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2 Virginia freshmen U.S. House Democrats say Donald Trump may have committed “impeachable offense” in dealings with Ukraine

Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria are part of a group of freshmen denouncing Trump’s actions in the Washington Post

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Seven freshmen U.S. House Democrats with military and national security backgrounds have signed on to an opinion piece in the Washington Post asserting the President Donald Trump committed “an impeachable offense” if he withheld military funding from Ukraine while pressuring  that country’s new president to launch an investigation into political rival Joe Biden.

Among the seven were U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria from Virginia, who narrowly won in Republican-leaning districts in 2018 and had not previously supported efforts by some House Democrats to move toward impeachment.

U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria, D-Virginia

“The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it,” the members wrote, adding that Congress “must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.”

“These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect,” the members wrote. “We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government.”

The members said Congress should “consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us,” including impeachment hearings, to investigate Trump’s conversations with the Ukrainian leader.

Spanberger, who represents the 7th District in the suburbs of Richmond, was a CIA agent before being elected to Congress; Luria, who represents the 2nd District in the Hampton Roads area, was an officer in the U.S. Navy.

Both women flipped Republican-held seats in 2018 and are top GOP targets in 2020.

Luria also made an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” in which she said the allegations that Trump may have enlisted a foreign government to target a political opponent were a “game changer.”

“If this isn’t an impeachable offense, what is?” she said. “This is a clear and concise instance that the American people can understand where the president of the United States has tried to enlist foreign influence in our election process.”

Luria conceded that she could face political consequences from her decision to move toward impeachment but said “I came to Congress to do what was right. The people in my district sent me to Washington to make hard choices.”

The other freshmen who signed on to the Post piece were Gil Cisneros of California, a former Navy officer; Jason Crow of Colorado, a former Army Ranger; Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, a former Air Force officer; Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, a former federal prosecutor who flew helicopters in the Navy; and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who served in the CIA and as an analyst in the Pentagon.

The controversy over Trump’s conversations with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, began with reports that an intelligence official had filed a whistleblower complaint over dealings between an unnamed administration official and a foreign leader.

News media outlets have subsequently reported that the whistleblower complaint centers around conversations Trump had with Zelensky, urging the Ukrainian leader to investigate corruption allegations involving Biden’s son.

The latest wrinkle in the controversy came with reports that Trump decided to withhold security assistance funding from Ukraine — appropriated by Congress — before talking with Zelensky.

Trump has admitted that he raised the corruption allegations with Zelensky but has insisted that nothing improper was done.

The Trump administration has so far refused to turn the whistleblower complaint over to Congress. However, Trump has said he would consider releasing a transcript of his call with Zelensky.

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin won’t try to reclaim job as West Virginia governor

Decision removes a significant obstacle to Republican Governor Jim Justice’s path to re-election

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (CFP) — After toying for months with the idea of leaving the U.S. Senate for another shot at West Virginia’s governorship, Democrat Joe Manchin has announced he will not run against Republican Governor Jim Justice in 2020.

The decision deprives Democrats of the most formidable candidate they had to defeat Justice, who bolted to the GOP shortly after winning election as a Democrat in 2016.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin

In a September 3 statement announcing his decision, Manchin called the governorship, which he held from 2005 to 2010, “the best job I ever had.” But he said he decided he “couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective.”

“I believe my role as U.S. Senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century,” he said.

Manchin also went out of his way to mention President Donald Trump, an popular figure in the Mountaineer State who campaigned against his re-election in 2018 and will likely pull out all of the tops for Justice next year.

“As I have done since coming to Washington, I will work with the President to accomplish what best serves our state and our country, and I will speak truth to power when I don’t agree with the path the President has chosen to take,” he said. “That is what West Virginians elected me to do.”

Manchin’s decision came just days after the West Virginia Metro News published a poll showing him with a 10-point lead over Justice in a hypothetical match-up.

The senator has won two statewide contests for governor and three for Senate, surviving in 2018 despite Trump’s vocal support for his Republican opponent, in a state the president carried by 40 points in 2016.

With Manchin out, Democrats in West Virginia have a thin bench of possibilities to take on Justice.

Manchin is the only Democrat holding federal office, Republicans control both houses of the legislature, and the only Democrat holding statewide office is State Treasurer John Perdue, who is running for re-election to his seventh term.

While Manchin’s decision not to run clears a major hurdle for Justice, the governor is facing at least two Republican primary challengers. Pro- and anti-Justice factions have been battling for control of the state party, and the governor’s business dealings have also come under scrutiny, including questions about conflicts of interest and delinquent taxes.

Justice, 68, a billionarie who had never held elected office before winning the governorship, is thought to be the state’s wealthiest individual, with interests in coal mining and agribusiness. He also owns the famed Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs.

In 2015, he switched his party registration from Republican to Democrat to run for governor. Less than seven months after being elected, he announced he was switching parties during a rally with Trump.

The White House has signaled the president’s support for Justice, sending two key aides to West Virginia to advise his campaign.

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Georgia Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson will resign at the end of the year

Decision means both of the Peach State’s Senate seats will be up in 2020

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two days after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney, Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia has announced he will resign at the end of the year because due to poor health.

The decision means that both of the Peach State’s Senate seats will be open in 2020, giving Republicans another seat to defend in as they try to maintain their three-seat majority in Congress’s upper chamber.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

Isakson, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease, underwent surgery on August 26 for removal of a renal carcinoma. In a statement announcing his resignation, he said, “I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff.”

“With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve,” he said. “It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.”

Republican Governor Brian Kemp will appoint a replacement for Isakson to serve until a special election is held in November 2020 to fill the two years remaining on his Senate term.

The seat of the state’s other Republican senator, David Perdue, is also up for election in 2020, putting both seats on the ballot.

However, under state law, there will be no party primaries for Isakson’s seat. Candidates from all parties will run in the same race, with the top two finishers meeting in a runoff if no one gets a majority.

That last time that happened in Georgia, in 2017 in the 6th U.S. House district, it triggered a contentious nationalized race between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff during which the candidates blew through $50 million. Handel won that race, although she lost the seat to Democrat Lucy McBath in 2018.

One possible Democratic contender for Isakson’s seat, Stacey Abrams, the party’s unsuccessful candidate against Kemp in 2018, quickly announced that she would not be a candidate. She had earlier passed on challenging Perdue.

Isakson, 74, was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after losing campaigns for governor in 1990 and Senate in 1996. He was re-elected easily in 2010 and 2016, becoming the first Republican in state history to win three Senate elections.

His decision to retire brings to a close a storied career in Georgia GOP politics, dating back to the early 1970s when he was among a small number of Republicans serving in the Democrat-dominated legislature, representing suburban Cobb County near Atlanta.

In 1990, Isakson gave up his legislative seat to run for governor against conservative Democrat Zell Miller, falling short but coming closer than any Republican had in decades — a portent of the rising fortunes for a GOP that now dominates state politics.

In 1999, Isakson was elected to the U.S. House to succeed former Speaker Newt Gingrich and went to the Senate five years later when Miller retired.

In 2013, Isakson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but sought re-election in 2016 as he battled the illness. However, this summer he was seriously injured in a fall at his Washington home. After returning to Georgia for the congressional recess, he underwent surgery to remove what his office described as “a 2-centimeter renal cell carcinoma” from his kidney.

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Most Southern U.S. House Democrats keeping their powder dry on Trump impeachment

Just 17 of 50 Southern members have come out for impeachment inquiry, most representing safe Democratic districts

♦ By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — A majority of members of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives have now come out publicly in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, but Southern members are showing more caution about taking that political plunge.

As of August 1, just 17 of the 50 Southern Democrats in the House have called for an impeachment inquiry, all but two of whom represent safe Democratic or majority-minority districts where support for impeachment presents them with little future political peril.

Just two of the 10 Southern Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia — have come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. And none of the five Southern Democrats representing districts Trump carried in 2016 — Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia — have taken that step.

Five other Democrats at the top of the Republican target list for 2020 — Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, and Donna Shalala, Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Florida — are also not supporting an impeachment inquiry.

The list of Southern Democrats who have so far not offered public support for an impeachment inquiry includes some of high-profile members, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee; civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia; and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 ranking Democrat in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership have been resisting calls to move forward on impeachment, which is why many of the more veteran members have not offered their support.

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of which Southern Democrats have and have not come out for an impeachment inquiry:

Alabama
Not Yet In Support: Terri Sewell

Florida
Support: Mucarsel-Powell, Val Demings, Ted Deutch
Not Yet In Support: Murphy, Crist, Shalala, Wasserman Schultz, Al Lawson, Darren Soto, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Frederika Wilson

Georgia
Not Yet In Support: Lewis, McBath, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, David Scott

Kentucky
Support: John Yarmuth

Louisiana
Support: Cedric Richmond

Mississippi
Support:
Bennie Thompson

North Carolina
Support: G.K. Butterfield, Alma Adams
Not Yet In Support: David Price

Oklahoma
Not Yet In Support: Horn

South Carolina
Not Yet In Support: Cunningham, Clyburn

Tennessee
Support: Steve Cohen
Not Yet In Support: Jim Cooper

Texas
Support: Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Al Green, Joaquin Castro, Filemon Vela, Lloyd Doggett
Not Yet In Support: Fletcher, Allred, Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, Sylvia Garcia, Eddie Bernice-Johnson, Marc Veasey

Virginia
Support: Wexton, Don Beyer
Not Yet In Support: Luria, Spanberger, Bobby Scott, Donald McEacherin, Gerry Connolly

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Texas U.S. Rep. Will Hurd is only Southern Republican to support condemning Trump

5 Southern Democrats from Trump districts voted to condemn his tweets about Democratic congresswomen

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — After a day of high drama and contentious debate, the U.S. House approved a resolution condemning President Donald Trump for “racist” tweets directed at four left-wing congresswomen with only a single Southern Republican — U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas — voting in favor.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas

Ninety-four other Southern House Republicans voted against the resolution, which was supported by all 50 Southern House Democrats in the July 16 vote, including five members who represent districts Trump carried in 2016.

Those five members are Lucy McBath from Georgia, Kendra Horn from Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham from South Carolina, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria from Virginia.

Five Republicans from Texas — Kay Granger, Louie Gohmert, Roger Williams, Kenny Marchant and Michael Burgess — did not vote on the resolution. They also did not participate in other roll call votes held the same day.

The floor fight over the resolution was led on the GOP side by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, who set off two hours of turmoil after objecting to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling Trump’s tweets “racist,” which he said violated House rules against offering personal criticism of the president.

After lengthy discussions between members and the chamber’s parliamentarians, the chair eventually ruled Pelosi’s comments out of order, but members, on a party-line vote, overturned that ruling.

Trump, who denied his criticism of the congresswomen was racist, had urged Republican members not to show “weakness” in supporting the resolution. In the end, only four Republicans broke ranks to support it.

The resolution said the House “strongly condemns” Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that a group of Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to their home countries if they were dissatisfied with life in America.

While he did not single out anyone by name, the tweets appeared to be a reference to four female members from the party’s left wing who have been among his sharpest critics — Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the four, only Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia as a child, was not born in the United States. All four are U.S. citizens, which is a requirement to sit in Congress.

Critics attributed what they see as Trump’s racist intent to make-up of the group, dubbed The Squad. Omar and Pressley are black, Ocasio-Cortez is Latino, and Tlaib is of Palestinian descent.

Hurd represents a majority-Latino swing district in West Texas. He is the only Southern Republican in Congress who represents a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 and is among the top targets for House Democrats next year.

In an interview with PBS, Hurd called the president’s tweets “racist and xenophobic” and “also inaccurate.”

“The four women he is referring to are actually citizens of the United States, three of the four were born here. It’s also a behavior that’s unbecoming of the leader of the free world,” Hurd said. “He should be talking about things that unite us, not divide us. And also, I think, politically, it doesn’t help.”

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Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz faces investigation over Michael Cohen tweet

House Ethics Committee will look at whether Gaetz’s February tweet about Cohen’s “girlfriends” was a threat

WASHINGTON (CFP) — The House Ethics Committee will investigate whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida violated ethics rules when he posted a tweet directed toward President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, on the eve of his testimony to Congress.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida

In the February 26 tweet, Gaetz asked, “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

An ethics subcommittee will investigate whether Gaetz “sought to threaten, intimidate, harass, or otherwise improperly influence” Cohen, according to a committee statement announcing the investigation.

The committee decided to proceed with an investigation after Gaetz, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, refused a request from the committee to sit for an interview, according to the statement.

After a controversy arose over the tweet, Gaetz deleted it, apologized and denied that his intent was to threaten Cohen, who the next day regaled the House Oversight Committee with details of his years working at the president’s side.

Cohen is currently service a three-year federal prison sentence for tax and bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

Gaetz’s office did not immediately respond to the committee’s statement. But Politico quoted a text message from Gaetz: “If members of Congress want to spend their time psychoanalyzing my tweets, it’s certainly their prerogative. I won’t be joining them in the endeavor. Too busy.“

Gaetz has represented Florida’s 1st District, which covers the state’s western panhandle, since 2017.

The House members on the subcommittee that will handle the complaint against Gaetz includes Democrats Anthony Brown of Maryland and Raja Krishnamoorthi and Republicans Michael Guest of Mississippi and John Rose of Tennessee.

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Southern House Democrats in targeted seats vote to turn up pressure on Trump

House Judiciary Committee can now sue to force compliance with requests for documents, testimony

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — In the first major test of how Southern Democrats in vulnerable seats will navigate through ongoing House investigations of President Donald Trump, all of them stuck to the party line in supporting new powers that could escalate those inquiries.

By a vote of 229-191 on June 11, the House authorized the Judiciary Committee to go into federal court and demand that the Justice Department comply with requests for documents and witness testimony.

From top left clockwise: Cunningham, McBath, Allred, Weston

All 10 Southern House Democrats who flipped seats in 2018 and are at the top of the GOP hit list in 2020 agreed to give the committee the power to sue to force compliance, although none of them yet support moving toward impeaching the president.

That list includes Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina; Lucy McBath of Georgia; Kendra Horn of Oklahoma; Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas; and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida.

Not a single Southern Republican supported the resolution, including 11 GOP members who are on the Democrats’ target list for 2020.

The resolution is aimed squarely at Attorney General William Barr, who has refused to comply with some document requests, and former White House counsel Don McGahn, who has refused to testify at a committee hearing under instructions fro the White House.

The resolution ratchets up the pressure on the Trump administration, as an increasing number of House Democrats are calling for an impeachment inquiry.

While none of the Southern Democrats in competitive seats have so far come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry, 14 members in safe seats have done so.

That list includes Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Val Demings of Florida; Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Al Green, and Filemon Vela of Texas; Cedric Richmond of Louisiana; Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina; Don Beyer of Virginia; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi; and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

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