Friday, January 18, 2019


A few days after the mid-term elections, Philadelphia Inquirer and PhillyNews blogger Will Bunch made the case for Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, a bit left of Hillary Clinton and right of Bernie Sanders, as the Democratic Party's 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. He argued

What happened on Tuesday across America was historic in its own right, not just because of the awesome power of women and the gains for a diverse Congress that will look more like America than ever before, but because Democratic control of the House provides a glimmer of hope that the decline of democracy under Trump can be checked. But — like it or not — the sun also rose Wednesday on the start of the 2020 presidential race. The midterm election was a learning lab for what works in today's U.S. politics — and we learned quite a bit.

The opposition party showed on Tuesday that Democrats can win in the upper Rust Belt, starting at Philadelphia's City Line Avenue and spreading west all the way to Iowa and Minnesota, but it takes the right kind of candidate: Office-seekers whose belief that the goodness of a diverse and open society trumps non-stop blather about "American carnage," and a reform-minded approach to schools, health care and climate, And being a woman is a huge motivator.

In so-called "flyover country," voters seem to be clamoring to replace the crudest and meanest president in American history with "Midwestern nice." If you went into the lab and ran Tuesday's algorithms to design the perfect Democrat for 2020, she would look almost exactly like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who won a landslide re-election in her purple (in more ways than one) state on Tuesday.

We learned Thursday from BuzzFeed News

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

Responding to this latest report, Kyle Griffin, producer of The Last Word on MSNBC, is now as impressed with Senator Klobuchar as is Mr. Bunch:

Respondents are similarly taken by the Minnesota senator, tweeting "What did Amy Klobuchar know and when did she know it? She rocks." Unlike the relatively patient Bunch, two people don't even want to wait: "Can we make her the 2020 nominee now? Thanks" and "I'd vote for her in a hot second."

Cool your jets. Hold on there, tiger. Don't get ahead of yourself. (Insert your own cliche here.) Klobuchar deserves credit for asking a question connecting perjury with obstruction of justice. However, she specifically asked

A president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?.... You also said that a president — or any person — convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

These set the bar lower than necessary.The "persuading a person to commit perjury" should have been replaced (initially, or added as a follow-up question) with "trying to persuade" (or "convince") or "suggesting to a person."

Many details must be filled in to the report of Donald Trump evidently trying to suborn perjury.It is possible that Trump's efforts themselves played little or no role in getting Cohen to lie to Congress. Trump probably played a role in perjury Cohen committed but may not have actually persuaded him.

That doesn't suggest that Senator Klobuchar's line of questioning wasn't worthwhile. Nonetheless, we shouldn't get too excited too quickly about a couple of semi-tough questions posed by Minnesota Nice.

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