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A group of Republican members of the House subcommittee on the novel coronavirus crisis sent letters to five Democratic governors requesting answers regarding their directives requiring nursing homes to take in recovering COVID-19 patients that led to thousands of deaths. The group to co-sign onto the letter includes House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, LA, Rep. Jim Jordan, OH, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, MO, Rep. Jackie Walorski, IN, and Rep. Mark Green, TN.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the elderly, especially those living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,” the members wrote in the letters.
“We write seeking information, at a granular level, about the science and information used to inform your decision to mandate nursing homes and long-term care facilities admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals,” the GOP members said. “This decision likely contributed to the thousands of elderly deaths in California. Thank you for your attention and prompt response to this important inquiry.”
In their letter, the members noted that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) March, 13 guidance “for Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes, adding that CMS Administrator Seema Verma earlier stated that “[u]nder no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patient’s needs.”
“This guidance is a blueprint for individual states to follow when determining how to best control outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes and long term care facilities. This guidance does not direct any nursing home to accept a COVID-19 positive patient, if they are unable to do so safely,” they wrote.
The GOP members noted that the CMS directive says “’nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present’ only if the nursing home can follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quarantining guidance.”
“The decision of several governors to ignore federal protocols and instead mandate COVID positive patients be forced back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence for tens of thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. We owe it to those who died and their grieving families to get to the bottom of why these deadly decisions were made by these governors, ensure we stop this from still taking place, and prevent tragedies like these from happening again as we continue to battle this deadly virus,” Rep. Scalise said in a statement to SaraACarter.com.
Individual letters were sent to California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf for each dismissing the directive and mandating that nursing homes take the patients.
“The vast majority of those dying in nursing homes are located in the states that blew off the President’s direction and the CDC’s guidance. The governors of these states must provide details about their decisions to send contagious COVID19 patients into nursing homes. The American people, and their loved ones, deserve answers,” Rep. Green said in a statement to SaraACarter.com.
The Republican subcommittee members asked that the Governors provide the following information “to help us better understand what science or guidance you used to make this lethal decision”:
1. All State issued guidance, directives, advisories, or executive orders regarding hospital discharges to nursing homes or any and all other types of assisted living facilities, including those previously superseded, in chronological order.
2. The total number of COVID-19 related nursing home deaths, including deaths that occurred at the nursing home and deaths of a registered nursing home patient at a hospital, by day between January 1, 2020 and present.
3. The total number of COVID-19 related nursing home positive cases, including individuals who tested positive at a nursing home and individuals that tested positive at a hospital, by day between January 1, 2020 and present.
4. The total number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 positive patients returned to a nursing home or other long-term care facility between March 25, 2020 and present.
5. All information, documents, and communications between the Office of the Governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Health regarding COVID-19 mitigation in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
6. All information, documents, and communications between the Pennsylvania Department of Health and any and all of the State’s Nursing Home Administrators.
President Trump hinted the Justice Department may soon be fighting John Bolton in federal court to block the sale of the former national security adviser’s White House memoir over claims it contains classified information.
“When you do classified, that to me is a very strong criminal problem, and he knows he’s got classified information,” Trump said during a White House event on Monday. “Any conversation with me is classified, then it becomes even worse if he lies about the conversation, which I understand he might have in some cases. So, we’ll see what happens. They’re in court, or they’ll soon be in court, but he understands he did not complete a process or anywhere near complete a process.”
Bolton, who left the White House last September after a year and a half in the Trump administration, was originally looking to publish his highly anticipated book, The Room Where It Happened, in early 2020, but numerous rounds of prepublication review for classified information by the National Security Council pushed the book’s sale date back. Bolton and his publisher now argue they have adhered to classification rules and forged ahead with a June 23 publishing date despite continued objections from the government.
The Justice Department is planning to file a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction to block the book in its current form, according to sources cited by ABC News on Monday.
“If he wrote a book, I can’t imagine that he can, because that’s highly classified information. Even conversations with me, they’re highly classified,” Trump said Monday. “I told that to the attorney general before. I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified. So that would mean that if he wrote a book, and if the book gets out, he’s broken the law, and I would think that he would have criminal problems. I hope so.”
Trump added that “it’s up to the attorney general.”
Attorney General William Barr, who was in the room, repeatedly said Bolton “hasn’t completed” the classification review process, but declined to say whether a lawsuit was imminent.
“The thing that is front and center right now is trying to get him to complete the process, go through the process, and make the necessary deletions of classified information,” Barr said.
Bolton’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper, argued in the Wall Street Journal last week that Ellen Knight, the NSC’s senior director for prepublication review of materials written by NSC personnel, and Bolton’s team had engaged in “perhaps the most extensive and intensive prepublication review in NSC history,” going through the roughly 500-page manuscript four times, often line-by-line.
“This last-minute allegation came after an intensive four-month review, after weeks of silence from the White House, and — as Mr. Eisenberg admits in his letter — after press reports alerted the White House that Mr. Bolton’s book would be published on June 23,” Cooper argued. “This is a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton, in violation of his constitutional right to speak on matters of the utmost public import. This attempt will not succeed, and Mr. Bolton’s book will be published June 23.”
Barr disagreed, saying on Monday: “People who come to work in the government and have access to sensitive information generally sign an agreement that says that, when they leave government, if they write something that draws on or might reflect some of the information they may have had access to, they have to go through a clearance process before they can publish the book.” He said that “we don’t believe that Bolton went through that process — hasn’t completed the process — and therefore is in violation of the agreement.”
Deputy White House counsel John Eisenberg told Bolton’s lawyers in a letter obtained by the Associated Press not to move ahead with publishing the book, warning: “As we advised your client when he signed the nondisclosure agreements, and as he should be well as aware as Assistant to the President for the National Security Affairs in this administration, the unauthorized disclosure of classified information could be exploited by a foreign power, thereby causing significant harm to the national security of the United States.”
Simon & Schuster, however, said that “in the months leading up to the publication… Bolton worked in cooperation with the National Security Council to incorporate changes to the text that addressed NSC concerns” and that “the final, published version of this book reflects those changes, and Simon & Schuster is fully supportive of Ambassador Bolton’s First Amendment rights to tell the story of his time in the Trump White House.”
“This is the book Donald Trump doesn’t want you to read. There hasn’t been a detailed, inside account on how this president makes decisions on a day-to-day basis, until now,” Simon & Schuster declared last week. “He argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy.”
The New York Times reported Bolton’s book will claim Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue holding up nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine until that country’s leaders agreed to help with investigations into allegations of corruption related to Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump denied this conversation happened and accused Bolton of just trying to sell a book.
Bolton ultimately offered to testify in the impeachment trial earlier this year only if the Republican-led Senate issued a subpoena against him, which the upper chamber declined to do. The Democrat-led House had asked Bolton to testify but, after he refused, declined to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony through the courts.
The House impeached Trump on allegations of abuse of power related to Ukraine and of obstruction of Congress in December, but the Senate acquitted him following an impeachment trial in February.
WASHINGTON — President Trump sure is mad at John Bolton.
Trump threatened his former national security adviser with “criminal liability” Monday if Bolton actually releases his tell-all memoir about issues at the core of Trump’s impeachment, as Bolton is now planning to do next week.
“I will consider every conversation with me as highly classified,” Trump said Monday. “If the book gets out, he’s broken the law. And I would think that he would have criminal problems. I hope so.”
Trump’s threat follows Bolton’s decision to proceed with publication of the long-delayed book on June 23 in defiance of White House objections. Bolton’s lawyer has argued that the prolonged declassification review is no more than a pretext to censure Bolton, who reportedly describes a White House driven by the urge to secure Trump’s reelection above all else.
The dispute now presents the remarkable spectacle of a sitting president threatening to turn loose the full prosecutorial fury of his own Department of Justice against the man he once trusted with helping him make his most important national security decisions.
Bolton writes that the Ukraine affair, which prompted Trump’s impeachment last December, was just the tip of Trump’s misbehavior iceberg.
“Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy — and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them,” Bolton’s publisher wrote in a press release last week.
Trump’s bombastic threat of criminal prosecution may be hot air. Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, wrote last week that Bolton took care to avoid including any classified information.
But Trump has been widely accused of bending the criminal justice system to protect his friends and target his enemies, including by hundreds of former Department of Justice officials. And it’s not clear how far he can really push the DOJ to get his way.
Trump stopped short of confirming a report by ABC News that said he’s going to seek a civil injunction to stop the book, although he strongly hinted that move is likely. Instead, he railed about Bolton’s “criminal liability,” and insisted that every conversation he has as president is a state secret.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December for abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bolton boasted about his knowledge of the situation and was seen as the key impeachment witness against Trump, but he never actually testified. Bolton spurned the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. He later offered to speak to the GOP-controlled Senate but was never called by Trump’s Republican allies in the upper chamber.
Cover: Former national security adviser John Bolton takes part in a discussion on global leadership at Vanderbilt University Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
It is a watershed moment from an unlikely author that means gay, lesbian and transgender workers are protected by federal civil rights law. It is a stunning defeat for judicial conservatives who worked to ensure Gorsuch’s nomination and Republicans, including Donald Trump, who stymied President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, liberal Merrick Garland in 2016.
The ruling puts Gorsuch in the history books.
At the same time, it will infuriate those who worked on his confirmation, confident that he was the right candidate to fill the shoes of Scalia.
Just after the opinion was released, Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network blasted Gorsuch. She said he had “bungled” the decision and Scalia would be disappointed.
“This was not judging, this was legislating — a brute force attack on our constitutional system,” Severino, who also clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, said.
That point was not lost on Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent that was joined by Thomas.
“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation. The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive,” Alito wrote. Repeatedly, in his dissent, Alito quoted past writings of Scalia.
“The Court’s opinion is like a pirate ship,” Alito said. “It sails under a textualist flag, but what it actually represents is a theory of statutory interpretation that Justice Scalia excoriated — the theory that courts should ‘update’ old statutes so that they better reflect the current values of society. ”
Joining Gorsuch were Chief Justice John Roberts, and the four liberals on the bench, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. The liberals chose not to write concurring opinions, allowing Gorsuch’s ringing endorsement of LGBTQ rights and sound rejection of Trump administration arguments, to stand alone.
When Scalia died in February 2016, it threw the presidential election into turmoil. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, declared he would block any Obama nominee, who turned out to be Garland.
Trump used the vacancy as a key motivator to his base and his eventual victory, and has continued to tout his nomination of Gorsuch and later Brett Kavanaugh — and nearly 200 lower court judges — as legacy achievements of his presidency.
When Trump introduced Gorsuch to the country in January 2017, under the glittering lights of the East Room of the White House, he said he was fulfilling a pledge to “find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court.”
“I promised,” the President said, “to select someone who respects our laws” and someone who will “interpret them as written.” Trump was nodding to the fact that Scalia and Gorsuch both considered themselves “textualists” — interpreting the laws as they are written, relying upon the text and the structure of the statute instead of considering what Congress might have meant, or any legislative history associated with the law.
Gorsuch’s nomination would not be easy as he would have to face the fury of liberals, still incandescent that Republicans had refused to hold hearings for Garland.
At the White House that night, with Scalia’s widow, Maureen, in the audience, Gorsuch called Scalia a “lion of the law” and he reiterated something he would repeat over the next weeks and months: “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives.”
Speaking at the White House, Trump called the decision “very powerful” and acknowledged it was surprising to some.
“They’ve ruled and we live with the decision,” Trump said. “We live with the decision of the Supreme Court.”
After taking the bench, Gorsuch wasted no time delivering for conservatives. He voted in favor of Trump’s travel ban, and he would have allowed a citizenship question to be added to the 2020 census.
He was in the majority when the Court said it would stay out of disputes over when politicians go too far in drawing district lines for partisan gain. In one particular case, he sided with the court’s liberals in favor of an immigrant, holding that the law used against him was impermissibly vague. There, though, Gorsuch was following the lead of Scalia, who also railed against vagueness.
In November 2017, before a crowd of conservatives attending the annual gala of the Federalist Society, Gorsuch payed homage to Scalia’s work to revitalize how statutory and constitutional texts should be interpreted. Scalia believed that the Constitution should be interpreted according to its original public meaning. He also believed that a judge should start with the text when analyzing a law, and not look to legislative history or statements related to the law’s purpose.
“Tonight, I can report that a person can be both a publicly committed originalist and textualist and can be confirmed to the Supreme Court,” Gorsuch told the delighted black tie crowd. In return, they roared their approval.
For liberals, Gorsuch represented a sure signal of the court’s coming rightward tilt. In an interview with CNN last September, on the eve of the current blockbuster term, Gorsuch was asked specifically about the LGBTQ case as well as a case concerning immigration and the fear of liberals concerning the direction of the court.
In his response, Gorsuch explained how he tackled divisive cases.
“I think all a judge can do is fulfill his or her oath as best they can,” he said, and added “politics, your personal points of view — you leave that over there.”
“When you put on the robe, ” he continued, “you put that stuff aside and you open your mind, and you listen. And that’s all a judge can ever promise. He can’t promise outcomes- can only promise their best efforts in the process.”
When the court heard oral arguments in the LGBT cases in October, Gorsuch hinted at the direction he was headed.
“When a case is really close, really close, on the textual evidence, I’m with you on textual evidence,” he told David Cole, a lawyer representing a transgender plaintiff. “It’s close.”
Kagan told an audience at Harvard in 2015 that Scalia would go down in history as one of the most “important, historic figures of the court. She said the primary reason was that Scalia reshaped the way judges approached statutory interpretation by insisting upon a sharp focus on the words on the page.
She noted that the “textualism” approach could lead to different outcomes, but that Scalia insisted that the analysis start –at the very least –with the text and structure of the law and not something like the intent of Congress or committee reports and drafting history .
“We are all textualists now,” Kagan declared.
She said the text of Title VII that bars discrimination “because of” sex seemed crystal clear.
“Did you discriminate against somebody,” she asked rhetorically, “because of sex?”
“Yes you did,” she said, answering her own question. “Because you fired the person because this was a man who loved other men.”
Francisco, a former Scalia clerk, fired back. He said that it was his side that was making a “straightforward textual argument.”
For Francisco it was simple, “the law distinguishes between between sex and sexual orientation.”
“Sex means whether you’re male or female, not whether you’re gay or straight,” he said.
Trump’s other nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, dissented from Gorsuch’s majority opinion
While “policy arguments” to amend the law “are very weighty, Kavanaugh wrote, and while he agreed that “gay and lesbian Americans cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth” he could not side with Gorsuch’s interpretation
“We are judges, not Members of Congress,” Kavanaugh wrote, adding “our role is not to make or amend the law.”
It is likely that Roberts, the most senior member of the court in the majority, assigned Gorsuch the opinion. Roberts, like other justices often says the press makes too much of the importance of 5-4 opinions. Indeed, Monday’s opinion comes as the court is considering abortion, DACA, religious liberty, and Trump’s bid to shield his financial documents. Court watchers will be waiting to see how the court’s usual bedfellows align.
As for Gorsuch, back in September he told CNN he rejects talk of “hard right turns” on the bench.
“I just don’t view judges that way, I reject that idea of how judges operate,” he said.
He pointed out that about 40% of the courts cases are unanimous.
“You have nine very independent people approaching these cases as best they can,” Gorusch said.
This story has been updated with comment from President Trump.
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton speaks during his lecture at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, U.S. February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday his former national security adviser John Bolton will have broken the law if a book he has written is published.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, also said any conversation with him was classified.
Attorney General William Barr, speaking at the same event, said Bolton had not completed the process necessary to publish his book and the Justice Department was trying to get him to delete classified information.
Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is set to be published on June 23.
The publisher, Simon and Schuster, said in a news release on Friday the book provides an insider account of Trump’s “inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process.”
The book details Trump’s dealings with China, Russia, Ukraine, North Korea, Iran, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, the publisher said.
“This is the book Donald Trump doesn’t want you to read,” Simon and Schuster said.
Trump fired Bolton in September amid simmering differences on a wide array of foreign policy issues.
Bolton argues that the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives should have expanded its impeachment probe against Trump last year to beyond questions over whether Trump invited foreign interference from Ukraine.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis
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The prion disease that has afflicted American conservatism—and the Republican Party, which is its outward expression—ever since Ronald Reagan fed the movement the monkey brains in 1979 now has reached full-blown epidemic proportions. It’s beyond even that which researchers anticipated would happen with the election of the current president* of the United States, although he has been a formidable vector for its transmission. Between the actual pandemic and the current turmoil, the prion disease is manifesting itself in several dangerous ways, as we see in this report from Channel 9 in Denver:
A Loveland man faces felony charges after allegedly concluding that two men going door-to-door in his neighborhood were members of the protest movement known as Antifa – and then ordering them to the ground and holding them at gunpoint, 9Wants to Know has learned…The incident unfolded after the man called police, said there were two men wearing masks near his home, and announced he was armed and going to go confront them, Loveland Police Lt. Bob Shaffer confirmed to 9Wants to Know. When officers arrived in the 2400 block of Dawn Court around 6 p.m. Thursday, they encountered Scott Gudmundsen – dressed in fatigues and holding two men on the ground at gunpoint, Shaffer said.
It turns out that the two men, one of whom was a football player from Colorado State, were wearing masks as per the instructions we’ve all received regarding life during the pandemic. They worked for a local roofing company and were soliciting business in the neighborhood following a severe hailstorm. Not that any of that mattered to the neighborhood gun-humper who clearly has listened to far too much talk-radio and watched far too much Hannity.
There was no evidence that either of the men did anything wrong.
At the scene, police arrested Gudmundsen, 65, who lives around the corner from where police encountered him. Gudmundsen was armed with two weapons, Shaffer told 9Wants to Know: A Glock pistol, and a second Glock pistol that had been converted into a longer weapon that looked like a carbine rifle.
This is the fire that too many people, including the president*, are willing to play with for political advantage. The administration* has a high enough body count due to its bungling of the pandemic. That it seems willing to risk adding to it through gunplay is a indicator of deep and abiding sociopathy.
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The group Republican Voters Against Trump have launched a new ad using words from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Joe Biden's character. The Morning Joe panel discusses.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris during Thursday night’s debate. (MSNBC/YouTube screenshot)
WASHINGTON—It’s summer in a presidential election year, which means it’s time for a proper veepstakes.
Whatever else may be lights out this season—Camden Yards, Coachella or much of the Carnival Cruise Line—we know at least one show will go on. As Barack Obama said on the eve of the 2016 election, “the sun will rise in the morning.” And the presumptive Democratic nominee for president will need a running mate.
Vice presidential selections are in some ways the papal conclaves of secular politics. The deliberations are done in secret (though with a generous sprinkling of leaks, of course), and the selection is not the choice of the laity or the polity but the upper echelon. In Rome, the guiding force is the Holy Spirit. In Washington, it’s the Electoral College.
For former Vice President Joe Biden, the choice just got a lot easier. He has said, prudently, that he will wait until at least August to announce his pick. But the supernova of outrage that has spilled out onto American streets in recent weeks has considerably narrowed Biden’s room for maneuver.
He has already pledged to pick a woman. But for Biden, failing to select an African-American woman is to risk forfeiting something his often staid campaign has at last picked up: enthusiasm. Biden hopes to be swept into power as a statesman at the helm of a nation hungry for fresh reflection —a place in dire need of a reckoning with its racial sins following the slaying of Minnesota man George Floyd—even as it looks for the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
The Associated Press reports that Biden’s camp is narrowing the contenders. The top tier: California Senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Lagging behind: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Former Georgia Senate Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, Florida Representative Val Demmings and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
As the first half of 2020 has made unmistakably clear, much can change in three months. But his commitment to pick a woman, the fierce urgency of now to elevate an African-American, and Biden’s own perspective on his old job mean that only one prospective vice president meets the criteria for selection.
Consider first that Biden has emphasized the need for his lieutenant to be able to fill his shoes without hesitation. As he said in Iowa during the Democratic primary, whoever he picks must “be capable of immediately being a president because I’m an old guy.”
The importance of national security, both to the executive generally and to Biden personally, provides another clue. The former Vice President cares deeply about the issue—he played an outsized role in shaping the Obama administration’s foreign policy (particularly when compared to previous Democratic Vice Presidents, like Al Gore or Walter Mondale). He rivaled old Senate pals Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Obama’s secretaries of state, in influence. And before 2008, he headed the Senate’s influential Foreign Relations Committee.
And given that his national security advisors from his days at the Naval Observatory, Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, are now arguably the campaign’s most powerful advisors, it’s clear he still cares about it. This is bad news for Gov. Lujan Grisham and gubernatorial runner-up Abrams, both state-level politicians with barren foreign policy credentials. The Sarah Palin fiasco in 2008, in which questions about foreign policy revealed to many her unsuitability for high office, also weighs heavily on the minds of Biden advisors keen not to repeat history.
It’s also true that Biden, having spent 36 years in the upper chamber, prefers Senators, although that alone should not rule out Congresswoman Demmings, whose résumé includes time on the Subcommittee on Defense Intelligence and Warfighter Support, the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations and—perhaps crucially, when combatting immigration hawk Donald Trump—the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. However, Demmings likely has another problem.
This is because Biden also favors figures who have run in national campaigns before, figures like himself in 2008, for instance. The enormous exposure, so the thinking goes, reveals battle-readiness (or lack thereof)—free vetting, in essence. Demmings may have attracted attention as an impeachment manager, but that pales in comparison to the celebrity and political experience that comes from a serious attempt at the White House. Moreover, that time working on impeachment could be plausibly portrayed by the Trump campaign as a distraction, a striking example of Congress frittering away time on partisan games when it could have been preparing America for the coming pandemic.
Susan Rice may pass the foreign policy test, but she’s even more vulnerable to national scrutiny than Demmings. A career foreign policy official, she has never faced election and her previous time in the national spotlight was far from positive. Whatever one thinks of her actual conduct during the Benghazi affair, the political fallout cost her the job of secretary of state when Obama won a second term. That she’s back in the news as a party in the “ObamaGate” imbroglio is also unhelpful. Even though Biden is running, to some extent, as a restorationist (painting the 45th president as firmly outside the American tradition), running with Rice may fuel perceptions of the campaign as a stale Obama-era remix, even as the Democratic Party—and, perhaps, the nation—has moved sharply left.
Since the dawn of the crisis this spring, Biden has said he thinks the country needs a presidency in the style of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But running with one of Barack Obama’s most controversial subordinates would signal to the left, as well as to disaffected independents who voted for Obama, but then gave Trump a chance, that he’s unlikely to deliver such a transformative administration.
Before May, Amy Klobuchar was probably the front-runner for this role. But the tide of history has flown with rapid and unforgiving speed, and her chances are now essentially nil. Not only is Sen. Klobuchar a longstanding member of the political establishment of the state at the center of America’s burning racial crisis—Minnesota—but she’s a former prosecutor with past cases flagged by activists. For Biden, she’s gone from safest bet to largest liability. The first rule of vice presidential selections is do no harm. He will not pick her.
In all likelihood, this now narrows the field to two principal front-runners: Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. When Biden contemplated a run for the 2016 nomination, Warren was reputed to have been his first pick for VP—and given the bad feelings festering from the Bernie-Biden showdown, selecting her might help heal the wounds between the party’s moderate establishment and its radical (and ever-louder) counter-establishment. It would also signal new bonhomie between Warren and Biden on a personal level, after a more acrimonious relationship in the 2000s.
Somewhat ironically, Warren’s most salient feud is now with Bernie Sanders, the only candidate in 2020 more left-wing than her, and a target for charges of sexism. Depending on the memories of Bernie supporters, this may depreciate the conciliatory value of the Warren selection, though likely only slightly. Warren would still be a valuable deputy, a signal to the progressive wing that Biden means business about all that FDR stuff.
And that’s why he probably won’t choose her. Wall Street has signaled ad infinitum its revulsion with Warren. While Biden has (by all accounts sincerely) moved to the left over the last year, this is still the man who a year agotold a New York fundraiser he will refuse to “demonize” the rich as president and that “nothing would fundamentally change.”
And besides, there is now a third, compelling criterion for Biden’s vice president. With almost 60 percent of Americans holding a favorable view of the movement, Black Lives Matter is branding powerful enough to rival Make America Great Again, and perhaps to overwhelm it. The protests in America’s streets are effectively shock troops for the removal of Donald Trump.
Failing to capitalize on this energy and enthusiasm would be a rookie’s political mistake—and Biden, whatever else he may be, is no rookie. Significantly for a business-friendly nominee, corporate America has also endorsed BLM without equivocation. And of all the candidates for the deputy spot, Kamala Harris would be the best-positioned to convert this into winning political momentum.
Biden’s quiet base in the primary was arguably Hollywood—he’s a long-standing champion of the American motion picture industry, including aiding studios with their work in China. As the primary campaign reached its apex, celebrities helped him seal the deal against Sanders. But if Biden’s a made man in SoCal, Harris completes the circle by bringing in NorCal. There and elsewhere, she’s a fundraising juggernaut. Although the state’s electoral votes may not be in contention, its cash is—and San Francisco tech giants have been somewhat cool to Biden.
But Biden picked up $4 million earlier this month through the fundraising of Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge funder and Biden’s former presidential rival. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Laurene Powell Jobs are also reputedly helping Biden close his financial gap with Trump. And the Los Angeles Timesreports that previously recalcitrant California donors have grown increasingly alarmed with the president and are finally ponying up.
An attendee at tech billionaire Sean Parker’s wedding in Big Sur seven years ago told me that on a political level, the event was a spectacle, with then State Attorney General Kamala Harris and future Gov. Gavin Newsom competing for donor attention. Harris won, the story goes, presaging the arrangement with Newsom that Harris would go to Washington and Newsom would reign in Sacramento. Harris would also get the first bite at the presidency. Though a distant memory now, it’s significant that Obama included Harris, and not Biden, in the list of future party standard-bearers he offered the New Yorker’s David Remnick in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election.
To critics who complain that California, with its insane inequality, rampant homelessness, and politically correct culture, is a liability—the failed archetype of liberals’ vision for America— the Democratic Party could counter as Newsom does: California is a successful nation-state, “the fifth largest economy in the world, 40 million strong… as diverse a state as exists in this country.” They think they’re sitting pretty. And they probably are. And in this campaign, at this moment, so is Biden.
Expect a Kamala Harris selection come August.