Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Election Fallout Could Include a Mueller Move

When you poured yourself a drink after Tuesday’s election results came in, was the glass half full or half empty? It was that type of election. Or, to use a sports metaphor, it was like kissing your sister.

The spin doctors were out in force putting lipstick on their respective piggy campaigns. Depending on who parsed the results, Republicans had a good day fending off what turned out to be a blue splash by padding their control of the Senate, or Democrats enjoyed a blue wave in taking back control of the House of Representatives. 

The egoist-in-chief trumpeted his active campaigning in pushing several Republicans to victory while singling out in a press conference Wednesday those GOP House candidates who chose not to embrace him and subsequently lost. 

Republicans gloated about winning high profile governor races in Georgia and Florida; Democrats took solace that their margins of defeat were within a hair breadth of winning. Democrats captured seven governorships and labeled victories in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as harbingers of success in the 2020 presidential election. 

The evils of one party rule in Washington were universally decried by Democrats as they campaigned this fall. They exulted in taking back the House, giving them the opportunity come January to provide a constitutional check and balance to Trump initiatives. 

But even as Democrats reveled in that prospect, New York State Democrats basked in the prospective glow of one party rule now that majorities in the state senate and assembly, and governor, belong to the same party. 

Florida proved to be enigmatic. I heard that a reported 19% of black women rejected Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee seeking to become the state’s first African-American governor. Hard to believe. Gillum apparently lost by some 50,000 votes, about 0.6 percentage points. 

Some attribute the loss to latent racial bias. Yet, 64% of voters approved a voter reform amendment to the state constitution that reinstated voting rights to most felons who have completed their sentence. The measure has the potential to re-enfranchise some 1.4 million men and women, one-third of whom are people of color and expected to be Democratic leaning. 

Approving that referendum doesn’t equate with rejecting Gillum. 

The impact of those potential voters has national implications given Florida’s importance in presidential elections. 

Don’t count those voter chickens too soon, however. As civil rights attorneys Danielle Lang and Thea Sebastian noted in a Nov. 1 Op-Ed in The New York Times, “Those who have completed their sentences are all too often prevented from casting ballots simply because they have unpaid court fines and fees” ( Florida and six other states have laws that deny the vote to people who owe court debt, sums that often are beyond the means of felons.     

Trump’s press conference Wednesday displayed the contentious spirit that has settled on his relationship with the media. Neither side came off as a winner. Trump sounded conciliatory toward the press and toward Democrats, but said a less combative tone going forward would be contingent on their pleasing him. In other words, no negative stories and no congressional investigations. My way, or war would be waged.

The first salvo in that new “charm” offensive came shortly after the press conference ended when it was announced Attorney General Jeff Sessions had resigned under pressure and been replaced by his chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, as acting attorney general. Whitaker is on record as not being a fan of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and other questionable activities by Trump and his associates. 

If the Mueller probe is compromised by Whitaker, keep in mind that Mueller is a former Marine. Marines don’t back down and are committed to completing their mission. It would be within the realm of expectation that Mueller might associate with another more friendly investigative body, namely the House Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship of Democrat Adam Schiff come January. Schiff already is an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and its possible ties to Russia.