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National Govt & Politics
Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow
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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

A trip through the Plains over the past two weeks showcased some of the electoral strengths - and possible weaknesses - for President Donald Trump, as he was cast as a hero by thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts, while the President's trade fight with China continued to draw intense concerns among farmers and agricultural leaders, threatening to cast a shadow in Red states on the President's 2020 re-election bid.

"Agriculture exports to China dropped by 50% last year," the National Farmers Union said on Monday, as concerns continue to grow among farmers that Mr. Trump's tariffs on Chinese imports - and the retaliation by the Chinese government against U.S. agriculture - could spell further economic troubles for farmers nationwide.

But while farmers worried about their sales, those going to a major motorcycle rally in South Dakota last weekend had an array of Trump t-shirts to buy, reflecting the strong support in Red states for the President.

"IN TRUMP WE TRUST," read one shirt on sale in Custer, South Dakota.

Here's some of what I saw during my break from Washington, D.C.

1. Trump wasn't there, but he was a star of Sturgis.

You don't have to be a political scientist to understand that most of those riding their motorcycles to the big rally in Sturgis, South Dakota this past weekend would tend to be Trump supporters. That was obvious in the shirts they were wearing, and what was on sale on the Main Street of towns in South Dakota and Wyoming. Shirts depicting the President as Captain America. "WELCOME TO AMERICA," bellowed another t-shirt which sported a drawing of President Trump riding a Harley with high handlebars. "NOW SPEAK ENGLISH OR GET THE F*CK OUT," the shirt said. Another shirt with a similar Trump-in-motorcycle-leather said, "FINALLY SOMEONE WITH BALLS!" And then there was one shirt which poked fun at what LBGTQ stands for.

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

2. Support for Trump being tested in Farm Country.
The corn is growing tall in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. Soybeans are doing well. The cows look well fed and there is absolutely no shortage of grass to eat. In fact, there has been so much rain that the fields are an uncommon color of deep green in the middle of August for hundreds of miles, and there is little in the way of drought. That should be something good for Farm Country. But the news over the last week for farmers in the Plains was not positive, as the Chinese announced they would not buy any American agricultural products so long as President Trump was levying new tariffs on goods imported from Beijing. The Trump Administration has already unveiled two different bailouts for farmers hurt by trade retaliation - and there could be billions of dollars more needed if this U.S.-China trade fight goes on. It's being noticed by some of the bigger players in agriculture.

3. Growth remains uneven in Trump areas. In my five state trek, I only was in two counties which voted for Hillary Clinton - everything else was for President Trump in 2016. Economically, the strongest towns in rural America continue to rely on either tourism, or colleges and hospitals - but most areas don't have that, as many of the towns which fall in between are struggling. The two lane roads of the Plains showcased way too many faded signs - and dreams - which couldn't survive. Despite the President's constant declarations that the economy is the best ever, it's not apparent that things are changing dramatically in rural areas, especially with trade troubles being encountered by American farmers. Where was the biggest growth occurring? That's an easy answer - it was in a Blue area around  Minneapolis - where renovations were underway for numerous old buildings in the city, along with all sorts of highway construction in the region. Democrats won two House seats from the GOP in 2018 in greater Minneapolis, and it's yet another state further dividing along rural-urban lines, with the showdown in the suburbs and exurbs of the state's cities.

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

4. The cry for less government rings hollow at times. 
As you go through much of the Plains and the West, you find a lot of aggravation with the federal government. And yet - Washington does so much to keep these areas going, from the national parks which provide a vital economic boost via tourism, the government subsidies for farmers which help all sorts of agricultural operations, to the Army Corps of Engineers, which gives so many communities a life line along the Mississippi, Missouri, and other rivers. As I watched the sun set on the Missouri in the capital of South Dakota this past week, I couldn't help but think about how the Army Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation made it easier for the people out fishing late that evening, and others playing on the river. It was a fresh reminder of how reliant many Red states are on the federal government.

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

5. Energy industry remains strong - both fossil and green. My hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota could well have just been an office for workers at Halliburton, who filled the breakfast room and hallways with their work talk. Driving along miles and miles of dirt road across into Montana, we not only took in some great scenery, but also saw a large amount of construction work on an oil pipeline. It was a reminder of the ongoing energy boom in the Dakotas and Wyoming. But there was also evidence of continuing growth in a different arena - green energy - as giant trucks were on the interstates to deliver huge blades for wind turbines, and we saw repeated examples of entire fields sprouting solar panels, instead of corn, wheat, hay, or soybeans.

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

6. The debate over guns remains the same. Over twenty years ago, the guy who lived next to my grandparents in Wyoming had a favorite name for a buffalo-shaped target at his gun range - "The Schumer" he called it - referring to the New York Senator, and his push for gun controls. After the latest mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, there was no evidence that anything was changing out West when it comes to Second Amendment issues. One conversation stopped me in my tracks outside Bismarck, North Dakota, where I listened as three men talked about how they thought those mass shootings - along with the attack on an outdoor music concert in Las Vegas in 2017 - were probably orchestrated by the federal government in order to press for gun controls. "I love this country, but I don't trust the government," one man said to the nodding approval of the others, as they embraced what can only be described as a classic conspiracy theory. There will be more debate about guns when the Congress returns to work after Labor Day. Whether anything happens legislatively is another story entirely.

7. The only hope for unity may be the Prairie Dog.

If there was one thing that seemed to appeal to everyone we saw on our trip, it was an appreciation for the prairie dog. It didn't matter if you were a grizzled motorcycle rider, a family from overseas, or a bunch of kids from Back East who have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that the Washington, D.C. area has more people than North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming combined. Little kids loved the prairie dogs. Pot-bellied bikers with no shirts loved the prairie dogs. Maybe there is hope that we can bridge the political gap in America. Prairie Dog 2020.

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

8. Checking off a few more state capitol buildings. I may work in the U.S. Capitol on a daily basis, but there's nothing I love more than going to see state capitols all around the country. This past week, the Dupree Family trekked to St. Paul, Minnesota, Bismarck, North Dakota, and Pierre, South Dakota. All three capitols had their good points, but if I had to pick one of them, then the South Dakota Capitol would rate the highest on my list. Every single one tells a different story. Every capitol is a reminder that we don't call it the United States of America for nothing.

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

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Out West: Trump holds strong while farm worries grow

My last piece of advice - get on the road and see the country. You might pick up a few things, and you might realize that no one gets everything they want in politics. 

Or in life.

Read More
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • Forecasts are still showing a chance for a wintry mix Sunday night into Monday morning. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say a light wintry mix will be possible along the I-44 corridor later Sunday night. Temperatures may cool enough to support all snow near the Kansas border.  They don’t expect much accumulation, although some issues could develop along elevated surfaces such as bridges and overpasses.  The FOX23 and KRMG Severe Weather Team will be keeping a close eye on the data.
  • T-Mobile CEO John Legere said if his company’s $26.5 billion deal to buy Sprint fails, it may have to raise prices to slow user growth and relieve stress on the T-Mobile network. He said that would be his “worst nightmare.” Legere’s testimony came on the fourth day of a high-profile antitrust trial. Fourteen state attorneys general are suing to block the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint. They say the deal would cost consumers billions. The trial with the states is a major hurdle for T-Mobile, but federal regulators have already cleared the merger. The Justice Department approved it after T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to set up satellite TV provider Dish as a new wireless competitor. The states say that’s not enough. Legere’s testimony regarding T-Mobile’s potential pricing strategy Thursday stemmed from a September 2019 T-Mobile document that made projections about T- Mobile’s future as a standalone company in 2020. A lawyer for the states, Glenn Pomerantz, laid out evidence that T-Mobile had options beyond acquiring Sprint that would let it obtain more spectrum, the airwaves that signals travel over and the lifeblood of a wireless network. Adding spectrum would shore up the network from the strain of its growing user base watching Netflix and uploading cat videos to Instagram.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Friday morning in support of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending the issue to the House floor for a historic vote next week. After Democrats had recessed the hearing late on Thursday night, lawmakers reconvened for two quick votes on impeachment articles dealing with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 noes,” the committee clerk said twice, as Democrats moved in rapid fire fashion to report the impeachment articles to the full House. Republicans denounced the outcome. You don't get to remove a President because you don't like him,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA).    “They did not produce a scintilla of evidence to support a charge of impeachment.” “This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who called the effort a 'railroad job.' “It was a witch hunt,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up. Democrats said the case for action was simple. “The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Today is a solemn and said day,” said House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).  “The House will act expeditiously.” The committee vote sends the issue to the full House, where a vote is expected next week. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate would be required to hold a historic impeachment trial, which is expected to start in January. President Trump would be the third President subjected to such a trial under the Constitution, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. As for the President, his Press Secretary joined GOP lawmakers in ridiculing the impeachment effort. “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement. “The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” she added. A Senate impeachment trial is expected to start in January.
  • Seeking emergency mental health assistance could soon be as simple as dialing 988, federal regulators announced Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission formally began the process Thursday to designate 988 as a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. “The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of suicide prevention nonprofit Lines for Life, told USA Today. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency.' According to The Wall Street Journal, the new hotline is intended to simplify access to services available currently by dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Once operational, dialing 988 would connect callers to the existing hotline and then route them to nearby crisis centers equipped to provide assistance. “We believe this historical and critical effort will turn the tide on reducing suicides and promote mental wellness in the United States,” said a statement from Kimberly Williams, chief executive of Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit that administers the lifeline, The Journal reported. Read more here and here.

Washington Insider

  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Friday morning in support of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending the issue to the House floor for a historic vote next week. After Democrats had recessed the hearing late on Thursday night, lawmakers reconvened for two quick votes on impeachment articles dealing with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 noes,” the committee clerk said twice, as Democrats moved in rapid fire fashion to report the impeachment articles to the full House. Republicans denounced the outcome. You don't get to remove a President because you don't like him,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA).    “They did not produce a scintilla of evidence to support a charge of impeachment.” “This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who called the effort a 'railroad job.' “It was a witch hunt,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up. Democrats said the case for action was simple. “The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Today is a solemn and said day,” said House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).  “The House will act expeditiously.” The committee vote sends the issue to the full House, where a vote is expected next week. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate would be required to hold a historic impeachment trial, which is expected to start in January. President Trump would be the third President subjected to such a trial under the Constitution, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. As for the President, his Press Secretary joined GOP lawmakers in ridiculing the impeachment effort. “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement. “The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” she added. A Senate impeachment trial is expected to start in January.
  • After over 14 hours of debate, Democrats surprised Republicans by holding off a final vote in the House Judiciary Committee until Friday morning on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, as Democrats charged the President was clearly trying to get Ukraine to announce investigations which would benefit Mr. Trump's 2020 re-election bid. 'President Trump used his office to serve himself,' said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), as Democrats said the evidence was clear that President Trump was trying to get foreign help for 2020. 'The President is an imminent threat,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). 'We have to take action, we must impeach the President.'  'One of my colleagues said that we are lowering the bar on impeachment,' said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). 'I believe we are lowering the bar on the Presidency.' Republicans denounced the impeachment effort as a political vendetta by a party which was still upset about losing the 2016 election. 'This impeachment is going to fail, and the Democrats are justly going to pay a heavy political price for it,' said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). 'This is a day that will live in infamy for the Judiciary Committee,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). 'It's a focus group impeachment,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as Republicans decried the lack of detail in the articles of impeachment. The delay in the committee vote until Friday left Republicans spitting mad, as GOP lawmakers were caught completely off guard. “Stalinesque,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Republicans had prolonged debate until after 11 pm - and the immediate thought on Capitol Hill was that Democrats did not want to be accused of voting on impeachment 'in the middle of the night' - so they delayed action until Friday. The panel will meet at 10 am ET.
  • Already over two months behind schedule, key lawmakers in Congress said Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement which would hopefully bring $1.3 trillion in funding bills to a vote next week in the House and Senate, avoiding a government shutdown deadline of December 20. 'There's a meeting of the minds,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up a dozen unfinished funding bills for the federal government - work which should have been finished by October 1. With no details readily available - and House leaders talking about holding a vote by Tuesday on a single giant bill, or maybe a pair of funding plans - the familiar year-end rush caused furrowed brows for some in the Congress. 'Two minibuses = an omnibus,' tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), using the familiar name for large funding measures, in which up to a dozen spending bills are jammed into one catch-all funding plan. Congress is supposed to be finished with the 12 different funding bills for the federal government by September 30 of each year - as the new fiscal year begins October 1. But over the past 45 years, it has become standard procedure for lawmakers in both parties to use temporary funding measures - known as 'continuing resolutions' - to fund operations of the government while final spending deals are worked out by the House and Senate. Only four times since a big change in Congressional budget rules in 1974 has the Congress finished the funding work on time - in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996.
  • Facing a wall of Republican opposition, Democrats in the U.S. House are on the verge of approving two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, as critics of the President pressed their case in opening arguments Wednesday night before the House Judiciary Committee. 'We must hold this President accountable for corrupting our democracy,' said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). 'We must impeach this President.' 'President Trump grossly abused his power,' said Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ). 'Until this investigation began, I did not support impeaching President Trump,' said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who labeled this a 'break glass' emergency moment in American history. 'This is a moment that the President has forced upon us,' said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). On the other side of the dais, Republicans ridiculed and blasted the impeachment effort by Democrats, labeling them sore losers, and accusing their rivals of simply trying to undo the results of the last election. 'We are witness, I believe, the most tragic mockery of justice in the history of this nation,' said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH). 'This is scary stuff what they're doing,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). 'Frankly it is dangerous for our country. It is not healthy for our country.' 'We've heard some great speeches tonight, but let's not forget, this is a political hit job,' said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). 'This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest, most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history,' said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Debate will resume at 9 am on the two articles of impeachment which Democrats have set before the panel. One charge alleges abuse of power by President Trump, revolving around his July 25, 2019 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, where the President pressed Ukraine to announce investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had been behind the hacking of Democrats in 2016. The other impeachment charge covers obstruction of Congress, as Democrats say the President's refusal to cooperate with investigators - and his orders to Executive Branch officials to defy subpoenas from Congress - is not behavior which should be tolerated under the Constitution. Votes in the Judiciary Committee are expected Thursday, with a vote in the full House next week.