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Impeachment talk still a no-go for Democrats hitting GOP's 'culture of corruption'

A string of damaging legal developments rattled Republicans on Tuesday and further heightened the stakes of ...

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 10:49 AM
Updated: Aug 23, 2018 10:49 AM

A string of damaging legal developments rattled Republicans on Tuesday and further heightened the stakes of the 2018 midterm elections less than three months away.

The startling, coast-to-coast rat-a-tat-tat -- a conviction in Virginia, a confession in New York and new charges in California -- left the GOP off balance and had Democrats, already eyeing a sharper anti-corruption message for the fall, arguing voters should put them in power in Congress to serve as a check on President Donald Trump.

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If Democrats take over the House in November -- and with it, the committee chairmanships and the subpoena power that comes with the gavels -- Trump would suddenly be open to a whole new, harsher brand of scrutiny, with investigations sure to dog the administration straight through to the 2020 election.

Tuesday's news also put front and center a thornier issue for Democrats ahead of November and one Republicans believe could energize Trump's base: impeachment.

Party leaders and parts of the liberal base have often found themselves at odds over the prospect of seeking to remove the President, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has frequently sought to tamp down such talk, telling the Associated Press on Wednesday that impeachment is still "not on the table."

Democratic campaign aides in states won by Trump in 2016 reached by CNN said they had no plans to alter their strategies -- and that the party should be wary of reacting too quickly to fast-moving developments.

"There's a lag time for the average person, the person who is somewhat politically aware but is more worried about paying bills or health care premiums," one aide to a campaign in a red state told CNN. "Maybe there will be new data and the polling says, 'Wow, the worm has finally turned, he's done it, it's finally happened, he's gone too far, how dare he?' -- but I think we're still a little away from having any actionable data (that says that)."

Although a number of Democrats already have seized on impeachment -- namely mega-donor Tom Steyer, who has led a public campaign calling for Trump's ouster, and California Rep. Maxine Waters, who has drawn Trump's ire for doing the same -- most Democrats have avoided taking the issue on head on, and Pelosi has said repeatedly that impeachment is not a priority for the party.

One senior Republican official working on the midterms, even while charting how to overcome the growing corruption cloud, said the hope inside the party was Democrats would overplay their hand and the conversation would most overtly "shift toward impeachment."

"Take the bait Democrats," the official pleaded.

The more likely tactic is an increasingly sharp focus on the alleged corruption and ethics scandals that have surrounded the Trump administration for more than a year.

Tuesday's damaging double-dose of legal news for the President, with his former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to eight criminal counts and implicating Trump in his court statement, made the political case clearer. Shortly before Cohen's confession in New York, Paul Manafort, the man who led Trump's presidential campaign for five months, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in Alexandria, Virginia.

The hits didn't stop there.

Moments later, news broke that California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted on charges related to the misuse of $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses and the filing of false campaign finance records. Hunter is the second Republican House member to be indicted this month after New York Rep. Chris Collins, who was charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and false statements stemming from an alleged insider trading scheme. Hunter and Collins were the first two House members to endorse Trump's presidential bid in 2016.

Taken together, the news played right into the anti-corruption messaging already being deployed by Democrats in the run-up to the 2018 midterms.

"Today's guilty verdicts against Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort & guilty plea by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, are further evidence of the rampant #CultureOfCorruption & criminality at the heart of Trump's inner circle," Pelosi, D-California, tweeted on Tuesday.

It wouldn't be a totally novel approach for the party as it seeks to reclaim power in a midterm year.

Democrats used the same term -- "culture of corruption" -- in 2006 when they won 31 seats in the House and five in the Senate to take control by hammering Republicans over a mess of scandals surrounding California Rep. Duke Cunningham, who confessed to accepting bribes; the fallout from the lobbying scandal engulfing Jack Abramoff; and the resignation of Florida Rep. Mark Foley in September of that year after he was caught sending sexually explicit messages to House pages.

In a sign of messaging to come, Aftab Pureval, a Democrat hoping to flip Ohio's first congressional district in November, slammed Republican Rep. Steve Chabot for being part of the problem and then turned the indictment on Trump.

"We need to actually drain the swamp," he said. "We have to hold people accountable and I'm glad the courts did that today. But the best way we can do that is to elect new leaders in November."

Longtime Democrats see evidence that a similar strategy could work again this fall.

"People were already uneasy about continuing Trump's Congress of yes men," said Jesse Ferguson, a longtime Democratic operative, "but now they're going to demand checks and balances to end the cover-ups."

The revelations could steepen what is already expected to be an uphill climb for Republicans, especially with independent voters, and further threaten the majorities they've used to effectively shield the White House from more aggressive oversight.

But their messaging strategy, like the President's, has remained constant: dismiss Cohen as a liar; cast Manafort's conviction as unrelated to the Russia probe; and stress -- over and again -- that there was "no collusion" between Trump and Moscow ahead of the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates and operatives said that while Tuesday's events sharpened that corruption line of attack, the fundamentals remained that the 2018 fight will likely remain focused on issues like tax policy and health care.

"Every day, the dark cloud hanging over the Republican Party grows more ominous," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees spokeswoman Meredith Kelly. "House Republicans must answer for the Trump Administration's scandals -- and often their own ethical issues, while Democrats continue to focus on lowering the cost of healthcare, increasing wages and bringing upstanding, ethical leadership to Washington."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 341862

Reported Deaths: 7533
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23783441
DeSoto23180283
Harrison20365329
Rankin15307290
Jackson15087251
Madison10917227
Lee10674179
Jones8969169
Forrest8621159
Lauderdale7839243
Lowndes7016151
Lamar696289
Lafayette6535124
Washington5589139
Pearl River5141152
Bolivar4949134
Oktibbeha491698
Panola4766112
Warren4709127
Marshall4691106
Pontotoc446273
Union432579
Monroe4322137
Neshoba4268181
Hancock423788
Lincoln4171116
Pike3650113
Leflore3619125
Tate352888
Alcorn349574
Sunflower347194
Adams340588
Scott340176
Yazoo338575
Copiah323468
Simpson322090
Itawamba314180
Coahoma313385
Tippah304768
Prentiss297863
Covington291883
Leake284675
Marion283681
Wayne276143
George270551
Grenada268888
Newton261564
Tishomingo239370
Winston236584
Jasper229548
Attala225973
Stone225337
Chickasaw218760
Holmes199274
Clay196754
Clarke186280
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181232
Smith178935
Yalobusha171340
Walthall145348
Lawrence141626
Greene139734
Amite136943
Noxubee134835
Perry133238
Montgomery132244
Carroll125931
Webster121032
Jefferson Davis116234
Tunica113427
Benton106225
Claiborne105031
Kemper102329
Humphreys100133
Franklin87723
Quitman84619
Choctaw82319
Wilkinson77732
Jefferson71128
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
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