Power Up: #MeToo, Race and Politics: Virginia Democrats wrestle with zero tolerance ahead of 2020

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Breaking: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on Monday for an unannounced visit amid peace talks to end the 17-year-old war. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is expected to withdraw California’s National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Outside the Beltway

WRITING THE PLAYBOOK: Chaos at the intersection of race, gender and politics continues to roil the Democratic Party of Virginia, a drama happening near but outside the White House —  for once.  Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax continued to resist calls to resign over the weekend (while Attorney General Mark Herring, the second Democrat in line to the throne with his own admission of wrongdoing, waited in the wings).

Northam said in an interview with my colleague Greg Schneider on Saturday that he wasn’t going anywhere, adding he intended to use his governorship to promote racial reconciliation in the Commonwealth. He repeated those sentiments to Gayle King on CBS News Sunday morning, while sparking a new controversy by calling the first blacks to come to Virginiaindentured servants.”

“Right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” Northam told King.

But it’s the two allegations of sexual assault against Fairfax — one of them a rape, and both of them which he denies — putting the most pressure on Virginia Democrats. Right now, the African American second-in-charge is the only official that Virginia lawmakers are considering impeaching, holding out the possibility of a troubling double standard if two white men who wore blackface — Northam and Herring — are allowed to stay in power while Fairfax is ousted.

“This has been one of the most difficult political weeks of my life,” Donna Brazile, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told the New York Times. “There’s no playbook for this.”

  • The latest: “Virginia Democratic lawmakers Sunday began circulating a draft resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against Lt. Gov. Fairfax,” reports The Posts’s Fenit Nerappil.
  • What’s next: Democrat Del. Patrick Hope of Arlington distributed the impeachment articles to his colleagues and “[a] vote on the resolution, which could come as early as Tuesday if it is introduced Monday, would direct the House Committee for Courts of Justice to hold hearings on the allegations against Fairfax, with the support of legislative staff and state agencies. Such an investigation would be the precursor to the committee’s recommendation for impeachment and a vote of the full House.”
  • Hope: “It is not impeachment,” Hope emphasized. “It is a process to investigate whether the Courts Committee would recommend impeachment.”

The Times’s Jonathan Martin, Alan Blinder and Campbell Robertson point out the troubling optics of the conflicting stances with repercussions that could spill into 2020: 

  • The red line: “Just how far Virginia Democrats go to confront these three statewide officials — who swept into office in 2017 on the first wave of backlash to President Trump’s election — will send a signal about how committed they are to taking a hard line on racial and sexual transgressions, and will echo well beyond this state’s borders,” JMart, Blinder and Campbell write. 
  • My colleagues Amy Gardner and Jenna Portnoy report: “But privately, Democrats are divided, particularly about whether ousting Northam is best for their party. Some want to talk about how far Virginia has come from its painful, racist past. Others are uncomfortable about offering redemption to the two white men but not the African American man, who has vehemently denied the allegations. No one seems to know how to live by the rules their party has set on race and gender, or how to take the first step toward whatever comes next.”

Northam’s announcement of a racial reconciliation tour was not well received by some prominent African American strategists: 

  • Democratic strategist Quentin James, the founder of a PAC that supports progressive black candidates nationally, told Power Up: “The notion that Northam will address racial inequality as a newfound value worsens the situation in my opinion because it’s a political act. That makes it almost more racist.”
  • Political problem: James added that regardless of what happens in Virginia politics, Democrats need to confront white privilege and racial intolerance — past and present — within their own party. “If you don’t think Republicans aren’t going to exploit racial divides in the Democratic Party — look on Twitter. Trump doesn’t need to win black voters, he just needs to make sure that 3, 4 or 5 percent stays home.” 
  • Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon: “African Americans are very angry at the double standard on full display in Virginia!” 
  • Bad advice: Former South Carolina State Rep. Bakari Sellers said that Northam is getting “bad advice” about embarking on a racial reconciliation tour. “It’s a discussion we have to have but I don’t think Northam is capable of leading it and unfortunately,  it’s a double-edged sword that we’re having this while Trump is president.”
  • Nina Turner, the president of Our Revolution, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “I’m not going to continue to let politicians use this man as the excuse to deal with racism in this country,” referring to President Trump. “It’s been going on for far too long in the United States of America. We need some real truth and reconciliation.”

From a Democratic strategist on Northam’s “indentured servant” comment: 

Zero tolerance policy?: Virginians are split on Northam’s future following the revelation of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, according to a Post poll released over the weekend. Notably, Northam maintained higher support from African Americans: 

  • “The poll, conducted Wednesday through Friday, finds residents split over Northam’s fate, with 47 percent wanting him to step down and 47 percent saying he should stay on. Northam counts higher support among black residents — who say he should remain in office by a margin of 58 percent to 37 percent — than among whites, who are more evenly divided,” Peter Jamison and Scott Clement write
  • There was also a dissonance between near unanimous calls for Northam’s resignation from the political elite versus an ambivalence among Virginians: “The data here is so at odds with what party leaders have led us to believe — that the governor has no support to govern effectively anymore,” Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell told my colleagues. Reps. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) reiterated their calls for Northam’s resignation on ‘Face the Nation.’
  • Regarding Fairfax, Virginians are also undecided, although the poll was conducted before a second allegation of assault came to light: “Most remain undecided about a woman’s allegation that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) sexually assaulted her in 2004, with 65 percent saying they didn’t know enough to judge Fairfax’s denial of the accusation.”

By the end of last week, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus had called for both Northam and Fairfax to step down. Other prominent African American figures outside of the state said that Fairfax and Northam are too damaged to govern effectively. 

  • “I think the Democratic Party would lack credibility if they followed a double standard,” Rep, Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, told the Times.
  • “Politically, you probably have to start from scratch,” Sellers told Power Up, adding that Virginia Sen. Jennifer McClellan, also African American, would be a great replacement for Fairfax. 
 

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At the White House

SHUTDOWN II?: Bipartisan talks President Trump has repeatedly called “a waste of time,” are — surprise! — at another impasse. Four days out from the Friday deadline with today marking the informal time to reach a deal to avoid another government closure, Trump and his Sunday show surrogates signaled the unlikelihood of the president signing a bipartisan bill that does not give him border wall funding of $5.7 billion: 

  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on “Face the Nation”: “I do expect the president [to] take some kind of executive action — a national emergency is certainly part of that. There are a few other things in his toolbox that he could use,” Meadows said. 
  • Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on NBC News’s “Meet the Press: “You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table,” Mulvaney said.
  • State of play:  “… after looking promising for days, the delicate negotiations collapsed over Democrats’ insistence on limiting the number of unauthorized immigrants who can be detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency,” reports The Post’s Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Seung Min Kim.
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Fox News Sunday: “I think the talks are stalled right now,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the lead Republican negotiator. “I’m not confident we’re going to get there.”
  • “Very little money”: “I don’t think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal. They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!” Trump tweeted. 
  • Trump also tweeted this defense: “President is on sound legal ground to declare a National Emergency. There have been 58 National Emergencies declared since the law was enacted in 1976, and 31 right now that are currently active, so this is hardly unprecedented.” Congressman @tommcclintock” 
  • Two possibilities: “The breakdown in negotiations came as Pentagon and administration officials were preparing for two situations: another partial government shutdown or the president, unsatisfied with an agreement produced by the bipartisan panel, fulfilling his threat to declare a national emergency,” the Times’s Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman and Eric Schmitt report. 

To the border: Itching for a fight, apparently, Trump heads to El Paso later today for a rally where he’ll make yet another public appeal for his beloved wall. In reality TV show fashion, former House member and possible 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), who represented the district, will headline the counter programming.

  • O’Rourke will appear at the “March for Truth” about one mile away from Trump’s rally. The Post’s Amy Wang reports Beto will join residents in a “peaceful march” on Monday,  “intended to coincide with Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ rally.” He will also speak at the event
  • The former Texas congressman, who shattered expectations during his Senate race against Ted Cruz before ultimately losing it, told Oprah last week he will decide whether to run for president “before the end of the month.”  

On The Hill

MORE KHASHOGGI FALLOUT: Responding to the Trump administration’s failure to submit on Friday a report to Congress to determine whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is personally responsible for Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, House Foreign Affairs lead Republican Michael McCaul (Tex.) released a statement saying the administration is not following the law: 

  • “I am deeply troubled by the letter I received from the Administration regarding the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The letter does not meet the requirements of the ‘Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act’, which were invoked by letters from the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate foreign policy committees last October….I call on the Administration to immediately comply with the requirements of the law, and to provide Congress with the information required,” per McFaul’s statement.

The Investigations

LOOKAHEAD: Here’s what we can expect this week in Congress as Democrats plow forward in their oversightof the Trump administration.

  1. On Tuesday: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the failure of the Justice Department, the Homeland Security Department and the Health and Human Services Department to produce documents on the administration’s former child separation policy. 
  2. The U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela at the State Department, Elliott Abrams, will appear before the House Foreign Relations Committee to discuss Venezuela
  3. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the rising costs of prescription drugs. 
  4. The Homeland Security Committee will host a hearing on “Defending our Democracy: Building Partnerships to Protect America’s Elections.” 
  5. On Thursday: The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the impact of the (first) shutdown and resource constraints on the Coast Guard.

Separately: Adding more fuel to the fire, House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) “expressed concern Sunday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has not adequately scrutinized President Trump’s finances and said House investigators plan to probe Trump’s relationship with a bank implicated in Russian money laundering,” according to The Post’s Greg Miller. 

  • Specifically, Schiff is interested in Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank: “In particular, Schiff said the House panel planned to investigate Trump’s two-decade relationship with Deutsche Bank, a German institution that has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties in recent years after admitting its role in a $10 billion money laundering scheme that allowed clients in Russia to move vast sums overseas,” Miller reports. 
  • Noted: “The House Intelligence Committee has sought to bolster its investigative staff with financial and forensic accounting experts, part of an expansion of the Trump-Russia probe since Democrats gained control of the chamber,” Miller writes. 

In the Media

2020 Watch: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, touting herself as dogged Midwesterner, announces her Democratic presidential bid. By The Post’s Chelsea Janes and Matt Viser. 

R.I.P.: Walter Jones, congressman who worked to atone for his Iraq war vote, is dead at 76. By The News & Observer’s Brian Murphy. 

Dealbreaker?: Mistress’ Brother Leaked Bezos’ Racy Texts to Enquirer, Sources Say. By The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markey. 

What we’re listening to: Bobbie Gentry’s ‘The Delta Sweete’ Gets A Much-Belated Tribute. By NPR’s Scott Simon and Ned Wharton. 

Attn. TrumpIn 13 of 26 nations surveyed, people name climate change as the top international threat. By Pew Research’s Jacob Poushter and Christine Huang. 

Viral

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