Key lines from the whistleblower complaint

Our top story today is about the whistleblower complaint related to President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. That complaint was declassified late last night, then released this morning. There’s a link in the show notes to read that. As I record this, the identity of the whistleblower is still secret—thankfully—and the document is quite interesting.

Now, one thing that I didn’t actually say in yesterday’s coverage, that maybe I needed to, is the plain fact of WHY this latest Trump stuff is pertinent to a show about elections. It’s because the phone call with Zelensky is evidence of Trump’s alleged attempt to interfere in the 2020 election. Let me give you slightly more.

It appears that Trump solicited the help of a foreign government to aid his own campaign in the upcoming election. And we know it’s about the election, because he specifically talks about having the Ukrainians talk to BOTH his personal lawyer AND members of the US government about a likely rival in that upcoming election—at least as of the July polls, when the phone call took place. So this appears to be, and yes, investigations are ongoing, but it appears it appears to be BOTH an abuse of power, AND an attempt to bring a foreign nation into the US election. So let’s say you have a family member asking what the big deal is, well here it is in a nutshell: Trump withheld federal money from a foreign country, then asked for a favor from its president. The favor was, he wanted that foreign country to interfere in our election by messing with Joe Biden. So just write that down and carry it with you to Thanksgiving or whatever.

Okay, so reading the whistleblower’s complaint, a few key section jumped out at me. The first one is:

“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced—as is customary—by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.
White House officials told me that they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.
Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.”

So this brings up the obvious question, where is that word-for-word transcript and why wasn’t it released? What we got yesterday is not that. We get a reconstruction based on some notes, and recollections, and according to one report, a voice-recognition computer system that listened to the call. Why not just release the actual transcript?

One more key issue in the complaint has to do with the involvement of Rudy Giuliani, who is the President’s personal attorney and does not hold any office in our government. Reading again from the whistleblower complaint:

“…starting in mid-May, I heard from multiple U.S. officials that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth.”

This gets at the issue of bringing outside folks into the foreign policy operation of the US. We don’t even know if Giuliani has a security clearance. So why is he talking to foreign leaders on behalf of the US government? Giuliani is not currently an elected or appointed official, and he has no business operating as if he were one. That is yet another serious concern here.

Okay, and let’s read one last section from the very end:

“On 18 July, an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official informed Departments and Agencies that the President “earlier that month” had issued instructions to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Neither OMB nor the NSC staff knew why this instruction had been issued. During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale. As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S. aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it.”

This morning, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appeared before the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Adam Schiff had a key exchange with Maguire early on. Reading from a New York Magazine article by Adam K. Raymond:

“After pressing Maguire on how he handled the whistle-blower report, Schiff turned to the person who blew the whistle. Is that person a “political hack,” as Trump has said, Schiff asked? Maguire danced around the answer before providing the quote that Schiff was no doubt looking for: “I believe the whistle-blower did the right thing.””

And here’s the relevant clip. Listen in, and Maguire speaks first:

[CLIP-DNI-DID-THE-RIGHT-THING]

What Pelosi left behind on a plane

Next up, a little palate-cleanser. I just thought this was fun.

In a story for Reuters by Susan Cornwell, we got a surprising insight on how House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s speech, which I played a big piece of yesterday, actually came to be.

Reading from the story:

“On Monday evening, Nancy Pelosi set about writing one of the most important speeches of her long political career, about her decision to open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Then she left it on a plane.
The Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives had spent all weekend mulling new allegations against Trump and began sketching out a response on a flight from New York to Washington.
“She wrote the first draft of her speech that she would give Tuesday,” then left it behind, said a source familiar with what happened.
But all was not lost. “At least she had organized it in her head,” the source said.”

I think we can all relate to this at some level. Even if it’s just your homework, or your glasses, or your phone, sometimes you just forget it and leave it in that stupid pocket with those stupid magazines and SkyMall and whatever, and that’s apparently what happened to Speaker Pelosi.

So, somewhere out there is the first draft of a truly historic speech. Whether it’s in the lost-and-found or has been recycled by now, we may never know.

An update on Booker’s fundraising

On Monday this week, AKA a million years ago in political time, I reported that Senator Cory Booker had raised an urgent call for fundraising.

Long story short, his campaign manager said Booker needed $1.7 million dollars by the end of the month, which is this coming Monday. Well, as of late Wednesday, the campaign had crossed the $1 million dollar mark.

By this morning, they were at roughly $1.1 million dollars, which is roughly 65% of the overall number. So if Booker can maintain his current fundraising velocity, he will hit his target and presumably then stay in the race. It’ll also be interesting to see, either way, what his overall Q3 numbers look like, since we’ll have the rare ability to know how much he collected in his final ten days.

One other note is that, in the latest tweet I’ve seen, the breakdown includes the number of donations since the emergency call was put out. That number is 26,584. If you do a little math, that means the average donation in this little micro-fundraising period for Booker is $41 dollars and 26 cents.

An update on Republican fundraising

In response to the impeachment inquiry, Republicans have managed to raise a lot of money for 2020. According to a Politico story by Alex Isenstadt, this issue has helped Republican voters focus on finishing up Q3 quite nicely. Reading from that article:

“Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee on Tuesday sent an array of fundraising emails inviting conservatives to donate and join the “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force,” which was described as a group “made up of only President Trump’s most LOYAL supporters, the ones committed to fighting for him, re-electing him, and taking back the House.”
By the end of the day, party officials said, the fundraising offensive had netted around $1 million [dollars].”

A million bucks in one day is legitimately huge, and it appears to be powered in part by a Republican response to the very successful ActBlue organization, which is widely used on the Democratic side to pull in small-dollar donations. Reading again from Politico:

“Republicans are orchestrating the new offensive through WinRed, a newly-launched and Trump-endorsed online donor platform. Republican officials hope the site will finally enable them to compete with the Democratic small dollar juggernaut ActBlue, which raked in around $1.6 billion [dollars] during the 2018 midterms.
Republicans had long lacked a centralized apparatus that allowed them to engage in the kind of digital fundraising they did on Tuesday.”

So WinRed is basically ActBlue for Republicans, and it allows things like splitting your donation in a super-simple way. That has been a technical weakness on the Republican side for a while. The new platform should help the RNC direct money toward specific races by allowing donors to say, hey, give part of this money to the president’s re-election fund, but give the other part to a fund for some other Republican candidate. And there are plenty of House and Senate races that could use that money.

This is especially useful given the incredible email list the President has, and his massive fundraising advantage so far. We’ll have updated numbers on that within the next few weeks, but overall, he had outraised every other candidate in the field by…let me check my notes…oh, $80-ish million dollars. Now, he’s also spent a heck a lot of that money already, but still, be prepared for Republicans to go into 2020 with EXCELLENT funding.

Michigan launches automatic voter registration

Next up, some news out of Michigan. Earlier this week on National Voter Registration Day, the state announced that it would automatically enroll new voters like a bunch of other states. Reading from a Michigan Live article by Alyssa Burrjaburr:

“Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced today that automatic voter registration has officially launched in Michigan and online voter registration will be available following the November 2019 election.
“Making voter registration automatic for eligible citizens means more Michigan residents will have access to participating in our democracy,” Benson said in a release. “I look forward to this both strengthening our democracy and ultimately helping transactions move more quickly in branch offices by eliminating extra paperwork.”
Michigan joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting automatic voter registration.
…[When] Michigan citizens apply for or update their driver’s license or personal ID cards, they automatically are registered to vote unless they are ineligible or don’t want to be registered.”

If you’re curious, there is a link in the show notes to the list of states with systems like this, provided by the Brennan Center. Not all of them are running yet, but the list includes links to the relevant laws and when they are expected to be implemented.

Biden goes on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Last night, Joe Biden went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss the current political situation. He and Kimmel started out by joking around, and it was legitimately a lot of fun—there’s a link to the full interview in the show notes.

It’s a little over 15 minutes long, and there are several moments in there, especially related to health care and climate change that I think are worth listening to.

But, of course, because of the stuff, I have to choose my clip wisely. So here is Biden, in his own words, commenting on the recent move to impeach the president. Listen in and this will close out the show for today:

[CLIP-BIDEN-KIMMEL]

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. All right, another big day with Congressional testimony and trying to juggle a lot of moving parts and developing stories. For tomorrow, you’re gonna get a nice update on a bunch of stories that have been pushed aside because of the big stuff this week. That includes what’s up with the recent polling—and specifically, how Warren is doing in that polling—as well as a variety of listener questions, a candidate anecdote, the October debate, and other sort of business-as-usual topics. I’m looking forward to getting back into a somewhat regular routine, though, you know, BIG NEWS MIGHT BREAK. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.