News Sips 1/19: One Day More, Controversial Nominees, Hogan’s Cash, and Incoming Pardons

Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the January 19, 2017 edition:

 

One Day More

Tomorrow at noon, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States, heralding a tidal shift in American policies away from the progressive social engineering of the past eight years that gave us “social justice warriors” and towards sober, economic reality and plans for job growth. Mr. Trump will take power with less pomp and circumstance than he predecessors, having opted for an Inauguration that scales back on galas and parades. While this has been seen by the press as a commentary on Trump’s lack of universal popularity, imagining the reverse, a billionaire throwing the biggest, most opulent parties while the middle class of America struggles, would certainly have sent the wrong message.

Mr. Trump will take office with a Republican majority in the House and Senate and with an opening on the Supreme Court. He has the opportunity to get right to work on fulfilling many of the promises that he made while campaigning to roll back some of the disastrous policies of the past eight years in favor of economic sense and growth. Mr. Trump has also noted that he may, as early as Friday afternoon, begin to use executive orders to nullify the executive orders of outgoing President Barack Obama. Among these are onerous regulations on business and Mr. Obama’s decision to unilaterally allow millions of illegal aliens to remain in the United States. It remains to be seen exactly what avenue Mr. Trump will take on these important issues, or the timeframe that he will use.

There are significant protests being planned (because, really, the Democrats, who control no arms of government have very little else to do at this point). A big protests, billed as a “women’s march” is set for Saturday. Interestingly, the “inclusive” women’s march, barred a pro-life group of women from taking part. Guess tolerance only goes for tolerating the opinions of the left. Be ready to hear non-stop anti-Trump coverage from the mainstream media, because, of course, it get them clicks and makes them feel good about themselves (yes, yes this is cynical, but compare the fawning adulation of the media to Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008 to the gloomy, angry attitude of the media towards Mr. Trump and tell me cynicism isn’t the appropriate counterpoint.

 

“Controversial” Nominees? Not So Much.

Despite CNN and the left’s attempts to portray Mr. Trump’s cabinet-level nominees as extreme and controversial, the hearings that have been held for Mr. Trump’s incoming team have showed that each individual possesses knowledge, thoughtfulness, and dedication to real-world solutions that have been so lacking in the past eight years (and even longer into some of the Bush Administration and before). The distinction can be appropriately summarized as “theory” versus “practice.” Mr. Trump’s nominees are real-world practitioners who have seen the impact of the decisions in Washington. Moreover, to a person, each has been successful in the very fields they are now being asked to lead. Importantly, as well, despite leftist criticism that some of Mr. Trump’s nominees are “millionaires and billionaires,” the simple reality is that they are successful (and that those same people are taking massive pay cuts to serve the country).

The most important part of the confirmation hearings that we’ve seen for Mr. Trump’s appointees actually came from comments by Mr. Trump himself. Mr. Trump was passionate that his nominees do not have to, and, in his mind, shouldn’t be in ideological lockstep with the incoming President. Rather, it’s abundantly clear, that Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with a diversity of opinions and backgrounds. There is criticism that Mr. Trump may not listen to these individuals’ advice, but, the obvious counterpoint to this is, well, why appoint people with different opinions? Many of us who were watching Mr. Trump’s appointments were leery that he could do just that and award sycophants with powerful jobs. It is abundantly clear that Mr. Trump decided not to do that.

Yesterday, Governor Nikki Haley (UN Ambassador), Wilbur Ross (Commerce), Representative Dr. Tom Price (Health and Human Services), and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (EPA Administrator) were before Senate panels. Of course, all of them were asked about climate change, which has become a quasi-religious litmus test on the left, and about Mr. Trump. However, it really seemed as if the leftists, like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the like, were more grandstanding for the cameras rather than actually trying to make an impact on the nominees.

Yesterday also saw the Senate Armed Services Committee vote almost unanimously to send General Mattis’ nomination to the full Senate for a vote for being confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Despite questioning, none of Mr. Trump’s nominees appears to be facing any threat of failing to be confirmed by the Senate despite protests from Democrats. The most tenuous nominee at this point is Trump’s Secretary of State pick, former Exxon chief, Rex Tillerson. There are some Republicans, like perennial thorn-in-the-side war hawk John McCain, who was not impressed with Mr. Tillerson’s past dealing with Russia. However, there is no indication that Mr. Tillerson will lose support from Republican Senators. Notably, even if there were defections, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker has stated publicly that Mr. Tillerson’s nomination will be pushed through to the full Senate and that he would be confirmed. Expect the vote soon in the coming days.

 

Hogan’s Cash

Governor Larry Hogan has reported having more than $5 million on hand as he gears up for a re-election fight in Maryland. Hogan, who has retained high approval numbers, has been in the crosshairs for both State and national Democrats who were left stunned by Hogan’s dominant election performance in 2014 against then-Lieutenant-Governor-now-Congressman Anthony Brown.

While Governor Hogan’s fundraising is a big first step to securing a second term despite the winds of partisan opposition that will turn into a gale in less than a year, Governor Hogan will likely face challengers who have the ability to raise huge sums of money. It’s been widely reported that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is looking to challenge Hogan. This would be the best scenario for the Governor’s reelection, as Kamenetz is deeply unpopular in Baltimore County.

The biggest threats to the Governor’s reelection don’t come from State officials, but rather from Maryland’s slate of Federal officials. The most likely folks looking to take on Governor Hogan, and who could raise $5 million in a few weeks, are Representative John Delaney, who represents the gerrymandered 6th Congressional District in Western Maryland and Congressman John Sarbanes. Both would have significant fundraising strength against Hogan and could attract massive attention.

While it’s a great feat that Governor Hogan has secured millions, he needs to continue to work on building the political movement that brought him into office. The Governor’s reelection is hugely important to securing lasting change to the corrupt political system in Maryland and the Governor’s opponents, friendly with the status quo, are terrified of that change.

 

Incoming Pardons?

With a day left in his Presidency, there is not very much that Barack Obama can do that Donald Trump couldn’t undo just as easily. Two exceptions to this are Presidential Pardons and Commutations that are binding, by law, on Mr. Obama’s successors. The outgoing President has now issued pardons and commutations to more people that all of his predecessors. However, the vast majority of these have been to individuals serving lengthy jail sentences for non-violent drug offenses and have, generally, been viewed as appropriate given limited Federal prison resources and the need to focus on violence.

However, Mr. Obama has made waves, as recently as this week, over some of his pardons and commutations. Notably, this week the President commuted the sentences of Chelsea Manning, the army officer who leaked 750,000 intelligence documents to Wikileaks that directly led to Taliban reprisals against Afghan civilians and FALN terrorist mastermind Oscar Lopez Rivera who was instrumental in providing ideological aid to Puerto Rican nationalists who murdered four Americans in a bombing.

With a day left in his Presidency, some are wondering whether Mr. Obama will use his power to protect Hillary Clinton against prosecution (and whether that would be possible given that she hasn’t been charged with a crime, yet) or whether he will take action to free other controversial figures. This rush of commutations and pardons is nothing new for Democrats, Bill Clinton famously pardoned donors on his way out the door as well.

 

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As always, there are more things going on in the world, but these should get you started for today.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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