Rep. Eric Swalwell Is Doing Everything He Can to Stay in the 2020 Race

Eric Swalwell appears on television a lot- enough that people in Iowa tell him that as he’s getting coffee in cafes in Dubuque.

The California congressman has been one of the most vocal members of the House Intelligence Committee about holding the president and his administration accountable in the Russia investigations.

Now, Swalwell’s trying to use that notoriety in a bid for president. But in a field of 21 Democrats, he’s learning that being a cable news darling isn’t enough. He’s currently polling at just 1% but he says he’s getting comfortable sticking out his hand to say he’s running for president.

“It’s very, I would say intimidating to say you’re running for president,” he said in a car ride between events in eastern Iowa at the beginning of the month.

“Every chance I get, I’m gonna introduce myself like I’m not starting, you know, as Vice President Biden here,” he added of his chances of making it all the way.

VICE News spent 48 hours with Swalwell in Iowa, where he’s trying to prove he can appeal to a broad demographic of Americans. He’s the son of a sheriff, but Swalwell is making gun control and reform his signature issue, even hosting one of his campaign launch events in Parkland, Florida.

At a Bellevue house party on Friday, Swalwell told a gathering of the Jackson County Democrats about his experience in Congress trying to work on the divisive issue.

“I came to Congress right after Sandy Hook happened,” he said. “I had hoped that I could be a part of a Congress that would actually do something about what had happened. Nothing.”

But as he campaigns, Swalwell is also trying to assure voters that his coastal progressive views don’t blind him to the needs of Trump voters. Swalwell says that his life experiences- born in Iowa, educated in the south, and representing a diverse district in California -gives him credibility with all voters.

“My parents they’re both Republicans. I was reaching across the dinner table before I ever had to reach across the aisle to work with the Republicans,” he told a group of about 20 people at the Uptown Cafe in Jefferson, Iowa. He joked that he goes on Fox News so that his parents will see him on TV.

When asked by Vice News why he’s running in such a crowded field, Swalwell more or less described a fading American dream as his motivation.

“I see a lot of people who work really hard just like my parents did but they don’t see it adding up to what it added up for my parents which was their son was the first in the family to go to college. Instead, they’re just running in place. They’re living paycheck to paycheck. They see a Washington and gridlock and not doing anything about it.”

Jose Ibarra, a city councilman in Storm Lake, Iowa, hosted Swalwell for a “fight night” party at his parents’ house on Saturday evening. Swalwell arrived with a case of beer and tucked into tacos and chips before making his case to a small- but more diverse group than is typical- about why they should support him for president.

Ibarra said he thinks any Democrat has a chance right now of beating Trump- and included Swalwell in that category.

“I mean we look at the Democrats right and they’re actually very educated. They know how to communicate with people. They know what’s wrong with the country,” Ibarra told VICE News in the backyard. “They know that we’re divided. Donald Trump has really done nothing for them, for the small guys. So I believe that if any Democrat can connect with the 99 percent. And make it into a point that he’s going to bring the country back together I think that anybody can beat Donald Trump.”

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Anthony Scaramucci’s Return To Credibility (HBO)

This week, the Sin City calendar included the 10th Annual Skybridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT.

It’s your standard rich-meet-powerful confab, the kind of thing you’d find in Davos or Aspen. With one notable exception: this one is run by Anthony Scaramucci.

Skybridge is The Mooch’s investment company. At its height, say in 2017, SALT was pretty mega: former heads of state and a-list entertainers appeared on stage. But then Scaramucci’s fortunes changed in July 2017 when he took a job as President Trump’s White House Communications Director. That resulted in one of the all-time great Washington faceplants. Eleven days into the job, Scaramucci was fired, and his brand was beclowned.

The Mooch was alone. There was no SALT conference in 2018.

But a year is a long time, and the finance world has once again opened its arms to Scaramucci. SALT 2019 lacked some of the star power of previous years, but the Mooch did get some heavy-hitters: former White House chief of staff John Kelly was the keynote guest. Other panels included Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions.

Some Democrats showed up, too — former Obama advisers Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice were here. Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard stopped by, too.

At the center of it all was a man who many people in politics left for dead. But at SALT at least, The Mooch is very much alive.

“My issues with the president are not what he’s doing. He’s got some very very good policies actually working for average people,” Scaramucci told VICE News. “My issue with the president is how he’s doing it. It’s not what he’s doing.”​​

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Why Do Iowa Democrats Love Joe Biden So Much? (HBO)

Joe Biden arrived in Iowa for his first campaign swing Tuesday. It was a long time coming for Iowa Democrats, who have consistently put him at the top of the early polls.

“Elecatability” is the magic word that fuels a lot of this support. Biden, Iowans say, is best positioned to defeat President Trump and therefore is the safe bet.

Democrats in Iowa are still feeling PTSD over the 2016 election. They thought they would win, they were sure they were. But then Trump pulled off the upset, leaving some to question if anything other than an older white guy with working class white cred can take Democrats back to the White House.

Vice News talked to voters at Biden’s first Iowa campaign stops about why some of them are turning away from the new faces in the Democratic Party diverse field and towards a guy America has known for a long, long time.

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France’s Yellow Vest Protestors Took To The Streets For May Day (HBO)

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets for May Day, in solidarity with millions around the world who marched for worker’s rights. While the French protest every year, these protests were remarkably violent as police fired tear gas at crowds in attempts to control factions bent on rioting, detaining more than 250 protestors by the end of the day.

This was the first May Day rally for members of France’s “Yellow Vest” movement, which began protesting 24 weeks ago against what they see as President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business policies favoring the elite.

The group has proven to be one of the biggest challenges to Macron’s presidency and has already forced the President to make concessions related to taxation, pension reform and the closures of schools and hospitals. By turning up today, the Yellow Vests aligned themselves with a centuries-old movement that’s traditionally seen as pro-union and pro-left.

“Today is May Day. It has nothing to do with a Yellow Vest action. It’s a workers’ celebration,” Jérôme Rodrigues, an unofficial leader of the Yellow Vest’s told VICE News. “Within the Yellow Vest march, you have workers who have gathered here to reinforce their demands, and show that they are workers too.”

Rodrigues joined the Yellow Vests in it’s earlier stages, and in a January rally, lost an eye after being hit with what he believes to be a police-fired projectile. Videos capturing the moment propelled him to the forefront of the movement.

“The problem is that we have a president in France right now who not only doesn’t listen to us, but also mutilates us,” Rodrigues told VICE News. “So why wage a revolution? Because the climate of violence was brought on by the government.”

Turning out today was important for Rodrigues and the Yellow Vests because they’ve been losing momentum as of late. He hopes that the Yellow Vests’ presence at the May Day pro-labour rally will help bolster support for their cause in the future.

“All this diversity— That’s how we win. OK?” Rodrigues told VICE News. “Today, we see that we ignored that [in the past], and that we have recovered something fundamental in France. It’s called fraternity.”

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Dems In Congress Can’t Decide If They Should Impeach Trump (HBO)

To impeach, or not to impeach?

Elizabeth Warren broke the ice for the 2020 field on Friday afternoon when she called for Trump’s impeachment in a Twitter thread.

And during a town hall on Monday night, two top-tier candidates – Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg- joined the call to bounce Trump from office.

“I think he’s made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who’s surging in polls right now.

But Mayor Pete and senators don’t make that decision- at least for Warren and Harris, not yet.

The people who will really decide this are the Democrats in the House of Representatives. And right now, they’re struggling with the question that Democrats always seems to be struggling with: what’s more important—principles or politics?

Speaker Pelosi seems to be trying to strike a balance: move forward slowly, play down the impeachment talk, and characterize your investigations as regular old fact-finding. She held an all-caucus call on Monday to rally her base, and in a readout provided by a person on the call she called on Democrats to “save our democracy.”

“Whether it’s articles of impeachment or investigations, it’s the same obtaining of facts. We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts.”

A lot of House Dems seem to be following that lead for now. Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon represents a mostly blue-collar district west of Philly. She’s a freshman elected last fall on the anti-Trump wave. She’s also the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee—the committee that is normally tasked with an impeachment investigation.

When asked bluntly if she would impeach the president today, Scanlon said no.

“I wouldn’t right now. I think we have a lot of work to do to get there. It’s not something you jump into. There’s so many important avenues of investigation that we’re not finished with,” she said in her district office on Wednesday morning.

The office says that in the last week, they’ve received 178 letters or emails asking for impeachment; 85 letters or emails saying that oversight should happen first; and 124 people have asked for the Mueller report to fully released to the public.

One constituent call that Vice News was allowed to listen to on Wednesday featured a woman struggling with the impeachment decision- but for different reasons. But she urged members of Congress to “get to the bottom of this” Mueller report.

“I’m not sure about impeachment. I’d love it but Pence is evil. I’m concerned about him being president. At least Trump is dumb,” she explained to a Scanlon staffer.

But for the Congresswoman Scanlon this isn’t a question about Trump being dumb or not. It’s a question of how congress should do its job. Is the moral high ground to impeach Trump?

“I think acting as a check and balance on an administration that’s out of control in a lot of ways is the moral high ground. It’s why a lot of us ran and that’s why a lot of us were elected,” Scanlon told VICE News. That’s the question that Scanlon thinks faces each member of Congress: “When you look at all of the evidence does it lead you to conclude that for the good of our country. Impeachment is what we have to do that. That it’s an executive who cannot function.”

Scanlon thinks that if impeachment were to happen in the House, that Republicans may be on board.

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Everything You Need To Know About The Mueller Report (HBO)

President Trump proclaimed victory even before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report was released Thursday, tweeting a photoshopped image of his silhouette beside Game of Thrones style text that menacingly read: “No Collusion. No Obstruction. For the haters and the radical left democrats — ‘Game Over.’”

But Mueller’s report doesn’t clear the president, by any stretch. While it wipes away any criminal entanglements over collusion with Russia, it rolls out page after page of damning episodes in which Trump appeared to obstruct justice — or attempted to.

Mueller lists, at great length, Trump’s efforts to derail the investigation. At one point, he writes that Trump’s attempts to influence the probe failed “largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his request.”

“In layperson’s terms, he tried to obstruct justice,” Mary McCord, the former high-ranking DOJ official who helped oversee the department’s investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 election before Mueller was appointed, told VICE News. “I don’t know how you could walk away from this thinking that this isn’t a person who tried to obstruct justice.”

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William Barr’s Been Accused Of Presidential Cover-Up Before (HBO)

Weeks before former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s criminal trial over his role in the 1980’s Iran-Contra scandal, then-Attorney General William Barr dropped a bomb on the prosecution.

“People in the Iran-Contra affair have been treated very unfairly,” Barr told USA Today in December 1992, blasting the charges as illegitimate. “People in this Iran-Contra matter have been prosecuted for the kind of conduct that would not have been considered criminal or prosecutable by the Justice Department.”

Weinberger faced charges of lying to Congress, brought by a special prosecutor, then known as an “independent counsel,” who accused him of withholding 1,700 pages of notes about high-level meetings that allegedly held “evidence of a conspiracy.”

Barr’s broadside alarmed the lead prosecutor handling the case against Weinberger, James J. Brosnahan, who warned the judge that Barr may have just unduly biased his jury pool. Later that month, when the White House pardoned six top Iran-Contra defendants on Christmas Eve 1992 at Barr’s urging, Brosnahan believed he’d just witnessed the completion of a successful cover-up.

Three decades on, Brosnahan fears Barr has returned to his old job to run the same scheme again.

“If you want a presidential cover-up, Barr is your guy,” Brosnahan, now 85, told VICE News. “And I think we’ve already seen that.”

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What Happens Next For Julian Assange (HBO)

Julian Assange’s lawyers are digging in for a furious, last-ditch effort to block his extradition to the U.S., following his dramatic arrest Thursday morning. The WikiLeaks founder was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had been living since 2012.

Assange is now facing up to five years in American prison for allegedly conspiring to hack into a classified Pentagon computer system in 2010. A 2018 indictment, unsealed by the Department of Justice on Thursday, charges him with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and alleges that he tried to help former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning gain access to the government computer system in March 2010.

Given Assange’s contentious history with Washington, the initial indictment may be an attempt to bring Assange to the U.S. before targeting him with additional charges, former federal prosecutors told VICE News. His longstanding confrontation with the U.S. government now appears destined to play out in courtrooms in London and Alexandria, Virginia.

“Once the Justice Department gets him over here, they have a lot more leverage over Mr. Assange — and the tables are turned,” said Renato Mariotti, a former U.S. prosecutor based in Chicago. “You don’t need to be a legal analyst to see why the Justice Department would probably like to charge him with all sorts of things.”

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This Teacher Was Fired Over A Topless Photo. Now, The’s fighting back.

Bellport, NY is a small town of 2,000 that’s made international headlines because of a picture of breasts. Lauren Miranda, a former math teacher at Bellport Middle School, was fired after a topless selfie sent to her boyfriend in 2016 — got into the hands of students. It’s a private matter that has thrust her onto a public platform where she refuses to be shamed.

Lauren’s situation isn’t unique. According to a 2016 study, roughly 10.4 million Americans have had their nude photos posted without their permission. Now, she’s speaking out about the double standard of sexualizing the female body.

“How do girls feel when this happens to them?,” Miranda told VICE News. “Their photo gets shared without their permission or consent. And what do we say to them: Crawl in a hole”

She’s suing the school district for her job back or 3 million dollars. She is basing her case on gender discrimination. “I’m saying that because you’re a man that you and I are 100 percent equal,” Miranda said. “Whatever you do to one side you have to do to the other.”

The community has been divided on whether Miranda’s firing has been the right call. Monique Armann, a parent of a student who attended the middle school just a year ago, now runs a forum on Facebook for residents, including parents of kids at the school, where they can debate Lauren’s firing — privately.

VICE News reached out to several South Country Central District school officials for comment–they said they don’t comment on active litigation. Lawyers for the school district are expected to depose Miranda on May 2nd.

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Israelis Head To The Polls With A Choice: Right Or Righter (HBO)

Eyal Hajbi has been on high alert since a rocket launched from Gaza landed near Tel Aviv two weeks ago. As the official responsible for the security of the 25,000 people living in Sderot, a village less than a mile off the fence with Gaza, rockets are virtually all Hajbi has thought about.

Well, rockets and Israel’s upcoming elections this Tuesday. And like a lot of Israelis here, Hajbi has already made up his mind: he’s voting for Likud, the party of four-term prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He supports Netanyahu’s tough stance toward Palestinians and security, and his increasingly right-wing views about the future of Israel.

“I love how he represents us in the world,” Hajbi told VICE News. “I have only one view: One state. The whole land of Israel. We shouldn’t give up on any part of it.”

But Israelis like Hajbi that live close to Gaza are far from the only ones turning out for Netanyahu. Despite mounting bribery and corruption charges, and a recent alliance with outwardly racist politicians, Netanyahu enjoys overwhelming support across the country ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

His party’s only real challenger is from a newly-formed centrist alliance called Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz, who’s framing himself as Bibi but without the baggage. “I think we will be able to unify the country by far more than what Netanyahu is doing right now,” Gantz told VICE News.

But don’t mistake Gantz for a left-wing alternative to Netanyahu’s increasingly right-wing rule. At an event for English-speaking voters in Tel Aviv last week, Gantz suggested Blue an White would try to copy the four-term prime minister’s strategy, and partner with hardline right-wing religious parties to form a governing majority.

As for the traditional left, it’s been conspicuously absent from the conversation. There’s a reason for that: Only 12 percent of Israelis now identify as left-wing, according to a recent survey.

“He was a good soldier, a good officer, sometimes I think if I had convinced him to stay in the military, maybe he would have done a lot less damage to Israel.”

For the country’s last bonafide left-wing prime minister, Ehud Barak, this is a frustrating development. Barak’s concerned about what the absence of a strong left has done to Israel’s national politics, including the effect it’s had on Netanyahu, a politician he once served beside in the army.

“He was a good soldier, a good officer, sometimes I think if I had convinced him to stay in the military, maybe he would have done a lot less damage to Israel,” Barak told VICE News.

Barak was the last prime minister candidate to oust Netanyahu out of office in 1999. But since then, Bibi has held onto power, in part by moving Israeli politics further and further to the right. Most recently he formed an alliance with an ultra-nationalist extremist right wing party called Jewish Power, that was inspired by Meir Kahane who advocated for the forced removal of Palestinians.

“Bibi, under the pressure, and because of his own interest, finds himself in a situation where those zealots, crazy racist zealots are dictating to him how to run the government and they are blocking the democratic life of Israel, and that should be rejected by the people.”

Now more than ever, as Israel continues to move more and more to the right, Barak says a strong opposition is necessary to start a difficult conversation, even if they can’t defeat Netanyahu’s coalition.

“Sometimes the people are wrong. Someone has to help them to open their eyes. It is usually the opposition.”

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