By Robert A. Vella
We’ll kickoff this week with the stubbornly evolving story of Senate Republicans who are caught uncomfortably between their allegiance to President Trump, the pressure they’re getting from the public to address his impeachable offenses, and their own political self-interests in next year’s election. Young people, particularly college students, are getting much more politically involved; and, not surprisingly, Republicans are trying to suppress their vote. Democrats have announced two membership changes in the House of Representatives. An intriguing civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the white supremacist organizers and protesters whose racist Charlottesville rally triggered deadly violence in 2017. Destructive wildfires and high winds are causing massive evacuations and power outages in California. In international news, Brexit has been delayed once again and the presidential election in Argentina was won by the center-left.
Republican senators are lost and adrift as the impeachment inquiry enters its second month, navigating the grave threat to President Trump largely in the dark, frustrated by the absence of a credible case to defend his conduct and anxious about the historic reckoning that likely awaits them.
Recent days have delivered the most damaging testimony yet about Trump and his advisers commandeering Ukraine policy for the president’s personal political goals, which his allies on Capitol Hill sought to undermine by storming the deposition room and condemning the inquiry as secretive and corrupt.
Those theatrics belie the deepening unease many Republicans now say they feel — particularly those in the Senate who are dreading having to weigh their conscience against their political calculations in deciding whether to convict or acquit Trump should the Democratic-controlled House impeach the president.
The GOP majority is in play in 2020, with Collins, Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) each facing tough campaigns and grappling with polls in their states showing independent voters souring on Trump and open to impeachment.
“At some point, McConnell is going to have to perform triage to save the majority,” said Rick Wilson, a longtime GOP consultant and Trump critic. “How the Senate Republicans handle everything is all going to come down to how threatened Mitch feels and how worried he is about losing Colorado, North Carolina and a few others states. And if Trump’s numbers keep dropping, that decision is going to come sooner than later for him.”
Youth voter surge
The story at Austin Community College is but one example of a political drama playing out nationwide: After decades of treating elections as an afterthought, college students have begun voting in force.
Their turnout in the 2018 midterms — 40.3 percent of 10 million students tracked by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education — was more than double the rate in the 2014 midterms, easily exceeding an already robust increase in national turnout. Energized by issues like climate change and the Trump presidency, students have suddenly emerged as a potentially crucial voting bloc in the 2020 general election.
And almost as suddenly, Republican politicians around the country are throwing up roadblocks between students and voting booths.
House of Representatives news
(Bloomberg) — The New York City lawmaker whose district includes much of Manhattan and Trump Tower has the inside track to take over a key congressional watchdog committee with a leading role in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, according to multiple House Democratic officials.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, 73, has already taken over the Committee on Oversight and Reform on an acting basis, following the Oct. 17 death of Elijah Cummings, the former chairman.
Lawsuit targets racists
Lawyers for the plaintiffs maintain that the conversations — peppered with derogatory remarks against African-Americans, Jews and others — constitute a conspiracy to commit violence against a racial minority, which is illegal under federal law.
Participants planned the violence beforehand, and “there is no First Amendment protection for violence,” said Karen L. Dunn, a lead attorney.
Proving a conspiracy is the crux of the lawsuit, which is rooted in a rarely invoked component of an 1871 federal law commonly called the Ku Klux Klan Act.
The act was part of an effort to give legal teeth to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which ended slavery and extended equal rights to African-Americans, said Eric Foner, a Columbia University historian who has written extensively about the Reconstruction Era. The act criminalized efforts by the Klan to re-enslave African-Americans.
Most rights embedded in the United States Constitution are designed to protect citizens from the government, and say very little about how private people treat one another, said William P. Baude, an expert on constitutional law at the University of Chicago.
The K.K.K. Act provided a narrow exception, extending civil rights protection into the private sphere. Two caveats limit its scope: the violence in question must be both racially motivated and plotted in advance.
The 14 individuals and 10 organizations who are the defendants include white nationalists, neo-Nazis and a couple of subdivisions of the Ku Klux Klan.
SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with historically heavy winds, Pacific Gas & Electric expanded its power outages across Northern California to about 1 million customers, meaning well more than 2 million people are in the dark Sunday.
PG&E has been shutting off power to residents to avoid fires sparked by electric lines. Sunday’s outages are by far the biggest such shut-offs, leaving many parts of the Bay Area, wine country, delta and Sacramento Valley under blackout conditions.
Shutoffs are a relatively new and controversial strategy aimed at reducing the risk of fires triggered by electrical lines like the ones that caused the wine country and Paradise infernos. Also Saturday, about 90,000 more Sonoma County residents, from Healdsburg to Bodega Bay and the Pacific Coast, were ordered to evacuate.
BRUSSELS/LONDON, Oct 28 (Reuters) – The European Union on Monday agreed a 3-month flexible delay to Britain’s departure from the bloc as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushes for an election after opponents forced him to request an extension he had vowed never to ask for.
Just days before the United Kingdom is formally due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 at 2300 GMT, Brexit is hanging in the balance as British politicians are no closer to reaching a consensus on how, when or even if the divorce should take place.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri conceded defeat to his center-left rival Alberto Fernandez late Sunday after the first round of voting in the country’s closely fought election.
Voters turned out in numbers to reject the austerity measures introduced by Macri as the country attempts to dig itself out of a deep economic crisis.
Inflation has ballooned to more than 50% year-on-year and the IMF forecasting that the country’s GDP will shrink by 1.2% by the end of the year.
The latest count put Fernandez ahead with 48% of votes compared to center-right Macri’s 40.4%, with more than 95% of votes counted, according to figures from the National Electoral Directorate.
Fernandez needed 45% of votes or a 10% lead over his nearest rival to win.
Voter turnout was 80.8%, according to the National Electoral Directorate.