Political News

Trump reshapes American justice as Democrats fracture

Posted February 12, 2020 12:00 a.m. EST

— President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the prison sentence that career prosecutors were seeking against his old friend Roger Stone was too rough.

Shortly thereafter, the Department of Justice went against its own line prosecutors and sought a lighter sentence for Trump's longtime friend and informal political adviser, who had lied to the Mueller investigation and who had been in contact with WikiLeaks in 2016.

All four prosecutors withdrew from the case. Read the story here.

Trump told reporters he didn't ask the DOJ to seek a lighter sentence. Arguably, he didn't have to after he called it a "horrible and very unfair situation" on social media. Ultimately, the presiding judge in the case will have the final say on Stone's sentence.

But Trump did put the skids on the nomination of Jessie Liu, who oversaw the Stone prosecution as the former US attorney for the District of Columbia and was up for a top job at the Treasury Department.

The timing -- Appearing on CNN, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal compared it to Richard Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre and said it appeared the administration timed the announcement so that it would be overshadowed by the New Hampshire primary.

Note: This is not Trump's first Saturday Night Massacre. It's his third or fourth -- He's fired people for not putting unconstitutional orders in place (Sally Yates). He's fired people, ultimately, for defying him on special counsel Robert Mueller (Jeff Sessions), He's fired people for investigating him (James Comey). Now prosecutors are quitting because his DOJ wants to go easier on his friend.

The pattern -- This is the Trump administration post-impeachment. Trump's will goes. And they're not even trying to hide it. Here's what I wrote last week on that, which still applies.

Trump isn't done with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman -- The former National Security Council official who testified at impeachment hearings was marched out of the White House on Friday. On Tuesday, Trump said it would be up to the military whether to pursue disciplinary action against Vindman. The military has promised Vindman would not suffer any retribution.

The race to face Trump in November

Here are some takeaways from New Hampshire. Full updates here.

Bernie Sanders is the front-runner! The democratic socialist senator from Vermont won New Hampshire, CNN projects. He sits atop national polls. He pulled off a virtual tie in Iowa, where the caucus results are still being contested.

But Sanders way underperformed 2016. It's a bigger field of candidates this year, so it may not be surprising, but Sanders isn't coming anywhere near the 60% of the primary vote he enjoyed against Hillary Clinton. He's about half as strong in New Hampshire this year.

Elizabeth Warren needs to think very hard. She once led Democratic polls. She fell to a distant fourth in New Hampshire, a portion of which is in the metro area of the state she represents. She had plans for so many policy proposals. Her plan for delegate acquisition is not working. If she can't win in New Hampshire, which was won by a fellow liberal, where can she win?

Amy Klobuchar is now in the picture. The Minnesota senator is moving fast and jumped into the increasingly crowded middle lane with Pete Buttigieg. She's getting support from college-educated voters, and from voters over 65.

Buttigieg is for real. A week after winning Iowa, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and full-on millennial showed his performance closer to home wasn't an exception.

This race is far from over. Joe Biden, the former front-runner, pulled out of New Hampshire early and left for South Carolina. He's banking on support from African American voters there, and is not even focusing on Nevada, which comes first.

The middle lane is a crowded place. If you add up the support for Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Biden, you've got more than half the primary voters in New Hampshire. You could argue there was more support for moderates than liberals like Sanders and Warren. It's notable that Sanders won even though more than half of Democratic primary voters said in exit polls that his policies are too liberal.

Not every contender was on the ballot in New Hampshire. Mike Bloomberg, who is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars (chump change for someone worth tens of billions) was not on the ballot in New Hampshire.

Health care is Democrats' top issue, but they disagree on it. Exit polls in New Hampshire showed that health care was the top single issue for Democratic primary voters, confirming what entrance polls in Iowa showed. However, in New Hampshire, while a majority of Democratic voters support the idea of dong away with private insurance, a third did not. If Democrats are not unanimously for "Medicare for All," it will be impossible to pass in Washington.

Age matters. Half of Democratic primary voters said in entrance polls that age was a factor. Those voters sided with Klobuchar, not the youngster Buttigieg or the much older Sanders, suggesting there's something of a Goldilocks test among certain voters.

Andrew Yang dropped out. The businessman, who pushed a universal basic income proposal and raised the alarm about robots taking American jobs, has dropped out. He was a welcome and interesting voice on the debate stage, but it didn't turn into support on primary day. (Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet also left the race.)

And one key question: Can any of these white politicians mobilize the Obama coalition?

More of the party backs moderate candidates, but Sanders, with his base, is winning. Among the Democrats remaining in the race and doing well are a Jewish socialist from New York, a gay Christian from South Bend and a woman from the Midwest. We haven't yet gotten to the primaries with diverse voters. What's going to happen with them? We'll see.

Bloomberg will have to Xerox this apology

It was only a matter of time before Bloomberg was forced to face his past policies and how he is perceived by African American voters because of them.

Specifically, his embrace of "stop and frisk" policies in New York has not aged well. Even worse are comments he made behind closed doors to an elite audience in Aspen a few years back.

He's now apologized twice. He'll have to do it again and again.

Here are the comments, which aren't new, but are jarring:

"Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims" fit the same profile, Bloomberg says. "You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 16 to 25."

He continues: "One of the unintended consequences is people say, 'Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.' Yes, that is true. Why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that is true. Why did we do it? Because that's where all the crime is."

In a statement Tuesday, he apologized again after he first did so in November. He argued he had inherited "stop and frisk" and explained he had cut the policy back.

"By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized -- and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities."

Will that be enough to satisfy a party that depends on minority voters?

Sanders vs. Buttigieg

Buttigieg won a national essay contest in high school lionizing Sanders. Seriously. Now Sanders is attacking Buttigieg for taking money from billionaires. And Buttigieg has said that in his effort to take down Trump he doesn't mind if billionaires want to chip in. Read this.

What are we doing here?

The American system of government has been challenged to deal with a singular President and a divided country that will decide whether he should get another four years in the White House.

Stay tuned to this newsletter as we continue to track developments and keep watch over the Trump administration, the 2020 presidential campaign and other issues of critical interest.

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