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Could the White House turn into 'That 80s Show'?

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his campaign

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his campaign rally last week in Oelwein, Iowa. Credit: Getty Images/Win McNamee

The sell-by date of a president

Joe Biden's campaign is pushing back, not entirely convincingly, at a report in Politico that the 77-year-old former vice president has signaled to aides that if elected, he would serve only one term.

There's a strong argument against any presidential candidate saying such a thing out loud. A new president who said four years but no more would be a lame duck on Day One, instantly hemorrhaging the political capital to pursue an agenda. But a campaign adviser argued to Politico it could help Biden mollify younger voters who don't want to wait eight years for a new generation of leadership.

Voters already sent a septuagenarian to the White House in President Donald Trump, who is now 73. But he wouldn't turn octogenarian until 2026, well after the end of his hoped-for second term. If Biden won in 2020 and 2024, he would be 86 in his final months in office. The same goes for Michael Bloomberg.

The oldest candidate, Bernie Sanders, would turn 87 before the eight years were up. (At the other extreme, Pete Buttigieg would be 47, the same age as Barack Obama when he was sworn in.)

Following the Politico report, Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, tweeted: "just want to be crystal clear: this is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about." 

But Biden has been vague on the subject. In an October interview with The Associated Press, Biden said he wouldn't make a one-term pledge but wasn’t necessarily committed to seeking two. "I feel good and all I can say is, watch me, you’ll see,” Biden said. “It doesn’t mean I would run a second term. I’m not going to make that judgment at this moment.”

In Nevada on Wednesday, Biden told reporters he had not discussed a one-term pledge with aides. "I don't have plans on one term. I'm not even there yet." In Washington, a Biden friend, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), said the former vice president has told him he would serve two terms "if necessary.”

Impeachment in prime time

The House Judiciary Committee met Wednesday night to hear Democrats explain and defend the articles of impeachment they have drafted against Trump. The panel's Republican minority was expected to try, and fail, to offer amendment when the proceeding continues Thursday.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler lashed out at Trump for using "his official powers to serve his own personal, selfish interests at the expense of the public good." Ranking Republican Doug Collins of Georgia shot back: "After they did all this [investigating], this is all they could come up with?"

The articles charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his dealings with Ukraine.

On Thursday, the committee likely will hold a final vote to send the articles to the House floor. The House is expected to vote on the articles next week, in the days before Christmas. That would send them to the Senate for a 2020 trial.

There is growing favor among Senate Republicans to hold a short trial with no witnesses, contrary to Trump's wishes for more dramatic staging to attack his Democratic accusers, The Washington Post reported. “I would say I don’t think the appetite is real high for turning this into a prolonged spectacle,” said Majority Whip John Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican.

Janison: Walk on the mild side

House Democrats can't always live up to Trump's billing that they are crazed partisan warriors, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Even on impeachment, punches are being pulled. The impeachment does not mention multiple signs of executive obstruction described months ago in Robert Mueller's report on Russian election meddling. Conventional thinking goes that this was omitted in order to shield members in relatively pro-Trump districts. 

The bipartisan agreement announced Tuesday on changes in the nation's basic trade treaty with Mexico and Canada showed business can still be done, even as both sides claim they won and those across the aisle lost.

A rocky Horowitz show

The left ears and right ears wanted to hear different things as Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his report on the FBI's conduct of the Russia investigation. No one had reason to be entirely satisfied, including Horowitz.

Horowitz was deeply critical of steps taken along the way, including how the FBI prepared its applications for court approval to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Asked about former FBI Director James Comey's assertion that the report vindicated him, Horowitz said, “It doesn’t vindicate anybody at the FBI who touched [the applications], including leadership.”

But Horowitz said no evidence supported the most sensational claims by Trump and his supporters: that anti-Trump bias was behind opening of the investigation, that agents had infiltrated his campaign and that Obama had directed a wiretap of the Republican candidate. 

As for Attorney General William Barr's argument against Horowitz's conclusion that the FBI was justified in launching the investigation, the inspector general said, “He is free to have his opinion. We have our finding.” Horowitz also said he was "surprised" at a similar view from Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a criminal inquiry into the Russia probe at Barr's behest.

Horowitz dropped one piece of news: His office is still investigating possible FBI leaks to Rudy Giuliani shortly before the 2016 election. Giuliani claimed he had heard about big problems coming soon for Hillary Clinton in the days before Comey reopened the email investigation. Giuliani has denied ever receiving nonpublic information from active FBI agents.

Bloomberg takes on poverty

Campaigning in California to improve his standing among minority voters, Bloomberg said he would lead a "war on poverty" — resurrecting a label used in the 1960s by President Lyndon B. Johnson for his social welfare programs. Bloomberg's plan includes raising the minimum wage and expanding affordable housing.

The multibillionaire's campaign has already brought prosperity to broadcasters with TV ad buys topping $100 million in less than three weeks. The Washington Post reported Bloomberg also will donate $10 million Thursday to defend vulnerable Democratic House members against paid Republican attacks on their support for impeachment proceedings against Trump.

TV show turns off Trump

It turns out that Fox News isn't the only TV portal that can reach and out influence Trump.

The Washington Post said Trump was persuaded to abandon an 18-month effort to dissolve the federal Office of Personnel Management after watching an obscure show about government. Though not certain, it is believed Trump saw a segment of "Government Matters" on a local Washington station that reported the OPM breakup wasn't going well.

OPM is the human resources manager for 2.1 million employees in the federal civilian workforce. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was a top advocate for doing away with the agency.

What else is happening:

  • Federal prosecutors in Manhattan asked a judge to revoke bail for Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, calling him an extreme flight risk who hid a $1 million payment received from a Russian source in September. Jailing Parnas could impede his offer to cooperate with impeachment investigators.
  • Donald Trump Jr. visited western Mongolia in August for a hunting trip in which he shot an argali — a giant sheep with curved horns on the endangered species list — and received a retroactive permit once he came in from the field. It’s extremely rare for such permission to be granted, according to ProPublica.
  • Former Obama administration Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Trump is on "the right side" of the Afghanistan War debate by seeking to end U.S. involvement, reported.
  • Trump told a false story at a campaign rally Tuesday that former FBI lawyer Lisa Page sought a restraining order against former FBI official Peter Strzok after the end of their affair, during which they exchanged anti-Trump texts. “This is a lie. Nothing like this ever happened,” tweeted Page, who charges in a lawsuit that the Justice Department's release of the texts violated her privacy.
  • The Senate's Democratic minority is not a solid wall in favor of impeachment, at least not yet. "I'm very much torn on it. I think it weighs on everybody," said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
  • A poll of New Hampshire Democratic voters by Boston's WBUR public radio station finds Buttigieg leading with 18%, followed by Biden at 17%, Sanders at 15% and Elizabeth Warren at 12%. No one else exceeded 5%.

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