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Monday, March 25, 2019
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Monday, March 25, 2019 11:07 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Mueller report and what we (don’t) know

Here are your first post-Mueller power lunch talking points: According to Wired, Special Counsel Robert Mueller had 19 lawyers; 40 FBI agents, analysts, forensic accountants, and other staff; issued more than 2,800 subpoenas; executed nearly 500 search warrants; pulled more than 230 sets of communication records; collected details from nearly 50 pen registers used to track telephone calls; made 13 requests of foreign governments and law enforcement agencies for additional evidence and interviewed; around 500 witnesses. It took a little less than 22 months, and on Sunday all this was boiled down to a four-page memo  from Attorney General William Barr, apparently absolving President Trump of “collusion” with the Russian government.

The key lines were this: “The investigation found that neither President Trump nor any of his aides conspired with the Russian government. The Special Counsel . . . did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” While President Trump called it a “complete and total exoneration,” the fact is similar to our understanding of the universe, God or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart: What we do know is vastly less than what we don’t know. As President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Dave Bossie, and Reps. Jim Banks and André Carson have stated, Attorney General Barr needs to release the full Mueller report.

2. Mayor Pete surging

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg had been a “1 percenter” in the polls until an Emerson College Iowa poll was released Sunday, showing Joe Biden at 25%, Bernie Sanders at 24% and Mayor Pete at 11%, ahead of all the other senators, mayors, governors, and congressmen. The dream scenario is now evolving for Mayor Pete. The crux of his presidential exploration has been a JFK style call to “pass the torch to a new generation.”  Within the first three months of 2019, he is poised as the generational contrast with the two 70-something guys polling above him. The Washington Post calls it a “genuine presidential boomlet.” He raised $1 million following his CNN town hall, made the June debate cut, and just over the horizon is his campaign kickoff in River City that will attract an international audience. Beyond the contrast with the septuagenarian Biden and Sanders, is Mayor Pete and President Trump. Mayor Pete: Young, Rhodes Scholar, progressive, Midwestern, middle class, gay, Afghan war veteran versus Trump: Big Apple, billionaire, bone spur Vietnam deferments, hidden academics, and an M.O. of winging it as opposed to policy study. Anything can happen.

3. Pence, Buttigieg on Mueller

Vice President Pence reacted to Attorney General Barr’s interpretation of the Mueller report by saying, “Today is a great day for America, President Trump and our entire administration. After two years of investigation, and reckless accusations  by many Democrats and members of the media, the Special Counsel has confirmed what President Trump said along; there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The Attorney General also confirmed that there was no obstruction of justice. This total vindication of the President of the United States and our campaign.” Mayor Buttigieg: “The American people deserve to see the report itself, not simply the attorney general’s summary of it. As was said in the summary, the president’s not being indicted at the moment, but he’s also not being exonerated at the moment. From the political perspective, I think this is further evidence that it would be a mistake for Democrats to think that the way for the Trump presidency to end is by way of investigation.” Buttigieg says that need to happen “at the ballot box.”

4. Banks, Carson react

Leading up to Attorney General Barr’s letter, U.S. Reps. André Carson and Jim Banks had called for the public release of the Mueller report. Carson, D-Indianapolis, said, “as it stands now, this summary is far from a full exoneration  of the President or his inner circle. This is why it is so critical that the full report and all underlying documentation be immediately delivered to Congress and the American people. Tt is critical that we get the next steps right to ensure that we effectively protect ourselves against future meddling and hold those responsible accountable.” Banks, R-Columbia City, said, “Mueller’s report proved what the President has said all along,  but every American should be more outraged than ever before by the findings in the Mueller report that show without a shadow of a doubt Russia sought to meddle and disrupt our election process. President Trump has been exonerated from the witch hunt over collusion, but now I hope he will swiftly turn his sights to show leadership in holding Russia accountable for attacking our American institutions.”

5. Weaponized Mueller

While Republicans like U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski called for an end to the investigations (“Now it is time to move on from divisive conspiracy theories and partisan rhetoric”) the Trump campaign will seek to “weaponize” the Mueller report,  as we heard at the Republican Spring Dinner from Dave Bossie and Corey Lewandowski. Trump called the Mueller probe "an illegal takedown that failed"  and quickly added, “Hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side.” Bryan Lanza, a deputy communications director on Trump’s 2016 campaign, told the Wall Street Journal, “You better believe we’re going to bludgeon them.” What can American voters expect over the next two years? A political infusion of mumblety-peg, water boarding, chemical warfare, xenophobia and, perhaps, even a little cockfighting.

Have a great week, folks. It's The Atomic! 
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  • By TREVOR FOUGHTY

    INDIANAPOLIS - In the week since his death, much has been written about Birch Bayh's time in the U.S. Senate, and his place in the pantheon of American history. Rightfully so, as Bayh's impact rivals that of any Hoosier to serve in our nation's capital in any capacity. But before going to Washington, he was a farm boy from Vigo County serving Hoosiers in Indianapolis over four terms as a state representative. None of the obituaries give his time at the Statehouse more than a passing mention, and only then because he served for a term as the Speaker of the House. I suspect this is for a few reasons. First, for most Hoosiers, the Indiana General Assembly has never been as visible as its federal counterpart. This was particularly true for the era when Bayh served, as the legislature met for barely more than two months every other year. Second, this lack of visibility and interest means there is little widely available material on the Indiana General Assembly prior to the last decade or so. Researching the goings on in our legislative bodies requires access to newspaper archives and session journals, which can typically only be found at a library.

  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – As various House committees gear up for a season of investigations and hearings on President Trump and his administration, a lot of people are worried that progress on the nation’s challenges will grind to a halt. I would argue just the opposite: The wheels of government are turning in favor of accountability. Our system rests squarely on the notion that government officials, whether elected or appointed, need to be accountable to the people they govern. They are responsible for their behavior, their decisions, and the policies they support. They are answerable for their use, and misuse, of the funds and resources they’re given. They are, or ought to be, just as accountable for the remedies they fail to pursue as for the actions they do take. Accountability safeguards our Constitution, our laws, and our democracy.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    MERIDIAN HILLS  –  Last week I spoke to their Honors at a meeting of the Northern Indiana Mayors in Logansport. The session began at the Dentzel Carousel alongside the Eel River. It was a comfortable site for officials who are forced by an anti-urban legislature to spend so much time going around in circles. If Mayor Kitchell wants to increase tourism, he should have the name of the river changed. Who wants to canoe the Eel when it could be the Elk?  The state has two Eel rivers, but no Elk (there is an Elkhart River in Elkhart Co.). This is a chance to end confusion about the Eel and improve economic opportunity for Cass and five other counties. Beforehand, I examined what’s happened to the population of Indiana’s 547 incorporated cities and towns between 1970 and 2017. Of those 547 places, 454 (83%) were home to less than 5,000 each. How big does a town have to be or what economic activity must it have to constitute a community? Does a population of 22 (River Forest, outside of Anderson in Madison County) qualify?
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – Job quality, especially with respect to wages and benefits, will be a central part of the next national election. With job creation strong but wage growth lagging, we should expect tough questions about a variety of labor market policies. This will be especially true in the few states that have experienced mostly low-wage job growth in recent years. With Indiana growing low wage jobs at a disproportionate rate, we should think through what “good” jobs might look like in a modern economy, and what role government could take in promoting them.  I’m a free market economist, so I think the best definition of a good job is one that a firm will offer and an employee will take. But, there are two sides to that definition. Labor markets match workers and employers, who both have a say in job quality. Workers need to obtain more education and skills when they cannot find the jobs they desire. Likewise, businesses need to offer better pay or benefits when they cannot find the workers they want. Workers and businesses are equal parties in labor markets, and government should treat them as equals. 
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    GNAW BONE, Ind. – Eight years ago, Hoosier Republicans gathered for their annual spring dinner and heard an endearing speech from First Lady Cheri Daniels, who talked about her love for the Indiana State Fair ranging from hand milking cows to flipping pancakes. It was a prelude to a potential presidential run by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose political career was one of distinct decorum. He never ran a negative TV ad, nor did he vilify his opponents. Several weeks later, the Daniels family decided against a White House bid (who could blame them?), a decision that if you line up a chain of hypotheticals (the governor could have won the GOP nomination, could have defeated President Obama, could have tackled historic entitlement reform) might have clipped the atmosphere that produced President Donald Trump and the coarsened political environment we stew in today. Thus, we summon Monty Python’s Flying Circus and John Cleese’s famous catch-phrase: And now for something completely different. That would be Monday night's Republican Spring Dinner, 2019 version. It featured two of President Trump’s ultimate insiders: Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie.
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  • Atomic! Casino moves; Gender confusion; Hill limbo; Where's Greg?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY and JACOB CURRY, in Indianapolis

    1. Penn National's curious case: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Penn National Gaming's opposition to the relocation of one of the Gary casinos to Terre Haute is curious. It's claiming the move will hurt its Lawrenceburg casino. But Penn National has a history of self-inflicting its properties with pain. It spent some $50 million in 2009 to successfully pass the Ohio referendum legalizing gaming. After passage, Penn opened casinos in Columbus and Toledo in 2012 and since they couldn’t compete directly with themselves in Cincinnati, suggested to their local partner in the referendum effort, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, that he partner with Caesars Entertainment to operate the Horseshoe Cincinnati, which opened in 2013. Gilbert took sole control in 2016.  And the Indiana impacts? Using 2012 as base year because it was the last full year before the opening of the Cincinnati casino, there has been a 61% drop in state gaming taxes  paid cumulatively totaling $660.7 million and a drop in employment over the same period of 37% or 1,225 Hoosier jobs. The casino at Rising Sun has seen employment drop from 1,031 in 2006 to 568 in 2018, while gaming taxes dropped from $43.4 million to $7.3 million over the same time span. At Lawrenceburg, which Penn took control of in 2005, employment has dropped from 2,016 to 918, while taxes to Indiana dropped from $157.7 million to $47.9 million. And at Vevay, employment dropped from 1,131 in 2006 to 920 last year, and gaming taxes decreased from $47.1 million to $28.2 million.

  • HPI Analysis: How the Electoral College survived Birch Bayh
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Fresh off the historic passage of the 25th and 26th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh sought a third, the abolition of the Electoral College. But this modern “Founding Father” was in for a rude surprise revealed through the strangest of bedfellows. Thwarting the Bayh-Celler legislation in 1970 were segregationist Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, and black leaders, including civil rights stalwart Vernon Jordan. The historical ramifications were immense, with two of the last three American presidents – Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000 – entering office with Electoral College majorities, while losing the popular vote. Between the two of them, they would nominate and confirm at least four of the current nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.

  • Horse Race: Will Holcomb use his ample capital on bias bill?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  —  Gov. Eric Holcomb raised some eyebrows for what he didn’t say during the Madison County Republican Lincoln Dinner Saturday. Despite vows to be “vocal” on the now defanged SB12, or the hate crimes bill that is currently sans “the list,” he didn’t mention the subject. Instead, he talked about First Dog Henry and the Anderson Speedway where retrofitted school buses run a crazy-8 circuit. Time is running out. SB12 is expected to surface in the House Public Policy Committee next week, with an April 9 deadline looming. We speculated a couple of weeks ago on how Holcomb could stoke up the “white hot heat of public opinion,” but it’s all calm on that front these days.
  • Horse Race: Buttigieg crosses donor, polling tresholds
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS –  In the span of a week, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg crested the 65,000-donor threshold to qualify for the Democrat debates that begin in June, poked up above the polling loam with a crocus-like 1% in Wisconsin and Iowa as well as a national CNN poll, and spent more than a half-hour impressing the “Morning Joe” crowd. On Saturday, he heads to his third early battleground state for an initial impression, this time in South Carolina. On “Fox News Sunday” earlier this week, he told host Chris Wallace that all signs are “pointing in the right direction” for him to officially enter the 2020 presidential race in April. He is looking for downtown South Bend office space to headquarter the campaign and preparing to staff up. 
  • Atomic! Silent bias talks; DemGov MIA; One Percent Pete
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Holcomb and silent hate

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Gov. Eric Holcomb raised some eyebrows when he did a Q&A with GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer during the Madison County Republican Lincoln Dinner Saturday and spent more time talking about First Dog Henry than the languishing hate crimes bill. Holcomb had promised to be “vocal” pushing SB12, which lacks the demographic list he deems necessary. Holcomb may be relying on back channel talks with Speaker Brian Bosma as opposed to fully employing his bully pulpit, though time is running out. SB12 isn't expected to get a committee hearing in the House until next week, and there's an April 9 deadline looming for bills to advance or die. Bosma said late last week, “We’re having conversations about what takes us off the list and what doesn’t take us off the list as well, so it would be unfortunate to go through a painful discussion and painful votes, probably, and still be at the same place next session. So, we’re trying to see what can happen.” Key point: The “next session” will be in 2020, an election year. Holcomb doesn't have an obvious opponent lining up, but Bosma might be facing a rematch from Poonam Gill.
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  • Sen. Graham to call Barr to testify; release Mueller report
    “What’s next, I hope, is that he’ll come to the committee, release as much as possible of the Mueller report. My desire is for the public to get as much of the report as possible. I thought Mr. Mueller was not on a witch hunt and that Mr. Mueller was highly qualified.” - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement, "Attorney General Barr's letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Special Counsel Mueller's report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay. Given Mr. Barr's public record of bias against the Special Counsel's inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report."
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  • Barr reports 'no collusion'; Trump claims 'complete' exoneration

    Attorney General Bill Barr released a four-page memo to Congress mid-Sunday afternoon summarizing the Russia Collusion probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, that appears to absolve President Trump, his family and campaign with colluding with the Russians in impacting the 2016 American election.  “The investigation found that neither President Trump nor any of his aides conspired with the Russian government," Barr said. "The Special Counsel . . . did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” "There was no collusion with Russia, no obstruction," President Trump said after landing in Washington from a weekend trip to Mar-A-Lago. "It was a complete and total exoneration. It was a shame our country has had to go through with this. This was an illegal takedown that failed. Hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side." Barr's initial interpretation of the 21-month Mueller probe reinforcing President Trump's oft stated declaration that there was "no collusion" that he has made at MAGA rallies in Indiana and across the nation. Barr added, "For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leave unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr wrote.


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