Democrats Pressed Ukrainians To Cooperate With Mueller investigation

President Trump, facing an impeachment inquiry for pressing Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, is not the first American official to encourage Ukrainians to help with a probe.

In May 2018, three Democratic senators wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general — pushing the foreign office to cooperate with the Mueller investigation into Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“We are writing to express great concern about reports that your office has taken steps to impede cooperation with the investigation of United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” wrote Sens. Robert Menendez, Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy.

“If these reports are true, we strongly encourage you to reverse course and halt any efforts to impede cooperation with this important investigation,” added the senators from New Jersey, Illinois and Vermont.

The letter was written after a New York Times report revealed that Ukraine had frozen investigations into four open cases there, “thereby eliminating scope for cooperation with the Mueller probe into related issues.”

“As strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine, we believe that our cooperation should extend to such legal matters, regardless of politics,” the senators stated.

As vice president in 2016, Biden reportedly threatened to freeze $1 billion of U.S. aid to Ukraine if the foreign leaders didn’t fire the nation’s top prosecutor. “Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden … who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general,” The New York Times reported.

The Democrats who are now trying to impeach Trump were the “first to open the door with Ukraine,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Ukraine seems to be a one-stop-shop for everyone who wants to get political dirt on their opponents.”

Read more from Rick Sobey at the Boston Herald

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Impeachment Inquiry Announcement Against Trump Could Backfire

U.S. House leader dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which some experts said could backfire and end up galvanizing support among Trump's base in the lead up to the 2020 elections.

Actions taken by the president "have seriously violated the Constitution," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday in a televised statement, accusing Trump of "betrayal of his oath of office" and "betrayal of our national security."

After months of flirting with the idea but stopping short of taking action, Pelosi's decision came as more than two-thirds of House Democrats push for an impeachment inquiry amid mounting pressures over alleged abuses of power of the president.

The action followed recent reports that Trump threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine in a bid to pressure Kiev to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival of Trump in the 2020 elections. Biden's son has had business dealings in the Ukraine.

Democrats said this was tantamount to betraying the nation's national security interests for the sake of Trump's own political gains, which they believe is an impeachable offense.

The White House on Tuesday dismissed the allegations, calling it business as usual among Democrats seeking to derail the president.

"The last time a president was impeached it backfired," Republican Strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell told Xinhua, referring to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, which was initiated in 1998.

"There's no public appetite for it," O'Connell said. "Only 37 percent of voters want Democrats to start impeachment proceedings."

"Initiating impeachment proceedings against President Trump remains a popular move among the Democratic base, but it won't necessarily help them win voters across the aisle," said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult's vice president, as quoted by POLITICO, a U.S. political publication.

O'Connell said "once the Mueller report turned out to be a dud, the Democratic leaders in Congress decided to investigate every possible allegation against Trump, without invoking impeachment." O'Connell was referring to the year-long report about possible collusion between Trump and Russia, which in the end failed to produce a smoking gun but cost U.S. taxpayers 32 million dollars.

O'Connell noted that when Republicans impeached Clinton, his approval ratings jumped 10 points in the aftermath.

Democrats were upset about the impeachment and turned out in the next election to protect their president, and experts said the same could happen with Republicans in 2020.

"Imagine what 10 points could do for Donald Trump?" O'Connell said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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How Will A Progressive Agenda Affect The US?

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell discusses why Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax and healthcare initiatives will severely hurt the middle class.

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Trump, Biden Offer 2020 Preview As President’s Team Eager To Fan Flames

Has the 2020 general election already started? No, but it suddenly feels that way.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s back-and-forth about which one might have abused his office over Ukraine is giving the world a preview of a possible future electoral brawl.

Trump and his team sense Biden is taking on water, with the newest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll showing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the lead in Iowa. That survey marks the first time since he entered the Democratic primary that Biden has not been in the lead in the first-to-vote state.

Sources said Monday the president and his campaign team want to keep the Ukraine brawl front and center, suggesting the accusations of corruption against Biden could damage the candidate Trump sees as his biggest threat.

That comes even as some previously reluctant Democrats warm to impeachment after the president appeared to admit to discussing Biden and his son in a July conversation with Ukraine’s newly elected leader. 

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the immediate goal for Trump’s team was to “force the media and others to keep digging, which keeps the story alive.”

“The president knows that [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi isn’t going to impeach him on a whim,” O’Connell added. “Right now, there’s just not a political appetite in the country to impeach President Trump. … So he’s got a little wiggle room on this one.”

Read more from John T. Bennett at Roll Call

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AOC Lashes Out At Democrats' Failure To Impeach President Trump

GOP strategist Ford O'Connell and Democratic political analyst Robert Patillo debate.

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Trump Walks Tightrope On Gun Control

President Trump is stringing along the debate over gun control by keeping alive discussions on expanded background checks, but just barely. 

Senate negotiators initially expected Trump to signal his preferred approach to gun violence prevention by Sept. 13. Then they thought it would happen on Sept. 19.

As of Sunday, they’re still waiting.

The president has yet to indicate what gun control reforms, if any, he’s ready to enforce. Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been left in a state of limbo. 

The question of how to respond to gun violence is one of the toughest political tests of Trump’s presidency, one that could define his popularity in three key battleground states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all leaned Democratic before the 2016 election, and each has large blocs of rural, gun-owning voters.

“It’s one of the biggest tightropes the president is walking,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist familiar with Trump’s political messaging operation.

“The question that the president is facing is, would adopting these new rules on background checks — how much that would help him in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Minnesota,” he said.

“Some argue that it could help him at the margins because we’re expecting an extremely close race. The question is, how many rural voters are turned off by this?” he added.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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U.S. GOP Pushes North American Trade Deal, Dems Remain Unsure

U.S. Republicans are pushing the congress to ratify a trilateral trade deal with neighboring Canada and Mexico, two of the United States' major trade partners. But Democrats could well thwart the new pact out of worries that it may increase President Donald Trump's re-election chances, said analysts.

The Democrats could well decline to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) simply to derail Trump's agenda in the run up to the 2020 elections, said Republican strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell in an interview with Xinhua.

The "markets are looking for certainty, that's why the USMCA is so important. Because it gives you a level of certainty," amid the U.S. trade tensions with China, O'Connell added.

The deal once enacted would be one of Trump administration's key economic achievements so far. It requires 75 percent of auto parts to be made in Canada, Mexico or the United States to avoid tariffs, and 40 to 45 percent of auto parts to be made by workers who earn at least 16 U.S. dollars per hour, among others.

The pact is a revamp of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was signed by leaders from the three countries, and must be ratified by lawmakers to go into effect. Mexican lawmakers have already done so.

Read more Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Dan Bishop Wins Razor-Thin Election In North Carolina Following Trump MAGA Rally

GOP strategist Ford O'Connell reacts.

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As Democratic White House Hopefuls Debate In Houston, Party Eyes Lower-Tier Gains In Texas

While 10 Democratic presidential contenders debate in Houston on Thursday, the party is eyeing gains farther down the ballot in Texas next year in races for the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislature, party strategists and political experts say.

exas has not elected a statewide Democrat in three decades, and Republican President Donald Trump remains the odds-on favorite to win the state in the November 2020 election.

It is not clear the national Democratic Party is willing to devote the financial resources an all-in statewide effort would require, given Texas’ sheer size and the presence of more promising targets like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Instead, Democrats see an opening in the Texas state House of Representatives, where they flipped 12 seats in the 2018 elections, mostly in suburban areas where voters have soured on Trump’s divisive rhetoric. The party needs to capture nine more seats next year to take control for the first time since 2002. The state Senate is expected to remain in Republican hands.

Taking over the state House would allow Democrats to block Republicans from drawing a decade’s worth of friendly state and federal district maps after the 2020 U.S. Census.

In what Democrats have gleefully termed the “Texodus,” five Texas Republican U.S. House incumbents have announced their retirement, including Representative Will Hurd, the only Republican to represent a district on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Discontent with Trump in Texas’ suburban areas, once a Republican stronghold, coupled with the state’s fast-growing Hispanic population and an influx of college-educated liberals from other states, is paving the way for Democratic gains, a dozen party officials, political strategists and academics said in interviews.

“Because Texas Republicans are currently too lackadaisical ... it is the down-ballot Republican officeholders who will likely suffer most in 2020,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and a Texas native.

In an ironic twist for Republicans, analysts say Texas is attracting liberal state voters because of its low cost of living - it has no state income tax, a feature long prized by conservatives.

Read more from Ernest Scheyder and Joseph Ax at Reuters

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Democrats Return To A Battered Trump

President Trump is emerging from a turbulent August with a new problem: Capitol Hill Democrats are about to be back in town.

The Democrats have vowed to unleash new fronts in their investigations of Trump and heap pressure on the White House and Republicans to tackle gun legislation this fall in response to a new series of mass shootings. 

On Friday, two House committees sent inquiries to the White House about administration officials’ use of taxpayer money at Trump properties, after Vice President Pence was forced to defend a stay at a Trump property in Ireland during an official trip there. 

Congress is returning to do battle with a weakened Trump, who entered the August recess from a point of strength but has been battered by weeks of bruising headlines.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said that the controversies individually aren’t major but that they as a whole detract from the White House’s messaging on low jobless claims and economic growth. Trump, he argued, needs to be wary of distracting from his accomplishments ahead of the 2020 election with “tweets from left field.” 

“This is a lesson for the White House,” O’Connell said. “Part of that can be chucked up to the doldrums of summer, but they need to be really focused.” 

Trump’s attention moving into the fall is likely to be increasingly focused on 2020 and his reelection bid.

Allies of the administration and former officials point to the push for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as the main legislative focus for the remainder of the year, but there is uncertainty around whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will bring it up for a vote. 

“The White House is going to go all in on this,” said O’Connell. “By not passing this, you’re rooting for the recession. You’re rooting to hurt the American worker.” 

Read more from Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels at The Hill

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