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.
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.
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.
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
- Wapo columnist Dana Milbank: Ilhan Omar is Trump
- Atlantic contributing writer Caitlin Flanagan: I was excited about Amy Klobuchar but now not so much but it’s also not really her fault anyway and did you know F. Scott Fitzgerald was from Minnesota?
- NYT opinion columnist Bret Stephens: You should be nice to Bret Stephens or he might torpedo your career
- North enthusiast Eric Dayton: Why can’t Minneapolis be more like Davos?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.