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Effort to oust official overseeing investigation of 2016 Russian election meddling fizzles after opposition from House leaders
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Four Southern U.S. House members are part of a group of 11 Republicans who introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — only to back down after the plan ran into opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders.
Now, instead, the group will seek to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department does not fully comply with requests for documents about the Russia probe.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina was one of the primary sponsors of the impeachment resolution filed July 25, along with Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Three other Southern members — Jody Hice of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee — signed on as co-sponsors.
However, the impeachment resolution was tabled the next day, after Meadows and Jordan met with House GOP leaders, including Ryan, who had said he did not support Rosenstein’s impeachment and would not bring it forward for a vote.
The congressmen who pushed the impeachment are all members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen of the most conservative House Republicans that emerged in 2015 out of the Tea Party movement.
Members of the caucus have been among President Donald Trump’s strongest defenders in Congress — and among the harshest critics of Mueller’s investigation of possible coordination between Russian agents and Trump’s campaign, which the president has dismissed as a “witch hunt.”
The impeachment articles fault Rosenstein for not producing documents subpoenaed by a House committee and for approving a warrant request for surveillance of Carter Page, who was a national security adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign.
In a joint statement with Jordan and the other co-sponsors, Meadows said Rosenstein — who has been overseeing the Mueller probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after acknowledging contacts with the Russian ambassador — “has made every effort to obstruct legitimate attempts of Congressional oversight.”
“The stonewalling over this last year has been just as bad or worse than under the Obama administration,” he said. “It’s time to find a new Deputy Attorney General who is serious about accountability and transparency.”
Meadows represents North Carolina’s 11th District, which takes in the state’s far western panhandle.
Hice, who represents the 10th District in east-central Georgia, decried “a culture of stonewalling and misdirection” that he said has “permeated the highest levels” of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Gaetz, who represents the 1st District that in the western Florida Panhandle, said the request to put Page under surveillance was “likely improper” and that Rosenstein’s actions have “weakened Americans’ faith in the intelligence community and in seeing justice served.”
DesJarlais accused Rosenstein of refusing to produce documents “because they implicate top Department of Justice and FBI officials, including himself.”
“His own role in fraudulent warrants and wiretapping the President’s campaign is a major conflict of interest that renders him unfit to oversee the Special Counsel or DOJ,” said DesJarlias, who represents the 4th District in south-central Tennessee.
Rosenstein and the Justice Department have not commented on the impeachment articles.
While Ryan and other GOP leaders were cool to the idea of impeaching Rosenstein, the effort did get support from the highest-ranking Southerner in the House GOP caucus — Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who told Fox News that “putting impeachment on the table is one more tool” to get the Justice Department to provide documents.
Scalise, who represents the 1st District in suburban New Orleans, is reportedly considering a bid to succeed Ryan as speaker after he retires in January — a contest in which members of the Freedom Caucus will play a key role.
But another Southern Republican — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida — had harsh words for the impeachment effort, taking to Twitter to denounce it as a “reckless publicity stunt.”
“No different from Dems who filed articles of impeachment against the President some months ago. What a sad, pathetic game of ‘how low can you go?'” Curbelo said.
Curbelo, who represents a South Florida district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, is considered one of the most endangered House Republicans in the 2018 cycle.
President’s attorney endorses challenger who employs his new girlfriend; Trump tweets support for incumbent
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (CFP) — Rudy Giuliani is intervening on behalf of a challenger in a Louisiana congressional primary, tangling his politics with his love life in an episode that has angered state GOP leaders and prompted President Donald Trump to take sides against his own personal attorney.
The drama is taking place in Louisiana’s 3rd U.S. House District, which covers the Acadiana region in the state’s southwestern corner.
The incumbent Republican, freshman U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, is a former sheriff’s deputy who gained national fame as the “Cajun John Wayne” after appearing in Crime Stoppers videos that went viral online. He is being challenged in the state’s all-party jungle primary by eight candidates, including Republican Josh Guillory, a Lafayette attorney.
Jennifer LeBlanc, a GOP fundraiser in Louisiana, is working for Guillory. She is also Giuliani’s new girlfriend — or, as he described it to the New York Daily News, “We are dating, however not that advanced yet.”
And there is one more wrinkle: LeBlanc worked for Higgins until switching horses, without explanation, last year.
Giuliani is scheduled to head a June 25 fundraiser for Guillory in Lafayette — news that has irritated Louisiana Republican leaders who support Higgins’s re-election, according to a report in Politico.
To counter the perception that Trump had anything to do with Giuliani’s support of Guillory, Higgins got an audience at the White House, which was followed by an endorsement offered by the president’s re-election campaign. However, Trump stopped short of offering him the holy grail of a coveted endorsement tweet.
LeBlanc, who worked for Giuliani’s ill-fated 2008 presidential campaign, released a statement to Politico saying that she “ended work with Congressman Higgins, and later began work with Josh Guillory, well before I began spending part of my social life with Mayor Rudy Giuliani.”
“These three decisions in my life were made for very different reasons, and are independent of each other,” she said.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who has been married and divorced three times, has led a colorful love live. While still married to wife No. 2, Donna Hanover, he began seeing wife No. 3, Judith Nathan, an affair that played out in the New York tabloids in 2000 and 2001.
He and Nathan married in 2003. She filed for divorce in April.
Giuliani denied to the Daily News that his relationship with LeBlanc precipitated his divorce from Nathan, saying the two did not begin seeing each other until May.
Under Louisiana’s unusual primary system, all nine candidates in the 3rd District will compete in November, with the top two finishers advancing to a December runoff if no one captures a majority.
Higgins and Guillory are the only Republicans running, which makes a runoff more likely if the GOP vote is divided.
Even with LeBlanc’s help, Higgins so far enjoys a 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over Guilllory.
Trump accelerates Republican shift in counties named for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee loom large as icons of the Southern Confederacy, so much so that 11 Southern counties and one Louisiana parish bear their names. But if these lions of the South are aware of what is happening in their namesake counties today, they may be rotating in their graves.
Changes in presidential voting in these counties over the past 40 years illustrate just how far the Black Republicans against which Lee and Davis fought are now transcendent—and the alarming (for Democrats) degree to which white Southerners have forsaken their traditional political roots.
Of course, the South’s march toward the GOP is not news. Today, the term “Solid South” has an entirely different connotation than it did during the days of FDR or Lyndon Johnson. However, these namesake counties do provide a window into how these shifts in party preference have occurred over time and the role that race played in them.
The 2016 presidential results also show that the Republicanization of the South is accelerating in these counties that bear the mark of Southern heritage, which bodes ill for future Democratic prospects.
In 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter became the first Southerner to win the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848, he carried nine of the 12 Davis and Lee counties. By 1992, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were splitting them six-to-six.
By 2000, Republican George W. Bush had flipped nine of the 12 namesake counties his way; his average share of the total votes cast for the two major party candidates in those counties that year was an impressive 64 percent. But in 2016, Trump trumped the younger Bush, carrying those same nine counties with an average of 70 percent of the two-party vote.
In 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford’s share of the two-party vote topped 50 percent in just three namesake counties (in Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky). But by 2016, Trump’s share of the two-party vote was more than 50 percent in nine counties and parishes; above 60 percent in eight; above 70 percent in four; and above a whopping 80 percent in two (Georgia and Kentucky).
The most dramatic changes were in Jeff Davis County, Georgia, where native Georgian Carter carried 79 percent of the vote in 1976 and Trump won 81 percent in 2016, and Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, where Carter won 62 percent and Trump 75 percent. However, even in majority black Lee County, Arkansas, Trump’s 16-point loss in 2016 was less than half of Ford’s 38-point defeat.
In addition to Lee County, Arkansas, the only namesake counties Trump lost in 2016 were Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, and Lee County, South Carolina, which are also majority black. However, even in these three counties, Trump carried a larger share of the two-party vote in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
In fact, Trump improved on Romney’s result in 11 of the 12 namesake counties, save only Jeff Davis County, Texas, where Trump had to settle for merely matching Romney’s total.
The results in these namesake counties over time also illustrate the role race has played in the political realignment of the South.
In all seven of the overwhelmingly white namesake counties, the Republican share of the two-party vote was higher in 2016 than in 1976, by an average of 29 percent. Trump did better than Romney by an average of 4 percent.
By contrast, in majority-black Lee counties in Mississippi and South Carolina, the Republican two-party share fell by an average 2.5 percent from 1976 to 2016, but Trump outperformed Romney by the same 2.5 percent. These results indicate that the white Southern shift to the Republicans appears stronger than the corresponding black shift to the Democrats.
This is borne out by the results in Lee County, Arkansas, which has the smallest African-American population of any of the majority-black namesake counties (55 percent). There, the Republican share of the two-party vote actually climbed 11 percent between 1976 and 2016, and Trump beat Romney’s total by 5 percent.
Two of the namesake counties—Lee County, Florida, and Jeff Davis County, Texas—are outliers in that they have significant Latino populations. The Republican share of the two-party vote in both of those counties was higher in 2016 than it was in 1976, but Trump’s results were down from the numbers put up in 2000 and 2004 by George W. Bush, who, for a Republican, ran strongly with Latino voters.
The results in the namesake counties also illustrate the mountain which Democrats need to climb if they are to reduce Republican hegemony in the South.
The Democratic base once included small towns and rural areas across the Southern landscape, as well as urban areas. In 2016, Democrats still held the cities (with newfound and welcome signs of life in suburban Atlanta and Houston) and the mostly small rural counties with majority black populations, such as the namesake counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina. Democrats also do well in college towns such as Athens, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida.
But Democrats’ failure to compete for the votes of small town and rural white voters is what is killing them electorally, as the results in the Davis and Lee namesake counties without black majorities vividly illustrates.
Only one of these namesake counties is urban—Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers—and Lee County, Alabama, contains Auburn University. The rest of these counties and parishes are all rural, white areas where Messrs. Davis and Lee are no doubt remembered fondly and Jimmy Carter ran reasonably well—and where Hillary Clinton couldn’t get elected dog catcher if she handed out $20 bills at the polling booth.
As a barometer of the past, these namesake counties illustrate how far Democrats have fallen in their former strongholds. But if Trump’s improved results over Romney’s are a barometer of the future, the bottom may not yet have been reached.
Republicans sweep the last three federal elections of the 2016 cycle
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
BATON ROUGE (CFP) — The third time was the charm for State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has captured a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana on his third attempt for the office.
Kennedy, a Republican, easily swept aside Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in the December 10 runoff, winning by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.
In the night’s only upset, voters in the 3rd U.S. House District went for a tough-talking former deputy sheriff, Clay Higgins,, who has been dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” for anti-crime videos that have gone viral on the Internet. He beat Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a veteran politician with a long pedigree.
The Senate race pitted two of the state’s best known and longest-serving politicians. Kennedy has been treasurer since 2000, while Campbell has served on the PSC since 2003.
Kennedy, 64, from Madisonville, won on this third try for the Senate, having lost as a Democrat in 2004 and as a Republican in 2008 after switching parties in 2007.
Despite his long service in state office, Kennedy positioned himself as a political outsider ready to take on Washington.
“This campaign was about change versus status quo,” Kennedy said in his victory speech at a Baton Rouge hotel. “I believe that our future can be better than our present or our past, but not if we keep going in the direction that the Washington insiders have taken us for the past eight years.”
Campbell, 69, from Elm Grove, is also no stranger to losing campaigns, having lost three times for the U.S. House and once for governor. He faced an uphill battle in trying to win a Senate seat in a state that Donald Trump carried by nearly 20 points.
After Trump’s victory, donations to Campbell’s campaign poured in from around the country, pumping more than $2 million into his runoff effort. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“We worked as hard as possible. We left no stone unturned,” Campbell told supporters during a concession speech in downtown Baton Rouge. “We knew going in that this race was going to be tough.”
The Senate seat opened up after Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter decided to give it up to make an unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Kennedy’s win means Republicans will have 52 Senate seats, with 46 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Of the 28 Senate seats from the 14 Southern states, Republicans hold 24, with only four Democrats.
Runoffs were also held for two of Louisiana’s six U.S. House seats, which opened up when the incumbents made bids for the U.S. Senate. Republicans kept both seats.
Celebrity trumped resume in the 3rd District, which takes in the Acadiana region of southwestern Louisiana.
Higgins, a former deputy sheriff in St. Landry Parish whose tough-talking Crime Stoppers videos became an Internet sensation, easily defeated Angelle, who has served for nearly 30 years in elected or appointed office, including a brief stint as lieutenant governor.
The margin was 56 percent to 44 percent. This was a Republican-versus-Republican runoff, as no Democrat survived the all-party jungle primary on November 8.
Bad blood left over from the 2015 governor’s race may have also played a role in Higgins’s victory. Angelle came in third in that race, behind Vitter and the eventual winner, Democrat John Bel Edwards, but refused to endorse Vitter in the runoff. That angered Republican leaders, some of whom worked on Higgins’s behalf.
In the 4th District, which takes in the northwestern Louisiana, State Rep. Mike Johnson, from Bossier Parish defeated Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.
With the victories by Angelle and Johnson, Republicans will maintain their 5-to-1 advantage in the state’s House delegation.
Across the South, Republicans hold 114 U.S. House seats to 40 for Democrats.
Democrats face uphill climbs in 2 races; 2 Republicans face off in the other
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Voters in Louisiana will go to the polls one more time on December 10 to choose a new U.S. Senator and two members of the U.S. House for the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state, in the last federal elections of the 2016 cycle.
After the state’s all-party “jungle” primary on November 8, the Senate race features Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, pitting two of the state’s longest serving and best-known politicians against each other.
Kennedy came in first in the primary with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent. Because Republicans have already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.
Kennedy, 64, from Madisonville near New Orleans, has been Louisiana’s treasurer for nearly 17 years, winning statewide office five times. In 2004, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate as a Democrat and tried again in 2008, after switching parties and becoming a Republican. He lost to Democrat Mary Landrieu.
Campbell, 69, from Elm Grove near Shreveport, has represented northwestern Louisiana on the Public Service Commission since 2003, a post he won after making three unsuccessful attempts to win a seat in the U.S. House. He also ran for governor in 2007, coming in fourth place in the primary.
The seat opened up after Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter decided not to seek re-election and run instead for governor, a race he lost to Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Given the Pelican State’s Republican tilt, Kennedy is considered the favorite in the race.
In the 3rd District Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle from Breaux Bridge will face fellow Republican Clay Higgins, a former sheriff’s deputy from St. Landry Parish who became well known for tough-talking anti-crime videos that have gone viral on the Internet.
The seat opened when GOP U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette left to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat, finishing third, just behind Campbell.
In the 4th District, Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish will face Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, in the runoff, which will be the last House pickup opportunity for Democrats.
The seat opened when U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden also decided to run for the Senate, where he finished fifth. Republicans have held this seat since 1988, making Johnson a prohibitive favorite.
Rubio and Burr beat back challenges in Florida, North Carolina; Kennedy and Campbell will contest runoff in Louisiana
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
Meanwhile, in Louisiana’s all-party “jungle” primary, State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell will advance to a December 10 runoff for the open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.
Kennedy led with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent, edging out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany at 15 percent.
Because Republicans already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.
In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents also won re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
With the wins on November 8, Republicans will hold 23 of the 28 Southern Senate seats, with Louisiana still to be decided.
In Florida, Rubio had initially decided to give up his Senate seat to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. But after losing the White House contest, he changed course and filed to run for a second term, improving the GOP ‘s prospects for keeping the seat.
Rubio took 52 percent, defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who took 44 percent.
Alluding to his withdrawal from the presidential race in March, he told election night supporters in Miami, “This is a lot better than the last time I did one of these.”
Rubio, who had been a critic of Trump before reluctantly endorsing him, did not mention his party’s victorious presidential standard-bearer in his speech, but he did make a plea for civility in politics.
“While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations,” Rubio said.
In North Carolina, Burr, seeking a third term, took 51 percent of the vote, defeating Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor, who took 45 percent.
“I am truly humbled by the support I’ve received from people across this state,” Burr said at a victory celebration in Winston-Salem. “This is a victory for all of those who have believed in me.”
In a state notorious for exchanging Senate seats between parties, Burr becomes the first senator to win three consecutive terms since Jesse Helms in 1984.
Here are the other Southern Senate results:
Alabama: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby won a seventh term by defeating Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist. by a margin of 64-36 percent. At the end of his new term, Shelby will be 88 and will have served in Congress for 44 years.
Arkansas: Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman won a second term by taking 60-36 percent for Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville. Boozman suffered an aortic aneurysm in 2014 that kept him away from Washington for two months.
Georgia: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson won a third term in the Senate by defeating Democrat Jim Barkdale, a wealthy Atlanta businessman, by a 55-41 percent margin. Isakson ran for re-election to a third term despite announcing in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Kentucky: Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by a margin of 57-43 percent. Paul had pursued re-election simultaneously with a presidential campaign until he dropped out of the White House race in February.
Oklahoma: Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford easily won his first full six-year term by defeating Democrat Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, by a margin of 68-25 percent. In 2014, Lankford was elected to finish out the final two years of Tom Coburn’s term after he resigned.
South Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, easily won a full six-year term by defeating Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor, by a margin of 61-36 percent. In 2014, Scott was elected to serve out the remaining two years of Jim DeMint’s term, after he resigned.
Florida and North Carolina are Senate battlegrounds; Louisiana holds all-party primary for Vitter’s seat
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Nine GOP-held Southern U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs in the November 8 election, with Republican incumbents heavily favored in six races.
The exceptions are Florida, where Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is facing off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, and in North Carolina, where the GOP incumbent, U.S. Senator Richard Burr, is facing Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor.
And in Louisiana, 24 candidates are running in an all-party “jungle” primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December 10 runoff, which could potentially decide the balance of power in the Senate.
Pre-election polls have shown Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy in the lead, followed by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat; Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette; and Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer.
If Kennedy and Boustany can both clear the runoff, the GOP would be guaranteed of keeping the seat, now held by U.S. Senator David Vitter. But if Campbell or Fayard can come through, the December 10 runoff will be the last word on Senate races this year — and, if the Senate is closely divided, decide which party controls the chamber.
In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents are seeking re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
In Alabama, Richard Shelby faces Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist; in Arkansas John Boozman is seeking a second term against Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville; and in Kentucky, Rand Paul is running against Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
In Oklahoma, James Lankford faces Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, and in South Carolina, Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, faces Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor.