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2020

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.

February

Feb. 25

U.S. Constitutional Crisis

Roger Stone Case

More On U.S. Justice

U.S. Constitutional Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 70 former U.S. senators: The Senate is failing to perform its constitutional duties, Feb. 25, 2020. Congress is not fulfilling its constitutional duties. Much of the responsibility rests on the Senate. We are writing to encourage the creation of a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended.

us senate logoAs their first priority, the Framers explicitly entrusted all legislative responsibility in Article I of the Constitution: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” To the extent that Congress doesn’t function as the Framers intended, policymaking is left to the less democratic executive and judicial branches.

This does not have to be viewed as a judgment on today’s Senate leadership; instead, it’s a bipartisan act of shared responsibility and accountability for how we arrived at this point. We, who once held the office you now hold and who are confident that service in the U.S. Senate is as high a calling for you as it was for us, will stand up for you against any partisan opposition. We will do so publicly and repeatedly in whatever available forums. And we are convinced that many ordinary Americans will stand up for you as well, as they share our concern for the state of our government.

The following signers are all former U.S. senators:

Dean Barkley (I-Minn.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), David Boren (D-Okla.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Bill Brock (R-Tenn.), Hank Brown (R-Colo.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), James Buckley (R-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), Jack Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Daniel Evans (R-Wash.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Gordon Humphrey (I-N.H.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Robert Krueger (D-Tex.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Donald Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Bob Torricelli (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), John Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), and Tim Wirth (D-Colo.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide, Thomas L. Friedman, Feb. 25, 2020. You can promise voters something our narrow-minded president won’t. If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now. My short answer is that the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.

Palmer Report, Analysis: The Purge, Daniel Cotter, Feb. 25, 2020.  Donald J. Trump is a terrible man. He and his administration have been in the process daily of dismantling our republic, if we can keep it, all the while yelling, “WITCH HUNT” at every turn, accusing everyone not with him of some grand conspiracy. Turns out, the real witch hunt taking place the last three years has been by IMPOTUS.

bill palmer report logo headerIn an explosive exclusive by Axios, Trump's "Deep State" hit list outlines the search and purge that Trump has been engaged in for the entire time as president. No previous United States administration has been this paranoid, this nefarious, not even the Nixon administration. In the article, the reporter, Jonathan Swan, right, jonathan swan twitterwrites:

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

While Trump's distrust has only intensified since his impeachment and acquittal, he has long been on the hunt for "bad people" inside the White House and U.S. government, and fresh "pro-Trump" options. Outside advisers have been happy to oblige.

The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Swan goes on to detail a number of memos, including one about Jessie Liu, shortly before her nomination as United States Associate Attorney General was pulled. Trump’s supporters immediately jumped to defending him, asserting that this was normal for every administration. But that is not correct.

We continue to live daily in a dangerous time, and Palmer Report has been calling the alarm on the potential nominee for the Democratic presidential nomination. We must make sure that nominee is the one that can win in November, or we will continue to see the acceleration of an administration that is out of control. Even George Conway has apologized on Twitter about voting for Trump, stating:

I supported and voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I was angry at Never Trumpers for opposing him and not giving him a chance. But their predictions about him turned out to be chillingly correct—indeed, perhaps understated how bad he’d be. I apologize to them, as you should.

We must do everything in our power to remove this dangerous man from the White House come January 2021.

Daniel is a lawyer writing and teaching about SCOTUS, and is the author of the book “The Chief Justices” about the SCOTUS as seen through the center seat.

Roger Stone Case

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls Stone juror ‘totally biased’ as prosecutors, defense debate new trial, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 25, 2020. As President Trump fumed on social media, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson made clear she was concerned about attacks by Trump and others on jurors.

President Trump on Tuesday injected new political drama into the legal debate over whether Roger Stone deserves a new trial, tweeting as a hearing in the matter was ongoing that the jury forewoman who voted to convict his longtime friend and confidante was “totally biased.”

Trump’s comments came just as the judge in the case had rebuked him and others over their attacks on the juror, and it seemed to put the president at odds with his own Justice Department.

As the president fumed on social media, federal prosecutors were in federal court in the District arguing against Stone’s bid for a new trial based on the alleged political bias of the jury forewoman. Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, has warned him publicly and privately to stop tweeting about Justice Department criminal cases and told people close to Trump he was considering quitting over the matter.

“There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case,” Trump wrote. “Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of ‘Trump’ and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn’t even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!”

Minutes later, he seemed to add an attack on the judge, re-tweeting a link that Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano had tweeted with the headline, “Roger Stone judge’s bias may have jeopardized entire trial: former Democratic Party lawyer.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ended the hearing without a ruling, saying she would take the matter under advisement. She seemed to question aggressively Stone’s defense team over the jury forewoman’s social media, and allowed questions to be posed to three jurors, including the forewoman.

Stone filed his request for a new trial on February 14 — the day after Trump repeatedly attacked the forewoman of the jury, who ran for Congress as a Democrat.

Though he did not name her, his comment referred to Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress. Hart had identified herself as the forewoman of the jury in a Facebook post, saying she couldn’t “keep quiet any longer” in the wake of the Justice Department move to reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone from the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.

The judge did not seem entirely receptive to the arguments of Stone’s team — in particular that the forewoman was so biased that she could have tainted the jury.

She seemed to draw a distinction between animus against Stone and commentary on other political topics, and noted that the forewoman did not hide in her questionnaire that she had views on Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I was a juror in the Stone trial. Attacking our foreperson undermines us, Seth Cousins, Feb. 25, 2020. Lost amid the avalanche of allegations about the trial and sentencing of Roger Stone are some critical facts and a striking irony: The jury foreperson, who has been the subject recently of numerous ad hominem attacks, was actually one of the strongest advocates for the rights of the defendant and for a rigorous process. She expressed skepticism at some of the government’s claims and was one of the last people to vote to convict on the charge that took most of our deliberation time.

Stone received a fair trial. But events since his trial threaten to undermine the equal administration of justice.

In November, I joined 13 of my fellow citizens as jurors and alternates in the case of United States v. Roger Stone. After several days of testimony and argument — and eight hours of deliberation — we returned guilty verdicts on all seven charges of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress. Federal prosecutors recommended on Feb. 10 that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. Early the next day, President Trump tweeted his outrage, and soon the Justice Department announced that the sentencing recommendation would be amended. All four prosecutors handling the case withdrew in protest.

Our foreperson wrote in support of the prosecutors on her personal Facebook page, revealing that she had been on the jury and was its foreperson. Since then, she has been attacked, including by the president, as though she was personally responsible that Stone had been found guilty and that the verdict was thus unfair. The president and others have called the trial and sentencing decision a “miscarriage of justice.” Amid the onslaught of criticism of a U.S. citizen who fulfilled her civic duty as a juror and exercised her First Amendment right to free expression, Stone has used the manufactured controversy to demand a mistrial on the basis of jury misconduct and even to demand that the judge recuse herself for bias in favor of the jury.

These events raise serious concerns for me not merely as a juror in the trial but also for the threat to our bedrock principles.

Elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty.

Our foreperson wrote in support of the prosecutors on her personal Facebook page, revealing that she had been on the jury and was its foreperson. Since then, she has been attacked, including by the president, as though she was personally responsible that Stone had been found guilty and that the verdict was thus unfair. The president and others have called the trial and sentencing decision a “miscarriage of justice.” Amid the onslaught of criticism of a U.S. citizen who fulfilled her civic duty as a juror and exercised her First Amendment right to free expression, Stone has used the manufactured controversy to demand a mistrial on the basis of jury misconduct and even to demand that the judge recuse herself for bias in favor of the jury.

These events raise serious concerns for me not merely as a juror in the trial but also for the threat to our bedrock principles.

Elected officials have no business attacking citizens for performing their civic duty.

More On U.S. Justice System

washington post logosonia sotomayor in scotus robe1Washington Post, Trump criticizes Sotomayor, Ginsburg in tweets, seeks their recusal from ‘Trump-related’ cases, Meagan Flynn, Feb. 25, 2020. President Trump went after Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a pair of tweets late Monday night, days after Sotomayor, right, issued a dissent critical of both the Trump administration’s legal strategy and the court’s majority for enabling it.

Tweeting just before appearing in a welcome ceremony at the Indian ceremonial president’s residence in New Delhi, Trump cited a Laura Ingraham segment on Fox News titled, “Sotomayor accuses GOP-appointed justices of being biased in favor of Trump.” He then called on Sotomayor and also Ginsburg to recuse themselves in “all Trump, or Trump related, matters!”

“Trying to ‘shame’ some into voting her way?” Trump said of Sotomayor. “She never criticized Justice Ginsberg [sic] when she called me a ‘faker'. Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related matters! While ‘elections have consequences’, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!"

supreme court headshots 2019

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump tips off how worried he is about what’s coming next, Bill Palmer, Feb. 25, 2020. Donald Trump is surely the world’s worst poker player. For all his erratic behavior, he can be consistently relied upon to give away what he’s really thinking. For instance, late last night he posted this Twitter thread which seems on the surface to be yet another aggressive abuse of power, but is instead actually a telltale sign of what he’s worried about most:

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, this is utterly deranged and profoundly corrupt on Donald Trump’s part. He’s trying to intimidate two Supreme Court Justices into recusing themselves, for no legitimate reason, in upcoming cases that involve him. Not only is this corrupt, it’s felony obstruction of justice. But it’s also, very obviously, not going to work. Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg obviously are not going to recuse themselves. And there’s no apparatus for Trump somehow magically forcing them to do so. It simply will not happen. Now ask yourself why Trump is even trying to make it happen.

If Trump thought he had five Supreme Court votes in the upcoming cases involving his tax returns, the Mueller transcripts, and his ability to pardon himself on his way out the door, he wouldn’t be worried about trying to force any of the other four Justices to recuse themselves. Trump’s rant is a dead giveaway that he’s worried he doesn’t have five votes. He’s only confident he has four. If he could magically prompt two recusals, he would win with a 4-3 ruling. But again, unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have a magic wand. Donald Trump is clearly afraid John Roberts will vote with the liberals on this matter, which Roberts does a significant minority of the time.

John Roberts can’t be trusted to do the right thing. But Trump can’t count on him to do the wrong thing either, because Roberts instead always does the opportunistic thing. We can’t count on Trump losing these Supreme Court rulings over his fate, but Trump appears to be well aware that he can’t count on winning them either.

Feb. 23

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

 

Trump Power, Payback

Axios, Exclusive: Trump's "Deep State" hit list, Jonathan Swan, right, Feb 23, 2020. The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen jonathan swan twittersources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

While Trump's distrust has only intensified since his impeachment and acquittal, he has long been on the hunt for "bad people" inside the White House and U.S. government, and fresh "pro-Trump" options. Outside advisers have been happy to oblige.

In reporting this story, I have been briefed on, or reviewed, memos and lists the president received since 2018 suggesting whom he should hire and fire. Most of these details have never been published.

A well-connected network of conservative activists with close ties to Trump and top administration officials is quietly helping develop these "Never Trump"/pro-Trump lists, and some sent memos to Trump to shape his views, per sources with direct knowledge.

Members of this network include Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Republican Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen.

The big picture: Since Trump's Senate acquittal, aides say the president has crossed a psychological line regarding what he calls the "Deep State." He feels his government — from Justice to State to Defense to Homeland Security — is filled with "snakes." He wants them fired and replaced ASAP.

"I think it's a very positive development," said Rich Higgins, who served on Trump's National Security Council in 2017. H.R. McMaster removed Higgins after he wrote a memo speculating that Trump's presidency faced threats from Marxists, the "Deep State," so-called globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans. (This was long before the full scope of the FBI's Russia investigation was known to Trump and his aides.)

Higgins told me on Sunday he stands by everything he wrote in his memo, but "I would probably remove 'bankers' if I had to do it over and I would play up the intel community role — which I neglected."

Let's get to the memos.

1. The Jessie Liu memo: Shortly before withdrawing the nomination of the former D.C. U.S. attorney for a top Treasury role, the president reviewed a memo on Liu's alleged misdeeds, according to a source with direct knowledge.

Ledeen wrote the memo, and its findings left a striking impression on Trump, per sources with direct knowledge. Ledeen declined to comment.

A source with direct knowledge of the memo's contents said it contained 14 sections building a case for why Liu was unfit for the job for which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin selected her, including:

  • Not acting on criminal referrals of some of Justice Brett Kavanaugh's accusers.
  • Signing "the sentencing filing asking for jail time" for Gen. Michael Flynn (a friend of Ledeen's).
  • Holding a leadership role in a women's lawyers networking group that Ledeen criticized as "pro-choice and anti-Alito."
  • Not indicting former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
  • Dismissing charges against "violent inauguration protesters who plotted to disrupt the inauguration."

Neither Liu nor the White House responded to requests for comment.

Between the lines: The Liu memo is not the first such memo to reach the president's desk — and there's a common thread in Groundswell, a conservative activist network that's headed by Thomas and whose members include Ledeen.

Sources leaked me details of two other memos from people associated with the Groundswell network that also caused a stir inside the White House over the past year.

Thomas has spent a significant amount of time and energy urging Trump administration officials to change the personnel inside his government. This came to a head early last year.

Members of Groundswell, whose members earlier led the successful campaign to remove McMaster as national security adviser, meet on Wednesdays in the D.C. offices of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has led the fight against the Mueller probe.

Judicial Watch's president is Tom Fitton. He's a regular on Fox News, and Trump regularly retweets his commentary on the "Deep State."
Conservative activists who attend Groundswell meetings funneled names to Thomas, and she compiled those recommendations and passed them along to the president, according to a source close to her.

She handed a memo of names directly to the president in early 2019. (The New York Times reported on her group's meeting with Trump at the time.)

2. The Groundswell memo: The presidential personnel office reviewed Thomas' memo and determined that some names she passed along for jobs were not appropriate candidates. Trump may revisit some given his current mood.

Potential hires she offered to Trump, per sources with direct knowledge:

  • Sheriff David Clarke for a senior Homeland Security role.
  • Fox News regular and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino for a Homeland Security or counterterrorism adviser role.
  • Devin Nunes aide Derek Harvey for the National Security Council (where he served before McMaster pushed him out).
  • Radio talk show host Chris Plante for press secretary.
  • Federalist contributor Ben Weingarten for the National Security Council.

What we're hearing: These memos created tension inside the White House, as people close to the president constantly told him his own staff, especially those running personnel, were undermining him — and White House staff countered they were being smeared.

john mcentee Custom3. The State Department memo: In one extraordinary incident last year, President Trump passed along another action memo to his then-head of presidential personnel, Sean Doocey (since pushed to State and replaced with former body man John McEntee, right). People familiar with the January 2019 memo say it came from conservatives associated with Groundswell. Though nobody I’ve spoken to has claimed credit for it.

According to sources briefed on the incident, the memo was, in large part, an attack against Doocey. The memo accused him and a colleague in the State Department of obstructionism and named several State Department officials who needed to be fired.

This list named former deputy secretary John Sullivan, deputy undersecretary for management Bill Todd, and undersecretary for political affairs David Hale, who later testified in the impeachment hearings. (Todd and Hale are career foreign service officers, serving in positions typically reserved for career officials.) Sullivan is now the U.S. Ambassador to Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump makes veiled threat toward Schiff over classified briefing on Russian 2020 election interference, Felicia Sonmez, Feb. 23, 2020. President Trump on Sunday made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, claiming without evidence that the California Democrat had leaked information from a classified briefing in which a senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected.

“Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media,” Trump tweeted. “Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!”

Trump’s tweet comes more than a week after the intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, told members of Schiff’s committee during a bipartisan briefing that Russia has “developed a preference” for Trump and views his administration as more favorable to its interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Responding to news of Russian interference, Trump sends chilling message to U.S. intelligence, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Intelligence officers pride themselves as apolitical fact-finders who follow the rule of “speak truth to power.” But President Trump has tacked on a new coda: “Do so at your peril.”

In ousting his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, last week after a revealing briefing on foreign election interference, Trump has reminded members of the intelligence community that he views the information they bring him through a deeply personal lens.

Trump upbraided Maguire in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, saying that the intelligence community had handed Democrats political ammunition during a bipartisan briefing a day earlier about efforts to secure the 2020 election. A senior career intelligence officer who worked for Maguire told lawmakers that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump. She also described other steps Russia is taking, including assistance to the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Feb. 22

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Reports On Trump Power, Payback

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates, Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

john mcentee CustomJohnny McEntee, right, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to block ‘traitor’ Bolton’s book entirely, claiming most conversations are classified, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump told his staff he will seek to stop the book’s publication, said people familiar with the conversations. The president’s private arguments contrast with the traditional point-by-point process used to protect sensitive secrets.

President Trump has directly weighed in on the White House review of a forthcoming book by his former national security adviser, telling his staff that he views John Bolton as “a traitor,” that everything he uttered to the departed aide about national security is classified and that he will seek to block the book’s publication, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

djt john bolton CustomThe president’s private arguments stand in contrast to the point-by-point process used to classify and protect sensitive secrets and appears to differ from the White House’s public posture toward Bolton’s much-anticipated memoir. The National Security Council warned Bolton last month that his draft “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” some of it top secret, but john bolton full cropped Custompledged to help him revise the manuscript and “move forward as expeditiously as possible.”

“We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” Ellen Knight, senior director of the council’s records office, wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to Bolton’s attorney.

But the president has insisted to aides that Bolton’s account of his work in Trump’s White House, The Room Where It Happened, should not see the light of day before the November election, according to the two people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Bolton’s book has promised to unveil key first-person moments between Bolton and Trump that were at the heart of the president’s handling of Ukraine, a saga that led to his impeachment by the House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid, William H. McRaven, Feb. 22, 2020 (print william mcraven 2012ed.). William H. McRaven, right, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.

But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.

In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.

joseph maguire headshotBut the president chose Maguire (left0. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right.

Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.

But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.

As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders briefed by U.S. officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

“In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

Feb. 21

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Roger Stone Headlines

 

Reports On Trump Power, Payback

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump set off by intelligence assertion that Russia favors him, Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments.

joseph maguire 9 26 19 testimony CustomAfter learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire (shown in a file photo) and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ­ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

It was not clear what specific steps, if any, U.S. intelligence officials think Russia may have taken to help Trump, according to the individuals.

Russian FlagIn Moscow, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, dismissed the U.S. intelligence analysis.

“These are new paranoid reports, which, to our deep regret, will continue to grow in number as the election day approaches,” Peskov said Friday. “Naturally, they have nothing to do with the truth.”

Trump announced Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest move in a post-impeachment purge. Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, was considered a leading candidate to be nominated to the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a Republican ally about the official’s remarks.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Alerted to Russian Election Meddling in Briefing That Angers Trump, Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Russia is aiding President Trump in the 2020 election, intelligence officials said in a secret briefing to lawmakers. Mr. Trump, complaining that Democrats might weaponize the news, berated the outgoing acting intelligence chief for allowing the briefing to happen.

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.

joseph maguire headshotThe day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, left, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.

That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.

Part of the president’s anger over the intelligence briefing stemmed from the administration’s reluctance to provide sensitive information to Mr. Schiff. He has been a leading critic of Mr. Trump since 2016, doggedly investigating Russian election interference and later leading the impeachment inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he’s considering Rep. Douglas A. Collins for permanent DNI post, Ashley Parker, Feb. 21, 2020. President Trump told reporters Thursday evening that he was considering Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), right, as his permanent Director of National Intelligence.

doug collins o CustomThe move would not only fill a post that has not been permanently filled since Daniel Coats resigned last summer, but would help Trump and his fellow Republicans avoid what is already shaping up to be a messy intraparty fight for the Georgia Senate seat, where Collins is running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in the party’s primary.

Collins is just one of several candidates he’s considering, said the president, who spoke to reporters as he flew from Colorado to Nevada as part of a four-day swing out West.

Earlier this week, Trump announced that Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, would replace Joseph Maguire as the acting intelligence director. But both Trump and Grenell have said he is not expected to become the permanent chief, a post which requires Senate confirmation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Richard Grenell Destroy the Intelligence Community? Jonathan Stevenson (senior fellow at the International Institute for richard grenell CustomStrategic Studies), Feb. 21, 2020. President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy. We know what happens next.

A crazy optimist might have hoped that the impeachment trial, gutted though it was by Senate Republicans, would chasten rather than embolden President Trump, prompting a new judiciousness in his execution of his duties. Forget about that. His naming of Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence has completely dashed any such hopes.

Mr. Grenell, shown at right on his Twitter photo, has no experience as an intelligence officer at any level, nor has he overseen a large government bureaucracy.

He has served in government only as communications director for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration, and since May 2018 as ambassador to Germany. (In the interim, he founded and ran a public affairs consultancy, advising and commenting on Fox News.)

ny times logoNew York Times, A White House aide accused of writing the anonymous Op-Ed is being reassigned to the Energy Department, Michael Crowley, Feb. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The White House is transferring a senior national security aide who fell under suspicion of writing an anonymous insider account of dissent within the Trump administration, the latest of several senior personnel moves stemming from questions of loyalty to President Trump.

Victoria Coates, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser, will move on Monday to the Department of Energy, where she will serve as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, announced on Thursday the staff shift in a statement, saying her move was intended to “ensure the close alignment of energy policy with national security objectives.” The move was first reported by Axios.

But current and former administration officials said Ms. Coates, who managed Middle East and North Africa issues on the National Security Council, had been targeted by a whisper campaign among some pro-Trump conservatives that she was Anonymous, an official who wrote a September 2018 Op-Ed essay for The New York Times that was expanded into a book that was published last year.

Roger Stone Stories

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone sentenced to 40 months for lying to Congress, witness tampering, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky and Tom Jackman​, Feb. 21, 2020 (printed.). Implementation of the sentence, which came amid turmoil between the Justice Department and President Trump over the penalty, will be delayed as the judge weighs Stone’s request for a new trial.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

amy berman jacksonThe penalty from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone. With the proceedings ongoing, Trump questioned whether his ally was being treated fairly.

In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at Trump, saying Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, saying intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation was “unprecedented.” But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her final decision.

“The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Jackson said, echoing prosecutors’ closing arguments at trial. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one party or another; everyone loses.”

She added, “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”

Trump, meanwhile, weighed in publicly from afar — again bucking Barr’s public and private warnings to stop talking about Justice Department criminal cases. In a tweet, the president compared Stone to former FBI director James B. Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Trump has suggested that each of them should be charged.

“‘They say Roger Stone lied to Congress.’ @CNN,” Trump wrote during the hearing, tagging the news network. “OH, I see, but so did Comey (and he also leaked classified information, for which almost everyone, other than Crooked Hillary Clinton, goes to jail for a long time), and so did Andy McCabe, who also lied to the FBI! FAIRNESS?”

Overnight, Trump also hinted he couldpardon Stone, tweeting a video clip in which Fox News host Tucker Carlson said, “President Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon, and there are indications tonight that he will do that.” Carlson noted a series of pardons and commutations the president granted this week.

Stone, 67, was convicted by a federal jury in November on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked Democratic emails related to Clinton.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Strange scenes at Roger Stone’s sentencing raise even more questions about William Barr

Related stories:

djt roger stone Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone Is Sentenced to Over 3 Years in Prison, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 20, 2020. Mr. Stone, President Trump’s friend and former campaign adviser, was convicted of lying to investigators under oath and trying to block witness testimony.

Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime friend of President Trump’s, was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect the president.

The case against Mr. Stone, 67, who has known and advised Mr. Trump for years, had become a cause célèbre among the president’s supporters. Mr. Trump has attacked the prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

Hours after the sentencing, Mr. Trump lashed out again at the authorities for prosecuting Mr. Stone and claimed his trial was unfair, but he said he would not intervene using his clemency powers at this point.

“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed on a president of the United States,” he said at an event in Las Vegas for former convicts easing back into society. “I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I’d love to see Roger exonerated — and I’d love to see it happen — because personally I think he was treated unfairly.”

Instead, he said he would wait to see how the case is ultimately resolved, leaving a clear impression that he would issue a pardon or commutation if he were unsatisfied. “We will watch the process and watch it very closely,” Mr. Trump said. “And at some point, I will make a determination. But Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process. OK?”

Mr. Stone was convicted of lying to congressional investigators and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the panel was investigating whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The case ignited a broader controversy as former and current government lawyers accused Mr. Barr of failing to protect the department from improper political influence from the White House. In an open letter, more than 2,000 former Justice Department employees have called for Mr. Barr to resign, claiming “interference in the fair administration of justice” by both the attorney general and the president.

In a television interview last Thursday, Mr. Barr said he had decided to recommend a more lenient punishment for Mr. Stone based on the merits of the case. He also asked the president to stop publicly opining about the department’s criminal cases, saying it was making his job “impossible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Barr Did for Roger Stone Is Like Nothing I’ve Seen Before, Noah Bookbinder (executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), Feb. 20, 2020. Has the Trump Department of Justice ever asked for a lower sentence for someone who wasn’t a presidential ally?

The sentence that Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposed on Mr. Stone, while lower than the guideline range that the career prosecutors recommended, is not unusual; in 2018, federal judges imposed sentences outside the guidelines in about a quarter of all cases nationwide. As Judge Jackson said in Thursday’s hearing, she made this decision based on her own assessment of the relevant facts, and she likely would have imposed a sentence below the guideline range irrespective of Mr. Barr’s intervention. This is exactly what the law requires.

william barr new oMr. Barr, right, and those carrying out his wishes did not really dispute the facts and the law as carefully laid out by the career prosecutors. Instead, they presented a litany of the arguments that Mr. Stone’s own lawyers had made for ignoring the guidelines and giving him lenient treatment.

So the career prosecutors made exactly the kind of recommendation prosecutors are expected to make in our system, and one that the Trump administration specifically encourages them to make. In contrast, doing what the attorney general did, calling for a sentence “far less” than that called for by the guidelines, is generally frowned upon by the Justice Department.

As a former federal corruption prosecutor and senior staffer at the United States Sentencing Commission, I can say unequivocally that what Mr. Barr and his team did was something I have never seen before. It calls into question his fitness to play a leading role in our nation’s justice system. The top prosecutor in the land must demonstrate a commitment to protecting the rule of law, not the president and his allies.

Feb. 20

Trump Power, Payback

jared kushner donald trump unsourced

washington post logoWashington Post, White House assembles team of advisers to guide clemency process as Trump considers more pardons, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Neena Satija, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The group, led by President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system.

The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons and commutations, with President Trump aiming to limit the role of the Justice Department in the clemency process as he weighs a flurry of additional pardon announcements, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump, who granted clemency Tuesday to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and supporters, has assembled a team of advisers to recommend and vet candidates for pardons, according to several people with knowledge of the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The group, essentially an informal task force of at least a half-dozen presidential allies, has been meeting since late last year to discuss a revamped pardon system in the White House. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser (shown above left), is taking a leading role in the new clemency initiative and has supported the idea of putting the White House more directly in control of the process that in past administrations has been housed in the Justice Department, officials said.

Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who served on Trump’s impeachment defense team, is also playing a significant role, vetting applications for potential pardon recipients. Kushner has personally reviewed applications with White House lawyers before presenting them to Trump for final approval, according to two senior administration officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Against wishes of Barr, Trump fires off more tweets about Justice Department, John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The tense equilibrium between the president and the attorney general may be tested again Thursday by the sentencing of longtime Trump friend Roger Stone.

Justice Department logoPresident Trump continued to test his relationship with Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday by amplifying conservative allies demanding he “clean house” at the Justice Department and target those involved in the Russia investigation that once threatened his presidency.

The grievances shared by Trump in a flurry of morning tweets included claims of a “seditious conspiracy” against him, and attacks on a “criminal gang” at the FBI and the Justice Department.

william barr new oA day after it was revealed that Barr, right, told people close to Trump that he had considered quitting, the president and his attorney general seemed to reach a detente of sorts. Officials inside the Justice Department said they were watching the situation closely, mindful that a new string of tweets or comments could quickly upend the situation, but there were no indications that Barr would leave imminently. The attorney general did not mention the controversy when he spoke during an event Wednesday at FBI headquarters.

• Washington Post, Attorney for Julian Assange claims that congressman offered pardon on behalf of Trump
• Washington Post, Trump freed Alice Johnson in 2018. This week, he granted clemency to three of her friends.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Drove Trump’s Clemency Orders: Friendship, Fame and Connections, Peter Baker, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Elizabeth Williamson, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). One of the pardons that President Trump issued Tuesday came together in just hours. The process was an ad hoc scramble that bypassed formal procedures.

Early Tuesday morning, Bernard B. Kerik’s telephone rang. On the line was David Safavian, a friend and fellow former government official bernard kerik portraitwho like Mr. Kerik (shown at right) was once imprisoned for misconduct. Mr. Safavian had life-changing news.

Mr. Safavian, who had ties to the White House, said that he was putting together a letter asking President Trump to pardon Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges. Mr. Safavian needed names of supporters to sign the letter. By noon.

Mr. Kerik hit the phones. Shortly after 10 a.m., he reached Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News correspondent and a friend of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Rivera, who described Mr. Kerik as “an American hero,” instantly agreed to sign the one-page letter. Mr. Kerik called Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, and when Mr. Safavian reached Mr. King around 10:30, he too agreed to sign.

At 11:57 a.m., Mr. Kerik’s phone rang again. This time it was the president.

“He said, ‘As we speak, I am signing a full presidential pardon on your behalf,’” Mr. Kerik recalled in an interview on Wednesday. “Once he started talking and I realized what we were talking about, I got emotional.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone Is Set to Be Sentenced in Case That Has Drawn Scrutiny, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The sentencing is playing out amid upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between the president and the attorney general. Roger J. Stone Jr., the Republican political consultant who for years portrayed himself as the dirty trickster of American politics, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday morning for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect President Trump.

roger stoneThe case against Mr. Stone, 67, right, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has become a cause célèbre among the president’s supporters. Mr. Trump has attacked the prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

Mr. Stone was convicted in November of lying to investigators under oath and trying to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his lies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, the panel was investigating whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.

His sentencing is playing out against an extraordinary backdrop of upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between the president and Attorney General William P. Barr over Mr. Trump’s comments about the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump has attacked the Roger Stone trial and the judge as biased. She seems unlikely to be ruffled, Sharon LaFraniere
Feb. 20, 2020. Amy Berman Jackson, right, is no stranger to working under pressure.

amy berman jacksonAs a federal prosecutor three decades ago, she was in the final hours of a momentous murder trial when prospective jurors for her next trial — an armed robbery case against three defendants — showed up in the same courthouse.

Rather than delay that case, she broke away from the murder trial long enough to pick the jury for it. Then she returned to deliver her closing argument against the murder defendant. And while those jurors weighed their verdict, she delivered her opening statement about why the armed robbery defendants should be convicted.

All before lunch.

Now a federal judge in Washington, Ms. Jackson faces another high-stakes morning on Thursday when she sentences Roger J. Stone Jr., President Trump’s longtime friend and former campaign adviser, for obstructing a congressional investigation.

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Imagine That Donald Trump Has Almost No Control Over Justice, Cass R. Sunstein (professor at Harvard Law School, author and former Obama White House official), Feb. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Congress should transform the department into an independent agency untouched by the president’s whims.

In view of the intensifying controversy over the politicization of the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr and its potential weaponization at the hands of President Trump, it is worth reviving a proposal that has not been seriously discussed since the Watergate era: Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control.

The United States government has two kinds of agencies. Most of them are “executive.” They are essentially the president’s agents and subject to his will. This is true for the president’s cabinet, including the Departments of State, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation — and Justice.

Other agencies are made “independent” by law. Their heads are appointed by the president, but it is generally agreed that he cannot direct them to do as he wishes or control their day-to-day operations. This is true for the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Communications Commission. It is also true for the Federal Trade Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Social Security Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

Many people think that under the Constitution, the executive branch is “unitary,” in the sense that the president must be in control of all those who carry out federal law. But since 1935, the Supreme Court has rejected this view, allowing Congress to ensure that these agencies, and many others, operate independently of the president.

Feb. 19

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

WikiLeaks, Pardon, Russian Hacking

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

World News

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Post-impeachment, Trump declares himself ‘chief law enforcement officer’ of America, Toluse Olorunnipa and Beth Reinhard, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Through pardons and tweets, President Trump has directly intervened in an array of criminal matters.

During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Trump is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal two weeks ago, analysts say, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that, essentially, he is the law.

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judge, accuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit.

“I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip to California, Nevada and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Complete List of Trump’s Pardons and Commutations, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Heather Murphy and Mariel Padilla, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The president granted full pardons to seven people and commutations to four others on Tuesday. Here’s who they are.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)President Trump pardoned seven people on Tuesday, including the “junk bond king” Michael R. Milken and Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner. He also commuted the sentences of Rod R. Blagojevich, a former governor of Illinois, and three others.

The Constitution gives presidents what the Supreme Court has ruled is the unlimited authority to grant pardons, which excuse or forgive a federal crime. A commutation, by contrast, makes a punishment milder without wiping out the underlying conviction. Both are forms of presidential clemency.

Here are the 11 people who benefited from the executive grants of clemency that Mr. Trump signed Tuesday.

Commutations

    • Rod R. Blagojevich
    • Tynice Nichole Hall
    • Crystal Munoz
    • Judith Negron

Pardons

    • Edward DeBartolo Jr.
    • Ariel Friedler
    • Bernard B. Kerik
    • Michael R. Milken
    • Paul Pogue
    • David Safavian
    • Angela Stanton

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Grants Clemency to 3 White-Collar Criminals and Ex-Governor, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Michael D. Shear, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois (shown at left in a 2017 photo in prison), who was rod blagojevich 2017convicted of trying to essentially sell a vacated Senate seat.

The president also pardoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, the financier Michael Milken and Edward DeBartolo, a former N.F.L. owner.

“Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Mr. Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One for a four-day trip to the west coast where he is scheduled to hold three campaign rallies. “He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”

Mr. Kerik, right, the former New York City police commissioner, was convicted of tax fraud and lying to the government. And he said bernard kerik portraithe had also pardoned Mr. Milken, the investment banker who was known in the 1980s as the “junk bond king” and who has fought for decades to reverse his conviction for securities fraud.

Mr. Trump commuted the former governor’s sentence on Tuesday after saying for years that he was considering intervening in Mr. Blagojevich’s case. By commuting the sentence, the president would free Mr. Blagojevich from prison without wiping out the conviction. Republicans have advised the president against it, arguing that Mr. Blagojevich’s crime epitomizes the corruption that Mr. Trump had said he wanted to tackle as president.

The president’s decision came the same day that he pardoned Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt and eventually surrendered control of his team.

ed debartolo jr file CustomMr. DeBartolo, the scion of a prominent real estate development family who created one of the National Football League’s greatest dynasties, was prosecuted after agreeing to pay $400,000 in brand-new $100 bills to Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, to secure a riverboat gambling license for his gambling consortium.

Mr. DeBartolo avoided prison but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the N.F.L. He later handed over the 49ers to his sister Denise DeBartolo York. His nephew Jed York currently runs the team, which made it back to the Super Bowl this year only to fall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In conversations with advisers, Mr. Trump has also raised the prospect of commuting the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr, his longest-serving adviser, who was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Asked about a pardon for Mr. Stone on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said “I haven’t given it any thought.”

Mr. DeBartolo, often called Eddie D., controlled the franchise for 23 years, presiding over the 49ers’ golden era in the 1980s and 1990s when the team won five Super Bowl championships under coach Bill Walsh with legendary players like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. Despite his felony conviction, Mr. DeBartolo was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Mr. Trump made no immediate comment Tuesday on his decision but left it to his deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, to announce the pardon to reporters. Joining Mr. Gidley at the announcement was a host of N.F.L. legends who supported Mr. DeBartolo, including Mr. Rice, Mr. Lott, Jim Brown and Charles Haley.

“Eddie was like that 12th man that was on that football field,” Mr. Rice told reporters. “You know that this guy, you know, he wanted us to win. ed debartolo 5 super bowl wins wAnd I think he’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls. So today is a great day for him. I’m glad to be here and be a part of that.”

Along with Mr. Brown, Mr. DeBartolo (shown at right with SuperBowl tropies in a file photo via WikiMedia) was among the hosts of a pre-inauguration party in 2017 that honored people close to Mr. Trump at the time, including Michael D. Cohen, his personal attorney who later went to prison for campaign finance violations and tax evasion, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who joined the White House staff before later being fired. Mr. Trump promoted the event on Twitter at the time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention, Fred Barbash, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The extraordinary move follows President Trump’s tweets about the Roger Stone case and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The head of the Federal Judges Association is taking the extraordinary step of calling an emergency meeting to address the intervention in politically sensitive cases by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, the Philadelphia-based judge who heads the voluntary association of around 1,100 life-term federal judges, told USA Today that the issue “could not wait.” The association, founded in 1982, ordinarily concerns itself with matters of judicial compensation and legislation affecting the federal judiciary.

supreme court buildingOn Sunday, more than 2,000 (updated total) former Justice Department employees released a public letter calling on Barr to resign over the Stone case.

A search of news articles since the group’s creation revealed nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.

Rufe, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

The action follows a week of turmoil that included the president tweeting his outrage over the length of sentence recommended by career federal prosecutors for his friend Roger Stone and the decision by Barr to withdraw that recommendation.

In between, Trump singled out the judge in the Stone case, Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, for personal attacks, accusing her of bias and spreading a falsehood about her record.

“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe said to USA Today. “We’ll talk all this through.”

Trump began disparaging federal judges who have ruled against his interests before he took office, starting with U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. After Curiel ruled against Trump in 2016 in a pair of lawsuits detailing predatory marketing practices at Trump University in San Diego, Trump described him as “a hater of Donald Trump,” adding that he believed the Indiana-born judge was “Mexican.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Tampa mob celebrates presidential pardon, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 19, 2020. Florida's Tampa Bay wayne madesen report logomob doubtless celebrated the February 19 presidential pardon issued by impeached president Donald John Trump for Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., the heir to his father, Eddie DeBartolo, Sr.'s, Youngstown, Ohio-based DeBartolo Corporation business empire.

The empire, according to federal law enforcement, had links to mobsters Carlos Marcello, Meyer Lansky, and the Tampa-based father-son duo Santos Trafficante Sr. and Jr.

DeBartolo, Sr. was also reportedly closely tied to the Mafia families that ran the Pittsburgh and Cleveland rackets. DeBartolo, Sr. had a major presence in Florida and his banks and front companies were, according to the FBI, connected to drug money laundering.

Randy Rainbow Song Parody, No Rules For Donald, Feb. 18, 2020 (4:38 min. video). Viewer: The line between comedic satire and grim reality just disappeared. It was a lot more fun three years ago when we were laughing at comedic satire. Now, not so much.

washington post logoWashington Post, Blagojevich declares himself ‘a freed political prisoner,’ thanks Trump, Susan Berger and John Wagner, An unrepentant Rod Blagojevich expressed “everlasting gratitude” Wednesday to President Trump for commuting his 14-year prison sentence and declared himself “a freed political prisoner” as he spoke to reporters outside his home in Chicago.

“From the beginning to the end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution,” the former Democratic governor of Illinois said of his legal ordeal, which resulted in a conviction on corruption charges in 2011 related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, among other campaign finance violations.

Blagojevich, who had been serving time in a federal correctional facility in Colorado, appeared alongside his wife and two daughters at a news conference in which he frequently dabbed his chin, explaining that he was bleeding from his first “normal” shave in about eight years.

The former Illinois governor, who had served eight years on corruption charges related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, spoke to reporters after returning home to Chicago.

“We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” Blagojevich said, suggesting that the Republican president had nothing to gain politically by granting clemency to a Democrat.

Blagojevich, who quoted scripture and Martin Luther King Jr. at various points, described himself a “Trumpocrat” and said he would vote for Trump if he can — seemingly uncertain as to whether his ex-felon status would permit that.

Blogojevich was greeted by cheers of “Welcome home, governor!” and “love you.” A banner ran below the family’s front porch, signed by neighbors, that said, “Thank you Mr. President.” Reporters and TV cameras surrounded the house, and helicopters could be overheard on a 24-degree, sunny day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lindsey Graham has no idea what he’s doing, Ron Leshnower, Feb. 19, 2020. Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News on Monday night, complaining, “You’re not trying to uphold the rule of law. You’re trying to take a good man down because you hate Trump.” Graham was referring to Attorney General William Barr and using a tired, twisted defense. It’s like saying you want the police to find the people who vandalized your home because you hate them–not because they engaged in wrongdoing. The silver lining is that when sycophants like Graham resort to arguing “you’re doing this because you hate Trump,” it means they’re losing bigly.

bill palmer report logo headerLate last week, Barr claimed in an interview with ABC News that he won’t be bullied and that Trump’s tweets are making it “impossible” for him to do his job. Whether or not this was an act of staged resistance, Barr’s comments backfired. Exactly what job Barr is doing has come under increasing scrutiny as a groundswell of pushback against Barr’s mockery of justice is underway. Former U.S. Attorney and DOJ official Harry Litman chillingly described the unprecedented nature of the situation in a tweet Monday night: “This is mind-blowing. I’ve never heard of anything like it. We are in full on crisis mode.”

On Sunday, DOJ alumni published an open letter, which now bears over 2,000 signatures, calling for Barr to resign after interfering in the sentencing of Roger Stone, who was convicted in November on seven counts of witness tampering and lying to Congress. Yesterday, the Federal Judges Association, an independent group of over 1,000 jurists, revealed it is calling an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis. According to an analysis by the Washington Post of news articles since the association’s founding in 1982, there has been “nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general.”

At Barr’s confirmation hearing a mere 13 months ago, he claimed, “Nothing could be more destructive of our system of government, of the rule of law or the Department of Justice as an institution than any toleration of political interference with the enforcement of the law.” He went on to say that Americans need to be sure that there are places in government “where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway and where they will be treated fairly based solely on the facts and the evenhanded application of the law. The Department of Justice must be that place.” Through these words and his subsequent actions, Barr has crafted a convincing case for his immediate resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Milken, the ‘junk bond king,’ was a key character in the ‘decade of greed,’ Reis Thebault, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Milken, the “junk bond king” who was charged with insider trading in the 1980s, was granted clemency by President Trump on Tuesday, making him the latest wealthy and well-connected offender bestowed such a benediction under this administration.

michael milken CustomA key character in the “decade of greed,” Milken, right, helped create the market for high-yield securities, known as junk bonds, as an executive at the now-shuttered firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. He was at one point the highest-paid man in Wall Street history, and his rapaciousness made him an inspiration for Gordon Gekko, the villain in the 1987 film “Wall Street.”

In 1990, Milken pleaded guilty to six felony counts, including securities fraud, mail fraud and aiding in the filing of a false tax return. He was fined $600 million and sentenced to 10 years in prison at a minimum-security facility but was released after serving two years and cooperating with government investigators.

Since emerging from prison, Milken has survived prostate cancer and remade himself as a major philanthropist, contributing millions to cancer research and public health organizations. He also founded the Milken Institute, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on economic policy.

Before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday, Trump praised Milken, saying he has “gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Charges unraveled legacy of ex-N.Y. commissioner Bernard Kerik, Michael Brice-Saddler, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Tuesday pardoned Bernard Kerik, the once-heralded New York police commissioner whose legacy was unraveled by a bevy of allegations that landed him in prison, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

bernard kerik today show 11 4 13Kerik, an Army veteran, joined the New York Police Department in 1986 and was named the 40th police commissioner of New York at the turn of the millennium, working closely with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He rose to prominence and was celebrated as a hero for heading the department during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He is shown at right in a screenshot from an appearance on NBC's Today Show following his release from prison.

He was one of 11 high-profile figures to whom the president granted clemency Tuesday. Others included Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 2000 to failing to report a felony, and Michael Milken, the notorious “junk bond king” charged with insider trading in the 1980s.

“Bernard Kerik courageously led the New York Police Department’s heroic response to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, as Commissioner of the New York Police Department,” the White House wrote in its statement Tuesday announcing Kerik’s clemency. “He embodied the strength, courage, compassion, and spirit of the people of New York and this great Nation as he served alongside first responders at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the attack.”

His leadership during one of the nation’s darkest hours resonated with many, including President George W. Bush, who in 2004 nominated Kerik to lead the Department of Homeland Security. But within days, amid media scrutiny, Kerik withdrew his acceptance of the nomination and confessed that he had not paid taxes for a nanny whose immigration status was in question.

The admission was followed by a cascade of allegations against the well-known commissioner: chief among them that he had not reported gifts he had received as a New York City official, including from a construction company suspected of involvement in organized crime. Kerik was indicted in 2007 after pleading guilty the year before to misdemeanors centered on the allegations.

In 2009, Kerik pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including two counts of tax fraud and lying to White House officials while being considered for the homeland security position, the Associated Press reported at the time. The judge in the case, Stephen C. Robinson, sentenced Kerik to four years in federal prison — exceeding federal sentencing guidelines, which recommended 27 to 33 months — asserting that Kerik had used the aftermath of 9/11 for personal gain and later made “a conscious decision to essentially lie to the President of the United States to get a cabinet position.”

On Tuesday, the White House wrote that since his conviction, Kerik had become an advocate for criminal justice, with a focus on prisoner reentry reform. In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Kerik said there are “no words to express my appreciation and gratitude to President Trump.”

“With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the great days in my life,” he wrote. “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open. Its aftermath of collateral consequences and the permanent loss of many of your civil and constitutional rights are personally devastating.”

Known now as a frequent Mar-a-Lago guest and Fox News pundit, Kerik made an appearance on the network as recently as Monday night. A senior administration official told The Washington Post that a number of people lobbied the president on Kerik’s behalf, including Giuliani, now Trump’s personal attorney, and Newsmax Media chief executive Christopher Ruddy.

Background: Washington Post, Most Trump clemency grants bypass Justice Dept. and go to well-connected offenders, Beth Reinhard and Anne Gearan, Feb. 3, 2020. Most of Trump’s grants of clemency have gone to ­well-connected offenders who had not filed petitions with the pardon office or did not meet its requirements, The Post review shows.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr has told those close to Trump he is considering quitting over the president’s tweets about Justice Dept. investigations, Feb. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr has told people close to President Trump — both inside and outside the White House — that he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, three administration officials said, foreshadowing a possible confrontation between the president and his attorney general over the independence of the Justice Department.

So far, Trump has defied Barr’s requests, both public and private, to keep quiet on matters of federal law enforcement. It was not immediately clear Tuesday if Barr had made his posture known directly to Trump. The administration officials said Barr seemed to be sharing his position with advisers in hopes the president would get the message that he should stop weighing in publicly on the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigations.

“He has his limits,” said one person familiar with Barr’s thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity, like others, to discuss internal deliberations.

Late last week, Barr publicly warned the president in a remarkable interview with ABC News that his tweets about Justice Department cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.” Trump, White House officials said, is not entirely receptive to calls to change his behavior, and he has told those around him he is not going to stop tweeting about the Justice Department. They said Trump considers highlighting what he sees as misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department as a good political message.

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter urging Barr to resign over his handling of the Stone case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct to the inspector general. Jan Miller, who was the U.S. attorney for Central Illinois from 2002 until 2005 under President George W. Bush, said he signed in part to remind rank-and-file Justice Department employees that “they’re not alone.”

“I’m sure it’s a very difficult time to be a line prosecutor in the department right now,” Miller said.

Trump also reprised old attacks on the Mueller investigation.

WikiLeaks, Pardon, Russian Hacking

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump ‘Offered Assange Pardon’ if He Covered Up Russian Hack, Nico Hines, Feb. 19, 2020. A lawyer for Julian Assange has claimed in court that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Assange’s lawyers said on Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017, a year after emails that damaged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race had been published. WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives.

The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London. The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London.

Assange has argued that he should not be extradited to the U.S. because the American case against him is politically motivated. He spent almost seven years hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London claiming that he would be jailed in the U.S. if he wasn’t granted asylum. He was kicked out of the embassy last year.

His lawyers told the court that Trump’s alleged offer to pardon Assange proved that this was no ordinary criminal investigation.

Edward Fitzgerald, who was representing Assange in court, said he had evidence that a quid pro quo was put to Assange by Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Julian Assange just dropped a bomb on Donald Trump’s head, Bill Palmer, Feb. 19, 2020. Donald Trump has been playing a dangerous game by dangling pardons at his own criminal co-conspirators but never coming through for them. Sure, Paul Manafort is still dutifully rotting away in solitary, and Roger Stone is hanging in there for now. But when Trump started pardoning criminals yesterday and he only included people who had paid him off, while ignoring his own co-conspirators, one of them decided to strike back.

Julian Assange, who will never taste freedom at this point and has nothing to lose, is now revealing that Donald Trump offered him a pardon in exchange for keeping quiet about Russia’s involvement in the WikiLeaks plot to hack the DNC and swing the election in Trump’s favor. We’re not inclined to take anything Assange says at face value, but his lawyers have provided specific details to the Daily Beast, including the fact that the pardon offered was relayed through Russia-loving former GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. So what happens now?

By outing the fact that Donald Trump offered a pardon that never came through, Assange is giving up any hope of ever getting that pardon, because Trump pretty much can’t do it now that everything is out in the open. Perhaps Assange is looking to harm Trump’s 2020 prospects in the hope that he can cut a cooperating plea deal with the next administration. Or perhaps at this point Assange – who by all accounts is a frail and withdrawn shadow of his former self – just wants revenge.

Either way, this has to be seen as bad news for Donald Trump. There’s no possible way Julian Assange is doing this to try to secretly help Trump, because this wouldn’t be the approach he’d take at all. Trump appears to have made an enemy out of Assange by offering him a pardon and then reneging on it, and now Assange is going after him. What happens if someone like Roger Stone, who knows far more of Trump’s dirt, also concludes that no magic pardon is coming?

 

Feb. 18

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Trump Power, Payback

djt roger stone Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Donald Trump’s big pardon head-fake with Roger Stone, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2020. Thus far today Donald Trump has pardoned former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, commuted the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and pardoned former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. There could end up being more names by the time the day is over.

So what’s Trump doing? He’s creating pardon hysteria, of course, because he’s trying to convince Roger Stone (above at left) that a pardon is magically coming for him as well.

Here’s the thing, though. Donald Trump does this same thing every time one of his co-conspirators is about to be arrested, or about go to prison. Trump knows that if he pardons some random unrelated people at just the right time, he can count on the media to opportunistically start putting the ratings-friendly narrative that pardons are magic wands and that Trump is about to pardon his co-conspirator as well.

bill palmer report logo headerThe media has spent three years trying to keep you glued to your television by inaccurately painting pardons as magic wands, and then convincing you that Trump is about to pardon everyone at any moment. The pundits always tell you that the irrelevant pardons are a “trial balloon” and that he’s “laying the groundwork” or “creating cover” for pardoning his co-conspirator. But it never, ever, ever happens – because pardons of co-conspirators are complicated and they don’t work the way they’re portrayed on cable news.

Trump played this same game with Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen when they were going down. Manafort took the bait. Cohen didn’t. Flynn still can’t make up his mind what to believe. But the bottom line is that he’s never once ever pardoned one of his co-conspirators. There’s a chance Trump could pardon Stone, who surely has even worse dirt on Trump than the others do, and could seek ugly revenge. But if it does happen, it’ll be the first time the pundits have ever been right about a Trump pardon in three years – and then only by coincidence.

If Trump pardons a co-conspirator, it’ll trigger a legal battle over the scope of pardon power, which could result in Trump being blocked from trying to pardon himself and his kids on his way out the door. Is Trump so afraid of Stone’s dirt, he’s willing to risk going to prison himself? Trump can also only pardon federal charges. Stone has a secondary residence in NYC, which was raided when he was arrested. If Stone is pardoned, New York can bring state charges against him, even if Florida won’t. So Stone’s pardon might not even keep him out of prison.

djt impeachment graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Attacks Stone Prosecutors and Judge, Ignoring Barr’s Admonishment, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 18, 2020. President Mr. Trump continued his attacks as a judge said Roger Stone’s sentencing would go on as scheduled. The case has prompted turmoil within the Justice Department. Roger Stone’s sentencing will go on as scheduled, a judge said as she vowed to hear out concerns from the defense. The case has prompted turmoil within the Justice Department.

Mr. Trump renewed his attacks on law enforcement on Tuesday, denouncing the prosecutors and judge in the case of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. just days after Attorney General William P. Barr warned that the president’s criticisms were making it “impossible” to do his job.

Justice Department log circularUndeterred, Mr. Trump kept up his barrage on Twitter. He directly quoted a “Fox & Friends” legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, who has insisted that the president “has every right to speak to” the attorney general about the Stone case. Mr. Trump has alleged bias by the jury forewoman and echoed calls for the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, to reconsider it.

“Judge Jackson now has a request for a new trial based on the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson,” Mr. Trump wrote, quoting Mr. Napolitano.

But Mr. Stone’s sentencing will go on as planned on Thursday despite last-ditch motions by his defense lawyers for a new trial, Judge Jackson said hours later on Tuesday. She said she would allow the defense to file an amended motion for a new trial, give the government a chance to respond and schedule a hearing if warranted. Defense lawyers are trying to argue that juror misconduct led to an unfair trial.

The handling of Mr. Stone’s case has generated tumult in the Justice Department after Attorney General William P. Barr scrapped the prosecution team’s sentencing recommendation in favor of a much lighter one, leading four government lawyers to withdraw from the case. Mr. Trump also attacked the initial sentencing request.

The president also again assailed the lawyers, saying that if he were not president, he would sue them. Two of the four worked for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led to the indictments of Mr. Stone and five other former Trump aides.

Mr. Stone, 67, was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller’s inquiry ultimately found insufficient evidence to charge anyone associated with the campaign of conspiring with the Russians.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump raises possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting Roger Stone, John Wagner, Feb. 18, 2020. President Trump on Tuesday raised the possibility of suing those involved in prosecuting the Roger Stone case after sharing the opinion of a Fox News commentator who said it is “pretty obvious” that Stone, Trump’s longtime political confidant, should get a new trial.

Trump’s morning tweets marked his latest efforts to intervene in the case of Stone, who faces sentencing this week on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.

roger stoneDefense lawyers for Stone, right, demanded a new trial Friday, one day after Trump suggested that the forewoman in the federal case had “significant bias.”

Trump was referring to Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress. Hart has identified herself as the forewoman of the jury in a Facebook post, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer” in the wake of a Justice Department move to reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone from the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.

In his tweets on Tuesday, Trump quoted at length Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and Fox News commentator, who argued that Stone should receive a trial based on “the unambiguous & self outed bias of the foreperson of the jury.”

“Pretty obvious he should (get a new trial),” Trump quoted Napolitano as saying. “I think almost any judge in the Country would order a new trial, I’m not so sure about Judge Jackson, I don’t know.”

Napolitano was referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Stone’s case and who has drawn Trump’s ire on Twitter for her treatment of another ally of his, Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

In his latest tweets — which began about an hour after Napolitano appeared on “Fox & Friends” — Trump also derided prosecutors in the Stone case as “Mueller prosecutors,” a reference to those who worked for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who investigated possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump called that investigation “fraudulent,” adding: “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place. BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL.”

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Stone withdrew from the legal proceedings last week — and one quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department signaled it planned to undercut their sentencing recommendation. Two of those prosecutors had worked for Mueller.

Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign, working to discover damaging information on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

More than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter over the weekend urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the case and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct. At Barr’s urging, the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting that Stone should receive less prison time.

 djt feb 7 2020 william moon white house photo

Donald Trump, with tanning make-up revealed, returns to White House from Trump white nationalist rally in North Carolina on Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by William Moon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We knew what Barr would do. Now it’s too late to stop him. Annie L. Owens, Feb. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The attorney general’s radical view of the executive branch was apparent during his Senate confirmation.

Last week, Attorney General William P. Barr overruled the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s ally Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress, after the president tweeted that the original recommendation was “horrible” and “very unfair.” Barr also ordered a review of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s prosecution — which, like Stone’s, was initiated by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and conducted by career Justice Department attorneys.

djt william barr doj photo march 2019These developments are the latest evidence that Barr’s loyalty to Trump threatens the Justice Department’s independence, and they have shaken the public’s faith in the rule of law.

But Barr’s attempts to politicize the Justice Department could have been stopped before they began: during his Senate confirmation. Even then, it was clear that Barr’s radical pro-executive branch worldview was contrary to Congress’s institutional interests and made Barr a dangerous pick for a president who, as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) warned, “views the Justice Department as an extension of his political power.”

A little over a year ago, I was serving as a senior counsel on the minority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helping Democrats sound the alarm about Barr’s troubling record. A former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (an office in which I also later served), Barr had espoused an extreme view of executive power that exalted the presidency to a position of inviolability rather than treating Congress as a coequal branch.

This theory, which the Supreme Court has never endorsed, grants the president virtually unchecked authority while seriously hamstringing Congress’s ability to hold the president accountable, including its ability to guard against political interference in law enforcement.

Annie L. Owens is a Litigator with the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. She was previously a Senior Counsel for the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an Attorney-Adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept., in wrestling with how to handle Giuliani, tightens rules for Ukraine-related probes, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 18, 2020. The deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney in Brooklyn must now sign off before any investigations are expanded.

The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that law enforcement officials running Ukraine-related investigations must seek approval before expanding their inquiries — a move that could have implications for Rudolph W. Giuliani, as President Trump’s personal attorney pushes for scrutiny of the president’s political foes while facing a federal probe into his own conduct.

The directive from Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen was disclosed in a response to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) after the House Judiciary Committee chairman demanded clarity on how the Justice Department is reviewing information from Giuliani, who has urged law enforcement to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son for their dealings in Ukraine.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote to Nadler that the department had tapped two U.S. attorneys to assist in the process — Scott Brady in Pittsburgh to receive and assess new information, and Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn to help coordinate personnel throughout the Justice Department involved in Giuliani’s case and others with a focus on Ukraine. An accompanying internal memo, circulated by Rosen in January, says that he and Donoghue must approve expansions of any inquiries.

Such a move could be viewed as putting another layer of approval in place if prosecutors wanted to widen their Giuliani probe, although Rosen wrote in his memo that the aim was to “avoid duplication of efforts.”

Taking information from Giuliani is particularly fraught for the department because the president’s personal lawyer is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan in a case that has led to campaign finance charges against two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The pair helped Giuliani try to conduct investigations in Ukraine and lobbied for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Prosecutors have in recent weeks contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents in that case.

Politico, Top intel office lawyer who handled Ukraine whistleblower complaint resigning, Kyle Cheney, Feb. 18, 2020. Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month.

The top lawyer for the intelligence community, whose decision to block a whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump and Ukraine from reaching Congress helped jumpstart the impeachment inquiry, is resigning from his post, officials confirmed.

Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will depart early next month, according to an agency spokeswoman. His exit comes as the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, nears a March 11 deadline to depart as well. Federal law prevents Maguire from serving in an acting capacity beyond that date, meaning a new director must be nominated and confirmed by then, or Trump must pick a new acting official.

Klitenic made a personal decision to return to private practice, the spokeswoman said. He became the subject of scrutiny in September when he consulted with the Justice Department and determined that a whistleblower complaint deemed "urgent" by an internal watchdog would not be provided to Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) demanded access to the complaint after learning it had been blocked — and that it likely pertained to Trump or his senior advisers — and the furor that ensued led to a cascade of support for impeachment in the House.

The Trump administration's initial refusal to provide the complaint, as well as a string of media reports suggesting the complaint described wrongdoing by Trump in his posture toward Ukraine, ultimately led Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry in late September. Within days of her decision, Maguire testified to Congress and the whistleblower complaint was released publicly. Trump also decided to release the readout of a July 25 call with Ukraine's president that became a central piece of evidence in the impeachment inquiry.

Schiff first asked the DNI for the whistleblower complaint after the agency's inspected general characterized it as an "urgent" and credible matter. Typically federal laws trigger a requirement that such complaints are forwarded to Congress. But in a Sept. 13 letter, Klitenic replied that rather than honor the inspector general's assessment, DNI consulted with the Justice Department, which overruled the inspector general and determined the complaint did not meet the threshold required to share it with lawmakers.

"Based on those consultations, we determined that the allegations did not fall within the statutory definition of an 'urgent concern' and that the statute did not require the complaint to be transmitted to the intelligence committees," Klitenic wrote on Sept. 13.

He also argued that the whistleblower had no legal right to approach Congress directly with his concerns. "We believe that it is important to apply the statute as it was written, because reading it to give a complainant a unilateral right to forward a complaint to the congressional intelligence committees would raise serious constitutional questions," Klitenic argued.

Klitenic's letter also hinted at Trump's role in the complaint, noting that it involved "confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community." Schiff said at the time that such a description could only apply to Trump or his top aides.

Feb. 17

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

 

Trump Power, Payback Stories

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 1,100 ex-Justice Department officials call for Barr’s resignation, Devlin Barrett, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter Sunday urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the william barr new ocase of President Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone — and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct.

The letter is the latest sign of a crisis of confidence inside the department. Four prosecutors quit the Stone case last week after Barr, right, and other Justice Department leaders pushed for a softer prison recommendation for Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.

The four prosecutors had originally recommended a prison sentence of seven to nineyears for Stone after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstruction. The president publicly attacked that recommendation, and at Barr’s urging the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting Stone should receive less prison time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe, Philip Rucker, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

President Donald Trump officialThe U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections.

But it is Trump who is trying to have the last word.

Seven months after Mueller’s marathon testimony brought finality to the Russia investigation, Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

Turbocharged by his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial and confident that he has acquired the fealty of nearly every Republican in Congress, Trump is claiming vindication and exoneration not only over his conduct with Ukraine — for which the House voted to impeach him — but also from the other investigations that have dogged his presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Eric Trump said the Secret Service stays free at Trump clubs. Doesn’t look like it, Editorial Board, Feb. 17, 2020 (print ed.). No one disputes that Secret Service protection is essential and expensive. But revelations about exorbitant rates that the Secret Service has been charged to protect President Trump at his private properties raise the question of what interest is being furthered. Is it the safety of the president or the bottom line of his private holdings?

secret service logoAn investigation by The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey found 103 payments from January 2017 to April 2018 from the Secret Service to Trump companies, totaling more than $471,000. Among the charges were $650 per night for agents to use rooms “dozens” of times in 2017 at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and $17,000 a month to rent a three-bedroom cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminister in New Jersey for three months in 2017.

The full extent of what the Trump Organization is charging the government is not known because the Secret Service has not listed them in public databases, even though it is typically required for charges in excess of $10,000. Nor has the agency filed the required twice-yearly reports on its spending to Congress. Since 2016, it has filed just two reports and those were not complete; the lines for Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago were both left blank. Post reporters were able to provide a glimpse into the arrangements by compiling documents that came out piecemeal from public records requests of other news organizations and watchdog groups and by talking to people who have seen some receipts.

Feb. 16

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

Trump Power, Payback Stories

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe, Philip Rucker, Feb. 16, 2020. President Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

The U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections.

But it is Trump who is trying to have the last word.

Seven months after Mueller’s marathon testimony brought finality to the Russia investigation, Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history.

Turbocharged by his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial and confident that he has acquired the fealty of nearly every Republican in Congress, Trump is claiming vindication and exoneration not only over his conduct with Ukraine — for which the House voted to impeach him — but also from the other investigations that have dogged his presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Internal reviews and re-investigations feed suspicion inside Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Critics are concerned that agency leaders are trying to please President Trump regarding cases in which he is personally or politically invested.

The Justice Department in the Trump era has repeatedly tasked U.S. attorneys from far-flung offices to parachute into politically explosive cases in Washington, raising concerns among current and former officials that agency leaders are trying to please the president by reviewing and reinvestigating cases in which he is personally or politically invested.

After a tumultuous week for federal law enforcement in which Attorney General William P. Barr declared he could not do his job if the president kept tweeting about criminal cases, and officials revealed they had dropped one politically charged case while adding new prosecutors to others, several current and former officials expressed alarm at what they characterized as a troubling pattern.

“The power to investigate is the power to destroy,” said Gregory A. Brower, a former U.S. attorney and former senior FBI official. The current approach to sensitive cases, he said, “gives the appearance of politics coming into play whenever the president has a perceived political enemy. . . . The ability to simply point to a pending investigation against a person can have devastating effects on that person and can have a potential political benefit to the person orchestrating the investigation.”

On Friday, prosecutors said they would no longer pursue a criminal case against Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI director who has long been a target of Trump’s vitriol.

The decision infuriated the president, according to a senior White House official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail internal discussions. Trump ranted privately to associates about the announcement, telling one he’s always known McCabe was a “bad guy.”

While the president is angry over the decision not to charge McCabe with lying to investigators during a leak investigation, he is unlikely to fire Barr over the matter, people familiar with the matter said.

washington post logoWashington Post, In tweetstorm, Trump likens himself to a king, shares mayor bathroom audio, Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  Amid a presidential tweetstorm Saturday morning, President Trump shared a passage from a two-week-old news article likening him to a vengeful king. Trump on impeachment: ‘It’s been a very unfair situation’

Trump tweeted a section of a Feb. 1 New York Times story about his impeachment in which reporter Peter Baker wrote, “Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.”

The actual quote from Baker’s story says “a king,” which Trump changed to “the King.” He also added his own commentary, appending “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” to the end of the tweet.

The president’s tweet was part of an assortment of unrelated commentary and videos he shared before he headed to his private golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He credited Fox News’s Laura Ingraham with a gripe over the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who Trump views as a political enemy for authorizing an investigation into the president’s possible obstruction of justice.

He retweeted a video of an alleged antifa member threatening physical harm to San Francisco Republican John Dennis, who is running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

And the president shared a five-year-old video of the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Tex., accidentally leaving his microphone on when he left a public meeting to use the bathroom.

In the last example, Trump retweeted Paul Samuel, or @PaulSam27131285, of Biggleswade, England, who shared the old clip on Friday with the comment, “THIS IS HILARIOUS.”

It’s unclear whether Trump was aware that the majority of Samuel’s other tweets are dedicated to mocking the U.S. president.

“I have no doubt that @realDonaldTrump will be recorded as the most corrupt POTUS in US history,” Samuel tweeted Saturday morning with an altered image of Trump with a pig’s snout.

The original video, which went viral in 2015, showed Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross excusing himself to use the bathroom. But he forgot to turn off his microphone, broadcasting his bodily functions to the meeting. The video shows a council member in the midst of discussing infectious diseases breaking into laughter.

Trump, who has long used Twitter to communicate his thoughts and grievances, has been on a retweeting spree of late, sharing commentary from a California sex therapist, a clip from the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” parodying Trump supporters — which the president seemed to interpret as genuinely positive — and a video of jaguars lying in the sun.

Feb. 15

Trump Power, Payback Headlines

2020 U.S. Politics

Trump Power, Payback Stories

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump thinks the Justice Department is his personal grudge squad, Sally Yates (served as deputy attorney Sally Yatesgeneral from January 2015 to January 2017), Feb. 14, 2020. The imperative of Justice Department independence from political influence has deep roots. After the Watergate scandal, Attorney General Griffin Bell sought to reestablish Justice’s independence and ensure that the department would be “recognized by all citizens as a neutral zone, in which neither favor nor pressure nor politics is permitted to influence the administration of the law.” The nation had lost faith in the Justice Department and the rule of law, so during the Carter administration Bell instituted strict limits on communications between the White House and Justice to prevent any “outside interference in reaching professional judgment on legal matters.”

Since Bell’s tenure, attorneys general in Democratic and Republican administrations alike have issued largely similar policies to adhere to the course Bell mapped for the department to live up to its promise of impartial justice.

Until now.

While the policy is ostensibly still in effect, it is a hollow ode to bygone days. From virtually the moment he took office, President Trump has attempted to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies. He ran off Jeff Sessions after Sessions’s recusal in the Russia investigation rendered Sessions useless to protect him. The president has attempted to order up investigations of his perceived political enemies and enlist the department to protect his friends. With every blow, the wall of Justice independence has wobbled a bit more. This week, it teetered on the verge of collapse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr-Trump relationship facing its gravest threat yet, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, william barr new oFeb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Officials watched warily as the president defied the attorney general’s entreaty about tweeting and the Justice Department said it would not charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Another case Trump meddled in. Another unorthodox intervention from Barr
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Winter is coming for Bill Barr, Dana Milbank, Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion How democracy dies: In full view of a public that couldn’t care less, Max Boot, Feb. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is no one to stop Trump now, George Conway, Feb. 15, 2020. When the subject of Attorney General William P. Barr comes up these days, it’s hard not to think of John S. McCain. Not the late senator, mind you, but the USS John S. McCain, the naval destroyer named after his father and grandfather.

It was an incident involving this ship that, as much as anything else, captures how the Trump administration — and its attorney general — operates. It explains Barr’s intervention into the criminal sentencing of Trump’s longtime friend and adviser, felon Roger Stone, and much, much more.

The McCain was docked at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan in May 2019, when the 7th Fleet issued a directive that had originated from conversations with the White House Military Office. The president was coming to Yokosuka on Memorial Day, and so, accordingly: “USS John McCain needs to be of sight.” So sailors were ordered to hang a tarp over the vessel’s name, and they removed any coverings that bore the words “John S. McCain."

Palmer Report, Opinion: 'Banana Republic,' Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 15, 2020. Considering how overwhelmingly corrupt Donald Trump and Bill Barr are, it’s a good thing they’re not particularly skilled at it. Sure, they’ve each been committing crimes left and bill palmerright since taking their respective offices. But Trump is limping along with a near-fatally low approval rating, and Barr just keeps finding new ways to strike out. Now they’ve succeeded in severely pissing off a judge.

By September of last year, Palmer Report and others were already pointing out that the supposed indictment of former FBI official Andrew McCabe didn’t appear to actually exist, and that Bill Barr had simply leaked a phony story to the media just to make Trump’s socks roll up and down. By November of last year it was pretty clear that this was eventually going to blow up in Barr’s face. Now that day has arrived.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Barr’s DOJ admitted to a federal judge yesterday that there wasn’t going to be any indictment or prosecution of McCabe, the judge promptly lambasted Barr and his people over the matter. Judge Reggie Walton, a conservative by any measure, went so far as to blast them for running a “banana republic” because it was clear that Barr had been taking his marching orders in the case from Trump.

Therein lies the problem for both these guys. Donald Trump is so narcissistic, or impulsive, or just plain deranged, he can’t simply sit back and let Bill Barr do his corrupt dirty work for him. Trump has to tweet insults and threats and complaints in the direction of Barr’s targets, leaving Barr without even a sliver of deniability. Meanwhile Barr is so middling at this, the best he could come up with was to pretend McCabe had been indicted. Trump and Barr won’t stop trying their bumbling yet corrupt antics. As always, vigilance is the key to containing the damage they can do, until we can throw them out in the election.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Federal prosecutors took new steps in probe related to Giuliani, say people familiar with case, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan contacted witnesses, even as the Justice Department vets the Trump attorney’s claims about Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, William Taylor Jr., a key impeachment witness, quietly returns home to Trump’s Washington, Greg Jaffe, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Those who testified against the president are trying to figure out their place in the Washington left behind following his acquittal.

2020 U.S. Politics

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: New Illegal Quid Pro Quo: Trump Demands New York State Halt All Legal Actions and Investigations Against Him as webster tarpley 2007the Price of Restoring Trusted Traveler/Global Entry at New York Airports, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 15, 2020. Blatant Extortion in Broad Daylight Threatens Slide into Dictatorship! Growing Support Among Democrats for Declaring the Prevention of One-Man Rule as the Overarching Theme of the Next Presidential Debate on February 19 in Las Vegas.

No Time Left for Business as Usual with Trick Questions from Corporate Anchors and Endless Regurgitation of Stump Speeches; Field Must Focus on Saving Democracy and the Rule of Law as the Business at Hand.

Democrats Must Also Dial Back Cutthroat Competition Among Leaderless Group of Candidates with Online Goons Blending with Russian Bots, and Set Up Criteria for Policies That Are Unacceptable: No More Reckless Talk of Stripping 150 Million Health Insurance Policies or Wiping Out Whole Industries in Next Decade; Historic Party Leaders Should Convene A Steering Committee to Provide Standards and Guidance.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks the faith of others. His own religious practices remain opaque, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Julie Zauzmer and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 15, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump does not regularly talk about religion with many of his advisers, who said they knew little about how he views God. But evangelical pastors have described him as a “baby Christian” and said he had a moment of conversion.

Feb. 14

Trump Powers, Payback

Inside DC

U.S. Politics

 

Trump Powers, Payback

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump declares ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases, Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, Feb. 14, 2020. President Trump bucked Attorney General William P. Barr’s public request for the president “to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”

donald trump twitterA day after Attorney General William P. Barr publicly warned President Trump not to tweet about the Justice Department [whose headquarters is shown above], Trump did just that, declaring that he has the “legal right” to ask his top law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case.

In his tweet, Trump quoted Barr from a television interview Thursday in which he asserted that the president had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case.

“This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” Trump added in his own voice.

The public rebuke of the president by a sitting member of his Cabinet arose from a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, which had been accused this week of buckling to an angry tweet the president issued after learning of prosecutors’ initial prison recommendation for his longtime friend, Roger Stone.

Trump has publicly and privately raged in recent months about wanting investigations of those he sees as enemies, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, former FBI director James B. Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Installs Outside Prosecutor to Review Case Against Michael Flynn, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Feb. 14, 2020. The scrutiny into the case against Mr. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser (shown above at left), could trigger more claims of interference. Attorney General William Barr has also assigned prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases.

william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, right, has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter.

The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.

Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Justice Department log circularJeffrey A. Rosen.

Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases — some public, some not — including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal deliberations.

The intervention has contributed a turbulent period for the prosecutors’ office that oversees the seat of the federal government and some of the most politically sensitive investigations and cases — some involving President Trump’s friends and allies, and some his critics and adversaries.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew McCabe, Ex-F.B.I. Official, Will Not Be Charged in Lying Case, Adam Goldman, Feb. 14, 2020. The decision to decline to charge Mr. McCabe with lying to investigators appears to be a move to distance the Justice Department from the president.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director and a frequent target of President Trump, will not face charges in an investigation into whether he lied to investigators about a media leak, his defense team said on Friday.

Andrew McCabeThe decision by prosecutors in Washington ends a case that had left Mr. McCabe (shown at right in a file photo) in legal limbo for nearly two years. It also appears to be a sign that Attorney General William P. Barr wants to show that the Justice Department is independent from Mr. Trump: The notification came a day after Mr. Barr publicly challenged the president to stop attacking law enforcement officials on Twitter and said the criticisms were making his job more difficult.

The prosecutors informed Mr. McCabe’s lawyers of their decision by phone on Friday morning, the lawyers, Michael R. Bromwich and David Schertler, said in a statement.

“We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought,” they said. “We are pleased that Andrew McCabe and his family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them.”

The president’s relentless criticism of the Justice Department likely complicated the prosecution of Mr. McCabe. His supporters viewed the investigation as politically motivated and inextricably tainted by Mr. Trump’s relentless attacks.

The lack of charges is likely to anger Mr. Trump, who has long believed he was targeted illegally by Mr. McCabe and other former senior F.B.I. officials who opened the investigation in 2016 into whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference operation.

roger stone cnn breitbart

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Right’s Big Lie About Roger Stone, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 14, 2020. Trump allies are saying Stone (shown in a 2016 CNN screenshot) didn’t really threaten a witness. They’re wrong.

Randy Credico (below at left in a screenshot from an appearance on MSNBC) is the witness from Robert Mueller’s investigation who Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longtime adviser, has been convicted of threatening.

A few months ago, Credico texted me, “If Stone goes to jail I’m a walking dead man.” On Thursday, after the president’s intervention to get Stone a lighter sentence convulsed the Justice Department, I spoke to Credico, a left-wing comedian and activist, and he elaborated on what randy credico ari melber screenshot Customhe’d meant. “The guy goes to prison and I’m to blame, and you’re being called a rat, you’re worried about somebody with a red hat, a MAGA hat, doing a Jack Ruby on you,” he said.

His fear has national implications, because a central question in the Stone sentencing is whether Credico truly felt endangered when Stone promised to cause him harm. Despite what the administration’s defenders say, the answer is yes.

I’ve known Credico since 2002, although not terribly well. We met when I was reporting on New York’s monstrous Rockefeller drug laws, which put people in prison for 15 years or more for low-level drug offenses. Credico introduced me to people whose lives had been destroyed by these sentences. (The campaign against the Rockefeller laws is also how Credico got to know Stone, a libertarian on drug laws.) Credico told me his father was incarcerated for a decade for cracking safes and came out a badly damaged man, sparking Credico’s lifelong hatred of prison as an institution. He texted me on Wednesday, “I would ask for leniency for Hannibal Lecter.”

All this represents a terrifying new nadir in the Trump presidency. Under Barr, the Justice Department is becoming a tool of presidential vendettas, protecting people who commit crimes on Trump’s behalf while launching investigations into his enemies, including an inquiry into years-old leaks that appears to be focused on James Comey. Barr has even set up an intake system for Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to feed dirt gathered from Ukraine to the Justice Department, all while Giuliani is himself reportedly under criminal investigation for his shady foreign activities.

It was out of a combination of anxiety and idealism that, following Stone’s conviction, Credico wrote to the judge in the case, asking that she show Stone mercy.

“I don’t want to see a guy go to prison because of me, it’s going to be on my conscience, plus it’s going to anger a lot of people out there who called me a rat,” he told me. Now, because of that letter, Credico finds himself near the center of the unfolding scandal over Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr’s intervention in Stone’s sentencing. His words are being used by Trump allies to argue that the prosecutors in the Stone case went overboard. “Unfortunately, they’re exploiting it for their own agenda,” he said of his letter.

william barr hand out

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says Trump’s tweets make it ‘impossible for me to do my job,’ Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr (shown above in a file photo) has been under siege since an internal dispute over the prosecution of President Trump’s friend Roger Stone spilled into public view.

Attorney General William P. Barr pushed back hard Thursday against President Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department, saying, “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

In an interview with ABC News, Barr said presidential statements and tweets “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

The attorney general’s comments are almost certain to anger the president, who has heaped criticism on some current and former Justice Department officials over prosecutions and investigations involving the president’s former associates and alleged leaking by government officials. Barr said he was prepared to accept the consequences of speaking out against the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Policy on New York’s ‘Trusted Travelers’ Is Unconstitutional, Laurence H. Tribe (right, professor of constitutional laurence tribelaw at Harvard Law School), Feb. 14, 2020. People should never be punished for things they haven’t done.

The Department of Homeland Security recently decided to bar New York residents from federal programs that allow “trusted travelers” expedited transit through airports and border checkpoints. The Trump administration is defending the decision as a rational response to New York’s enactment of a law denying federal immigration authorities free access to the state’s motor vehicle records.

In truth, the department’s decision is spiteful retaliation against people who reside in a state that declines to bend to the administration’s immigration priorities. Whatever its other virtues or vices, the decision offends constitutional norms that are neither liberal nor conservative but simply American.

New York wasted no time in filing a federal suit to block the Department of Homeland Security’s move. The state’s lawsuit raises a number of plausible process-based objections and seeks to take advantage of legal doctrines usually associated with right-leaning judges. But it misses an opportunity to frame the case more fundamentally, in terms of principles grounded in personal responsibility and a refusal to punish people for the sins of others.

New York argues that the department’s move was hasty and arbitrary and imposes unjustified and even irrational pressure on the state to cooperate with federal authorities by sharing data they say they need to protect the nation while facilitating travel.

The state’s arguments have some force, but their premises might have limited appeal to judges deferential to executive power in matters involving immigration and allegedly implicating national security. Moreover, federal courts across the ideological spectrum might well sympathize with the administration’s claim that it cannot safely administer the expedited transit programs without access to personal information uniquely available through state motor vehicle records.

ny times logoNew York Times via MSN News, Justice Dept. Is Investigating CIA Resistance to Sharing Russia Secrets, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Julian E. Barnes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration officials investigating the government’s response to Russia’s election interference in 2016 appear to be hunting for a basis to accuse Obama-era intelligence officials of hiding evidence or manipulating analysis about Moscow’s covert operation, according to people familiar with aspects of the inquiry.

john durhamSince his election, President Trump has attacked the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russia secretly tried to help him win, fostering a narrative that they sought to delegitimize his victory. He has long promoted the investigation by John H. Durham, right, the prosecutor examining their actions, as a potential pathway to proving that a deep-state cabal conspired against him.

Questions asked by Mr. Durham, who was assigned by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize the early actions of law enforcement and intelligence officials struggling to understand the scope of Russia’s scheme, suggest that Mr. Durham may have come to view with suspicion several clashes between analysts at different intelligence agencies over who could see each other’s highly sensitive secrets, the people said.

CIA LogoMr. Durham appears to be pursuing a theory that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result — and was nefariously trying to keep other agencies from seeing the full picture lest they interfere with that goal, the people said.

But officials from the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency have told Mr. Durham and his investigators that such an interpretation is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of how the intelligence community functions, the people said. National security officials are typically cautious about sharing their most delicate information, like source identities, even with other agencies inside the executive branch.

Mr. Durham’s questioning is certain to add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies, Justice Department log circularlike Mr. Brennan, who has been an outspoken critic of the president. Mr. Barr, who is overseeing the investigation, has come under attack in recent days over senior Justice Department officials’ intervention to lighten a prison sentencing recommendation by lower-level prosecutors for Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Thursday evening, Mr. Brennan was asked to respond to this article. He both dismissed Mr. Durham’s apparent line of inquiry and portrayed it as dangerous.

“It’s kind of silly,” Mr. Brennan said. “Is there a criminal investigation now on analytic judgments and the activities of C.I.A. in terms of trying to protect our national security? I’m certainly willing to talk to Mr. Durham or anybody else who has any questions about what we did during this period of 2016.”

But, Mr. Brennan added, “It clearly, I think, is another indication that Donald Trump is using the Department of Justice to go after his enemies any way he can.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: What the heck did Rudy Giuliani just do? Bill Palmer, Feb. 14, 2020. Yesterday we saw some serious developments in the Ukraine extortion scandal. Donald Trump, who is growing more recklessly stupid by the day, flat out admitted that he sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to stir up trouble. Rudy then went on Fox News and insisted that he hadn’t been in Ukraine for years, before immediately turning around and admitting that he’d just been there three weeks ago.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as all of these serious developments were playing out, there was also the reality that Rudy Giuliani is really far gone at this point. How far gone? Sometime after midnight last night, he tried to do a Google search for images of Steve Bannon, but instead he accidentally tweeted his Google search.

rudy giuliani recentNot surprisingly, he ended up deleting it. If you’re wondering, Rudy did end up finding an image of Steve Bannon, and he tweeted it about twenty minutes later. The trouble: he picked a photo of Bannon sitting in front of a television turned to CNN, and the crawler across the bottom of the screen was quoting someone who had called Donald Trump “idiotic.” So good job, Rudy! Keep in mind that Trump is still relying on witless buffoons like this guy to try to carry out his schemes. It’s possible to be dangerously corrupt while also being absurdly inept at that corruption.

U.S. Politics

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s authoritarian style is remaking America, Ishaan Tharoor, Feb. 14, 2020. An unleashed Trump is testing the rule of law and foundations of U.S. democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come, Amy B Wang and Chelsea Janes, Feb. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that “America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy” could be a taste of what Pete Buttigieg will face if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.

• Washington Post, Trump fundraiser costs $580,600 per couple, the most expensive of his reelection bid

Feb. 13

Trump Powers, Payback

MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show, Opinion: With the rule of law failing under Trump, just diagnosing the problem isn't enough, Feb. 13, 2020 (27:52 msnbc logo Custommin. video).  Rachel Maddow looks at the importance of institutions in preserving democracy when the rule of law starts to fail, and asks what citizens should do when sounding the alarm about those failures isn't enough to stop them.

 Washington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone

Inside DC

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Ohio State Sex Scandal

 

Trump Powers, Payback

washington post logoamy berman jacksonWashington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone, Allyson Chiu, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The timing of the online attack prompted many to accuse President Trump of attempting to intimidate U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, and secure a more lenient sentence for his longtime confidant Roger Stone.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Stone Case, Prosecutors Say They Fear Pressure From Trump, Katie Benner, Charlie Savage, Sharon LaFraniere and Ben Protess, updated Feb. 13, 2020. Attorney General William Barr’s move to lessen a sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, right, showed a marked change at the Justice Department. To career prosecutors, the case raised fresh fears of what is to come as the agency executes dramatic shifts in response to President Trump’s demands.

roger stoneTo career prosecutors around the country, the Stone case raised new fears of what is to come. Until now, according to conversations with more than a dozen career lawyers in some of the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices, they had watched other divisions in the Justice Department execute significant shifts in response to Mr. Trump while the work of prosecuting crimes was largely unaffected by the politics of the moment. Now career prosecutors said they worried they might face more pressure.

Justice Department logo“In essence, the leadership of the Justice Department has commandeered the sentencing in a politically sensitive criminal matter, reversing the position uniformly accepted and promoted by the career prosecutors,” said David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana and a former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section.

The withdrawal of the prosecutors sent a clear signal, said Greg Brower, a former prosecutor who once headed the F.B.I.’s congressional affairs office. “They all disagreed” with how top Justice Department officials intervened, he said.

“Beyond that,” Mr. Brower said, “they likely also believed there are ethical considerations that forced their decision.”

Prosecutors across the United States, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals, said this week that they had already been wary of working on any case that might catch Mr. Trump’s attention and that the Stone episode only deepened their concern. They also said that they were worried that Mr. Barr might not support them in politically charged cases.

william barr hand out

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says Trump’s tweets make it ‘impossible for me to do my job,’ Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky,  Attorney General William P. Barr (shown above in a file photo) has been under siege since an internal dispute over the prosecution of President Trump’s friend Roger Stone spilled into public view.

Attorney General William P. Barr pushed back hard Thursday against President Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department, saying, “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

In an interview with ABC News, Barr said presidential statements and tweets “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

The attorney general’s comments are almost certain to anger the president, who has heaped criticism on some current and former Justice Department officials over prosecutions and investigations involving the president’s former associates and alleged leaking by government officials. Barr said he was prepared to accept the consequences of speaking out against the president.

djt acquitted photo

ny times logoNew York Times, As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). After expressing confidence that Mr. Trump might be chastened by impeachment, Republican senators appear unwilling to grapple with the man who emerged.

In the week since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of two impeachment charges, lawmakers in his party have watched as he has purged key players in the case against him, including the ambassador to the European Union and two White House National Security Council aides, and put in motion plans to banish others he considers insufficiently loyal. They have listened as he has called for one of those officials, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, to be investigated by the Pentagon.

They have read his tweets and heard his comments heaping scorching criticism on the Justice Department for “a horrible and very unfair” attempt to put Mr. Stone in prison for seven to nine years based on a conviction for lying to Congress and trying to block witness testimony. Mr. Trump cheered on William P. Barr, the attorney general, for intervening, while castigating the federal judge overseeing the case.

And they have been forced to reckon with the fact that, far from obscuring his actions or offering innocent explanations, Mr. Trump has been open and unapologetic about his efforts to take revenge on his perceived enemies and assist those he considers loyal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The degradation of William Barr’s Justice Department is nearly complete, Editorial Board, Feb. 13, 2020.
Mark this as another big step in the erosion of standards at Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department.

The department on Tuesday suggested a light sentence for President Trump’s old friend Roger Stone, by overturning a previously filed and tougher proposal. It did so over the strong objections of four career line prosecutors, all of whom resigned from the case; one left the department entirely.

This extraordinary intervention played out publicly after Mr. Trump tweeted his displeasure over the initial recommendation that Mr. Stone spend seven to nine years in prison for obstructing Congress and witness tampering, which was in line with the department’s sentencing guidelines.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: This is a revolting assault on the fragile rule of law, Chuck Rosenberg, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats ask Secret Service for details about its payments to Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The House Oversight committee letter follows a Washington Post report that the Secret Service had been charged up to $650 per night at Mar-a-Lago.

U.S. House logoThe House Oversight Committee on Wednesday asked the Secret Service to provide a full accounting of its payments to President Trump’s private company after The Washington Post revealed that the Secret Service had been charged as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump clubs.

secret service logoIn a letter to the Secret Service, signed by Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the committee asked for records of payments to Trump properties, and copies of contracts between the Secret Service and Trump clubs.

Last week, The Post reported that the Secret Service had been charged nearly $400 and as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, and charged $17,000 a month for a cottage that agents used at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. President Trump still owns his companies. These payments show he has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of kids are bullied, Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review found.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-White House chief of staff John Kelly takes issue with Trump for ousting Vindman, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 13, 2020. Former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, right, laid bare an array of misgivings Wednesday night about President Trump’s John Kellypolicies and actions, including his ouster of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide and impeachment witness.

Vindman, who raised concerns about a July phone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine's leader for investigations that could benefit him politically, “did exactly what we teach them to do,” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, told an audience at the Drew University Forum lecture series in Morristown, N.J.

Over the course of 75 minutes of remarks and questions and answers, Kelly, who left the White House early last year, also defended the news media, questioned Trump’s handling of North Korea, criticized Trump for intervening in a military justice case and took issue with his descriptions of immigrants, according to accounts in the Atlantic and local news media that were confirmed by a person with knowledge of the event.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Kelly just validated the argument that got Trump impeached, Greg Sargent, Feb. 13, 2020. President Trump unloaded on his former chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday, claiming he couldn’t fire Kelly "fast enough” and that he was “in over his head” in the White House. Curiously, Trump also blasted Kelly by claiming that “he just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he has a legal and military obligation to do.”

It’s not clear what, precisely, Trump was referencing in bringing up Kelly’s supposed tendency to spill secrets. But it is clear that Trump was enraged because of this piece in the Atlantic, which reported on a talk that Kelly gave, in which he vividly demonstrated why Trump is unfit for the presidency.

In that talk, Kelly criticized Trump’s hate-rhetoric about immigrants and his handling of North Korea. Most importantly, he defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council official who powerfully testified against Trump’s corrupt call pressuring Ukraine to do his political bidding, as part of his extortion scheme. Trump has since ousted Vindman as punishment.

There’s been a lot of chatter about this Kelly episode, yet it seems to have largely avoided the most important point: Trump’s former chief of staff fully validated the case against Trump that got him impeached, in a way that has real significance, coming from someone who worked alongside Trump inside the White House for nearly two years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes measure limiting Trump’s actions against Iran without Congress’s approval, Karoun Demirjian​, Feb. 13, 2020. A bipartisan Senate majority voted to pass a resolution Thursday limiting President Trump from ordering future strikes against Iran without first seeking Congress’s explicit permission, in a pointed rebuke of his administration’s resistance to involving the legislative branch in foreign policy decisions many fear could lead to all-out war.

us senate logoEight Republicans joined all Democrats in voting 55 to 45 for the measure from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), which invokes the War Powers Act to block Trump from engaging in hostilities without consulting Congress except in cases where self-defense is required against a clear, imminent attack.

Trump is expected to veto the measure, which he warned Wednesday on Twitter would “show weakness” and “sends a very bad signal.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York Attorney General Tish James just slam dunked Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2020. This morning Donald Trump flat out admitted on Twitter that he was meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today, in an attempt at forcing the state to back off its pursuit of him in his various criminal scandals. As the day went on, multiple major media outlets reported that Trump offered to let New York remain in the Global Entry program if it dropped its legal cases against him.

bill palmer report logo headerNot only is this an outrage, it’s a felony. It’s precisely the kind of quid pro quo that Donald Trump attempted in his Ukraine scandal. This kind of corrupt behavior is nothing new from Trump, but he’s no longer trying to even give himself any cover or deniability. Of course Trump is as stupid and clueless about these things as ever, because he was ringing the wrong bell.

letitia james public advocateNew York Attorney General Tish James, right, tweeted this in response: “When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down. Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.” That’s right, because Donald Trump doesn’t bother to do his homework, he doesn’t even know that the New York Attorney General is elected independently of the Governor, and that she’s not in any way under the Governor’s influence when it comes to these kinds of legal pursuits.

Donald Trump is also surely worried about the widely documented New York grand jury that’s spent the past several months targeting Donald Trump for indictment on state level charges. This grand jury has subpoenaed Trump’s financial records and is a confirmed plaintiff in the court battles over those records. Trump will be indicted in New York at some point, and if he loses in November, he will be arrested and placed on criminal trial. No wonder he’s panicked about what the state is doing to him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court orders Pentagon to halt work on Microsoft’s JEDI cloud contract after Amazon protests, Aaron Gregg​, Feb. 13, 2020. Defense Department lawyers had planned to "go live" with the long-awaited cloud computing network on Friday. But the court order will force it to halt work.

amazon logo smallA federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to halt work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud computing network, known as JEDI, as it considers allegations that President Trump improperly interfered in the bidding process. The order comes just one day before the Defense Department had planned to “go live” with JEDI.

The JEDI contract, worth up to $10 billion over 10 years, was awarded to Microsoft in late October after a last-minute intervention from the White House prompted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to reexamine the department’s approach. The contract is meant to create a powerful, centralized computing system for U.S. military agencies.

microsoft logo CustomAmazon’s market-leading cloud computing division is suing the Defense Department in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, arguing the president’s involvement skewed the playing field in its rival’s favor. The company alleges the Defense Department made numerous errors as it weighed bids from Amazon and Microsoft. And it accused Trump of launching “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against Amazon to act on a grudge against the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

Feb. 12

Trump Powers, Payback

washington post logoamy berman jacksonWashington Post, Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone, Allyson Chiu, Feb. 12, 2020. The timing of the online attack prompted many to accuse President Trump of attempting to intimidate U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, right, and secure a more lenient sentence for his longtime confidant Roger Stone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump escalates campaign of retribution as Republican senators shrug, Philip Rucker and Paul Kane, Feb. 12, 2020 (print ed.). On Tuesday, he railed about decorated combat veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified about the president’s conduct with Ukraine, and suggested the Defense Department should consider disciplining him.

Trump provided fresh evidence that he feels emboldened and will say and do as he pleases after the Republican-controlled Senate voted last week to acquit him in the impeachment trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats ask Secret Service for details about its payments to Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 12, 2020. The House Oversight committee letter follows a Washington Post report that the Secret Service had been charged up to $650 per night at Mar-a-Lago.

The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday asked the Secret Service to provide a full accounting of its payments to President Trump’s private company after The Washington Post revealed that the Secret Service had been charged as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump clubs.

secret service logoIn a letter to the Secret Service, signed by Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the committee asked for records of payments to Trump properties, and copies of contracts between the Secret Service and Trump clubs.

Last week, The Post reported that the Secret Service had been charged nearly $400 and as much as $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, and charged $17,000 a month for a cottage that agents used at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. President Trump still owns his companies. These payments show he has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Trump seeks judicial powers for DHS, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 12, 2020 (subscription required). As an increasingly dictatorial Donald John Trump moves to politicize the Department of Justice by interfering in criminal cases, not many eyes in Washington are trained on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Christopher Krebs, the director of the relatively new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), are pushing for judicial authority for CISA to issue subpoenas to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), forcing them to turn over to CISA the true identities of anonymized customers.  ICE logo

Politico, Opinion: A Conservative Judge Draws a Line in the Sand With the Trump Administration, Kimberly Wehle, Feb. 12, 2020. Outraged the attorney general had ignored a court order, he authors a blistering opinion rebuking William Barr for overstepping his constitutional authority.

frank easterbrook fullPresident Donald Trump has defanged Congress’ oversight authority. That became clear when the Senate acquitted the president of obstruction. But one conservative judge isn’t willing to let the executive branch steal power from his branch of government.

In a jaw-dropping opinion issued by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on January 23, Judge Frank Easterbrook, right — a longtime speaker for the conservative Federalist Society and someone whom the late Justice Antonin Scalia favored to replace him on the U.S. Supreme Court — rebuked Attorney General William Barr for declaring in a letter that the court’s decision in an immigration case was “incorrect” and thus dispensable.

Barr’s letter was used as justification by the Board of Immigration Appeals (the federal agency that applies immigration laws) to ignore the court’s ruling not to deport a man who had applied for a visa to remain in the country.

As Washington reels from the surprise withdrawals of Roger Stone‘s prosecutors, apparently triggered by Trump’s intervention in the upcoming sentencing of his long-time adviser, the Easterbrook broadside offers another window into the way the Trump administration is violating the division of power between the executive and judicial branches.

The 7th Circuit case involved an undocumented immigrant, Jorge Baez-Sanchez, who was subject to removal from the United States after being convicted of a crime.

Baez-Sanchez applied for a special visa allowing him to remain in the U.S. if he was also a victim of a crime. An immigration judge twice granted Baez-Sanchez a waiver. But the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the immigration judge’s decision, claiming that only the attorney general personally could grant waivers — not immigration judges. Baez-Sanchez appealed to the 7th Circuit, which disagreed and remanded the case with a directive that the Department of Homeland Security comply with the immigration judge’s waiver. When it refused, Easterbrook, a 35-year veteran of the court, had had enough of the willful disregard for judicial authority.

Kimberly Wehle is a law professor, former assistant United States Attorney and author of the book, "How to Read the Constitution — And Why." JIP editor's note: Judge Easterbrook was this editor's law professor teaching antitrust at the University of Chicago School of Law, where Easterbrook has long taught law following his work as an assistant attorney general at during the 1980s in the Bush Justice Department.

 

Feb. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump proposes $4.8 trillion election-year budget with big domestic cuts, Jeff Stein and Erica Werner​, Feb. 11, 2020 (print ed.). An overview of the proposal, obtained by The Post, calls for eliminating the deficit in 15 years instead of 10, a longtime GOP fiscal target. Three years of spending increases and tax cuts have pushed that goal out of reach.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s budget reveals a tremendous fraud, Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 11, 2020. Remember when he said he would eliminate the federal debt, or at least halve it, during his presidency?

His new budget proposes to add another $3.4 trillion by 2024 to the debt on top of the $3 trillion Trump has already added, by piling on $1-trillion-a-year budget deficits during a peacetime expansion. Under Trump’s latest plans, the debt would keep mushrooming until at least 2035 — by his administration’s own rosy projections.

In 2015, he promised not to touch Medicaid, either. Now he wants to cut it by $920 billion.

He was going to give Americans health care “much better” than Obamacare. But he has proposed no such thing and now his budget calls for cutting spending on the program by $844 billion.

Oh, and remember his vows that his tax cuts would grow the economy by 4 percent, 5 percent or even 6 percent? Last year it grew at 2.3 percent, and his new budget, even with the rosiest of assumptions, projects 2.8 percent for this year. Yet the budget would also devote another $1.4 trillion to extending those tax cuts, primarily for the rich.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. to Seek Shorter Sentence for Roger Stone, Overruling Its Prosecutors, Katie Benner, Feb. 11, 2020. President Trump had complained that the recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for his former adviser and longtime friend was a “miscarriage of justice.”

roger stoneThe Justice Department will back off its sentencing recommendation for Roger J. Stone Jr., right, President Trump’s former campaign adviser and longtime friend, a senior department official said Tuesday, with senior department officials intervening to overrule front-line prosecutors who tried the case.

The move is highly unusual and is certain to generate allegations of political interference. It came after federal prosecutors in Washington asked a judge late Monday evening to sentence Mr. Stone to seven to nine years in prison on seven felony convictions for trying to sabotage a congressional investigation that threatened Mr. Trump. Early on Tuesday, Mr. Trump declared the sentencing recommendation “horrible and very unfair," as he described here and below:

"This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020"

Both the sentencing recommendation and the president’s tweet took officials at Justice Department headquarters by surprise, according to a Justice Department log circulardepartment official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Stone case was ongoing.

The recommendation was higher than what the United States attorney’s office had told Justice Department officials it would suggest, according to the official, and the department decided soon after the filing to override the prosecutors’ decision.

The department had not discussed the recommendation with the White House or Mr. Trump, the official said.

“The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses,” the official said.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation On Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and The Mafia: Trump's mob talk comes from his time in Atlantic City, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 11, 2020 (Subscription required, excerpted with permission).  Impeached President Donald John Trump’s legacy in Atlantic City as the proprietor of three casinos -- the Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel, the Trump Marina Hotel Casino, and the Trump Taj Mahal – is one of the mob.

The skim, the transfer of a small percentage of a casino’s pre-tax profits to organized crime syndicates, was pioneered by Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky in Las Vegas. The skim arrived in Atlantic City at the same time as did the first casino opening. And controlling the Atlantic City skim was the boss of the Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and South Jersey rackets, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, and his nephew, lieutenant, and mob underboss, Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti.

Scarfo hid the money from the skim by plowing it into newly-incorporated legitimate businesses and the buying of property through Scarfo’s primary business, Scarf, Inc. It was a business practice that Trump also knew very well in the method of creating thousands of limited liability corporations and other corporate shells all interwoven with the Trump Organization.

washington post logojerome powellWashington Post, Fed Chair Powell warns Congress that $1 trillion budget deficits are unsustainable, Heather Long​, Feb. 11, 2020. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell is telling Congress Tuesday that now would be a good time to reduce the federal budget deficit, which is expected to top $1 trillion this year.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path when the economy is strong would help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy during a downturn,” Powell said in prepared remarks to the House Committee on Financial Services.

Feb. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s resilience causes Democrats to sound the alarm, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.).  Trump’s resilience causes Democrats to sound the alarm.

Anxiety is coursing through the Democratic Party as President Trump emerges from his impeachment proceedings as a potent threat for djt staff nypost cover july 29 17reelection, with party leaders and activists uncertain about how to beat the incumbent and worried about a nominating race that remains crowded and is growing more acrimonious.

While Democrats see Trump as a corrosive figure and a threat to the nation, they also see the president and his well-funded campaign tailoring a reelection bid around the strong economy and visceral appeals to his ardent supporters.

Trump’s robust political standing came into view this past week, as he claimed vindication from his acquittal in his Senate trial despite damaging House testimony about his conduct with Ukraine — and set off on a path of retribution by ousting some officials who were witnesses. At the same time, his Gallup approval rating ticked up to 49 percent, its highest point yet.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Joe Manchin fires back at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 9, 2020. Joe Manchin might be a red state Democrat who joe manchin cropped Customlikes to vote with the Republicans when it’s not going to affect the outcome, but Manchin did his patriotic duty by voting to convict and remove Donald Trump when it counted. Now Trump has decided that Manchin, right, is his enemy, and he wants revenge. The thing is, Manchin isn’t hesitating to fire back.

Trump unleashed on Joe Manchin on Saturday:

“Can’t say I mind the fact that the great people of West Virginia are furious at their puppet Democrat Senator, Joe Manchin. They will never forget his phony vote on the Impeachment Hoax. bill palmer report logo headerAll he had to do is read the Transcripts, sadly, which he wouldn’t understand anyway. But, just like the people of West Virginia will no longer look at weak & pathetic Joe Manchin the same (I got the Pension Bill approved, Manchin couldn’t do it), the wonderful people of Utah will never look at “grandstander” Mitt Romney with anything but contempt & disgust!”

To be clear, there’s no evidence that any of this is actually happening, outside of Trump’s imagination.

But Manchin isn’t taking it lying down. He fired back at Trump: “Pres. Trump – no Democrat has worked harder in a bipartisan way in the hopes that you would succeed. The people of WV know exactly who has worked day & night for the last 5 years to secure their healthcare & pensions & it wasn’t you. I’ve read the transcripts thoroughly & listened to the witnesses under oath. Where I come from a person accused defends themselves with witnesses and evidence.”

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Trump & Sanders cults: Similar tactics, same idol worship, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 9, 2020. While there are significant policy differences between the presidential campaigns of Donald John Trump and Bernie Sanders, they share in common political cult followings that idolize their political heroes.

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump’s budget expected to show how far he has cast aside some 2016 promises, Jeff Stein and Erica Werner, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). It will look much different from his 2016 platform, as he abandons promises to balance the budget, protect Medicaid from cuts and make Mexico pay for the wall.

djt maga hatThe budget proposal President Trump will release Monday is expected to lay bare how much he has adjusted to the political and practical limits of Washington, with some of his biggest campaign promises from 2016 cast aside and replaced with more limited policy ambitions.

On immigration, health care, infrastructure and the deficit, the final budget pitch of Trump’s first term will look much different from the campaign platform he offered four years ago.

The border wall that he promised would be paid for by Mexico is instead being financed by billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars, and the administration’s budget request to Congress is expected to seek even more.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vindman’s ouster leaves chill among witnesses, career federal workers, David Nakamura and Greg Miller, Feb. 9, 2020.  Officials and political appointees who testified in President Trump's impeachment hearings remained worried about their future.

He had been publicly vilified by President Trump, marched out of his national security office across from the White House, so Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, left, wanted only to get his mind off politics as he settled in to watch a television show with his grade-school-age daughter Friday evening.

alexander vindman cropped oct 29 2019Then his wife returned home with some news: Much of the country had just watched as former vice president Joe Biden implored the audience to give a standing ovation in Vindman’s honor at the nationally televised Democratic presidential debate in Manchester, N.H.

“Stand up and clap for Vindman. That’s not who we are! We’re not what Trump is!” Biden thundered in the name of the Army officer whom Trump had hours earlier ousted from the White House National Security Council in retaliation for his testimony in the House Democrats’ impeachment probe.

To Vindman, the gesture was appreciated, but it felt “surreal” that he has become a lightning rod for the nation’s sharp political polarization in the Trump era, according to a person familiar with the events surrounding his ouster, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. After all, as a military officer, Vindman had been trained to avoid overt displays of partisanship or politics.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s quest for revenge could mean the end of whistleblowing, Walter M. Shaub Jr., Feb. 9, 2020.

More On U.S. Politics

djt roy cohn wheres my roy cohn

OpEdNews, Film Review: "Where's My Roy Cohn?": A U.S. Coup by Nihilists, Mobsters, Pedophiles and Blackmailers, Mike Rivage-Seul, Feb. 9, 2020. Recently, I spent two weeks in Tijuana working with Al Otro Lado (AOL). I've written about that experience here, here, and here.

AOL is a legal defense service for refugees seeking asylum mostly from gang-rule in Mexico and Central America. The emigrants want escape from countries whose police forces and allied power holders are controlled by ruthless drug rings whose only goal is accumulation of money and social dominance.

roy cohn wheres my row cohn poster sony picturesAs I did my work helping clients fill out endless forms concocted by those who would illegally exclude them, everything seemed so hopeless. I wondered how those gangs achieved such power? Isn't it a shame, I thought, that entire countries are now controlled by criminal mobs with names like "MS 13," "Nueva Generacion," and "18?" How sad for these people!

Then, during my flight home to Connecticut, I happened to watch the documentary "Where's My Roy Cohn?" (WMRC). It introduced viewers to the dark and criminal mentor of Donald Trump.

On its face, the film illustrated the absolute corruption of the U.S. government as the unwavering servant of the elite as the only people who count.

But in the light of my experience in Tijuana, it made me realize that our country too is literally controlled by shadowy gangs to an extent even worse than what's happening south of our border. I mean, the United States of America now has the most prominent protege of Roy Cohn, right, an unabashed mafioso, actually sitting in the Oval Office!

Both Cohn and, of course, his disciple turn out to be absolute nihilists without principle or any regard for truth.

The film made clear how both men tapped into a similar nihilist strain within huge numbers of Americans who identify with the Republican Party and ironically with the Catholic faith and Christian fundamentalism. Nonetheless, WMRC wasn't explicit enough in probing either Cohn's corruption, that of Donald Trump or of our reigning system's complex of government, education, church and mainstream media.

It failed to show how the phenomena of Roy Cohn and Donald Trump represent mere surface indications of a profoundly anti-democratic coup d'e'tat that has gradually unfolded in our country over the last 40 years. The actuality of this takeover was revealed most clearly in the recent impeachment proceedings. They provided a kind of last straw undeniably exhibiting how nihilist "Christians" have seized power in perhaps irreversible ways.

To see what I mean, begin by watching "Where's my Roy Cohn?" for yourself. It not only details Cohn's life as an infamous New York mafia consigliere. It also shows how he started his career in crime as the 23-year-old advisor of the equally villainous Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. (McCarthy, of course was the force behind the nation-wide communist scare of the early 1950s.)

However, most importantly WMRC describes the film's subject as the mentor of Donald Trump. By both their admissions, each recognized in the other a kindred spirit. Each used mafia and friends in high places (from Ronald Reagan to New York's Cardinal Spellman) to enrich himself in terms of power and money. In the end, the alliance brought Trump to "the highest office in the land."

washington post logoWashington Post, Meet the 71-year-old staging a one-man protest in his Trump-loving retirement community, Brittany Shammas, Feb. 9, 2020 (print ed.). For most of his life, Ed McGinty kept his political beliefs to himself.

Raised Irish Catholic in Philadelphia, the 71-year-old retired real estate broker has always been a Democrat, just like his parents before him. But the last time he remembers being especially politically motivated was when Hubert Humphrey ran against Richard Nixon in 1968. After that, he’d wake up the morning after Election Day, find out George W. Bush or another Republican had won and say, “Okay, well, back to work.”

Then Donald Trump was elected.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logo“When Trump won, it changed the whole ballgame for me,” McGinty told The Washington Post. “I thought to myself, ‘This was supposed to be a joke. What’s wrong with these people?’ ”

In the three years since then, the once-quiet political observer has transformed into the best-known Trump protester in The Villages, a sprawling, meticulously planned and maintained retirement community that lies about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. McGinty’s daily vigil with signs blasting the president as a “SEXUAL PREDATOR” (among other things) has drawn ire in the Trump-loving Florida town he has called home since 2016. It has also brought viral fame.

For his one-man protest against the president, McGinty has been berated as a baby killer and a “dumb a--,” decried in letters to the editor of a local news site and hit with an anonymous, handwritten threat — a sign that even a town that is described as Disney World for retirees and markets itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown” is not immune to the divisiveness of this political era.

washington post logoej dionne w open neckWashington Post, Opinion: Political idolatry is the enemy of religious faith, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Feb. 9, 2020. If you wonder why young people are leaving organized religion in droves, look no further than last week’s National Prayer Breakfast.

Many who care about religion and its fate have condemned President Trump’s vindictive, self-involved, God-as-an-afterthought speech at the annual gathering. By contrast, his backers were happy to say “Amen” as they prepared to exploit religion in one more election.

My Post colleague Michael Gerson, a beacon of moral clarity in the conservative evangelical world, noted that Trump’s address was a tribute to his “remarkable ability to corrupt, distort and discredit every institution he touches.”

Gerson is right, but I confess that there has always been something troubling about the prayer breakfast. The gatherings encourage the suspicion that many politicians are there not because of God but because of their own political imperatives. They want to tell the world how religious they are and check the faith box on the advice of their political advisers. You worry that this is as much about preening as praying.

In his always crude but always revealing way, Trump has exposed the underside of long-standing political habits and practices. He is not the first politician to exploit religion. He just does it in a way so at odds with the core tenets of the Christian faith he claims to uphold that he pushes the hypocritical aspects of public religion to a breaking point.

Feb. 8

Post-Impeachment Headlines

 

djt acquitted photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump fires Gordon Sondland, the second impeachment witness to be removed from his post Friday, John Wagner and Reis Thebault, Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump fired two of the most prominent witnesses in the impeachment inquiry within hours of each other Friday evening, moves that amounted to retribution against those he holds responsible for his attempted removal.

gordon sondland oGordon Sondland, left, the ambassador to the European Union, said he was informed of Trump’s intention to recall him on Friday. Earlier in the day, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother were both removed from their posts at the National Security Council.

Earlier Friday, Trump said his impeachment by the House should be “expunged” because it was a “total political hoax.” Trump continued to target House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the only Republican who voted to convict him in the Senate trial that ended Wednesday with his acquittal.

The crux of the case against Trump was the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Col. Vindman and the Trumpification of the National Security Council, John Gans (Dr. Gans is the author of White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War), Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). His removal is petty and vindictive. It’s also part of a bigger plan.

The dismissal is just one part of a campaign by the national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, to trumpify one of the most powerful and important institutions in government.

Over the last six months, while impeachment dominated the news, Mr. O’Brien undertook the first restructuring of the council in a generation. He cut 60 to 70 positions, about a third of the staff, many of them career professionals. He also directed that the National Security Council focus less on transnational issues like global economics and nonproliferation, and more on bilateral and geographic priorities. In all, Mr. O’Brien’s trumpification of the staff will hamper the United States’ ability to meet the world’s challenges, and hamstring the next president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year, filings show, Amy Brittain, Ashley Parker and Anu Narayanswamy, Documents reveal that the couple earned immense income from other enterprises while working in the Trump administration.

 donald trump money palmer report Custom

Donald Trump (graphic by Palmer Report)

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret Service has paid rates as high as $650 a night for rooms at Trump’s properties, David A. Fahrenthold​, Feb. 8, 2020 (print ed.). Since Trump took office, he has visited his own properties on 342 days, always accompanied by Secret Service agents. Trump’s company has charged the Secret Service $650 per night for rooms at Mar-a-Lago, and $17,000 a month for a cottage in Bedminster. Taxpayers foot the bill.

secret service logoPresident Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night, according to federal records and people who have seen receipts.

Those charges, compiled here for the first time, show that Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government. When Trump visits his clubs in Palm Beach, Fla., and Bedminster, N.J., the service needs space to post guards and store equipment.

Trump’s company says it charges only minimal fees. But Secret Service records do not show that.

At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate, $396.15, dozens more times in 2018, according to documents from Trump’s visits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fallout from Trump’s impeachment reaches Senate races, Paul Kane, Feb. 8, 2020. Democrats are targeting GOP senators in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina who voted to acquit Trump. Republicans are emerging from the trial with their own level of confidence.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: What the New Hampshire debate tells us and what it doesn’t, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 8, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Think Iowa was a mess? Black voters deal with similar chaos all the time, Andrew Gillum, Feb. 8, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: This vulgar man has squandered our decency, Dana Milbank, Feb. 8, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: McConnell and the GOP Senate are accomplices to Trump’s wrongdoing, Nancy Pelosi, Feb. 8, 2020.

Feb. 7

Post-Impeachment Headlines

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rips critics and considers ways to target his perceived enemies, Josh Dawsey​, Feb. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Some of the president’s aides are discussing whether to remove or reassign administration officials who testified during the impeachment inquiry.

• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump marks end of trial with raw, angry rant

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump preparing to push out national security official who testified in House inquiry, Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa and Greg Miller, Feb. 7, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is preparing to push out a national security official who testified against him during the impeachment inquiry after he expressed deep anger on Thursday over the attempt to remove him from office because of his actions toward Ukraine.

alexander vindman cropped oct 29 2019Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, right, — a National Security Council aide who testified during House Democrats’ impeachment hearings — will be informed in the coming days, likely on Friday, by administration officials that he is being reassigned to a position at the Defense Department, taking a key figure from the investigation out of the White House, according to two people familiar with the move who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel decisions.

Vindman had already informed senior officials at the NSC that he intended to take an early exit from his assignment and leave his post by the end of the month, according to people familiar with his decision, but Trump is eager to make a symbol of the Army officer soon after the Senate acquitted him of the impeachment charges approved by House Democrats.

• Washington Post, With trial over, Trump fires at political foes
• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump marks end of trial with raw, angry rant

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: You From New York? You’re First on Trump’s Revenge List, Editorial Board, Feb. 7, 2020. If you live in the state, you won’t be able to enroll in Trusted Traveler Programs. Fresh from his impeachment acquittal by Senate Republicans, President Trump has shifted into payback mode.

In his combative State of the Union address Tuesday, Mr. Trump launched a broadside against one of his favorite targets: “sanctuary cities,” those jurisdictions that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

He singled out New York and California for particular contempt, spinning nightmarish tales of violent crimes he attributed to those states’ liberal immigration laws. And he touted legislation that would allow the victims of crimes committed by certain foreign nationals to sue sanctuary cities and states.

For those familiar with the president’s anti-immigrant musings, it was a familiar refrain. But this time, he was not content merely to engage in fearmongering. Mr. Trump was in the mood to punish those who would defy him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: President to head to North Carolina as fallout continues from his Senate trial, John Wagner, Feb. 7, 2020. Sen. Paul draws ethics complaint for naming alleged whistleblower. President Trump is scheduled to head to North Carolina on Friday on his first trip out of Washington since being acquitted in a Senate trial on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress that centered on his conduct toward Ukraine.

An economic event will offer a glimpse of how much Trump plans to continue to focus on his impeachment while fallout from the trial continues, including reports that he is preparing to push out a national security official who testified against him. At events Thursday, Trump railed against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the only Republican who voted to convict him.

The crux of the case against Trump was the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president. 9:15 AM: Gingrich says Trump should not pay any attention to Pelosi, his ‘mortal enemy’

Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, offered some advice Friday to Trump on how to handle the current occupant of that job in the wake of his acquittal.

“My advice to the president would be really simple,” Gingrich said. “Don’t pay any attention to Pelosi, because she’s your mortal enemy. . . . There’s not much point in the president wasting time with her.”

During an appearance on Fox News, Gingrich also chided Pelosi for cutting short Trump’s introduction at the State of the Union, noting that he introduced President Bill Clinton four times during his tenure as speaker, saying each time that it was “my distinct honor and personal privilege” to do so. Cutting those words “was almost like a declaration of war,” Gingrich said.

Feb. 6

Impeachment Headlines

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U.S. 2020 Elections

World News

U.S. Political History

 

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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ny times logoNew York Times, TRUMP ACQUITTED IN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Romney Breaks Ranks in Senate Vote Largely on Party Lines, Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). After a three-week trial, senators voted against charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election. Mr. Trump faced a symbolic rebuke from within his party as Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, below left, voted to convict the president for abuse of power.

mitt romney wAfter five months of hearings, investigations and cascading revelations about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, a divided United States Senate acquitted him on Wednesday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end.

us senate logoIn a pair of nearly party-line votes whose outcome was never in doubt, the Senate fell well short of the two-thirds margin that would have been needed to remove Mr. Trump (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore), formally concluding the three-week-long trial of the 45th president that has roiled Washington and threatened the presidency.

It was the third impeachment trial of a president and the third acquittal in American history, and it ended the way it began, with Republicans and Democrats at odds over Mr. Trump’s conduct and his fitness for office, even as some members of his own party conceded the basic allegations that undergirded the charges, that he sought to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rivals.

But in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality. Democratic leaders immediately insisted the result was illegitimate, the product of a self-interested cover-up by Republicans, and promised to continue their investigations of Mr. Trump.

The president, vindicated in what he has long called a politically motivated hoax to take him down, prepared to campaign as an exonerated executive. And both parties conceded that voters, not the Senate, would deliver the final judgment on Mr. Trump when they cast ballots in just nine months.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Trump celebrates acquittal at White House (video), John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Feb. 6, 2020. President expresses no contrition, calls Democratic leaders ‘vicious and mean;’ Moderate Democrats confront Pelosi over speech-tearing; For Clinton, reaction to acquittal was very different from Trump’s; House swiftly kills GOP resolution of disapproval against Pelosi; Trump thanks family, departs East Room with first lady.

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomPresident Trump celebrated his Senate acquittal Thursday at a White House event that stretched more than an hour, expressing no contrition and calling Democratic leaders “vicious and mean” while portraying his impeachment as the continuation of scrutiny he has faced since he announced his run for the presidency in 2015.

“We've been going through this now for almost three years. It was evil, it was corrupt,” he told a packed East Room crowd. Trump expressed no remorse related to the allegation that he inappropriately pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, despite some Republican senators calling his actions wrong.

“This is a day of celebration because we went through hell,” he said.

Shortly before he spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chided Trump for his comments lashing out at Democrats and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at the bipartisan, multi-faith National Prayer Breakfast. Romney was the only Republican to vote for Trump’s conviction.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi laces into Trump, defends tearing up his State of the Union speech, Mike DeBonis​, Feb. 6, 2020. An indignant Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday she was in no mood to reconcile with President Trump and his congressional Republican allies a day after the Senate voted to acquit him of impeachment charges.

Instead, the House speaker launched into a fierce attack on Trump’s State of the Union address, his record on the economy and health care, his response to the months-long impeachment process and the swipes he leveled Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast targeting the faith of his political enemies.

And the California Democrat defended her decision to publicly tear up a copy of Trump’s speech Tuesday night in the moments after he concluded his speech, saying she did not “need any lessons from anybody, especially the president of the United States, about dignity.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rips critics and considers ways to target his perceived enemies, Josh Dawsey​, Feb. 6, 2020.  Some of the president’s aides are discussing whether to remove or reassign administration officials who testified during the impeachment inquiry.

• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump marks end of trial with raw, angry rant

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Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (shown via the Senate camera via Associated Press)

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitt Romney’s real gift to the Resistance may be bigger than Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 6, 2020.  When Mitt Romney voted to convict and remove Donald Trump, he was doing the morally correct thing. There’s also a strong argument to be made that Romney did more to help than hurt his own political ambitions.

bill palmer report logo headerYou can decide for yourself how pure you think his motives were. But the bottom line is that it was a clear win for the Resistance. It cost Trump what could have been the rare positive news cycle for him. It took away his argument that impeachment was partisan. And it handed the Democrats the 2020 narrative that Senators from both parties agree he’s a crook. But there may be an even bigger angle.

The fatalists out there don’t want to hear this, but Donald Trump is very likely to lose in 2020. His biggest swings, such trying to secretly conspire with Ukraine to rig the election, are hurting him instead of helping him. Acquittal won’t make him a smarter criminal, so the odds of success of his eternally dimwitted schemes aren’t likely to go up. In fact Romney just bet big on the premise that his conviction vote will help finish off Trump’s weak 2020 chances. But there’s a far more difficult battle at play here.

us senate logoIt’ll be very difficult for Donald Trump to win in 2020. It’ll be even more difficult for the Republicans to take the House. But the one thing the Republicans still have going for them is that they have pretty strong odds of hanging onto the Senate. Just because of the math involved, the Resistance will have a far harder time taking the Senate than it will in finishing Trump off. But Romney just made that at least incrementally easier.

Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and a few other Republican Senators from purple states are up for reelection this year. Their math told them that voting to acquit Trump gave them better 2020 odds than voting to convict him. But they were also counting on being able to argue that impeachment was a partisan farce. Now that Mitt Romney has very loudly voted to convict, other Republicans like Collins will spend 2020 being asked why they refused to see what Romney saw. That’s a huge landmine for them. This gives the Democrats an opening to take the Senate in November – and that may be Romney’s real gift to the Resistance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats at a crossroads after Trump’s acquittal, torn between investigations and sole focus on policy, Rachael Bade and Paul Kane, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed). One of the first decisions they face is whether to subpoena John Bolton as the party faces a muddled presidential field with no obvious front-runner to take on a president who has emerged seemingly unscathed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, What Will Finally Defeat Donald Trump? Editorial Board, Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). He can do whatever it takes to win re-election, and the Republican Party will have his back.

On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered the most harshly partisan State of the Union speech in memory.

He was not wrong about everything, as when he boasted about the overall strength of the economy or praised the selflessness of American troops. But when he was wrong, as he often was, he was poisonously wrong. He grotesquely caricatured the criminality of undocumented immigrants, rewrote the history of his assaults on Americans’ health care and drastically inflated the number of jobs expected to be created by the new trade bill.

Worse than the distortions and deceptions, which Americans have come to expect from this president, Mr. Trump hijacked the House chamber, turning what should be a unifying moment, or at least an attempt at a unifying moment, into a campaign rally, corrupting the role presidents have played there as representing the whole nation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In Private, Republicans Admit They Acquitted Trump Out of Fear, Sherrod Brown (right, Democratic senator from Ohio), sherrod brown o 2009Feb. 6, 2020 (print ed.). One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

History has indeed taught us that when it comes to the instincts that drive us, fear has no rival. As the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has noted, Robert Kennedy spoke of how “moral courage is a rarer republican elephant logocommodity than bravery in battle.”

Playing on that fear, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted.

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ny times logoNew York Times, At National Prayer Breakfast, Trump Lashes Out at Impeachment Foes, Peter Baker, Feb. 6, 2020. A day after his acquittal, President Trump used an appearance at the national prayer breakfast to lash out at his “dishonest and corrupt” political rivals. Mr. Trump’s speech was an overtly political talk at what is traditionally a bipartisan affair, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting nearby. He will make a formal statement at the White House at noon Eastern.

djt maga hatPresident Trump, a day after being acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial, used a national prayer breakfast on Thursday to lash out at his political opponents, accusing them of being “very dishonest and corrupt people” who are trying to destroy him and the country.

Explicitly rejecting the message of tolerance offered at the National Prayer Breakfast just moments before he took the lectern, Mr. Trump — without naming them — singled out Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting just a few feet away at the head table, and Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah who voted to convict him, accusing them of hypocrisy for citing their faith while supporting his impeachment.

“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation,” Mr. Trump told an audience of religious leaders and followers. “They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”

He praised “courageous Republican politicians and leaders” who “had the wisdom, fortitude and strength” to vote against the two articles of impeachment charging him with abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. He then seemed to target Mr. Romney, who cited his faith in announcing his decision to vote for conviction.

“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Mr. Trump said. Then, in a clear reference to Ms. Pelosi, who has said she prays for Mr. Trump, the president said, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so.”

Mr. Trump’s speech was as overtly a political talk as any president has made at the National Prayer Breakfast, traditionally a bipartisan affair where members of both parties put aside their disagreements for an hour or two to focus on their shared beliefs. When he arrived, he held up two newspapers with banner headlines that said, “Acquitted” and “Trump Acquitted.” In addition to his outburst on impeachment, Mr. Trump cited rising stock markets, boasted about his approval rating in the latest Gallup poll and urged the audience to vote in the fall.

The Republican identification with Trump is total. Again and again, histrionic Republican congressmen equated hatred of the president with hatred of themselves and hatred of the sacred 63 million. They spoke of Trump with an awe and a maudlin devotion bordering on religious; Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican, declared that Trump had been given less due process than Jesus Christ himself.

If Trump is a martyr, who are his persecutors? You could watch the debate with the sound off and understand. All day, Republican speeches delivered by old white men alternated with Democratic speeches from women, people of color and young people. White men make up 90 percent of the Republican caucus and 38 percent of the Democratic one, and the day dramatized the representational gulf in the starkest visual terms.

Palmer Report, Nancy Pelosi uses State of the Union invite to twist the knife against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 20, 2019. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has found a whole new way to twist the knife against Donald Trump, simply by doing her job in a particularly auspicious way.

bill palmer report logo headerNancy Pelosi just sent Donald Trump a letter inviting him to deliver his State of the Union address on February 4th. The letter emphasizes things like Congress being “co-equal” and the branches “acting as checks on each other.” In other words, she’s reminding him that she has all kinds of constitutional power over him. But the letter itself, which is a formality, is secondary to the timing.

Donald Trump is pushing Mitch McConnell hard for a swift Senate impeachment trial and acquittal. But McConnell can’t make that happen unless he makes at least some concessions to Pelosi about the fairness of the trial, or she’ll keep sitting on the articles of impeachment. Now Trump suddenly faces the very real possibility of having to give his State of the Union address at a time when he’s been impeached but hasn’t been acquitted.

If that happens, Donald Trump will use his speech to go embarrassingly bonkers. He’ll viciously attack House members to their faces during the address. He’ll further alienate the voters in the middle, who don’t like him much but haven’t decided whether or how to vote in 2020, who will decide his fate.

If Trump’s handlers want to avoid such a scene, they’ll have to convince him not to show up for the State of the Union at all, which would also make him look bad. Or they’ll have to convince McConnell to cave to Pelosi, which would mean Trump’s own people testifying against him during the Senate impeachment trial, so it can take place before the speech.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Team Celebrates Acquittal at (Where Else?) His Washington Hotel, Katie Rogers, Feb. 6, 2020. Several current and former Trump advisers gathered to mingle and toast the president’s acquittal in the Senate.

Well, where else were they going to go?

One mile from the scene of President Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment trial, members of his defense team, family and administration gathered Wednesday evening at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. They turned its marbled lobby into something of a hive bursting with “Keep America Great” hats, well-done steaks and bottles of red wine.

“I think it’s clearly a validation of the fact that the president never committed a crime,” Corey Lewandowski, the president’s former campaign manager, said as he flashed a blue piece of paper from his wallet. It was a Senate gallery ticket; he had watched the vote as it happened.

“We’ve had a very good week,” Mr. Lewandowski said, “between the debacle in Iowa” — referring to assorted fumbles that left the Democratic results in the 2020 caucuses in a state of suspended uncertainty — “the State of the Union speech and then the acquittal of the impeachment proceedings.”

Everyone else seemed to have gotten the message. Mr. Lewandowski was only one of several current and former Trump advisers who had gathered at the hotel to mingle and drink. On Tuesday, a photograph of an airplane full of Trump campaign surrogates returning from Iowa sailed around the internet. By Wednesday, roughly half them appeared to have passed through the hotel at some point to celebrate the verdict with plenty of booze and slightly bitter undertones.

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Will Come Back to Haunt Trump and His Enablers, Neal K. Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer (law professors at neal katyal oGeorgetown), Feb. 6, 2020. The president was acquitted by the Senate, but the American people are smarter.

The vote to acquit President Trump was a dark day for the Senate. Uninterested in hearing from witnesses (and likely scared by what they would say), uncritical of outrageous legal arguments made by the president’s lawyers and apparently unconcerned about the damage Mr. Trump has done to the integrity of America’s elections, a majority of senators insisted on looking the other way and letting him off the hook for a classic impeachable offense: abuse of public office for private gain.

But while the Senate got it wrong, the American people learned what’s right. This impeachment was about much more than the final vote of 100 senators. It was a process, and that process yielded a public education of extraordinary value. While the Senate may emerge from the process weakened, the American people, on the whole, emerge from it strengthened by a sharpened sense of what’s right and what’s wrong for an American president; of what it means for a political party to show moral courage; of what it looks like when dedicated public servants speak truth no matter the consequences; and of the importance of whistle-blowers for ensuring accountability.

The past few months have shown Americans a president who abused the public trust for his personal benefit. Before this process, we suspect, few Americans had dwelled on the question of when it crosses the line for a president to exploit for private political gain the tools of national power placed in his or her hands.

But impeachment has forced Americans to confront it — a question, it turns out, that was central to the framers’ decision to include impeachment in our Constitution. And Americans overwhelmingly reject what Mr. Trump did, with 75 percent saying in December that his Ukraine extortion scheme was wrong (a view that even some Republican senators have endorsed). That’s huge: For all that divides Americans today, this is a dominant consensus on what it means to abuse public office and distort American democracy.

Feb. 5

Impeachment Headlines

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U.S. 2020 Elections

Trump 'State of Union' Speech

Iowa Democratic Results

World News

 

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

ny times logoNew York Times, TRUMP ACQUITTED IN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Romney Breaks Ranks in Senate Vote Largely on Party Lines, Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 5, 2020. After a three-week trial, senators voted against charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election. Mr. Trump faced a symbolic rebuke from within his party as Senator Mitt Romney of Utah voted to convict the president for abuse of power.

After five months of hearings, investigations and cascading revelations about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, a divided United States Senate acquitted him on Wednesday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress to aid his own re-election, bringing an acrimonious impeachment trial to its expected end.

In a pair of nearly party-line votes whose outcome was never in doubt, the Senate fell well short of the two-thirds margin that would have been needed to remove Mr. Trump, formally concluding the three-week-long trial of the 45th president that has roiled Washington and threatened the presidency.

It was the third impeachment trial of a president and the third acquittal in American history, and it ended the way it began, with Republicans and Democrats at odds over Mr. Trump’s conduct and his fitness for office, even as some members of his own party conceded the basic allegations that undergirded the charges, that he sought to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rivals.

But in a sign of the widening partisan divide testing the country and its institutions, the verdict did not promise finality. Democratic leaders immediately insisted the result was illegitimate, the product of a self-interested cover-up by Republicans, and promised to continue their investigations of Mr. Trump.

The president, vindicated in what he has long called a politically motivated hoax to take him down, prepared to campaign as an exonerated executive. And both parties conceded that voters, not the Senate, would deliver the final judgment on Mr. Trump when they cast ballots in just nine months.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Resumes Impeachment Debate, With Acquittal Expected, Vote Likely to Be Largely Along Party Lines, but Romney Will Back Removal, Peter Baker and Mark Leibovich, Feb. 5, 2020. The Senate is set to vote on the two articles of impeachment at 4 p.m. Eastern, handing President Trump an all but certain acquittal. “The case was made.” Mitt Romney is the first Republican to say he will vote to convict Mr. Trump of abuse of power. Follow for updates and analysis.

The Senate is expected to vote at 4 p.m. Eastern to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial. Senator Mitt Romney plans to vote to convict Mr. Trump of abuse of power, becoming the first Republican to support removing Mr. Trump from office.

Here’s what you need to know:

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• Romney (shown via the Senate camera via Associated Press) will vote to convict Trump of abuse of power, the first Republican to support removing the president.
• House Democrats are ‘likely’ to subpoena John Bolton after the impeachment trial ends.
• Doug Jones, who was seen as a possible Democratic defector, ‘reluctantly’ decides to vote to convict Trump.
• The votes are expected about 4 p.m.
• Trump avoided impeachment in his State of the Union address, but he may have his say after the votes.
• ‘It’s my hope we’ve finally found bottom.’ Senators lament a broken institution.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said Wednesday that he would vote to convict President Trump of abuse of power, making him the first Republican to support removing Mr. Trump for his bid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

mitt romney w“I think the case was made,” Mr. Romney said in an interview in his Senate office on Wednesday morning. At the beginning of his speech in the chamber, he appeared to choke up.

Mr. Romney said he would vote against the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, arguing that House Democrats had failed to exhaust their legal options for securing testimony and other evidence they had sought. But the first-term senator said that Democrats had proven their first charge, that the president had misused his office for his own personal gain.

“I believe that attempting to corrupt an election to maintain power is about as egregious an assault on the Constitution as can be made,” Mr. Romney added, appearing by turns relieved and nervous — but also determined — as he explained his decision. “And for that reason, it is a high crime and misdemeanor, and I have no choice under the oath that I took but to express that conclusion.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Romney’s position, the Senate is expected to acquit Mr. Trump of both impeachment charges in a vote later Wednesday afternoon. But the defection of Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, is a dramatic capstone on the evolution of a party that has thoroughly succumbed to the vice-grip of Mr. Trump.

Speaking slowly and deliberately from the Senate floor, Mr. Romney said that his decision was made out of an “inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it.”

Mr. Romney, who has been critical of Mr. Trump at various points since 2016, said he was acutely aware that he would suffer serious political ramifications for his decision, particularly in light of the strict loyalty the president has come to expect from elected officials of his own party. No House Republican voted to impeach Mr. Trump in December. (Representative Justin Amash, a former Republican of Michigan who fled the party over his differences with Mr. Trump, voted in favor of both articles.)

U.S. 2020 Elections

Roll Call, Trump’s speech rolled out Republicans’ blueprint for general election, Nathan L. Gonzales, Feb. 5, 2020. Democrats must present contrast to Trump without looking out of touch on humming economy.

For an hour-and-a-half, President Donald Trump used his third State of the Union speech to remind Republicans why they supported him in the past and why they will stand with him in November.

republican elephant logo“From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job killing-regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” boasted Trump. “Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and, most of all, pro-American.”

This is the message Republicans want the president to focus on over the next seven months as they cling to their Senate majority and dream of retaking the House. This is the president vulnerable GOP members and upstart GOP challengers want to appear with on the campaign trail.

Trump 'State of Union' Speech

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump touts economy, policies as he seeks to move on from trial, David Nakamura, Feb. 5, 2020. President faces lawmakers amid tense political atmosphere. In his final State of the Union before the election, President Trump radiated a sense of vindication.

washington post logoWashington Post, With chants, walkouts and a ripped-up speech, bitter partisanship dominates address, Ashley Parker, Feb. 5, 2020. The speech, largely delivered as written, struck tones reminiscent of the president’s rallies.

He didn’t hurl insults, lead “Lock her up!” chants or stride onto the dais to the opening thrums of “God Bless the U.S.A.” blaring from speakers. But President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night amounted to a more subdued version of one of his raucous campaign rallies.

He boasted that his accomplishments were like nothing ever seen before, promoted divisive policies — even prompting audible boos at points — and added reality-show flourishes to the speech he delivered in the historic House chamber.

He goaded the Democrats, began the evening with an apparent snub of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and offered a boastful accounting of the previous three years that could easily double as the campaign promises he plans to deploy in the coming one.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi shreds Trump’s speech, reflecting a tumultuous year, Mike DeBonis​, Feb. 5, 2020. Explaining the decision behind her gesture, the House speaker said, “It was the courteous thing to do."

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump persists in using claims that have been fact-checked repeatedly, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Sarah Cahlan, Feb. 5, 2020. Here's a roundup of 31 dubious statements by the president. President Trump’s State of the Union speech once again was chock-full of stretched facts and dubious figures. Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them. Here, in the order in which he made them, are 31 statements by the president.

As is our practice with live events, we do not award Pinocchio ratings, which are reserved for complete columns.

“I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been.”

The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. Our database of Trump claims shows he has made a variation of this claim some 260 times. There are several metrics one could look at, but the current economy falls short, according to experts we consulted. The unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it was as low as 2.5 percent in 1953. Trump has never achieved an annual growth rate above 3 percent, but in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the gross domestic product grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

But even that period paled against the 1950s and 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

  • Washington Post, Rush Limbaugh awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Washington Post, Critic’s Notebook: Congressional Democrats wore their white hot fury
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Gretchen Whitmer proves normal and decent can pay off, Jennifer Rubin

More On Impeachment Trial

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why I’m Voting to Acquit President Trump, Rob Portman (Republican senator from Ohio), Feb. 5, 2020. Impeachment will end in the Senate. It’s time to take up consensus issues. On Wednesday I will join a majority of my Senate colleagues in opposing the impeachment of President Trump brought by the House of Representatives.

For four months, since the release of the memorandum of the call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, I have consistently said that Mr. Trump’s request for an investigation of Joe Biden and any effort to tie the release of military aid to investigations were improper and shouldn’t have happened. However, I do not believe these actions rise to the level where it would be necessary to remove a president from office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: After Acquittal, It’s Anything Goes for the Republicans, Caroline Fredrickson (author of The Democracy Fix), Feb. 5, 2020. The party’s new doctrine: What’s good for Trump is good for America. Rather than reining in a president who clearly abused his power for personal gain, most Republicans have conceded to Mr. Trump’s overarching defense: that his re-election would serve the public interest. That argument was enough, for his Senate allies, to override campaign finance laws and the norms of governance that have prevailed in our country until this presidency.

This defense is a natural outgrowth of the unitary executive theory, a legal doctrine advanced by apologists for the imperial presidency, including Attorney General William Barr. It was Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor representing Mr. Trump, who gave this idea its most outrageous frame: “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” he said. “And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

If this were simply verbiage in service of his client, one might almost forgive Mr. Dershowitz for his claim. But Republican senators and other party leaders have embraced this theory as if our Constitution was in fact a pact to establish a monarchy. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a close ally of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declared that Mr. Dershowitz had said the president’s actions were not impeachable, “and I don’t disagree with that.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: No, Susan Collins, Trump is never going to learn, Ruth Marcus, Feb. 5, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is not going to change. Not now, not ever. “Chastened” is not in his vocabulary; pivoting to presidential is not in his repertoire. If there is anything the country should have learned in the age of Trump, it is this.

So of all the amazing things that Republican senators have said in defense of their impending votes to acquit Trump, it is that a president susan collins official Smallwho has been unwilling to or incapable of learning lessons will somehow have learned a lesson by being . . . not punished by them.

The latest to join this self-delusion caucus is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. “I believe that the president has learned from this case,” she told CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell on Tuesday, expanding on a floor speech in which she announced — surprise — her vote to acquit. “​The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”

O’Donnell wasn’t buying it. “​But the president says he did nothing wrong. Why do you think he learned something?” she asked.

“He was impeached,” Collins repeated, in a demonstration of the eternal sunshine of the spotless senatorial mind. “And there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call. I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”

john bolton light suit Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: We Told you so, Bill Palmer, Feb. 5, 2020. Once the Republican Senate made its decision not to allow any witnesses to testify against Donald Trump in his sham impeachment trial, Palmer Report pointed out that this meant Bolton would all but certainly end up soon testifying to the House instead. Sure enough, it turns out that’s what is indeed happening.

bill palmer report logo headerHouse Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is telling CNN today that the House will “likely” subpoena John Bolton to publicly testify before the committee. He’s not providing the specific date yet. But today’s timing is interesting. On the same day that the Senate is preparing to acquit Trump without even holding a real trial, House is officially letting it be known that it’s calling the crucial witness that the Senate refused to call. It also sends an unmistakable signal that the House is just getting started in exposing Trump’s crimes.

This raises the question of why the House didn’t subpoena John Bolton to testify back when it was holding House impeachment hearings. In hindsight it’s pretty obvious that Bolton wasn’t willing to testify back then, and that subpoenaing him would merely have resulted in a months-long court battle that would have stalled out the impeachment process. But now that Bolton’s new book is available for preorder, he’s clearly going to want to promote it – and testifying on television is a huge free marketing opportunity.

Donald Trump will surely announce that he’s going to magically “block” John Bolton from testifying to the House, but that’s not a real thing. Trump can ask the court for an emergency injunction preventing Bolton from testifying, but no judge will go for it, and Bolton will testify on whatever date he’s supposed to. Trump has only succeeded in preventing witnesses from testifying who didn’t want to testify to begin with. Bolton clearly wants to testify, meaning Trump can’t stop him. We told you this was coming.

U.S. Politics / Media

Palmer Report, Opinion: Palmer Report editorial note, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 5, 2020. So we’re having a bit of a week. From the start of the bill palmerimpeachment process we’ve known that the Republican Senate would end up corruptly acquitting Donald Trump, but now we have to stomach watching it happen. We’ve been waiting months for voting to get underway in the Democratic primary process, and the Iowa caucus was such a calamity, we’re still not sure who won – even as we realize the state is too non-representative of the party’s diversity to have gone first anyway. So yeah, it hasn’t been a fun one.

bill palmer report logo headerBut I’ll tell you something. I think our resolve might be stronger than ever. Earlier this week I got tired of so many media pundits trying to take advantage of our vulnerable mindset this week by trying to convince us that the sky is falling and Trump is magically winning. So I started calling out every instance of this hysteria and fatalism that I encountered. I was afraid I’d get a lot out pushback from Resistance members who have simply had it and are ready to give up. Instead I saw something else.

The more I’ve pushed against the fatalism this week, both on the Palmer Report website and on social media, the more people have gotten on board. This shouldn’t be a popularity contest, but Palmer Report’s numbers have gone up this week, not down. This suggests that Resistance members have had it – they’ve had it with the fatalism, and the the idea that we somehow can’t win.

We won the fight to save Obamacare. We’ve helped expose various Trump criminal scandals that have landed some of his top henchmen in prison, leaving him shorthanded for whatever corrupt schemes he’s plotting next. We won the midterms overwhelmingly. We impeached Trump. We’ve fought the good fight well enough that Trump is saddled with an upside down approval rating that leaves him facing a very difficult 2020 road. We’ve done all of this not by sitting around and insisting that the worst possible case scenario is going to happen, but by fighting for the best case scenarios. We’ve only won some of the battles we’ve fought, but that’s left America far better off than if we hadn’t bothered to fight any of them.

So hello to the new people who have stumbled across Palmer Report this week. If you ask the people who have been around for awhile, they’ll tell you that my analysis and predictions are sometimes the precise opposite of what you’re hearing from every other pundit out there, but those are the instances where I tend to be proven the most accurate. Thanks to all of you longtime readers who have stuck it out and are still fighting for the soul of this country. This week is a grinder – but now more than ever, we’re still winning this fight.

Feb. 4

U.S. 2020 Elections Headlines

Impeachment Headlines

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U.S. 2020 Elections Excerpts

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washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders, Buttigieg leading in early results, Staff Writers, Feb. 4, 2020. In an early Iowa caucus vote count, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a slight popular vote lead, while former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg led among a measure of state delegates.

With 62 percent of precincts counted, Sanders earned 26 percent of the popular vote; Buttigieg hit 25. By both measures, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is in third place with 20 percent of the vote, and former vice president Joe Biden placed fourth at 13 percent.

The results were released nearly a day after the caucuses were held, thanks to widespread reporting issues. The Iowa Democratic Party blamed inconsistencies in reporting for the delay.

[Iowa Live Results from the 2020 Democratic Caucuses]

The candidates who were actively competing in Iowa included Sanders; Biden; Buttigieg; Warren; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and investor Tom Steyer.

Many of the candidates have already moved on to New Hampshire, which holds its primaries in a week.

● Nevada Democrats say they will not use mobile app at the center of Iowa confusion

● With eyes of the world on Iowa, another hiccup in American democracy.

● An epic breakdown in Iowa casts a spotlight on the caucus system.

Trump 'State of Union' Speech

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Trump touts jobs, immigration policies, foreign relations, Felicia Sonmez, Colby Itkowitz, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis, Feb. 4, 2020. Tensions on display as Trump declines Pelosi handshake and Democrats react to claims in speech.

President Trump made a prime-time appeal for the success of his divisive and turbulent stewardship, projecting confidence that a strong economy and a reset of U.S. standing in the world has put the nation on the right path.

Trump faced his Democratic adversaries as the Republican-controlled Senate is expected Wednesday to acquit him of House charges that he abused power and sought to obstruct Congress.

This story will be updated.

President Trump delivered his third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night in the House chamber where he was impeached in December.

Trump’s prime-time address came on the eve of the final day of his impeachment trial, which is expected to wrap up Wednesday with an acquittal in the Republican-led Senate.

“Three years ago, we launched the Great American Comeback,” Trump said. “Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results.”

  • Trump calls Soleimani strike retaliation, makes no mention of self-defense
  • Trump doesn’t mention climate change but wants to plant a trillion trees
  • Trump’s remarks on guns prompt protest among Democrats
  • Trump awards Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom

washington post logoWashington Post, Iowa Caucuses Live Updates: Technical snags fuel chaos at caucuses, Matt Viser and Toluse Olorunnipa, Feb. 4, 2020. State Democratic officials to release results later today.

Iowa Democratic Party promises results ‘as soon as possible today;’ Iowa caucuses descend into a debacle as delay leaves outcome uncertain; Sen. Durbin says it’s time for Iowa caucuses to end; Ernst, Grassley defend Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status; DHS offered to test caucus app but Iowa Democrats declined, acting secretary says; Howard Dean says Iowa shouldn’t be first caucus anymore.

dnc square logoThe long-anticipated Iowa caucuses turned into a debacle Monday night when technical problems delayed the results, prompting presidential candidates to depart before the outcome was clear, spurring one campaign to challenge the integrity of the process and producing a muddled situation instead of what Democratic leaders hoped would be a decisive beginning to their attempt to oust President Trump.

Hours after voters at more than 1,600 caucus sites declared their presidential preferences, Democratic officials were scrambling to explain why no results had been released and when they might materialize. As midnight neared, state party leaders met hastily with the campaigns — a phone call that ended abruptly, according to someone familiar with it — and sought to reassure the public about the reliability of a caucus system that has long been criticized as quirky and byzantine.

democratic donkey logo“The integrity of the results is paramount,” Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said as candidates, voters and activists waited in frustration and reports circulated about problems with the app that caucus officials used to transmit the results. McClure added: “This is simply a reporting issue, the app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.”

But it was a difficult culmination of a year of relentless campaigning by dozens of candidates and hundreds of volunteers in Iowa. The delay raised the prospect that some campaigns would continue to question the results for weeks, complicating an already tumultuous nomination fight.
Technical problems spurred one campaign to challenge the integrity of the process and produced a muddled situation instead of what Democratic leaders hoped would be a decisive beginning to their attempt to oust President Trump.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 takeaways from Trump’s State of the Union address, Aaron Blake, Feb. 4, 2020.​ Impeachment wasn’t mentioned Tuesday night, but bad blood spilled over. President Trump delivered his third State of the Union Tuesday night at a key juncture in his presidency: It came on the eve of his likely acquittal in the impeachment trial, the 2020 Democratic nominating process saw its first results mere hours before the speech, and Trump’s poll numbers have taken a turn for the better in recent weeks.

Here are some takeaways from the speech.

1. Impeachment bad blood spills over. You wouldn’t know from Trump’s speech that he was about to wrap up his Senate impeachment trial — he didn’t mention “impeachment” once — but that didn’t mean it didn’t loom over the proceedings.

Indeed, the speech began by Trump not shaking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) offered hand. Trump simply handed her a copy of his speech, as presidents do, and turned around. It’s not clear if that was an intentional snub, but it was, at best, an awkward way to start the night. [No Trump handshake for Pelosi pic.twitter.com/7SFqtrTczM @RiegerReport].

There was even a brief protest by Democrats. When Trump mentioned lowering prescription drug costs, they stood and chanted “HR-3,” putting three fingers in the air. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has declined to take up a House-passed bill on that topic. It was a scene you don’t usually see in these speeches, and it was difficult to divorce from the events of the past four months.

2. A (repeatedly) overstated economic case. There is no question that the U.S. economy is strong and is a feather in Trump’s cap as he confronts a reelection campaign. But in his speech Tuesday, Trump offered plenty of trademark hyperbole — and false claims.

“The years of economic decay are over,” Trump said toward the beginning of his remarks, saying he “moved rapidly to revive the economy.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Make-or-Break Night That Could Break Iowa, Matt Flegenheimer and Sydney Ember, Feb. 4, 2020. The state has often had to defend the uncommon power it wields over national politics. Its precarious standing appeared to take another hit.

Maybe the technology failed. Maybe just the humans in charge of it. Whatever the culprit, the results pages — reloaded obsessively by campaigns and their supporters through the night — remained farcically bare as Monday slid into Tuesday.

And with no hard numbers to reckon with, no cold math to disprove the dream, no fewer than five candidates marched onstage to deliver something resembling a victory speech.

“Iowa,” Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., declared, “you have shocked the nation.”

No argument there.

Feb. 3

Impeachment Headlines

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washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Senate to hear closing arguments today from House managers, Trump’s lawyers, John Wagner, Feb. 3, 2020. The Senate is poised to hear up to four hours of closing arguments Monday in the impeachment trial of President Trump, following last week’s vote not to call witnesses regarding his conduct toward Ukraine.

us senate logoSenators will hear from both the House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), and Trump’s lawyers, led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. The trial is expected to end Wednesday with an acquittal.

Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The crux of the case against him is the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

Feb. 2

Impeachment Headlines

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Impeachment Trial Excerpts

washington post logous senate logoWashington Post, Trump’s impending acquittal could have profound ramifications for future presidents, Philip Rucker, Feb. 2, 2020.  Historians and legal experts say the Senate is poised to lower the bar for permissible conduct on the part of the nation’s leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans defend vote to bar new evidence as Trump acquittal vote nears, Felicia Sonmez and Rachael Bade​, Feb. 2, 2020. In interviews, several key Republicans — including Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) — argued that while Trump’s behavior was problematic, it was not impeachable.

Senate Republicans on Sunday acknowledged President Trump was wrong to pressure Ukraine for his own political benefit, even as they defended their decision to prohibit new evidence in the impeachment trial while pressing ahead with the president’s all-but-certain acquittal.

The remarks from key Republicans — including Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) — came after the Trump administration revealed the existence of emails that could shed light on the president’s reasons for withholding military aid to Ukraine.

“I’m going to vote to acquit,” Alexander said in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m very concerned about any action that we could take that would establish a perpetual impeachment in the House of Representatives whenever the House was a different party than the president. That would immobilize the Senate.”

washington post logomitch mcconnell2Washington Post, Inside the Senate trial: How McConnell and enough Republicans blocked witnesses, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade, Feb. 2, 2020.  Sen. Mitt Romney, a near-lone GOP voice in seeking witnesses for the trial, was an outlier in a party bound to President Trump and unwilling to challenge him. That political reality helped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hold his conference together.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Senate impeachment trial was rigged! Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). In the end, they didn’t dana milbank Customeven pretend to take their oaths seriously.

Senators were instructed “to be in attendance at all times” during President Trump’s impeachment trial. But as the Democratic House managers made their last, fruitless appeals Friday for the Senate to bring witnesses and documents, several of the body’s 53 Republican senators didn’t even bother to show up.

“A trial is supposed to be a quest for the truth,” lead manager Adam Schiff pleaded.

joni ernst oThirteen GOP senators were missing as he said this. Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), left, and Ron Johnson (Wis.) chewed gum.

Manager Val Demings (Fla.) reminded them that this would be the “only time in history” that an impeachment trial was held without witnesses or relevant documents.

us senate logoTwelve Republican senators were missing. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) joined in the chewing.

This was an ugly end to an ugly trial. It began with bold promises by the president’s lawyers to prove there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine. When former national security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript, with firsthand evidence of the quid pro quo, made that impossible, key Republicans fell back to a new position: Trump’s guilt doesn’t matter.

Now that the Senate has accepted the White House argument that Trump’s cheating in the election is “perfectly permissible,” why wouldn’t Trump continue to cheat? Why would anybody have faith that the 2020 election will be on the level?

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: More Money, More Problems for Democracy, Editorial Board, Feb. 2, 2020. Countering private campaign funding with public campaign funding is the most viable way to limit the political influence of the wealthy. There is a straight line from the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case to a dinner party the president attended at the Trump International Hotel in Washington in April 2018.

The dinner has attracted attention because Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani — took the opportunity to press Mr. Trump to remove Marie Yovanovitch as the American ambassador to Ukraine as part of a plan to make money from natural gas. That, in turn, is part of the larger saga that has resulted in Mr. Trump’s impeachment for his later efforts to compel Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

But the dinner also provides a clear view of the ways in which the wealthy seek to influence politicians and politicians gather donations, particularly in the wake of Citizens United. That ruling, handed down almost exactly 10 years ago, allows corporations to spend freely on electioneering, provided the money is not given directly to a candidate or a political party. It is the most famous in a set of recent Supreme Court rulings that have made it far easier for wealthy individuals and corporations to translate their economic power into political power.

The economic inequalities of modern America increasingly are manifest in our politics, too.

At the dinner, donors willing to spend lavishly in support of Mr. Trump’s re-election had the chance to seek the president’s help in placing their own interests above the public interest.

A billionaire whose steel-making company donated $1.75 million to secure his place urged the president to tighten restrictions on steel imports and to let truck drivers work longer hours.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: For Better or Worse, Trump Will Get His Favorite Things on Super Bowl Sunday, Will Leitch, His pregame interview with Sean Hannity offers unfettered airtime in front of a huge national audience. This Sunday afternoon, before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, President Trump will speak with Sean Hannity on Fox, the network airing the Super Bowl. As you might suspect, this interview will be a much more insular enterprise. Mr. Trump speaks regularly with Mr. Hannity, who is seen as an informal but influential adviser, and Mr. Hannity has been in return a staunch, unyielding defender of the president.

It will mark the third time Mr. Trump will do the traditional interview before America’s annual television holiday; he spoke to Mr. O’Reilly in 2017, took 2018 off because the game was aired on NBC, and famously told Margaret Brennan of CBS that he wouldn’t allow his son Barron to play football because it’s “really tough” and “a dangerous sport.”

This year’s Super Bowl comes at an amazing moment, a confluence of political circumstances and events that give this particular bully pulpit a power and a spotlight it hasn’t had in years. With impeachment, the Iowa caucuses and the State of the Union all on deck, Mr. Trump will have a stage, and a famously pliant interviewer, that is unparalleled in American culture. He couldn’t ask for a more ideal year for it to be Fox’s turn to air the game.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘S.N.L.’ Imagines the Impeachment Trial That Could Have Been, Dave Itzkoff, Feb. 2, 2020. On Super Bowl weekend, Alec Baldwin returned to play President Trump in an episode that also featured several football-themed sketches. If you ended the week hoping that President Trump’s impeachment trial would go on longer, this weekend’s opening “Saturday Night Live” sketch imagined just such a scenario: a parade of self-serving witnesses that wasn’t necessarily an improvement.

This week’s episode, hosted by J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and featuring the musical guest Luke Combs, began with a voice-over lamenting that the president’s trial “wound up consisting of two weeks of dry debate and posturing, and will conclude without any witness testimony or new evidence.” Instead, the sketch promised “the trial you wish had happened.”

Feb. 1

Impeachment Headlines

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Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Block Impeachment Witnesses, Clearing Path for Trump Acquittal, Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats Fail in Push to Bolster Case; Final Vote Is Expected Wednesday; The motion to consider more witnesses and documents failed, 49 to 51. Only Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney joined Democrats in favor. Senators said they had settled on a schedule that would end President Trump’s trial on Wednesday, after closing arguments early next week.

The Senate brought President Trump to the brink of acquittal on Friday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress, as Republicans voted to block consideration of new witnesses and documents in his impeachment trial and shut down a final push by Democrats to bolster their case for the president’s removal.

In a nearly party-line vote after a bitter debate, Democrats failed to win support from the four Republicans they needed. With Mr. Trump’s acquittal virtually certain, the president’s allies rallied to his defense, though some conceded he was guilty of the central allegations against him.

The Democrats’ push for more witnesses and documents failed 49 to 51, with only two Republicans, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, joining Democrats in favor. A vote on the verdict is planned for Wednesday.

As they approached the final stage of the third presidential impeachment proceeding in United States history, Democrats condemned the witness vote and said it would render Mr. Trump’s trial illegitimate and his acquittal meaningless.

“America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, when the Senate turned away from truth and went along with a sham trial,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “If the president is acquitted, with no witnesses, no documents, the acquittal will have no value because Americans will know that this trial was not a real trial.”

Even as they prepared to vote against removing him, several Republicans challenged Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions that he had done nothing wrong, saying they believed he had committed the main offense of which he was accused: withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

Still, those Republicans said, they were unwilling to remove a president fewer than 10 months before he is to face voters.

“If you are persuaded that he did it, why do you need more witnesses?” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, a critical swing vote on the issue whose late decision to oppose considering new evidence all but sealed Mr. Trump’s swift acquittal. “The country is not going to accept being told that they can’t elect the president they want to elect in the week the election starts by a majority for a merely inappropriate telephone call or action.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate set to acquit Trump next week after bid for witnesses is defeated, Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Final vote on articles of impeachment planned for Wednesday. Soon the questions surrounding Trump’s actions toward Ukraine will move from the Senate floor to the campaign trail, where voters instead will weigh the evidence in the heat of the 2020 presidential election.

The Senate voted to bar new evidence in the impeachment trial Friday, paving the way for President Trump’s acquittal even as several top Republicans acknowledged that his actions toward Ukraine were not appropriate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The day that sealed things for Trump’s impeachment, Amber Phillips, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate won’t hear from witnesses, so now it’s the beginning of the end of President Trump’s trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Endangered Republicans go all-in on Trump, rallying to his side in the final days of impeachment fight, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans are calculating that a strong economy and an energized pro-Trump base are their only credible path to victory in November.

• Washington Post, Analysis: Republicans agree it was no ‘perfect call’ — but will vote to acquit Trump anyway

• Washington Post, Analysis: ‘A permanent asterisk’: Acquittal at hand, Democrats sow doubt about Trump trial, Mike DeBonis, Feb. 1, 2020.
Top Democratic leaders are arguing that a trial without witnesses should not allow Trump to claim vindication.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Bolton faces potential legal battles in standoff with White House over his book, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Derek Hawkins, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). John Bolton could face legal challenges as he pushes ahead with a book describing conversations he claims to have had with President Trump while serving as his national security adviser, experts said, setting the conservative icon on a potential collision course with the administration he once served.

john bolton surrender is not an optionBolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is still scheduled to be released in March, even after the National Security Council warned his attorney last week that it will have to be revised because it contained “significant amounts” of classified material. Bolton’s lawyer has disputed that.

Amid the standoff, details about the contents of his manuscript are continuing to leak out, with the New York Times reporting Friday that Trump directed Bolton in May to call the Ukrainian president and urge him to meet with Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Trump denied Bolton’s account. “I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, to meet with President Zelensky,” the president said in a statement.

As Trump and his GOP allies have lambasted Bolton, the former national security adviser has sounded a defiant note. During a private appearance in Austin on Thursday, he defended administration officials who testified during the impeachment proceedings.

“The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have — I think, is very nearly the reverse — the exact reverse of the truth,” Bolton said, according to Austin’s KXAN television station.

Palmer Report, Prediction: John Bolton will testify to the House, Bill Palmer, Feb. 1, 2020.  Back when the Republican Senate was still deliberating witnesses, Palmer Report pointed out that there were only three possible outcomes. 1) John Bolton would testify to the Senate during the impeachment trial. 2) Bolton would testify to the House after the trial. 3) Bolton would pick a respected TV talk show and “testify” that way.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat did we base this on? John Bolton has a new book to promote, and no book author ever turns down a chance to appear on television to promote their new book. Whatever you think of how Bolton has handled himself up to this point, and whatever you think of him in general, he’s going to end up talking about Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal on television.

On Friday evening, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell took things a step further. He flatly stated that John Bolton will end up testifying under oath to the House. He’s right of course. It’s impossible to imagine a scenario in which Nancy Pelosi and the House don’t call Bolton to testify in televised public hearings. And again, whatever you think of Bolton’s other motivations, he’s not going to turn down the opportunity to promote his book by testifying.

Republican Senators know darn well that one way or the other, John Bolton will end up spilling his guts about Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal in front of the television cameras. The GOP Senators made the calculation that they’ll be better off if Bolton doesn’t do it to their faces. So be it. They’ve placed their bets. Now we get to help make sure it all goes horribly wrong for them heading into 2020.

john bolton light suit Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The president asked his national security adviser last spring in front of other senior advisers to pave the way for a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine’s new leader.

More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.

john bolton surrender is not an optionMr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.

The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine, as he later did on the July call with Mr. Zelensky that triggered a whistle-blower complaint and impeachment proceedings. House Democrats have accused him of abusing his authority and are arguing their case before senators in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

The account in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from. And disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.

In a brief interview, Mr. Giuliani, below left, denied that the conversation took place and said those discussions with the president were always kept separate. He was adamant that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Mulvaney were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine.

rudy giuliani recent“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he said.

Mr. Bolton described the roughly 10-minute conversation in drafts of his book, a memoir of his time as national security adviser that is to go on sale in March. Over several pages, Mr. Bolton laid out Mr. Trump’s fixation on Ukraine and the president’s belief, based on a mix of scattershot events, assertions and outright conspiracy theories, that Ukraine tried to undermine his chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

As he began to realize the extent and aims of the pressure campaign, Mr. Bolton began to object, he wrote in the book, affirming the testimony of a former National Security Council aide, Fiona Hill, who had said that Mr. Bolton warned that Mr. Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Trump also repeatedly made national security decisions contrary to American interests, Mr. Bolton wrote, describing a pervasive sense of alarm among top advisers about the president’s choices. Mr. Bolton expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, right, and Xi Jinping of China.

recep erdogan with flagThe New York Times reported this week on another revelation from Mr. Bolton’s book draft: that Mr. Trump told him in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter. That account undercuts a key element of the White House impeachment defense — that the aid holdup was joe biden oseparate from his requests for inquiries. Mr. Trump has denied the conversation took place.

Since that Times article, people who have reviewed the draft have further described its contents, including details of the May meeting. Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was sent to the White House for a standard review process in late December.

Its revelations galvanized the debate over whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, but late on Thursday, Republicans appeared to have secured enough votes to keep any new testimony out of Mr. Trump’s trial and to move toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The White House has sought to block the release of the book, contending that it contains classified information. The government reviews books by former officials who had access to secrets so they can excise the manuscripts of any classified information. Officials including Mr. Trump have described Mr. Bolton, who was often at odds with Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney, as a disgruntled former official with an ax to grind.

lev parnas joseph bondi msnbc

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Parnas lawyer offers McConnell info ‘directly relevant’ to trial, Steve Benen, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The lawyer for Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani associate who helped execute Donald Trump’s Ukraine scheme, reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this afternoon, sending him a letter signaling what Parnas would say if he’s allowed to testify in the trial as a witness under oath. From the letter (pdf):

“If Lev Parnas was called as a witness, he would provide testimony based upon personal knowledge, corroborated by physical evidence including text messages, phone records, documentary evidence, and travel records, which is directly relevant to the president’s impeachment inquiry. This would include, but is not limited to, the genesis of his relationship with President Trump and the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his actions in Ukraine on behalf of the president, as directed by Mr. Giuliani.

“Mr. Parnas would testify to the efforts he and a handful of Republican operatives engaged in over a period of months, to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and gather ‘dirt’ on Joe and Hunter Biden. Mr. Parnas would testify that those holding various roles in this plot included GOP super PAC America First, President Trump, Vice President Pence, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes, Nunes’ Staffer Derrick Harvey, Journalist John Soloman, Attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, Mr. Giuliani, and others. He is prepared to review and explain relevant phone records, text messages, and other evidence in connection with these activities.”

Joseph Bondy’s letter, which was also directed to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), went on to say Parnas would be able to detail “the thousands of micro-steps he took in connection with this plan” to gather information on the Bidens. This would include, according to today’s correspondence, “the times and places where he had overheard [Trump] speaking Mr. Giuliani, and the occasions on which he interacted directly with the president.”

Jan. 31

Impeachment Headlines

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World News Headlines

 

Impeachment Trial Excerpts  

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Senate rejects measure to call witnesses in final major step before vote on verdict, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Michael Brice-Saddler, Jan. 31, 2020. Vote ensures that the impeachment trial will be the first ever without witnesses; Hillary Clinton says Republicans put Trump’s interests over the American people; Hoyer says GOP senators have tainted legacy by voting for a ‘sham’ trial; Yovanovitch has submitted retirement papers; McConnell says trial will conclude ‘in coming days'; Schumer calls vote for no witnesses ‘a grand tragedy.’

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 31, 2020. The president asked his national security adviser last spring in front of other senior advisers to pave the way for a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine’s new leader.

More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.

john bolton surrender is not an optionMr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.

The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine, as he later did on the July call with Mr. Zelensky that triggered a whistle-blower complaint and impeachment proceedings. House Democrats have accused him of abusing his authority and are arguing their case before senators in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

The account in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from. And disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.

In a brief interview, Mr. Giuliani, below left, denied that the conversation took place and said those discussions with the president were always kept separate. He was adamant that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Mulvaney were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine.

rudy giuliani recent“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he said.

Mr. Bolton described the roughly 10-minute conversation in drafts of his book, a memoir of his time as national security adviser that is to go on sale in March. Over several pages, Mr. Bolton laid out Mr. Trump’s fixation on Ukraine and the president’s belief, based on a mix of scattershot events, assertions and outright conspiracy theories, that Ukraine tried to undermine his chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

As he began to realize the extent and aims of the pressure campaign, Mr. Bolton began to object, he wrote in the book, affirming the testimony of a former National Security Council aide, Fiona Hill, who had said that Mr. Bolton warned that Mr. Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Trump also repeatedly made national security decisions contrary to American interests, Mr. Bolton wrote, describing a pervasive sense of alarm among top advisers about the president’s choices. Mr. Bolton expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, right, and Xi Jinping of China.

recep erdogan with flagThe New York Times reported this week on another revelation from Mr. Bolton’s book draft: that Mr. Trump told him in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter. That account undercuts a key element of the White House impeachment defense — that the aid holdup was joe biden oseparate from his requests for inquiries. Mr. Trump has denied the conversation took place.

Since that Times article, people who have reviewed the draft have further described its contents, including details of the May meeting. Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was sent to the White House for a standard review process in late December.

Its revelations galvanized the debate over whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, but late on Thursday, Republicans appeared to have secured enough votes to keep any new testimony out of Mr. Trump’s trial and to move toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The White House has sought to block the release of the book, contending that it contains classified information. The government reviews books by former officials who had access to secrets so they can excise the manuscripts of any classified information. Officials including Mr. Trump have described Mr. Bolton, who was often at odds with Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney, as a disgruntled former official with an ax to grind.

Naples Daily News, Ahead of Naples visit, ex-Trump chief of staff John Kelly reiterates call for witness testimony at impeachment trial, Dave john kelly o dhsOsborn, Jan. 31, 2020. Witnesses should be allowed to testify in the impeachment trial of President Trump, former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly said Friday.

Kelly, right, said he agrees with three-fourths of Americans in a recent poll who say witnesses should be allowed at the trial held this week in the U.S. Senate.

"I do think it’s a mistake not to have key witnesses, on both sides," Kelly said in a telephone interview ahead of his March appearance in Naples at a conference. “As a private citizen, I would love to see some witnesses.

"If you don’t have witnesses, one side of the aisle will forever say the whole thing was a sham, that the process never allowed witnesses to come in on both sides of the issue and state their opinions in their cases.”

The Senate is expected to vote Friday on whether to subpoena witnesses. Kelly has said he believes John Bolton, a former Trump national security adviser.

Bolton, in the book titled "The Room Where It Happened," reportedly writes in it that Trump told him he would withhold military aid from Ukraine until the country launched investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Kelly said the country remains split, as polls have shown, on whether Trump should've been impeached at all.

"The good news is, right, wrong or indifferent, the impeachment process is almost over," he said.

Kelly joined the Marines in 1970. He served as Trump's chief of staff from July 31, 2017, to Jan. 2, 2019. Other positions he's held in government in recent years include six months in 2017 as Homeland Security director; head of U.S. Southern Command — based in Doral, Florida — under President Obama from 2012 to 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Alexander says he will oppose calling witnesses in win for GOP push for acquittal, Colby Itkowitz, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Jan. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) put the Democrats one vote closer to calling additional witnesses late Thursday night after the Senate adjourned, announcing she will vote with them on Friday.

lamar alexander oMinutes later another closely watched Republican, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), right, made it unlikely the vote will pass, but could tie if all members of the Democratic caucus and two more Republicans vote yes.

Senators reconvened for a second day of questions to House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers ahead of a crucial vote expected Friday on whether to call witnesses to testify about the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

Democrats are pressing to call witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other leading Republicans do not want to extend the proceedings into unpredictable territory and are angling for a swift acquittal of Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Dershowitz’s view would destroy our constitutional system, Justin Amash (Independent former Republican who represents Michigan’s 3rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives), Jan. 31, 2020. Of course abuse of power is impeachable. In our constitutional republic, it must be.

Speaking from the Senate floor in the impeachment trial of President Trump this week, Alan Dershowitz presented the American people with a vision of Congress’s impeachment power that is sharply at odds with the Constitution, the deliberations of the Framers and the history of impeachments.

His claim — central to Trump’s defense — is that “purely noncriminal conduct, including abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, are outside the range of impeachable offenses.” Although he says a “technical” crime is not required, he means only that criminal conduct can still be impeachable even if it cannot be prosecuted for some jurisdictional or procedural reason.

The Constitution states that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Dershowitz asserts that by including the word “other” before “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the Framers intended to limit impeachment to “criminal-like conduct akin to treason and bribery.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate appears ready to reject witnesses in Trump impeachment trial, Acquittal vote possible today, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim and David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 31, 2020. The final outcome of President Trump’s Senate trial has never been in doubt. Instead, the main drama has been how much more Republican senators want to learn about what he did before deciding whether he should be convicted.

The impeachment trial of President Trump is headed for a critical vote Friday that will determine whether the Senate hears from witnesses over allegations that the president pressured Ukraine to launch investigations for his own political benefit.

susan collins oBut Senate Republicans are increasingly confident no new testimony will be heard and they can start on a sprint toward Trump’s acquittal.

On Thursday, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) said she will break with Republican leadership and vote to hear witnesses. But Collins still needs three other Republicans to vote with her if new evidence is to be allowed and it was unclear late Thursday night who, if anyone, in the party would join her.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: If Republicans give Trump his coverup, his acquittal will be worthless, Editorial Board, Jan. 31, 2020 (print ed.).Senators face a historic decision Friday: whether to shut down the trial of President Trump without hearing what they know would be us senate logoessential evidence. Mr. Trump has denied for months that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine’s president in an effort to force politicized investigations, including of former vice president Joe Biden.

The president’s lawyers have insisted that there is no firsthand testimony to the contrary. Yet, now, senators know that former national security adviser John Bolton can supply that testimony and that he is prepared to appear if called.

  • Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin Opinion: Republicans are pursuing acquittal in the worst possible way, Jan. 31, 2020 (print ed.).
  • Washington Post, Dana Milbank Opinion: The trial hurtles toward Trump’s acquittal — at a terrible cost, Jan. 31, 2020 (print ed.).
  • Washington Post, George Conway Opinion: Don’t let the defense fool you. This impeachment is all about corruption, Jan. 31, 2020 (print ed.). djt nancy pelosi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi strikes back, Bill Palmer, Jan. 30, 2020. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hasn’t made a lot of noise during Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, because she hasn’t needed to. I

It’s up to Senate Republicans to decide how they want to handle the no-win situation of either giving Trump a witness-free sham trial that voters will punish them for, or letting witnesses testify against Trump and then making themselves look even more absurd by acquitting him. Then Pelosi can make whatever countermove she wants.

bill palmer report logo headerIf Republican Senators don’t do their jobs, Nancy Pelosi can simply hold a public House hearing and let John Bolton testify. Or she can launch new articles of impeachment if she wants. Or she can simply sit back while Bolton does the TV talk show circuit, thus decimating Trump and the GOP Senators who acquit him. Pelosi holds all the cards; she just has to wait for the GOP to finish playing its losing hand. Interestingly, Pelosi spoke up today, tweeting this about the trial:

You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.

If Republican Senators choose a cover-up, the American people and history will judge it with the harshness it deserves.

What stands out here is that, unlike the fatalists in the Resistance who keep insisting that “Trump is getting away with it all,” Pelosi is flat out saying that Trump’s acquittal won’t count, and that this won’t have been a trial. It’s a tricky game to try to guess precisely what she plans to do about it if the Senate doesn’t call witnesses. But she appears to be making a point of reminding everyone that she holds all the power here.

Jan. 30

Impeachment Headlines

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Impeachment Trial Excerpts   mike purpura cspan Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s legal team advances broad defense against impeachment, Erica Werner, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck, Jan. 30, 2020. Attorneys argue that nearly any action is not impeachable if it’s in the public interest. The assertion from Alan Dershowitz, one of the attorneys representing President Trump, seemed to take GOP senators by surprise, and few were willing to embrace his argument.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Senators to pose more questions ahead of crucial vote on witnesses, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Jan. us senate logo30, 2020. Republicans angling for a swift acquittal of Trump; Schiff says White House is trying to ‘muzzle’ Bolton; Pelosi calls for chief justice to be tiebreaker on potential 50-50 vote; Schumer blasts Dershowitz argument on quid pro quos; Trump lashes out at Schiff, calls him ‘mentally deranged.’

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s lawyers refused to answer two important questions related to the president’s intent, James Hohmann​
  • Washington Post, Analysis: Trump team’s brazen new defense: So what if he did it?

Palmer Report, Opinion: The moment of truth has arrived, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 30, 2020. Over the past couple days we’ve seen Republican Senators in bill palmertotal disarray as they’ve attempted to figure out what to do about the new revelations from John Bolton’s book, along with Bolton’s desire to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. At various points Mitch McConnell has leaked that he does and does not have the votes, as he attempts to keep the situation from getting away from him.

bill palmer report logo headerThe thing is, certain vulnerable Republican Senators can’t win no matter how this goes. If they have Bolton testify, they’ll get punished in 2020 by Donald Trump’s base. If they don’t have Bolton testify, they’ll get punished in 2020 by mainstream voters. They’re just trying to figure out a way to vote that’ll cause them the least trouble when it comes to their reelection bids.

Yesterday we saw GOP Senator Cory Gardner rather loudly announce that he’s not planning to vote to call witnesses, in a rather obvious attempt at taking the public’s temperature, so he could decide whether or not to stick with that position. Mitt Romney seems intent on only voting for witnesses if there are enough votes for it to happen. Collins and Murkowski are… you know what? Who cares at this point.

It’s up to the Republican Senators to pick their poison now. If they don’t let John Bolton testify, the House can simply open hearings next week and have Bolton testify, thus making the GOP Senators look terrible for having tried to keep Bolton silent. Bolton is also signaling that if all else fails, he might simply hop on television and “testify” that way.

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Pushing to Block Witnesses, G.O.P. Drives Trial Toward Fast End, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear, Jan. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Senate Republicans worked aggressively to discount revelations from the former national security adviser John Bolton and line up votes to prevent witnesses. President Trump’s lawyers argued that anything a president did to win re-election was “in the public interest.”john bolton light suit Custom

jennifer rubin new headshotwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Bolton, it’s now or never, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 30, 2020.

Dear John Bolton:

Before you were national security adviser, before you represented the United States at the United Nations, you were a lawyer — a pretty good one, as I understand. As a member of the bar, you must have been pained and shaken to hear President Trump’s attorney Alan Dershowitz argue for the proposition that anything a president thinks he needs to do to get reelected — bribe or extort a foreign country, even — cannot be impeachable. This defies and defiles our constitutional system, one in which even the president is not above the law. It’s a proposition that would have boiled your blood had President Bill Clinton or President Barack Obama advanced it.

And yet here we are. The president asserts that he is king, and the spineless Republicans (who smear and insult you and mouth Russian propaganda) are too cowardly to oppose him.

We have the perfect formula for tyranny: The executive claims unlimited power; his critics are muzzled. Your attorney certainly has run through some options for you, but let’s review them.

First, you could hold a news conference Thursday or agree to an interview, perhaps with Chris Wallace so that his Fox News audience would have a front-row seat. (A disclosure: I am a contributor to MSNBC.) You can explain without revealing anything remotely classified that Trump tied aid to opening bogus investigations into the Bidens; that Trump never pursued burden-sharing or anti-corruption efforts more generally before the scandal broke; and that Trump knew that the conspiracy theories justifying such bogus investigations were being advanced by Russian-connected stooges. Let the public know; do not allow the Senate to ignore damning evidence.

Second, you could call up the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees and ask to appear immediately in an open hearing.

Third, you can do nothing, meekly accepting prior restraint on your free speech and remaining silent so that the Senate can escape confronting what it knows would be damning evidence of the president’s impeachable conduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Senators to pose more questions ahead of crucial vote on witnesses, John Wagner, Jan. 30, 2020. Sen. Whitehouse says he doubts witnesses will be called.

Senators will reconvene Thursday for a second day of questions to House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers ahead of a crucial vote expected Friday on whether to call witnesses to testify about the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

Democrats are pressing to call witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other leading Republicans do not want to extend the proceedings into unpredictable territory and are angling for a swift acquittal of Trump.

Trump faces charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The crux of the case for his impeachment is the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

ny times logoNew York Times, To Senate Republicans, a Vote for Witnesses Is a Vote for Trouble, Carl Hulse, Jan. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers fear allowing new testimony would tie up the Senate indefinitely and open the door to a cascade of new accusations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Having Hunter Biden Testify Would Be Bad for Trump, Elizabeth Drew, Jan. 30, 2020. If it means John Bolton would also testify in the impeachment trial, it could help the Democrats.

Having Joe Biden’s son testify would illuminate the Bidens’ irrelevance to the issue of whether the president held up congressionally appropriated military assistance for Ukraine until the Ukrainian president announced — not necessarily conducted, just announced — a government investigation into the Bidens’ role.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, All the president’s disloyal men: Trump demands fealty but inspires very little, Ashley Parker, Jan. 30, 2020 (print ed.).  The explosive disclosures in Bolton’s forthcoming memoir about his time in the White House — including his firsthand allegation that Trump directly tied the holdup of $391 million of military aid for Ukraine to investigations into a political rival — prompted cries of heresy and betrayal from Trump and his allies.

But the short gestation period — less than five months — between Bolton’s September exit from the administration to his damning book manuscript underscores an uncomfortable truth for Trump: For a president who demands absolute loyalty, he inspires strikingly little of the same, with former aides, advisers and associates turning on him with thrumming regularity.

They are, en masse, all the president’s disloyal men and women — an unofficial club that includes Rex Tillerson, Trump’s former secretary of state, Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House senior adviser, and Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney and fixer now serving three years in federal prison for crimes committed while working for Trump.

The culture, of course, is set from the top, with an Oval Office occupant who requires abject fealty but rarely returns it. Trump is known for his petty cruelty, for berating aides publicly and privately and for presiding over an intentionally gladiatorial West Wing, where advisers seem to expect to be betrayed at some point — and behave accordingly.

Jan. 29

Impeachment Headlines

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Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell says he lacks votes to block witnesses,  John Wagner, Elise Viebeck, Colby Itkowitz and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 29, 2020. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans that he did not yet have enough votes to defeat an effort, expected later this week, to call additional witnesses and evidence in the trial.

Pressure has ramped up to include witnesses after reports that former national security adviser John Bolton says in a book manuscript that President Trump directly tied the holdup of nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine to investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump’s defense team argued Tuesday that Democrats are seeking to remove him from office over policy differences as they offered their third and final day of opening arguments in a Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Leaders Scramble to Corral Votes to Block Witnesses, Ending Opening Arguments, Nicholas Fandos, Updated Jan. 29, 2020. President Trump’s defense team appealed to the Senate on Tuesday to disregard a new account by the former national security adviser John R. Bolton that bolsters the impeachment case against the president. But by day’s end, Republican leaders working feverishly to block testimony from Mr. Bolton or other witnesses indicated they had not yet corralled the votes to do so.

On the final day of arguments on Mr. Trump’s behalf, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s private lawyers, sought to raise doubts about Mr. Bolton’s claim in an unpublished manuscript that Mr. Trump tied the release of military aid to Ukraine to investigations into his political rivals, calling it an “unsourced allegation” that was “inadmissible” in his impeachment trial.

Proponents of calling Mr. Bolton also got an unexpected bit of support late Monday from John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, who told an audience in Florida that he believed Mr. Bolton’s account and supported the Senate seeking direct witnesses.

“I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate, but I wasn’t there,” he said, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from.”

Republican leaders appeared to be slowing down what had been a breakneck trial schedule to allow for fuller consideration of the matter. They were hopeful that by putting distance between the emergence of Mr. Bolton’s account and the vote on witnesses, tensions would cool enough to hold a majority intact.

john bolton youtube guardian

ny times logoNew York Times, An ‘Upside-Down World’ for Bolton, Peter Baker, Jan. 29, 2020 (print ed.). While some of Mr. Bolton’s longtime Republican friends are throwing him to the curb, Democrats would like to call him as their star witness.

Not long ago, they called him “too extreme,” “aggressively and dangerously wrong” and “downright dangerous.” They called him “nutty,” “reckless” and “far outside the mainstream.”

Suddenly, John R. Bolton, the conservative war hawk and favorite villain of the left, is the toast of Senate Democrats, the last, best hope to prove their abuse-of-power case against President Trump. Democrats who once excoriated him are trumpeting his credibility as they seek his testimony in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, The impeachment trial is entering a volatile phase as senators from both parties prepare to ask questions, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Under impeachment’s arcane rules, senators will submit written queries to be read aloud by the chief justice. Leaders from both parties have strategized for days about what to ask.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senators Prepare for Hours of Questioning, It is a moment of opportunity — and peril — for both parties, Staff reports, Jan. 29, 2020. After days of sitting quietly as both sides of the case delivered their opening arguments, senators on Wednesday will be able to start questioning the impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers by submitting questions to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who will read them aloud. The trial will resume at 1 p.m. Eastern, and the proceedings will be streaming live on this page.

The questioning phase will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, for up to 16 hours total. A vote on whether to hear witnesses in the trial is expected on Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me, Mary Louise Kelly (co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered”), Jan. 29, 2020. Journalists are supposed to ask tough questions, then share the answers — or lack thereof — with the world.

I write about all this now to refocus attention on the substance of the interviews, which has been overshadowed by Mr. Pompeo’s subsequently swearing at me, calling me a liar and challenging me to find Ukraine on an unmarked map.

For the record, I did. That’s not the point. The point is that recently the risk of miscalculation — of two old adversaries misreading each other and accidentally escalating into armed confrontation — has felt very real. It occurs to me that swapping insults through interviews with journalists such as me might, terrifyingly, be as close as the top diplomats of the United States and Iran came to communicating this month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Bolton’s forthcoming book has put a new focus on Mr. Trump’s actions in two cases linked to Turkey and China, Eric Lipton and Alan Rappeport, Jan. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Interventions in Justice Department proceedings draw scrutiny after the former national security adviser raised concerns about the president’s embrace of authoritarian leaders.

recep erdogan with flagIt was late 2018, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, of Turkey was on the phone with an unusual request for President Trump: Could he intervene with top members of his cabinet to curb or even shut down a criminal investigation into Halkbank, one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks?

It was not Mr. Erdogan’s only effort to persuade the Trump administration to back off the investigation into the bank, which had been accused of john bolton surrender is not an optionviolating United States sanctions against Iran.

His government had hired a lobbying firm run by a friend of and fund-raiser for Mr. Trump to press his case with the White House and State Department. And there would be more phone calls between the two leaders in which the topic came up, according to participants in the lobbying.

Mr. Erdogan’s influence campaign is now under scrutiny again in Washington, following the disclosure that Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, reported in his forthcoming book his concern that the president was effectively granting personal favors to Mr. Erdogan and President Xi Jinping of China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anatomy of a ‘smear’: How John Bolton became a target of the pro-Trump Internet, Isaac Stanley-Becker​, Jan. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The 24 hours that followed revelations about the former national security adviser’s book showed how the president’s most fervent online supporters use conspiracy theories to defend him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Witnesses are coming? So much for pundits’ assumptions, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 29, 2020. The Post reports: “Senate Majority jennifer rubin new headshotLeader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans that he did not yet have enough votes to defeat an effort, expected later this week, to call additional witnesses and evidence in the trial.” As news of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book disputing President Trump’s central claims surfaced, Republicans’ unified opposition to holding an actual trial crumbled.

It is worth remembering that just a couple of weeks ago, the punditocracy was pronouncing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the big loser in her battle with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over sending the articles of impeachment. It was mere days ago that the same pundits were certain that there would be no witnesses and that the Senate would barrel ahead to acquittal. It is a failure of imagination that often afflicts political journalists: the inability to appreciate that circumstances change and, yes, facts really do matter.

Nothing should be taken for granted but Bolton in all likelihood will make an appearance. Whether McConnell will force individual senators to walk the plank to vote against the president’s wishes or whether Republicans will simply agree by acclamation to protect vulnerable members of the herd remains uncertain. Equally uncertain is whether there are 51 votes for witnesses beyond Bolton. Democrats would like to hear from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Mike Duffey from the Office of Management and Budget and White House aide Robert B. Blair. However, those witnesses may uncover the identities of further witnesses. Most important, with witnesses will come documents Trump had ordered withheld from Congress.

Republicans have no witnesses who can corroborate their thin arguments, none of which really contradict the House’s case. They keep threatening to call former vice president Joe Biden, but given how he is lapping up the admissions from Republicans that this is all about smearing him, Republicans might want to reconsider. Biden even made an ad out of one senator’s confession that Republicans were hoping the trial damaged Biden.

Inside DC

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani, below, is shown with his two federally indicted associates, Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This new Lev and Igor tape is even uglier for Donald Trump than you think, Isabel Stamm, Jan. 29, 2020. The Bolton revelations, published via the New York Times, have already made what has become known as the Parnas tape seem like old news. But the recording – which was in fact made by Lev Parnas’ associate Igor Fruman and then released by Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondy – very much deserves a closer look. It provides a breathtaking insight into how and by whom the United States is run these days. Listening to the audio of the dinner that took place at Trump’s D.C. hotel on April 30, 2018, you will hear lots of laughter, the sound of silverware being handled, drinks being stirred and probably more talk about golf than you ever wanted to hear – but most of all, you are going to witness hardcore lobbying in progress.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter some jovial banter at the beginning of the intimate dinner held for a small group of wealthy donors, the conversation turns to America’s ongoing trade war with China and tariffs become the central topic. Somewhere in this discussion, Trump starts to complain about South Korea transshipping Chinese steel and helping the U.S.’s adversary to circumvent the tariffs. Then he goes off on a rant about American involvement with South Korea which reveals his complete lack of historical and geopolitical understanding: “We’re doing a big number for them, can you believe it? […] How we ever got involved in South Korea in the first place. Tell me about it.”

Finally, he circles back to his usual focus – the trade deficit: “We’re losing $32 billion with South Korea.” Donald Trump then turns to one of the dinner guests who has been identified as Barry Zekelman and invites him directly to comment on the quotas on steel imports he has imposed: “What do you think of the quota deal we had?”

As it turns out, Mr. Zekelman is not an officially appointed trade adviser to the American president. Rather, he is a Canadian citizen and the billionaire owner of Zekelman Industries which comprises several steel-tube manufacturing facilites, both in Canada and the United States. Through some of those subsidiaries, Barry Zekelman donated $1.75 million to Trump’s America First Action Super PAC in three separate installments, and these generous donations were most likely the reason for his presence at the dinner. Quite possibly, Mr. Zekelman’s generosity is also the reason why his company has become the main supplier of steel slats for the wall Mr. Trump is building on the southern border, a fact that is revealed around the 23:40 minute mark of the recording: “Yes, that’s what we make.” At any rate, the donations are definitely the reason for which Mr. Zekelman has come under scrutiny by the Federal Election Commission.

Throughout the dinner, other attendees take turns with Barry Zekelman to make their case to the president and to cue him in on how he could best benefit their business interests. If you listen to the recording, be prepared to be surprised by how attentively Donald Trump – the man who is notorious for never listening to his official advisers – lends his ear to the people who surround him here. One of the people who gets to speak for an extended period of time in this situation is Lev Parnas, who fills in Donald Trump on all matters related to Ukraine: the country’s chances in its war with Russia, the current leadership, Ukraine’s wealth in terms of untapped natural resources, business opportunities in the energy sector and the “problems” caused by the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

If you look at all the pieces that are falling in place now from various directions – the Parnas tape, Bolton’s concerns that Trump was doing favors for autocratic leaders, and a ton of other things we have learned about him – a very clear and coherent picture emerges. Donald Trump is driven by pure, unadulterated venality and self-interest. He is not a suitable person for the office of the president.

Jan. 28

Impeachment Headlines

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World News

 

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell says he lacks votes to block witnesses,  John Wagner, Elise Viebeck, Colby Itkowitz and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 28, 2020. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans that he did not yet have enough votes to defeat an effort, expected later this week, to call additional witnesses and evidence in the trial.

Pressure has ramped up to include witnesses after reports that former national security adviser John Bolton says in a book manuscript that President Trump directly tied the holdup of nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine to investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump’s defense team argued Tuesday that Democrats are seeking to remove him from office over policy differences as they offered their third and final day of opening arguments in a Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Defense Team Discounts Bolton Revelations; Push for Witnesses Is Uncertain; For Now, G.O.P. Doesn’t Have Votes to Block Witnesses, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 28, 2020. President Trump’s defense team appealed to the Senate on Tuesday to disregard a new account by the former national security adviser John R. Bolton that bolsters the impeachment case against the president. But by day’s end, Republican leaders working feverishly to block testimony from Mr. Bolton or other witnesses indicated they had not yet corralled the votes to do so.

On the final day of arguments on Mr. Trump’s behalf, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s private lawyers, sought to raise doubts about Mr. Bolton’s claim in an unpublished manuscript that Mr. Trump tied the release of military aid to Ukraine to investigations into his political rivals, calling it an “unsourced allegation” that was “inadmissible” in his impeachment trial.

Proponents of calling Mr. Bolton also got an unexpected bit of support late Monday from John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, who told an audience in Florida that he believed Mr. Bolton’s account and supported the Senate seeking direct witnesses.

“I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate, but I wasn’t there,” he said, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from.”

Republican leaders appeared to be slowing down what had been a breakneck trial schedule to allow for fuller consideration of the matter. They were hopeful that by putting distance between the emergence of Mr. Bolton’s account and the vote on witnesses, tensions would cool enough to hold a majority intact.

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ny times logoNew York Times, An ‘Upside-Down World’ for Bolton, Peter Baker, Jan. 28, 2020. While some of Mr. Bolton’s longtime Republican friends are throwing him to the curb, Democrats would like to call him as their star witness.

Not long ago, they called him “too extreme,” “aggressively and dangerously wrong” and “downright dangerous.” They called him “nutty,” “reckless” and “far outside the mainstream.”

Suddenly, John R. Bolton, the conservative war hawk and favorite villain of the left, is the toast of Senate Democrats, the last, best hope to prove their abuse-of-power case against President Trump. Democrats who once excoriated him are trumpeting his credibility as they seek his testimony in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Bolton’s forthcoming book has put a new focus on Mr. Trump’s actions in two cases linked to Turkey and China, Eric Lipton and Alan Rappeport, Jan. 28, 2020. Interventions in Justice Department proceedings draw scrutiny after the former national security adviser raised concerns about the president’s embrace of authoritarian leaders.

recep erdogan with flagIt was late 2018, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, of Turkey was on the phone with an unusual request for President Trump: Could he intervene with top members of his cabinet to curb or even shut down a criminal investigation into Halkbank, one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks?

It was not Mr. Erdogan’s only effort to persuade the Trump administration to back off the investigation into the bank, which had been accused of john bolton surrender is not an optionviolating United States sanctions against Iran.

His government had hired a lobbying firm run by a friend of and fund-raiser for Mr. Trump to press his case with the White House and State Department. And there would be more phone calls between the two leaders in which the topic came up, according to participants in the lobbying.

Mr. Erdogan’s influence campaign is now under scrutiny again in Washington, following the disclosure that Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, reported in his forthcoming book his concern that the president was effectively granting personal favors to Mr. Erdogan and President Xi Jinping of China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anatomy of a ‘smear’: How John Bolton became a target of the pro-Trump Internet, Isaac Stanley-Becker​, Jan. 28, 2020. The 24 hours that followed revelations about the former national security adviser’s book showed how the president’s most fervent online supporters use conspiracy theories to defend him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Trump defense team finishes opening arguments, John Wagner, Elise Viebeck and Colby Itkowitz, Jan. 28, 2020. Sekulow says Bolton revelations ‘inadmissible;’ Defense rests, trial to resume Wednesday afternoon; Final video from Trump defense shows Democrats lambasting Clinton impeachment; Sekulow says ‘justice demands’ acquitting Trump.

President Trump’s defense team argued Tuesday that Democrats are seeking to remove him from office over policy differences as they offered their third and final day of opening arguments in a Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Pressure has ramped up to include witnesses in the trial after reports that former national security adviser John Bolton says in a book manuscript that Trump directly tied the holdup of nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine to investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

The crux of the case for Trump’s impeachment is the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president. Trump’s attorneys have argued that he was justified in seeking investigations because of a history of corruption involving the company.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans seize on Dershowitz argument, say Trump’s actions aren’t impeachable, Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis​, Jan. 28, 2020. Senate Republicans said even if President Trump strong-armed Ukraine to help him politically, it is not an impeachable offense.

Congressional Republicans who have long disputed Democratic assertions that President Trump strong-armed Ukraine to help him politically are pivoting hard to a new argument: The president’s actions are not impeachable — even if he did leverage his office for an investigation of a domestic rival.

For months, Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill have argued that Democrats are relying on secondhand information to support their allegations that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president and 2020 candidate Joe Biden. The House impeached Trump last month, adopting charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Many Republicans have even repeated Trump’s “no quid pro quo!” talking point.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bolton Revelations Fuel Push for Impeachment Witnesses, Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 28, 2020 (print ed.). New Account Could Derail Trump’s Hopes for Quick Acquittal. The White House and Senate Republican leaders struggled on Monday to salvage their plans to push toward a quick acquittal of President Trump this week in his impeachment trial, after a new account by his former national security adviser corroborated a central piece of the case against him.

The newly disclosed revelations by John R. Bolton, whose forthcoming book details how Mr. Trump conditioned military aid for Ukraine on the country’s willingness to furnish information on his political rivals, angered key Republicans and reinvigorated a bid to call witnesses, which would prolong the trial and pose new dangers for the president.

A handful of Republicans from across the ideological spectrum appeared to be moving closer to joining Democrats in a vote to subpoena Mr. Bolton, even as their eaders insisted that doing so would only delay his inevitable acquittal.

“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, told reporters. He later told Republican colleagues at a closed-door lunch that calling witnesses would be a wise choice politically and substantively.

  • New York Times, Trump Impeachment Trial Highlights: Defense Sidesteps Bolton Revelations, President Trump’s lawyers played down details from John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, about why the president froze aid to Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bolton Had Concerns Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Book Says, Mr. Bolton shared his unease with the attorney general, who cited his own worries about the president’s conversations with the leaders of Turkey and China. John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William P. Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Mr. Barr mentioned conversations Mr. Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China.

Mr. Bolton’s account underscores the fact that the unease about Mr. Trump’s seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders, long expressed by experts and his opponents, also existed among some of the senior cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.

Mr. Bolton recounted his discussion with Mr. Barr in a draft of an unpublished book manuscript that he submitted nearly a month ago to the White House for review. People familiar with the manuscript described its contents on the condition of anonymity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Defense Will Make Its Final Arguments Over Witnesses, Jan. 28, 2020. Revelations from President Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, threatened to upend the G.O.P. strategy for a fast impeachment trial. A handful of Republican senators appeared to be moving closer to Democrats, who want to vote to subpoena testimony from Mr. Bolton. Follow here for updates.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Takeaways from the Trump team’s day on defense, Amber Phillips, Jan. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Trump's lawyers started their day of arguments under the cloud of the Bolton revelations. How did they do?

More Coverage:

• Washington Post, Perspective: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar
• Washington Post, Newest GOP senator accuses Romney of trying to ‘appease the left’ in favoring witnesses
• Washington Post, Analysis: A ‘minor player’ and a ‘shiny object’: Trump team tries to explain away Giuliani

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump on Trial: John Bolton’s Account Upends Trump’s Denials, but Will It Upend Trump? Peter Baker, Jan. 28, 2020 (print ed.). A president who has survived one revelation after another the last three years now faces perhaps the most serious disclosure of his political career at the very moment he is on trial in the Senate. In another time, in another Washington, this might be the moment that changed the trajectory of the presidency. A former national security adviser confirms that the president, despite his denials, conditioned security aid to a war-torn ally on its cooperation against his domestic rivals, the issue at the heart of his ongoing impeachment trial.

djt john bolton CustomAt first glance, John R. Bolton’s account of President Trump’s private remarks sounded like an echo of the so-called smoking gun tape that proved President Richard M. Nixon really had orchestrated the Watergate cover-up and ultimately forced him from office. By the end of Monday, the revelation appeared to make it more likely that the Senate will agree to hear witnesses at the trial.

But this is Mr. Trump’s era and Mr. Trump’s Washington, and the old rules do not always apply anymore. The reality show star who was elected president even after he was captured on an “Access Hollywood” tape boasting about sexual assault has gone on to survive one politically charged furor after another during his three years in the White House, proving more durable than any national politician in modern American history.

So will this be a Watergate-style turning point or just one more disclosure that his critics consider validation without changing other minds? Will it be another smoking gun or another “Access Hollywood?”

ny times logoNew York Times, Bolton Revelations Anger Republicans, Fueling Push for Impeachment Witnesses, Jan. 28, 2020. The former national security adviser’s account threatened to derail Republican hopes of bringing President Trump’s impeachment trial to a quick close with his acquittal.

Here’s a look at how the opposing legal teams are framing the impeachment case.

Inside DC

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just tipped off how truly screwed he knows he is, Bill Palmer, Jan. 28, 2020. To say that Donald Trump had a bad day on Monday is to put it very mildly. His team put on a tinfoil hat-worthy impeachment trial defense (with one attorney shown above) that surely didn’t gain him a single 2020 vote, bill palmer report logo headereven as Senate Republicans began talking about how they now have the votes to start the process of calling people like John Bolton to testify.

By late last night, Trump was so flabbergasted about how it was all falling apart for him, he couldn’t help but give it away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Method in John Bolton’s Madness, Jonathan Stevenson (former staff member on the National Security Council), Jan. 28, 2020. Why wait until now to release damning information about Trump? There may be a method to the madness — four of them, in fact.

The first is patriotism. Although Mr. Bolton does hold extreme views about the use of American power, there is little doubt about his basic fealty to the United States constitutional system and to established American institutions. Having come of political age during the Cold War, he is a strong supporter of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and an opponent of Russia’s revanchism under President Vladimir Putin....

If nothing else, this week’s revelations show Mr. Bolton, even after being unceremoniously fired by his president, is still one of the cagiest political fighters in town.

Jan. 27

Impeachment Headlines

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Lev Parnas Trump Revelations

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Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Demands for Inquiries, Bolton Book Says, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump said he wanted to keep aid to Ukraine frozen until he got help with inquiries he sought, John Bolton (shown above in a Guardian file photo) wrote in drafts of a new book. The statement as described by Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, could undercut a key element of Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense.

john bolton surrender is not an optionPresident Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.

CNBC, Trump rages after reports that Bolton book claims president tied Ukraine aid to probes, Kevin Breuninger, Jan. 27, 2020. President Donald cnbc logoTrump vented rage Monday on Twitter, denying his ex-national security advisor John Bolton’s reported claim that the president withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to secure investigation into his political opponents.

But Trump flatly denied the account from Bolton, who left the White House in September amid a public dispute with the president over whether he resigned or was fired.

mitt romney headshot SmallLater Monday morning, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, right, of Utah told reporters, “I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”

President Donald Trump vented rage on Twitter just hours before his Senate impeachment trial was set to resume Monday, denying his ex-national security advisor John Bolton’s reported claim that military aid to Ukraine was frozen in order to secure investigation into Trump’s political donald trump twitteropponents.

Trump’s pushback came amid growing pressure for the Republican-majority Senate to allow witnesses to testify in the trial.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton, in his upcoming book “The Room Where It Happened,” wrote that ny times logoTrump personally tied a nearly $400 million aid package to Kyiv to an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. CNBC has not seen a copy of Bolton’s manuscript.

But Trump flatly denied the account from Bolton, who left the White House in September amid a public dispute with the president over whether he resigned or was fired.

“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump tweeted early Monday morning. “In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination.”

“If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump claimed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are five revelations from Mr. Bolton’s book, Noah Weiland, Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). New revelations from the former White House national security adviser could complicate President Trump’s impeachment trial. ​President Trump directly tied the withholding of almost $400 million in American security aid to investigations that he sought from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript of a book that John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, wrote about his time in the White House.

john bolton full cropped CustomThe firsthand account of the link between the aid and investigations, which is based on meetings and conversations Mr. Bolton had with Mr. Trump, undercuts a key component of the president’s impeachment defense: that the decision to freeze the aid was independent from his requests that Ukraine announce politically motivated investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

In their opening arguments on Saturday in Mr. Trump’s trial, the president’s lawyers asserted that Mr. Trump had legitimate concerns about corruption in Ukraine and whether other countries were offering enough help for its war against Russian-backed separatists, which his lawyers said explained his reluctance to release the aid. They also said that Democrats had no direct evidence of the quid pro quo they allege at the heart of their impeachment case.

Multiple people described Mr. Bolton’s account. A draft of the manuscript, which offers a glimpse into how Mr. Bolton might testify in the trial if he were called to, was sent to the White House in recent weeks for a standard review process.

Here are five takeaways.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats call for Bolton to testify in Trump trial after new report on aid to Ukraine, Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez​, Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times, citing an unpublished manuscript of the former national security adviser’s book, reported that the president told John Bolton last August he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it aided investigations into the Bidens.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: John Roberts Can Call Witnesses to Trump’s Trial. Will He? Neal K. Katyal, right, Joshua A. Geltzer and Mickey Edwards, neal katyal oJan. 27, 2020. Democratic House managers should ask the chief justice to issue subpoenas for John Bolton and others.

the impeachment rules, like all trial systems, put a large thumb on the scale of issuing subpoenas and place that power within the authority of the judge, in this case the chief justice.

Most critically, it would take a two-thirds vote — not a majority — of the Senate to overrule that. This week, Democrats can and should ask the chief justice to issue subpoenas on his authority so that key witnesses of relevance like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney appear in the Senate, and the Senate should subpoena all relevant documents as well.

Mr. Katyal and Mr. Geltzer are law professors at Georgetown. Mr. Edwards is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment trial live updates: Trump team to resume defense amid fallout from new report on Bolton’s claim on withholding military aid from Ukraine, John Wagner, Jan. 27, 2020. President Trump’s legal team is set to resume its defense Monday in his Senate impeachment trial amid fallout from a new report that Trump told then-national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it aided investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: John Bolton’s bombshell gives the GOP a glimpse of its nightmare scenario, Aaron Blake, Jan. 27, 2020.  We finally got a taste Sunday night of what former national security adviser John Bolton might tell President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial — if he’s called to testify, that is.

What we learned reinforced the potential peril for Republicans if they refuse to let him do so.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Now we know why Donald Trump was racing against the clock, Bill Palmer, Jan. 27, 2020. Donald Trump and his legal team used just over two hours, out of their eight allotted hours for the day [Saturday], to present their farce of an impeachment trial defense. Then they called it a day. It suggested that they weren’t actually prepared to make a presentation, and that they had originally been planning to wait until Monday, before something suddenly changed.

bill palmer report logo headerAt the time, Palmer Report pointed out that Donald Trump appeared to be increasingly worried about the evidence that kept surfacing against him, and thus increasingly worried about Republican Senators deciding to cover their backsides by voting to call witnesses. By starting his defense on Saturday instead of waiting 'til Monday, Trump was ensuring that the trial would end sooner, and thus perhaps wrap up before the whole thing got out of control.

Now, thanks to the New York Times, we know that John Bolton’s upcoming book confirms that Donald Trump was guilty of a quid pro quo in his Ukraine scandal. We also now know that Bolton sent an advance copy of his book to the Trump White House last month, in order to get djt john bolton Customconfirmation that it didn’t contain any classified information.

This means Donald Trump was aware that John Bolton was looking to publish his book right around the time of the impeachment trial, and that Bolton was therefore likely going to end up wanting to testify at the trial in order to promote the book.

Republican Senators were already feeling the pressure to call witnesses as the Lev Parnas and “take her out” bombshells were dropping. Now we know that Trump knew the Bolton bombshell was coming too. No wonder he was having his lawyers try to get the trial over with as quickly as possible, even at the expense of forfeiting large chunks of his own defense presentation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Schiff ‘has not paid the price’ for impeachment, Trump says in what appears to be veiled threat, Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck, Jan. 27, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump escalated his attacks on Rep. Adam B. Schiff on Sunday, issuing what appears to be a veiled threat against the California Democrat one day before Trump’s team is expected to deliver the crux of its defense in the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “He adam schiff squarehas not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial.

Schiff, right, responded in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” saying he believes Trump’s remarks were intended as a threat.

“This is a wrathful and vindictive president; I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Schiff said in the interview. “And if you think there is, look at the president’s tweets about me today, saying that I should ‘pay a price.’ ”

Jan. 26

Impeachment Headlines

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Lev Parnas Trump Revelations

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World News

U.S. 2020 Elections

 

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Defense Begins by Accusing Democrats of Subverting Election, Peter Baker, Jan. 26, 2020 (print ed.). President’s Lawyers Give Radically Different View of Facts. President Trump’s legal team attacked his accusers as trying to remove him because they could not beat him at the ballot box. Mr. Trump’s lawyers sought to turn the charges back on Democrats while denouncing the process as illegitimate.

President Trump’s legal defense team mounted an aggressive offense on Saturday as it opened its side in the Senate impeachment trial by attacking his Democratic accusers as partisan witch-hunters trying to remove him from office because they could not beat him at the ballot box.

After three days of arguments by the House managers prosecuting Mr. Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, the president’s lawyers presented the senators a radically different view of the facts and the Constitution, seeking to turn the Democrats’ charges back on them while denouncing the whole process as illegitimate.

“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots all across the country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel (shown above), said of the House managers. “They’re here,” he added moments later, “to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we can’t allow that to happen.”

The president’s team spent only two of the 24 hours allotted to them so that senators could leave town for the weekend before the defense presentation resumes on Monday, but it was the first time his lawyers have formally made a case for him since the House opened its inquiry in September. The goal was to poke holes in the House managers’ arguments in order to provide enough fodder to Senate Republicans already inclined to acquit him.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Trump lawyers’ weak start opens the door to devastating questions, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 26, 2020. President Trump’s lawyers’ repeated assertions Saturday that they would not take much time on their case confirmed that they know the result is in the bag and that they have embarrassingly little to say in Trump’s defense. The central problem for them remains: How do you contest the facts, or claim an absence of evidence when you won’t allow in available evidence?

As Democratic senators think ahead to question time, they might start formulating questions that perform one of five functions.

  • First are the questions that expose the lies.
  • Second are the questions that obviously require new documents and witnesses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Could Mr. Trump muzzle Mr. Bolton? We explain the limits of executive privilege, Charlie Savage, Jan. 26, 2020 (print ed.).  If senators vote to subpoena testimony for the impeachment trial, the president may not be able to block or delay a willing witness.

Republican senators allied with President Trump are increasingly arguing that the Senate should not call witnesses or subpoena documents for his impeachment trial because Mr. Trump has threatened to invoke executive privilege, and a legal fight would take too long to resolve.

But it is far from clear that Mr. Trump has the power to gag or delay a witness who is willing to comply with a subpoena and tell the Senate what he knows about the president’s interactions with Ukraine anyway — as Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John R. Bolton has said he would do.

Here is an explanation of executive privilege legal issues.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House quickly seizes on John Bolton’s new Donald Trump bombshell, Bill Palmer, Jan. 26, 2020. John Bolton decided that today would be a good day to leak the portion of his upcoming book that spells out Donald Trump’s guilt in his Ukraine extortion scandal. This is a big deal considering how much weight Bolton carries with Republicans, and considering that the Republican-controlled Senate is set to vote this upcoming week on whether to have Bolton testify in Trump’s impeachment trial.

bill palmer report logo headerWe’ll see what the Senate Republicans do. If they have John Bolton testify, they risk alienating Donald Trump, and thus alienating Trump’s voters. If they don’t have Bolton testify, they’ll definitely alienate mainstream voters. GOP Senators know that if they make the wrong choice, they could cost themselves their current majority, and in some instances cost themselves their own seats.

House Democrats know that Senate Republicans are well aware of this, and they’re quickly seizing on this new opportunity. Lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff tweeted this: “Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the President’s defense. If the trial is to be fair, Senators must insist that Mr. Bolton be called as a witness, and provide his notes and other documents. House impeachment manager Val Demings tweeted this: “There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the President’s defense and therefore must be called as a witness at the impeachment trial of President Trump.”

If Senate Republicans still decide to acquit Donald Trump without even bothering to call an apparently eager John Bolton to testify, it’s easy to envision a scenario where the House then calls Bolton to testify in a subsequent hearing, thus making Trump and the Senate Republicans look terrible heading into the 2020 election. We don’t know precisely what House Democrats will do with this, but it looks like they’re not going to let this go. Nor should they.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Yes, Secretary Pompeo, Americans Should Care About Ukraine, William B. Taylor (right, former United States ambassador to Ukraine), Jan. 26, 2020. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv later this week, william taylor o Customhe has reportedly asked, “Do Americans care about Ukraine?”

Here’s why the answer should be yes: Ukraine is defending itself and the West against Russian attack. No matter the outcome of the debate about the propriety of a phone call between the two presidents, the relationship between the United States and Ukraine is key to our national security. Americans should care about Ukraine.

Russia is fighting a hybrid war against Ukraine, Europe and the United States. This war has many components: armed military aggression, energy supply, cyberattacks, disinformation and election interference. On each of these battlegrounds, Ukraine is the front line.

For the last seven months, I represented the United States in Ukraine and regularly visited the front line of the military conflict. After its occupation of Crimea, Russia sent its army, security forces, undercover agents, weapons, funding and political instruction into Ukraine’s southeastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, a region known as the Donbas. The 280-mile line of contact between Russian-led forces and Ukrainian forces has stabilized but has not gone quiet.

To the contrary, the front line in the Donbas region marks the only shooting war in Europe. Every week Russian-led forces kill Ukrainian soldiers — and take casualties in return. During the 12 hours of my last visit, in November, a Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded. Since the Russians invaded in 2014, 14,000 Ukrainians have died in this war.

Lev Parnas Trump Revelations

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Donald Trump and colleagues, including donor Lev Parnas at an April 2018 dinner (Parnas photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Tape Made Public of Trump Discussing Ambassador’s Firing With Donors, “Get rid of her,” Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Protess, Jan. 26, 2020. Cellphone video captured President Trump ordering the ambassador’s ouster while dining with two key players in the Ukraine affair.

For more than an hour one evening in 2018, President Trump sat around a dinner table in a private suite in his Washington hotel with a group of donors, including two men at the center of the impeachment inquiry, talking about golf, trade, politics — and removing the United States ambassador to Ukraine.

The conversation, captured on a recording made public Saturday, contradicted Mr. Trump’s repeated statements that he does not know the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who went on to work with the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to carry out a pressure campaign on Ukraine.

The recording — a video shot on Mr. Fruman’s phone during the dinner in April 2018 — largely confirmed Mr. Parnas’s account of having raised with Mr. Trump criticisms of the ambassador to Kyiv at the time, Marie L. Yovanovitch, left, and the president’s immediate order that Ms. Yovanovitch marie yovanovitchshould be removed from the post.

“Get rid of her,” Mr. Trump can be heard responding.

The recording was made public by Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, hours after the president’s lawyers began presenting their defense in the impeachment trial and as Democrats looked for leverage to persuade Republicans to support their calls to expand the inquiry by introducing additional evidence and calling new witnesses.

Mr. Bondy said it was being released in “an effort to provide clarity to the American people and the Senate as to the need to conduct a fair trial, with witnesses and evidence.”

In the recording, Mr. Parnas, who is the more talkative of the two, broached an energy deal the two were pursuing in Ukraine, and then went on to discuss several themes that later became central to the pressure campaign. He claimed that Ms. Yovanovitch, whose name he did not cite, had been disparaging Mr. Trump. He said that the Ukrainians “were supporting the Clintons all these years.” He even mentioned in passing the family of the former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just gambled and won, Bill Palmer, Jan. 26, 2020. Given the haphazard and slightly mis-timed manner in which it came to fruition, it’s highly doubtful that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats knew that a tape of Donald Trump telling Lev and Igor to “take her out” was going to leak to the media. If Pelosi had this recording up her sleeve, it would have been employed by the House managers during their impeachment trial presentation.

bill palmer report logo headerThat said, this leaked tape is the kind of development that Nancy Pelosi was betting on. She held onto the articles of impeachment for as long as she could (until the media finally started trying to use it against her), knowing that the extra time would allow for Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal to further unravel on several fronts.

In that time we’ve seen Lev Parnas release damning evidence against Trump. We’ve seen John Bolton publicly offer to testify. Now we’ve got someone, who may or may not be Igor, but who is definitely not Lev, leaking this recording of Trump. Some of these are more meaningful wins than others, and some of them may not go anywhere. But the point is that things keep surfacing, and they’re going to keep surfacing.

nancy pelosi djt 2 olderIf Pelosi hadn’t waited, the trial would be over by now, and Trump would be crowing about his sham acquittal before any of this could come out.

The kicker is that once the Senate Republicans stake themselves to acquitting Donald Trump, even more evidence will keep surfacing which proves his guilt. At that point the House can launch new investigative hearings, which may or may not center around new articles of impeachment, and new witnesses and evidence can be put on display for all to see. It’ll further harm Trump’s 2020 chances, which is the name of the game.

And it’ll harm the GOP’s chances of keeping the Senate in 2020, because the idiots will have acquitted Trump while he’s going to be increasingly seen as being guilty by the public. No one in politics has a magic wand, but Pelosi played the odds, and she’s winning.

rudolph giuliani igor fruman dmitry torner lev parnas paris cigar may joseph bondy Custom

Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, in shirtsleeves, meets with, from left, Igor Fruman, business executive Dmitry Torner and Lev Parnas at a Paris cigar bar in May (Photo courtesy of Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy)

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Lev Parnas is afraid of Bill Barr -- and he should be, Thom Hartmann, Jan. 26, 2020. Lev Parnas recently told Rachel Maddow that he's more afraid of Attorney General Bill Barr than he is of the mobbed-up foreign oligarchs he has betrayed. Barr, after all, can weaponize our prisons to punish Parnas.

"Am I scared?" he said. "Yes, because I think I'm more scared of our own Justice Department than these criminals right now."

An attorney general willing to bend or even break the law -- and certainly willing to conceal crimes and lie to the American people -- can be a corrupt president's last line of defense.

When a whistleblower in the White House reported that Trump was bribing and extorting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that report first went to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who thought it was evidence Trump had committed a serious crime. william barr at dojAtkinson deemed it an "urgent concern" and then gave it to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, Maguire was supposed to then hand it over to congressional intelligence committees. Instead, he made a pit-stop at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which handed it over to Bill Barr's office.

Which is where it died, until ICIG Atkinson reached out to the House Intelligence Committee to let them know about Barr's cover-up.

The whistleblower's complaint is quite specific. "The whistleblower implicates Barr directly in the opening lines of the complaint," Tessa Berenson wrote for Time magazine on September 26, 2019. She then quoted from the whistleblower.

lev parnas ivanka jared kushner

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Four significant questions raised by the recording of Trump and Lev Parnas, Philip Bump, Jan. 26, 2020. The video raises questions about the timeline of the push to oust the ambassador and the president's claims about his support for Ukraine.

At the beginning of a video released Saturday by an attorney representing Lev Parnas (shown above in a photo with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump), we see a hallway. At the end of the hallway is an arch with a dark-colored backdrop, in front of which two people appear to be posing for a photograph. Behind the person on the left is what looks like an American flag.

That shot, by itself, establishes what we’re looking at: Footage captured during an April 30, 2018 fundraising dinner for the group America First Action, held at Trump’s hotel in D.C. That shot is definitive because it’s trivial to match that distant scene with one we’ve seen from a much closer perspective, thanks to material released by the House Intelligence Committee. In one photo from the committee, for example, we see Parnas and President Trump standing in front of an archway with blue curtains, flanked by American flags.

lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020Parnas, left, would eventually become tightly integrated into Trump’s circle, though the distance at which he was kept varies depending on who you ask. Trump insists that Parnas, an eventual business associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, was only given access to the president because he’d contributed to Trump’s campaign or to America First. Parnas, the argument goes, was simply one of hundreds of such people who take photos with the president.

To hear Parnas tell it, though, his work for Giuliani in late 2018 and 2019 was well-known by Trump and was integral to the effort to get Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a possible opponent of Trump’s in the upcoming election.

The release of the video — or, really, an audio snippet of the dinner released on Friday — doesn’t entirely help settle the question. This was, after all, a fundraising dinner of the type to which Trump referred. It was one of several instances in which Parnas’s proximity to the president was predicated primarily on his having given money to do so.

But, then, at one point Parnas tells Trump that then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had disparaged the president, prompting Trump to say that she should be removed from her position. It’s a response that seems to conflict with the idea that Trump was simply interacting with a random donor, seemingly bolstering Parnas’s insinuations that his relationship with Trump was substantial.

It comes down to a question with no good answer: Is the president lying about his relationship with Parnas or is he prone to endorsing rash personnel changes based on unfounded assertions from strangers?

Jan. 25

Impeachment Headlines

djt impeachment graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, Adam Schiff delivered a detailed, hour-long summary of the Democrats’ impeachment case. Some Republicans dismissed it because of one line, Mike DeBonis,Jan. 25, 2020. Rep. Adam B. Schiff spoke for nearly an hour closing the House’s case for the removal of President Trump, advancing and rebutting scores of arguments, but many Republican senators left the chamber talking about only one line: His reference to a news report that GOP senators were warned that if they vote against the president, their “head will be on a pike.”

“Not true!” an indignant Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) bristled afterward, saying senators were “visibly upset” by the comment. “Nothing like going through three days of frustration and then cap it with an insult on everybody.”

The reference came from a CBS News report that had gone viral earlier Friday, quoting an anonymous Trump confidant claiming that senators were warned that “your head will be on a pike” if they vote against the president on impeachment. The report did not say who had delivered the threat or which senators had been so warned.

The reference came from a CBS News report that had gone viral earlier Friday, quoting an anonymous Trump confidant claiming that senators were warned that “your head will be on a pike” if they vote against the president on impeachment. The report did not say who had delivered the threat or which senators had been so warned.

adam schiff square“I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff (D-Calif.), right, said. “I hope it’s not true. But I’m struck by the irony of the idea, when we’re talking about a president who would make himself a monarch, that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was imposed by a monarch — a head on a pike.”

Schiff sandwiched the reference between an anecdote about his father trying to get into the military with bad eyes and a flat feet during World War II, succeeding on the third attempt, and a tribute to the late representative Thomas F. Railsback (R-Ill.), who worked to build bipartisan support for President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), normally staid, smiled as Schiff told the story about his dad, which delved into lessons of courage as he urged the Republicans to break with their party leader.

When Schiff mentioned the alleged “head on a pike” threat, the GOP side of the chamber began to murmur and shift in outrage.

“That’s not true!” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who shook her head angrily, then crossed her arms over her chest in protest for the rest of his speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates, Trump’s defense team prepares to counterpunch, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, Jan. 25, 2020. After three days of arguments from House prosecutors, Trump’s team gets its chance; House delivers 28,578 page trial record to Senate; Trump encourages followers to tune in, insults several Democrats; Inhofe says House managers made no headway; Sen. Cramer says he thinks trial will end ‘much sooner’ than he previously thought; Trump’s team to target Bidens.

President Trump’s defense team began its presentation Saturday in an abbreviated session of a historic impeachment trial focused on his pat cipollone file croppedconduct toward Ukraine.

The presentation, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, right, and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, below left, follows a three-day opening argument by House managers, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who urged Trump’s removal from office for jay sekulowalleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The crux of House Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, as well as his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to argue that the president was justified in seeking the investigation because of a history of corruption involving the company and that he committed no crimes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s team to target Bidens, Rachael Bade, Robert Costa, Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 25, 2020. The president’s allies believe that if they can argue that he had a plausible reason for requesting the Biden investigation, they can both defend him against the charges and undercut a political adversary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis, The return of Ken Starr: He investigated Clinton and now defends Trump, Michael S. Rosenwald, Jan. 25, 2020. Starr produced a steamy report that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998. Back then, Trump considered him "off his rocker."

Jan. 24

Impeachment Headlines

DC & Election Headlines

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

djt impeachment graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats emphasize abuse-of-power charge against Trump as GOP complains of repetition, Seung Min Kim, John Wagner and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). House managers also detail a defense of Biden’s actions regarding Ukraine.

democratic donkey logoOn the impeachment trial’s second day, House lawmakers charged that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into political investigations were what the nation’s founders sought to guard against. But many Senate Republicans remained unmoved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House managers to turn to obstruction-of-Congress charge against Trump, John Wagner, Jan. 24, 2020. Sen. Markey says not holding Trump accountable gives future presidents ‘carte blanche;’ Warren pledges to release Ukraine documents if elected us senate logopresident; Sen. Barrasso again complains of repetition;

House managers plan Friday to turn their attention to the obstruction-of-Congress charge against President Trump on their third and final day of opening arguments in the historic impeachment trial focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

After the managers, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), wrap up their presentation, lawyers for Trump will get an opportunity to present his defense. Their presentation is expected to start Saturday — which Trump referred to as “Death Valley in T.V.” in a tweet — and continue into early next week.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: A GOP senator traffics in flimsy allegations to impugn a key impeachment witness — again

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, Democrats Seek to Pre-empt Trump Defense as Focus Turns to Bidens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats argued that President Trump was acting in his own interests, not the nation’s, when he sought to enlist Ukraine to investigate his rivals. In doing so, they took a calculated risk in talking about Mr. Trump’s targets: former Vice President Joe Biden, right, and his son, Hunter Biden.

djt impeachment head on pike graphic Custom 2

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump aide warns of "revenge;" another threat warns, "Your head will be on a pike," Wayne Madsen, below at left, Jan. 24, 2020. As House Impeachment Managers began wrapping up their Senate trial arguments for removal of Donald John Trump from the presidency, two sinister warnings were received by those involved in the trial.

One Trump confidante warned Republican senators, "Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike," while top presidential aide Eric Ueland warned that "the revenge" for the impeachment trial is "coming soon."

America elected a gangster as president. Now, it cannot get rid of him, even by impeachment and a Senate trial.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Opinion: King Trump Wants Heads on Pikes. GOP Can’t Wait to Oblige, Rick Wilson, Jan. 24, 2020. The creation of a new form of American government, where the executive branch is permanently and utterly above the law, oversight, and accountability is upon us.

“Head on a pike.” “Take her out.” A rigged Senate impeachment trial with a foregone conclusion where one party isn’t even bothering to pretend they have the least commitment to truth, the rule of law, or the good of the country. Calls for the arrests and court-martial of whistleblowers and truth-tellers. An endless assault on a free press. Taken separately, these are troubling glimpses inside the political hurricane of the moment, but as a mosaic, they portend something so much more dangerous.

The enemy is always within for Trump. The abundant testimony by Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman and others about Trump’s effort led by Rudy Giuliani and his private henchmen to wreck Joe Biden led to the abrupt removal of Yovanovitch isn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was that Trump is caught on a recording admitting it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Day 3 of Mr. Trump’s Trial: The Legal Seminar, Michelle Cottle, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The House managers walked the Senate jury through the constitutional and historical basis for the president’s impeachment.

Thursday was constitutional analysis day in the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Trump, which means the House managers’ case got more complicated, more abstract — and that much harder to hold the audience’s attention.

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomThis is not a dig at the prosecution. As on Wednesday, when they spent eight hours constructing a detailed blueprint of Mr. Trump’s misbehavior, the managers threw themselves — with gusto — into explaining the constitutional ins and outs of impeachment. And just as before, they came equipped with slides, photos and video clips. They even brought instructional materials for the senators.

Their preparedness is impressive. Even Representative Matt Gaetz, the devoted Trump cheerleader from Florida, observed earlier this week that, thus far, the Democrats’ presentation looked as though it was “cable news” while the president’s defense team’s looked like “an eighth-grade book report.”

That said, while Wednesday’s narrative of presidential scheming and obstruction was a nonstop pile-on of damning testimony and other hard evidence, Thursday’s argument began with a lengthy seminar by one of the House managers, Representative Jerry Nadler, on the framers’ intent regarding impeachment.

Mr. Nadler sought to “examine the law of impeachable offenses,” with a special focus on showing that — contrary to the claims of Mr. Trump’s apologists — a crime need not have been committed to justify this course of action. This required much discussion of historical precedent, multiple clips of constitutional scholars testifying before the House and, of course, many, many quotations from the founding fathers.

Inside DC

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Abusing His Tariff Power, Too, Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Trump’s scofflaw behavior with regard to auto tariffs is part of a broader pattern of abuse of power and contempt for the rule of law. On every front, Trump treats U.S. policy as a tool he can deploy as he chooses, in his own interests, without seeking congressional approval or even informing Congress about what he’s doing or why.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Threatens California Over Abortion, Pam Belluck, Jan. 24, 2020. If the state doesn’t stop requiring private insurers to cover abortions, the administration said it will cut off federal funding for certain health programs.

In an announcement on the morning of the March for Life, the high-profile annual demonstration against anti-abortion rights, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would give California 30 days to commit to lifting the requirement. If the state does not do so, the administration said it will take steps to cut off money from one or more health funding streams.

“People should not be forced to participate, or pay for, or cover other people’s abortions,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. The administration issued a notice of violation, claiming that California was not complying with the federal Weldon Amendment, which says that certain funds can be withheld if a state or local government discriminates against a “health care entity” for not providing or paying for abortions.

The announcement was intended as a warning shot to several other states besides California who have similar requirements that insurers cover abortion, including New York, Oregon and Washington. “We’re sending a message that if any state has done what California has done, they should expect to be found likewise in violation,” Mr. Severino said.

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said on Friday that the state would not change its requirement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Addresses Anti-Abortion March for Life, Annie Karni, Elizabeth Dias and Sabrina Tavernise, Jan. 24, 2020. He was the first sitting president to speak in person during the annual rally. Demonstrators flooded the National Mall on Friday morning in anticipation of a historic moment for the anti-abortion movement: the first sitting president to address the annual March for Life in person.

Past Republican presidents who opposed abortion merely sent in video messages, or delegated a surrogate to speak in their place.

Mr. Trump’s relationship with the anti-abortion movement has been a transactional one since he entered politics in 2016. He has focused his efforts in particular on white evangelicals and Catholics, a critical part of his base in 2016, who could also be equally important in November.In exchange for the appointment of anti-abortion judges, his unwavering support for Israel and his attempts to protect the rights of students to pray in schools, they have generally overlooked Mr. Trump’s own complicated past with the issue and his own history of three marriages and two divorces.

2020 U.S. Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump May Skip Debates, or Seek New Host, if Process Isn’t ‘Fair,’ Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, Jan. 24, 2020. The nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates has sponsored every general election debate since 1988, but the Trump campaign has raised concerns about its 2020 events. President Trump’s campaign is considering only participating in general election debates if an outside firm serves as the host, and his advisers recently sat down with the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates to complain about the debates it hosted in 2016.

President Donald Trump officialThe Dec. 19 meeting between Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., a prominent Republican and co-chairman of the commission, Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for Mr. Trump’s re-election effort, and another political adviser, Michael Glassner, came soon after Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that the 2016 debates had been “biased.”

Mr. Fahrenkopf said the meeting was cordial, but that Mr. Parscale essentially reiterated Mr. Trump’s complaints.

Mr. Parscale said “that the president wanted to debate, but they had concerns about whether or not to do it with the commission,” Mr. Fahrenkopf said, including worries about “whether or not the commission would be fair.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers asserted that the debate commission included “anti-Trumpers.” They also complained about previous moderators, Mr. Fahrenkopf said.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am truly proud to stand with you’: Trump speaks at March for Life rally, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Nakamura, Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein, Jan. 24, 2020. President Trump has endeared himself to the antiabortion movement, particularly through his appointment of Supreme Court justices.

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AlterNet, Far-right white evangelicals love Trump for many reasons — including their terrifying obsession with the End Times: report, Alex Henderson, Jan. 24, 2020. The Christian Right loves President Donald Trump for a variety of reasons, from his racist rhetoric and anti-immigrant views to all the far-right judges he has added to the federal courts. But journalist Stephanie Mencimer, this week in an article for Mother Jones, focuses on one of their most disturbing reasons for being so pro-Trump: an obsession with the End Times.

In Protestant Christianity, one finds both fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists. Mainline Protestants (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, the African Methodist Episcopal or AME Church) study the Bible intensely, but they don’t have the obsession with the End Times and the New Testament’s Book of Revelation that the fundamentalist Christian Right has. And even though Trump himself is not a fundamentalist (he was raised Presbyterian), he is more than happy to pander to far-right white evangelicals — who, as Mencimer explains in her article, believe that Trump is important to the end of the world. The Christian Right welcomes the End Times because as they see it, Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the last days.

Mencimer, in her article, quotes religious historian Diane Butler Bass, who offers some insights on why the Christian Right believe Trump could play an important role in the End Times — and why the Christian Right has been applauding the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. Bass told Mother Jones, “When Iran gets into the news, especially with anything to do with war, it’s sort of a prophetic dog whistle to evangelicals. They will support anything that seems to edge the world towards this conflagration. They don’t necessarily want violence, but they’re eager for Christ to return — and they think that this war with Iran and Israel has to happen for their larger hope to pass.”

djt somber CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just offered a glimpse of how horrifying a second term would be, Virginia Masters, Jan. 24, 2020. The election season has collided with impeachment time. The startling lack of movement in Trump’s popularity suggests that it is more important than ever that we are all listening very carefully. Trump is on the way to a likely acquittal in his impeachment trial. The Republican Senate is not honoring its oath for a fair trial based on clear evidence of questionable actions.

bill palmer report logo headerOnce again, and true to form, a Republican President is speaking about supposed “waste and fraud” in Social Security. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump told the world that it would be easy to attack these programs and that doing so would allow for more significant economic growth. Poetic words for the fiscal conservatives among us. Providing voters with more cause for fear of a second Trump term, the “entitlement” of Social Security comes out of every paycheck for every American from their first job to their last. Just as the Trump lawyers cannot get him to stop talking and incriminating himself, Trump betrays himself over and over. A secret audio clip recorded at a recent trip to the “southern White House” captured Trump boasting about the size of the deficit.

Does he comprehend that this is not a good thing? We have the best deficit, an incredible deficit… the biggest deficit ever. The world could question why a man who filed for bankruptcy six times, and whose policies created such a record debt, should speak at an economic summit. The last time Trump looked at “waste and fraud,” he cut SNAP benefits for millions of Americans who rely on the supplemental food program. Waste and Fraud?

Americans could undoubtedly question Steve Mnuchin’s refusal to release the expense reports for Donald Trump’s travel spending for himself and his family. Steven Mnuchin and the whole criminal gang don’t want to release these numbers until after the 2020 election. They like their cushy jobs. They hope you aren’t listening.

More Impeachment Coverage

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: All the anti-Republican Senate ads Democrats could possibly want, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 24, 2020. The impeachment trial will not result in President Trump’s removal, but it could well result in Republicans’ removal from the Senate majority.

A slew of Republican incumbents were below 45 percent approval even before the trial began, including Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and John Cornyn (Tex.). In their refusal to allow new witnesses and documents, their determination to acquit even before the trial began and their conduct during the trial, they are creating a plethora of opportunities for opponents’ ad makers.

washington post logogeorge conway post half faceWashington Post, There’s a critical witness impeachment is missing: Trump, George T. Conway III, right, Jan. 24, 2020. There is an important missing witness in the impeachment of President Trump, and his last name, for all the fulminations of the president’s defenders, isn’t Biden.

No, that witness is Trump himself — and the best case for calling him has been established by an argument advanced by the president’s own lawyers. Trump’s testimony is actually pertinent for precisely the reason the Bidens’ testimony is not.

U.S. House logoTrump’s lawyers contend that a president should not be impeached and removed for making a bona fide policy judgment, whether or not that judgment turns out to be misguided or wrong. On that point, they’re absolutely right. If a president makes a reasoned decision about what best serves the nation’s interests, even if he turns out to be wrong, he has committed no impeachable offense. The Framers didn’t intend, through impeachment, to transform such policy disputes or mistakes into high crimes.

The claim that Trump acted for legitimate reasons ostensibly serves as the basis for his backers’ suggestions that former vice president Joe Biden or his son Hunter should be called to testify. The theory of summoning the Bidens would be to lend credence to the contention that Trump’s involvement in Ukraine was genuinely motivated by concern over corruption there.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Trump wants you to think ‘everyone does it.’ No, they don’t, Max Boot, Jan. 24, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: The impeachment evidence will catch up to Republicans and Trump — whether they ignore it or not, Editorial Board.

washington post logoWashington Post, A GOP senator trafficked in flimsy allegations to impugn Alexander Vindman. And then Trump retweeted it, Aaron Blake, Jan. 24, 2020. Republicans have repeatedly argued that the impeachment evidence against President Trump is thin. They’ve said it is based upon “hearsay” that wasn’t corroborated by people more intimately involved with the Ukraine effort (whose testimony the White House has blocked). They’ve suggested, despite numerous witnesses testifying to similar things, that the witnesses weren’t credible and that they might have axes to grind.

alexander vindman cropped oct 29 2019Blackburn referred to an allegation that Vindman had badmouthed the United States in a conversation with Russians while serving overseas.

“Adam Schiff is hailing Alexander Vindman as an American patriot,” Blackburn said. “How patriotic is it to badmouth and ridicule our great nation in front of Russia, America’s greatest enemy?”

Trump then retweeted the allegation Friday morning.

The problem with this very severe allegation — made against a Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq, no less — is that it’s anything but verified. It was made on Twitter in November by someone who said they had served with Vindman. Another person later launched a Twitter account confirming it. The New York Times reported that the originator of the claim had also trafficked in QAnon conspiracy theories but claimed they didn’t necessarily believe in the movement.

state dept map logo Smallwashington post logoWashington Post, Recording of Trump calling for Yovanovitch’s ouster appears to corroborate Parnas’s account, Colby Itkowitz and Rosalind S. Helderman, Jan. 24, 2020. President Trump is allegedly heard on an audio recording demanding the firing of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a private dinner with top donors in April 2018, according to an audio file obtained by ABC News.

marie yovanovitch“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump is heard saying, according to ABC News, which said it reviewed the tape.

The recording, which The Washington Post has not independently verified, corroborates an account of the evening by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani. In a recent interview, Parnas said he told Trump that evening that Yovanovitch was working against him.

“I do remember me telling the president the ambassador was bad-mouthing him and saying he was going to get impeached, something to that effect,” Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Rudy Pal Taped Trump Trying to Fire Ukraine Amb: Lawyer, Betsy Swan, Jan. 24, 2020. The tape may contradict Trump’s claim that he does not know the two Giuliani associates who worked to have the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed. A recently indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani taped President Donald Trump calling for the firing of Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, according to the lawyer for a second Giuliani associate.

Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Florida businessman Lev Parnas, told The Daily Beast that the recording was made by former partner Igor Fruman. Both men were arrested in October and charged with campaign-finance violations.

ABC News reported Friday morning that it reviewed audio of a dinner attended by Trump, Parnas, Fruman, and others. A voice that appears to be the president’s tells the group that he wanted to “get rid of” Yovanovitch, per ABC, an apparent contradiction to Trump’s claim that he does not know Parnas.

“Last year, before he was arrested, Mr. Parnas personally heard a recording of his April 30, 2018 dinner with the president and others, made by Mr. Fruman, at which the subject of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed,” Bondy said. “We have hoped that, to the extent this recording still existed, it would be released to Congress for use in the impeachment trial.”

A lawyer for Fruman was not at liberty to discuss the matter. ABC News review matches the description Bondy gave The Daily Beast. Unnamed sources told the network that Fruman made the recording, which The Daily Beast has not reviewed.

Parnas has previously described a dinner at Trump Hotel with supporters of the president in April 2018 that he and Fruman attended. He said that he raised concerns about Yovanovitch to Trump, and that the president then turned to an aide and told him she should be fired. At the time, Yovanovitch was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Giuliani, Fruman, and Parnas were trying to have her fired.

  • Daily Beast, Schiff Exposes McConnell’s Upside-Down Stalinist Show Trial, Michael Tomasky

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign warns debate commission the president may not participate if process is not ‘fair,’ Josh Dawsey and Dan Balz, Jan. 24, 2020. Senior Trump campaign officials lobbied the nonpartisan presidential debate commission last month over the makeup of its board of directors and its moderator choices, pushing for a process they deemed as “fair” and warning that the president may not participate if he is not satisfied, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The December conversation between Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, campaign operating officer Michael Glassner and Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, came as the president weighed whether to participate in the trio of debates scheduled for this fall and as he attacked the commission on Twitter.

Privately, the president has discussed with allies a push to remake the board but has not yet taken specific actions, according to people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private encounter.

ny times logoNew York Times,Senators Battle a Persistent Foe: Their Own Restlessness, Staff report, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). They have been required to sit in silence, but fidget spinners are allowed. Some lawmakers pass notes. Others drink milk. A couple appeared to nap.

Impeachment Headlines

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats emphasize abuse-of-power charge against Trump as GOP complains of repetition, Seung Min Kim, John Wagner and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 24, 2020 (print ed.). House managers also detail a defense of Biden’s actions regarding Ukraine.

On the impeachment trial’s second day, House lawmakers charged that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into political investigations were what the nation’s founders sought to guard against. But many Senate Republicans remained unmoved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House managers to turn to obstruction-of-Congress charge against Trump, John Wagner, Jan. 24, 2020. Sen. Markey says not holding Trump accountable gives future presidents ‘carte blanche;’ Warren pledges to release Ukraine documents if elected president; Sen. Barrasso again complains of repetition;

House managers plan Friday to turn their attention to the obstruction-of-Congress charge against President Trump on their third and final day of opening arguments in the historic impeachment trial focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

After the managers, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), wrap up their presentation, lawyers for Trump will get an opportunity to present his defense. Their presentation is expected to start Saturday — which Trump referred to as “Death Valley in T.V.” in a tweet — and continue into early next week.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: A GOP senator traffics in flimsy allegations to impugn a key impeachment witness — again

Jan. 23

Impeachment Headlines

 

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House managers to focus on alleged abuse of power, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Jan. 23, 2020. Democrats begin their second day of opening arguments against Trump.

House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), plan to begin the second day of their opening arguments against President Trump by focusing on alleged abuse of power, one of the two articles of impeachment approved last month by the House.

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Thursday afternoon for the historic trial — only the third of a sitting U.S. president — focused on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. The Democratic-led House has also charged Trump with obstruction of Congress. Trump’s defense is expected to begin its presentation on Saturday.

The crux of the House case is the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, as well as his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president.

● Democrats scale back their language as Trump and GOP press ahead with attacks on the Senate impeachment trial.

● Former vice president Joe Biden says he refuses to be part of an impeachment witness deal.

● Gordon Sondland plugs away in Brussels while playing a central role in Trump’s impeachment trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Impeachment Case, Schiff Accuses Trump of Trying ‘to Cheat’ in Election, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The House Democratic impeachment managers began formal arguments in the Senate trial on Wednesday, presenting a meticulous and scathing case for convicting President Trump and removing him from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

adam schiff podium flickr CustomRepresentative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House prosecutor, took the lectern in the chamber as senators sat silently preparing to weigh Mr. Trump’s fate. Speaking in an even, measured manner, he accused the president of a corrupt scheme to pressure Ukraine for help “to cheat” in the 2020 presidential election.

Invoking the nation’s founders and their fears that a self-interested leader might subvert democracy for his own personal gain, Mr. Schiff, shown in a file photo, argued that the president’s conduct was precisely what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they devised the remedy of impeachment, one he said was “as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat.”

“If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate, and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government,” Mr. Schiff said in his opening remarks. “The president has shown that he believes that he’s above the law and scornful of constraint.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Schiff’s compelling rebuttal to a spurious White House claim, Aaron Blake, Jan. 23, 2020. President Trump’s campaign and the White House offered a running rebuttal Wednesday to House Democrats’ impeachment managers. As my colleague Philip Bump noted, many of their claims strained credulity.

Perhaps chief among them, though, was the idea that not only was there no quid pro quo involving meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but that meetings weren’t even withheld.

The first problem is that a United Nations meeting isn’t a White House meeting. An even bigger problem is that Zelensky himself — whose denials of pressure by Trump have been hailed by the Trump team — has said as much. At that very same U.N. meeting the White House suggests had satisfied Trump’s promise, Zelensky made it abundantly clear that it did not.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Two Sides, Two Strategies: How Impeachment Is Being Argued, Charlie Savage, Updated Jan. 23, 2020. The contrasting amount of material the two legal teams brought into the Senate chamber highlighted a broader difference in their approaches to the trial.

When President Trump’s impeachment trial opened this week, the Democratic House managers prosecuting the case piled their table high with binders and notepads. Only a few rested on the defense table.

The contrasting amount of material the two legal teams brought into the Senate chamber to support their initial arguments foreshadowed a broader difference in their approaches to the trial.

In its opening days, the House managers have focused on the facts. They are trying to build a clear and coherent story around their theme that the president abused his power — delving into the details, putting up slides to summarize major points, and playing a well-organized selection of video clips of statements by Mr. Trump and by House witnesses.

Eschewing props, the defense team has focused instead on the process. They have used their time to reinforce the House Republican theme that impeachment is a sham and unfair to Mr. Trump — urging the Senate to swiftly dispose of the case without subpoenaing any additional documents or testimony.

  • New York Times, Senator Mitch McConnell made a strategic surrender in an effort to retain his grip on the trial.
  • New York Times, Representative Kevin McCarthy has found his voice as President Trump’s mouthpiece.

washington post logoWashington Post, Schiff warns Senate that the ‘truth is going to come out,’ Matt Viser​, Jan. 23, 2020 (print ed.). An emotional Schiff closes by imploring senators to learn the ‘full truth.’

Dianne Feinstein heads home early; GOP senator’s phone goes off inside the chamber; Schiff says GOP should want to see notes; At least one GOP senator says he’s learned new information from Democrats; Biden says he refuses to be part of impeachment witness deal; Senate Democrats and the former vice president tried to knock down reports that some were working on a deal to suggest testimony by Joe Biden and Trump administration officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Democrats unfold their case, the GOP unloads with scathing attacks from Trump, allies, Seung Min Kim, Elise Viebeck and Colby Itkowitz, Jan. 23, 2020. The Republican barrage provided a sharp contrast to the Democratic House managers, who struck a chastened tone in the Senate chamber trial after a rare scolding from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What happened in Wednesday’s trial, in 5 minutes, Amber Phillips, Jan. 23, 2020. From Adam Schiff’s opening statements to criticism of Jerry Nadler’s performance to senators blatantly breaking the rules and getting out of their seats.

washington post logoDonald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Washington Post, With his mind on impeachment, Trump wraps up Davos visit by railing against Washington, Toluse Olorunnipa and Anne Gearan, Jan. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Before and after his meeting with global leaders on Wednesday, the president retweeted dozens of posts about the trial in the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he refuses to be part of impeachment witness deal, Matt Viser, Jan. 23, 2020. Senate Democrats and the former vice president tried to knock down reports that some were working on a deal to suggest testimony by Biden and Trump officials.

Washington Post, Opinion by Joe Scarborough, Mitch McConnell has failed the Republican Party; All America demands is a fair trial, an impartial jury and the calling of relevant witnesses.

Washington Post, Opinion by Jennifer Rubin: That is what blind loyalty to a cultlike leader looks like
Washington Post, Opinion by Henry Olsen: Adam Schiff portrayed the impeachment trial like a criminal trial. He should know better.
Washington Post, Opinion by E.J. Dionne Jr.: Why Democrats owe a debt to Mitch McConnell
Washington Post, Opinion by Max Boot: Trump’s lawyers are playing a bad hand badly
Washington Post, Opinion by Dana Milbank: Trump’s defenders make it up as they go
Washington Post, Opinion by Jonathan Turley: Where the Trump defense goes too far; Committing a criminal offense has never been a requirement for impeachment.

Jan. 22

Impeachment Headlines

Impeachment Trial Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate adopts ground rules for trial, delaying a decision on witnesses, Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 22, 2020. Findings from House probe to be automatically entered into evidence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to revise his proposed rules to quell a rebellion in his ranks, giving House managers and the president’s lawyers more time to present their cases.

The first substantive day of President Trump’s impeachment trial opened Tuesday with unexpected internal GOP dissension over its structure, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was forced to revise his proposed rules at the last minute to accommodate a brewing rebellion in his ranks.

That abrupt reversal from Senate leadership began a deeply acrimonious day in the chamber, which dramatically escalated in its final hours when the House managers and the president’s attorneys engaged in language considered so toxic for the staid Senate that Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, admonished both sides.

In the end, the final parameters of the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president were approved on strictly partisan lines, but the measure passed only after revisions that allowed both sides more time to present their cases, and for findings from the House impeachment probe to be automatically entered into evidence as part of the trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Impeachment Schedule Explained: Why the Trial Could Last Weeks, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 22, 2020. The rules adopted by the Senate early Wednesday lay out a timeline for a trial that could be over in two weeks — or stretch much longer. With the adoption early Wednesday morning of the ground rules for President Trump’s impeachment trial, the Senate prepared to plunge forward over the next week with oral arguments, questions from senators and consequential votes on whether to admit new evidence.

djt impeached wapo 12 19 19 front page CustomThe trial could be over in two weeks, or it could stretch on much longer, depending on how much time is used by each side and how much additional evidence — if any — senators vote to review.

After a bruising 12-hour debate that underscored the deep acrimony between Republicans and Democrats at the outset of the trial, Republicans pushed through a set of rules that would postpone until next week at the earliest a final decision on whether to call witnesses or subpoena documents for the trial.

That brought into focus what will unfold in the Senate over the coming days. Here is what to expect:

Both sides get one more chance for motions.

The trial will reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but oral arguments might not begin immediately. Under the rules, the managers and White House lawyers are allowed to make any motion they want, except for seeking documents and witnesses, a matter that will be debated later in the proceedings.

What motions could they make? Mr. Trump has said publicly that he wants to end the trial quickly, so his lawyers could move for dismissal. That is seen as unlikely because Republican senators — including staunch allies of the president’s — have said there is little support among their colleagues to dismiss the case before the arguments have been heard.

If the House managers take all of their time, the White House lawyers — led by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer — will have the chance to deliver their oral arguments defending the president starting on Saturday, Jan. 25. Senate rules that date back more than three decades hold that during impeachment, senators must meet six days a week, taking only Sunday off.

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment trial live updates: Trump says he ‘can live either way’ on witnesses, John Wagner, Jan. 22, 2020. President Trump said at a news conference Wednesday in Switzerland that he “can live either way” with the Senate’s decision on whether to call witnesses for his historic impeachment trial.

His comments came as House managers prepared to open a three-day presentation of their case for impeachment of Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The crux of the House case is the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival, as well as his son Hunter Biden.

marsha blackburn fox news impeachment screenshot Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: GOP Senator caught in severe breach of rules during Senate impeachment trial proceedings, Bill Palmer, Jan. 22, 2020.
The rules of an impeachment trial couldn’t be much more clear. Like any jury, the Senators of both parties must sit in silence in the Senate chamber for the entirety of the trial proceedings. They literally need permission to get up and use the bathroom, and Chief Justice John Roberts can have them arrested if they don’t ask permission first. So how does one explain a Senator doing an interview while the trial was in session?

bill palmer report logo headerSenators are allowed to speak with the media during breaks in the trial. But Justin Goodman, Communications Director for the Senate Democrats, appeared to catch Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn giving an interview on Fox News (shown above in a screenshot0 when she was supposed to be in the Senate chamber for the trial. Check out his tweet.

MSNBC’s Nick Ramsey also confirmed that Blackburn was indeed on Fox News while trial proceedings were in sessions. This is serious business. The sanctity of the Senate jury is taken so seriously, Senators aren’t even allowed to have their phones with them during the trial, and must place them in lockboxes on their way in and out of the chamber. If Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn really was on Fox News while the impeachment trial proceedings were going on, then John Roberts must take punitive action against her.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chief Justice Roberts admonishes impeachment lawyers, telling them to ‘remember where they are,’ Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck, Jan. 22, 2020. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered a sharp rebuke to both House managers and lawyers for President Trump for their decorum as the impeachment trial debate passed 1 a.m. Wednesday, a marathon session that turned heated between the legal teams.

After several days of serving in a largely passive role overseeing the trial, Roberts interjected after a particularly pointed exchange between House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and two lawyers for Trump, Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow.

“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts said.

jerrold nadler o SmallNadler, left, delivered an extended statement attacking the president and calling on the Senate to subpoena testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton. Cipollone responded by saying the New York congressman “should be ashamed … for the way you addressed this body.”

“It’s about time we bring this power trip in for a landing,” Cipollone said, prompting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to chuckle. “It’s a farce … Mr. Nadler, you owe an apology to the president of the United States and his family, you owe an apology to the Senate, but most of all, you owe an apology to the American people.”

Sekulow followed Cipollone and went a step further in his words and tone.

“The Senate is not on trial,” he almost shouted.

During these remarks, Nadler did not meet Sekulow’s gaze. As the White House counsel concluded, he returned to his table and threw down his papers in disgust.

The tensions rose further as Nadler responded, calling Cipollone a liar in one case. Cipollone shook his head, along with several Republican senators.

“It’s about time we bring this power trip in for a landing,” Cipollone said, prompting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to chuckle. “It’s a farce … Mr. Nadler, you owe an apology to the president of the United States and his family, you owe an apology to the Senate, but most of all, you owe an apology to the American people.”

Sekulow followed Cipollone and went a step further in his words and tone.

“The Senate is not on trial,” he almost shouted.

The exchange occurred as the Senate dealt with another Democratic amendment to the resolution, offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to set the guidelines for the trial and whether additional witnesses or documents need to be produced.

Republicans have refused to consider the witness question until both legal teams present their cases in the coming days, but Democrats have used the impeachment rules to force votes on the issue before either side formally presents its case.

As happened with every Democratic amendment offered, including this one to subpoena Bolton, the Senate rejected the request, 53 to 47, entirely along party lines.

Roll Call, Schumer says he’s not done trying to force votes, nor making deals on witnesses over Hunter Biden, Jan. 22, 2020. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday he offered to move consideration of some of his amendments to the impeachment trial rules resolution to today so the Senate didn’t have to stay too late Tuesday but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined.

“It seems the only reason Leader McConnell refused to move votes back a day is because it would interfere with the timeline he promised the president, Schumer said at a news conference.

“The bottom line is this: The very first thing the American people saw when they tuned into the impeachment trial of President Trump was Republican senators voting against having a fair trial with relevant evidence,” Schumer said after rattling off all the amendments Republicans voted down on Tuesday.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. attorney general sues Trump inaugural committee over $1 million booking at president’s hotel, Jonathan O'Connell​, Jan. 22, 2020. karl racineD.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, right, sued President Trump’s inaugural committee and business Wednesday, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at Trump’s D.C. hotel that its staff knew was overpriced and that it barely used.

During the lead-up to Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, the committee booked the hotel ballroom for $175,000 a day, plus more than $300,000 in food and beverage costs, over the objections of its own event planner.

The committee was formed to organize the events around the inauguration, but Racine alleges it instead “abandoned this purpose and violated District law when it wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment for the use of event space at the Trump hotel.”

“These charges were unreasonable and improperly served to enrich” Trump’s business, the complaint reads. He alleges that Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, were likely aware of the charges, based on documents Racine subpoenaed from the committee and the Trump Organization.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. attorney general sues Trump inaugural committee over $1 million booking at president’s hotel, Jonathan O'Connell​, Jan. 22, 2020. karl racineD.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, right, sued President Trump’s inaugural committee and business Wednesday, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at Trump’s D.C. hotel that its staff knew was overpriced and that it barely used.

During the lead-up to Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, the committee booked the hotel ballroom for $175,000 a day, plus more than $300,000 in food and beverage costs, over the objections of its own event planner.

The committee was formed to organize the events around the inauguration, but Racine alleges it instead “abandoned this purpose and violated District law when it wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment for the use of event space at the Trump hotel.”

“These charges were unreasonable and improperly served to enrich” Trump’s business, the complaint reads. He alleges that Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, were likely aware of the charges, based on documents Racine subpoenaed from the committee and the Trump Organization.

Daily Beast, EX-CIA Lawyer Opinion: The Soleimani Hit Was a Homicide Under U.S. Criminal Law, Vicki Divoll, Jan. 22, 2020. In bragging that he daily beast logoordered a successful hit on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Trump has admitted to killing a senior government official of a sovereign state, Iran, while he was traveling in another sovereign state, Iraq. On its face, his conduct and intent satisfy the elements of premeditated murder under Section 1116 of Title 18 of the United States Criminal Code, "Murder or manslaughter of foreign officials, official guests, or internationally protected persons."

We can and must debate, and many are, whether the killing was an "assassination" or a violation of "international norms," but neither of those charges has been codified by Congress into the criminal code and thus they have no teeth. The assassination ban is found in an executive order and a president is not bound by it. As for international norms, including the adherence to long-standing principles of the ethics of just war, well, ignoring norms is Trump's calling card, and his supporters love him for it.

The provisions of the United States Criminal Code, however, bind all persons, including presidents. They cannot be waived, and they have very sharp teeth. By ordering the drone attack killing General Soleimani, it appears that Trump committed a homicide under federal law.

‘OK, Now What?’: Inside Team Trump’s Scramble to Sell the Soleimani Hit to America

Congress passed the relevant law against the “murder or manslaughter of foreign officials,” Section 1116 of Title 18, in response to the killing of Israeli Olympic athletes in Germany, and other acts of terrorism around the world, It provides that “[w]hoever kills or attempts to kill a foreign official, official guest, or internationally protected person shall be punished."

Impeachment Commentaries

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Trump’s Threadbare Legal Argument Will Probably Work, Jesse Wegman, Jan. 22, 2020. Thanks a lot, Mitch McConnell. Let’s dispense with one thing off the bat: President Trump’s impeachment defense is — in addition to being riddled with false factual claims and misleading characterizations — legal claptrap.

It’s also likely to work.

The essence of the argument, which appears in a 110-page brief submitted on Monday by the president’s ragtag legal team in advance of his Senate trial, is that Mr. Trump can’t be impeached for behaviors that are not actual crimes.

That’s because their argument is, in the words of one legal scholar who recently published a book on the history of impeachment, “constitutional nonsense.” “High crimes and misdemeanors” — the founders’ standard for impeachment — has always been understood to refer to a unique class of offenses, those arising from what Alexander Hamilton called “the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

The federal criminal code didn’t even exist when the Constitution was drafted, yet the framers were aware of the innumerable ways an executive could abuse or violate his trust. They were also aware that impeachment was a long-established remedy for such abuses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Make Republicans Uncomfortable, David Leonhardt, Jan. 22, 2020. The Democrats’ only hope. There are two competing explanations for Mitch McConnell’s abrupt change in the length of the impeachment trial (to three days, from two).

One is that Republican senators facing tough elections this year didn’t like the perception that they were supporting a sham trial and forced McConnell to make the change. “The fact that McConnell had to make significant changes to rules just before the vote suggests he has less control over the trial than widely believed,” Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter, wrote.

The other is that the whole thing was a set-up. Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist and former congressional aide, wrote: “Mitch McConnell intentionally gave his vulnerable members a win on process. This was probably the plan from the beginning. It cost him nothing.”

Either way, the message is the same. Senate Republicans aren’t going to hold President Trump accountable for repeatedly violating his oath of office, but they are worried about a perception among swing voters that they are pushovers.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Is Trump's visa ban tied to his extortion scheme with Ukraine? Wayne Madsen, Jan. 22, 2020.  Impeached president Donald John Trump is on trial in the U.S. Senate for, among other transgressions of office, attempting to shake down the Ukrainian government for political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in exchange for Congressionally-budgeted military assistance.

Trump’s most recent threat to impose a visa ban, and not merely on Muslim-majority nations, reinforces a belief among those investigating Trump’s various crimes that the White House refused to release Trump’s entire transcript of his July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky because it would draw attention to Trump’s extortion efforts against other foreign leaders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Defeat Trump and Catch a Frisbee, Thomas L. Friedman, Jan. 22, 2020. There is a winnable approach for Democrats in the impeachment trial.As the country embarks on only the third impeachment trial of a president in its history, there are many unique features about this moment, but one stands out for me: Never before have we had to confront a president who lies as he breathes and is backed by a political party and an entire cable TV-led ecosystem able and enthusiastic to create an alternative cognitive universe that propagates those lies on an unlimited scale.

It is disheartening, disorienting and debilitating.

How can the truth — that Donald Trump used taxpayer funds to try to force the president of Ukraine to sully the reputation of Joe Biden, a political rival — possibly break through this unique trifecta of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, reinforced by a network without integrity?

There is only one way: Keep it simple.

Democrats need to just keep repeating over and over one question: “Why would an innocent man, and a jury interested in the truth, not want all the evidence out and all the witnesses to testify? Wouldn’t you if you were innocent?”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is losing his impeachment trial in the only way that matters, TR Kenneth, Jan. 22, 2020. What the House Managers are doing is having the trial with evidence in the court of public opinion. The facts of this case are damning and the impending result – the making of a dictator – is terrifying. But there are still things which are good and true in this process.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat’s good and true is the evidence that is coming in by the boatload from FOIA requests. The FBI now says it has managed to unlock Lev Parnas’ phone. Make no mistake, his phone is going to be kryptonite to tons of Republicans. After all, which of them didn’t get a photo op with Parnas?

Phone calls and voting are the powerful solutions here. The Republican party will not survive a vote to acquit in the Senate. The public is overwhelmingly clamoring for documents and witnesses. Corruption will forever taint the Republican name if McConnell shuts this trial down. Yes, these are the days that try our patience. But as we found from Fiona Hill and others like her, there are still patriots at work behind the scenes. Perhaps a Republican or two will stand up for fairness. Don’t hold your breath. They are caught in a trap of their own making. Regardless, Trump will die in prison for his crimes. Count on that. Icebergs are enormous and the part that you can’t see is the part that takes you to the bottom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: McConnell’s Impeachment Scam, Noah Bookbinder, Jan. 22, 2020. Senators have a duty to conduct a fair and full trial. The Republican leader is trying to make sure they can’t. The American people want their senators to engage in a serious quest for the truth. A recent CNN poll of voters showed that 69 percent of Americans want the Senate to hear evidence and witnesses in the coming days.

Jan. 20

Impeachment News

Lev Parnas, with his wife Sventlana (file photo via Facebook).

Lev Parnas, with his wife Sventlana and protesters (file photo via Facebook).

washington post logoWashington Post, Lev Parnas’s feverish text messages show wide reach among Ukraine’s oligarchs, Robyn Dixon, David L. Stern and Natalie Gryvnyak, Jan. 20, 20120. The Florida businessman, whose family moved to the United States from the Soviet Union when he was a child, has said he was part of a multi-pronged effort to help President Trump’s reelection campaign.

Lev Parnas, the Ukrainian American businessman at the heart of the Trump impeachment, adopted a tone of hearty bonhomie when exchanging messages with Ukraine’s political elite, calling them “my brother” or “my friend,” or telling them “I missed you” or “I embrace you.”

The Florida businessman whose family moved to the United States from the Soviet Union when he was a child, has said he was part of a multipronged effort led by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), to help President Trump’s reelection campaign and damage a political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, What happens next in the impeachment process? Amber Phillips, Jan. 20, 20120. Inside the Senate chamber, impeachment managers from the House will prosecute the case against the president, and White House and private lawyers will defend him.

Jan. 19

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Excerpt: ‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals, Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Jan. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The new book A Very Stable Genius documents how President Trump lashed out at attempts by military leaders and diplomats to teach him about U.S. alliances and obligations around the globe.

philip rucker carol leonnig stable genius Custom 2There is no more sacred room for military officers than 2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly to wrestle with classified matters. Its more common name is “the Tank.” The Tank resembles a small corporate boardroom, with a gleaming golden oak table, leather swivel armchairs and other mid-century stylings. Inside its walls, flag officers observe a reverence and decorum for the wrenching decisions that have been made there.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump’s knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike.

So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial. What happened inside the Tank that day crystallized the commander in chief’s berating, derisive and dismissive manner, foreshadowing decisions such as the one earlier this month that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran.

The Tank meeting was a turning point in Trump’s presidency. Rather than getting him to appreciate America’s traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses.

Impeachment Headlines

 

Impeachment News Excerpts

 washington post logoWashington Post, Senate must ‘eliminate the threat that the president poses to America’s national security,’ House managers argue in brief, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 19, 2020 (print ed.). In response, President Trump’s legal team dismissed the case as a “dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

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Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Michael Pence and operatives Igor Fruman (second from the left) and Lev Parnas (between Fruman and Trump) pose in better times for them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once this is over, we’ll be kings’: How Lev Parnas worked his way into Trump’s world — and now is rattling it, Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Sonne​, Jan. 19, 2020 (print ed.). ​A cascade of revelations by the former associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani overshadowed the opening of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

It was the week when the pomp and circumstance of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history was supposed to take center stage in Washington. The House of Representatives formally voted to send the Senate charges that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to help his reelection bid. John G. Roberts Jr., the chief justice of the United States, arrived in the Senate chambers to preside over the president’s trial and the swearing in of 100 senators.

But overshadowing that weighty moment was a cascade of revelations by a fast-talking, Ukraine-born businessman sporting an ankle bracelet who — speaking for the first time since his October arrest on campaign finance charges — directly implicated the president in the Ukraine scheme.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday that earned the cable news show the highest ratings of its 11-year history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dershowitz distances himself from White House response to Democrats’ impeachment charges, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 19, 2020. Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law emeritus professor who recently joined President Trump’s legal team, on Sunday distanced himself from a response by two White House lawyers to House Democrats’ impeachment case against the president, noting that he did not sign on to the document.

“I didn’t sign that brief,” Dershowitz said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.” “I didn’t even see the brief until after it was filed. That’s not part of my mandate. My mandate is to determine what is a constitutionally authorized criteria for impeachment.”

Dershowitz is one of four lawyers who were selected personally by Trump and announced Friday as new members of the president’s legal team. The others are former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and former independent counsels Robert Ray and Kenneth W. Starr.

Dershowitz’s comments come as both sides preview their arguments for Trump’s impeachment trial, which begins in earnest this week and is only the third such trial in U.S. history.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, said Sunday that Democrats will be “fighting for a fair trial” and pushed back against critics who have argued that the House should have done more to enforce its subpoenas before voting to impeach Trump.

“The reality is, because what the president is threatening to do is cheat in the next election, you cannot wait months and years to be able to remove that threat from office,” Schiff said on “This Week

Trump has urged the Senate to dismiss the charges against him. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a key Trump ally, said Sunday that such a motion is “dead for practical purposes,” but he noted that the president is eager for the trial to be over as soon as possible — ideally before his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 4.

ny times logomaureen dowd thumbLargeNew York Times, Opinion: Starr Chamber -- The Sequel, Maureen Dowd, right, Jan. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump reaches deep into the perv barrel for his defense team. Trump is once more doing his part to energize women voters. On Friday, we learned that the president will get help from Starr and Dershowitz for the impeachment trial in the Senate.

The Starr chamber was a shameful period of American history, with the prissy Puritan independent counsel hounding and virtually jailing Monica Lewinsky and producing hundreds of pages of panting, bodice-ripping prose that read more like bad erotica than a federal report, rife with lurid passages about breasts, stains and genitalia.

Even Trump was appalled. “Starr’s a freak,” the bloviating builder told me back in 1999. “I bet he’s got something in his closet.” In other interviews, he called Starr “a lunatic,” “a disaster” and “off his rocker,” and expressed sympathy for Hillary having to stand by her man when he was “being lambasted by this crazy Ken Starr, who is a total wacko.”

Starr, who once clutched his pearls over Bill Clinton’s sexual high jinks, is now going to bat for President “Access Hollywood.” After playing an avenging Javert about foreplay in the Oval, Starr will now do his utmost to prove that a real abuse of power undermining Congress and American foreign policy is piffle.

In 2007, he defended Jeffrey Epstein. By 2016, Starr was being ousted as president of Baptist Baylor University for failing to protect women and looking the other way when football players were accused and sometimes convicted of sexual assaults. In other words, he’s a complete partisan hack who doesn’t give a damn about sexual assault.

And then there’s Dershowitz, whose past clients have included such sterling fellows as Epstein, Claus von Bülow, O.J. Simpson and Harvey Weinstein. How did he miss Ted Bundy? Still, Dershowitz has put himself on the side of an impressive pantheon of villainy in the realm of violence against girls and women.

Virginia Giuffre, Prince Andrew’s accuser, has also claimed that she was offered as a teenager to Dershowitz for sex — a contention that Dershowitz has denied in a countersuit.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump detailed Soleimani airstrike to donors at private Mar-a-Lago dinner, Colby Itkowitz and David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 19 (print ed.), 2020. The president said nothing at the fundraiser about an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests or threats to four U.S. embassies as he previously has to justify the unilateral military strike.

• Washington Post, Dutch Trump fan says texts about U.S. ambassador’s movements were sent in jest

Jan. 18

Impeachment Headlines

 

Impeachment News

washington post logoWashington Post, Nunes aide, Parnas communicated about Ukraine campaign, messages show, Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Greg Miller, Jan. 18, 2020. Lev Parnas, who functioned as Rudolph W. Giuliani's emissary to Ukrainian officials, had extensive contact with Derek devin nunes grimacingHarvey, an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, right, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

House Democrats released new documents Friday evening showing extensive contact between an associate of President Trump’s personal attorney and an aide to the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee regarding the effort to obtain material from Ukrainian prosecutors that would be damaging to former vice president Joe Biden.

The text messages between Lev Parnas, who functioned as Rudolph W. Giuliani’s emissary to Ukrainian officials, and Derek Harvey, an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, indicate Nunes’s office was aware of the operation at the heart of impeachment proceedings against the president — and sought to use the information Parnas was gathering.

The newly released texts show that Parnas was working last spring to set up calls for Harvey with the Ukrainian prosecutors who were feeding Giuliani information about Biden.

  • Washington Post, ‘Shove it,’ Rep. Ted Lieu tells Nunes in response to lawsuit threat, Jan. 18, 2020.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: New text messages put Devin Nunes on the hot seat, Aaron Blake,  Jan. 18, 2020. A month ago, when phone records showed contact between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Lev Parnas, Nunes said he didn’t recall Parnas’s name and couldn’t confirm the call. On Wednesday, with Parnas about to appear on TV for the first time, Nunes (shown above in a file photo) suddenly offered a (very conveniently timed) confirmation, but he downplayed the call as being about “random things.”

republican elephant logoNow, Nunes’s claims about his ties to Parnas are even more questionable.

Newly released documents Friday night showed Parnas in repeated contact with a Nunes aide, Derek Harvey. He appeared to be looping Harvey into the Ukraine effort led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, and the messages show the three of them met at the Trump hotel in Washington. Parnas also set up calls for Harvey with the same Ukrainian prosecutors who were working with Giuliani.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Senate must not ignore the new evidence on Ukraine, Editorial Board, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). New evidence in djt impeached wapo 12 19 19 front page Customthe Ukraine affair has revealed several important new facts. One is that President Trump’s firing of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch last spring was part of an explicit trade-off with a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor who promised dirt on Joe Biden. Another is that Mr. Trump’s demand that Ukraine’s president announce an investigation of Mr. Biden, along with the threat of retaliation if he did not, was communicated to the Ukrainians months earlier than previously known.

The new evidence significantly bolsters the case that Mr. Trump abused his office. It also underlines how much more there is still to learn about the dealings he and his attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, undertook in Kyiv, even as the president’s trial on impeachment charges is set to begin in the Senate on Tuesday.

lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020Much of the new evidence comes from Lev Parnas, left, a former collaborator with Mr. Giuliani and donor to Mr. Trump who turned against them after his indictment on federal campaign finance charges. The White House dismisses Mr. Parnas as a man with a motive to lie, and it’s true that some of his allegations need verification. But the Soviet emigre businessman also gave House investigators texts, emails, calendars and other documents that appear to substantiate key charges.

Texts between Mr. Parnas and Yuri Lutsenko, a former Ukrainian prosecutor, make clear that Mr. Lutsenko made allegations about Mr. Biden in the expectation that he would be rewarded with the firing of Ms. Yovanovitch, who had accused him of blocking corruption investigations. “If you don’t make a decision about Madam

— you are bringing into question all my allegations. Including about B,” one Lutsenko text to Mr. Parnas read. He got his wish: “He fired her again,” read a text from Mr. Giuliani to Mr. Parnas in April, shortly before Ms. Yovanovitch was recalled on Mr. Trump’s orders.

msnbc logo CustomMr. Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he also played a key role in conveying Mr. Trump’s demand for an investigation of Mr. Biden to Volodymyr Zelensky, who became Ukraine’s president last May. Mr. Giuliani had sent Mr. Zelensky a letter asking for a meeting but called off the trip after it was publicized. Mr. Parnas said he was then dispatched by Mr. Giuliani in early May to deliver a tough message to an aide to Mr. Zelensky: Unless he announced a Biden investigation, relations would sour, starting with the cancellation of Vice President Pence’s attendance at Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Starr Returns to the Impeachment Fray, This Time for the Defense, Peter Baker, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Ken Starr, whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, is one of the best known and most polarizing lawyers in the U.S.

The last time a president was on trial, few were more responsible for putting him in the dock than Ken Starr. Now the former independent counsel whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment two decades ago will come to the defense of another president charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

ken starr baylorIn adding Mr. Starr, right,to his legal team, President Trump enlisted one of the best known and most polarizing lawyers in the country, someone who in recent months has become a regular defender of the president on Fox News. Mr. Starr will argue that while Mr. Clinton’s impeachment was legitimate, Mr. Trump’s was out of bounds.

But Mr. Starr’s return to the public stage 21 years after Mr. Clinton’s trial was just the latest head-spinning turn in a saga that at times has echoed the dramatic battle of the late 1990s in oddly distorted ways. Many players from that impeachment are leading figures in this one, though on the other side. Democrats now make arguments often heard last time from Republicans and vice versa.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Hyde associate Anthony De Caluwe fires back in Trump-Yovanovitch surveillance scandal, Bill Palmer, Jan. 18, 2020. Earlier this week, text messages provided by Lev Parnas appeared to show that a Trump associate named Robert F. Hyde (shown above with Trump) was surveilling U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine, and offering to hire local goons to target her for unknown purposes.

bill palmer report logo headerHyde has since acknowledged on Twitter that he did send the messages, but that he was just joking around. Yesterday Hyde asserted that he had simply relayed the messages from another guy named Anthony De Caluwe, whom he accused of being an Adam Schiff plant.

The media has since tracked down Anthony De Caluwe’s social media presence, and various Facebook photos confirm that De Caluwe has associated with Robert Hyde and with Donald Trump. Now De Caluwe is firing back in the media, making clear that he has no association with Schiff. De Caluwe is telling Kenneth Vogel of the New York Times that he did in fact send the messages to Hyde, but that it was mere “ridiculous banter” that wasn’t meant in a serious way.

Media / Propaganda

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washington post logoWashington Post, National Archives exhibit blurs signs in Women’s March image critical of Trump, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts national archivesto show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

But a closer look reveals a different story.

The Archives, right, acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

Inside DC

william barr prin dep asst ag edward ocallaghan rod rosenstein april 18 2 2019 Small

Attorney General William Barr, center, flanked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Edward O'Callaghan of the National Security Division are all Republicans and stand united for their version of justice. (Justice Department news conference on April 18, 2019 on release of the Mueller Report.)

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Rod Rosenstein was sabotaging Robert Mueller all along, Bill Palmer, Jan. 18, 2020. Up to now, the best that anyone understood the story of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was that he spent a long time trying to do the right thing when it came to Donald Trump, but eventually caved to Trump’s bullying in the end. Now, however, new court filings reveal that Rosenstein was without question a villain all along – and that he was going out of his way to sabotage his own appointee Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI all along.

bill palmer report logo headerWe all saw Rod Rosenstein very publicly and cartoonishly transform into a Donald Trump cheerleader near the end of his DOJ tenure, in what was perceived as an attempt at convincing Trump not to take his pension away. This made sense, as Trump had already retaliated against other DOJ figures like former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe by taking his pension away. But now it turns out Rosenstein was playing games on Trump’s behalf, behind the scenes, dating back to 2017.

peter strozk lisa pageThe new court filings reveal that it was Rod Rosenstein who leaked text messages from FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page (right) to the media in late 2017. Donald Trump seized on this opportunity by making up conspiracy theories about Strzok and Page, and by extension conspiracy theories about their boss at the time, Robert Mueller. Trump was eventually able to force Strzok and Page out of the FBI (though they’re both pursuing legal action over it). Trump was also able, via Bill Barr, to force a premature and stunted end to Mueller’s probe.

Rod Rosenstein’s decision to leak the Page-Strzok text messages can be seen as having played at least some role in the ultimate demise of the Mueller probe, which had initially been shot out of the gate like a cannon, but ultimately ended with a whimper. If Rosenstein was pulling stunts to sabotage Mueller dating back to 2017, it means that Rosenstein was trying to sabotage Mueller’s probe all along. At this point you have to wonder if Rosenstein will face obstruction of justice charges once Trump is gone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at HHS secretary after briefing shows Democrats leading on health care, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The president complained Democrats would “kill us” on health care if the administration did not do more to lower drug prices and enact other reforms.

alex azar hhs oPresident Trump lashed out at Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, right, for not doing enough on health care and drug pricing during a campaign meeting this week after he was briefed on polling that showed the public trusted Democrats more than Republicans on the issue, according to four people present at or briefed about the meeting.

Campaign advisers were updating Trump at the White House on Thursday on polling from battleground states, including Florida, that showed which party voters trusted more on various issues. One of those issues was health care, which often polls as the top voter concern, and the data showed the public trusted Democrats more than Republicans.

Trump reacted furiously and said the Democrats would “kill us” on health care, according to the four people, who requested anonymity to candidly describe the private meeting. The president then picked up the phone, called Azar and put him on speakerphone in the middle of the meeting, the people said.

“You’re not getting it done,” Trump told Azar, referring to lowering drug prices, according to one of the people in the meeting and another briefed on the discussion. He told Azar he needed to “hurry up” on lowering drug prices and more quickly allow for the importation of drugs from Canada. “Why aren’t we getting these drugs from Canada?”

Azar reminded Trump he had rolled out a final rule allowing states, distributors and wholesalers to import select drugs from Canada during a December event in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has pushed for the policy for months. Azar emphasized to the president that he also wanted the rule done as fast as possible and noted the rule was in the middle of a 75-day comment period and that other states had expressed interest in it.

Jan. 17

Impeachment News 

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Kenneth Starr, Alan Dershowitz to join Trump’s legal team, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey​, Jan. 17, 2020. The ken starr baylorexpansion of President Trump’s team will also include Robert Ray, according to someone familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak. Ray and Starr, right, investigated President Bill Clinton.

  • Washington Post, Leahy says Starr’s addition to Trump’s legal team is a ‘weird choice
  • Washington Post, Congress shows the ability to legislate through impeachment
  • Washington Post, Analysis: How one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats approaches impeachment
  • Washington Post, Perspective: Trump can’t stop John Bolton from testifying
  • Washington Post, Parnas ties Pence’s snub of Ukraine to pressure campaign

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Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Michael Pence and operatives Igor Fruman (second from the left) and Lev Parnas (between Fruman and Trump) pose in better times for them.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC "Must Watch," Staff reports, Jan. 17, 2020.

  • MSNBC The Beat with Ari: 'He got caught': Pelosi played McConnell on Trump impeachment, (1:52 min. video).
  • MSNBC Day That Was: After sworn oath, historic impeachment trial begins (4:36 min.).
  • MSNBC: Trump responds to Lev Parnas interviews: ‘Don’t know who this man is’ (1:51).
  • MSNBC: Chief Justice John Roberts swears in senators for the impeachment trial of President Trump (0:40).
  • MSNBC: White House violated law by withholding Ukraine aid, government watchdog says (1:49).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Lev Parnas effectively put Bolton, Pompeo, and others on witness list (4:39).
  • MSNBC The Last Word: ‘The question of not listening to witnesses is off the table’ (1:56).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: What Trump knows and doesn't know: A primer (2:07).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: Trump may attend Davos as impeachment gets underway (4:13).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: Ukraine to investigate Burisma hacking (10:20).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: Why Parnas interview was a 'political earthquake' (8:40).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: 'Rudy Giuliani is responsible for the impeachment' of Trump (7:36).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Parnas describes how Trump struggled to fire Amb. Yovanovitch (5:46).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Parnas: Perry fell short in his part in Trump's Ukraine scheme (2:17).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Parnas: 'I don't think Vice President Biden did anything wrong' (1:16).

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Roll Call, GAO: Trump’s Ukraine aid pause violated budget law, Paul M. Krawzak, Jan 17, 2020 (print ed.). 1974 budget law limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending. Ukraine aid legal ruling could shake up impeachment trial..

gao seal CustomPresident Donald Trump’s hold on military assistance for Ukraine last summer ran afoul of a 1974 budget law that limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The finding by the GAO (whose headquarters is shown above) comes as the Senate prepares to begin its impeachment trial next week. House Democrats on Wednesday transmitted to the Senate articles of impeachment leveled at Trump for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, after charging Trump with using the Ukraine aid as a bargaining chip for personal political gain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The GOP said Trump committed no crime. The GAO says he broke the law, Aaron Blake, Jan. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The ruling from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office severely undermined a core Trump impeachment defense.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas has set off a chain reaction that Donald Trump can’t stop, Shirley Kennedy, Jan. 17, 2020. Parnas sat down with Rachel Maddow to discuss the Ukraine debacle. According to Parnas, “president” Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine. Parnas, left, who lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020was joined by his counsel, said that he was their “on the ground person” in manufacturing dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.

In addition to exposing Trump’s involvement in this criminal scheme, Parnas said that AG Bill Barr “was basically on the team” and that John Bolton was also aware. According to the Guardian, which reported on Parnas’ appearance, there are additional documents that have not yet been released that House prosecutors plan to present during the impeachment trial.

Parnas got very specific in his interview. He said that he was instructed by Giuliani to inform Ukraine officials that unless an investigation into the Bidens was announced, Mike Pence would not attend Zelensky’s inauguration. Parnas further alleges that the next day, Trump called Ukraine himself to advise that Pence would be canceling his trip. This means Pence was in on the extortion scheme, though we already expected that to be the case. Parnas claims that Trump’s decision to withhold military aid and cut off all relations came up after Ukrainian officials declined to investigate the Bidens.

bill palmer report logo headerSpeaking of withholding military aid, the Guardian also reported that the Government Accountability Office investigated and concluded that Trump violated the law by freezing those funds. The GOA report specifically stated: “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.”

Not surprisingly, the Office of Budget Management “disagrees” with the report. Rachel Semmel, OMB spokesperson, claims that “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.” The problem is that with this “president,” those two things rarely, if ever, coincide.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll finds black Americans determined to limit Trump to one term, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Vanessa Williams, Dan Balz and Scott Clement, Jan. 17, 2020. The Washington Post-Ipsos poll of African Americans reveals fears about whether their children will have a fair shot and a belief that whites don’t fully appreciate the discrimination they face.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Excerpt: ‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals, Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Jan. 17, 2020. The new book A Very Stable Genius documents how President Trump lashed out at attempts by military leaders and diplomats to teach him about U.S. alliances and obligations around the globe.

There is no more sacred room for military officers than 2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly to wrestle with classified matters. Its more common name is “the Tank.” The Tank resembles a small corporate boardroom, with a gleaming golden oak table, leather swivel armchairs and other mid-century stylings. Inside its walls, flag officers observe a reverence and decorum for the wrenching decisions that have been made there.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump’s knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike.

So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial. What happened inside the Tank that day crystallized the commander in chief’s berating, derisive and dismissive manner, foreshadowing decisions such as the one earlier this month that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran.

The Tank meeting was a turning point in Trump’s presidency. Rather than getting him to appreciate America’s traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses.

washington post logoWashington Post, These Mormon twins worked together on an IRS whistleblower complaint over the church’s billions — and it tore them apart, Michelle Boorstein and Jon Swaine, Jan. 17, 2020 (print ed.). After a lifetime of shared aims, the decision by one Nielsen twin to go public with their confidential complaint has opened a rift so deep that they stopped speaking.

• Washington Post, Evangelical groups try new IRS strategy that keeps salaries hidden

U.S. Law, Courts

Palmer Report, Opinion: Wait, what’s going on with Michael Flynn? Bill Palmer, Jan. 17, 2020. The saga of Michael Flynn [[Trump's first National Security Advisor]] just keeps getting stranger – michael flynn prison palmer graphicand worse for him. He had a cooperating plea deal that was going to give him no prison time. Then he went off the deep end and screwed that up, and found himself looking at six months in prison.

Now he’s seeking to withdraw his guilty plea entirely, which would likely result in him doing years in prison. Now the judge has thrown a new curveball into the mix.

Yesterday, Michael Flynn [shown in a Palmer Report graphic] formally asked Judge Emmet Sullivan for approval to withdraw his guilty plea. In response, the judge delayed sentencing until late February, giving Flynn’s attorneys time to make their case. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerThe judge [shown below at right] has known this request from Flynn was coming for some time. We suspect that if the judge were going to grant Flynn’s request, he’d have done so today. We further suspect that the judge is only giving Flynn this window of time so that he can look reasonable when he eventually denies Flynn’s request. That said, we could be entirely wrong, and Flynn could end up successfully withdrawing his plea and ending up on trial.

If that happens, Michael Flynn’s worst nightmare is going to come true. During his trial, prosecutors will bring out all the evidence against Flynn emmet sullivan 2012that didn’t see the light of day due to his plea deal. They’ll also likely bring a superseding indictment against Flynn, adding the criminal charges that he avoided when he cut the deal. Keep in mind that he only had to plead guilty to his least serious crime, which is why he was only going to get zero to six months.

Michael Flynn could now end up going to prison for a very long time. If he’s doing this because he thinks he’s magically going to get pardoned by Donald Trump, he should consider that Trump has pardoned precisely zero of his co-conspirators, and has let them all rot behind bars. That’s probably because Trump isn’t willing to run the risk of triggering a court battle and screwing up his ability to pardon himself on his way out the door. Flynn is trying to throw his life away based on a false promise. Flynn will be very lucky if the judge rejects his request and sentences him to just the six months in prison.

Jan. 16

Blockbuster Impeachment News

 djt mike pence igor fruman lev parnas rudy giuliani Custom

Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Michael Pence and operatives Igor Fruman (second from the left) and Lev Parnas (between Fruman and Trump) pose in better times for them.

 msnbc logo CustomMSNBC / Rachel Maddow Show, Lev Parnas: 'President Trump knew exactly what was going on,' Rachel Maddow, Jan. 15, 2020 (3:06 min.). Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, talks with Rachel Maddow in an exclusive interview about the extent of Donald Trump's knowledge of the work he was doing to manipulate the president of Ukraine to help Trump smear political rival Joe Biden.

  • lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020MSNBC, Lev Parnas (right): 'Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,' 2:19 min.

  • MSNBC, Lev Parnas remarks on role of Devin Nunes in Trump Ukraine Scheme, 2:27 min.

  • MSNBC, Shocking new evidence rocks Trump impeachment before Senate trial, 5:11 min.

  • MSNBC, Ukraine prosecutor offered dirt on Biden in exchange for firing of U.S. Ambassador, Jan. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence, Neal Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer neal katyal o(professors at Georgetown Law Center), Jan. 15, 2020. New documents show why the president has been trying to hide evidence from Congress. Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer.

The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption U.S. House logowhen he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could “penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.” No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say “no” to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: “Obstruction of Congress.” It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

nancy pelosi impeachment ny post cover sept 25 2019 CustomThe documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.

Both of us served in high-ranking Justice Department positions; we’ve never heard of an investigation that is kept from the Justice Department, given to a private lawyer and then publicly announced — investigations work best when done in secret. If Trump, as he has long claimed, was truly interested in pursuing anti-corruption efforts in the bizarrely specific form of a single investigation of a single American citizen, then he would have wanted an actual investigation. Instead, he was fixated on the public announcement of one — which, if anything, would have harmed the investigation by tipping off its subject. The public announcement would have helped only one thing: Trump’s personal political prospects.

  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just buried Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr and more, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just pretty much forced John Bolton’s testimony to happen, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff reveals the House has more up its sleeve against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Confirmed: Lev Parnas is throwing EVERYONE under the bus tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what you can expect from Rachel Maddow’s interview tonight with Lev Parnas, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.

Roll Call, GAO: Trump’s Ukraine aid pause violated budget law, Paul M. Krawzak, Jan 16, 2020. 1974 budget law limits presidential authority to msnbc logo Customprohibit congressionally approved spending. Ukraine aid legal ruling could shake up impeachment trial..

President Donald Trump’s hold on military assistance for Ukraine last summer ran afoul of a 1974 budget law that limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The finding comes as the Senate prepares to begin its impeachment trial next week. House Democrats on Wednesday transmitted to the Senate articles of impeachment leveled at Trump for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, after charging Trump with using the Ukraine aid as a bargaining chip for personal political gain.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Impeachment descends into darkness, Dana Milbank
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Lev Parnas just accused Giuliani of a criminal conspiracy with Trump, Greg Sargent

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine opens probe into possible surveillance of U.S. ambassador, David L. Stern and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Jan. 16, 2020. The move follows the disclosure of new documents showing former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussing possible efforts to monitor the movements of Marie Yovanovitch.

washington post logounited kingdom flagWashington Post, How Megxit put Queen Elizabeth II in the role of crisis manager once again, William Booth, Jan. 16, 2020. At 93, an age when many matriarchs would be among the dearly or nearly departed, or elbowed aside to allow an ambitious younger generation to run the show, the queen remains firmly in charge — of both a sprawling, often problematic family and the monarchy.

More on Impeachment, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Eyeing swift impeachment trial, Trump’s legal team aims to block witnesses and cast doubt on charges, Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 16, 2020 (print ed.). White House lawyers are trying to engineer the fastest impeachment trial in American history, aiming to have President Trump acquitted by the Senate without witnesses and after just a few days of proceedings, according to senior administration officials.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Trump’s desire for a short trial has solidified over the past few weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delayed transmitting two articles of impeachment to the Senate because of concerns about how the trial would be structured. The White House, which previously supported a more expansive trial in the GOP-led Senate, has now accepted the idea that senators should make quick work of acquitting Trump.

“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’d be going beyond two weeks,” said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity. “We think that this case is overwhelming for the president, and the Senate’s not going to be having any need to be taking that amount of time on this.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘He knows who I am’: Lev Parnas says Devin Nunes was ‘involved in getting all this stuff on Biden,’ Timothy Bella, Jan. 16, devin nunes grimacing2020. Lev Parnas’s first TV interview on Ukraine, annotated. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif., shown in a file photo at right) acknowledged Wednesday night that he had in fact spoken with Lev Parnas over the phone as part of a conversation he previously said he could not recall. Parnas, a former associate of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been indicted on charges of violating campaign finance laws.

Nunes talked about the call shortly before Parnas claimed that the California congressman was “involved” in obtaining damaging information on former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival of Trump, and his son Hunter Biden as part of a shadow Ukraine campaign headed by Giuliani. Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he was stunned to see Nunes, whom he claims to have met “several times,” participating in the recent impeachment hearings.

lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020“I was in shock when I was watching the hearings and when I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there,” said Parnas, left, who has pleaded not guilty to the campaign finance charges. He added that he was curious as to why Derek Harvey, a Nunes aide he said he worked with on the shadow campaign, was present for the hearings. “I texted my attorney. I said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ ” he said.

When Maddow asked why that was, Parnas replied: “ … Because they were involved in getting all this stuff on Biden.”

“It’s hard to see them lie like that when you know it’s, like, that scary because you know, he was sitting there and making all statements and all that when he knew very well that he knew what was going on,” Parnas said. “He knew what’s happening. He knows who I am.”

Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders during the House’s impeachment hearings, as he sought to discredit the inquiry of the president.

Parnas’s claim came hours after House Democrats released hundreds of pages of photos, messages and calendar entries to help construct a picture of the high level of access Parnas received in his efforts to make the Ukrainian president announce investigations related to the Bidens.

Parnas used access to Trump’s world to help push shadow Ukraine effort, new documents show

A couple of hours before the Parnas interview aired on MSNBC, Nunes was asked by Fox News host Martha MacCallum about the phone records that show that he spoke with the former Giuliani associate. Last month, Nunes told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that although it was “possible” that he spoke with Parnas, he did not “recall” his name. “I will go back and check my records, but it seems very unlikely I will be taking calls from random people,” he said at the time.

On Wednesday, however, Nunes said that after having time to go through his records, he was reminded that he did talk to Parnas — a chat he described as “random.”

“I just didn’t know the name — this name ‘Par-nas,’” Nunes said. “You know now that he had called my cellphone and I didn’t know his name, I didn’t remember the name, but I did remember going back where I was at the time — you can do that now, you actually know where you physically are — checked it with my records.

Jan. 15

Today's Impeachment News

djt mike pence igor fruman lev parnas rudy giuliani Custom

Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Michael Pence and operatives Igor Fruman (second from the left) and Lev Parnas (between Fruman and Trump) pose in better times for them.

Democratic Debate Headlines

New Trump Scandal Headlines

Other Major Stories

 

Today's Impeachment Excerpts

 msnbc logo CustomMSNBC / Rachel Maddow Show, Lev Parnas: 'President Trump knew exactly what was going on,' Rachel Maddow, Jan. 15, 2020 (3:06 min.). Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, talks with Rachel Maddow in an exclusive interview about the extent of Donald Trump's knowledge of the work he was doing to manipulate the president of Ukraine to help Trump smear political rival Joe Biden.

  • MSNBC, Lev Parnas: 'Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,' 2:19 min.

  • MSNBC, Lev Parnas remarks on role of Devin Nunes in Trump Ukraine Scheme, 2:27 min.

  • MSNBC, Shocking new evidence rocks Trump impeachment before Senate trial, 5:11 min.

  • MSNBC, Ukraine prosecutor offered dirt on Biden in exchange for firing of U.S. Ambassador, Jan. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence, Neal Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer neal katyal o(professors at Georgetown Law Center), Jan. 15, 2020. New documents show why the president has been trying to hide evidence from Congress. Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer.

The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption U.S. House logowhen he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could “penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.” No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say “no” to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: “Obstruction of Congress.” It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

nancy pelosi impeachment ny post cover sept 25 2019 CustomThe documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.

Both of us served in high-ranking Justice Department positions; we’ve never heard of an investigation that is kept from the Justice Department, given to a private lawyer and then publicly announced — investigations work best when done in secret. If Trump, as he has long claimed, was truly interested in pursuing anti-corruption efforts in the bizarrely specific form of a single investigation of a single American citizen, then he would have wanted an actual investigation. Instead, he was fixated on the public announcement of one — which, if anything, would have harmed the investigation by tipping off its subject. The public announcement would have helped only one thing: Trump’s personal political prospects.

  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just buried Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr and more, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just pretty much forced John Bolton’s testimony to happen, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff reveals the House has more up its sleeve against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Confirmed: Lev Parnas is throwing EVERYONE under the bus tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what you can expect from Rachel Maddow’s interview tonight with Lev Parnas, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC / The Beat with Ari, Lev Parnas tells Maddow ‘Trump knew exactly what was going on,’ Ari Melber, Jan. 15, 2020. Lev Parnas is breaking his silence in an exclusive interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. He says, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials.”

rudolph giuliani igor fruman dmitry torner lev parnas paris cigar may joseph bondy Custom

Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, in shirtsleeves, meets with, from left, Igor Fruman, business executive Dmitry Torner and Lev Parnas at a Paris cigar bar in May (Photo courtesy of Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy)

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani’s outreach to Ukrainian wanted in U.S. shows lengths he took in hunt for material to bolster Trump, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 15, 2020. The president’s personal lawyer and his associates met in a number of European capitals with associates of gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash, according to people familiar with the encounters.

The four men are gathered around a table cluttered with glasses inside an exclusive Parisian cigar bar, beaming as they each offer an ebullient thumbs-up for the camera.

rudy giulianiRudolph W. Giuliani, right, President Trump’s personal attorney, is flanked by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born emigres who were helping him hunt for damaging information about Democrats in Ukraine and who now face federal campaign finance charges. At the center of the photo is a new character in the Trump-Ukraine drama: an executive at a company owned by Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian gas tycoon who has been allied with pro-Russia interests and is currently fighting extradition to the United States to face bribery charges.

Photos of the May cigar bar huddle provided to The Washington Post capture a new moment in Giuliani’s operation to procure information from Ukrainian sources to bolster his presidential client. That effort, which played out in various European cities last spring and summer, led Giuliani to seek information from Firtash’s network and other controversial figures with much to gain from helping Trump’s private lawyer.

• Washington Post, Analysis: How Ukraine’s top prosecutor went after Marie Yovanovitch, step by step

nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

ny times logoNew York Times, House Votes to Send Impeachment Charges to Senate, Approving Managers, Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 15, 2020.  The House’s long-anticipated vote fell largely along party lines, setting the stage for what promises to be a fiercely partisan impeachment trial of President Trump.

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to send the Senate two articles of impeachment against President Trump, appointing seven Democrats to prosecute the case and initiating only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The 228-to-193 vote came almost a month after the House impeached Mr. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, formally accusing him of seeking foreign election assistance from Ukraine and then trying to conceal his actions from a House inquiry. Like that earlier vote, Wednesday’s fell largely along party lines.

Only one Democrat, Representative Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, joined every Republican in voting “no.”

It set the stage for what promises to be a partisan impeachment trial, which has already opened divisions in the normally staid Senate, and has the potential to shape Mr. Trump’s legacy, to stoke the country’s political polarization and to inject new uncertainty into the 2020 elections.

adam schiff squareThe process could damage the president, exposing conduct that some voters find unacceptable, but Mr. Trump is almost certain to use his likely acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate as a complete exoneration and turn the considerable apparatus of his campaign to stoking public outrage over the process. Democrats believe the proceeding will put pressure on Republicans — particularly those facing tough re-election challenges — to condemn Mr. Trump or risk being cast as an apologist for his misdeeds.

Ms. Pelosi announced a House prosecution team that will be led by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, above left, the chairman of the jerrold nadler o SmallIntelligence Committee who led the Ukraine inquiry.

He will be joined by Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, right, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Zoe Lofgren of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Val B. Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas. Mr. Crow and Ms. Garcia are both first-term members.

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Provide New Details of Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Ukraine, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 15, 2020. The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani and an associate on behalf of the president.

  • nancy pelosi twitterWashington Post, Analysis: Why Pelosi picked each impeachment manager, Amber Phillips, Jan. 15, 2020. Here’s what each of the seven House members brings to the table.
  • Washington Post, Analysis: How a Senate impeachment trial works, Amber Phillips, Jan. 15, 2020. Here’s how we believe each day will work based on a reading of the Senate rules.

Other Major Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan war plagued by ‘mendacity’ and lies, inspector general tells Congress, Craig Whitlock​, Jan. 15, 2020. John F. Sopko said U.S. officials have routinely lied to the public by exaggerating progress reports and inflating statistics to create a false appearance of success.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction told Congress Wednesday that U.S. officials have routinely lied to the public during the 18-year war by exaggerating progress reports and inflating statistics to create a false appearance of success.

“There’s an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue . . . mendacity and hubris,” John F. Sopko said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The problem is there is a disincentive, really, to tell the truth. We have created an incentive to almost require people to lie.”

As an example, Sopko said U.S. officials have lied in the past about the number of Afghan children enrolled in schools — a key marker of progress touted by the Obama administration — even though they “knew the data was bad.” He also said U.S. officials falsely claimed major gains in Afghan life expectancy that were statistically impossible to achieve.

 donald trump gage skidmore portrait

washington post logoWashington Post, New book portrays Trump as erratic, ‘at times dangerously uninformed,’ Ashley Parker, Jan. 15, 2020. A Very Stable Genius, by two Washington Post reporters, shows “how decision-making in President Trump’s administration has been driven by one man’s self-centered and unthinking logic — but a logic nonetheless.”

President Trump reveals himself as woefully uninformed about the basics of geography, incorrectly telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border.” He toys with awarding himself the Medal of Freedom.

And, according to a new book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, Trump does not seem to grasp the fundamental history surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Hey, John, what’s this all about? What’s this a tour of?” Trump asks his then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, as the men prepare to take a private tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the December 1941 Japanese surprise attack in the Pacific that pulled the United States into World War II.

“Trump had heard the phrase ‘Pearl Harbor’ and appeared to understand that he was visiting the scene of a historic battle, but he did not seem to know much else,” write the authors, later quoting a former senior White House adviser who concludes: “He was at times dangerously uninformed.”

New Trump Scandal Excerpts

george nader djt Custom 2

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump pedophile foreign policy adviser was transporting child bestiality porn to Mar-a-Lago, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 15, 2020  Amid all of the developments involving the impeachment and forthcoming U.S. Senate trial of the aspiring dictator-president Donald Trump was the guilty plea entered by George Nader, a former Trump foreign policy adviser, in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia.

Nader was a close confidante of Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Blackwater founder and Abu Dhabi-based Reflex Responses (R2) mercenary firm owner Erik Prince, former Republican Party National Finance Committee co-chair Elliott Broidy, Trump former campaign manager Steve Bannon, Trump aide Stephen Miller, and disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

lev parnas lutsenko Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine prosecutor offered information related to Biden in exchange for ambassador’s ouster, newly released materials show, Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 15, 2020 (print ed.). New materials released by House Democrats appear to show Ukraine’s rudy giulianitop prosecutor offering an associate of President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, damaging information related to former vice president Joe Biden if the Trump administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

The text messages and documents provided to Congress by former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas also show that before the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yovanovitch said Tuesday that the episode should be investigated.

The cache of materials released by House investigators late Tuesday exposed a number of previously unknown details about efforts by Giuliani and his associates to obtain material in Ukraine that would undermine Trump’s Democratic opponents.

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Robert Hyde, left, a GOP congressional candidate in Connecticut who owed more than $2,000 in child support while he was spending tens of thousands to support Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, was exposed Monday as allegedly working to threaten the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine using thugs in that country to advance Trump goals.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Meet the Trump Donor Who Allegedly Stalked America’s Ambassador in Ukraine, Will Sommer and Betsy Swan, Jan. 14, 2020. He was a longshot candidate with a penchant for the obscene. Now he’s at the center of the impeachment drama.

Before Tuesday, he was best known as a little-known, scandal-scarred Republican congressional candidate who tweeted an obscene joke at Kamala Harris. But new documents from the House Intelligence Committee have put a completely different kind of spotlight on Robert F. Hyde (shown above), the Trump donor who appears to have tracked U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s movements in Ukraine. She is shown at left.

marie yovanovitch“They know she’s a political puppet,” Hyde wrote to Parnas. “They will let me know when she’s on the move… They are willing to help if you/we would like a price.”

“Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money… what I was told,” Hyde wrote in another message. Parnas responded: “LOL.” Details below.

Asked about his previously undisclosed involvement in Ukraine, Hyde texted The Daily Beast an insult about House Intel chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), writing “Bull Schiff is a giant b*tch.”

“Did Pelosi get drunk and lose the impeachment articles?” he added. “Looks like Schiff wants to whistle blow me.”

Related stories:

Hartford Courant, Conn. candidate who deleted sexist tweet about Kamala Harris owes child support but gives big to Trump and GOP, Daniela Altimari, Dec. 19, 2019. Robert F. Hyde (above left), the Republican candidate for Congress whose sexually suggestive tweet about Kamala Harris drew widespread condemnation from leaders of both political parties, owes the mother of his 13-year-old son more than $2,000 in child support, according to court records, even as he has continued to make donations to President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Jennyfer Morin of Torrington said she was compelled to come forward because Hyde is seeking public support for his campaign to represent Connecticut’s 5th District. “I’m shocked that people are planning to vote for this man,” she said in an interview.

rnc logoCourt filings shared by Morin and reviewed by the Hartford Courant state that Hyde has donated more than $56,000 to political campaigns since October 2016. Most of those contributions went to the Republican National Committee, according to electronic filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Hyde also donated at least $2,000 to President Donald Trump’s reelection fund and at least $750 to the Connecticut Republican Party, according to the FEC. On Wednesday, the state party announced it was returning Hyde’s contributions, citing his “vile comments on Twitter.”

On Dec. 3, Hyde posted a crude and sexist tweet about Harris’ decision to drop out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race. The tweet [saying in part that a candidate was "going down" before unprintable language] was removed earlier this week after several prominent Republicans and Democrats criticized Hyde and urged him to drop his bid.

Hartford Courant, Editorial: Robert F. Hyde, get out of the race. The Republican party deserves better, Editorial Board, Dec. 18, 2019. Robert F. Hyde, a Simsbury resident and currently a Republican candidate for the 5th U.S. House District, is confused. He apparently thinks it is OK, perfectly fine, to tweet gross and misogynistic insults. Here’s a clarifying thought: He needs to step out of the race.

But he is not, and the Trumpian approach of being as crass as possible doesn’t work here in Connecticut.

Who is the Robert Hyde (shown above left) who surfaced in House Intelligence Committee documents?

In early December, Mr. Hyde tweeted a few hardly subtle phrases about Kamala Harris’ departure from the race for the Democratic nomination for president. They are too crude to be published here. Mr. Hyde should be embarrassed — but, to judge from his subsequent tweets, he is not.

“I wasn’t thinking on my earlier statement,'' Hyde tweeted on Tuesday, in a post that has been removed. “I felt Kampala Harris is a tremendous and one of the stronger candidates and I felt she shouldn’t have dropped out of the race so soon. The Democrats haven’t even started talking about issues.”

Kampala?

On Wednesday, a defiant tweet remained: “Kamala literally destroyed a great man (Kavanaugh) on National TV and I’m the bad guy over a tweet that was poor in taste that I posted a month ago? It’s ok for dems right? Quick question, do you think I’ll ever quit?”

Maybe he thought he was running for president.

djt podium gage skidmore via flickr Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, New Evidence Emerges as House Prepares to Send Impeachment Charges, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 15, 2020. House Democrats shared new records of President Trump’s efforts in Ukraine, adding pressure on Republicans to include witnesses in the Senate trial.

New details emerged on Tuesday of President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, intensifying demands on Senate Republicans on the eve of a historic impeachment trial to include witness testimony and additional documents in the proceeding.

The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani (at far right above), Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associate Lev Parnas (at center) on behalf of the president. They include handwritten notes scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mention getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

FBI logoHouse Democrats released the records even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote to name House prosecutors and send the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate to begin the trial. The material undergirds the accusations against Mr. Trump, and highlights how much is still to be learned about the scope of a scheme that the impeachment charges call a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.

The documents, provided by Mr. Parnas, contain a series of exchanges between him and a Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens.

In March 2019, Mr. Lutsenko messaged Mr. Parnas on the WhatsApp messaging service to complain that the Trump administration had not yet ousted the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Mr. Lutsenko, who had clashed with Ms. Yovanovitch and wanted her gone, appeared to link her removal to his assistance in attacking the Bidens. Related story:

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment spotlight turns to key question: whether to call witnesses, Seung Min Kim, Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa​, Jan. 15, 2020 (print ed.). A group of influential swing GOP senators is pushing to hold a vote on whether to call witnesses later in the proceedings. At the same time, the Senate’s right flank is increasingly making the case for a more aggressive posture in defense of President Trump.

The impeachment trial of President Trump, expected to open in the Senate on Thursday, is shining an intense spotlight on a handful of Senate Republicans who hold the power to decide a key question: whether to call witnesses.

djt nancy pelosiOn one end, a group of influential swing GOP senators — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — are pushing to hold a vote on whether to call witnesses later in the proceedings. Democrats have vowed to exert pressure on the group to break with their party on witnesses and other issues, such as obtaining documents.

At the same time, the Senate’s right flank is increasingly making the case to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other GOP leaders for a more aggressive posture in defense of Trump. In a private meeting with McConnell on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) argued that if Democrats press the case for potentially damaging witnesses — such as former national security adviser John Bolton — the GOP should insist on incendiary witnesses of their own, such as Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, according to two GOP officials familiar with the discussion.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatened tariffs if Europeans didn’t warn Iran on nuclear deal violations, John Hudson and Souad Mekhennet, Jan. 15, 2020. Europeans called the threat of a 25 percent tariff on autos “extortion.” A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching Iran Flagthe 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries.

If they refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles, the Trump officials warned, according to European officials familiar with the conversations.

Within days, the three countries would formally accuse Iran of violating the deal, triggering a recourse provision that could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran and unravel the last remaining vestiges of the Obama-era agreement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Signs China Trade Deal, Putting Economic Conflict on Pause, Ana Swanson and Alan Rappeport, Jan. 15, 2020. An initial pact, cooling tensions in an election year, follows months of escalating tariffs and a trade war that seemed as if it would never end.

china flag SmallPresident Trump signed an initial trade deal with China on Wednesday, bringing the first chapter of a protracted and economically damaging fight with one of the world’s largest economies to a close.

The pact is intended to open Chinese markets to more American companies, increase farm and energy exports and provide greater protection for American technology and trade secrets. China has committed to purchasing an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services by 2021 and is expected to ease some of the tariffs it has placed on American products.

But the agreement preserves the bulk of tariffs that Mr. Trump has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it maintains the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.

Global Research, Opinion: Iran to Sue the US and Trump for Killing General Soleimani, Stephen Lendman, Jan. 15, 2020. According to Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhossein Esmayeeli, the country’s ruling authorities will sue the US in international courts for Soleimani’s assassination.

“This brutal act was a violation of human rights and all international rules,” Esmayeeli stressed, adding: “Martyr Soleimani was the official guest of the Iraqi government officials as a high-ranking (Iranian) official, and a foreign state has committed this crime in Iraq.”

“The criminal US government’s measure to martyr General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and their entourage is a terrorist act from the legal view of point and a clear instance of state terrorism.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC), not the ICJ, is the proper tribunal for prosecuting individuals for crimes of war, against humanity, genocide, and aggression.

Since established by the Rome Statute in 2002, the ICC has never held the US, other Western nations, or Israel accountable for indisputable high crimes — just their victims. Time and again, the court breached its mandate to “end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern.”

Iran will likely seek redress against the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), mandated to settle international legal disputes, along with issuing advisory opinions on international legal issues referred to the court by the UN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dangling disaster relief funds, White House to require Puerto Rico to implement reforms, Arelis R. Hernández and Jeff Stein, Jan. 15, 2020. The Trump administration will tell Puerto Rico to stop paying contractors on disaster projects $15 an hour, even after it was hit by recurring earthquakes this month, officials said.

The Trump administration plans to impose several new requirements on billions of dollars in aid for Puerto Rico, including a new restriction on the wages paid by the island’s government to contractors working on disaster relief, according to two officials with knowledge of the plan.

The White House has for months worked to enact new restrictions on about $8 billion in disaster mitigation aid Congress approved for the island, which was hit this month with recurring earthquakes just two years after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the U.S. territory.

Under the parameters the Trump administration is proposing, Puerto Rico’s government will have to agree to give new oversight authority to the island’s federally mandated Fiscal Control Board — an appointed, independent government body — to receive funding for certain federal projects, officials said. Puerto Rico also will have to agree to pay federal contractors working on disaster relief less than $15 an hour, despite a recent executive order mandating the rate.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has been working with White House officials, is expected to tell the Puerto Rico government about the proposed restrictions this week, the officials said.

michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Flynn Moves to Withdraw Guilty Plea in Russia Inquiry, Adam Goldman, Jan. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Once cited by the special counsel team as an exemplary cooperating witness, President Trump’s former national security adviser (above left) had grown combative.

President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn moved late on Tuesday to withdraw his guilty plea on charges of lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry, accusing prosecutors of “bad faith” and vindictiveness after they asked a judge to sentence him to prison for backing out of a deal to cooperate with them.

The last-ditch request means that more than two years after first pleading guilty and after spending dozens of hours answering the questions of investigators for the special counsel, Mr. Flynn would take his chances at trial if a judge agrees to grant his motion. That would set up a collision course with prosecutors who could decide to bring additional charges against him.

Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency whose case marked a striking downfall, has already pleaded guilty twice to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential transition in late 2016. As part of his agreement with the government, Mr. Flynn also admitted that he violated foreign lobbying laws when he failed to disclose work he had done for Turkey.

After he cooperated extensively with prosecutors in the Russia investigation, they recommended leniency in late 2018. Mr. Flynn even agreed to delay his sentencing at the time to offer further cooperation by testifying against a former business associate in a case in Northern Virginia. But Mr. Flynn grew increasingly antagonistic in recent months and hired combative new lawyers in mid-2019.

Those lawyers had tried to convince a federal judge that the F.B.I. had ambushed him as part of a plot by biased investigators, hoping that the case would be thrown out. But the judge rejected those accusations this month as baseless, and prosecutors reversed their stance, saying Mr. Flynn should be imprisoned.

emmet sullivan 2012Because Mr. Flynn has already pleaded guilty twice, he cannot unilaterally withdraw from the plea deal. The federal judge in the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, right, of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, has to sign off on Mr. Flynn’s request and will most likely give prosecutors a chance to respond and schedule a hearing on the matter.

Mr. Flynn’s gamble raises questions about whether he and his lawyers were making a play for a presidential pardon. Days into his presidency, Mr. Trump dismissed Mr. Flynn after learning he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, but he has also said Mr. Flynn was treated badly by investigators.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge temporarily halts administration policy allowing local governments to block refugees, Ann E. Marimow and Maria Sacchetti, Jan. 15, 2020. The ruling found the Trump administration’s new policy on refugee resettlement is likely “unlawful.”

State and local officials cannot block refugees from being resettled in their jurisdictions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, finding the Trump peter messeti american universityadministration’s new refu­gee policy is likely to be “unlawful” and “does not appear to serve the overall public interest.”

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland temporarily halted President Trump’s executive order requiring governors and local officials nationwide to agree in writing to welcome refugees before resettlements take place in their jurisdictions.

“Giving states and local governments the power to consent to the resettlement of refugees — which is to say veto power to determine whether refugees will be received in their midst — flies in the face of clear Congressional intent,” Messitte wrote in a 31-page de

Jan. 14

Trump Impeachment Headlines

 

Trump's Threatening Supporter

ny times logoNew York Times, New Evidence Emerges as House Prepares to Send Impeachment Charges, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 15, 2020. House Democrats shared new records of President Trump’s efforts in Ukraine, adding pressure on Republicans to include witnesses in the Senate trial.

New details emerged on Tuesday of President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, intensifying demands on Senate Republicans on the eve of a historic impeachment trial to include witness testimony and additional documents in the proceeding.

The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani (at far right above), Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associate Lev Parnas (at center) on behalf of the president. They include handwritten notes scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mention getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

House Democrats released the records even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote to name House prosecutors and send the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate to begin the trial. The material undergirds the accusations against Mr. Trump, and highlights how much is still to be learned about the scope of a scheme that the impeachment charges call a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.

The documents, provided by Mr. Parnas, contain a series of exchanges between him and a Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens.

In March 2019, Mr. Lutsenko messaged Mr. Parnas on the WhatsApp messaging service to complain that the Trump administration had not yet ousted the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Mr. Lutsenko, who had clashed with Ms. Yovanovitch and wanted her gone, appeared to link her removal to his assistance in attacking the Bidens.

Trump Impeachment Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Senate Republicans reject Trump’s renewed call for immediate dismissal of charges, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Elise Viebeck, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Senior Republicans said such a dismissal could not win approval in the chamber, where the GOP holds a 53-seat majority. And even some staunch Trump allies argued the president’s legacy would benefit from a robust trial.

roy blunt official Small“I don’t think there’s any interest on our side of dismissing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the fourth-ranking GOP senator. “Certainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.”

us senate logoSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he wants the trial — only the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history — to follow the format used 21 years ago in the trial of President Bill Clinton. In that case, the Senate approved a resolution that would have allowed the Senate to vote to dismiss the charges.

But senior Republicans signaled Monday that they are not inclined to include such a provision in the resolution that will kick off Trump’s trial, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, House to vote Wednesday to send impeachment articles against Trump to the Senate, John Wagner, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 14, 2020. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that the House will vote on a resolution appointing impeachment managers and nancy pelosi impeachmenttransmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, allowing the trial of President Trump to begin this week.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, has announced that the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution appointing House impeachment managers and transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, allowing the trial of President Trump to begin this week.

In anticipation of the historic event, senators in the chamber controlled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been maneuvering behind the scenes about whether the trial should include witnesses and who might be summoned to testify.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment, Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter Biden, Russian joe biden omilitary hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the burisma logocompany.

The hackers fooled some of them into handing over their login credentials, and managed to get inside one of Burisma’s servers, Area 1 said.

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency. Mr. Falkowitz’s firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.

“The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta,” the Clinton campaign chairman, Mr. Falkowitz said. “Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.”

The Justice Department indicted seven officers from the same military intelligence unit in 2018.

The Russian attacks on Burisma appear to be running parallel to an effort by Russian spies in Ukraine to dig up information in the analog world that could embarrass the Bidens, according to an American security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The spies, the official said, are trying to penetrate Burisma and working sources in the Ukrainian government in search of emails, financial records and legal documents.

washington post logodjt impeached wapo 12 19 19 front page CustomWashington Post, Trump amplifies incendiary tweets about Nancy Pelosi after her comments on Iran protests, Brittany Shammas, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Monday retweeted a volley of incendiary posts accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of downplaying protests in Iran and supporting the regime.

donald trump twitterOne of them, a fake photo of Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wearing photoshopped Islamic head coverings and standing in front of the Iranian flag, drew swift condemnation. “DEMOCRATS 2020” read the text below the image, which was originally tweeted by an anonymous user with the caption, “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”

Among those denouncing the tweet was Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League.

“It’s outrageous that @realDonaldTrump elevated such repulsive anti-Muslim bigotry,” he tweeted. “#Islamophobia is offensive & unbecoming of any leader, let alone @POTUS. When #hate & division are on the rise, this is the opposite of what we need from the President. An apology is in order ASAP.”

Asked about the criticism during a Fox News appearance, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham backed Trump’s decision to amplify the tweet. She said he did so to make a point.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Suddenly Trump has lost enthusiasm for his trial, Dana Milbank
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi may yet have the last laugh, Jennifer Rubin

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Has Votes to Pass Limits on Trump’s Iran War Power, Catie Edmondson, Jan. 14, 2020. At least four Republicans would break ranks to pass the bill, a key Democrat said. It would be unlikely to overcome a veto from President Trump.

  • New York Times, Take Impeachment Seriously, Senators, Editorial Board, Jan. 14, 2020. Can they handle the truth?

World Newsdjt rally file Custom

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: They Like to Get the Landmarks, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 14, 2020. In the 2016 science fiction sequel, Independence strategic culture logoDay: Resurgence, actor Jeff Goldblum, describing the targeting priorities of aliens invading the Earth, says, “They like to get the landmarks.” In both Independence Day and its sequel, movie viewers were treated to scenes of macabre-looking extraterrestrials destroying the Empire State Building, the White House, Los Angeles’s Tower Records building, and London’s Tower Bridge and “the Eye” wheel.

Destroying famous landmarks is not merely in the purview of motion picture aliens but also the president of the United States. In a series of tweets sent after Trump (shown at a rally) ordered the assassination at Baghdad International Airport of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Al Quds commander, Major General Qaseem Soleimani, he vowed to destroy Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the U.S. assassination of Iran’s most revered military leader.

Trump tweeted: “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have… targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

iran wants war graphic Custom 3Destroying cultural and religious sites during armed conflict is a war crime and a violation of international law. Not since 1944, when the German commander of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, defied Adolf Hitler’s order to destroy the major cultural sites in Nazi-occupied Paris – the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sacré-Cœur basilica, and others – had a military official so publicly defied a political leader.

Trump did not state what 52 Iranian cultural sites and antiquities were on his “hit list,” but informed observers believe they included the ruins of the capital of the Achaemenid Empire at Persepolis; the Kingdom of Elam’s holy city, Tchogha Zanbil; and Imam Square in Isfahan, all protected World Heritage sites protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), from which Trump withdrew the United States in 2019.

The world has in recent years witnessed a number of barbarian acts of destruction of world heritage cultural sites. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) destroyed several historical sites and objects of antiquity in Mosul, Iraq and Palmyra, Syria. In 2001, the Taliban blew up the UNESCO-protected Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, rendering them into a pile of rubble.

It is a sad commentary on the present state of the world that an American president would desire to put himself in the same barbarian category as Adolf Hitler, ISIL, and the Taliban. However, Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran appears to have very few boundaries.

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump’s trade deal with China won’t give many U.S. companies relief, as most tariffs will remain, David J. Lynch, Jan. 14, 2020. Nearly two-thirds of everything Americans buy from China will face tariffs, compared with less than 1 percent before the president began his anti-China campaign, according to an analysis.

washington post logoWashington Post, France, Britain, Germany launch dispute process in Iran nuclear deal, a step toward sanctions, Loveday Morris, Jan. 14, 2020. By activating the 2015 deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, the European nations indicated they reject Iran’s withdrawal from the restrictions.

Tehran had been gradually reducing its commitments under the deal since the United States withdrew and reimposed sanctions in 2018.

With Washington threatening secondary sanctions against European businesses dealing with Iran, Tehran argued it could no longer reap the financial benefits laid out in the pact in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Jan. 13

William Barr is sworn in as U.S. Attorney General. His wife, Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts look on

William Barr is sworn in as U.S. Attorney General. His wife, Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts look on (White House photo).

The New Yorker, William Barr, Trump’s Sword and Shield:  The Attorney General’s mission to maximize executive power and protect the Presidency, David Rohde (an executive editor of newyorker.com and the author of In Deep: The F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the Truth about America’s ‘Deep State’, forthcoming in April, 2020), Jan. 13, 2020 (January 20, 2020 Issue). For decades, Barr has argued that Congress is a menace to the Presidency.  As Attorney General, he’s poised to fight back.

Last October, Attorney General William Barr appeared at Notre Dame Law School to make a case for ideological warfare. Before an assembly of students and faculty, Barr claimed that the “organized destruction” of religion was under way in the United States. “Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshalled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values,” he said. Barr, a conservative Catholic, blamed the spread of “secularism and moral relativism” for a rise in “virtually every measure of social pathology”—from the “wreckage of the family” to “record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.”

The speech was less a staid legal lecture than a catalogue of grievances accumulated since the Reagan era, when Barr first enlisted in the culture wars. It included a series of contentious claims. He argued, for example, that the Founders of the United States saw religion as essential to democracy. “In the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people—a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order,” he said. Barr ended his address by urging his listeners to resist the “constant seductions of our contemporary society” and launch a “moral renaissance.”

Donald Trump does not share Barr’s long-standing concern about the role of religion in civic life.

(Though he often says that the Bible is his favorite book, when he was asked which Testament he preferred, he answered, “The whole Bible is incredible.”)

What the two men have in common is a sense of being surrounded by a hostile insurgency.

Impeachment Headlines

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

 

Impeachment Excerpts

washington post logous senate logoWashington Post, Preparations accelerate for historic Senate trial of Trump, John Wagner​, Jan. 13, 2020. The House is expected to appoint impeachment managers and transmit the articles of impeachment in coming days.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Frightening Vision of the Presidency Is on Trial, Too, Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes (authors of the forthcoming “Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office”), Jan. 13, 2020. The president believes that what is good for him and what is good for the country are indistinguishable.

When the trial of President Trump begins, perhaps as soon as this week, the Senate will formally confront only the two questions posed by the articles of impeachment passed in the House of Representatives. Did Mr. Trump abuse the powers of his office in his interactions with Ukraine? And did he obstruct Congress’s investigation of that matter?

But the real question before the Senate is far broader than the specific scandal recounted in the articles. What is on trial, at the most basic level, is Mr. Trump’s vision of the American presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, A deal with the president on impeachment? McConnell’s supporters at home demand it, Griff Witte​, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is up for reelection this year and needs to keep conservatives on his side in what could be a tight campaign.

mitch mcconnell2The Senate majority leader’s insistence that he will coordinate Trump’s impeachment trial with the White House — and that he has no intention of being impartial — has provoked howls of protest from Democrats. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused McConnell, left, of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s actions.

It has also prompted speculation that he could jeopardize his slender majority by exposing Republicans in swing or Democratic-leaning states to accusations that they went along with a rigged process running counter to the Constitution.

But here in Kentucky, it just looks like savvy politics.

The 77-year-old is expected to face a vigorous challenge in November from a decorated Marine fighter pilot with a record of big-dollar fundraising. Yet McConnell has shown an unerring instinct for self-preservation across six Senate terms and a record stint as Republican leader.

• Washington Post, Pelosi says Trump is ‘impeached for life’ despite McConnell’s ‘coverup.

djt lev parnas Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just took his big swing at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 13, 2020. It’s a storyline that may or may not add up to anything, but it just won’t go away. Lev Parnas, who is currently awaiting criminal trial in relation to his role in Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal, has become hellbent on the idea of playing a major role in Trump’s impeachment. Just as the House appears ready to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, Parnas, shown above at left, just took his big swing.

bill palmer report logo headerLev Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this last night: “We brought the contents of Lev Parnas’ iPhone 11 to HPSCI today, despite every stumbling block placed in our path since DOJ SDNY arrested him on 10/9/19.”

So what’s on this iPhone? We don’t know. But we do know that when it came time for the Feds to share the seized evidence with Lev ahead of trial, Lev and his legal team fought in court for permission to share the contents of this phone with the House Intelligence Committee. Lev appears to be trying to convince the House that he’s a credible witness against Donald Trump, and that he should be called to testify. The evidence on the phone ostensibly backs up Lev’s version of events.

Of course the House has already closed out its impeachment process, having impeached Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment. But if the House finds Lev Parnas’ evidence and testimony credible, it can always announce new hearings and consider additional articles of impeachment – even as the Senate is holding a trial on the two existing articles. We’ll see where this does or doesn’t go, but Parnas seems to believe that whatever is on his phone can help reduce his potential prison sentence.

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, In saying Iran aimed to attack ‘four embassies,’ Trump puts U.S. in a credibility crisis, Philip Rucker, John Hudson, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 13, 2020. At a perilous moment for the nation’s security, with the United States at the brink of war with Iran, President Trump is unable to rely on trustworthiness to justify his decision to take out a top Iranian general.

Based on what is known so far, Trump’s statement was at best an unfounded theory and at worst a falsehood. At each turn in the commander in chief’s rapidly-evolving narrative of why he authorized the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Major Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the machinery of government scrambled to adapt and respond.

The result is a credibility crisis for an administration that has long struggled to communicate factual information to the public. At a perilous moment for the nation’s security, with the United States at the brink of war with Iran, Trump is unable to rely on trustworthiness to justify his decision to take out Soleimani, both because of his lengthy record of exaggerations and lies and because of his ever-shifting rationales.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Iran Strategy May Cost Him in 2020 Election, Jeremy W. Peters, Jan. 13, 2020. President Trump’s criticism of American interventionism was part of his appeal to voters. But as tensions with Iran remain high, Mr. Trump risks becoming the wartime president he said he never wanted to be.

Almost exactly four years ago, Donald J. Trump touched down at an airport hangar here (in Dubuque, Iowa), delivered a donation to a group that provides service dogs to veterans and, before inviting a few kids to run around on his Boeing 757, criticized the wars in the Middle East that many local families had sent their sons and daughters to fight in.

“I’m the guy that didn’t want to go to war,” he told a crowd of several hundred. “It’s just unjust, it’s a mess,” Mr. Trump went on, promising that if he ever did deploy the military anywhere, it would be “so strong, so powerful that nobody is going to mess with us anymore.”

That November, Dubuque County voted Republican in the presidential election for the first time since 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower was on the ballot.

Mr. Trump’s success in places like Dubuque — heavily white, working class, union-friendly and Catholic — remade the Republican electorate. And his path to a second term depends heavily on whether those voters turn their backs on the Democratic Party again.

republican elephant logoBut the specter of a new conflict in the Middle East — this time with Iran — threatens the political coalition that Mr. Trump built in 2016 by running against a national Republican Party that many voters came to see as indifferent and unresponsive, particularly when it came to the human cost of war.

As tensions with Iran remain high, Mr. Trump risks becoming the wartime president he claimed he never wanted to be. And he has struggled to reconcile the inconsistencies in his foreign policy, leaving some voters wondering what he really is as a commander in chief: the president who crushed the Islamic State and will stop “endless wars,” as he claims, or a volatile decision maker who in the span of three months orders troops to pull out of Syria and then deploys thousands more to prepare for a possible conflict with Iran after taking out one of its top generals in a drone strike.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. commanders at al-Asad base believe Iranian missile barrage was designed to kill, Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 13, 2020. The attack lasted more than an hour and a half, troops said. The lack of casualties appears to be partly a function of luck at the sprawling base in Iraq.

• Washington Post, Trump says ‘it doesn’t really matter’ if Iranian general posed an imminent threat
• Washington Post, Trump amplifies incendiary tweets about Pelosi after her comments on Iran protests

washington post logoCentcom logoWashington Post, U.S. troops on Iraqi base had minutes’ notice before barrage of Iranian rockets, Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 13, 2020. The attack lasted more than an hour and a half, troops said. The lack of casualties appears to be partly a function of luck.

In the hours that followed, Iran described the attacks as a shot of “harsh revenge” that had killed dozens. Within a day, that rhetoric had shifted and U.S. and Iraqi officials were insisting that nobody had been killed or wounded.

Accounts from inside the Trump administration have suggested that the lack of casualties was a crucial factor in the president’s decision not to escalate further. “All is well!” he posted in a tweet hours after the attack.

• Washington Post, Pompeo has declined to discuss Iran with House Foreign Affairs panel, its chairman says
• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s compulsion to take credit deepens his credibility gap amid questions about Iran
• Washington Post, Iranians protest over downed airliner amid reports of gunfire by security forces

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials struggle to explain intelligence behind killing of Soleimani, Karen DeYoung​, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Senior members of the administration including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper declined to confirm the president’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran.​

Department of Defense SealSenior administration officials declined Sunday to confirm President Trump’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran, while saying that Trump’s “interpretation” of the threat was consistent with overall intelligence that justified the killing of a senior Iranian general.

“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said of intelligence reports. “What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies,” Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Washington Post, Strike against general reflects an aggressive national security team not inclined to curb Trump.

Trump Border Issue Dictates

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump planning to divert additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funds for border wall, Nick Miroff​, Jan. 13, 2020. ​The move would give his administration five times more money than Congress authorized in the 2020 budget for barrier construction — and add hundreds of miles of new barriers — according to figures obtained by The Post.

President Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, according to internal planning figures obtained by The Washington Post.

The Pentagon funds would be extracted, for the second year in a row, from military construction projects and counternarcotics funding. According to the plans, the funding would give the government enough money to complete approximately 885 miles of new fencing by Spring 2022, far more than the 509 miles the administration has slated for the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump took $2.5 billion from military counterdrug programs for border barrier construction in 2019, but this year his administration is planning to take significantly more — $3.5 billion. Trump administration officials also are planning to take $3.7 billion in military construction funding, slightly more than the $3.6 billion diverted in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. is putting asylum seekers on planes to Guatemala — often without telling them where they’re going, Kevin Sieff, Jan. 13, 2020. For the first time ever, the United States is shipping asylum seekers who arrive at its border to a “safe third country” to seek refuge there. The Trump administration hopes the program will serve as a model for others in the region.

But during its first weeks, asylum seekers and human rights advocates say, migrants have been put on planes without being told where they were headed, and left here without being given basic instruction about what to do next.

When the migrants land in Guatemala City, they receive little information about what it means to apply for asylum in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Those who don’t immediately apply are told to leave the country in 72 hours. The form is labeled “Voluntary Return.”

Jan. 12

Inside DC

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses with his admirer Donald Trump at their meeting on June 12, 2018.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses with his admirer Donald Trump at their meeting on June 12, 2018.

Axios Sneak Peek, Exclusive: Trump tells Kim Jong-un he wants to resume talks, Jonathan Swan, Jan. 12, 2020. White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien tells Axios that the Trump administration has "reached out to the North Koreans" to ask them to resume diplomacy that has been all but dead since October.

O'Brien also indicated he was cautiously optimistic about the fact that Kim Jong-un hasn't yet delivered his promised "Christmas gift" — which many analysts expected would be a nuclear weapons test. O'Brien sat down with Margaret Talev, Alayna Treene and me at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Friday to talk about a range of national security challenges at the start of a new year.

On the tense and dangerous situation with North Korea, O'Brien told us: "We've reached out to the North Koreans and let them know that we would like to continue the negotiations in Stockholm that were last undertaken in early October.

"We've been letting them know, through various channels, that we would like to get those [negotiations] back on track and to implement Chairman Kim's commitment" to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Between the lines: It appears President Trump is again trying to lean on what he has described as his warm personal relationship with the brutal North Korean dictator.

Trump recently sent a birthday message to Kim. But the North Koreans have already said Trump's courtship will not change their policy. So far, Trump's diplomacy has yielded little besides giving Kim more time to expand his nuclear arsenal, according to analysts tracking North Korea's supply of nuclear warheads.

  • Trump may reduce troops in Afghanistan without Taliban deal. O'Brien tells Axios "it is possible" Trump will cut a deal with the Taliban this year but that even if a deal can't be struck, the president is still poised to reduce troops in Afghanistan.

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials struggle to explain intelligence behind killing of Soleimani, Karen DeYoung​, Jan. 12, 2020. Senior members of the administration including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper declined to confirm the president’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran.​

Senior administration officials declined Sunday to confirm President Trump’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran, while saying that Trump’s “interpretation” of the threat was consistent with overall intelligence that justified the killing of a senior Iranian general.

“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said of intelligence reports. “What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies,” Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Washington Post, Strike against general reflects an aggressive national security team not inclined to curb Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Leaders in Tehran face new challenges after Iran admits to downing plane, Erin Cunningham and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Protests flared Iran Flagin Tehran, where student-led rallies decried the missile mistake and called on military chiefs to resign.

• Washington Post, What's at stake for Iran
• Washington Post, Iran tensions could fulfill prophecies about the end of the world, some religious teachers say

OpEdNews, Commentary: Trump Tells Iraq Order US Troops Out and I'll Freeze Your Central Bank's Account at the Fed, Dave Lindorff, Jan. 12, 2020. President Trump's actions in the Middle East are becoming increasingly unhinged. A week ago, he nearly triggered a catastrophic war between Iran and the US when, acting seemingly on a whim or in response to the advice of two of his nuttier advisors, fundamentalist Christian "Rapture" believers Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, he ordered the assassination by drone of the commander of Iran's military, Qassem Suleimani.

Fortunately for American troops, sailors and pilots, and for all of us and the people of Iran, saner heads in the administration seem to have gotten to Trump, and also fortunately,Iran's military responded in measured fashion. As a result, the threat of a major war between the two countries seems to have receded a bit, at least for now.

abdul mahdi Custom 2Then today, Trump, in response for a call by Iraq's parliament and its Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, right, for the US to withdraw all of its 5100 troops currently stationed in Iraq, declared he would not remove them. He added that if forced to pull them out of the country by Iraq, would freeze a deposit account of Iraq's Central Bank at the US Federal Reserve, preventing Iraq from accessing what the Wall Street Journal reports amounted to a deposited balance of some $3 billion at the end of 2018.

The Wall Street Journal article reports that some 250 foreign central banks and other state entities have such accounts with the US Federal Reserve containing untold billions of dollars. There was no discussion in the Journal article of what impact the US's arbitrary freezing of Iraq's Central Bank account simply over a dispute about America's troops in Iraq might have on the willingness of all those other foreign countries' banks and agencies willingness to continue letting the Fed hold their money.

It has not been unusual for the US to freeze foreign countries' assets, in both the Federal Reserve Bank, and in the electronic vaults of US commercial banks, but typically this has been done when a country has engaged in illegal activity, or when a revolution has occurred. This was the case after the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979, and was the reason that the Obama administration, as part of the nuclear deal it and five other nations negotiated with Iran, unfroze some $150 billion in Iranian assets that the US had been blocking Iran from accessing. (That's the nuclear agreement that Trump tore up earlier this year.)

Impeachment Update

washington post logoWashington Post, A deal with the president on impeachment? McConnell’s supporters at home demand it, Griff Witte​, Jan. 12, 2020. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is up for reelection this year and needs to keep conservatives on his side in what could be a tight campaign.

mitch mcconnell2The Senate majority leader’s insistence that he will coordinate Trump’s impeachment trial with the White House — and that he has no intention of being impartial — has provoked howls of protest from Democrats. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused McConnell, left, of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s actions.

It has also prompted speculation that he could jeopardize his slender majority by exposing Republicans in swing or Democratic-leaning states to accusations that they went along with a rigged process running counter to the Constitution.

But here in Kentucky, it just looks like savvy politics.

The 77-year-old is expected to face a vigorous challenge in November from a decorated Marine fighter pilot with a record of big-dollar fundraising. Yet McConnell has shown an unerring instinct for self-preservation across six Senate terms and a record stint as Republican leader.

• Washington Post, Pelosi says Trump is ‘impeached for life’ despite McConnell’s ‘coverup.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion from George Conway and Neal Katyal: How Pelosi should play her impeachment cards, George T. Conway III, right, and Neal K. Katyal, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that she plans to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, but george conway twitterthat does not mean she has lost in the seeming standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over whether to call witnesses at the Senate trial.

McConnell, below left, has said “there’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office” and “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position.” In response, Pelosi still has cards in her hand — if she plays them — because the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

mitch mcconnell2The first article of impeachment effectively charges the president with shaking down Ukraine; the second impeaches him for his unprecedented obstruction of Congress. That gives the speaker room to maneuver. She could choose to tweak her announcement and send only the second article, on obstruction, for trial. Or she could transmit them both — along with a House-approved provision advising the Senate that if it fails to obtain adequate witnesses and documents, the House will reopen the investigation into Article I and subpoena that material itself.

Separating the two articles — our preferred approach — would make perfect sense. When it comes to the second article, all the evidence about Trump’s obstruction is a matter of public record. There’s nothing more to add, so the second article is ripe for trial. But as to the first, although there is plenty of evidence demonstrating Trump’s guilt, his obstruction has prevented all of the evidence from coming to light.

neal katyal oHow can one conduct a “trial” without knowing this evidence? As lawyers, we have never heard of a trial without witnesses. Both past impeachment trials of presidents featured witnesses — including 41 in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. And the lack of witnesses is particularly striking given the shell game Trump and his Republican colleagues have played. In the House, Trump prevented executive branch employees from testifying, but said some of them would be able to testify in the Senate. Now that we are in the Senate, Republicans say these folks should have testified in the House. Lewis Carroll would be pleased.

George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York and an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC. Neal Katyal, right, a law professor at Georgetown University, is the author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump” and previously served as the acting solicitor general of the United States.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani has completely berserk meltdown on live national television, Daniel Cotter, Jan. 12, 2020. Just when you think that Rudy Giuliani cannot find a way rudy giuliani recentto even further demonstrate the insanity of himself and his client, Rudy finds a new way. Giuliani, right, who went on a mission to Ukraine to manufacture fake dirt on the Bidens and promised explosive information, was dismissed by Lindsey Graham as needing to have his information vetted. For Graham to be so dismissive tells us all we need to know.

Now Giuliani is spreading more manure, this time on “Judge” Jeanine’s show. Giuliani claimed on Saturday night that Joe Biden made money in Iraq, in Iran, and in China. He spoke of a RICO crime chart with Biden at the center. No evidence, no information, nothing, but the Cult 45 fools will eat this up.

bill palmer report logo headerRudy also went on to say that the Supreme Court should declare impeachment unconstitutional. One minor problem for the G-Man, who used to be respected for his legal analysis: impeachment is specifically set forth in the Constitution, and assigns the responsibility of each chamber of Congress and the process that is to take place. Impeachment requires no actual criminal conduct, and is instead a political process.

In addition, Rudy stated to Jeanine, “The Chief Justice has the power to dismiss the impeachment case.” Yeah, that is not how this works. The Chief Justice has no power to do any such thing and, in the 1990s, the Supreme Court expressly stated that when it comes to the process, the Court would not get involved, as impeachment is indeed a political matter. We appear to be living in a world of Batman’s Gotham, with Rudy appearing as a delusional Joker. Notice though that “Judge Jeanine” might be the only willing participant at the moment in Rudy’s delusional act – just not the kind of judge who can help him.

Jan. 11

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Says It Unintentionally Shot Down Ukrainian Airliner, Farnaz Fassihi, Jan. 11, 2020 (updated). “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” President Hassan Rouhani said, as Iran reversed its claims that mechanical failure was to blame.

Iran’s military announced early Saturday that it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error because of what it called the plane’s sharp, unexpected hassan rouhani fileturn toward a sensitive military base.

After days of tension since the jet crashed near Tehran on Wednesday, the same day that Iranian missiles struck American bases in Iraq, the admission was a stunning reversal. Iran initially maintained that mechanical issues had brought the Boeing airliner down, killing all 176 people aboard.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter soon after the military released its statement. He offered condolences to the victims’ families and said investigations were underway. The military said the person responsible would face legal consequences.

washington post logoWashington Post, On the day U.S. forces killed Soleimani, they launched another operation targeting Iranian official in Yemen, John Hudson, Missy Ryan and Josh Dawsey​, Jan. 11, 2020 (print ed.). On the day the U.S. military killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad, U.S. forces carried out another top secret mission against a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, according to U.S. officials.

The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

qassim soleimaniThe unsuccessful operation may indicate that the Trump administration’s killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, right, last week was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated.

U.S. military operations in Yemen, where a civil war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, are shrouded in secrecy. U.S. officials said the operation against Shahlai remains highly classified, and many declined to offer details other than to say it was not successful.

Impeachment

washington post logonancy pelosi impeachmentWashington Post, Pelosi signals House will send articles of impeachment to Senate as soon as next week, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis​, Jan. 11, 2020 (print ed.). “I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate,” the House speaker said in a letter to colleagues Friday.

Jan. 6

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, News analysis: Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions, David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, Jan. 6, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump thought the nuclear deal was flawed because restrictions on Iran would end after 15 years. Now, responding to a U.S. strike, Iran has declared the limits over after less than five.

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the President Donald Trump officialaccord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.

But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.

Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.

Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens strikes on Iranian cultural sites, sanctions against Iraq, Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker, July 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump served a bellicose brew of threats, rebukes and contempt on Sunday as he escalated tensions in the Middle East and awaited Iran's possible retaliation for the U.S. killing of one of its top generals.

Trump projected a wartime posture as he wrapped up his holiday vacation here, reiterating that if Iran took military action against the United States he may order attacks on Iranian cultural sites, which could constitute a war crime under international law. He vowed on Twitter to "quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner."

Trump threatened Iraq as well. He countered the Iraqi parliament's move Sunday to try to expel foreign troops, including U.S. forces, by telling reporters that he would respond by imposing "very big sanctions" on the nation and demanding that Iraq reimburse the United States for the billions of dollars it had invested in a major air base there.

Should Iraq force out the Americans, Trump said, "We will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before, ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."

He added that he would impose "very big sanctions" on Iraq "if there's any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate."

Trump also flouted protocols at home, making a mockery of his necessity to advise Congress of military action by writing on Twitter that his tweets would serve as official notification of strikes.

Threat To Afghanistan

Tom Dispatch via Truthdig, Opinion: Trump Threatens Armageddon in Afghanistan, Nick Turse, Jan. 6, 2020. On February 4, 2002, a Predator drone circled over Afghanistan’s Paktia province, near the city of Khost. Below was al-Qaeda’s founder Osama bin Laden — or at least someone in the CIA thought so — and he was marked for death. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it later, both awkwardly and passively: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.” That air-to-ground, laser-guided missile — designed to obliterate tanks, bunkers, helicopters, and people — did exactly what it was meant to do.

As it happened, though (and not for the first time in its history either), the CIA got it wrong. It wasn’t Osama bin Laden on the receiving end of that strike, or a member of al-Qaeda, or even of the Taliban. The dead, local witnesses reported, were civilians out collecting scrap metal, ordinary people going about their daily work just as thousands of Americans had been doing at the World Trade Center only months earlier when terror struck from the skies.

In the years since, those Afghan scrap collectors have been joined by more than 157,000 war dead in that embattled land. That’s a heavy toll, but represents just a fraction of the body count from America’s post-9/11 wars. According to a study by the Costs of War Project of Brown University’s Watson Institute, as many as 801,000 people, combatants and noncombatants alike, have been killed in those conflicts. That’s a staggering number, the equivalent of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. But if President Donald Trump is to be believed, the United States has “plans” that could bury that grim count in staggering numbers of dead. The “method of war” he suggested employing could produce more than 20 times that number in a single country — an estimated 20 million or more Afghans, almost all of them civilians.

It’s a strange fact of our moment that President Trump has claimed to have “plans” (or “a method”) for annihilating millions of innocent people, possibly most of the population of Afghanistan. Yet those comments of his barely made the news, disappearing within days. Even for a president who threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea and usher in “the end” of Iran, hinting at the possibility of wiping out most of the civilian population of an ally represented something new.

After all, America’s commander-in-chief does have the authority, at his sole discretion, to order the launch of weapons from the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal. So it was no small thing last year when President Trump suggested that he might unleash a “method of war” that would kill at least 54% of the roughly 37 million inhabitants of Afghanistan.

And yet almost no one — in Washington or Kabul — wanted to touch such presidential comments. The White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department all demurred. So did the chief spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. One high-ranking Afghan official apologized to me for being unable to respond honestly to President Trump’s comments. A current American official expressed worry that reacting to the president’s Afghan threats might provoke a presidential tweet storm against him and refused to comment on the record.

Experts, however, weren’t shy about weighing in on what such “plans,” if real and utilized, would actually mean. Employing such a method (to use the president’s term), they say, would constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, and possibly a genocide.

Jan. 5

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

qasem soleimani 2018 via epa efe iranian supreme leader office Custom

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

ny times logoNew York Times, Iraqi Lawmakers Vote to Expel U.S. Troops as Iran Mourns a Slain General, Alissa J. Rubin, Steven Erlanger and Farnaz Fassihi, Jan. 5, 2020. The vote to oust American troops is not final until Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi signs the draft bill, but there is little doubt that he will. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets in Iran to pay their respects to Maj. General Qassim Suleimani, who was killed in iraq afghanistan mapa U.S. strike in Baghdad.

Lawmakers in Iraq voted on Sunday to require the government to end the presence of American troops in the country after the United States ordered the killing of the Iranian leader of the elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, on Iraqi soil.

The decision to heed the demands of angry Shiite factions and politicians came as hundreds of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Iran to pay their respects to General Suleimani, the most powerful figure in the country after the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The vote is not final until Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, left, of Iraq signs the bill. But since he drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, there was little doubt he would sign it.

abdul mahdi Custom 2Although the vote was 170-0 in Parliament, many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend the session and did not vote, showing the division in Parliament on the demands to oust American troops. While groups that grew out of Shiite militia organizations have pushed hard for the expulsion, Sunni Muslim factions and the Kurds wanted the United States to stay.

The legislation threads a fine needle: While using strong language demanding that the government “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason” by foreign forces, it gives no timetable for doing so.

It would end the mission approved in 2014 that gave the United States the explicit task of helping the Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State. That agreement gave the Americans substantial latitude to launch attacks and use Iraqi airspace. But the measure would leave in place the Strategic Framework Agreement, which allows an American troop presence in Iraq in some form.

ny times logoAmerican FlagNew York Times, U.S.-Led Coalition Halts ISIS Fight as It Steels for Iranian Attacks, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, Jan. 5, 2020. The coalition is ending its yearslong mission attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in Iraq and Syria. American forces in Iraq and Syria will now focus on protecting themselves.

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo dismisses Iraqi leader’s call for all foreign troops to leave, Felicia Sonmez, Paige Winfield Cunningham and Tony mike pompeo portraitRomm, Jan. 5, 2020.  “We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign,” the secretary of state said, two days after a U.S. strike that killed a top Iranian commander.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, on Sunday dismissed calls by Iraq’s caretaker prime minister for a timetable for all foreign troops to exit the country in the wake of a U.S. strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, arguing that the Iraqi people want the United States to remain and continue the fight against terrorism.

Pompeo appeared on all of the Sunday morning news shows to discuss U.S. strategy following the strike, which also killed eight others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia leader.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran says it is suspending all commitments to 2015 nuclear deal, Erin Cunningham​, Jan. 5, 2020.  Iran said Sunday that it is suspending all commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal it had struck with world powers and will abandon restrictions on uranium enrichment and other activities unless U.S. sanctions are lifted.

The government announced the move in a statement carried by state news agencies.

"Iran's nuclear program will now be based solely on its technical needs," the statement said. The move includes breaching the accord's caps on everything from enrichment capacity to activating centrifuges to its stockpile of nuclear fuel.

"If the sanctions are lifted … the Islamic Republic is ready to return to its obligations," the statement said. It added that Iran will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

Iran, meanwhile, said Sunday that it would limit its response to the drone attack to U.S. military targets.

"The response for sure will be military and against military sites," Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Iran's supreme leader, said in an interview with CNN. "The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted."

Deghan’s remarks came as President Trump threatened Saturday on Twitter to strike “52 Iranian sites … some at a very high level & important to Iran and the Iranian culture” should Tehran retaliate against Americans or U.S. interests in the region. Iran has 24 locations on the U.N. list of cultural world heritage sites.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump faces Iran crisis with fewer experienced advisers and strained ties with U.S. allies, Greg Miller​, Jan. 5, 2020. The Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)president has spent much of his first three years in office attacking critical capabilities he now needs.

  • Washington Post, Pelosi says Trump notified Russians of Baghdadi raid before telling congressional leaders
  • Washington Post, In confrontation with Iran, Trump wrestles with shadow of Obama
  • Washington Post, The key word in U.S. justifications for killing Iranian general: ‘Imminent
  • Washington Post, Could the strike on an Iranian general trigger a draft? The Selective Service, explained

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why lying about an ‘imminent’ attack would matter,' Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 5, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and State Department subordinates vigorously argued Friday that the justification for killing Iranian general jennifer rubin new headshotand terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani was intelligence that an attack was “imminent.”

It is easy to understand why such a rationale would be advanced. An imminent threat would arguably obviate the need for a declaration of war from or even prior consultation with Congress. Exercising the right of self-defense, an established principle of international law, would satisfy allies and sidestep nasty questions about violation of an executive order in place with only minor changes since 1976 that prohibits assassination.

Aside from the legalities, as a political matter, polls have shown overwhelming opposition to a war with Iran. Casting the killing as defensive and urgent rather than an act of a war of choice would be one way to avert a public backlash. (If this reminds you of the Iraq War, you are in good company.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Congress, Stop President Trump’s Rush to War With Iran, Editorial Board, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Republican senators are the only people with the power to restrain the president. President Trump must doubt his administration’s own claims that it deterred Iranian threats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens reprisals against Iran should U.S. assets or Americans be attacked, Mustafa Salim and Kareem Fahim, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). After an Iranian commander suggested that dozens of U.S. sites in the Mideast were at risk following the American strike that donald trump twitterkilled a top Iranian general, President Trump tweeted that Iran would be “hit very fast and very hard” if it goes after U.S. targets.

“Iran has been nothing but a problem for many years,” Trump tweeted. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

Impeachment Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Graham suggests changing Senate rules to begin Trump impeachment trial within days, Rachael Bade, Jan. 5, 2020. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham’s bid, while unlikely, highlights the pressure Trump allies feel to begin the trial as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the charges against the president.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham suggested Sunday that Republicans should try to change Senate rules governing impeachment if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the charges against President Trump — an unlikely 11th-hour bid to begin a trial within days without the actual documents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was unequivocal in a Senate floor speech on Friday that “we can’t hold a trial without the articles; the Senate’s own rules don’t provide for that.” But Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump, floated the idea of a unilateral GOP move, saying he would work with McConnell to allow the Senate to proceed without the two charges against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The suggestion, while unlikely due to the high threshold of votes required for changing Senate impeachment rules, underscores the pressure some Trump allies feel as the president stews over the impeachment delay.

After the House impeached Trump on Dec. 18, Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided to withhold the articles of impeachment to try to help Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in his negotiations with McConnell for witnesses the White House blocked from testifying in the House, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Former national security adviser John Bolton balked at cooperating in the House probe.

Jan. 4

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

 qassem soleimani exploded car Custom 2

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, With missile strike, Trump opts for escalation and a swing at a ‘hornets’ nest,’ Joby Warrick and William Branigin, Jan. 4, 2020 (print ed.). Trump administration officials described the fiery attack (with charred death car wreckage shown above) as a defensive measure intended to disrupt Iranian plans to kill U.S. diplomats or service members overseas.

But current and former U.S. officials said the United States almost certainly will face retaliatory strikes for the killing of Quds Force commander qasem soleimani with zolfaghar orderQasem Soleimani, right, as well as a heightened risk of a wider regional conflict, which U.S. administrations previously had sought to avoid.

washington post logoWashington Post, At Baghdad funeral procession for Qasem Soleimani, calls for retaliation against U.S., Mustafa Salim, Kareem Fahim and Louisa Loveluck​, Jan. 4, 2020  Thousands joined the ceremonies on Saturday for Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader. “We will take our revenge,” some chanted.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the United States for the killing of Soleimani, right,Tehran’s most powerful military commander, and the Trump administration has said it is sending thousands of new troops to the Middle East. The looming confrontation has left the region bracing for an escalation of violence, and Iraq, caught between its allies in Tehran and Washington, fears the country will be at the center of the storm.

An Iranian commander quoted by the Tasnim News Agency on Saturday suggested that dozens of American facilities and military assets in the Middle East were at risk, along with Israel, a key U.S. ally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Soleimani’s killing is different from other targeted attacks by U.S., Siobhán O'Grady, Jan. 4, 2020. After the killing of Soleimani, the United States could face direct Iranian reprisals, including potential cyberattacks, analysts said. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened “severe revenge” but gave no indication of what could come.

Iran FlagBarbara Slavin, the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said Trump is “trying to do a victory lap here and beat his chest and somehow show this is like killing Baghdadi.” She was referring to the October raid on the hideout of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria. “But it’s not. It’s much more serious,” she said.

Like Baghdadi’s, other targeted killings carried out by the United States have typically struck at extremist leaders without affiliations to a powerful state such as Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tensions Abroad Stir a Whirlwind at Fort Bragg as Soldiers Deploy, Rick Rojas and Myah Ward, Jan. 4, 2020. Some 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are bound for the Middle East, spelling uncertainty for families and a community where the base is its backbone.

  • New York Times, Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General, Staff report, For years, Iran has been a divided nation led by aged revolutionaries determined to impose their will on a predominantly young population. With the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, citizens have rallied behind their leaders, vowing revenge on the United States.
  • New York Times, Analysis: In Era of Perpetual Conflict, a Volatile President and Few Limits, Staff report, President Trump’s decision to authorize the attacks is the latest example of the capricious way in which he has chosen to flex his lethal powers.

Digital Journal, Iraqi parliament session could call for expulsion of US troops, Ken Hanly, Jan. 4, 2020. U.S. troops are operating in Iraq under a legal mandate granted by the government. However, the attack on the Baghdad Airport killed members of the approved paramilitary forces. The Iraqi military and others claim this action falls outside the mandate.

The Joint Operations Command claimed the attack was a clear violation of the US mandate and of Iraq's sovereignty:

“The Joint Operations Command mourns the hero martyr ... who was martyred last night in a cowardly and treacherous attack carried out by American aircraft near Baghdad international airport. We affirm that what happened is a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a clear breach by the American forces of their mandate which is exclusively to fight Islamic State and provide advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.”

The US mandate was centered almost exclusively on the US helping fight ISIS. Many Iraqi MPs suggest that as ISIS is mostly defeated the moqtada sadrUS should leave. After the Baghdad attack no doubt there will be even more pressure to eject US troops.

Hadi al-Amiri the head of the Badr Brigade and leader of the second largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament called on Iraqis to unite and expel the US and other foreign troops from Iraq. The even larger bloc leader Moqtada al-Sadr, left, has long pressed to the US troops to be expelled. Even though the two leaders often have different views on the issued of expulsion of US troops they are now united.

No doubt there will be motions for US and other foreign troops to be ejected from Iraq. These are likely to be supported. It remains to be seen if the US will pay any attention. There is no sign that the US has any sign of withdrawing.

Trump Impeachment djt lev parnas Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani associate can give investigators phone data, documents, judge says, Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 4, 2020. An attorney for Lev Parnas (above at left) said he intends to provide Congress with materials relevant to its investigation of President Trump and his dealings with Ukraine.

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled Friday that an indicted associate of President Trump's personal attorney can provide Congress with evidence in his criminal case that is of interest to impeachment investigators.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken granted an application from an attorney for Lev Parnas seeking permission to give lawmakers access to phone data and documents seized by federal prosecutors after his October arrest. The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the materials as part of its impeachment inquiry, according to Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy.

The materials are expected to include documents taken from Parnas’s Florida home, along with a complete readout of his iPhone. Bondy has said there is relevant information contained in the materials, though he has not disclosed specifically what that might be.

• Washington Post, In clash with Trump administration, Democrats seek secret grand jury evidence, testimony from McGahn

Jan. 2

Trump Impeachment Trial

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washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Senate and the public need to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton, Editorial Board, Jan. 2, 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, is withholding two articles of impeachment from the Senate, pending assurance that the Republican leader nancy pelosi impeachmentof that body, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), will agree to a full and fair trial of the House’s charges against President Trump.

Now fresh reporting from the New York Times has emerged to strengthen the Democrats’ minimum condition of a real trial: The Senate must seek witness testimony from key players in Mr. Trump’s attempt to strong-arm Ukraine into announcing an investigation of his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, using congressionally appropriated military aid and promises of a White House visit as leverage.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe Times reports, based in part on previously undisclosed emails, that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to freeze the military aid on Mr. Trump’s behalf as early as June, prompting puzzlement and backlash within the administration — to the extent that Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton convened a White House meeting with Mr. Trump to urge release of the aid.

More than ever, therefore, the Senate and the public need to hear from Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Bolton, the latter of whom made an unsuccessful individual plea to release the Ukraine aid on Aug. 16, according to the Times.

washington post logoWashington Post, Schumer seizes on report bolstering case that Trump was directly involved in withholding Ukraine aid, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez​,​ Jan. 2, 2019. Senate leaders remained at an impasse over the scope of an impeachment trial as President Trump’s reelection campaign claimed that backlash from the House proceedings helped him raise $46 million in the final quarter of 2019.

• Analysis: Unredacted emails raise questions in Ukraine scandal
• Analysis: 4 ways the the Pelosi-McConnell standoff could end

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign says $46 million fundraising quarter bolstered by impeachment, John Wagner​, Jan. 2, 2019. The president announced his total donations as a standoff continued between Democrats and Republicans over a Senate trial. President Trump’s reelection campaign said Thursday that backlash to his impeachment, led by House Democrats, helped him raise $46 million in the final three months of 2019.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThe fundraising announcement came as a standoff continued over the scope and timing of an impeachment trial in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has held off sending articles of impeachment — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate as Democrats seek guarantees about witnesses and documents that will be subpoenaed regarding Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sorry, Trump. Most Americans don’t like you, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 2, 2019. It is easy to overstate the support President Trump has for his policies and conspiracy theories. His approval remains in the low-40s, but the percentage of Americans who buy into his positions and assertions is remarkably small. Trump and Fox News have their true believers, but beyond that minority of the population, the large majority of Americans understand he often spews nonsense or out-and-out lies. And, to boot, they really do not like him.

Trump’s approval (40 percent vs. 52 percent) remains underwater, as does his reelection number against an unnamed Democrat (40 percent vs. 50 percent). His personal ratings are horrendous. (A remarkable 51 percent do not even want him to run for reelection.) Only 31 percent like him as a person (and 18 percent say they like him a lot) or say he is honest and trustworthy.

  • Washington Post, Biden falls behind other candidates in fourth-quarter fundraising, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Matt Viser​, Jan. 2, 2020. His fundraising total of $22.7 million in the last three months of 2019 came in well behind Bernie Sanders’s tally and narrowly behind Pete Buttigieg’s figure.

December

Dec. 31

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Lev Parnas has a New Year’s Eve surprise for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 31, 2019. Weeks ago it was reported that Lev Parnas (shown above at left in a mug shot) has turned over evidence in Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal to the House Intelligence Committee.

Chairman Adam Schiff then confirmed that at least some evidence had indeed been turned over. But none of it ended up being used in House impeachment hearings, thus suggesting it wasn’t all that important. Now, however, that’s apparently about to change.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen federal prosecutors arrested Lev Parnas and executed related search warrants, they seized a whole bunch of his stuff. As per procedure, he’s scheduled to get that evidence back on Tuesday, so he can use it to mount his legal defense. Parnas is now asking the judge to allow him to immediately hand that evidence over to Congress – and prosecutors say they’re fine with it.

This means that all the Ukraine scandal evidence that prosecutors have against Lev Parnas, which prosecutors believe is enough to put Parnas in prison, is about to be in the hands of Adam Schiff. Talk about a New Year’s Eve surprise. This evidence presumably includes all of Lev’s electronic devices, including text messages, call logs, you name it.

If the evidence that Lev Parnas previously gave to the House wasn’t particularly usable, it was probably because the Feds were still sitting on Parnas’ communications devices. Now the House is about to gets its hands on more substantive evidence against Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Keep in mind that Nancy Pelosi still has yet to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She has the option to hold more hearings and even bring additional articles of impeachment. Stay tuned.

  •  New York Times, Judge Orders Alex Jones and Infowars to Pay $100,000 in Sandy Hook Legal Fees
  •  New York Times, Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Ex-Trump Aide Subpoenaed in Impeachment Inquiry

Dec. 29

Department of Injustice? djt william barr doj photo march 2019

Attorney General William Barr. Under him, the Justice Department has been notable for aiding conservative Christians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell, Katherine Stewart (author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism) and Caroline Fredrickson (president emerita of the American Constitution Society and author of The Democracy Fix), Dec. 29, 2019.  And he’s on a mission to use the “authority” of the executive branch to stop it.

Why would a seemingly respectable, semiretired lion of the Washington establishment undermine the institutions he is sworn to uphold, incinerate his own reputation, and appear to willfully misrepresent the reports of special prosecutors and inspectors general, all to defend one of the most lawless and corrupt presidents in American history? And why has this particular attorney general appeared at this pivotal moment in our Republic?

A deeper understanding of William Barr is emerging, and it reveals something profound and disturbing about the evolution of conservatism in 21st-century America.

Some people have held that Mr. Barr is simply a partisan hack — willing to do whatever it takes to advance the interests of his own political party and its leadership. This view finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In a Nov. 15 speech at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington, he accused President Trump’s political opponents of “unprecedented abuse” and said they were “engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.”

Another view is that Mr. Barr is principally a defender of a certain interpretation of the Constitution that attributes maximum power to the executive. This view, too, finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In July, when President Trump claimed, in remarks to a conservative student group, “I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” it is reasonable to suppose this is his CliffsNotes version of Mr. Barr’s ideology.

Both of these views are accurate enough. But at least since Mr. Barr’s infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery,” it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.

In these and other cases, Mr. Barr has embraced wholesale the “religious liberty” rhetoric of today’s Christian nationalist movement. When religious nationalists invoke “religious freedom,” it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.

America’s conservative movement, having morphed into a religious nationalist movement, is on a collision course with the American constitutional system. Though conservatives have long claimed to be the true champions of the Constitution — remember all that chatter during previous Republican administrations about “originalism” and “judicial restraint” — the movement that now controls the Republican Party is committed to a suite of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the Republic that the founders created under its auspices.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Is Sidelining Scientists and Their Work, Brad Plumer and Coral Davenport, Dec. 29, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration has diminished the role of science in policymaking while disrupting research projects nationwide. The effects of this Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)transformation of the federal government could be felt for years as hundreds of scientists depart and programs are curtailed.

In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

epa general logoPolitical appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.

But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate: In San Francisco, a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women has stalled after federal funding abruptly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided expertise in defending against invasive insects has been disbanded. In Kansas City, Mo., the hasty relocation of two agricultural agencies that fund crop science and study the economics of farming has led to an exodus of employees and delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in research.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Democratic rivals call for spending trillions more amid debate on what’s doable, Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 29, 2019. More-moderate Democrats have been the most vocal critics of their liberal colleagues’ spending plans, but even the most sparse of the proposals dwarfs what successful Democrats pushed before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump started federal workers’ year with a shutdown. He ended it with their biggest raise in a decade, Lisa Rein, Dec. 29, 2019. In 2019, 2.1 million civil servants were whipsawed by a president who disparaged career officials who testified in the Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoimpeachment inquiry, FBI officials who handled the Russia probe — and even weather forecasters.

It ended on a high note, as the president signed off on 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, a generous raise and a midweek vacation day before Christmas against the recommendation of his own staff — and as he issued an exuberant letter of thanks to “Our Incredible Federal Workforce.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Biggest 2020 Advertising War Against Trump, Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 29, 2019. Michael Bloomberg’s michael bloomberg2presidential campaign wants to flood voters with attacks on President Trump before it is too late, a lesson Republican candidates learned in 2016.

Hillary Clinton tried. So did 16 rival Republicans. And after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on ads attacking Donald Trump in 2016, the results were the same: They never did much damage.

Now Michael R. Bloomberg, right, is trying — his way — spending millions each week in an online advertising onslaught that is guided by polling and data that he and his advisers believe provide unique insight into the president’s vulnerabilities.

The effort, which is targeting seven battleground states where polls show Mr. Trump is likely to be competitive in November, is just one piece of an advertising campaign that is unrivaled in scope and scale. On Facebook and Google alone, where Mr. Bloomberg is most focused on attacking the president, he has spent $18 million on ads over the last month, according to Acronym, a digital messaging firm that works with Democrats.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s mass-retweet meltdown saga just took an even more jarring turn, Bill Palmer, Dec. 29, 2019. On Friday, Donald Trump posted a series of incredibly reckless retweets of obscure and suspicious Twitter accounts, including one which identified the donald trump twittersupposed name of the whistleblower – which was a felony. By Saturday, several of these retweets had disappeared. This led us and others to ask who within Trump’s team panicked and deleted these retweets.

Now we have the answer: no one. In a surprise turn of events, Twitter is telling CNN’s Brian Stelter that Donald Trump didn’t actually delete any of his retweets. Instead, a technical glitch caused Trump’s retweet, along with retweets from bill palmer report logo header“millions of other accounts,” to temporarily vanish. Now that the glitch has been resolved, Trump’s felonious tweet is once again visible.

This is nothing short of remarkable. For a brief moment there, it 100% appeared that Donald Trump or someone on his team had finally figured out that committing felonies on Twitter was a bad idea. Now it turns out that, predictably, no one in Trump’s orbit has that kind of self awareness. That’s fascinating, considering how many of Trump’s advisers have already been convicted of crimes and sent to prison for helping Trump commit felonies.

Dec. 28

Trump Impeachmentdjt nancy pelosi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes full psycho stalker after Nancy Pelosi gets the best of him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 28, 2019. The more clear it becomes to Donald Trump that it’s all going wrong for him, the more erratic, incoherent, and disturbing his behavior is becoming. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has impeached him for his crimes, and now she’s working on making sure his Senate impeachment trial isn’t a sham. In response, Trump has gone completely overboard in his approach toward her.

donald trump twitterOn Friday night, Trump began retweeting various trash-filled Twitter accounts. One of them bizarrely claimed that “we have a rogue house with the speaker that’s caved and does what she’s told” – without bothering to spell out who’s supposedly controlling Speaker Pelosi. Trump then retweeted a loon who made up the laughable false claim that “Pelosi refuses to release the transcripts from Schiffty Schiffs Secret meetings that exonerate Trump.” But then came the real debacle.

bill palmer report logo headerAt the height of his Twitter meltdown, Donald Trump ended up retweeting a picture of what he claims is Nancy Pelosi’s home. This is something that anyone can probably Google, so it’s not as if he’s giving away a secret. But he knows his support base consists of unstable violent lunatics, one of whom has already mailed bombs to several Democratic politicians. Trump is trying to put Pelosi’s safety in danger, and he knows it.

Nancy Pelosi will be fine. She’s infinitely tougher than Donald Trump is. But this is the latest reminder that because Trump is losing his presidency, he’s also losing what’s left of his mind. The Senate has a deeper responsibility than ever to remove Trump from office, so prosecutors can get down to the business of indicting and arresting him for his crimes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump retweets — then deletes — a post naming the alleged whistleblower whose complaint led to impeachment, Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 28, 2019. The whistleblower’s identity has been kept secret because of laws that exist to shield those who allege wrongdoing by the government. Advocates say this anonymity protects those who speak up from retaliation and encourages others to come forward.

President Trump retweeted and then deleted a post naming the alleged whistleblower who filed the complaint that became the catalyst for the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

On Friday night, Trump shared a Twitter post from @surfermom77, who describes herself as “100% Trump supporter,” with his 68 million followers. That tweet prominently named the alleged whistleblower and suggested that he had committed perjury.

By Saturday morning, Trump’s retweet had been deleted.

For months, Trump has threatened to disclose the identity of the whistleblower, complaining that he should be able to face his accuser. In the past few days, he has inched closer to doing so. On Thursday night, the president retweeted a link to a Washington Examiner story that used the name.

The alleged whistleblower has also been named in other conservative media, including Breitbart News. He was named by a contributor on Fox News, and Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted the name.

The whistleblower’s identity has been kept secret because of whistleblower protection laws, which exist to shield those who come forward with allegations of wrongdoing by the government. Whistleblower advocates say this anonymity is important, because it protects those who speak up from retaliation and encourages others to come forward.

The Atlantic, Commentary: A Gangster in the White House, David Frum, Dec. 28, 2019. The president tweeted the name of the presumed whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal — demonstrating that he is unrepentant and determined to break the law again.

nancy pelosi impeachmentIn the meantime, though, the country is left once again with the problem of a president who refuses to obey the law.

Trump is organizing from the White House a conspiracy to revenge himself on the person who first alerted the country that Trump was extorting Ukraine to help his reelection: more lawbreaking to punish the revelation of past lawbreaking. Impeaching a president whose party holds a majority in the Senate obviously presents many grave practical difficulties. But Trump’s post-Christmas mania confirms House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prediction that Trump would impeach himself.

Dec. 26

Impeachment Litigation

 

Trump Watch (Details)

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ukraine put Trump and Biden on a collision course, Matt Viser, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker​, Dec. 26, 2019.  President Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call brought into fresh relief the lengths he would go to target Joe Biden, and it forced Biden to discuss a topic he wants to avoid. But the decisions to go after each other came long before.

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washington post logoWashington Post, In court, he speaks for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 26, 2019 (print ed.). Douglas Letter, a 40-year Justice Department lawyer (shown in a file photo), is at the center of pitched legal battles with the Trump administration.

Two of his cases were being heard on the same floor of the same Washington courthouse on the same afternoon. In one room, Letter tried to persuade a judge to force President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify before Congress. During a short break, Letter hustled down the hallway to a second courtroom. There, his colleague insisted that former national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy must comply with a House subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

nancy pelosi djtThat fall day has come to represent a typical schedule for Letter, the genial, self-deprecating lead lawyer for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). After a 40-year career at the Justice Department, defending policies of presidential administrations from both parties, Letter now speaks for the speaker in courtrooms throughout the country while advising House leaders on impeachment.

With his small team of lawyers, Letter is locked in pitched battles with the Trump administration, which has vowed to fight all congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony — and resisted cooperating with House impeachment proceedings. As general counsel to the House, Letter has a hand in an outsize number of fast-moving legal fights between U.S. House logoCongress and the president.

Letter is slated to represent the House at the Supreme Court, which will review two rare separation-of-powers cases over disclosure of Trump’s tax and financial records in March.

And in back-to-back hearings Jan. 3at the federal appeals court in Washington, Letter will explain why the judges should give the House access to secret evidence from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. His colleague, Megan Barbero, will then ask the court to uphold a ruling forcing McGahn to appear before a House committee despite White House efforts to block his testimony.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell suddenly finds himself on thin ice, Robert Harrington, Dec. 26, 2019. The notion that Mitch mitch mcConnell o portraitMcConnell, right, can blithely ignore the need to call witnesses is absurd, and will become clearly more absurd as the moment of Donald Trump’s day of reckoning before the Senate approaches.

In the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson of 1868 (which was an election year impeachment, by the way), 41 witnesses were called. At the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton (where he was impeached on the 19th of December, just before Christmas, by the way), 3 witnesses were called, including Monica Lewinsky. To call zero witnesses will be quite a departure from a Republican set of talking points which includes loud, excoriating, hostile language at the smallest departure from impeachment precedent. A group that demanded strict adherence to established precedence bill palmer report logo headerand bellicose criticism of the process is going to have a hard time explaining why no witnesses have been called. It just might make their previous complaints appear partisan.

We have learned since the impeachment hearings that 90 minutes after Trump’s infamous but “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian president Voldomyr Zelensky, that a Trump appointed OMB official ordered the aid to Ukraine withheld and then said, effectively, to keep it quiet, and to only inform select officials at the Pentagon. The only rational explanation for this is the entity he intended to keep it quiet from was Congress. The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 expressly requires Congress be told about such actions – and they were not. In the final analysis, the executive branch was deliberately interfering with an edict from the legislative, and in order to find out why that witness needs to be called.

Failing to do so doesn’t mean another victory scored for yet another corrupt purpose, compliments of the McConnell Senate. Such a move will, beyond a doubt, come back later to bite them. If Trump is allowed to escape conviction he will continue to try to rig the 2020 election in his favor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I testified against Trump’s impeachment. But let’s not pretend it didn’t happen, Jonathan Turley (right, professor of jonathan turleypublic interest law at George Washington University), Dec. 26, 2019. Constitutional reality doesn’t rest on the House sending the articles over to the Senate.

Our Constitution contains several specific provisions addressing impeachment, but the two most critical (found in Article I, Sections 2 and 3) state that the House “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” Those powers are meant to work in tandem, but the House’s “sole Power” to impeach isn’t dependent on the Senate’s “sole Power to try.” These are two distinct acts contained in two distinct powers left to two distinct houses of Congress.

Dec. 25

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Merry Christmas, Donald Trump just threw Roger Stone under the bus, Bill Palmer, Dec. 25, 2019. Roger Stone has been convicted of seven felonies. He’s about to be sentenced to prison for a couple years, which he’ll have to serve in solitary confinement due to his status as a public figure. His life is effectively over, unless his oldest friend Donald Trump gives him the Christmas gift of a federal pardon.

bill palmer report logo headerBased on what Donald Trump just said, Roger Stone shouldn’t get his hopes up. Each time one of Trump’s henchmen has been brought to justice, Trump has made a consistent habit of distancing himself from them. Trump seems to think that if he downplays the role that the person played in his campaign or administration, it’ll make Trump look less guilty when the person goes to prison. In other words, Trump has no loyalty to these people at all. Yesterday, Trump inexplicably made a point of throwing Stone under the bus

ny times logolisa murkowski 2 blue dressd oNew York Times, G.O.P. Senator ‘Disturbed’ by McConnell’s ‘Total Coordination’ with White House, Zach Montague, Dec. 25, 2019. Lisa Murkowski revealed the first public qualms with Mitch McConnell’s impeachment strategy, a potentially significant crack in Republican unity.

Dec. 24

Evangelicals' Trump Dispute

 Impeachment Headlines

 Trump Watch (Details)

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Palmer Report, Opinion: New court filing points to additional articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 24, 2019. As the House impeachment process was playing out, Palmer Report explained that Nancy Pelosi was holding all the cards. She could send the articles of impeachment to the Senate now, or sit on them. She could send the two articles of impeachment now, and after the Republican Senate marries itself to acquitting Trump, send more articles later.

bill palmer report logo headerThere’s a specific reason we predicted more articles of impeachment might be coming: Pelosi and the House Democrats have been fighting ongoing court battles over Trump’s tax returns, the Mueller grand jury materials, and don mcgahn hearing croppedDon McGahn’s testimony. (Former White House Counsel McGahn is shown at right in a file photo.)

Pelosi didn’t drop these court cases when she was done ratifying the two articles of impeachment. She’s still fighting them for a reason. Now a new court filing is explicitly spelling out that reason.

Lawyers for House Democrats are now arguing in court that they still want McGahn’s testimony because they could end up using it as the basis of additional articles of impeachment, beyond the two that they’ve already ratified. This doesn’t guarantee that more articles will end up happening. But it does spell out that House Democrats are indeed pursuing this additional evidence because they’re looking at the specific possibility of additional articles.

This makes things even more complicated for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Trump is pushing McConnell to hold a speedy sham trial and rubber-stamp acquittal. But that will require McConnell to make concessions to Pelosi just to get his hands on the two articles of impeachment. Now McConnell has to consider the scenario in which he acquits Trump now, and then in a few months he gets saddled with even more articles and has to hold another trial. The more McConnell has to guess about what Pelosi might do, the less likely McConnell is to guess correctly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at Pelosi, Democrats after exchanging holiday greetings with troops, Toluse Olorunnipa and John Wagner, Dec. 24, 2019. The president aired an array of grievances about the impeachment process, claiming that Democrats “had no evidence at all.”

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomPresident Trump lashed out again Tuesday at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats involved in his impeachment after a teleconference in which he exchanged holiday greetings with members of the military stationed around the globe.

“She hates the Republican Party,” Trump said of Pelosi, predicting that she would lose her speakership. “She hates all of the people who voted for me and the Republican Party. … She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country.”

Speaking to reporters who had just witnessed his teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump aired an array of grievances about the impeachment process, claiming that Democrats “had no evidence at all” about misconduct in his dealings with Ukraine and that he is “in a very good position” as he faces a trial in the Senate.

His comments come amid a standoff regarding the timing and scope of a Senate trial. Pelosi has declined to send the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate yet as Democrats demand more information about the parameters of a trial.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has requested subpoenas for several witnesses and documents that were not part of the House impeachment inquiry because of stonewalling by the White House.

donald trump twitter“Now they come to the Senate and they want everything,” Trump said, repeating claims that he did not receive “due process” in the House proceedings. Trump was invited to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings that preceded his impeachment but refused to do so. He was impeached for obstruction of Congress after blocking several witnesses from his administration from providing documents and testimony sought by House Democrats.

Trump also again took aim Tuesday at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a key player in gathering evidence, calling him “a sick, corrupt politician.”

Democrats responded to Trump’s attacks by noting how they were out of sync with the holiday spirit.

“It’s Christmas Eve. Get. A. Life,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted to Trump in response to the president’s claim that Pelosi “knows nothing” about the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that was recently passed by the House.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Trump Impeachment Trial in Limbo, Schumer Demands Emails and Documents, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). Senator Chuck Schumer sent a letter to colleagues asking them to subpoena internal emails and other records for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

chuck schumer podiumWith Republicans resisting witness testimony, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, shifted his focus on Monday from witnesses to documents that he wants subpoenaed for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

In a letter to his Senate colleagues, Mr. Schumer laid out a long list of records that Democrats would like to see, including internal emails and documents from the White House, State Department and the Office of Management and Budget relating to the president’s effort to press Ukraine’s leader to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

The New York Democrat was trying to increase pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to negotiate over the president’s trial on charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House voted last week to impeach Mr. Trump in connection with the Ukraine matter.

But Mr. McConnell, who has said he is “taking my cues” from the White House in shaping the trial, is not likely to agree to the demand. He already has rejected Mr. Schumer’s request for testimony from four White House officials — including John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

“Relevant documentary evidence currently in the possession of the Administration will augment the existing evidentiary record and will allow Senators to reach judgments informed by all of the available facts,” Mr. Schumer wrote. “To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of Senators to ‘do impartial justice’ according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial.”

Mr. Schumer’s letter comes on the heels of newly released emails showing that the White House asked officials to keep quiet over the suspension of military aid to Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Nancy Pelosi Caught in a Trap or Setting One? Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, Dec. 24, 2019. Even if the outcome of a Senate trial is predictable, the political consequences of impeachment are not.

Evangelicals' Trump Dispute (Details)

washington post logoWashington Post, Editor exits Christian Post amid plans for pro-Trump editorial slamming Christianity Today, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.)​. Politics editor Napp Nazworth has been critical of President Trump and suggested leaders who supported him have “traded their moral authority.”

The decision by Christianity Today to publish an editorial describing President Trump as “immoral” and calling for his removal drew immediate rebuke from the president himself, who called the outlet “a far left magazine.” The piece drew nearly 3 million unique visitors to the magazine’s website and became the talk of TV news shows over the weekend.

At the same time, the longtime centrist-right evangelical magazine saw a rush of canceled subscriptions — and an even greater wave of new subscribers, magazine President Timothy Dalrymple said. Both he and the author of the editorial, retiring editor in chief Mark Galli, could also face personal and professional consequences, according to interviews with several other conservative Christian leaders and writers who in the past have spoken out critically about Trump.

They described losing book sales, conference attendees, donors, church members and relationships.

Journalist Napp Nazworth, who has worked for the Christian Post website since 2011, said he quit his job Monday because the website was planning to publish a pro-Trump editorial that would slam Christianity Today. Nazworth, who sits on the editorial board as politics editor, said the website has sought to represent both sides and published both pro- and anti-Trump stories.

“I never got the gist they were gung-ho Trumpian types,” Nazworth said. “Everything has escalated with the Christianity Today editorial.”

Nazworth, who has been critical of Trump and suggested leaders who supported him have “traded their moral authority,” said he doesn’t know what he will do next.

“I said, if you post this, you’re saying, you’re now on team Trump,” he said. He said he was told that’s what the news outlet wanted to do.

Since the editorial, many Trump supporters have decried Christianity Today as irrelevant and even “elite.” On Sunday, 200 evangelical leaders and other Trump supporters issued a letter slamming the publication. It was signed by many on the president’s evangelical advisory committee, pastors of Pentecostal and Southern Baptist churches, and Christian musicians such as Brian and Jenn Johnson and Michael Tait. Other evangelical leaders published a letter in support of the magazine on Tuesday.

Dalrymple said Monday that the magazine has lost 2,000 subscriptions but gained 5,000, with the latter coming from a younger, more diverse and more global audience.

Christian Post, Opinion: Christianity Today and the problem with 'Christian Elitism,' John Grano and Richard Land (Senior Managing Editor of The Christian Post and Executive Editor, respectively, Dec. 24, 2019. Christianity Today editor Mark Galli’s “lofty” op-ed last week calling for President Trump’s removal from office touched off a firestorm of criticism and dissent from scores of evangelical leaders, and the backlash and debate have reached “critical mass” since its publication. Meanwhile, secular media immediately seized upon the CT editorial to argue that evangelical support for the president was finally crumbling under the weight of impeachment by the House of Representatives.

After all, when Christianity Today, the “flagship” magazine of evangelicals, founded by Billy Graham himself, turns against the president, then the long hoped for evangelical exodus from Trump must surely have finally commenced.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as made clear by the Graham family itself. The great evangelist’s son, Franklin, divulged that his father “knew Donald Trump, believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump.” He then went on to say that his father “believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”

Additionally, almost 200 evangelical leaders signed a joint letter opposing the CT editorial and asserting that CT itself is a shell of its former self and that CT speaks to, and for, fewer evangelicals with each passing year.

What was the spirit animating CT editor Galli’s “thunderbolt” from on high? The answer is likely found in the self-appointed Mount Olympus from which Mr. Galli made his “moral” pronouncement. After Trump’s election, Mr. Galli bluntly confessed:

“I know hardly anyone, let alone any evangelical Christian who voted for Trump. I describe evangelicals like me as ‘elite’ evangelicals … and this class of evangelicals has discovered that we have family members so different they seem like aliens in our midst. These other evangelicals often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs (and apparently a lot of them don’t), they are blue-collar jobs or entry-level work. They don’t write books or give speeches; they don’t attend conferences of evangelicals for social justice or evangelicals for immigration reform. They are deeply suspicious of mainstream media. A lot of them voted for Donald Trump.”

These words are chillingly similar to former President Barack Obama’s description of rural voters who “cling to their guns and Bibles,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorables,” and most recently, Beto O’Rourke’s smug threats against biblically orthodox churches and citizens who own a certain type of rifle. These are the words of elitists who look down upon opponents as inferior human beings who need to be controlled, not debated.

That is the toxic emotional and spiritual stew in which the attitude animating Galli’s editorial festered into life.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on wind turbines, low-flow toilets and LED lightbulbs set up key campaign clash with Democrats, Toluse Olorunnipa and Juliet Eilperin​, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). The president is betting that his pitch to a bygone era will sway voters turned off by calls for a Green New Deal.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Trump Policy ‘Clarification’ Removed Protections for Birds, Lisa Friedman, Dec. 24, 2019. In one of its first environmental acts, the Trump administration absolved businesses from responsibility for "incidental" bird deaths. Avian carnage followed.

  • New York Times, Here’s a list of 95 environmental regulations being rolled back under the Trump administration.

Dec. 23

Impeachment Headlines

 

Trump Watch (Details)

Palmer Report, Donald Trump hits the panic button after second major evangelical publication calls for him to be removed from office, Bill Palmer, Dec. 23, 2019. When major evangelical publication Christianity Today called for Donald Trump’s removal from office on moral grounds this week, the question was whether this would be an isolated one-off blip, or the start of a trend. Now we’re starting to get our answer, and we’re also getting a sign of just how much of a problem the Trump regime thinks this is.

bill palmer report logo headerOver the weekend a second major evangelical publication, Christian Post, ran an op-ed with this headline: “Convict Trump: The Constitution is more important than abortion.” Just to leave no doubt whatsoever about what position it was taking, the op-ed opened with this sentence: “Christians should advocate for President Donald J. Trump’s conviction and removal from office by the Senate.”

These kinds of op-eds, on their own, are unlikely to turn the majority of evangelical voters against Trump. But even if these articles only end up causing Trump’s 2020 vote totals with evangelicals to drop a few percentage points, that could be enough to cost him the election, considering how thoroughly he relied on the evangelical vote in 2016. Trump knows he’s in trouble, too.

The Trump regime just announced an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Miami on January 3rd, according to a CBS affiliate. This event is being scheduled during Trump’s do-nothing holiday vacation in Florida, which is an indicator that Trump and his handlers don’t think they can afford to wait until after vacation is over to start trying to salvage the evangelical vote. Trump has a real problem here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: McConnell chides Pelosi for not sending articles of impeachment to Senate, John Wagner​, Dec. 23, 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of trying to tell his chamber how to run a trial.

mitch mcConnell o portraitBoth sides dug in Monday in the impasse over a Senate trial of President Trump, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, chiding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) for the delay in transmitting articles of impeachment, a position he called “absurd.”

Pelosi, meanwhile, insisted that before moving forward Democrats need to know “what sort of trial the Senate will conduct.” Democrats are seeking to use newly released emails showing that the White House put a hold on military aid to Ukraine less than two hours after Trump’s July call with the country’s leader to bolster their case that a Senate trial should include witnesses.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutor Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case, Elizabeth Williamson, Dec. 23, 2019. John Durham, the federal prosecutor investigating the origins of the Russia inquiry, has a reputation for keeping his mouth shut. At a sensitive moment, he didn’t.

Whether investigating charges of torture by the C.I.A., rolling up an organized crime network or prosecuting crooked government officials, John H. Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry, burnished his reputation for impartiality over the years by keeping his mouth closed about his work.

At the height of the Boston mob prosecution that made his name, he not only rebuffed a local newspaper’s interview request, but he also told his office not to release his résumé or photo.

john durham CustomThat wall of silence cracked this month when Mr. Durham, left, serving in the most politically charged role of his career, released an extraordinary statement questioning one key element of an overlapping investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz had found that the F.B.I. acted appropriately in opening the inquiry in 2016 into whether the Trump campaign wittingly or unwittingly helped Russia influence the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor. In response, Mr. Durham, whose report is not expected to be complete for months, released a caveat-laden rebuttal: “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened.”

The statement seemed to support comments made half an hour earlier by Mr. Barr, who assailed what he called “an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign,” based “on the thinnest of suspicions.” Mr. Durham’s decision to go public in such a politically polarized environment surprised people who have worked with him. They found it out of character for him to intervene in such a high-profile way in an open case.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani gives completely unhinged new interview, has his fly down, starts drooling on his sweater, Bill Palmer, Dec. 23, 2019. The closer Rudy Giuliani comes to his arrest, the more he falls apart. He’s had incoherent meltdowns on television where he’s resorted to yelling “shut up idiot” at people. He’s tweeted things that read like they were copy-pasted from the Unabomber manifesto. But a newly published interview with New York Magazine might represent Rudy’s lowest point yet.

bill palmer report logo headerRudy met with New York Magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi in an apparent attempt at taking control of the media narrative about his downfall. Rudy will certainly get some attention for this interview, but not the kind he’s looking for. For instance, Nuzzi writes that Rudy showed up to the interview with “the fly of the pants unzipped” and at one point he started drooling: “When his mouth closed, saliva leaked from the corner and crawled down his face through the valley of a wrinkle. He didn’t notice, and it fell onto his sweater.”

The words that ended up coming out of Rudy’s mouth during this interview are even more disconcerting. He proclaimed that the Feds at the SDNY are “assholes” for criminally investigating him. He claimed that George Soros paid the FBI to do something to him. Rudy then made the bizarre and offensive assertion that “I’m more of a Jew than Soros is.”

At various points during the interview, Rudy Giuliani accidentally activated Siri on one of his three phones, and then ended up leaving another of his phones in the back of a car. Rudy was also apparently singing opera at one point. We double checked to make sure this interview wasn’t satire, but it turns out the whole thing really did happen.

New York Daily News, Rudy Giuliani rails against ‘a--hole’ New York prosecutors in belligerent, alcohol-fueled interview, Chris Sommerfeldt, Dec. 23, 2019. In an unhinged, alcohol-fueled interview published Monday, Rudy Giuliani railed against “a--hole” prosecutors in New York, claimed he’s “more of a Jew” than George Soros, spun outrageous conspiracy theories about Ukraine, fell into a wall and forgot to zip his fly.

The man formerly known as “America’s mayor” gave the unglued interview to New York Magazine on Dec. 8 over Bloody Marys at the Mark Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
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Giuliani had just returned from Ukraine, where he had continued hunting for dirt on President Trump’s political opponents despite the fast-moving impeachment proceedings.

He unleashed a torrent of insults against the federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan over revelations that they are investigating him as part of a criminal probe that involves his two Ukrainian dirt-digging pals, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.

"If they’re investigating me, they’re a--holes. They’re absolutely a--holes if they’re investigating me,” he said. “They’re idiots.”
[More Politics] Trump admits he hasn’t yet gotten Melania a Christmas gift in holiday call with troops before lashing out at Democrats »

Giuliani — who used to run the U.S. attorney’s office in the 1980s — added, “I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I know how not to commit crimes.”

The ex-mayor also took aim at Soros, the Democratic Party mega-donor and Holocaust survivor who’s a frequent target of anti-Semitic right-wing conspiracy theories.

He claimed Soros “controlled” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post by Trump in April after Giuliani launched a smear campaign against her.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: McConnell has less power to shape the impeachment trial than Democrats think, David Super (professor of law at Georgetown University), Dec. 23, 2019.  This debate is remarkable because McConnell is unlikely to be making the key decisions about the shape of a Senate trial. The contours of the trial will be set by rules dating to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, in 1868.

Those rules leave answers to such questions as whether witnesses will appear, and when the trial may be adjourned, to the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr., who — as set forward in the Constitution — presides over the proceedings. By comparison, Schumer and McConnell are bit players.

  • Washington Post, How a Putin ally is aiding Giuliani in Ukraine, Editorial Board, Dec. 23, 2019.
  • New York Times, Opinion: What the Senate Does Now Will Cast a Long Shadow, Patrick Leahy, Dec. 23, 2019. Mitch McConnell and the other 99 senators must serve the institution and the Constitution that established it, not President Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impasse over parameters of Senate trial is likely to last for weeks as both sides dig in, John Wagner and Paul Kane​, Dec. 23, 2019. Democrats demanded documents and witnesses while Republicans mocked the House’s delay in transmitting the impeachment articles across the Capitol.

• Analysis: New emails help peel back layers of pressure around Trump-Zelensky call

Dec. 22

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Court system will feel Trump’s influence for decades to come, Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). After three years in office, President Trump has remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy no matter the outcome of November’s election.

Trump nominees make up 1 in 4 U.S. circuit court judges. Two of his picks sit on the Supreme Court. And this past week, as the House voted to impeach the president, the Republican-led Senate confirmed an additional 13 district court judges.

In total, Trump has installed 187 judges to the federal bench.

Trump’s mark on the judiciary is already having far-reaching effects on legislation and liberal priorities. Just last week, the 5th Circuit struck down a core provision of the Affordable Care Act. One of the two appellate judges who ruled against the landmark law was a Trump appointee.

The Supreme Court — where two of the nine justices are conservatives selected by Trump — could eventually hear that case.

Dec. 21

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s trademark vindictiveness spares no one — living or dead, Ashley Parker, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s barbs underscore the mean streak that is central to his brand and cast doubt on claims from his aides that Trump is merely a counterpuncher. Midway through his rally in Battle Creek, Mich., this week, President Trump’s trademark vindictiveness bumped up against the limits of decency as he began to disparage a dead man.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Turning his attention to Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), the widow of former congressman John Dingell, left, the president suggested that rather than looking down from heaven, as Debbie had previously told him, perhaps John was “looking up” from hell.

john dingell headshotThe crowd murmured, the crowd grimaced, the crowd groaned. There were cheers and applause, too, but the pockets of hesitation from some of his most loyal supporters underscored a striking note of discomfort with the president’s mean streak.

Trump backtracked slightly, saying, “Let’s assume he’s looking down.”

Over the past dozen days or so, the president has spewed forth an advent calendar’s worth of cruelty — new barbs popping out almost daily, like so many tiny bitter chocolates — underscoring the instinctual nastiness that is central to his brand and casting doubt on claims from his aides that Trump is merely a counterpuncher.

In addition to taunting John Dingell as his widow prepared for her first holiday season without her husband of 38 years, Trump also ridiculed everyone from greta thunberg charles lindbergh time coversclimate activist Greta Thunberg (shown at right with the late aviator Charles Lindbergh as Time Magazine "Persons of the Year") to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.)

Others in his orbit exhibited similar callousness this week. Sarah Sanders, the former White House press secretary, came under near-universal condemnation Thursday night after sending a tweet that mocked former vice president Joe Biden’s stutter, after he brought it up during a Democratic primary debate. She later deleted, and apologized for, her tweet.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rages at Christian magazine that called him ‘grossly immoral,’ but still finds evangelical support, Josh Dawsey and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Beneath the president’s outbursts lies a fear that he could lose some evangelical supporters ahead of the 2020 election.

President Trump, whose reelection campaign is counting on unstinting support from white evangelicals, mounted a fierce attack Friday against a prominent Christian magazine that harshly criticized his behavior, repudiated his actions toward Ukraine and said he should be removed from office.

billy graham april 1 1966 us news world report lib o congressTrump’s evangelical supporters rushed to defend him, attempting to portray Christianity Today, which was founded by late famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham (shown in 1966 at right), as an outlier and not representative of the voters that comprise their movement.

But the magazine’s unsparing Thursday editorial, which said Trump has a “grossly immoral character” and should be removed out of “loyalty to the creator of the Ten Commandments,” clearly rattled the White House and the evangelical leaders who have tied themselves closely to the president.

Beneath the president’s angry outbursts lies a fear that, ahead of the 2020 election, Trump could lose some evangelical supporters, who as a group have remained durably bonded to him despite his payments to an adult-film star after allegations of an affair; attacks on war heroes, congressional widows and a teenage climate activist; boasts of sexual assault caught on tape; and the regular use of profanity at rallies from behind the presidential lectern.

  • New York Times, Evangelical Leaders Close Ranks With Trump After Scathing Editorial, Christianity Today’s call for the president’s removal gave voice to his evangelical critics. But they remain a minority in a movement that Mr. Trump has reshaped.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Billy Graham’s grandkids come out swinging at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2019. On Thursday, leading evangelical publication Christianity Today – originally founded by the late Billy Graham – published an op-ed calling for Donald Trump to be removed from office on moral grounds. On Friday, Trump erupted with anger at the publication, falsely accusing it of being a liberal outlet, and getting its name wrong. Billy Graham’s son Franklin Graham then attacked Christianity Today, and made the dubious claim that Billy Graham voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now two of Billy Graham’s family members are praising Christianity Today for standing up to Donald Trump. Graham’s granddaughter Jerushah Duford appeared on CNN and said this: “My grandfather always said courage is contagious. My hope is that an article like this will be a first step for people to actually stand up.”

Billy Graham’s grandson Boz Tchividjian said this: “A heavy hearted bravo to CT! Well said on so many levels. I believe my grandfather would have had a similar perspective. Thank you.”

Meanwhile Donald Trump is foundering in his attempts at addressing the controversy. In a Twitter meltdown he appeared to accuse Christianity Today of being run by socialists or communists. He also inexplicably referred to the publication as “ET” – setting off endless memes about Entertainment Tonight and ET the Extra Terrestrial.

jeff flake owashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The president is on trial. So are my Senate Republican colleagues, Jeff Flake, right, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.).

 To my former Senate Republican colleagues, I don’t envy you.

It might not be fair, but none of the successes, achievements and triumphs you’ve had in public office — whatever bills you’ve passed, hearings you’ve chaired, constituents you have had the privilege of helping — will matter more than your actions in the coming months.

President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.

We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.

Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.”

The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.

Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.

Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House threatened to veto spending bill over Ukraine payments, Erica Werner, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Language in the legislation would have required the prompt release of future military aid. A veto could have led to a government shutdown on Saturday.

Senior Trump administration officials in recent days threatened a presidential veto that could have led to a government shutdown if House Democrats refused us senate logoto drop language requiring prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine, according to five administration and congressional officials.

The language was ultimately left out of mammoth year-end spending legislation that passed the House and Senate this week ahead of a Saturday shutdown deadline. The White House said President Trump signed the $1.4 trillion package Friday night.

The Ukraine provision was one of several items the White House drew a hard line on during negotiations to finalize the spending legislation, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the developments. It would have required the White House to swiftly release $250 million in defense money for Ukraine that was part of the spending package.

Impeachment

Palmer Report, Here’s what really happens next with the Senate impeachment trial, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2019. Nancy Pelosi holds all the cards on impeachment, as she keeps reminding us. But no one in politics ever has a magic wand or gets 100% of their way, so even she can’t force Mitch McConnell to hold a perfectly fair Senate impeachment trial. She’ll get as many trial concessions from him as possible, and then at some unknown point she’ll turn over the articles to him.

bill palmer report logo headerAt this point most of the mainstream media will act shocked that Pelosi got anything at all from McConnell, because they’re still pushing the ratings-friendly false narrative that the Democrats are going to lose on impeachment at every turn. The foot-stompers of the left don’t understand “what’s possible” or “what winning looks like.” So they’ll be pissed at Pelosi when she eventually turns over the articles of impeachment and she only gets major concessions, instead of magically getting 100% of what she’d like. At this point most liberal pundits will pander to this sentiment by insisting that Pelosi “inexplicably caved” like the “democrats always do.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump’s conversations with Putin overlapped with his emerging Ukraine conspiracy theories, Philip Bump, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump had been publicly questioning Russia’s involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee for months by the time he took office.

One former official in President Trump’s administration was explicit when speaking with The Washington Post’s Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig.

vladimir putin o wAsked why he believed Ukraine was the country responsible for interfering in the 2016 election, the official said that Trump answered directly: “Putin told me” — referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, right.

It’s not clear when that is alleged to have happened, precisely. Trump had been publicly questioning Russia’s involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee for months by the time he was president, claiming on multiple occasions that perhaps it was another country that had access the DNC’s network early in 2016. Maybe, he said in a general-election debate, it was China or “lots of other people” who hacked the DNC.

Palmer Report, We told you Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal was going to get a lot worse before his impeachment trial, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2019.  Donald Trump is pressuring Mitch McConnell to hold a swift Senate impeachment trial and acquittal. Nancy Pelosi is waiting to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until McConnell makes some concessions toward having a fair trial (or at least one that includes some witnesses against Trump). Even as this chess match plays out, there’s another angle to all of this as well – and it just came into play.

bill palmer report logo headerThe House impeachment hearings brought as much dirt to the surface as possible in Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal. But before the House hearings, the media had already dug up a bunch of dirt in the scandal. While the hearings were going on, the media found even more dirt. It was a given that after the House hearings ended, the media would uncover even more dirt. Sure enough it’s already happening.

Public Integrity has just gotten its hands on documents showing that immediately after Donald Trump’s infamous phone call with the President of Ukraine, the Trump regime began illegally freezing U.S. military aid to Ukraine. The documents further prove that it wasn’t mere coincidence, and that there was a conspiracy to keep the whole thing under wraps.

But the House impeachment hearings are already over, you say. Isn’t this bad timing? No, it’s perfect. The two articles of impeachment are broad enough to stand on their own, even as more details of the criminal plot emerge. The articles don’t need to be revisited or revised. This new dirt does, however, make these articles of impeachment more powerful. The more dirt the average American hears from the media about the Ukraine scandal in the coming weeks, the more likely that person is to 1) support impeachment and removal, and 2) want a fair Senate impeachment trial that isn’t merely a sham acquittal.

Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans understand this. They’ll be watching the dirt on Donald Trump get worse and worse in the coming weeks, and they’ll see more Americans in the middle start to side with impeachment and removal. The more time that elapses between now and the start of the trial, the harder it’ll be for Senate Republicans to rubber-stamp Trump’s acquittal without putting their own Senate majority at risk in 2020. And if they do acquit him and then even more dirt surfaces, they’ll be punished in 2020 for having acquitted a guy who then turned out to be maniacally guilty.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Braces for North Korean Missile Test as Trump’s Diplomacy Fizzles, David E. Sanger, Edward Wong and Michael Crowley, Dec. 21, 2019.  Amid a diplomatic vacuum, North Korea has bolstered its arsenal of missiles and its stockpile of bomb-ready nuclear material. If the test goes ahead, it would be a glaring setback for President Trump’s boldest foreign policy initiative, even as he faces an impeachment trial at home.

North Korean flagAmerican military and intelligence officials tracking North Korea’s actions by the hour say they are bracing for an imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching American shores, but appear resigned to the fact that President Trump has no good options to stop it.

If the North goes ahead with the test in the coming days — Pyongyang promised a “Christmas gift” if no progress had been made on lifting sanctions — it would be a glaring setback for Mr. Trump’s boldest foreign policy initiative, even as he faces an impeachment trial at home.

American officials are playing down the missile threat, though similar tests two years ago prompted Mr. Trump to suggest that “fire and fury,” and perhaps a war, could result.

Mr. Trump often cites the suspension of long-range missile and underground nuclear tests for the past two years as evidence that his leader-to-leader diplomacy with the North was working — and that such negotiating skills would persuade the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to give up his arsenal.

Dec. 20

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

 

Impeachment News Noted Above  

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats can prevent a sham trial in the Senate if they hang tough, Max Boot, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had a plan to quickly dispose of the articles of impeachment just approved by the House: He would hold a two-week sham trial without any witnesses, and then the Senate Republican majority would acquit President Trump, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence showing that he is guilty as charged of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), acting on an idea suggested by Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe in a Post op-ed, has thrown a spanner into the works by refusing to appoint impeachment managers until there is some guarantee of a fair trial in the Senate. On Thursday, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested that Democrats were willing to wait “as long as it takes” before sending over the articles of impeachment. “It looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet,” McConnell shot back on Thursday. To the contrary, the prosecutors are getting smart: They realize there is no need to play a rigged game.

  • Washington Post, Influential evangelical magazine Christianity Today: Trump should be removed from office

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Determining what makes a ‘fair’ Senate trial, Amber Phillips, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). House Democrats are considering holding back articles of impeachment to try to get this. But will it work?

Minutes after one impeachment brawl concluded with the official impeachment of President Trump, House Democrats jumped into another: They are considering pressuring Senate Republicans to hold a fair Senate trial by detaining the articles of impeachment.

The question is: What constitutes a fair trial?

If all goes as House Democrats would like, that question could exploit a rift between Senate Republican leaders and Trump on how to handle the next phase of this process.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s impeachment provokes a descent into demagoguery, Dana Milbank, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). It was 9:05 Wednesday night. Seven minutes earlier, President Trump received word, in the middle of a campaign speech, that he had been impeached by the House on the second of two articles. And how did he observe this somber moment?

john dingell headshotHe mocked the widow of the longest-serving House member in history.

“Dingell! Dingell! … Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump told a crowd in Michigan, the home state of Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and the husband she succeeded, John Dingell, left. He ridiculed the gratitude she showed Trump for her husband’s funeral honors this year. Then he speculated that John Dingell might now be “looking up” from hell. The crowd cheered.

What is wrong with this man?

washington post logoWashington Post, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, says Trump ‘should be removed from office,’ Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Kayla Epstein, Dec. 20, 2019. The evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham published a surprising editorial Thursday calling for President Trump’s removal. The magazine, Christianity Today, has been critical of Trump but not politically outspoken during his administration.

The editorial, which appeared to draw so many readers that the magazine’s website crashed briefly, was written by editor in chief Mark Galli, who called Trump “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”

“Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election — that is a matter of prudential judgment,” the editorial said. “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”

Galli, who will retire from the magazine Jan. 3, wrote that the facts leading to Wednesday’s impeachment of Trump are unambiguous. But the editorial didn’t just call out Trump. It called out his devout Christian supporters.

[Trump’s hell suggestion outraged some faith leaders, but his evangelical advisers are still defending him]

“To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve,” Galli wrote. “Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and donald trump twitterSavior.”

Trump lashed out at the magazine in a pair of early-morning tweets Friday, calling Christianity Today a “far left magazine ... which has been doing poorly.”

Graham had close friendships with several presidents before he died in 2018, but said late in his life that he wished he had distanced himself more politically. Graham’s son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, has been a highly vocal supporter of Trump and prayed at his inauguration. In an interview, Franklin Graham, who is not involved with Christianity Today, said his father would have been disappointed by the magazine’s stance because he said his father liked Trump and that they were friends.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani gives completely unhinged new interview, has his fly down, starts drooling on his sweater, Bill Palmer, rudy giuliani recentDec. 23, 2019. The closer Rudy Giuliani comes to his arrest, the more he falls apart. He’s had incoherent meltdowns on television where he’s resorted to yelling “shut up idiot” at people. He’s tweeted things that read like they were copy-pasted from the Unabomber manifesto. But a newly published interview with New York Magazine might represent Rudy’s lowest point yet.

Rudy, shown at right in a file photo, met with New York Magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi in an apparent attempt at taking control of the media narrative about his downfall. Rudy will certainly get some attention for this interview, but not the kind he’s looking for. For instance, Nuzzi writes that Rudy showed up to the interview with “the fly of the pants unzipped” and at one point he started drooling: “When his mouth closed, saliva leaked from the corner and crawled down his face through the valley of a wrinkle. He didn’t notice, and it fell onto his sweater.”

bill palmer report logo headerThe words that ended up coming out of Rudy’s mouth during this interview are even more disconcerting. He proclaimed that the Feds at the SDNY are “assholes” for criminally investigating him. He claimed that George Soros paid the FBI to do something to him. Rudy then made the bizarre and offensive assertion that “I’m more of a Jew than Soros is.”

At various points during the interview, Rudy Giuliani accidentally activated Siri on one of his three phones, and then ended up leaving another of his phones in the back of a car. Rudy was also apparently singing opera at one point. We double checked to make sure this interview wasn’t satire, but it turns out the whole thing really did happen.

Dec. 19

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

 

Impeachment News Noted Above 

nancy pelosi impeachment dec 18 2019 screenshot

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) helps open the impeachment debate on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.

ny times logoNew York Times, TRUMP IMPEACHED: ABUSE OF POWER AND OBSTRUCTION, Nicholas Fandos and Michael D. Shear, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump is the third president in history to be charged with committing high crimes and misdemeanors and face removal by the Senate.

djt impeached nytimes front page Custom 2On a day of constitutional consequence and raging partisan tension, the votes on the two articles of impeachment fell largely along party lines.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached President Trump for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, making him the third president in history to be charged with committing high crimes and misdemeanors and face removal by the Senate.

On a day of constitutional consequence and raging partisan tension, the votes on the two articles of impeachment fell largely along party lines, after a bitter debate that reflected the deep polarization gripping American politics in the Trump era.

All but two Democrats supported the article on abuse of power, which accused Mr. Trump of corruptly using the levers of government to solicit election assistance from Ukraine in the form of investigations to discredit his Democratic political rivals. Republicans were united in opposition. It passed 230 to 197, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveling the vote to a close from the House rostrum.

On the second charge, obstruction of Congress, a third Democrat joined Republicans in opposition. The vote was 229 to 198.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Spotlight now shifts to Senate: McConnell says Senate must act to ‘keep partisan passions from literally boiling over,’ John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck​, Dec. 19, 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sharply criticized the Democrat-led impeachment process in the House during remarks on his chamber’s floor.

The day after President Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, questions continued to swirl about the timing and scope of an anticipated Senate trial regarding his conduct toward Ukraine.

House leaders suggested a possible delay until they can get a guarantee of a fair trial in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, in a floor speech, sharply criticized the House process as rushed and unfair and suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is “too afraid” to transmit “their shoddy work product.”

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Why doesn’t McConnell want witnesses at Trump’s trial? Because he’s guilty, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman
  • Washington Post, Trump wallows in hate, befuddles his fans, Jennifer Rubin

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump cries like a baby after realizing Nancy Pelosi still holds all the cards on his impeachment, Bill Palmer, Dec. 19, 2019. Last night, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi didn’t just formally impeach Donald Trump. She revealed that she won’t make a decision when or if to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until she can assess whether Mitch McConnell is willing to hold a fair trial.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was a brilliant masterstroke, even if most of us did see it coming. Trump, for his part, apparently did not see it coming – and now he’s crying like a baby.

Donald Trump and his social media handlers have frantically filled his Twitter page with so many dozens of garbage retweets today, it can be difficult to dig back and find the handful of tweets that came from Trump’s own mouth. Trump initially tried pushing the laugh-donald trump twitterout-loud notion that the Senate trial would simply take place without any House representation: “If the Do Nothing Democrats decide, in their great wisdom, not to show up, they would lose by Default!” But nothing works that way, and so Trump moved on to simply whining.

Trump posted this tweet: “I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history. Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!” Then he screamed “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” like a stooge.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: To avoid removal, Trump only needs senators representing 7 percent of the country to support him, Philip Bump​, Dec. 19, 2019. The House vote, however, largely mirrored what Americans in those districts would have wanted.

• Analysis: Which senators support impeaching Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-officials say they feared Putin influenced Trump’s views on Ukraine and 2016, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 19, 2019. Ex-officials say they feared Putin influenced Trump’s views on Ukraine and 2016. Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides: Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House.

After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.

The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here is how each House member voted, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). The House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday evening, charging Mr. Trump with abuse of U.S. House logopower and obstruction of Congress. The Times tracked the vote live, showing how every representative voted. Four House seats are vacant, and three additional members are not expected to vote, which would make 215 the threshold to pass each article.

  • New York Times, 3 Democrats Cross Party Lines in Votes. Two members broke rank with their party on one charge. A third joined them for the second. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii voted “present” on both.
  • New York Times, Analysis: House Democrats Are Betting Their Votes Are Worth It, Backing impeachment is a politically risky step for many Democrats.

djt rally file Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Uses Rally to Strike Back Against Impeachment, Annie Karni, Maggie Haberman, Michael Crowley and Noah Weiland, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). The president traveled to Michigan, a vital electoral state, to deliver his response after he became the third president to be impeached by the House.

A defiant President Trump (shown in a file photo) sought to grab back the spotlight in front of an arena full of supporters in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night, after spending the day holed up in the White House as the House of Representatives prepared to cast votes on two articles of impeachment against him.

“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Mr. Trump said in his first public remarks ahead of the historic vote on his impeachment. “The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”

“Remember when I first started this beautiful trip, this beautiful journey, I just said to the first lady, you’re so lucky I took you on this journey,” the president said, recalling his 2016 campaign.

His roaring rejoinder created the remarkable image of a combative president — just moments before becoming the third to be impeached — standing unbowed before his core base of supporters heading into a year in which he will be seeking re-election.

Mr. Trump, described by his aides as having been in a frustrated, snappish mood for days, traveled to the rally in an electorally vital state on a day on which he had watched the impeachment debate on television and tweeted or retweeted more than 50 times.

washington post logoWashington Post, After Trump suggests John Dingell is in hell, Rep. Debbie Dingell says: ‘My family’s still hurting,’ Josh Dawsey, Meagan Flynn and Alex Horton, Dec. 19, 2019. Maybe he's looking up': Trump implies the late Rep. John Dingell might be in hell.

Less than an hour after being impeached, President Trump suggested during a john dingell headshotcampaign rally that the late Michigan congressman John Dingell, right, might be “looking up” from hell — remarks that Dingell’s widow said “really hurt.'

“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), whose husband, a World War II veteran and the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, died in February at the age of 92. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”

Dingell appeared Thursday morning on CNN, and host Alisyn Camerota queued a clip of Trump’s incendiary remarks with Dingell on a split screen. Her face remained stoic through Trump mimicking her voice in a phone call he made to Dingell after her husband died.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Now Donald Trump can’t be pardoned, Robert Harrington, Dec. 19, 2019. When Donald Trump awoke on Wednesday morning it was still possible for him to resign and be pardoned. It may have even been possible (some have argued) for him to lose the 2020 election and pardon himself before leaving office. Those days are over. Come what may, it is no longer possible for Donald John Trump to receive a pardon for any crimes he committed while president of the United States.

bill palmer report logo headerHow do I know this? Because the Constitution of the United States says so. Article II, section 2 of the Constitution says “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment” [italics added]. In other words, because Trump is, after Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton, the third president to be impeached, he is now and for all time ineligible for presidential pardon.

Come what may, a pardon for Trump is now off the table and for all time. But this call for easier rest comes with a caveat. Trump is now doubly dangerous. His safe exits out of the Oval Office are now blocked.

ny times logoNew York Times, Durham Is Scrutinizing Ex-C.I.A. Director’s Role in Russian Interference Findings, Katie Benner and Julian E. john brennan croppedBarnes, Dec. 19, 2019. The federal prosecutor investigating the origins of the Russia inquiry is examining testimony by the former C.I.A. director John Brennan, right, and seeking his communications records.

The federal prosecutor scrutinizing the Russia investigation has begun examining the role of the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference, according to three people briefed on the inquiry.

john durham CustomJohn H. Durham, the United States attorney leading the investigation, has requested Mr. Brennan’s emails, call logs and other documents from the C.I.A., according to a person briefed on his inquiry. He wants to learn what Mr. Brennan told other officials, including the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, about his and the C.I.A.’s views of a notorious dossier of assertions about Russia and Trump associates.

Mr. Durham’s pursuit of Mr. Brennan’s records is certain to add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies. The president has long attacked Mr. Brennan as part of his narrative about a so-called deep state cabal of Obama administration officials who tried to sabotage his campaign, and Mr. Trump has held out Mr. Durham’s investigation as a potential avenue for proving those claims.

Mr. Durham is also examining whether Mr. Brennan privately contradicted his public comments, including May 2017 testimony to Congress, about both the dossier and about any debate among the intelligence agencies over their conclusions on Russia’s interference, the people said.

The people familiar with Mr. Durham’s inquiry stressed that it was continuing and it was not clear what crimes, if any, he had uncovered. Representatives for Mr. Brennan and the Justice Department declined to comment.

Defenders of Mr. Brennan have long maintained he did nothing wrong and properly sounded the alarm on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he told MSNBC this fall that he would answer Mr. Durham’s questions if asked.

CIA Logo“I feel good about what it is we did as an intelligence community, and I feel very confident and comfortable with what I did, so I have no qualms whatsoever about talking with investigators who are going to be looking at this in a fair and appropriate manner,” Mr. Brennan said.

Mr. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has previously conducted politically fraught investigations, including allegations of wrongdoing in the C.I.A.’s detainee torture program. Attorney General William P. Barr appointed him this year to re-examine not only the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation but more broadly how the government uncovered Moscow’s election interference and dealt with those findings.

“He is not just looking at the F.B.I.,” Mr. Barr said in an interview broadcast Thursday evening on Fox News. “He is looking at other agencies.”

Calling it a “much broader investigation,” Mr. Barr added, “He is looking at all the conduct — both before and after the election.”

Mr. Brennan has come into Mr. Durham’s sights as he has focused on the intelligence community assessment released in January 2017 that used information from the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency to detail Russia’s meddling. They concluded that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered an influence campaign that “aspired to help” Mr. Trump’s chances by damaging his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A President Impeached, and a Nation Convulsed, Peter Baker, right, Dec. 18, 2019. The impeachment battles peter baker twitterover Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton came at turning points in the American story. The time that produced President Trump has proved to be another one. For the most unpredictable of presidents, it was the most predictable of outcomes. Is anyone really surprised that President Trump was impeached? His defiant disregard for red lines arguably made him an impeachment waiting to happen.

From the day he took office, Mr. Trump made clear that he would not abide by the conventions of the system he inherited. So perhaps it was inevitable that at some point he would go too far for the opposition party, leading to a historic day of debate on the House floor where he was alternately depicted as a constitutional villain or victim.

The proximate charge as Democrats impeached him for high crimes and misdemeanors on party-line votes Wednesday night was the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to help him against his domestic political rivals while withholding security aid. But long before Ukraine consumed the capital, Mr. Trump had sought to bend the instruments of government to his own purposes even if it meant pushing boundaries that had been sacrosanct for a generation.

Over nearly three years in office, he has become the most polarizing figure in a country stewing in toxic politics. He has punished enemies and, many argue, undermined democratic institutions. Disregarding advice that restrained other presidents, Mr. Trump kept his real estate