The Morning Jolt

Law & the Courts

Robert Mueller Testifies

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives to testify before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 24, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Robert Mueller doesn’t plan on dropping any bombshells today, raising the question of whether today’s much-hyped hearing does more to undermine momentum for impeachment than add to it; Democratic grassroots complain that their leaders are a bunch of wimps and squishes; and an examination of which fictional characters would likely vote for Trump.

Robert Mueller May Well Crush the Hopes of Impeachment Advocates Today

By the time this newsletter reaches you, former FBI director and special counsel Robert Mueller will have begun testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, and this afternoon he moves on to the House Intelligence Committee.

Mueller is 74 years old and has never sought the spotlight or been particularly interested in doing interviews, televised or otherwise. Today’s hearings may be his swan song in American life. As noted yesterday, during his ten-minute press conference May 29, Mueller declared, “The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.” He has no more bombshells, and if he has any opinions about impeachment, he is keeping them to himself.

(You’ll notice some of the criticisms of Mueller from Trump’s less-temperate allies make little sense, like the claim that he “just wants to feel the love again” and that he’s worried about his press clippings.  Er, if he wanted to feel the love again, he would do more public appearances.)

If Mueller wanted to share his opinion, he would. The last few years have seen James Comey join the Resistance, and even Comey admitted Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Andrew McCabe made the FBI look bad — partisan, unprofessional, biased. Do you think Mueller wants to add to that fire by saying, “Hey, I didn’t mention this in my report, but yeah, I do think the president should be impeached”?

In the New York Times, Peter Baker and Sheryl Gay Stolberg write, “The real question, however, is whether it changes anyone’s mind in a highly polarized country that has already digested Mr. Mueller’s findings and dug in on its conflicting views of Mr. Trump and his guilt or innocence.”

A wise old Washington strategist once told me, “You change the perception of something by changing the facts about something.” With no new information or revelations, the hope of impeachment advocates is that somehow the sight and sound of Mueller repeating the findings of his report will somehow spur some dramatic change in public opinion.

Last week, Representative Al Green introduced a resolution to impeach Donald Trump for “comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

The House voted on that resolution, and 95 Democrats voted for it. Because the number of Democrats voting in favor of impeachment is increasing, it was treated as some sort of significant milestone in the cause of impeachment. Impeachment in the House requires a majority; with no vacancies or members not voting, that threshold is 217 votes. Impeachment advocates are almost at 44 percent of way . . . on the easiest step.

The impeachment process against Bill Clinton took six months in 1998 and 1999. If Democrats started the impeachment process in August, they would finish sometime near the end of January. The Iowa Caucuses are February 3, 2020; the New Hampshire primary is February 11.

You think Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michael Bennet want to spend the last few months of this year focused on an impeachment effort that is certain to fall short of two-thirds majority? (Assuming they’re still running for president at that point.)

In that May press conference, Mueller declared, “There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.” (Reminder: Joe Biden told an interviewer that Putin is trying to undo our elections . . . You think that would have happened on my watch or Barack’s watch?”)

Do you feel like since the Mueller report, the country and in particular our lawmakers, media, and political class have been focused on “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election” and the possibility of it happening again?

Or has the focus been, “How can we get Trump out of office?”

The Activist Grassroots Are Never Happy

It’s nice to know some things are universal. Democrats won control of the House of Representatives last year and the party grassroots . . . sounds quite a bit like the Tea Partiers and grassroots conservatives in 2011 and 2012, who found controlling the House less exciting and productive than they expected.

Welcome to governing, activists; it will almost always disappoint you:

In more than seven months of investigating Trump, a half-dozen Democratic-led House committees have struggled to unearth major findings, hold high-profile hearings that move public sentiment or follow up on inquiries they laid out when the party took the majority in January… the lack of action — or a clear strategy — is starting to rankle Democrats, as the House leaves for a six-week recess Friday.

Alex Morse, a Democratic primary challenger to Representative Robert Neal of Massachusetts, charges that among Congressional Democrats, “There’s a lack of urgency.” Brian Beutler declares a significant portion of elected Democrats are “accommodationist.” Charles Pierce contends Chuck Schumer “gets played by Mitch McConnell on a routine basis” and “doesn’t understand the concept of leverage.”

Every time you think your side’s leaders are a bunch of naïve squishes, read the assessment by the opposition’s grassroots. You’ll discover that in the eyes of the opposition that your side’s leaders are shrewd, ruthless, and always winning.

The Big Question Is, Could Trump Carry Springfield?

The Washington Post’s Daniel Drezner examines a lighthearted but somewhat revealing question offered on Twitter recently: Which fictional characters would have voted for Donald Trump in 2016?

The question is another way of asking, “What kind of people voted for Trump?” While there are plenty of exceptions, in real life, that meant voters who lived in rural areas, red states, blue-collar whites, NRA members, cops, some small businessmen, maybe some executives and corporate types.

The original query ruled out villains. This led to a lot of people suggesting Archie Bunker, Hank Hill, Homer Simpson, Al Bundy. Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights.

Drezner argues, “Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother is a lead-pipe cinch to be a Trump supporter; non-college outer-borough Joey Tribiani from Friends seems likely as well.” I would agree but contend both characters would say they voted for Hillary Clinton if they felt it improved their odds at closing the deal with an attractive woman. In fact, you can picture an episode now of either character becoming smitten with a Jill Stein supporter and implausibly attempting to sound like a dedicated Green party supporter.

I concur with Drezner’s assessment that Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties, probably the most famous fictional Republican in 1980s television, would be NeverTrump. He might have come around by 2020 because of the performance of the stock market. But you know which characters on Family Ties would be middle-aged by 2016, and perhaps frustrated with their economic circumstances? Mallory and Nick. The hippie elder Keatons were probably Stein voters as well.

Drezner notes cops were another popular group of suggestions, from The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes to NYPD Blue’s Andy Sipowicz. I’d throw in Law and Order’s Lennie Briscoe — he would have some big doubts about Trump, but he’d scoff at the idea that Hillary Clinton was a “solid citizen.” Down in Miami, Crockett would vote for Trump, Tubbs would vote for Hillary.

On Sex and the City, Chris Noth’s “Mr. Big” was referred to in an early episode as “the next Donald Trump.” (Most people forget how apolitical Trump’s fame was before the Obama administration.)

A few more likely Trump voters . . .

Sheriff Jim Hopper from Stranger Things is pretty obviously a Trump voter: a police chief in small-town Indiana. Hopper can barely stand Joyce telling him what to do and he loves her; he would recoil from the thought of Hillary Clinton telling the federal government what to do for four years. (This presumes, of course, that in 2016, Hopper is still alive, still in the United States and still in this dimension.)

Benjamin Horne from Twin Peaks would undoubtedly vote for Trump. Business mogul? Check. Extramarital affairs? Check. Cavorting with women in the sex industry? Check. Horne wouldn’t merely vote for Trump, he would call him an inspiring role model. (For those wondering, from my reading of the canon, Special Agent Dale Cooper was still in the Black Lodge in 2016 and did not vote. He probably wrote in the Dali Lama every year anyway.)

J.R. Ewing from Dallas would vote for Trump based on his energy policies alone.

Kramer from Seinfeld would not only vote for Trump, he probably would up co-chairing his New York City get-out-the-vote operations through a series of misunderstandings, outlandish ideas, and wacky hijinks.

Home Alone’s Kevin McAllister would vote for Trump just because of that time he directed him to the hotel lobby. While we’re on the subject of Trump’s cameos, he probably would have picked up the votes of model Derek Zoolander, as well as all of his coal miner relatives.

Probably all the major characters in Justified would vote for Trump, and that’s not just because of Nick Searcy’s behind-the-scenes influence. The series is set in Harlan County, Ky.; Trump took nearly 85 percent there in real life.

Then there are a few television characters that I would dispute as Trump voters.

The X-Files’ Fox Mulder would agree with Trump that there was indeed a deep-state conspiracy in the government and the highest officials of the FBI were involved. But he probably would vote for Gary Johnson.

24’s Jack Bauer probably didn’t vote in 2016 because he was too distraught about the loss of Audrey. In fact, he probably hasn’t voted for a presidential candidate since David Palmer. Even with all of the scandals, gaffes, Twitter tirades, and other problems, Bauer would probably look at Trump today and say, “Eh, he’s better than Charles Logan.”

Detective Frank Columbo wouldn’t have voted for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, wary about the evidence of potential criminal acts for both candidates. He was deeply disappointed when he was not selected as moderator for one of the presidential debates, but debate organizers pointed to his refusal to commit to a limited number of questions.

ADDENDUM: In case you missed it in the Corner yesterday . . . no, Fox News does not inspire terrorism, even if some people want to pretend it does in order to demonize the network; and why aren’t more Democratic presidential candidates going after Kamala Harris?

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