the vote, then anywhere in America, I believe, can move past old prejudices, especially when the election, at the end of the day, is not about me or about this president, it’s about the voters questions of how their lives will be shaped by the choice they’re about to make,” he added.

Buttigieg also addressed the incident during an appearance Thursday on The View:

“What I want her to know is that I’m running to be her president, too,” he said of the Iowa voter. “Of course, I wish she was able to see that my love is the same as her love for those she cares about, that my marriage means as much to me as hers if she’s married, but if she can’t see that, and even if because she can’t see that, she won’t vote for me, I am still, if I’m elected president, going to get up in the morning, and try to make the best decisions for her and the people she loves, as I will work to serve every American, whether they supported me or not.”

Ruhle also asked Buttigieg if he ever thought, as a 15-year-old, that he could realistically be president, noting that he is currently “the Democratic frontrunner.”

“When I was 15, I thought you could either serve in a elected office, or you could be out. For that matter, I thought you could be married or you could be gay, not both,” Buttigieg said. “For all the troubles we have in this country, and the steps back we’ve taken in some ways , it’s an extraordinary thing to think about the progress we have made, the progress we can make.

“When I’m meeting kids who let me know they realize now they don’t have anything to be ashamed of, or people my parents age who come to me sometimes in tears, talking about they just never thought this day could come, it’s a reminder that for all the challenges we face as a country, for all the struggles toward justice that this nation has gone through and continues to go through, there are some really good reasons to believe in America, and believe in Americans getting things right, and moving in the direction of inclusion and decency,” he added.

Watch portions of the MSNBC interview below.