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On The Hill

IMPEACHMENT WHACK-A-MOLE: Nancy Pelosi just can't shake the specter of impeachment. Even though the House speaker managed to squash an impeachment resolution against President Trump last night, the party's left flank is unlikely to halt its pressure to begin proceedings anytime soon.

In fact, another push could pop up as soon as next week: Liberal members in favor of initiating an impeachment inquiry are eyeing former special counsel Robert Mueller's public testimony next Wednesday as the biggest flash point yet, congressional sources tell us. They believe the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committee hearings will energize additional colleagues to join the impeachment camp before departing Washington for August recess.

  • Key question: “If the president wasn't president, would he be behind bars right now?” a Democratic House aide told Power Up. “That's the question we're going to ask [Mueller] in 42 different ways.” 
  • As it currently stands, 86 Democrats support opening an impeachment inquiry, per the count of my colleagues JM Rieger, Amber Phillips and Kevin Schaul, including 15 of the 24 members of the Judiciary Committee.

Divided, once again: But last night's vote on Rep. Al Green's impeachment measure showed 95 House Democrats were in favor of at least considering the question of whether they should wield their majority to charge Trump and try to remove him from office, note the New York Times's Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicolas Fandos.

  • The breakdown: Ultimately, 137 Democrats joined with Republicans to stop last night's impeachment push and avoid a direct vote on whether to oust Trump. The final vote was 332-to-95.
  • The Texas Democrat's resolution accused Trump of making statements that “brought the high office of the president of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute” and of committing a high misdemeanor in office.
  • It also cited Trump's racist comments about four minority congresswomen and states he is unfit to be president. 
  • Opening on the left flank: It does not mention Mueller's report or other potential power abuses the House Judiciary Committee is examining as potential grounds for impeachment, per Julie and Nicolas. 

Pelosi's challenge: The drumbeat toward impeachment shows that Pelosi, who has urged a cautious approach on the politically fraught impeachment path, could not manage to sustain the momentary show of party unity to condemn the president's racist remarks about four minority congresswomen. Instead, the fracas only elevated the impeachment talk that originally caused a rift in the caucus.

  • She hopes the vote to table is decisive: “With all the respect in the world for Mr. Green … we have six committees who are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest … that is the serious path that we are on,” Pelosi told reporters. 
  • But it may end up being a fleeting victory: “There’s obviously this dynamic going on where progressives feel like they are being taken for granted,” a senior House Democratic aide told Power Up. “While Pelosi will go out of her way to provide cover for moderate members — because she wants to remain speaker and she knows she won't remain speaker if moderates get voted out — I don't see that frustration going anywhere any time soon. It's a structural split in the caucus that's going to remain.” 
 

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The Campaign

'SEND HER BACK': Trump, meanwhile, took the fight on the road. Relishing his favorite role as a barn-burning campaigner, the president stepped up attacks on the Squad that the House formally rebuked as racist earlier this week. 

The crowd appeared to take equal delight in the attacks on Trump’s latest targets: “Send her back,” the audience in Greenville, North Carolina chanted after Trump criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who was born in Somalia. 

  • Trump attempted to paint Omar as an anti-American sympathizer of terrorists “with a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.” He falsely claimed that Omar praised al-Qaeda. 
  • He also went after Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.). Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), minority lawmakers all born in the U.S., as the crowd booed. 
  • The rhetoric: “If they don’t like it, tell them to leave it,” Trump said. “They don’t love our country, and in some cases I think they hate our country.” 

The trail ahead: “Trump has placed racial animus at the center of his reelection campaign, and even some of his critics believe it could deliver him a second term,the AP's Steve Peoples and Zeke Miller write. “Every successful modern presidential campaign has been built on the notion of addition, winning over voters beyond core supporters. But Trump has chosen division on the belief that the polarized country he leads will simply choose sides over issues like race.” 

  • Trump said he's “not unhappy” with the racism fight in an interview with the Daily Mail before the rally, believing his strategy to sow division with and among Democrats is a winning one: “I don’t think I'm winning the political fight. I think I'm winning it by a lot,” he said. 

From a New York Times reporter who covered Trump in 2016: 

    Deepening the divide: Democrats responded swiftly to the latest attacks. 

    • “It’s vile. It’s cowardly. It’s xenophobic. It’s racist. It defiles the office of the President. And I won't share it here. It’s time to get Trump out of office and unite the country,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted.
    • From Omar: “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. -Maya Angelou,” Omar tweeted

    The People

    THROWBACK THURSDAY: Trump’s assertion that minority congresswomen “complaining constantly” about U.S. policies should “go back” to their ancestral homes was blasted this week for being racist. But historians also note his love-it-or-leave-it sentiment also ignores the strong history of dissent in America — which is has been a source of national pride since its earliest days.

    The Founding Fathers say criticizing those in power is a fundamental part of being an American — existing even before there was a First Amendment to protect it:

    • Without “the ability to criticize government, [James] Madison says you would have never actually had independence from England,” Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar said. “And you would never have gotten the Constitution.” To get a consensus on that document, Amar said, the federalists had to make a case that the state governments were not functioning well.

      The framers’ record isn't perfect on this: Timothy Zick, professor of law at the College of William & Mary, says not all the framers believed in a robust First Amendment. Take John Adams in 1798, not even two decades after the British's defeat. Adams, by then president, signed laws that become known as Alien and Sedition Acts and used them to stifle criticism of himself and his administration and have people thrown in jail.

      But Trump’s latest comments also appear to break with the more modern precedent to protect free speech set by the Supreme Court, Zick says.

      • Key quote: “In terms of the contemporary First Amendment, which takes root in the 1960s and forward, there's no question that the president's response to criticism and dissent — including in the most recent controversy — runs counter to now decades of First Amendment doctrine in principle,” said Zick, who is writing a forthcoming book about Trump and the First Amendment.

      Outside the Beltway

      ABOUT ALL THOSE INSTAGRAMS: FaceApp did not age well. "The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday warned presidential campaigns against using the viral face-transforming FaceApp, citing the software’s Russian developers. It urged campaign staff to 'delete the app immediately,'" our colleagues Hannah Denham and Drew Harwell report

      • *Whistles*: "FaceApp has altered photos for more than 80 million users since its 2017 release." 
      • Changed your mind?: Our colleague Geoffrey A. Fowler tells you how you can delete your data.

      In the Media

      IN OTHER HEADLINES: 

      Viral

      MOON, ROCKS! Washington Monument all decked out for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. If you missed it, you can still see it tonight and this weekend.