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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

MOBILE, AL — Poor Doug Jones. Like so many politicians, he seems either unable or unwilling to concede the dismal election landscape in which he finds himself. He seems to believe that he can survive in this crimson-red, Trump-loving state.

The only Democratic U.S. senator from the Deep South and the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in 25 years, Jones won a special election in December 2017 only because Alabama Republicans chose a singularly repugnant nominee, Roy Moore. But Jones is easily the most vulnerable senator up for re-election in 2020, and he is quite unlikely to prevail.

That’s why it makes no sense for him to dither over his vote in President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial. A former federal prosecutor, the Alabama senator knows perfectly well that the president has committed offenses that cry out for his removal from office. Jones should vote to oust him and accept his impending defeat with his principles and dignity intact.

Yet, he has postured and posed as a possible Democratic defector, suggesting that he sees reasons to vote against ouster as well as reasons to vote for it. “I’m trying to see if the dots get connected,” he said in a December interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Not only are the dots connected, but they also paint a glaring and grim portrait of a president who uses his office for personal gain, who tried to extort a vulnerable ally, Ukraine, to gin up slanderous accusations against a domestic political rival, Joe Biden. If Jones were prosecuting this case in federal court, he would be aggressive in pursuing the case for extortion. He would smell a conviction at hand.

And it doesn’t matter if Jones goes against the wishes of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, anyway. Unless Moore is the nominee — he is seeking the seat again but is unlikely to win the nomination — Jones has less chance of winning than an ice cube of surviving the sidewalk in an Alabama summer.

A passel of Republicans have announced campaigns, most of them eagerly seeking Trump’s endorsement by trying to tie themselves to the president’s ankle. Those include former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has put any pride he retains in cold storage to cozy up to a man who publicly mocked and ridiculed him while Sessions served in his Cabinet. After announcing his bid to win back his old seat, Sessions immediately launched an ad praising Trump for “doing a great job.”

They also include U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who has likewise debased himself trying to win Trump’s endorsement. When a rump group of House Republicans crashed a secure hearing room to interrupt testimony in the impeachment proceedings, Byrne was close to the front of the parade.

There’s a reason Alabama’s Republican politicians are the president’s lap dogs.

In 2015, Trump packed a stadium here, and he remains wildly popular in this state. According to a November Morning Consult poll, 59 percent of Alabama voters approve of the job he is doing — second only to Wyoming. And even before Trump completed a hostile takeover of the GOP, the state had become blood-red.

Just over two years ago, Alabama held a special election to fill the seat vacated by Sessions. Moore, the GOP nominee, was a discredited jurist who remained popular among ultraconservative voters for his defiance of constitutional mandates separating church and state while he was a justice on Alabama’s Supreme Court.

But his campaign was sunk by credible, late-breaking accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct with teenage girls. He lost the backing of enough Republican voters for Jones to eke out a narrow margin of victory. Jones beat Moore by less than 2 percentage points in a state Trump had won by 28 percentage points. That scenario, however, won’t repeat itself.

Jones has been a good senator, aligning himself with progressive positions on issues such as gun laws and reproductive rights while voting with the president about a third of the time. It’s a shame that he is very likely to lose to a Trump lackey. That’s all the more reason, though, for him to do the right thing on the way out.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.