It’s Monday, December 16. In today’s newsletter: Should swing-state Democrats worry about how voters will react next year to how they handled impeachment this year? Plus: deconstructing Tucker Carlson.




Some Open Questions in a Drama Without Suspense

Even though the official House vote on impeachment isn’t until Wednesday, most people have braced for an unsurprising result: Donald Trump seems headed for the distinction of being the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House.

Both Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler said they never wanted to find themselves leading a partisan impeachment, but that’s precisely where Democrats are now: Still not one House Republican has indicated that they’ll vote for impeachment, and few Democrats have indicated they’re on the fence (one New Jersey Democrat who voted against the impeachment inquiry is reportedly switching parties).

How should lawmakers think about how voters will react in 2020?

1. Impeachment could backfire. The Senate seems poised to quickly acquit Trump, and the process could come back to bite Democrats, Shadi Hamid argues: Impeachment energizes Trump’s base and distracts Democratic 2020 candidates and lawmakers from productively tapping into American’s anger over economic inequality, a strong suit of the caucus.

2. What if Democrats don’t need to be worrying at all? My colleague David Graham writes that one facet of impeachment is conspicuously unnoticed: It’s incredibly popular.

“Roughly half the country not only disapproves of Trump’s job as president,” he writes, “but believes he ought to be removed from office, a sanction that has never been applied before.”

3. Democrats want to show they can do more than impeachment. House lawmakers are working across the aisle, for instance, to pass USMCA, the Trump-backed successor to NAFTA (and the biggest trade deal in a generation). Passing these other bills could ultimately be more consequential for Democrats than how they voted on impeachment, Ron Brownstein argues—accomplishments vulnerable Democrats who represent more skeptical constituents can lean on.

—Saahil Desai



(Tom Brenner / Reuters)

The president stands among U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen during the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia this weekend.



(Erin Schaff / The New York Times)

1. “There is also nothing impartial about declaring oneself to be, well, not impartial.”

Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham have already declared allegiance to the White House when it comes to how they’ll run a potential Senate trial (Graham, just this past weekend: “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here”).

This kind of open coordination flies in the face of their constitutional duties, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes argue. But:

It is actually not obvious what the optimal amount of senatorial comment on the merits of the matter looks like. Senators have different obligations, after all. ...

What they probably should do, however, is avoid prejudging the evidence or how they are going to vote. Senator Mitt Romney’s comments on the impeachment trial are a decent model of what such restraint looks like.

Read the rest.

2. “[T]here’s an opportunity for serious reflection and reform—if Congress and the executive branch can seize it.”

Multiple inspector-general investigations have now confirmed deep procedural problems within the FBI. These flaws exist and should be considered separate from this era of intense politicization, Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith write.

They recommend focusing on three major areas for reform:

First is the serious problem of inadequate guidance to the FBI for opening and conducting investigations against politicians or campaigns, especially during election season.

Read on for their meticulously argued slate of recommendations.

3. “Perhaps judging a politician in relation to Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the most stringent moral test one could apply, but it’s worth a moment’s gratitude that [Bernie] Sanders passes.”

After the British left’s devastating losses in last week’s general election, should American Democrats draw any conclusions about Bernie Sanders as the Jeremy Corbyn of the U.S.? Simply put: No, Franklin Foer writes. The evidence is mostly to the contrary.

But the point is that the rise of the left could have gone much worse for the Democrats. It could have taken the form of an apologist for dictators and a fomenter of anti-Semitism. Attacks on globalization could have veered into coded smears of globalists. The rightful flaying Wall Street deserves could have been expressed in nasty tropes.

Read the rest.



(Stephen Voss / Redux)

Tucker Carlson contains multitudes.

So he says.

The wealthy Washingtonian-turned-TV-populist who uses his Fox News show to attack both liberal Democrats and establishment Republicans and has been accused of fostering white nationalist viewpoints.

Elaina Plott tried to press him: What exactly does he believe?

“I’ve made a complete break mentally with the world I used to live in.” He later followed up with an official statement: “David French is a buffoon, one of the least impressive people I’ve ever met. Only in nonprofit conservatism could he have a paying job.”

Which brings us to perhaps the most crucial metric of success for Carlson: how many people in Washington think he’s wrong. About what, it doesn’t matter, really. Just as long, he says, as whatever “costume” the Morning Joe folks are wearing—“fighting for private equity,” “making alarmed noises about Tehran,” believing “a woman’s right to choose is the bedrock of human freedom”—is the opposite of his own.

Read this remarkable interview.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai and Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang. You can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments, or send a note to

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