ARE WE THERE YET?: An unlikely lawmaker added over the weekend to the drumbeat gathering for impeaching President Trump. Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, became the first GOP congressman to accuse the president of engaging in “impeachable conduct” based on his close reading of the Mueller report.
- Lone wolf: It's unlikely that additional Republicans will follow the lead of the libertarian congressman, who has “long been the odd man out.” Amash's conclusion stood out less for breaking from his own ranks and more for staking out a position that goes even farther than some in the House Democratic leadership.
Slow burn: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday during an event at the Georgetown University Law Center that Trump “every day gives grounds for impeachment,” but added she still did not want to impeach the president. Pelosi's slow burn approach to the biggest issue of her speakership has so far kept her caucus united, but the question is how long that can last.
- Reminder: The Trump administration is currently blocking over 20 separate oversight investigations by House Democrats into Trump's finances, actions and the administration's policies.
- Initiating impeachment proceedings is increasingly viewed by House Democrats as a way to short circuit the process of addressing ignored subpoenas instead of a series of drawn out court battles.
Reset, please: Despite the allure of initiating impeachment proceedings in some Democratic circles, Pelosi still favors an agenda laser-focused on health care, raising wages, and anti-corruption efforts, which she believes voters want headed into the 2020 elections.
- Behind the scenes, the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) has been struggling to streamline the message of a fractured Democratic caucus.
- The committee sent out a memo Thursday afternoon, obtained by Power Up, urging Democratic lawmakers to refocus their messaging efforts away from Trump and on “lowering health care costs and prescription drug prices, raising wages by rebuilding America, and cleaning up corruption in Washington.”
- “As we move forward with delivering on the promises we ran on in November, Donald Trump and Washington Republicans are going to pull out every trick in their playbook to distract the American people, to deflect our attacks, and to divide us,” per the memo that was emailed to House staffers. “When we take the bait and respond to the latest scandal of the day, we miss an opportunity. Poll after poll shows that when we stay focused on the kitchen table values that unite us as a Caucus, we keep the American people on our side. To keep the gavel, we must cut through the constant chaos, crisis, and confusion created at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
- Get in line: “We ask all Members for their cooperation in sticking to the daily designated messages and highlight our proactive Democratic agenda,” per the memo.
- Interesting aside: “One of our big initiatives is to get more Democrats on Fox News to push our proactive Democratic For the People agenda,” the memo advised.
The email tracks with a meeting my colleagues Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis reported on: In a closed-door House Democratic session last Wednesday, Pelsoi told Democrats to “stick to their policy agenda ahead of the 2020 election rather than initiate impeachment proceedings. And not a single lawmaker challenged her, according to a person in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting,” per Rachael and Mike.
“'Why aren’t we impeaching the president?' she said, parroting their words. 'Why aren’t we impeaching him? They get a little down,' she said of frustrated members of her party. 'The point is that we need to show [voters] that we are doing all of these other things that they care about so much,' Pelosi said. Not a single lawmaker in the room protested.”
Push and Pull: That's not to say some Democrats aren't frustrated by the contradiction between some of leadership's alarmist language to describe Trump's actions — like “constitutional crisis” — and a lack of action. While Pelosi has successfully reined in public disagreement over her strategy, the push and pull of initiating impeachment proceedings is increasingly playing out in public.
One of Pelosi's chief lieutenants, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), admitted on the Sunday shows that Trump may be backing the party into a corner.
- Schiff: “But what may be pushing us in the direction of impeachment in any event, has less to do with Justin Amash and more to do with the fact that the administration is engaging in a maximum obstructionism campaign against Congress,” Schiff told Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation." “If we conclude that there is no other way to do our jobs,” Schiff added. “Then we may get there.”
- But, last week from House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose panel would launch an impeachment inquiry: “It depends what comes out. It depends where the American people are, whether they want to go that way or not. I don’t want to make it sound as if we’re heading for impeachment. Probably we’re not,” Nadler told CNBC's John Harwood.
- Connolly: “I would say the sentiment for something like this has been growing, ” Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) told Rachael and Mike. “Our base is furious with the defiance of the Trump administration and absolutely expects us to respond forcefully.”
- Cicilline: “Each time they do this, it makes an inquiry on impeachment look like the only way to hold this lawless administration accountable,” Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) tweeted on Friday in response to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's letter stating his refusal to comply with the House's request for Trump's tax returns.
- AOC: “If we’re going to say that this administration has been unprecedented in its lawlessness and its obstruction, then we need to exercise our power that follows through on that,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “Everything is there telling us what to do.”
ICMYI: While Trump is seeking to block Deutsche Bank from complying with congressional subpoenas from the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees seeking Trump’s personal and business financial records, the New York Times’s David Enrich revealed that “Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog.”
The key quote: "The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes," per Enrich.
The other key quote: "But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government."
Outside the Beltway
THE FIGHT FOR PENNSYLVANIA IS JOINED: Trump will be back in Pennsylvania today, just two days after former vice president Joe Biden delivered a call for unity in Philadelphia, where he is basing his campaign headquarters. Biden has explicitly said that if he wants to oust Trump next year, it will happen in this state where in 2016 Trump became the first Republican to win it since 1988.
- Trump’s rally: The president will speak in Montoursville, in Lycoming County, not far from Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series. Trump is ostensibly campaigning for a Republican congressional candidate a day before a special election to replace former Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), but as we all learned during the midterms, Trump’s speeches at these events are virtually indistinguishable from a solo political rally.
- Lycoming County also tells a fascinating story about 2016. Trump won the county by 45 percentage points, 12 points more than Mitt Romney in 2012, which more than made up for Hillary Clinton’s margins in Philadelphia, according to this great breakdown by Nick Field in PoliticsPA. Nationally, Lycoming County helped highlight Democrats' problems in rural America: you can afford to lose, but you cannot afford to get slaughtered.
- Biden in Pennsylvania: “Quite frankly, if I'm going to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it's going to happen here,” he said during his first event as a 2020 presidential candidate at a union hall in Pittsburgh.
- Biden is already running straight at Trump: During his Philadelphia speech, Biden mentioned Trump at least 15 times, painting himself as a unifier. The approach is a marked contrast from the other Democrats who want a shot at Trump, but the idea that the former senator may be more electable seems to hold golden value with voters, per my colleagues Annie Linskey and Michael Scherer.
- Reality check: Hillary Clinton got torched for not spending enough time in Wisconsin in 2016, but she devoted significant time to Pennsylvania, including ending her campaign there. Democrats winning the state alone wouldn’t deny Trump a second term, but flip Wisconsin and Michigan too and Democrats will have a much better shot of taking back the White House.
Here's what other Democrats running to win the 2020 nomination are saying:
- Bernie Sanders is not happy with Biden’s laser focus on Trump, saying on “Meet the Press”: “Well, I think Democrats have got to do a couple of things. Number one, it goes without saying that we have got to beat, defeat Donald Trump, who, in my view, is the most-dangerous president in the modern history of this country. He's a pathological liar. He's a sexist and a racist, et cetera, et cetera. But that is not enough.”
- The gender gap: Jay Newton-Small in The Post about the difficulty Democrats and now Democratic female presidential candidates have in winning the votes of non-college educated white women.
- Key quote: “For this group, when it comes to female candidates, relatability is crucial,” Newton-Small wrote. “But when trying to relate to these voters, female candidates face a particular challenge: If non-college-educated white women can’t see themselves — their life choices and values — reflected in a woman who’s running for president, they’re probably not going to vote for her.”
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) unveiled a plan this morning to strengthen federal laws requiring employers to pay women and men equally. Our colleague Chelsea Janes reports on the proposal "to force corporations to pay women as much as men for comparable work, promising to go further on that issue as president than any of her competition for the Democratic nomination."
- Pete Buttigieg held a town hall last night on Fox News, where he ripped into Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on their own network.
Even though some of these hosts are not always there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network in good faith.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) May 20, 2019
Whether it’s going on Fox or going into places where Democrats haven’t been seen much, we have to find people where they are–not change our values. pic.twitter.com/xNHoD0uzE4
And Trump responded:
Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him. Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
....who got them there. Chris Wallace said, “I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance...fascinating biography.” Gee, he never speaks well of me - I like Mike Wallace better...and Alfred E. Newman will never be President!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE E.U. ELECTIONS:
Turnout: Traditionally, turnout and interest in European Union elections (May 23 through May 26) has lagged behind individual country's national elections, as people view the European Parliament as too complicated and Brussels as not necessarily affecting their everyday lives. But this time is different, coming after five years of crises have swept the continent and during a moment where European identity is as much a domestic issue as it is an international one.
Brexit: Britain was never supposed to participate in these elections. But Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to get her withdrawal plan passed at home has now almost guaranteed the country might be sending members to the same body it voted to leave. If that’s not weird enough, the new European Parliament won’t be seated until November, meaning that Britain’s Members of European Parliament (MEP) may never be seated or serve extremely short terms.
- “This whole thing is very bizarre,” Benjamin Haddad, director of the Future Europe Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Power Up.
Nationalism: The post-Brexit fear was that the E.U. would see a rush to the exits by other nations. Instead, even nationalist parties that despise Brussels have found that its unwise to mount leave campaigns. Figures like Italy’s Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen are instead looking to change the system from the inside.
- "Twelve far-right parties have formed an alliance — a 'patriot family,' some called it — ahead of next week’s European Parliament elections," per our colleague Chico Harlan, who attended a rally in Milan on Saturday featuring the band of Europe's far-right politicians.
- "The rally amounted to a chest-puffing show of force from Europe’s nationalists, who have upended politics across much of the continent. They now want to seize influence in Brussels and weaken the European Union from within," Harlan writes.
- “I think clearly Brexit has become a cautionary tale,” Haddad told Power Up of the other effect Brexit has had on such populist movements. He said populists "are not campaigning to leave Europe or go back to national borders. They are saying, we change Europe from within. They are trying to emerge as more of an oppositional force within the European Union.”
- “This fragility is coming straight from the inside,” Heather Conley, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Power Up “Malcontents" like Salvini and Hungary's Viktor Orban “don’t want to leave the E.U. They want all the money and they want to change it from within.”
Key: The elections could determine the fate of several leaders of America's chief allies such as France and Germany. French President Emmanuel Macron’s party is facing its first national election since its formation that powered his surprising win, and Germany Prime Minister Angela Merkel may see her governing coalition crumble.
- “The real drama is in several member state stories that will be pretty tied to this election, not so much at the European level,” Conley said.
DM me and let’s figure this out.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 19, 2019
In the Media
WHAT ELSE WE'RE READING:
- U.S. Officer on a Pink Phone Dials Down North Korea Tensions. By the Wall Street Journal’s Timothy Martin.
- Rocket attack hits near US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone. By the Associated Press’s Qassim Abdul Zahra and Bassem Mroue.
- In Cities Where It Once Reigned, Heroin Is Disappearing. By the New York Times’s Abby Goodnough.
- The First Presidential Impeachment. By Chris Hayes for the New York Times.
- Speaker stuns 2019 Morehouse grads, to pay off student debt. By The Associated Press Errin Haines Whack:
"In the weeks before graduating from Morehouse on Sunday, 22-year-old finance major Aaron Mitchom drew up a spreadsheet to calculate how long it would take him to pay back his $200,000 in student loans — 25 years at half his monthly salary, per his calculations.
In an instant, that number vanished. Mitchom, sitting in the crowd, wept.
'I can delete that spreadsheet,' he said in an interview after the commencement. 'I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.'"