John Kerry Sounds Like a 2020 Candidate

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Despite the chatter, John Kerry probably isn’t running for president again—though he says he wants to be part of the future of the Democratic Party, and the country, no matter what.

He’s sticking to his insistence that any White House talk distracts from 2018. But there’s clearly still an ember of desire to run again. “I’ve only done it once, unlike a lot of people who’ve been out there, and came pretty close,” he told me in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. It was a conversation he ended with a standard-politician four-point list of priorities, some 40 minutes after delivering a standard-politician evasive answer about a 2020 candidacy: “I haven’t eliminated anything in my life, period, anything—except perhaps running a sub-four [minute] mile.”

But that is not the point for Kerry, whose public life Continue reading “John Kerry Sounds Like a 2020 Candidate”

Elijah Cummings Is Ready to Investigate Trump

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Elijah Cummings says he doesn’t have a lot of patience, and he has even less trust.

To him, President Donald Trump “is a person [who] calls a lie ‘the truth’ and the truth ‘a lie.’” He thinks the president violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause daily, and sees an abnormal tolerance for corruption and misconduct emanating straight out of the Oval Office. And, in the eyes of the 67-year-old Democrat, just as troubling is the notion that Congress has fallen flat on its Constitutional duty to check the administration.

Expect that to change if Democrats retake the House in November. Then, the Baltimore congressman is set to become the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, giving him subpoena power and the ability to call as many hearings as he wants on whichever topics he Continue reading “Elijah Cummings Is Ready to Investigate Trump”

Murphy spearheads fundraising push to elect pro-gun control Democrats

Chris Murphy is out to fight the gun lobby with a money bomb.

And he’s lining up some of the biggest names in Democratic politics to try to make the impact as big as possible.

“It’s time to take this movement for a test drive and see how big and powerful we are,” said the Connecticut senator, who has established himself as a national leader among gun control advocates since the shooting in Newtown occurred in his old House district, just after he was elected to the Senate in 2012.

Murphy is calling his effort NR8, identifying seven Democrats running for House seats and Jacky Rosen, running against Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, in races that they’ve determined are both winnable, and which would have an immediate impact on changing gun laws.

The goal is to raise $1 million in one day, scheduled for next Friday, Oct. 5, then split the Continue reading “Murphy spearheads fundraising push to elect pro-gun control Democrats”

Ken Starr: Trump’s Defense Team Should Be ‘Very Concerned’

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Ken Starr would love to hear from Donald Trump. He thinks he could help.

The former independent counsel whose investigation into President Bill Clinton led to Clinton’s impeachment says President Trump has enough to be worried about that he’ll need good lawyers around him as he decides whether to sit down with special counsel Bob Mueller.

“If I’m on his criminal defense team, I would be very concerned,” Starr said in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “I don’t know what President Trump knows, but there have been a number of guilty pleas. Some of those guilty pleas go to false statements, so I would just be cautious” before answering questions from Mueller.

Starr says he’d advise this even while he believes that Trump has a duty to answer investigators’ questions under Continue reading “Ken Starr: Trump’s Defense Team Should Be ‘Very Concerned’”

Steyer targets competitive House districts in new round of TV ads

Tom Steyer is going up with another round of ads — but this time he’s easing up on the impeachment talk and aiming them at top-target House districts.

The billionaire investor, who’s made a cause out of refusing to accept Donald Trump’s legitimacy as president, will hit Direct TV and the Dish Network on Tuesday with a new commercial that is part of his closing strategy in the final weeks before the midterms. It’s a shift into races that his team believes he can help tilt toward Democrats.

“What’s at stake this November? Everything,” Steyer says into the camera. “Of course it’s our chance to stand up to this lawless president, but it’s also how to protect health care, how to stand up against bigotry and hate, how to protect our environment, and it’s the only way to stop the corporate takeover of our democracy.”

The impeachment-light script reflects Continue reading “Steyer targets competitive House districts in new round of TV ads”

Hirono: Kavanaugh Is Fudging the Truth

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Mazie Hirono thinks Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is not telling the truth about the sexual assault he allegedly committed as a teenager. She thinks he wasn’t telling the truth to the Judiciary Committee when he claimed not to remember any sexual misconduct by a judge he clerked for who was forced to resign last year after allegations from more than a dozen women.

And the Hawaii senator says that if she gets to question Kavanaugh in another hearing, she’s going to tell him that the revelations over the weekend—when Christine Blasey Ford came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her at a high-school party in the early ‘80s—now make her doubt what the nominee said under oath two weeks ago even more.

“It somewhat stretches credulity, let’s put it that way,” said Hirono in Continue reading “Hirono: Kavanaugh Is Fudging the Truth”

Warren and other potential 2020 Dems join fight to flip statehouses

Four Democratic senators in the discussion as potential 2020 candidates are joining the fight to turn state legislatures blue, recording ads for Sister District, a Democratic group connecting volunteers to down-ballot campaigns from far away.

“Getting involved in a state race is one of the best ways you can spend your time between now and Nov. 6,” says Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in one of the videos.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who this past weekend was in New Hampshire as part of his ongoing exploration of a presidential run, is also part of the effort, as are Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who are sometimes mentioned as possible 2020 contenders.

“There are going to be hundreds, if not thousands of state legislative races all across this country that are going to be decided by 100 votes, 200 votes,” Murphy says.

This is the first Continue reading “Warren and other potential 2020 Dems join fight to flip statehouses”

Jill Biden says they want to ‘pick a fight’ with bullies

Dr. Jill Biden sounds like she might be ready for a 2020 campaign.

Introducing her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, at the Human Rights Campaign’s big annual dinner in Washington on Saturday night, the former second lady told a story from her childhood of knocking on the door of a mean boy in the neighborhood, winding up and punching him in the nose.

The crowd of LGBTQ activists and supporters cheered.

“There is nothing that makes either of us more angry than a bully. There’s nothing that’s more unfair or unjust than people using their power to try to make other people feel small, to tell them who they are or what they are capable of, to say their identity doesn’t belong,” she said, explaining why LGBTQ equality is one of the priorities of the Biden Foundation, but with what many in the crowd heard as a not-so-subtle comment Continue reading “Jill Biden says they want to ‘pick a fight’ with bullies”

Avenatti to 2020 Dems: Stop ducking Fox News

Michael Avenatti isn’t sure that he’ll ever go on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show again — but he thinks every Democrat who’s serious about running in 2020 should if they want to prove they have what it takes to go up against President Donald Trump.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go into the belly of the beast. You can’t call yourself a fighter and then turn out to be a paper tiger,” Avenatti said in a Friday interview, dismissing the Democrats who have written off appearances with Carlson, and Fox News more broadly, given the channel’s often clearly pro-Trump bent.

Carlson said explicitly to Avenatti during Thursday night’s show that he wouldn’t insult the lawyer, best known for representing Stormy Daniels but now traveling the country talking up a White House run of his own. But over the course of the appearance, Fox News showed five different chryons that used the Continue reading “Avenatti to 2020 Dems: Stop ducking Fox News”

‘Vanity project’: Cynthia Nixon gets The Gong Show treatment

Cynthia Nixon did worse than “Sex and the City 2.”

In fact, she barely outperformed Zephyr Teachout when she ran against Andrew Cuomo in 2014 as a complete unknown, before Sen. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and Donald Trump’s presidency. There wasn’t another Democratic primary challenger in the country who got as much attention but such a small share of the vote — 35 percent.

It turns out that campaigning through the sets of “The Late Show” and “The Daily Show” while insisting your candidacy isn’t about being a celebrity or seeking national attention isn’t effective. Cuomo’s last-minute mailer calling Nixon essentially an anti-Semite didn’t flip any counties (nor did her viral cinnamon raisin and lox bagel order). The complaints from Nixon’s campaign about DNC Chairman Tom Perez and others they accused of tilting the scales for Cuomo didn’t matter to voters, either.

It also turns out that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Continue reading “‘Vanity project’: Cynthia Nixon gets The Gong Show treatment”

‘Vanity project’: Cynthia Nixon gets The Gong Show treatment

Cynthia Nixon did worse than “Sex and the City 2.”

In fact, she barely outperformed Zephyr Teachout when she ran against Andrew Cuomo in 2014 as a complete unknown, before Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and Donald Trump’s presidency. There wasn’t another Democratic primary challenger in the country who got as much attention but such a small share of the vote — 35 percent.

It turns out that campaigning through the sets of “The Late Show” and “The Daily Show,” while insisting your candidacy isn’t about being a celebrity or seeking national attention, isn’t effective. Cuomo’s last-minute mailer calling Nixon essentially an anti-Semite didn’t flip any counties (nor did her viral cinnamon raisin and lox bagel order). The complaints from Nixon’s campaign about Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez and others they accused of tilting the scales for Cuomo didn’t matter to voters, either.

It also turns out that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Continue reading “‘Vanity project’: Cynthia Nixon gets The Gong Show treatment”

Feinstein asks feds to investigate Kavanaugh claims in letter

Under pressure from Senate Democrats about an unreleased letter making claims concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Wednesday evening told them she would refer the matter to the Justice Department.

Feinstein, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, released a statement Thursday afternoon announcing the referral and saying she was complying with a request from the person who gave her the letter to not release it publicly.

The “individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Approached in the Senate hallways earlier Thursday, Feinstein repeatedly declined to comment on the letter other than to say she would release a statement later in the day. Her office would not say when she received the letter.

The mysterious letter is Continue reading “Feinstein asks feds to investigate Kavanaugh claims in letter”

Merkley backs early-state candidates ahead of possible 2020 bid

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is endorsing and cutting checks to a slate of candidates in early-voting states who could help him wage a long-shot bid for president in 2020.

Merkley’s Blue Wave Project PAC on Tuesday will issue its first wave of endorsements: Of the seven candidates he’s backing, two are congressional candidates in Iowa and one in Nevada. The next set of endorsements is expected to deliberately include candidates in New Hampshire.

The Blue Wave Project has raised about $300,000 so far. Each candidate Merkley is supporting will receive at least $2,500, in addition to staff providing field support and phone banking help, locally or remotely.

Merkley has been recruiting, training and embedding staff on campaigns and in state parties. Merkley will then have those aides in his orbit as he weighs whether to go forward with a presidential campaign.

“Change is coming,” Merkley said in announcing the Continue reading “Merkley backs early-state candidates ahead of possible 2020 bid”

Can a Democrat Win in … Maryland?

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SILVER SPRING, Md. — Ben Jealous campaigned all over the country for Bernie Sanders, but he has a platinum American Express card in his wallet. He got his first campaign experience as a 14-year-old volunteer for Jesse Jackson in 1988, but the presidential candidate from that year with policies he eagerly cites is Steve Forbes, whose proposal to ramp up vocational training in schools has helped inform Jealous’ own platform. He may be the lone liberal Democrat running this year who says he doesn’t want anything to do with socialism—while still endorsing “Medicare-for-all” and free college tuition.

Jealous is the first major player to come directly off Sanders’ 2016 campaign and have done this well in a campaign of his own. He’s the first leader of the NAACP—from 2008-13, the youngest in its history—to be this close Continue reading “Can a Democrat Win in … Maryland?”

GOP attacks Obama, but doesn’t defend Trump

Two days in, lots of prominent Republicans have complained about Barack Obama’s speech on Friday calling Donald Trump’s presidency a betrayal of America and a threat to its core — but they haven’t said he’s wrong.

Most prominent on that list is Trump himself, who, for a man his aides have often held up as someone who punches back, has so far said less to attack Obama than he has previously about the FBI, Steve Bannon, LeBron James or pretty much anyone else.

Even the president’s Twitter feed has been relatively quiet, despite rainy days in Washington keeping him off the golf course. He retweeted his social media director Dan Scavino’s post of a video Obama made during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show a few weeks before the 2016 election, sneering that Trump would never be president. He quoted former Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Fox News saying that Obama Continue reading “GOP attacks Obama, but doesn’t defend Trump”

Booker heading to Iowa in October

2020 just got a little closer.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker will be the featured speaker at the Iowa Democrats’ fall gala, party chairman Troy Price announced Saturday. It will be the first Iowa event for one of the prospective presidential candidates with top name recognition since Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped through for a brief campaign swing earlier this year.

The announcement comes at the end of a week when Booker took center stage as a hero — according to his supporters, or as a grandstander, according to his critics — in the Democratic campaign against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

The dinner will be October 6, a month ahead of elections for governor and several of the state’s House districts that Democrats are hoping to win, but comes as presidential announcement speculation is beginning to spike.

"We’ve said all along that we Continue reading “Booker heading to Iowa in October”

Obama delivers full-throated rebuttal to Trump’s presidency

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Barack Obama launched his midterm campaigning Friday at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, arguing that President Donald Trump poses such a threat to America that it forced him to speak out in an unprecedented way for a former president.

"I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who we are, what it is that we stand for," Obama said. "As a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, I’m here to deliver a simple message, which is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it."

Laying out a brief history of America — starting with George Washington’s decision to step out of public life after leaving the presidency — Obama framed the 2018 elections as more significant than ever before.

And for the first time since Continue reading “Obama delivers full-throated rebuttal to Trump’s presidency”

Obama to launch midterm campaigning this weekend

Barack Obama will launch his midterm campaigning this weekend, following a speech on Friday meant to lay out the case against what he’ll call Donald Trump’s dangerous authoritarian politics.

And he’ll start by emphasizing the battle for the House.

The Friday speech will be at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, after which he’ll fly to Irvine, California, for an event on Saturday highlighting all seven Democrats running in districts currently held by Republicans, but carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. All seven are part of Democrats’ path to taking the majority in the House.

Obama will then be in Cleveland next Thursday to campaign for Richard Cordray, his former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama urged Cordray, who was previously the Ohio attorney general, into the race for governor, and has been eager to see him win.

Also on the schedule already, according to his office: Continue reading “Obama to launch midterm campaigning this weekend”

Biden to keynote major LGBTQ dinner

Joe Biden will keynote the Human Rights Campaign dinner next weekend, helping the nation’s biggest and most politically active LGBTQ advocacy organization continues its push into the midterms.

Biden last appeared at the dinner in 2015, at the height of considering jumping into the 2016 presidential race. He’s currently weighing another run for 2020, though he’s put off both the decision and conversation about it until after November — with plans to be the Democrats’ most active surrogate until then.

But as the vice president who first spoke out in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and who was responsible for pressing Barack Obama to speak out himself, he holds a special status for many LGBTQ people and their supporters.

HRC president Chad Griffin called Biden “a strong voice for the vulnerable and a bold advocate for LGBTQ people.”

HRC has been concentrating its efforts for November on six states Continue reading “Biden to keynote major LGBTQ dinner”

Biden hits the trail like he’s running

PITTSBURGH — Cue the jokes: Joe Biden is running. In fact, he spent much of Labor Day sprinting, more than a mile in total, doing intervals through the streets of one of America’s biggest union towns.

Biden was here for the city’s Labor Day parade three years ago, the one and only campaign event of his almost-but-never-launched 2016 presidential campaign. A year later, he was back with Tim Kaine, trying to transfer his connection with these voters to the Democratic ticket.

Monday’s parade kicked off what will be an intense, nine-week stretch of campaigning for Democratic candidates in the midterms, but also an extended gut check of whether the country has an appetite for another Biden run—and for him to decide if he has the appetite to make one.

But here, in a part of the country that helped tip the 2016 election to Donald Trump but has since delivered Continue reading “Biden hits the trail like he’s running”