Answering Your 2020 Questions – The New York Times

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As 2020 approached, we faced one of the wildest political moments in decades: A historically crowded Democratic primary, an impeachment and an unpredictable president. And that was all before an American airstrike killed a top Iranian commander and upended the Middle East.

Yeah, it’s going to be that kind of year.

Expect January to be dominated by the three I’s — Impeachment, Iran and Iowa. With so much going on in Washington, on the campaign trail and across the globe, we thought it was time to inaugurate a new newsletter feature: a Monday Mailbag.

Yes, I know we’ve been asking you for your questions about politics for months. And while we’ve responded to many of you individually, we haven’t always been exactly diligent about answering all of them.

Well, New Year, New Newsletter! Our crack researcher Isabella Grullón Paz went through hundreds of your emails and came up with a few questions that seemed to resonate for several readers. (Some have been condensed for space.)

Margaret Steiner had this astute question about President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate:

I am confused. You talk about the centrist Republicans, the retiring Republicans and the swing state Republicans up for re-election, three groups you say to watch. You say they could form a coalition and “overpower” McConnell to “set the rules” and decide who will be a witness. How do the senators do any of this if, as you state later, they “cannot talk”?

While senators are prohibited from speaking during the actual impeachment trial, they have a fair amount of power when it comes to setting the terms of the proceeding. Under Senate rules, it takes only a simple majority to call a witness or request new evidence. Since Republicans hold 53 seats, if four Republicans joined with Senate Democrats, they could have some serious influence on the process.

This question is particularly relevant today, given the announcement by John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, that he would be willing to testify at the trial if subpoenaed. Mr. Bolton is a potentially vital witness with firsthand information about the president’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine.

Democrats want him to testify; Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has resisted the idea. But if four Republicans broke with Mr. McConnell, Mr. Bolton could be compelled to testify — making those Republicans pretty powerful, indeed.

We also got a ton of questions about the Democratic primary. Those are a little easier to answer after this weekend, when the polling gods graced us with our first piece of real data on the race in weeks.

What did we learn from the CBS News surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire? Senator Bernie Sanders is surging, Senator Elizabeth Warren is slipping in New Hampshire, and Joe Biden, the former vice president, seems to be gaining ground in Iowa.

James Levinson wants to know whether Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren could team up to take on Mr. Biden:

If Sanders and Warren conclude that neither can beat Biden, and if they also conclude that the enactment of their largely common policies is more important than which of them is in the White House, is there a way they could join forces?

The idea of a joint Sanders-Warren ticket is the dream of many liberals.

There are no signs that it will happen.

While the two senators have abided by a de facto nonaggression pact, they are not in frequent communication and there’s no indication that their camps have discussed any joint effort.

But outside of their orbits, in the larger progressive universe, discussions are happening about how to avoid splitting the liberal vote and nominating a more centrist candidate. Whether these develop into a more formal strategy will depend on how the primary plays out over the next several months. So, that’s definitely something to watch this spring.

Lisa Adams asked:

Will Michael Bloomberg be able to participate in the Democratic presidential debates? If so, when, and under what circumstances or criteria?

Mr. Bloomberg will not be on the stage next week because he hasn’t met the party’s requirement that 225,000 people donate to his campaign. (He’s self-funding his run for president and not accepting donations.) But that could change by the following debate in February, if the Democratic National Committee changes the qualification standards — which officials have said is possible.


Lisa Lerer

2020-01-07 00:47:36

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