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D.C. Memo: Omar and Omar again

Ilhan Omar
REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s been in the news lately.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo, where we await Minnesota’s next snowstorm with all the enthusiasm of Gayle King waiting for another R. Kelly interview. This week was chock-a-block full of news from Washington, of course, ranging from Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, and Omar … to Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar, Omar. Also, Democrats launched a wide-ranging investigation into Donald Trump; a bunch of people said they weren’t going to run for president; and Luke Perry — the sideburns of a generation, a man whose first big purchase after making it was a riding lawn mower … for his dad — died. And Alex Trebek has cancer. So everything is awful but let’s get to it anyway.

Three big things

Jerry and the Giant impeach? On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee opened what was almost universally referred to as a “sweeping” investigation of President Donald Trump, more specifically of “obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power,” all which sounds a little been-there-done-that by the standards of the day. Yet there’s a reason this inquiry is being treated a bit differently, as Politico’s Andrew Desiderio and Darren Samuelsohn explain:

Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) opened his much-anticipated probe with letters to 81 people, companies and government entities, seeking a wide range of materials that go to the heart of allegations against the president — including abuses of power, corruption and obstruction of justice. By initiating the wide-ranging demand for documents, the Judiciary Committee signaled it is creating its own insurance policy in the event that all of [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller’s findings are not made public and it finds the kinds of evidence that would be grounds for removing Trump from office. Public hearings and closed-door interviews based off the materials will begin in a matter of weeks, a senior Democratic committee lawyer said.

And who exactly are those 81 people, companies and government entities receiving letters from the committee? Mostly a bunch of low-level nobodies like “the president’s two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his former personal secretary and senior vice president of the Trump Organization, Rhona Graff; Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization; and former top White House aides Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer and Stephen K. Bannon,” say The Washington Post’s Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker.

Of course, as is to be expected in Washington these days, the investigation is either exactly the right thing to do or being conducted in complete ignorance of the Constitution. But one thing seems like a safe bet: It’s probably not going to cheer up your favorite president. As The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand explains: “Nadler’s expansive probe appears to encompass several lines of inquiry that have been examined intensively by federal and congressional investigators for the past two years. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating a potential conspiracy between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. New York prosecutors are reportedly investigating Trump’s inaugural committee for potential campaign-finance violations. And the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are also examining, among other things, Trump’s decades-long real-estate career.”

Chasing Amy: Beto run for your life edition: It was a big week for presidential politics, mostly because of all the people who decided they weren’t going to run after all (sorry, Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper). Even as we await word on whether former Vice President Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke are running (they’re running), Eric Holder made it clear he was out, as did Hillary Clinton, as if that was ever going to be a thing. And while it’s safe to say we were all on pins and needles over Jeff Merkley’s decision, his announcement of not-running was overshadowed by developments in two very different corners of the Democratic universe. On Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown announced he wasn’t running, which the Memo is super annoyed about, if only because it’s going to deprive the 2020 presidential campaign of the country’s most compelling political spouse. The other big announcement came earlier in the week from billionaire former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As he explained in something called Bloomberg Opinion:

I know what it takes to run a winning campaign, and every day when I read the news, I grow more frustrated by the incompetence in the Oval Office. I know we can do better as a country. And I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election. But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field. …

… So as I’ve thought about a possible presidential campaign, the choice before me has become clear. Should I devote the next two years to talking about my ideas and record, knowing that I might never win the Democratic nomination? Or should I spend the next two years doubling down on the work that I am already leading and funding, and that I know can produce real and beneficial results for the country, right now?

I’ve come to realize that I’m less interested in talking than doing. And I have concluded that, for now, the best way for me to help our country is by rolling up my sleeves and continuing to get work done.

Meanwhile, in the Klobo-o-verse, the Senator Next Door sat down with Rolling Stone to talk about her background, her campaign, and Al Franken:

There’s a theory that every president is followed by his opposite. If that’s true, it would be good news for Amy Klobuchar. The Democratic senator from Minnesota, who announced her 2020 candidacy in February, is the president’s antithesis: competent, detail-oriented, even-tempered, Midwestern. In a 2010 survey of congressional staffers of both parties, she was voted one of the funniest members of Congress (alongside Saturday Night Live alum and fellow Minnesotan Al Franken) and the least likely to become embroiled in scandal (unlike Franken, as it turned out).

In fact, for longtime Klobuchar groupies, the Franken stuff might be the most interesting part of the piece, especially since the person most responsible for Franken’s exit from the Senate — other than Franken himself, of course — is also running for president.

Klobuchar was one of only three Democratic women in the Senate who didn’t call for Sen. Franken’s resignation last year after he was accused by eight women — including a former congressional staffer — of forced kissing and groping. “It really wasn’t that close a call for me,” she says of the decision not to speak out about Franken. “We had long talks during that time period, including that day. . . . And I always believed — maybe naively, given what happened — that it would go through the [Senate] ethics committee. I still believe that was the right thing,” she says, adding, “For some of these things, there should be due process, and I felt like this was one of them.”

The piece also features a nice photo of Kloby standing outside First Avenue, between the Bob Mould and Hold Steady stars. Which seems about right.

The Ilhaniad: We’d by lying here at Memo HQ if we knew where to begin with the latest installment of the Ilhan Omar saga, or where it’s going. As of this writing, we’re in the backlash-to-the-backlash stage of the story. Or maybe it’s the backlash-to-the-backlash-to-the-backlash stage.

In any case, for those of you who’ve been hiding in an ice shack for the last seven days, here’s the Trump PDB-level version of the story: Last week, Omar — who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District — was at an event at a bookstore in Washington when she was asked about those who’ve said her criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. In response, she said: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

In some corners, this was seen as reference to an anti-Semitic “dual loyalties” trope, and several commentators and a number of Omar’s fellow Democratic lawmakers chastised her for the comments, which came just weeks after Omar apologized for an earlier tweet that was also seen to reference age-old anti-Jewish slurs.

This time, Omar did not apologize, and by Wednesday, House Democrats were preparing a resolution condemning religious hatred (but not specifically mentioning Omar). But then: “In a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday morning, lawmakers debated whether to vote on an anti-hate measure in response to Omar,” reported The Post. “The session quickly became rancorous, reflecting splinters over wider issues such as America’s long-standing support for Israel, the appropriate response to racial and religious grievances, and a new generation’s reliance on social media. Plans for a quick vote appeared to fade amid the uproar.

By Thursday, a new resolution was back on the table, albeit one that basically condemned anything bad happening, like, ever. From the Times:

It started as a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Then, anti-Muslim bias was added in. After that came white supremacy. And by the end, it cited “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others” victimized by bigotry.

The resolution condemning “hateful expressions of intolerance,” which passed the House by an overwhelming 407-to-23 vote Thursday afternoon, was as much a statement of Democrats’ values as their factionalism. Caught in the middle was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who worked for days to quell the internal uproar that erupted after a freshman Democrat, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, insinuated that backers of Israel exhibit dual loyalty.

And then, on Friday, as if on cue, this happened.

The week in takes

Your weekend read

With the death of Luke Perry (RIP Dylan McKay) it’s been a tough week for Gen Xers, so it seems like the perfect time to wildly overthink what is perhaps the ultimate Gen X movie. In the Atlantic, Soraya Roberts digs in with “Reality Bites Captured Gen X With Perfect Irony”:

Reality Bites was “meta” before the word went mainstream. The film’s heroine is a recent college grad who makes $400 a week while knocking back Diet Cokes and cigarettes, toiling on a documentary that is, in the character’s words, “about people who are trying to find their own identity without having any real role models or heroes or anything.” Childress, meanwhile, was a college student making roughly $500 a week while knocking back Diet Cokes and cigarettes, toiling on a film about the same subject.… Despite the middling reviews, there’s a reason Reality Bites hangs around: The film embodies both the potential of its original story and the failure to fully live up to it. This tension is a recurring Gen-X theme, one that resides in the clash between the at times opposing sensibilities of the film’s writer and its director. Yet in the odd moments when Childress’s and Stiller’s approaches do converge, Reality Bites gestures toward something greater.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: feedback@minnpost.com.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/08/2019 - 11:40 am.

    House Democrats can have all the investigations they want, call all the people they want, ask for all the documents they want, I say the more the merrier since it will keep them from doing any real harm.

    That being said, I wish the people being hectored asked to appear would show up to the Dem’s circus wearing a clown wig and funny nose, and answer questions by blowing a little horn.

    We all deserve some comic relief.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/08/2019 - 02:07 pm.

      But Curtis knows that Republicans are not particularly funny. No sense of humor there.

      And he needn’t worry: House Democrats can do more than one or two things at once! They can pass an anti-bias resolution AND keep up their attempts to clean up our voting system and civil rights withy a massive election integrity bill, and investigate the Trump corruption circus in the White House, the Cabinet (Wilbur Ross finally got a comeuppance yesterday), the Trump 2016 electoral campaign, Trump’s personal business, Trup’s inaugural committee and the Russia thing, as Trump likes to call it.

      Poor Trump and Republicans! They keep harping on “No collusion,” while the Democrats go about searching for evidence of criminal behavior.

      All the GOP can do is a rear-guard effort that repeats stuff about impeachment–no Democrats are talking about impeachment. All they have to do is keep digging for the federal felonies committed by Trump and his family and his chums.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 03/09/2019 - 08:42 am.

        Connie, the Dems were the ones who shouted Russia, Russia, Russia then collusion, collusion collusion, not the Republicans. Only after that narrative fell flat did the Dems start with “law breaking”.
        At least we need to be accurate as to what is happening.

        • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/09/2019 - 06:23 pm.

          No Joe. Actually, it was the FBI and the CIA and NSA that discovered, before the 2016 election, too, that the Trump campaign had a very strange Russia thing going on. They started investigating Trump’s people before he was elected, and then they got really, really, freaked out by a set of Russia-Trump people contacts and collaboration–complete with Trump appearing to do Russia’s bidding, in mid-2017.

          They (DOJ, including the intelligence services) quickly had a Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate the degree to which (not the fact of–that they knew–but HOW MUCH) Trump and his administration had been infected with Russian plans.

          By the way: The FBI is a notoriously conservative, and heavily Republican, collective of agents and attorneys.

          It’s the president, and hilariously, Paul Manafot’s attorney, who bring up “Collusion, collusion, collusion” all the tiome. As if that’s the issue.

          The issue is conspiracy on the part of Donald J Trump to do Russia’favors. To do Putin favors. And questions about Why are all the Trump people lying about their secret Russian contacts, if it’s all on the up-and-up?

          Unless you know what Putin and Trump have been talking about at their now-many secret meetings and phone calls, and their one-on-one meetings where Trump tears up the America translator’s notes so we won’t know what went on, I suggest you start listening to more than Fox TV and reading Breitbart.

          • Submitted by joe smith on 03/10/2019 - 11:46 am.

            No, the NSA led by Mike Rogers stopped the illegal surveillance against American citizens. The CIA, by law, cannot do surveillance against American citizens. The leaders of the corrupt FBI are either fired and under investigation or resigned and under investigation.
            It was the MSM that shouted “collusion “ and the Dems echoed it.

            • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/12/2019 - 11:45 am.

              NSA surveils foreigners, who on occasion communicate directly with Americans, who are then also caught on tape/digitally.

              Duh.

              Also, you can call “corrupt” the FBI figures that Breitbart and Fox News so dub them, but they are simply the top FBI group that Trump dislikes, because they were the small group that James Comey and Rob Rosenstein consulted in 2017 about what to do about the corrupt–even treasonous–Trump administration activities with Russia. They’re experts, and thus Trujp is forced to vilify them so his base doesbn’t pay attention to what they discovered.

              When you can get beyond your biased sources, Joe, we can talk. Many of us in America are actually paying attention to detail and connecting the dots. An awful Trump scene, from attending to Putin’s needs to agency corruption to Trump’s self-serving in office. But, as the expert Speaker of the House said of the impeachment process that Republicans are politically desperate for Dems to initiate: “[Trump] is just not worth it.”

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 03/08/2019 - 10:33 pm.

      No more a circus than WhiteWater, Lewinsky or Benghazi hearings. I agree some Dems lack focus, but then again, many Republicans are asleep at the wheel and don’t even seem bothered at what is at the least, huge ethical lapses by Trump and his gang–to the point it mocks the idea of a democracy.

  2. Submitted by Don Casey on 03/08/2019 - 12:25 pm.

    Omar has put herself atop the list of the best known House newcomers — exceeded only by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Politically Minnesota is flyover land, but it seems to produce more than its share of politicians with a penchant for attracting national attention (not always for the best reasons — e.g. following in the tradition of Bachmann, Franken …)

  3. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 03/08/2019 - 04:06 pm.

    Omar is a gift that keeps on giving for the Republicans. She is yet to realize that she was elected to represent her constituents in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, not to become a celebrity or activist.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 03/10/2019 - 02:57 pm.

      I agree, and she’s the last thing the Democratic party needs. Her latest I guess is calling Obama “a murderer”.

      Right, good call, sow a bunch of internal strife within your own party,divide rather than unite, you go girl.

      What a clueless, destructive person, and as you said Paul, a real gift to the Republican party.

      I guess she’s part of the ongoing attempt of the democratic party to self-destruct as rapidly as possible, in order to have another 4 years of Donald Trump and to complete the destruction of our democracy, which is already well under way. Trump already has completely turned republicans in the congress and senate into subservient toadies, and has about halfway taken over the judicial branch as well with his new attorney general, his attacks on the FBI, and packing the courts with judges who owe him his famous “loyalty”.

      In 6 more years, kiss democracy goodbye, while the democrats campaign for self-wounding, kiss-of-death campaign issues, like “reparations” to ensure that even a horrible president like Trump is able to get reelected.

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