All posts by MPolitics

Key Trump Associates Indicted in Mueller Probe

Several key figures associated with President Donald Trump have pleaded guilty or were convicted of a range of offenses as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe:

Paul Manafort: Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman is in the early stages of a 7 1/2-year prison term after being convicted and pleading guilty in two cases linked to financial corruption from his years of lobbying for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

Michael Flynn: Trump’s first national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, just before Trump assumed power, and is awaiting sentencing.

George Papadopoulos: The  low-level foreign affairs adviser was jailed for 12 days after he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his Russia contacts.

Rick Gates:  A business associate of Manafort’s and his deputy on the Trump campaign, Gates was a key witness against Manafort at his trial, after pleading guilty to conspiring with him in financial wrongdoing from their years as lobbyists for Ukraine. He is awaiting sentencing.

Michael Cohen: Trump’s one-time personal attorney pleaded guilty to helping Trump make $280,000 in hush money payments to two women, an adult film actress and a Playboy model, to keep them quiet before the 2016 election about alleged decade-old sexual encounters they claimed to have had with Trump. Cohen, headed soon to prison for a three-year term, also admitted lying to Congress about the extent of Trump’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, a time when candidate Trump was telling voters he had ended his Russian business ventures.

Roger Stone: The long-time Trump adviser and friend is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress about his contacts with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in conjunction with the release of emails hacked by Russian operatives from the computers of Democratic officials that were damaging to Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

 

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Key Trump Associates Indicted in Mueller Probe

Several key figures associated with President Donald Trump have pleaded guilty or were convicted of a range of offenses as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe:

Paul Manafort: Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman is in the early stages of a 7 1/2-year prison term after being convicted and pleading guilty in two cases linked to financial corruption from his years of lobbying for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

Michael Flynn: Trump’s first national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, just before Trump assumed power, and is awaiting sentencing.

George Papadopoulos: The  low-level foreign affairs adviser was jailed for 12 days after he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his Russia contacts.

Rick Gates:  A business associate of Manafort’s and his deputy on the Trump campaign, Gates was a key witness against Manafort at his trial, after pleading guilty to conspiring with him in financial wrongdoing from their years as lobbyists for Ukraine. He is awaiting sentencing.

Michael Cohen: Trump’s one-time personal attorney pleaded guilty to helping Trump make $280,000 in hush money payments to two women, an adult film actress and a Playboy model, to keep them quiet before the 2016 election about alleged decade-old sexual encounters they claimed to have had with Trump. Cohen, headed soon to prison for a three-year term, also admitted lying to Congress about the extent of Trump’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, a time when candidate Trump was telling voters he had ended his Russian business ventures.

Roger Stone: The long-time Trump adviser and friend is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress about his contacts with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in conjunction with the release of emails hacked by Russian operatives from the computers of Democratic officials that were damaging to Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

 

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Large US Democratic Presidential Field Ready for Long Battle

A large group of Democratic presidential contenders is off to an early and intensive start in 2019, even though the first caucus and primary votes will not come until next February.

But some experts are already predicting that the race for the party nomination could be one of the longest and nastiest in years. Nearly 20 Democrats have jumped into the 2020 election battle so far, and many face the daunting task of trying to boost their name recognition and raise money.

Among the latest Democrats to officially announce a presidential bid was South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“The forces changing our country today are tectonic, forces that helped to explain what made this current presidency even possible,” Buttigieg told supporters at his kickoff event this week in South Bend. “That is why this time it is not just about winning an election. It is about winning an era.”

Buttigieg has risen from relative obscurity to being a contender in recent polls in the early contest states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biden leads the pack

The latest Morning Consult survey has former Vice President Joe Biden leading the Democratic pack at 31 percent support, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 23 percent, California Sen. Kamala Harris at 9 percent and Buttigieg tied at 7 percent with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Biden has yet to officially announce and is expected to do so in the coming weeks.

Like many of the Democratic contenders already in the race, Harris has focused much of her attention on President Donald Trump.

“We cannot afford to have a president of the United States who stokes the hate and the division. We can’t,” Harris told supporters this month at a rally in Iowa.

​Struggling to get noticed

Among those working to gain visibility in the crowded Democratic field are New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who officially launched his campaign with a rally in his home state in early April.

“I am running for president to first and foremost try to bring this country back together!” Ryan told supporters.

In addition to Biden, others who may enter the race soon include Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton. Eventually, the number of Democratic contenders could go to 20 or beyond.

Even though Democratic voters have lots of choices, they seem most eager to find someone who can beat Trump, according to pollster John Zogby.

“Whom do they do it with? Do they do it with a progressive candidate or a mainstream candidate? That is one question. Do they do it with an older traditional candidate or a young face?” he asked.

One dynamic expected to play out in the race ahead is the ideological divide within the Democratic Party. A Gallup survey in January found that most Democrats see themselves as liberal. Fifty-one percent in that Gallup Poll chose the liberal label, while 34 percent called themselves moderate and 13 percent said they were conservative.

 

WATCH: Long, Ugly Battle Likely Ahead for Democratic Candidates

​It could get rough

Some experts predict that a large field lacking a clear front-runner is a recipe for a long and potentially nasty campaign.

“I think it will be one of the most negative campaigns we have ever seen in a Democratic primary. We are already seeing this,” said Jim Kessler of Third Way, a center-left public policy group. “Because you have got 15 or 16 candidates out there who feel like, ‘Unless two or three of them [other contenders] are really dragged down, I have absolutely no chance.’ ”

In order to set themselves apart, some of the Democratic contenders are less focused on Trump and more interested in bringing lasting change to the country. It’s a theme often sounded by Booker, Warren and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, among others.

“I think Democrats are going to run on inequality and economic growth, and that is what they should be running on because those are the issues really facing the country that have not been dealt with,” said Brookings Institution expert Elaine Kamarck.

The familiar and the new

For the moment, the Democratic primary battle seems to be between some familiar and experienced contenders like Biden and Sanders and a group of younger, dynamic candidates that includes Harris, Buttigieg, O’Rourke and Booker.

Sanders appears to be having some success building on his failed White House bid in 2016, when he lost out to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after a long and difficult campaign.

Sanders led the Democratic pack in fundraising for the first quarter of 2019, drawing $18 million. Harris was in second place, raising $12 million, followed by O’Rourke, $9.3 million; Buttigieg, $7 million; and Warren, $6 million.

Fundraising numbers are often seen by strategists and analysts as an important indication of a candidate’s strength, especially in a crowded field like the one shaping up for Democrats in 2020.

View from Trump world

Trump’s re-election campaign has also been busy collecting donations, raising $30 million in the first quarter, a notably large sum for an incumbent president this early in an election cycle.

Trump and his Republican allies have already signaled they will try to brand the Democrats as “socialists” and will focus on sweeping plans to expand government health care and tackle climate change that some Democratic candidates have endorsed. 

Trump does face a Republican primary challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld.

Weld told CNN on Wednesday that he has a strategy “to win, not just to weaken anybody.” Weld, who has a long record as a moderate in a party that now leans solidly to the right, said his focus will be to defeat Trump in New Hampshire, the state that will hold the first primary next February. Trump won the New Hampshire primary in 2016, a significant moment in his march to the nomination.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump predicted that he would likely face either Biden or Sanders as the Democratic nominee in 2020:

“It will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)!”

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Large Democratic Presidential Field Readies for a Long Battle

A large group of Democratic presidential contenders is off to an early and intensive start in 2019, and some experts are predicting that the race for the party’s nomination could be one of the longest and nastiest in years. Nearly 20 Democrats have jumped into the 2020 election battle so far, and many face the daunting task of trying to boost their name recognition and raise money. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

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AP-NORC Poll: Many Aren’t Exonerating Trump in Russia Probe

Many Americans aren’t ready to clear President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation, with a new poll showing slightly more want Congress to keep investigating than to set aside its probes after a special counsel’s report left open the question of whether he broke the law.

About 6 in 10 continue to believe the president obstructed justice.

 

The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds greater GOP confidence in the investigation after Attorney General William Barr in late March released his letter saying special counsel Robert Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but didn’t make a judgment on the obstruction question.

 

At the same time, the poll indicates that Americans are mostly unhappy with the amount of information that has been released so far. They’ll get more Thursday, when Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page report.

 

Trump has repeatedly claimed “total exoneration,” after Barr asserted in his memo that there was insufficient evidence for an obstruction prosecution.

 

“It’s a total phony,” Trump said of all allegations to Minneapolis TV station KSTP this week. “Any aspect of that report, I hope it does come out because there was no collusion, whatsoever, no collusion. There was no obstruction, because that was ruled by the attorney general.”

 

Overall, 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, roughly unchanged from mid-March, before Mueller completed his two-year investigation.

 

But many Americans still have questions.

 

“It’s kind of hard to believe what the president says as far as exoneration,” said James Brown, 77, of Philadelphia, who doesn’t affiliate with either party but says his political views lean conservative. “And in my mind the attorney general is a Trump person, so he’s not going to do anything against Trump.”

 

The poll shows 35 percent of Americans think that Trump did something illegal related to Russia — largely unchanged since the earlier poll. An additional 34 percent think he’s done something unethical.

 

Brown says he remains extremely concerned about possible inappropriate contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, citing Trump’s past interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, and believes the president committed crimes of obstruction to cover up financial interests. “He’s not going to jeopardize his pocketbook for anything,” he said.

 

Still, the poll suggests Barr’s summary helped allay some lingering doubts within the GOP. Among Republicans, more now say Trump did nothing wrong at all (65 percent vs. 55 percent a month ago) and fewer say he did something unethical (27 percent, down from 37 percent).

 

Glen Sebring, 56, of Chico, California, says he thinks the nation should put the Russia investigations to rest after reading Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. The moderate Republican credits Trump with helping to “double the money” he’s now earning due to an improving economy and says Congress should spend more time on issues such as lowering health care costs.

 

“It’s like beating a dead horse,” Sebring said. “We’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.”

 

Even as Trump blasts the Mueller probe as a Democratic witch hunt, poll respondents expressed more confidence that the investigation was impartial. The growing confidence since March was driven by Republicans: Three-quarters now say they are at least moderately confident in the probe, and 38 percent are very or extremely confident, up from 46 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in March. Among Democrats, about 70 percent are at least moderately confident, down slightly from a month ago, and 45 percent are very or extremely confident.

 

Still, majorities of Americans say they believe the Justice Department has shared too few details so far with both the public (61 percent) and Congress (55 percent). About a third think the department has shared too little with the White House, which has argued that portions of the report should be kept confidential if they involve private conversations of the president subject to executive privilege.

 

Democrats have been calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.

 

The poll shows that even with the Mueller probe complete, 53 percent say Congress should continue to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia, while 45 percent say Congress should not. A similar percentage, 53 percent, say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia.

 

“We don’t even know what we found yet in the probe. Until we do, Congress should definitely continue to push this issue,” said Tina Perales, a 35-year-old small business owner in Norton, Ohio, who describes herself as Republican. “That little letter Barr sent out summarizing the report I think was completely BS. This Mueller thing is hundreds of pages, and he just sums it up like this? These things just don’t add up.”

 

Deep partisan divisions remain.

 

Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to believe Trump had done something improper and to support continued investigations that could lead to his removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has downplayed the likelihood of impeachment proceedings but isn’t closing the door entirely if there are significant findings of Trump misconduct.

 

On investigations, 84 percent of Democrats believe lawmakers shouldn’t let up in scrutinizing Trump’s ties to Russia, but the same share of Republicans disagrees. Similarly, 83 percent of Democrats say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia, while 82 percent of Republicans say Congress should not.

 

The AP-NORC poll of 1,108 adults was conducted April 11-14 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.

 

 

 

 

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AP-NORC Poll: Many Aren’t Exonerating Trump in Russia Probe

Many Americans aren’t ready to clear President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation, with a new poll showing slightly more want Congress to keep investigating than to set aside its probes after a special counsel’s report left open the question of whether he broke the law.

About 6 in 10 continue to believe the president obstructed justice.

 

The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds greater GOP confidence in the investigation after Attorney General William Barr in late March released his letter saying special counsel Robert Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but didn’t make a judgment on the obstruction question.

 

At the same time, the poll indicates that Americans are mostly unhappy with the amount of information that has been released so far. They’ll get more Thursday, when Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page report.

 

Trump has repeatedly claimed “total exoneration,” after Barr asserted in his memo that there was insufficient evidence for an obstruction prosecution.

 

“It’s a total phony,” Trump said of all allegations to Minneapolis TV station KSTP this week. “Any aspect of that report, I hope it does come out because there was no collusion, whatsoever, no collusion. There was no obstruction, because that was ruled by the attorney general.”

 

Overall, 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, roughly unchanged from mid-March, before Mueller completed his two-year investigation.

 

But many Americans still have questions.

 

“It’s kind of hard to believe what the president says as far as exoneration,” said James Brown, 77, of Philadelphia, who doesn’t affiliate with either party but says his political views lean conservative. “And in my mind the attorney general is a Trump person, so he’s not going to do anything against Trump.”

 

The poll shows 35 percent of Americans think that Trump did something illegal related to Russia — largely unchanged since the earlier poll. An additional 34 percent think he’s done something unethical.

 

Brown says he remains extremely concerned about possible inappropriate contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, citing Trump’s past interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, and believes the president committed crimes of obstruction to cover up financial interests. “He’s not going to jeopardize his pocketbook for anything,” he said.

 

Still, the poll suggests Barr’s summary helped allay some lingering doubts within the GOP. Among Republicans, more now say Trump did nothing wrong at all (65 percent vs. 55 percent a month ago) and fewer say he did something unethical (27 percent, down from 37 percent).

 

Glen Sebring, 56, of Chico, California, says he thinks the nation should put the Russia investigations to rest after reading Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. The moderate Republican credits Trump with helping to “double the money” he’s now earning due to an improving economy and says Congress should spend more time on issues such as lowering health care costs.

 

“It’s like beating a dead horse,” Sebring said. “We’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.”

 

Even as Trump blasts the Mueller probe as a Democratic witch hunt, poll respondents expressed more confidence that the investigation was impartial. The growing confidence since March was driven by Republicans: Three-quarters now say they are at least moderately confident in the probe, and 38 percent are very or extremely confident, up from 46 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in March. Among Democrats, about 70 percent are at least moderately confident, down slightly from a month ago, and 45 percent are very or extremely confident.

 

Still, majorities of Americans say they believe the Justice Department has shared too few details so far with both the public (61 percent) and Congress (55 percent). About a third think the department has shared too little with the White House, which has argued that portions of the report should be kept confidential if they involve private conversations of the president subject to executive privilege.

 

Democrats have been calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.

 

The poll shows that even with the Mueller probe complete, 53 percent say Congress should continue to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia, while 45 percent say Congress should not. A similar percentage, 53 percent, say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia.

 

“We don’t even know what we found yet in the probe. Until we do, Congress should definitely continue to push this issue,” said Tina Perales, a 35-year-old small business owner in Norton, Ohio, who describes herself as Republican. “That little letter Barr sent out summarizing the report I think was completely BS. This Mueller thing is hundreds of pages, and he just sums it up like this? These things just don’t add up.”

 

Deep partisan divisions remain.

 

Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to believe Trump had done something improper and to support continued investigations that could lead to his removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has downplayed the likelihood of impeachment proceedings but isn’t closing the door entirely if there are significant findings of Trump misconduct.

 

On investigations, 84 percent of Democrats believe lawmakers shouldn’t let up in scrutinizing Trump’s ties to Russia, but the same share of Republicans disagrees. Similarly, 83 percent of Democrats say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia, while 82 percent of Republicans say Congress should not.

 

The AP-NORC poll of 1,108 adults was conducted April 11-14 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.

 

 

 

 

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Buttigieg to Democrats: Don’t Get Bogged Down Zinging Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says President Donald Trump is “kind of like a Chinese finger trap — you know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck” and warns that Democrats shouldn’t get bogged down in trying to “knock him flat with some zinger.” 

 

In Iowa for the first time since officially launching his campaign, Buttigieg discussed how to defeat Trump after drawing an audience of more than 1,600 people at a Des Moines rally Tuesday night.

“We’ve got to acknowledge — without giving an inch on the racism or xenophobia that played a role in that campaign — we’ve got to also pay attention to the things that make people susceptible to that message and make sure we’re addressing them,” said the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

The rally was one of the biggest campaign events yet for a 2020 contender in the Des Moines area, a particularly notable feat for a candidate who just over a month ago was barely registering in the polls. Buttigieg’s main task now is turning grass-roots energy into a real, sustainable movement.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Buttigieg said Iowa — its caucuses produce the first votes of the presidential nominating season — “will be really central to our strategy.”

“There’s a political style here that rhymes a lot with my home territory in Indiana,” he said. “I think that the mechanics of a caucus really favor a style that involves a lot of engagement, which is how I like to practice politics … of course there’s a simple logistical advantage of it being the one early state that’s within driving distance of my home.”

Asked whether Trump leaned on racial animus to win the White House, Buttigieg called the president out for playing “white guy identity politics.”

“By far the political movement that is most based on identity politics is Trumpism. It’s based on white guy identity politics. It uses race to divide the working and middle class,” he told the AP. “There are a lot of strategies to blame problems on people who look different or are of a different faith or even of a different sexuality or gender identity. … It’s a cynical political strategy that works in the short term but winds up weakening the whole country in the long term.”

White privilege

Buttigieg has argued that he’s uniquely positioned to take on Trump because he can appeal to the white working-class voters who left the Democratic Party for the Republican. But in recent days, he’s acknowledged he needs to address the lack of racial diversity among supporters at his events.

In the AP interview, Buttigieg said he plans to make sure that “our organization and our substance reflect our commitment to diversity.” He said he’ll do that by hiring a diverse staff and by addressing a range of policies that affect minorities, including but not limited to criminal justice reform, education, homeownership and entrepreneurship.

“I think any white candidate needs to show a level of consciousness around issues like white privilege,” he said. But when asked whether he had experienced white privilege, he said that “part of privilege is not being very conscious of it, right?” 

 

He added: “You’re much more conscious when you’re at a disadvantage than … when you are on the beneficial side of a bias. But there’s no question that that’s a factor that has impacted people in many different ways. And we need to be as alive to it as possible.”

Buttigieg said that to be able to create a diverse coalition without alienating white working-class voters, issues of racial justice need to be discussed in a unifying way. 

 

“I mean being pro-racial justice should not be skin off the back of any white voter,” he said. “I think there’s certainly an environment where sometimes these ideas are pitted against each other, where it’s suggested, for example, that connecting with white working-class voters somehow means that you have to walk away somehow from our commitment to racial justice — but our commitment to racial justice is part of the bedrock of the moral authority of the Democratic Party.”

Marriage equality

The South Bend mayor has surged from a relatively unknown candidate in the field to a media darling who’s gained support in nationwide polling and posted a stronger-than-expected fundraising number in the first quarter. He’s drawn attention for his plainspoken style, and the historic nature of his candidacy, as the first openly gay contender in a same-sex marriage.

During the Des Moines rally, an audience member asked what he should tell his friends who say America isn’t ready for a gay president. Buttigieg replied, “Tell your friends I said ‘hi.”‘

The impact of his personal life on the campaign was on striking display at both of his Iowa events Tuesday. During a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, after Buttigieg spoke about the need for marriage equality, a protester stood up and shouted, “You betray your baptism!” He was escorted out.

Buttigieg joked to the crowd, “Coffee after church gets a little rowdy sometimes,” then added: “We’re so dug-in, in such passionate ways, and I respect that, too. That gentleman believes that what he is doing is in line with the will of the creator. I’d do it differently. We ought to be able to do it differently.”

In Des Moines, another protester shouted “Sodom and Gomorrah!” The crowd drowned him out with chants of “Pete! Pete! Pete!”

Asked by the AP how he would win over a protester like the one in Fort Dodge if he could sit down with him, Buttigieg said, “I’m not sure he would want to sit down with me,” but that he hoped others who have concerns about his candidacy would come to his events and ask a question, “so we could have a respectful exchange.”

“There are a lot of positions, there’s a wide range, with fringes, in our politics. That’s part of how politics works, and you shouldn’t be in this if you aren’t prepared to deal with that,” he said.

The turnout at the Des Moines event was unexpected, according to Polk County Democratic Party Chair Sean Bagniewski, who said Buttigieg’s team had predicted at most 200 people would show up. The campaign didn’t have any volunteers to take down information for enthusiastic supporters who wanted to be a part of the campaign.

“It’s a very narrow window to capture momentum and energy and attention, and if you miss the opportunity to match your staff and energy with the moment, you can miss your chance,” Bagniewski said.

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Buttigieg to Democrats: Don’t Get Bogged Down Zinging Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says President Donald Trump is “kind of like a Chinese finger trap — you know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck” and warns that Democrats shouldn’t get bogged down in trying to “knock him flat with some zinger.” 

 

In Iowa for the first time since officially launching his campaign, Buttigieg discussed how to defeat Trump after drawing an audience of more than 1,600 people at a Des Moines rally Tuesday night.

“We’ve got to acknowledge — without giving an inch on the racism or xenophobia that played a role in that campaign — we’ve got to also pay attention to the things that make people susceptible to that message and make sure we’re addressing them,” said the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

The rally was one of the biggest campaign events yet for a 2020 contender in the Des Moines area, a particularly notable feat for a candidate who just over a month ago was barely registering in the polls. Buttigieg’s main task now is turning grass-roots energy into a real, sustainable movement.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Buttigieg said Iowa — its caucuses produce the first votes of the presidential nominating season — “will be really central to our strategy.”

“There’s a political style here that rhymes a lot with my home territory in Indiana,” he said. “I think that the mechanics of a caucus really favor a style that involves a lot of engagement, which is how I like to practice politics … of course there’s a simple logistical advantage of it being the one early state that’s within driving distance of my home.”

Asked whether Trump leaned on racial animus to win the White House, Buttigieg called the president out for playing “white guy identity politics.”

“By far the political movement that is most based on identity politics is Trumpism. It’s based on white guy identity politics. It uses race to divide the working and middle class,” he told the AP. “There are a lot of strategies to blame problems on people who look different or are of a different faith or even of a different sexuality or gender identity. … It’s a cynical political strategy that works in the short term but winds up weakening the whole country in the long term.”

White privilege

Buttigieg has argued that he’s uniquely positioned to take on Trump because he can appeal to the white working-class voters who left the Democratic Party for the Republican. But in recent days, he’s acknowledged he needs to address the lack of racial diversity among supporters at his events.

In the AP interview, Buttigieg said he plans to make sure that “our organization and our substance reflect our commitment to diversity.” He said he’ll do that by hiring a diverse staff and by addressing a range of policies that affect minorities, including but not limited to criminal justice reform, education, homeownership and entrepreneurship.

“I think any white candidate needs to show a level of consciousness around issues like white privilege,” he said. But when asked whether he had experienced white privilege, he said that “part of privilege is not being very conscious of it, right?” 

 

He added: “You’re much more conscious when you’re at a disadvantage than … when you are on the beneficial side of a bias. But there’s no question that that’s a factor that has impacted people in many different ways. And we need to be as alive to it as possible.”

Buttigieg said that to be able to create a diverse coalition without alienating white working-class voters, issues of racial justice need to be discussed in a unifying way. 

 

“I mean being pro-racial justice should not be skin off the back of any white voter,” he said. “I think there’s certainly an environment where sometimes these ideas are pitted against each other, where it’s suggested, for example, that connecting with white working-class voters somehow means that you have to walk away somehow from our commitment to racial justice — but our commitment to racial justice is part of the bedrock of the moral authority of the Democratic Party.”

Marriage equality

The South Bend mayor has surged from a relatively unknown candidate in the field to a media darling who’s gained support in nationwide polling and posted a stronger-than-expected fundraising number in the first quarter. He’s drawn attention for his plainspoken style, and the historic nature of his candidacy, as the first openly gay contender in a same-sex marriage.

During the Des Moines rally, an audience member asked what he should tell his friends who say America isn’t ready for a gay president. Buttigieg replied, “Tell your friends I said ‘hi.”‘

The impact of his personal life on the campaign was on striking display at both of his Iowa events Tuesday. During a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, after Buttigieg spoke about the need for marriage equality, a protester stood up and shouted, “You betray your baptism!” He was escorted out.

Buttigieg joked to the crowd, “Coffee after church gets a little rowdy sometimes,” then added: “We’re so dug-in, in such passionate ways, and I respect that, too. That gentleman believes that what he is doing is in line with the will of the creator. I’d do it differently. We ought to be able to do it differently.”

In Des Moines, another protester shouted “Sodom and Gomorrah!” The crowd drowned him out with chants of “Pete! Pete! Pete!”

Asked by the AP how he would win over a protester like the one in Fort Dodge if he could sit down with him, Buttigieg said, “I’m not sure he would want to sit down with me,” but that he hoped others who have concerns about his candidacy would come to his events and ask a question, “so we could have a respectful exchange.”

“There are a lot of positions, there’s a wide range, with fringes, in our politics. That’s part of how politics works, and you shouldn’t be in this if you aren’t prepared to deal with that,” he said.

The turnout at the Des Moines event was unexpected, according to Polk County Democratic Party Chair Sean Bagniewski, who said Buttigieg’s team had predicted at most 200 people would show up. The campaign didn’t have any volunteers to take down information for enthusiastic supporters who wanted to be a part of the campaign.

“It’s a very narrow window to capture momentum and energy and attention, and if you miss the opportunity to match your staff and energy with the moment, you can miss your chance,” Bagniewski said.

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Stars from Susan Sarandon to Ben Affleck donate to 2020 Dems

From Ben Affleck and Susan Sarandon to Anna Wintour and Willie Nelson, celebrities lined up to give money — and a dash of star power — to their favorite Democratic presidential candidates ahead of this week’s first quarter fundraising deadline.

For months, candidates in the crowded field of more than a dozen contenders have aggressively courted key figures in music, television, publishing and film, who are one of the party’s most reliable sources of campaign cash. Although many donors remain on the sidelines, contributing to lackluster fundraising hauls, an early snapshot included in the campaign finance reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission this week offers a glimpse of who is drawing attention from entertainment industry in the early stages of the race.

“When you talk about Hollywood, yes, we are talking about movie stars and writers and directors, but we are also talking about people with decades of experience with presidential campaigns,” said Yusef Robb, a longtime California political strategist. “Earning support from somebody with a lot of connections in the political world couples with their star power, which people in the chattering classes notice.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris has long-standing relationships with major entertainment industry figures in her home state. But former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke , Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are also among the candidates who count celebrities as donors.

So far, few donors are bundling large sums of money for candidates by asking their friends, family and colleagues to give, too. But many have given individually, which is limited under campaign finance law to a $2,800 contribution during the primary election, followed by another $2,800 earmarked for the general election campaign.

Last month, Harris was feted at the Pacific Palisades home of director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, in a gathering attended by Hollywood powerbrokers, including TV hitmaker Shonda Rhimes. Harris also has received money from Affleck, who gave $2,800; actress Eva Longoria, who gave $5,400; composer Quincy Jones, who gave $2,800; and former “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, who gave $1,000.

O’Rourke, a former punk rocker, received $2,800 from a fellow Texan, country music icon Nelson, as well as $1,850 from Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and $2,800 from Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley. He also took in $5,600 from Vogue editor-in-chief Wintour, $1,500 from comedian and “Breaking Bad” actor Bob Odenkirk, $2,500 from Texas film director Richard Linklater and $350 from “Saturday Night Live” star Cecily Strong.

Sanders received $2,700 from actor and comedian Danny DeVito, $2,800 from actress Susan Sarandon, $2,500 from piano player Norah Jones and $1,000 from Foo Fighters guitarist Christopher Shiflett. Jonathan Fishman, drummer for the jam band Phish, which was formed in Sanders’ home state of Vermont, gave $1,000, while Thomas Middleditch from HBO’s “Silicon Valley” gave $500, records show.

Buttigieg, whose campaign raked in $7 million after emerging as an unexpected hit, has also started to draw celebrity attention. “West Wing” star Bradley Whitford gave $2,000, actor Ryan Reynolds donated $250, NFL network broadcaster Rich Eisen gave $500 and “Game of Thrones” executive producer Carolyn Strauss chipped in $250.

Buttigieg also drew at least one contribution from an unusual source. James Murdoch, the son of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News is closely allied with President Donald Trump, cut Buttigieg a $2,800 donation, records show.

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Trump Vetoes Measure to End US Involvement in Yemen War

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed a bill passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

In a break with the president, Congress voted for the first time earlier this month to invoke the War Powers Resolution to try to stop U.S. involvement in a foreign conflict.

The veto — the second in Trump’s presidency — was expected. Congress lacks the votes to override him.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote in explaining his veto.

Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival.

Many lawmakers also criticized the president for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States and had written critically about the kingdom. Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October and never came out. Intelligence agencies said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the killing.

The U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. Members of Congress have expressed concern about the thousands of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes since the conflict began in 2014. The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country also has left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

House approval of the resolution came earlier this month on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote last month was 54-46.

Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voted to end U.S. military assistance to the war, saying the humanitarian crisis in Yemen triggered “demands moral leadership.”

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, acknowledged the dire situation in Yemen for civilians, but spoke out in opposition to the bill. McCaul said it was an abuse of the War Powers Resolution and predicted it could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries.

Trump issued his first veto last month on legislation related to immigration. Trump had declared a national emergency so he could use more money to construct a border wall. Congress voted to block the emergency declaration and Trump vetoed that measure.

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