Thursday, August 23, 2018

Republicans Making the Mid-Term Election About Impeachment May Backfire

With the tax cuts and soaring economy not appearing to work for Republicans in the mid-term elections, GOP leaders have seized on another strategy - making the mid-term election a referendum on impeachment.

The theory is that by pushing impeachment, the Democrats would overplay their hand, causing a backlash among the voters.  As a result, the GOP could avoid what appears to be a blue wave.   While the GOP was eagerly luring the Democrats to take the impeachment bait, most strategically-oriented Democrats avoided the subject.

That was up until Tuesday when the guilty plea by former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen identified (albeit not by name) President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in violating felony campaign finance laws by arranging hush payments to two women Trump wanted silenced before the election.  The payments, arguably, had the effect of defrauding voters in the historic close election. The facts outlined in the guilty plea certainly raise the possibility that Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the standard for impeachment.

Then you have the continuing Mueller investigation which is clearly closing in on the President, both on the obstruction and, quite likely, the conspiracy front as well.  Of course, the President and his defenders keep screaming that there is "no evidence of collusion!"  That assertion is pure nonsense. The President and his "attorney" Rudy Giuliani both admitted that the Trump Tower meeting was an effort to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.  The premise of the meeting outlined in an email to Donald Trump, Jr. was that the damaging information was being provided was all part of the effort of the Russian government to aid the Trump campaign.  Trump campaign officials were clearly more than willing to work with an enemy of the United States to win an American election.   The Trump Tower meeting was, at the very least, an attempt to collude.  One can argue that those efforts did not rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy (which is the actual crime, not collusion) or the President was not aware of what his son and other campaign officials were doing (he almost certainly was), but it is nonsensical to say there is no evidence of collusion. 

So, as I predicted months ago, the issue of whether Trump should be impeached is likely to be a front and center issue in the mid-term elections.  Republicans would be wise though to not celebrate such a development.  First, polls show that nearly half the country support Trump's impeachment, and that was long before Tuesday's legal developments.  (For example see this Public Policy Polling poll.)  The notion the public would be outraged by Trump's removal from office through impeachment is not well-founded.  

Second, if Republicans make the mid-terms about impeachment, and the Democrats win bigly, seizing control of the House in the process, then Democrats will have little choice but to impeach Trump in 2019.  This is especially true if he long-anticipated Mueller report lays out additional grounds for concluding that Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Trump's safety net is the U.S. Senate.  Even if a Democratic majority House impeaches Trump it takes 2/3 of the Senate to remove a President from office..  Considering the number of Democratic Senators residing in red states who are up for election in this cycle, it is virtually impossible for the Democrats to do little more than break even. With 51 current Republican Senators, after the election there will still need to be at least 17 Senate Republicans crossing over  to vote with the Democrats to remove the Republican Donald Trump from office.

Many observers say that is an impossibility.  I don't agree.  First, unlike in the House, the Senate contains a number of Republican Senators who have long been critical of Trump.  Let's say that the Mueller report outlines facts that demonstrate that Trump (besides election finance violation), has conspired with a foreign power hostile to the United States to win the 2016 election and then obstructed the investigation aimed at finding out what happened.  Consider too the possibility of a mid-term election in which the GOP is slaughtered at the polls, losing the majority and suburban seats once solidly Republican.  

At that point, the President will no longer be an asset and many Republican Senators may decide to rid the party of the albatross that is Donald Trump, choosing to instead try their luck with President Pence in 2020.  Pence, stained by the Trump legacy, Pence will likely lose, but at least the losses down the ballot will less than they would be with a damaged Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Indianapolis City Councilor Pleads to (Non-Sexual) Battery on a Child, Resigns from Council

The Indianapolis Star reports:  
Indianapolis Councilor Jeff Miller has admitted touching two children "in a rude manner" as part of a plea deal that triggers his resignation from the City-County Council.  
Miller, 51, pleaded guilty Wednesday to four felony counts of battery on a person less than 14 years old, ending a case that began in November when Marion County prosecutors charged him with three counts of child molestation.
Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham II, who took over the case in January as
Former Indianapolis Councilor Jeff Miller
special prosecutor, reached a deal with Miller's attorneys that downgraded the charges while still resulting in felony convictions.
Miller was sentenced to four years of probation, with some conditions. Hendricks Superior Court Judge Mark A. Smith ordered Miller not to interact with children under 16 without permission from the court. Miller will not serve jail time and does not have to register as a sex offender, according to the terms of his plea agreement. The convictions could be reduced to misdemeanors once Miller completes probation.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly  knows I'm no fan of Jeff Miller.  He is the worst type of Republican, someone who takes the GOP label but does not exhibit any fiscal conservative leanings whatsoever.  Miller was always the first to sign on to any tax increase and corporate welfare scheme proposed by the Ballard administration.  He was not a friend of taxpayers, not even close.

Having said that, there should be questions raised as to whether Democrat Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry was pursuing political objectives in filing child molestation charges against Miller.   The Miller charging information contained needless salacious information, such as his limited and awkward sexual history with women.  Then there are the original charges of child molestation.  There did not seem to be any evidence that Miller massaged the children to gratify his own sexual interests or that of the child.  That is a necessary element of the crimes with which Miller was charged.

The whole thing smacked of throwing everything at Miller in an attempt to force him to resign.  Republican Miller has managed to attract a lot of Democratic support in his inner city district.  With him off the ballot the Democrats will surely pick up the seat in the next election.

Miller though was extremely smart not to resign initially.  Resignation from a political office is something often included in a plea and there is no reason for a public official to give away that bargaining chip without getting anything in return.  The risk was enormous for Miller to go to trial, so he opted, wisely, for a deal.  Simple battery (i.e. unwanted touching), albeit on someone considered to be a child, is a low level felony that can be easily converted to a misdemeanor down the road.  He does not have to serve any jail time.  He does not have to register as a sex offender, because he wasn't convicted of a sexual offense.

This is yet another issue that makes me question the ethics of Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.  Too many Democrats give him a pass.  Whether it is the Omnisource payoff to drop a felony prosecution, Curry's tremendous expansion of the use of civil forfeiture, or the phony charges filed against Brandon Johnson, Prosecutor Curry's continues to exhibit troubling conduct in carrying out his official duties.  A county prosecutor in Indiana has tremendous power. It is important that he or she not abuse that power.  Curry appears to be doing exactly that.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Uncounted Provisional, Absentee Ballots Provide Opportunity for Democrat to Win Ohio Special Election After All

Yesterday I wrote an article on the special congressional district race in Ohio in which I said GOP candidate Troy Balderson "appears" to have narrowly edged out the Democrat Danny O'Connor in a heavily Republican district located near Columbus, Ohio.   On election night, Balderson's lead was over 1,700 votes, giving him a nearly 1% edge on his opponent.  If the margin is less than .5% then under Ohio law an automatic recount is triggered. The speculation was whether the uncounted
Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor
provisional and absentee ballots might be enough to kick the race into recount territory which Balderson would like to avoid.

It "appears" now that a recount may be the least of Balderson's fears.  First, Franklin County, home to Columbus, Ohio, discovered some uncounted ballots which, when counted, narrowed Balderson's election night lead of 1,754 to 1,564.   Then there remains 5,048 absentee ballots and 3,435 provisional ballots to count.  The latter ballots are from people who do not appear on the voter registration rolls, but who are willing to sign an affidavit saying they are eligible to vote.  If just 59% of those 8,481 ballots break for the Democrat - which is quite possible given the enthusiasm gap favoring the Democrats in the district - O'Connor wins the election by 77 votes.

While I am not sure how many provisional ballots are typically cast in Ohio congressional races, the figure of 3,435 seems extraordinarily high.  What you are likely to see - if the winner ultimately "appears" to be O'Connor after counting these additional votes - are Republican attorneys challenging the provisional ballots that put the Democrat over the top.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ohio Special Election Results Confirm Almost Certain Blue Wave This November

Yesterday, the special election in Ohio Congressional District 12 provided yet more evidence that a blue wave is coming this fall.   In results from last night, it appears that Republican Troy Balderson will narrowly defeat Democrat Danny O'Connor.  The final result depends on absentee and provisional ballots, but Balderson will likely win by a few hundred votes when all ballots are tallied.

Ohio District 12 is a heavy Republican district which has been held by the GOP since 1980.  Republican Pat Tiberi won the district by nearly 37 points in 2016.  Tiberi ran far ahead of Donald Trump who won the district by 10 points.  Then in 2018, Balderson wins it for the GOP again, but this
time with less than a 1% margin. 

Over at Fox News, a political analyst (I use that term charitably) declares the result of the Balderson-O'Connor contest to be a sign there will be no blue wave this fall and the positive impact of Donald Trump's last minute visit had on Balderson's victory.  Of course, that's crap political analysis.  Ohio District 12 was competitive in the special election for one reason and one reason only:  Donald J. Trump.

Supposedly Balderson was cringing about Trump's last minute visit to the district, which no doubt ginned up the Democratic opposition to his candidacy much more than it motivated Trump Republicans.  Fortunately for Balderson, he also had the endorsement of a politician in Ohio who. unlike Trump, is actually popular with general election voters, Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich who also used to represent the district in Congress.  On election night, Balderson thanked Trump, but neglected to mention Kasich's support which no doubt was much more helpful in securing the narrow victory.  Not smart since Balderson will need Kasich's support to win in the remtach set for November.

Taking a closer look at the county-by-county vote in Ohio 12 is noteworthy.  The Franklin County portion of the district, the northern suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, went heavily for the Democrat in contrast to recent history.  Delaware County, the wealthy suburban county immediately north of Franklin County, used to vote heavily for Republicans and gave Tiberia 72% of the vote in 2016.  In the special election though, Balderson only received 54%of the vote in Franklin County

In politic prognostication, the margin of election victories matter.  When heavily Republican districts are barely being won by the GOP, that means there are a whole slew of closer districts which will not not survive the blue wave that only a fool does not see is coming.