New Jersey

At the Races: Trial vs. Trail

By Simone Pathé, Stephanie Akin and Bridget Bowman 

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Trump undercuts military messages on brain injuries
President describes injuries from Iranian strikes as ‘headaches’

President Donald Trump’s description of potential military brain injuries as “not very serious” stands in contrast to the military’s call for such injuries not to be minimized. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s comment Wednesday that U.S. troops suffering concussion-like symptoms had “not very serious” injuries clashed with a yearslong, hard-fought U.S. military campaign to spread the message that a brain injury is not something to be minimized.

Trump was referring to at least 11 cases of troops in Iraq reporting symptoms that officials said may or may not turn out to be so-called traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs.

Picture Mitch McConnell as a knight riding an elephant
This chess set is no joke, and it’s selling pretty well, says inventor AJ Khubani

This election-themed chess set is no joke, as Heard on the Hill discovered when we gave it a try. (Graham MacGillivray/CQ Roll Call)

Maybe you’ve been up late at night watching MSNBC or the NFL Network, and through your bleary eyes have noticed an ad for a chess set featuring Mike Pence as a queen and Nancy Pelosi as a knight riding a donkey.

Turns out it’s not some waking nightmare, but instead an ad for the 2020 Battle for the White House Chess Set, an off-kilter idea from the same man who brought the world AmberVision glasses and the PedEgg, which is basically a cheese grater for rough feet.

Campus Notebook: Sen. Bob Menendez spent over $5 million in legal fees associated with corruption scandal
Capitol Police arrested someone for assault with a broomstick

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has depleted and terminated his legal expense trust. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Millions in legal expenses for Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption scandal

The New Jersey Democrat spent $5.16 million on his defense, according to his legal expense fund filing with the Senate Office of Public Records. The trust was formed in 2014 at the beginning of Menendez’s legal woes. It allows people to make contributions to Menendez so he can fight his legal battles associated with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics inquiries and allegations of federal law violations associated with his role as a senator.

Ethics expert: GOP ‘crosses the line’ with House hallway ambushes
DCCC complaint says NRCC violated ban on using official resources for campaigns

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., is chairman of the NRCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Having video trackers shadow candidates to get campaign dirt has become a common tactic, but the National Republican Congressional Committee  went too far if it directed aides to ambush Democrats in House office buildings, experts on congressional ethics said.

Though a GOP spokesman called it “frivolous,” the experts said there was merit to a complaint filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against the chairman of the NRCC, Rep. Tom Emmer. It could lead to the Minnesota lawmaker facing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

Impeachment isn’t the only obstacle to legislative wins for Congress in 2020
‘Investigate and legislate’ playbook may not work for Democrats again

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Wednesday. Democrats have said they can “investigate and legislate,” but that could be harder to pull off this year. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

On Dec. 18, the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump. On Dec. 19, the House approved a major rewrite of a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Those two events, just 24 hours apart, marked the culmination of a strategy Democrats have sought to execute since the day they took control of the House last year: investigate and legislate.

“Our view is we are here to make things better for our constituents and stand up for the constitutional oaths that we took,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski, a freshman Democrat from New Jersey who ousted a Republican in 2018. “Those things are not in conflict with one another. And by the way, that’s always been true. When Nixon was being impeached, Congress passed a major infrastructure bill. When Clinton was being impeached, the Congress passed major legislation.”

At the Races: Managing impeachment (and the spotlight)

By Bridget Bowman, Simone Pathé and Stephanie Akin 

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Democrats try to expand House battlefield by targeting six more districts
With legislation stalled, campaign memo recommends blaming GOP and McConnell

The DCCC has once again added Alaska Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving House Republican, to its target list. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is adding six new targets to its 2020 battlefield, hoping to flip more Republican-held seats while protecting its House majority.

Having made historic gains in the 2018 midterms, Democrats started the year on defense. Republicans need a net gain of 18 seats to retake the House, and their first targets will be the 30 districts President Donald Trump won in 2016 that are currently represented by Democrats.

Cory Booker bows out, Ben Carson backs off fair housing and issues of race recede in America
Latest Democratic debate was notable for what was not mentioned

With Cory Booker leaving the Democratic presidential race, following the exits of Kamala Harris and Julián Castro, issues of justice and inequality could get short shrift on the campaign trail, Curtis writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — It doesn’t take a candidate of color on a debate stage to raise issues of justice and inequality. But that has been the way it has worked out, mostly.

For example, it was exhilarating for many when then-candidate Julián Castro said in a Democratic debate, “Police violence is also gun violence,” while naming Atatiana Jefferson, killed in her Fort Worth, Texas, home by a police officer who shot through the window without identifying himself. Castro’s words were an acknowledgment of the lived experiences of many in America. He has since dropped out of the race, as has California Sen. Kamala Harris, who chided her party for taking the support of black women for granted.

Super PACs after 10 years: Often maligned but heavily used
Democrats may slam Citizens United, but they benefit from the PACs the decision unleashed

A man demonstrates against super PACs in front of the Supreme Court in January 2012 to mark the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, which contributed to the rise of super PACs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The reelection campaign of Rep. Angie Craig, a first-term Minnesota Democrat, kicked off 2020 with an email plea to supporters: “We’ve got to overturn Citizens United.”

Noting the 10 years since the pivotal Jan. 21, 2010, Supreme Court decision, which helped spur along super PACs, the Craig campaign urged people to show their allegiance to the cause by providing their email addresses. Later, would-be donors were asked to chip in money for her campaign, even just $15.