Trump: Russia probe ‘really, really unfair for the midterms’
By KEN THOMAS and DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Saturday, September 8
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is not only bad for the country, it’s “really, really unfair for the midterms.”
Trump said the inquiry should have been wrapped up a “long time ago.”
Asked about the investigation he has repeatedly denounced as a “witch hunt,” Trump reiterated his insistence that there was no collusion between anyone on his presidential campaign and the Russian government. He said it was long past time for the investigation to have ended.
“We have to get it over with. It’s really bad for the country. It’s really unfair for our midterms. Really, really unfair for the midterms,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “This thing should have been over with a long time ago.”
Trump has portrayed the probe as a waste of time that has lasted too long and been a distraction for the country. He again argued that the case was being prosecuted by partisan Democrats, even though Robert Mueller, who runs the investigation, is a lifelong Republican.
The president spoke to reporters in the midst of a two-day campaign swing through states where Republicans hope to expand their narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate by knocking off vulnerable Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Trump was flying from Montana to North Dakota to attend a fundraiser for Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, Heitkamp’s opponent, when he spoke to reporters accompanying him on the trip, part of an intense campaign schedule Trump has planned through the Nov. 6 elections.
He commented hours before a former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, was sentenced to 14 days in prison by a federal judge in Washington for lying to the FBI as part of the Russia investigation.
In Fargo, Trump rattled off a list of what he considers his administration’s accomplishments as he sought to bolster his staunch ally Cramer.
The president pointed to the Republican congressman as the best choice for the state’s Native American community, reprising an argument he made to black voters in 2016. “I go right back to where I was two years ago when I was campaigning: What do you have to lose?” Trump asked.
He brought one man to the stage to talk about how his administration was helping the coal industry. “What your administration has done is bringing us back to life,” the man told Trump.
Afterward, Trump stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to attend a fundraiser for Republican Rep. Kristi Noem, who is running for governor.
“I’m not doing this for every governor,” he said, noting that he’s busy trying to help send more Republicans to Congress. “I fully support Kristi.”
Trump was returning to the White House late Friday.
Trump has shown increasing concern about the stakes for Republicans and, by extension, himself in the elections that will determine political control of Congress for the next two years.
Democrats hope to ride a wave of anger among liberals toward Trump to take back control of at least the House, while Republicans aim to keep control of the House and the Senate, partly to protect the president from possible impeachment proceedings and congressional investigations.
Underscoring his concern, Trump recently suggested on Twitter that the Justice Department had put Republicans in jeopardy for the midterms with the indictments of two GOP congressmen who were among Trump’s earliest supporters, saying “two easy wins now in doubt.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California has been indicted on charges that include misuse of campaign funds, and Rep. Chris Collins of New York has been charged with insider trading. Both have denied the charges.
Trump has pledged to spend more time on the road campaigning than his immediate predecessors. His campaign operation has scheduled back-to-back rallies late next week in Missouri and Mississippi.
In Montana, Trump warned that a Democratic-controlled Congress would pursue impeachment despite the strong economy and set a precedent that would hurt future presidents. A few Democratic lawmakers want to see Trump removed from office.
“Let’s say a Democrat gets elected and let’s say we have a Republican House. We will impeach that Democrat, right?” Trump said. “You’re going to have a country that’s going to turn into a Third World country, because if the opposite party becomes president, every time before it even starts, before you even found out whether or not he or she is going to do a great job, they’ll say, ‘We want to impeach him!’”
“If it does happen, it’s your fault because you didn’t go out to vote,” Trump said.
Superville reported from Washington.
Kavanaugh confirmation fight rallies Democrats to resistance
By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent
Monday, September 10
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats don’t have the votes to block Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But that didn’t stop them from putting up a rowdy, leave-nothing-on-the-table fight during four days of Senate confirmation hearings that marked a new stage in the party’s resistance to President Donald Trump.
From the moment that the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman gaveled in the first session, the proceedings were tumultuous, disrupted first by Democratic senators objecting to the rules and then by protesters shouting “Sham president, sham vote” and other chants.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, an 84-year-old Iowa Republican, later said it was like nothing he had ever experienced during 15 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
The bedlam is unlikely to change any votes in the Senate. The mathematic march toward Kavanaugh’s confirmation at month’s end remains the same in the Senate, where Republicans hold a51-49 edge. Still, the battle may have changed the Democrats, who are being transformed by a new generation of politicians spoiling for a fight with Trump, even if it creates political challenges for some Democratic candidates in the November election.
“Sometimes you just have to make a stand,” said Brian Fallon, a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Senate’s top Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer. Fallon’s organization, Demand Justice, is leading the opposition to Kavanaugh.
Fallon compared the decision on the court nominee to big votes of the past such as the Iraq War authorization that end up defining lawmakers’ careers.
“This vote is not going to age well,” Fallon said. He is holding out hope that not only will Democrats reject Kavanaugh, but that two pivotal Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, will join in to help stop the confirmation.
“Democrats should fight like hell,” he said, “even if it’s not going to sway Susan Collins.”
Republicans have been eager to capitalize on the political “circus,” as they called the hearing, particularly as potential 2020 presidential hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey took turns aggressively questioning Kavanaugh in what many saw as a prelude to presidential primary campaigns.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., portrayed the Democratic Party as dominated by “unhinged” protesters and aligned with liberals calling to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The second-ranking Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, bemoaned the “mob rule” at the hearings.
Trump took on his potential 2020 rivals directly. During campaign stops for GOP candidates challenging Senate Democrats this fall in Montana and North Dakota, states where Trump remains popular, he ridiculed Democrats as “making fools out of themselves.”
“The way they’re screaming and shouting, it’s a disgrace to our country actually,” Trump said Friday during a fundraiser in Fargo, North Dakota, for the GOP opponent to Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. “I’ll be running against them and I look so forward to it.”
With the midterms less than two months away, Kavanaugh’s nomination carries political risks for both parties as they potentially alienate the large swath of independent voters who have big say in elections.
“Independents are looking for things to work,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster. But he said the showy, disruptive display at the Kavanaugh hearing “reinforces their concerns of people not focusing on the challenges the country faces.”
Democratic senators running for re-election in states where Trump is popular have the most to lose from the party’s Supreme Court fight.
Sens. Joe Donnelly in Indiana or Claire McCaskill in Missouri may benefit from a court battle that energizes the Democratic base. They need heavy voter turnout in metro Indianapolis and Kansas City, Democratic strongholds, if they have any hope of carrying otherwise red states that Trump won in 2016.
Yet the court fight might be unhelpful as some Democrats, including Heitkamp in North Dakota and Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, try to appeal to the moderate Republicans and independents they need to win over.
“It’s probably the last thing that Democrats running for re-election in red states want to be talking about,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Before the hearings began, Schumer gathered Democrats for a weekend conference call to plot strategy. They debated options, Schumer said, but decided on a strategy of staying in the room for questions, protest and disruption.
At a time when Democrats are churning as a party, they’re also awakening to the political potency of judicial nominees, a longtime GOP priority.
Gone are the niceties and overtures of an earlier era, when senators deferred to a president’s prerogative to put in place a qualified nominee of the commander in chief’s choosing.
Trump is a different kind of president, they say, and the Senate a changed institution after President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, was denied a hearing or vote.
Schumer, on Friday, seemed pleased with the result of the hard-edged approach. He said in a statement that Democrats “were able to shine a bright light — for the American people and Republican Senators to see — on Judge Kavanaugh’s troubling views on women’s rights, presidential power, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
“This was a good week.”
Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro
Kavanaugh’s ‘judge as umpire’ metaphor sounds neutral but it’s deeply conservative
September 7, 2018
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
William Blake does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh invoked baseball to explain his judicial philosophy at his confirmation hearing.
“A good judge,” he said in his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 4, “must be an umpire – a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy.”
This is not the first time a Supreme Court nominee has employed the judge-as-umpire analogy. Chief Justice John Roberts told senators at his 2005 confirmation hearing, “Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. … But it is a limited role.”
The reference to America’s national pastime may sound politically neutral, but it is not.
As a scholar of judicial decision-making, I recognize that this analogy reflects the conservatism of Kavanaugh’s and Roberts’ judicial philosophies.
Originalism – getting the call right?
Conservative jurists and legal scholars believe that judges must interpret the Constitution according to its framers’ original understanding, just as umpires must call a strike on any pitch in the strike zone. There is only one answer, grounded in observable facts.
This judicial philosophy – called “originalism” – says that if judges spend enough time studying the facts of a case and American history, they will find the one correct response to a constitutional dispute.
In a 2016 speech titled “The Judge as Umpire: Ten Principles,” Kavanaugh extolled the virtues of rule-following and consistency in law and sports.
Aspiring umpires in training schools spend dozens of classroom hours poring over the baseball rule book. To apply their knowledge, they do drills on the field, practicing their footwork and learning how to react to different situations.
They strive for military precision so that strikes and outs are called correctly every time, just as the baseball commissioner intended when writing down the rules.
Originalists similarly believe that judges must interpret the Constitution precisely as the Founding Fathers did. To ignore the framers’ intention, they say, would effectively be rewriting the rules in the middle of the game.
Subjectivity in the law
Judge Kavanaugh is a Washington Nationals season ticket holder. If confirmed, he would join several other die-hard baseball fans – including the conservative Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee – on the Supreme Court.
But if these three justices umpired a baseball game, conservatives Alito and Kavanaugh might make some calls differently than Sotomayor.
Liberal justices think judges will disagree about how to solve legal questions, based on each judge’s worldview. Advocates of this “living Constitution” theory think it is healthy for the 250-year-old Constitution to be reinterpreted as American society – and the needs of its citizens – change over time.
In speeches before she joined the Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor explained that a judge’s particular life experiences as a “Latina woman,” say, or a “white male” bring important intellectual diversity to the bench.
Sotomayor clarified in her 2009 Senate confirmation that she was not arguing that judges are or should be partisan. Rather, she believes that objectivity is an aspiration no judge can fully achieve because the law itself is not neutral.
The court’s jurisprudence on abortion, for example, affects women differently than men.
What if the rules aren’t clear?
Umpires, too, have acknowledged their job is also somewhat subjective.
They strive for consistency in their calls. But as the 24-year Major League Baseball veteran Gary Cederstrom once said in refuting the comparison between baseball and originalism, some umpires may create a strike zone that is slightly larger or tighter than the rule book’s standard.
Officially, the strike zone goes from roughly the batter’s knees to the letters on his jersey. Cederstrom says flexibility in applying that rule is appropriate because each umpire has a slightly different view of what pitch a batter can reasonably hit.
The strike zone is “like the Constitution,” he said – “a living, breathing document.”
The baseball rule book even uses phrases like “in the umpire’s judgment” over 80 times, by my count.
And its contents are sometimes incomplete or indeterminate. Take the very first rule, 1.01, which states that, “Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each.”
Baseball fans know that in the American League, but not the National League, a designated hitter may bat for the pitcher. Isn’t he a 10th player?
Recapping the final score
Neither umpiring nor judging seems to me to be a wholly objective enterprise.
But I don’t want to take Kavanaugh’s sports analogy too far, because ultimately it glosses over significant differences between the Constitution and the rules of baseball.
As University of California, Berkeley law professor Erwin Chemerinksy wrote in a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece, “The Constitution was written – intentionally – in broad, open-ended language that rarely provides guidance for issues that must be resolved by the Supreme Court.”
Most Americans are aligned with Chemerinksy’s view.
Polling shows that, on average, 52 percent of people believe the Constitution should be interpreted in light of “changing times and current realities.” Just 42 percent believe, like Kavanaugh, that “the Supreme Court should only consider the original intentions of the authors of the Constitution.”
The “judges-as-umpires” analogy is unlikely to change their minds.
According to research by political scientist James Gibson of Washington University in St. Louis, people generally believe judges try to be as impartial as possible while making decisions that are ultimately subjective.
As evidence, residents of states with elected judges do not lose faith in the courts, even when judicial candidates tell voters where they stand on controversial issues like abortion.
Kavanaugh tried to transform abstract debates about legal theory into the more familiar context of sports. But ultimately his baseball metaphor reveals less about American justice than it does about his own judicial conservatism.