2020 Trump Watch News & Commentary

May 26

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

 

ny times logoNew York Times, What Biden and Trump Could Learn from Obama, McCain and 2008, Adam Nagourney, May 26, 2020. Barack Obama and John McCain were rocked by a national emergency during the 2008 campaign. There are lessons there for Joe Biden and President Trump.

With its staggering death toll, surging unemployment and economic devastation, the Covid-19 crisis confronting the nation today is far more cataclysmic than the 2008 meltdown.

But Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain faced a series of choices — on leadership, empathy and tone, on executing political strategy and navigating fast-moving events on Wall Street, Main Street and Washington — that are relevant and even illuminating as President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. try to navigate another campaign playing out against the backdrop of a national emergency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In Praise of Fallible Leaders, Paul Krugman, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). We need a president who can admit it when he’s wrong.

Last week Joe Biden made an off-the-cuff joke that could be interpreted as taking African-American votes for granted. It wasn’t a big deal — Biden, who loyally served Barack Obama, has long had a strong affinity with black voters, and he has made a point of issuing policy proposals aimed at narrowing racial health and wealth gaps. Still, Biden apologized.

And in so doing he made a powerful case for choosing him over Donald Trump in November. You see, Biden, unlike Trump, is capable of admitting error.

Everybody makes mistakes, and nobody likes admitting having been wrong. But facing up to past mistakes is a crucial aspect of leadership.

Trump’s pathological inability to admit error — and yes, it really does rise to the level of pathology — has been obvious for years, and has had serious consequences. For example, it has made him an easy mark for foreign dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who know they can safely renege on whatever promises Trump thought they made. After all, for him to condemn Kim’s actions would mean admitting he was wrong to claim he had achieved a diplomatic breakthrough.

But it took a pandemic to show just how much damage a leader with an infallibility complex can inflict. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Trump’s inability to acknowledge error has killed thousands of Americans. And it looks likely to kill many more before this is over.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Beware of the new Trump-Rove alliance, Wayne Madsen, May 26, 2020. George W. Bush political dirty tricks and battleground state election rigging mastermind Karl Rove has been enlisted by the White House and the Trump re-election campaign to assist in a strategy to overcome presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's consistent lead in the polls.

Rove, who, in 2016, called Trump a "complete idiot" and "graceless and divisive," only to later meet with Trump at casino tycoon Steve Wynn's home in Manhattan, has been in regular contact with Trump presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale. 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump sure doesn’t want this, Bill Palmer, May 26, 2020. Donald Trump spent the weekend playing golf while he was supposed to be managing a pandemic, complaining about the widespread criticism he’s receiving for playing golf, and complaining that he had to go a couple months without playing golf. Trump had so little interest in yesterday’s Memorial Day ceremonies, he showed up severely late, and made clear with his body language and tone of voice that he didn’t want to be there.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump doesn’t want any of this. He doesn’t want to be President anymore. He arguably never did. He certainly never wanted to put in the work required, which is why he’s only ever done the absolute bare minimum that he thought he could get away with. Sure, he likes the power, the control, the ability to bully people, the opportunity to embezzle government money. But Trump clearly does not want to be President.

So why doesn’t he just announce that his first term has been such a tremendous success, he doesn’t need a second term? The short answer is that he can’t. The minute he’s no longer President, he gets indicted and arrested. Even if he manages to weasel himself out of the federal charges, he’s definitely going down on the far more straightforward state charges – which he can’t even try to pardon himself on.

That said, at this point even Trump seems to understand that he’s likely to lose his reelection bid. So why not offer to resign, or not to seek reelection, as part of some kind of plea deal? It’s the only play he has left. Of course it may be too early for that. Trump still has to hold out hope that as the election grows closer, he’ll get lucky and find himself in contention. But if and when that doesn’t happen, is Trump really willing to bet his life on his slim reelection odds? Even if he wins, he sure doesn’t want to be doing this job anymore. It’s a prison sentence for him either way.

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New York Post, Trump threatens to move Republican National Convention out of North Carolina, Mark Moore, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump (shown above in a file photo) pressed the Democratic governor of North Carolina on Monday to “guarantee” that he will allow “full capacity” at this summer’s Republican National Convention, dangling the economic blow Charlotte would take if the event were held elsewhere.

rnc logo“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” the president wrote on Twitter.

djt maga hatTrump said Republicans “must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

“This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!,” Trump continued.

He said the RNC would spend millions of dollars “building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space. Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August.”

Roy Cooper 2019Cooper’s office put out a statement saying state health officials “are working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte.” Roy Cooper is shown in a file photo.

“North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety,” it said.

North Carolina, which has more than 22,000 coronavirus cases, entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan on Friday, with Governor Roy Cooper describing it as a “modest” approach.

Cooper’s executive order replaced the stay-at-home orders with “safer-at-home” guidelines, The Charlotte News and Observer reported.

May 25

Top Stories

Washington Post, On weekend dedicated to war dead, Trump tweets insults, promotes baseless claims and plays golf, Anne Gearan, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). As the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000 Americans this Memorial Day weekend, President Trump derided and insulted perceived enemies and promoted a baseless conspiracy theory, in between rounds of golf.

donald trump twitterIn a flurry of tweets and retweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump mocked former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight, ridiculed the looks of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and called former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

He revived long-debunked speculation that a television host with whom Trump has feuded may have killed a woman and asserted without evidence that mail-in voting routinely produces ballot stuffing.

He made little mention of the sacrifice Americans honor on Memorial Day or the grim toll of the virus.

In fact, Trump’s barrage of social media attacks stood in sharp contrast to a sober reality on a weekend for mourning military dead — the number of Americans whose lives have been claimed by the novel coronavirus has eclipsed the combined total of U.S. deaths from wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trump plans to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday and visit Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where the 1814 battle that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” was fought. The city’s Democratic mayor had discouraged the visit, saying it sent conflicting messages about the importance of staying home and protecting other Americans.

ny times logopeter baker twitterNew York Times, Trump Tweets and Golfs, but Makes No Mention of Virus’s Toll, Peter Baker, right, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). Coronavirus deaths in the United States approached a staggering 100,000, a number the president once predicted would never be reached.

As President Trump’s motorcade pulled into his golf club in Virginia on an overcast Sunday, a small group of protesters waited outside the entrance. One held up a sign.

“I care do U?” it read. “100,000 dead.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers have said that he does, but he has made scant effort to demonstrate it this Memorial Day weekend. He finally ordered flags lowered to half-staff at the White House only after being badgered to do so by his critics and otherwise took no public notice as the American death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approached a staggering 100,000.

While the country neared six digits of death, the president who repeatedly criticized his predecessor for golfing during a crisis spent the weekend on the links for the first time since March. When he was not zipping around on a cart, he was on social media embracing fringe conspiracy theories, amplifying messages from a racist and sexist Twitter account and lobbing playground insults at perceived enemies, including his own former attorney general.

Washington Post, Opinion: Can we stop pretending Trump is fit to be president? Paul Waldman, May 25, 2020. At various times over the past three and a half years, many of us have asked what would happen if President Trump truly went over the edge or if his behavior became so frightening that his unfitness for the most powerful position on Earth could no longer be denied.

But the human capacity for denial is apparently almost infinite. Let’s review what our president has been up to in the past few days:

With the death toll from covid-19 about to top 100,000, Trump has offered almost nothing in the way of tributes to the dead, sympathy for their families, or acknowledgement of our national mourning. By all accounts he is barely bothering to manage his administration’s response to the pandemic, preferring to focus on cheerleading for an economic recovery he says is on its way, even as he feeds conspiracy theories about the death toll being inflated. This weekend, he went golfing.

In a Twitter spasm on Saturday and Sunday, Trump retweeted mockery of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) looks, along with a tweet calling Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

Eager to start a new culture war flare-up, he urged churches to open and gather parishioners in a room to breathe the same air, threatening that he would “override” governors whose shutdown orders still forbade such gatherings. The president has no such power.

He all but accused talk show host Joe Scarborough of murdering a young woman who died in 2001 in the then-congressman’s district office, bringing untold torture to her family from the conspiracy theorists who will respond to his accusation.

He has repeatedly insisted that the upcoming election is being “rigged” because states run by both Republicans and Democrats are making it easier to vote by mail, seeking to delegitimize a vote that has yet to occur, despite the substantial evidence that mail voting advantages neither party.

The truth is that Trump is not much more despicable of a human being than he has always been; it’s just that standard Trumpian behavior becomes more horrifying when it occurs during an ongoing national crisis. It is reality that changed around him, and he was incapable of responding to it.

 

May 24

Top Headlines

New York Times, Trump Sows Doubt on Voting, Keeping Some People Up at Night, Reid J. Epstein, May 24, 2020.  A group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but also some anti-Trump Republicans — have been gaming out how to respond to various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election.

  • In October, President Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, Democratic-Republican Campaign logosbanning polling places from opening.
  • A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
  • After Mr. Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Mr. Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Mr. Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Mr. Trump and his administration abandon longstanding political norms.

The anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Just last week, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold funding from states that defy his wishes on expanding mail voting, while also amplifying unfounded claims of voter fraud in battleground states.

washington post logoWashington Post, One final viral infusion: Trump’s move to block travel from Europe triggered chaos and a surge of passengers from the outbreak’s center, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Aaron C. Davis, May 24, 2020 (print ed.). In the final days before the United States faced a full-blown epidemic, President Trump made a last-ditch attempt to prevent people infected with the coronavirus from reaching the country.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores,” Trump said in an Oval Office address on March 11, “we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

Across the Atlantic, Jack Siebert, an American college student spending a semester in Spain, was battling raging headaches, shortness of breath and fevers that touched 104 degrees. Concerned about his condition for travel but alarmed by the president’s announcement, his parents scrambled to book a flight home for their son — an impulse shared by thousands of Americans who rushed to get flights out of Europe.

european union logo rectangleSiebert arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago three days later as the new U.S. restrictions — including mandatory medical screenings — went into effect. He encountered crowds of people packed in tight corridors, stood in lines in which he snaked past other travelers for nearly five hours and tried to direct any cough or sneeze into his sleeve.

When he finally reached the coronavirus checkpoint near baggage pickup, Siebert reported his prior symptoms and described his exposure in Spain. But the screeners waved him through with a cursory temperature check. He was given instructions to self-isolate that struck him as absurd given the conditions he had just encountered at the airport.

“I can guarantee you that people were infected” in that transatlantic gantlet, said Siebert, who tested positive for the virus two days later in Chicago. “It was people passing through a pinhole.”

The sequence was repeated at airports across the country that weekend. Harrowing scenes of interminable lines and unmasked faces crammed in confined spaces spread across social media.

The images showed how a policy intended to block the pathogen’s entry into the United States instead delivered one final viral infusion. As those exposed travelers fanned out into U.S. cities and suburbs, they became part of an influx from Europe that went unchecked for weeks and helped to seal the country’s coronavirus fate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump has to worry about what Ann Coulter just did to him, Bill Palmer, May 24, 2020. As a general rule I refuse to write about what Ann Coulter says, because nearly every time she opens her mouth it’s in order to purposely and calculatedly say something stupid, for the purpose of drawing attention to herself and selling more of her books. I only make an exception when Coulter occasionally says something that gives away what’s happening on Donald Trump’s side of the fence – and today is one of those days.

bill palmer report logo headerCoulter has feuded with Trump on Twitter before, but usually only on specific issues, and in ways that they both know can ultimately be glossed over later. But Coulter is doing something different today. She’s posted about a dozen scathing anti-Trump tweets, pointing out his crimes in the Trump-Russia scandal, explaining how he screwed up the Alabama Senate election, and apologizing for having believed that Trump was going to be remotely competent.

Coulter is clearly hoping Trump will attack her in return, and he probably will. But while this is yet another attempt at publicity, it’s not some one-off feud. Coulter is trying to clearly establish herself as an anti-Trump conservative who thinks Trump is a complete idiot across the board. So why do this? She must have calculated that the bulk of her own far-right audience is turning against (or will end up turning against) Trump, and she’s looking to very loudly get out ahead of it.

It’s easy to think of Ann Coulter as a dope because she says so many stupid things. But she’s spent years playing this game (and winning, in terms of book sales) by saying the precise kinds of stupid things that are calculated to drive sales of her books. Four years ago she correctly bet that the smart money on the far right was to be made by loudly supporting Trump. Now she’s betting that going forward, the smart money on the right is to be made by loudly slamming Trump. She deserves absolutely no credit for any of this, of course. But here’s hoping she’s betting correctly, and that Trump is going down.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s projection is showing, Bill Palmer, May 24, 2020. For all his erratic and maniacal behavior, Donald Trump is consistently predictable in certain ways. For instance, he’s so deeply lost in a haze of projection that whenever he randomly accuses an adversary of something awful, it usually turns out Trump himself is guilty of that same exact thing.

That brings us to Donald Trump’s behavior over the past few days. For instance, Trump just said that he doesn’t think Joe Biden can bill palmer report logo headerremember what he said or did yesterday. If you follow Biden, you know that he gets roughly as tongue-tied these days as he did in his youth, but he’s still plenty sharp. Trump’s false assertion that Biden is so far gone he can’t remember what he was doing yesterday? That sounds like Trump admitting that he can’t remember what he was doing yesterday – and if you follow Trump’s behavior, it’s pretty clear that he’s in severe cognitive decline.

djt smiling fileIn another disturbing example, Trump tripled down last night on his insistence that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough once murdered an intern. This is absolutely not the case, and Trump is certainly not helping his cause by continuing to make this false accusation. But considering Trump’s sense of projection, it does make you wonder if Trump has gotten violent with his own female employees in the past, and that’s why he’s so obsessively trying to pin this same crime on Scarborough.

The point of projection is to try to steer blame and attention away from yourself by pinning your failings on others.

But Donald Trump keeps getting worse at this. At this point he’s being so blatant and oddly specific about it, he’s practically telegraphing what we should go digging for in his past, in his medical records, and so on. Trump can’t even do projection right anymore. His mind really does seem to be failing – as he seemed to acknowledge when when he essentially admitted that he can no longer remember what he’s doing from one day to the next.

May 17

Trump Reprisals Continue

state dept map logo Small

Washington Post, With firing of State Dept. inspector general, Trump ramps up retaliatory purge, Philip Rucker, Karen DeYoung, Lisa Rein and Hannah Knowles, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). The termination of Steve A. Linick again showed the president challenging norms of U.S. governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration.

President Trump accelerated his retaliatory purge of public servants by firing the State Department’s inspector general, who had played a minor role in the president’s impeachment proceedings and was said to have begun investigating alleged misconduct by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

steve linick 2013 CustomActing on Pompeo’s recommendation, Trump abruptly terminated Steve A. Linick, left, late Friday night, again challenging established norms of American governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration. Trump replaced Linick with Stephen J. Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Pence and the diplomat who directs the Office of Foreign Missions. He also replaced the acting inspector general at the Department of Transportation on Friday night.

Inspectors general serve as internal government watchdogs conducting oversight of federal agencies — and although they technically are political appointees, their independence has long been protected. Trump’s move — his fourth such firing during the coronavirus pandemic — drew swift condemnations from Democrats and at least one Republican on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decried what she termed a "dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Robert Menendez (N.J.), jointly launched an investigation Saturday into Linick’s firing.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump Ousted State Dept. Watchdog at Pompeo’s Urging, Catie Edmondson and Michael D. Shear, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). Congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said "may be an act of illegal retaliation" by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The lawmakers said Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, had opened an investigation into Secretary of State’s conduct.

mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, urged President Trump to fire the official responsible for fighting waste and fraud in his department, a White House official said Saturday, a recommendation certain to come under scrutiny after congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said "may be an act of illegal retaliation."

Mr. Trump told Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday night that he was ousting Steve A. Linick, who led the office of the inspector general at the State Department, and replacing him with an ambassador with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, immediately called the decision to remove Mr. Linick an "outrageous act" meant to protect Mr. Pompeo from accountability.

By Saturday, Mr. Engel and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had opened an investigation into Mr. Linick’s removal, citing a pattern of politically motivated firing of inspectors general."

In letters to the White House, the State Department and Mr. Linick, the two Democrats wrote that they believed Mr. Linick had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Mr. Pompeo and that Mr. Pompeo had responded by recommending that Mr. Linick be fired. The lawmakers did not provide any more details, but a Democratic aide said that Mr. Linick had been looking into whether Mr. Pompeo improperly used a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.

Since starting his current job in April 2018, Mr. Pompeo has come under growing public scrutiny for what critics say is his use of the State Department’s resources for personal endeavors. Mr. Menendez has called for Mr. Pompeo to explain how he can justify frequent trips to Kansas, his adopted home state, using State Department funds and aircraft. He has brought his wife, Susan Pompeo, on many trips abroad, telling others she is a "force multiplier" for him. And CNN reported last year that congressional officials were looking at potential misuse of diplomatic security personnel for personal errands. That did not result in the opening of a formal inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s slow-motion Friday night massacre of inspectors general, Aaron Blake, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). The unprecedented spate of removals and their timing have reinforced how President Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration.

The Friday news dump — also known as the Friday night news dump — is a political trick with plenty of precedent. Wait till the vast majority of the news business clocks out for on the week, and announce something you’d rather they not cover as much. People won’t be reading as much news at that point anyway, and perhaps it’ll be dismissed as old news by Monday morning.

Few are as blatant about using this tactic, though, as the Trump White House.

News broke late Friday night that Trump had removed the inspector general for the State Department, Steve Linick. It’s the third time in six weeks that such a move has been announced on a Friday night, with each inspector general having done something to pretty obviously alienate Trump. The unprecedented spate of removals has reinforced how Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration — and the timing of each of them only reinforces that.

djt tweet kayleigh supergirl Custom

The impeached Donald Trump retweeted on Saturday the above image of his new communications director.

Palmer Report, Opinion: There goes that argument, Bill Palmer, May 17, 2020. This past week’s Supreme Court arguments were made remotely via audio conference, so we’ll just have to assume that Donald Trump’s attorneys had a straight face when they argued that Trump is simply too busy in his role as President of the United States to bother answering a subpoena from Congress, or from a grand jury.

bill palmer report logo headerBut if Trump’s attorneys told him to play along with the ruse this week by acting like he was busy, then Trump didn’t get the memo, or he didn’t know how to read the memo. Trump spent Saturday tweeting a video of himself poorly superimposed into the movie Independence Day, and tweeting a disturbing image of his new White House Press Secretary in some kind of Supergirl cosplay costume.

Again, this is at a time when Donald Trump’s attorneys are trying to convince the Supreme Court that he’s too busy with the duties of the office to comply with a lawful subpoena. John Roberts will cast the deciding vote using the same methodology he always uses: whatever he thinks is going to make him a power broker, as opposed to what the Constitution says.

Roberts saved Obamacare because he wanted to create an environment where the left and right cater their cases to him, because he craves power. We’ll see what side he comes down on this time. But if Roberts is looking for an excuse to vote against Donald Trump, these idiotic tweets are in fact a solid legal argument that Trump isn’t too busy with his duties to answer the subpoena.

May 14

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Investigation Into The Prophecies of Q, Adrienne LaFrance, June 2020. American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase. This article is part of "Shadowland," a project about conspiracy thinking in America.

Conspiracy theories are a constant in American history, and it is tempting to dismiss them as inconsequential. But as the 21st century has progressed, such a dismissal has begun to require willful blindness. I was a city-hall reporter for a local investigative-news site called Honolulu Civil Beat in 2011 when Donald Trump was laying the groundwork for a presidential run by publicly questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in Hawaii, as all facts and documents showed. Trump maintained that Obama had really been born in Africa, and therefore wasn’t a natural-born atlantic logo horizontalAmerican—making him ineligible for the highest office. I remember the debate in our Honolulu newsroom: Should we even cover this 'birther" madness? As it turned out, the allegations, based entirely on lies, captivated enough people to give Trump a launching pad.

[With] Trump now president, a series of ideas began burbling in the QAnon community: that the coronavirus might not be real; that if it was, it had been created by the "deep state," the star chamber of government officials and other elite figures who secretly run the world; that the hysteria surrounding the pandemic was part of a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection chances; and that media elites were cheering the death toll. Some of these ideas would make their way onto Fox News and into the president’s public utterances. fox news logo SmallAs of late last year, according to The New York Times, Trump had retweeted accounts often focused on conspiracy theories, including those of QAnon, on at least 145 occasions.

The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power — its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process — was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.

QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.

What might have languished as a lonely screed on a single image board instead incited fervor. Its profile was enhanced, according to Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC News, by several conspiracy theorists whose promotion of Q in turn helped build up their own online profiles. By now, nearly three years since Q’s original messages appeared, there have been thousands of what his followers call "Q drops" — messages posted to image boards by Q. He uses a password-protected "tripcode," a series of letters and numbers visible to other image-board users to signal the continuity of his identity over time. (Q’s tripcode has changed on occasion, prompting flurries of speculation.) As Q has moved from one image board to the next — from 4chan to 8chan to 8kun, seeking a safe harbor — QAnon adherents have only become more devoted. If the internet is one big rabbit hole containing infinitely recursive rabbit holes, QAnon has somehow found its way down all of them, gulping up lesser conspiracy theories as it goes.

It’s impossible to know the number of QAnon adherents with any precision, but the ranks are growing. At least 35 current or former congressional candidates have embraced Q, according to an online tally by the progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America. Those candidates have either directly praised QAnon in public or approvingly referenced QAnon slogans. (One Republican candidate for Congress, Matthew Lusk of Florida, includes QAnon under the "issues" section of his campaign website, posing the question: "Who is Q?")

djt as chosen oneQAnon has by now made its way onto every major social and commercial platform and any number of fringe sites. Tracy Diaz, a QAnon evangelist, known online by the name TracyBeanz, has 185,000 followers on Twitter and more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers. She helped lift QAnon from obscurity, facilitating its transition to mainstream social media. (A publicist described Diaz as "really private" and declined requests for an interview.) On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #QAnon have garnered millions of views. There are too many QAnon Facebook groups, plenty of them ghost towns, to do a proper count, but the most active ones publish thousands of items each day. (In 2018, Reddit banned QAnon groups from its platform for inciting violence.)

Adherents are ever looking out for signs from on high, plumbing for portents when guidance from Q himself is absent. The coronavirus, for instance — what does it signify? In several of the big Facebook groups, people erupted in a frenzy of speculation, circulating a theory that Trump’s decision to wear a yellow tie to a White House briefing about the virus was a sign that the outbreak wasn’t real. On March 9, Q himself issued a triptych of ominous posts that seemed definitive: The coronavirus is real, but welcome, and followers should not be afraid. The first post shared Trump’s tweet from the night before and repeated, "Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming." The second said: "The Great Awakening is Worldwide." The third was simple: "GOD WINS."

A month later, on April 8, Q went on a posting spree, dropping nine posts over the span of six hours and touching on several of his favorite topics — God, Pizzagate, and the wickedness of the elites. "They will stop at nothing to regain power," he wrote in one scathing post that alleged a coordinated propaganda effort by Democrats, Hollywood, and the media. Another accused Democrats of promoting "mass hysteria" about the coronavirus for political gain: "What is the primary benefit to keep public in mass-hysteria re: COVID‑19? Think voting. Are you awake yet? Q." And he shared these verses from Ephesians: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."

Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become an object of scorn among QAnon supporters who don’t like the bad news he delivers or the way he has contradicted Trump publicly. In one March press conference, Trump referred to the State Department as the "Deep State Department," and Fauci could be seen over the president’s shoulder, suppressing a laugh and covering his djt anthony fauciface. By then, QAnon had already declared Fauci irredeemably compromised, because WikiLeaks had unearthed a pair of emails he sent praising Hillary Clinton in 2012 and 2013.

Sentiment about Fauci, right, among QAnon supporters on social-media platforms ranges from "Fauci is a Deep State puppet" to "FAUCI is a BLACKHAT!!!"—the term QAnon uses for people who support the evil cabal that Q warns about. One person, using the hashtags #DeepStateCabal and #Qanon, tweeted this: "Watch Fauci’s hand signals and body language at the press conferences. What is he communicating?" Another shared an image of Fauci standing in a lab with Barack Obama, with the caption "Obama and ‘Dr.’ Fauci in the lab creating coronovirus [sic]. #DeepstateDoctor." The Justice Department recently approved heightened security measures for Fauci because of the mounting volume of threats against him.

In the final days before Congress passed a $2 trillion economic-relief package in late March, Democrats insisted on provisions that would make it easier for people to vote by mail, prompting Q himself to weigh in with dismay: "These people are sick! Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing."

The most prominent QAnon figures have a presence beyond the biggest social-media platforms and image boards. The Q universe encompasses numerous blogs, proprietary websites, and types of chat software, as well as alternative social-media platforms such as Gab, the site known for anti-Semitism and white nationalism, where many people banned from Twitter have congregated. Vloggers and bloggers promote their Patreon accounts, where people can pay them in monthly sums.

There’s also money to be made from ads on YouTube. Q evangelists have taken a "publish everywhere" approach that is half outreach, half redundancy. If one platform cracks down on QAnon, as Reddit did, they won’t have to start from scratch somewhere else. Already embroiled in the battle between good and evil, QAnon has involved itself in another battle — between the notion of an open web for the people and a gated internet controlled by a powerful few.

U.S. Crime, Courts, Congress

washington post logoWashington Post, Court asks retired judge to oppose Justice Dept. effort to drop Flynn case and examine if ex-Trump adviser committed perjury, Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Spencer S. Hsu, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, May 14, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Flynn’s sentencing judge Wednesday asked a former federal judge to oppose the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s guilty plea and examine whether Flynn should face a contempt hearing for perjury.

The judge asked whether Flynn, right, should face contempt for perjury after he pleaded guilty to a crime of which he now claims to be innocent.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s appointment of retired New York federal Judge John Gleeson, right, comes one day after Sullivan put on hold the Justice Department’s bid to drop charges against Flynn, saying he expects independent groups and legal experts to argue against the move.

"The Court exercises its inherent authority to appoint The Honorable John Gleeson (Ret.) as amicus curiae to present arguments in opposition to the government’s Motion to Dismiss," Sullivan wrote in a two-page order.

john gleeson Custom"It is further ORDERED that amicus curiae shall address whether the Court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Mr. Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury."

The unusual order plunges the Flynn case even deeper into uncharted legal waters, in which the Justice Department has taken a posture more common to defense lawyers, the judge has appointed another judge to see if other crimes occurred, and the president’s supporters demand the immediate dismissal of the entire case.

The department was already under fire from those inside its ranks and thousands of alumni who felt the institution was being politicized and bent to the will of Trump. Sullivan’s order threatens to unearth even more, potentially unflattering details of how the department’s political leaders came to decide they should walk away from a case involving an ally to the president.

john gotti mug shotsAs a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, Gleeson is best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti, left, behind bars. As a federal judge from 1994 to 2016 appointed by Bill Clinton, Gleeson was not shy about criticizing the Justice Department, and one lawyer who practiced before him called him "a purist." In a 2013 drug case, he sharply criticized the department’s policies in trying to extract heavy prison sentences as part of guilty pleas, which he called "unsound and brutally unfair" and "the sentencing equivalent of a two-by-four to the forehead."

In a commentary article Monday, Gleeson observed the Justice Department has made conflicting statements to the court, which has "the authority, the tools and the obligation to assess the credibility of the department’s stated reasons for abruptly reversing course."

"The law provides that the court — not the executive branch — decides whether an indictment may be dismissed. The responsible exercise of that authority is particularly important here, where a defendant’s plea of guilty has already been accepted. Government motions to dismiss at this stage are virtually unheard of," Gleeson wrote.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Flynn’s defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason said while the order is not a definitive sign of what Sullivan will ultimately do with Flynn’s case, it is the clearest indication yet he is not willing to go along easily with the Justice Department’s request.

"I think it’s hard to say what he might ultimately do, but I think it’s clear that he’s not simply going to take the government’s motion at face value, and he wants to probe the reasons for this reversal after two years, and I think that’s completely understandable," Eliason said. "Judges don’t like to be manipulated."

Eliason said Sullivan’s contemplation of holding Flynn in contempt for perjury exposed what has long been a flaw in Flynn’s argument that his plea should be undone. The former national security adviser admitted in court under oath three times before two different judges that he lied to the FBI. His assertion now that he did not actually do that means he lied to the court.

"They can’t have it both ways," Eliason said. "If they’re going to say now he didn’t lie to the FBI, then he lied to the judge. So you could be prosecuted for perjury for that. But presumably Barr’s DOJ is not going to prosecute him for perjury, so another option is the judge could hold him in contempt for lying to the judge."

In 2009, Sullivan appointed a lawyer as a special prosecutor to investigate whether government lawyers who won a short-lived conviction in the case of former Senator Ted Stevens should be prosecuted for criminal conduct. At the time, the judge declared he had "never seen mishandling and misconduct" like it from the Justice Department.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-F.B.I. Official Is Said to Undercut Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Flynn Case, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, Updated May 14, 2020.  A key former F.B.I. official cast doubt on the Justice Department’s case for dropping a criminal charge against President Trump’s former Michael Flynn Harvard 2014national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, right, during an interview with investigators last week, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Department officials reviewing the Flynn case interviewed Bill Priestap, the former head of F.B.I. counterintelligence, two days before making their extraordinary request to drop the case to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. They did not tell Judge Sullivan about Mr. Priestap’s interview. A Justice Department official said that they were in the process of writing up a report on the interview and that it would soon be filed with the court.

FBI logoThe department’s motion referred to notes that Mr. Priestap wrote around the bureau’s 2017 questioning of Mr. Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during that interview. His lawyers said Mr. Priestap’s notes — recently uncovered during a review of the case — suggested that the F.B.I. was trying to entrap Mr. Flynn, and Attorney General William P. Barr said investigators were trying to "lay a perjury trap."

That interpretation was wrong, Mr. Priestap told the prosecutors reviewing the case. He said that F.B.I. officials were trying to do the right thing in questioning Mr. Flynn and that he knew of no effort to set him up. Media reports about his notes misconstrued them, he said, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

The department’s decision to exclude mention of Mr. Priestap’s interview in the motion could trouble Judge Sullivan, below left, who signaled late on Tuesday that he was skeptical of the department’s arguments.

emmet sullivan 2012Mr. Priestap and the Justice Department declined to comment. Mr. Priestap told investigators that he did not remember the circumstances surrounding the notes that he took, and that he was giving them his interpretation of the notes as he read them now, according to a person familiar with his interview.

The U.S. dropped its criminal case against President Trump’s first national security adviser. It was the latest reversal in a case full of them.

Former prosecutors and defense lawyers called the department’s position hypocritical and troubling.

"If it is accurate that the F.B.I. official provided context around those notes, which is materially different from what they suggest, this could be a game changer in terms of how the court views the motivations behind the request to dismiss the case," said Edward Y. Kim, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

The department’s decision to drop the Flynn case was a stunning reversal, widely regarded as part of an effort by Mr. Barr to undermine the Russia investigation. The prosecutor who led the case, Brandon L. Van Grack, withdrew from it, and only the interim U.S. attorney in Washington, Timothy Shea, a longtime adviser to Mr. Barr, signed the motion.

Both Mr. Van Grack and Jocelyn Ballantine, another prosecutor on the case, were upset with Mr. Barr’s decision to drop the charge and his overall handling of the Flynn review, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Mr. Barr, who has long said that he had misgivings about the decision to prosecute Mr. Flynn, asked the top federal prosecutor in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, earlier this year to scrub the case for any mistakes or improprieties.

Mr. Priestap’s notes were among the documents that Mr. Jensen found. The prosecutors already on the case, Mr. Jensen’s team and the F.B.I. disagreed about whether they were exculpatory and should be given to Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, right. Mr. Jensen prevailed and gave them to Ms. sidney powellPowell, who declared that they would exonerate her client, people familiar with the events said.

Mr. Priestap played a central role in the F.B.I. investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and was involved in high-level discussions about whether to question Mr. Flynn, whose phone calls to the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, had aroused investigators’ suspicions.

Mr. Jensen and Ms. Ballantine, herself a veteran prosecutor, interviewed Mr. Priestap along with another prosecutor, Sayler Fleming, and an F.B.I. agent from St. Louis who was there to memorialize the encounter.

Justice Department investigators spoke with Mr. Priestap while they were embroiled in a debate that began last month about whether to drop the Flynn case.

Mr. Jensen and officials in Mr. Shea’s office pushed to give Mr. Flynn’s lawyers copies of the notes and other documents they had recently found. Mr. dana boenteVan Grack and Dana Boente, left, the F.B.I. general counsel, argued against disclosing them.

Eventually the F.B.I. agreed to release the documents because they contained no classified or sensitive material, even though they believed they were not required to share them with the defense, according to an email from lawyers in Mr. Boente’s office on April 23.

By the beginning of May, Mr. Jensen recommended to Mr. Barr that the charge be dropped, and the team began to draft the motion to dismiss it.

Mr. Van Grack and Ms. Ballantine, the prosecutors on the case, acknowledged the facts but vociferously disagreed with Mr. Jensen’s legal argument that Mr. Flynn’s lies were immaterial to the larger investigation into Russian election interference, according to department lawyers familiar with their conversations.

Roll Call, Burr steps aside as Intelligence chairman as stock sale scandal grows, Chris Marquette, May 14, 2020. Sen. Richard M. Burr will step down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee pending a federal investigation into his stock trades that followed a confidential briefing on the coronavirus pandemic before the financial markets cratered.

richard burr o Small"Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow."

The announcement comes after the Los Angeles Times reported late Wednesday night the FBI served a warrant on Burr, right, at his Washington residence. The federal agents seized the North Carolina Republican’s cell phone to examine communications between him and his broker.

Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million in his securities holdings on Feb. 13, after the panel began receiving daily coronavirus briefings, ProPublica first reported.

Additionally, NPR obtained a recording on Feb. 27 in which Burr offered a private assessment of the adverse economic impact from the coronavirus — a contrast to his more upbeat public comments.

william barr at doj

Palmer Report, Talk about missing the target, Bill Palmer, May 14, 2020. Anyone who has paid even a modicum of attention to the Michael Flynn criminal case is well aware that Emmet Sullivan is the last judge who could ever be convinced to simply let the case go. Unfortunately for Bill Barr, above, he’s either been paying way too little attention to the criminal cases he’s trying to rig, or he thinks way too much of his own abilities.

Judge Sullivan has previously openly accused Flynn of having sold out his country. Sullivan was outraged when he learned that the DOJ only wanted to give Flynn six months. Now that the DOJ wants to let Flynn walk, even though Flynn has pleaded guilty and confessed to his crimes under oath in detail, Sullivan is hitting the roof.

bill palmer report logo headerI saw this coming. Most of you reading this saw it coming. How did Bill Barr not see this coming? None of us could have predicted the specific remedies that the judge is invoking, from amicus briefs to the appointment of a retired judge to take over the case against Flynn. But we all know there was right around a zero percent chance that Sullivan was going to let Barr do this. Some other federal judge, such as TS Ellis, might have let this slide. Emmet Sullivan? Of course not.

The question is how Bill Barr ended up missing so badly here. Did he really not do his homework? Is he too big for his britches? Or did an increasingly delusional Donald Trump push Barr so hard on this, Barr had no choice but go through with it, knowing it would blow up like this? In any case, what a surreal swing and miss.

Palmer Report, Surreal new twist in Donald Trump’s unraveling Michael Flynn stunt, Bill Palmer, right, May 14, 2020. If Donald Trump and Bill Barr really thought bill palmerthey could convince Judge Emmett Sullivan to simply drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, they severely misjudged their man. Not only is Sullivan keeping the case intact, he’s seeking amicus briefs from everyone who has a legal opinion on the matter, and he’s appointed a retired judge to essentially take over the prosecution.

Now there’s a new twist.

Michael Flynn’s former attorneys – the ones who helped steer him toward a guilty plea and cooperative plea deal before he ousted them and hired his current loon instead – have now decided that they want to weigh in on Flynn’s guilt. From the court filing (see here), it’s not clear which side they intend to come down on.

bill palmer report logo headerThey were Flynn’s defense lawyers, and they still have attorney-client privilege with him, so they can’t exactly reveal evidence of his guilt that isn’t already out there. But when you consider that these lawyers helped Flynn take the formal position that he was guilty, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to now argue that he was innocent.

In any case we’ll see what happens here. Because Trump and Barr have pulled a stunt that’s basically never happened before by trying to withdraw a criminal case after a guilty plea has been entered, Judge Sullivan gets to decide how he wants to make precedent about how this works. None of this appears to be going on Trump’s favor.

djt tump int hotel

washington post logoWashington Post, Court revives lawsuit targeting President Trump’s business dealings at D.C. hotel, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell, May 14, 2020. A federal appeals court on Friday revived a lawsuit seeking to block President Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington from accepting payments from foreign and state governments.

In a divided decision, the court refused to dismiss the novel lawsuit that accuses the president of illegally profiting from foreign and state government patrons at his D.C. hotel. The case, brought by the top lawyers for Maryland and the District of Columbia, is one of a set of lawsuits alleging the president’s private business transactions violate the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments ban.

"We recognize that the President is no ordinary petitioner, and we accord him great deference as the head of the Executive branch," Judge Diana Motz wrote for a majority of judges. But the court denied Trump’s request to dimiss the lawsuit, saying it would not "grant the extraordinary relief the President seeks."

The ruling from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is at odds with a decision in March in a separate, similar case that barred individual members of Congress from suing the president over his private business.

The split rulings suggest the Supreme Court will have the final word in the cases involving the rarely tested emoluments provisions intended to prevent foreign and state officials from having undue influence on U.S. leaders, including the president.

At the 4th Circuit, a full complement of 15 judges in December took a second look at the lawsuit from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine. An initial three-judge panel of the same court had tossed the lawsuit and said the attorneys general did not have legal grounds, or standing, to sue. But the full court agreed to rehear the case and to decide whether to take the extraordinary step to dismiss it midstream as the president’s lawyers requested.

Unlike past presidents, Trump has retained ownership of his private business and can benefit from it financially. His sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump run the company.

The emoluments case centers on the president’s hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest Washington, where foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, have booked rooms and events since Trump entered the White House.

Trump’s Justice Department lawyers say the president is not violating the emoluments clauses because the language bars only payments in exchange for official action or as part of an employment relationship.

Individual members of Congress barred from suing President Trump over business dealings

A District Court judge in Maryland disagreed and interpreted the provisions to ban U.S. officials from accepting any profit, gain or advantage from foreign officials. The judge signed off on more than a dozen subpoenas for Trump’s closely held financial records to determine which foreign and state governments have paid the Trump Organization and how much.

May 8

washington post logoWashington Post, White House tightens its grip on virus information, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The president has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy. Several Republican governors are following his lead.

President Trump in recent weeks has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy and the rekindling of an economy that has been devastated by public health restrictions aimed at mitigating the outbreak.

djt hands up mouth open CustomHis administration has sidelined or replaced officials not seen as loyal, rebuffed congressional requests for testimony, dismissed jarring statistics and models, praised states for reopening without meeting White House guidelines and, briefly, pushed to disband a task force created to combat the virus and communicate about the public health crisis.

Several Republican governors are following Trump’s lead as an effort takes shape to control the narrative about a pandemic that has continued to rage throughout a quickly reopening country. With polls showing most consumers still afraid to venture out of their homes, the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to soothe some of those fears through a messaging campaign that relies on tightly controlling information about a virus that has proven stubbornly difficult to contain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump labels Americans as ‘warriors’ in risky push to reopen, David Nakamura, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump praised American farmers as the "warriors" in his trade war with China that was harming their exports. He used the same term to describe the Republican lawmakers who spent political capital to defend him in the impeachment fight.

Now, as he pushes to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has identified a new group of "warriors" to enlist in battle: the American public.

Trump unveiled the moniker this week — during a trip to a face-mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix on Tuesday and again in an Oval Office photo op with nurses Wednesday — suggesting it is no longer just medical workers on the front lines who must respond against the lethal illness.

"I’m actually calling now . . . the nation warriors," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years."

The president’s use of the term has capped a weeks-long rhetorical effort to frame the crisis through battlefield language. Trump has called himself a "wartime president" and cast the virus as an "invisible enemy" that is "smart" and "tough." In recent days, he has taken to comparing the national emergency to other moments in American history when the nation’s collective spirit and bravery helped overcome threats from a challenging foe, including World War II.

Yet in his efforts to rally public support, Trump — as he did with the farmers and GOP lawmakers — is again shifting the burden and potential repercussions of his decisions onto those whom he is enjoining in the fight, in this case most other Americans.

May 5

Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, President erupts at George Conway for video about the ‘deadly virus Trump ignored,’ Fred Barbash, May 5, 2020. George T. Conway III, prominent attorney and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, has been trying with only modest success to provoke President Trump’s Twitter wrath for the better part of his presidency. He finally succeeded close to 1 a.m. Tuesday.

george conway postWhat set Trump off was a video, sponsored by the Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump Super-PAC that Conway, right, co-founded with other Republicans and former Republicans. The video, released Monday, lays responsibility squarely at Trump’s doorstep for the severity of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, including the deaths and economic damage.

Considered a classic of the genre, the Reagan reelection ad showed happy prosperous Americans, smiling, going to work and getting married. It ended with the words: "It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?"

Considered a classic of the genre, the Reagan reelection ad showed happy prosperous Americans, smiling, going to work and getting married. It ended with the words: "It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?"

"Mourning in America" is dystopian, showing dilapidated houses, a worried man in a hospital corridor, head in hands, a sick person being wheeled donald trump twitteron a gurney, vacant industrial buildings, a man applying for unemployment compensation, crowds of Americans lined up wearing masks and scenes from a Trump speech.

It concludes with these words: "There’s mourning in America. And under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker, sicker and poorer. And now, Americans are asking, ‘If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?’"

Tens of thousands nationwide have died from the "deadly virus Trump ignored," says the video, called "Mourning in America," inspired by former president Ronald Reagan’s famous "Morning in America" 1984 campaign ad.

Trump responded at 12:46 a.m. Tuesday, firing off a string of tweets attacking those associated with the Lincoln Project as "LOSERS" before turning his wrath on Conway.

"I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface," Trump tweeted, "but it must have been really bad."

"RINO" stands for "Republicans in name only." The Lincoln Project was established by Republican Conway, former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, and Republican operatives John Weaver and Rick Wilson, among others. Evan McMullin, whom Trump called "Evan ‘McMuffin’ McMullin," is a former CIA officer who ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election.

"Reed Galvin" is presumably a reference to Reed Galen, a former Republican strategist and Lincoln Project co-organizer. Jennifer Horn is former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Conway, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post’s opinion section, has been denouncing Trump throughout most of his presidency, sometimes in biting personal terms, describing him as mentally impaired and unfit for office.

Most recently, Conway mocked Trump’s comments about the use of disinfectant to treat covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. After Trump, in a since-deleted tweet, appeared to mistake the Pulitzer Prize for the "Noble prize," misspelling Nobel, Conway changed his Twitter display name to "George Conway, Noble Committee Chair."

May 4

Public Health Top Stories

djt i dont take responsibility at all

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Privately, Administration Projects Daily Deaths to Nearly Double in May, Staff reports, May 4, 2020. 3,000 Deaths Per Day Are Forecast as Some States Reopen.

The Trump administration is projecting that the daily toll would rise steadily over the next several weeks, according to an internal document obtained by The Times. President Trump stepped up criticism of China, part of an international response to the outbreak. The F.D.A. said that companies selling antibody tests must prove their accuracy within 10 days. Here’s the latest.

As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks. The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double the current number of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modeling pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently.

The numbers underscore a sobering reality: While the United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, significant risks remain. And reopening the economy will make matters worse.

"There remains a large number of counties whose burden continues to grow," the Centers for Disease Control warned.

The projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways as the health care system was overloaded.

"While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected," Scott Gottlieb, Mr. Trump’s former commissioner of food and drugs, said Sunday on the CBS program Face the Nation. "We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that."

On Sunday, Mr. Trump said deaths in the United States could reach 100,000, twice as many as he had forecast just two weeks ago. But his new estimate still underestimates what his own administration is now predicting to be the total death toll by the end of May — much less in the months to come. It follows a pattern for Mr. Trump, who has frequently understated the impact of the disease.

See related Washington Post story below in next section Washington Post, Draft report predicts covid-19 cases will reach 200,000 a day by June 1.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Pandemic Toll: 67,222 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S.; At least 1,153,000 cases have been reported, Joe Fox, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kevin Schaul and Leslie Shapiro, Data as of May 4 at 8:12 a.m. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2killed at least 67,000 people in the United States.

The country’s earliest covid-19 fatality was thought to be a 58-year-old man near Seattle, whose death was announced Feb. 29.

But on April 22, officials in California announced that tissue from two people who had died in early and mid-February in Santa Clara County had tested positive, signaling that the virus may have spread in the country weeks earlier than was previously thought.

U.S. Pandemic Politics

djt lincoln

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, offering support to lockdown protesters, says it’s safe for states to reopen, Felicia Sonmez, Meryl Kornfield and Katie Mettler, May 4, 2020. He also projected that the U.S. death toll may be as high as 100,000, scaling up his earlier estimate of 65,000.

President Trump on Sunday sought to reassure Americans that it is safe for states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, offering support to protesters who have railed against the lockdowns across the country.

"I really believe that you can go to parks, you can go to beaches . . . [if] you stay away a certain amount," Trump said during a Fox News Channel town hall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington (shown above).

Trump said that it’s possible to "satisfy both" anti-lockdown protesters and those who are afraid to resume public life. He noted that Americans have been wearing face masks and social distancing in recent weeks and said that "you’re going to have to do that for a while," even as states reopen their economies.

He scaled up the estimate he has used for the number of expected dead — projecting that the U.S. toll may be as high as 100,000, up from his prior prediction of 65,000 — while emphasizing that he takes the novel coronavirus seriously and noting that three of his friends have died after contracting it.

Trump’s comments come as governors continue to grapple with reopening pains amid ongoing pushback against coronavirus restrictions. They also come as the administration is ramping up its efforts to blame China for the virus, which has now taken the lives of more than 67,000 people in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Draft report predicts covid-19 cases will reach 200,000 a day by June 1, William Wan, Lenny Bernstein, Laurie McGinley and Josh Dawsey, May 4, 2020. More than 3,000 people are projected to die daily of the disease by that date, according to the projections. A draft government report projects covid-19 cases will surge to about 200,000 per day by June 1, a staggering jump that would be accompanied by more than 3,000 deaths each day.

The document predicts a sharp increase in both cases and deaths beginning about May 14, according to a copy shared with The Washington Post. The forecast stops at June 1, but shows both daily cases and deaths on an upward trajectory at that point.

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly disavowed the report, though the slides carry the CDC’s logo. The creator of the model said the numbers are unfinished projections shown to the CDC as a work in progress.

The work contained a wide range of possibilities and modeling was not complete, according to Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who created the model.

He said he didn’t know how the update was turned into a slidedeck by government officials and shared with news organizations. The data was first reported by the New York Times.

"I had no role in the process by which that was presented and shown. This data was presented as an FYI to CDC … it was not in any way intended to be a forecast," Lessler said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Fox News town hall disaster just opened up a whole new can of worms for him, Bill Palmer, right, May 4, 2020. What bill palmera lot of people don’t understand is that Fox News is a for-profit corporation like any other major news outlet. The only difference is that Fox has a business centered around feeding convenient lies to conservatives in order to rile them up and keep them tuned in. But even Fox has to maintain relative credibility with its gullible audience, or it risks losing them.

When Donald Trump agreed to do a coronavirus town hall on Fox News last night, he and his handlers must have been expecting a series of softball questions. After all, Fox News viewers are the people who like him. Perhaps he thought he’d get asked questions about how successful he is, or what an amazing job he’s done with the coronavirus crisis. Instead, the audience questions were are all fairly reasonable and topical.

bill palmer report logo headerFox could have cherry picked questions that were about how great Trump is – surely a few were submitted – but that’s clearly not where Fox’s audience is. Even these gullible conservatives are worried about treatments and vaccines, food and income, and the importance of what’s going on right now. Donald Trump must not have expected these questions, because he had no idea how to answer almost any of them.

fox news logo SmallAt one point Donald Trump was telling a bizarre and inaccurate story about World War I. He’d been asked about nursing homes. At another point Trump began rambling about airline bailouts. He’d been asked about how to save an individually-run business with no employees. His answers didn’t even match the questions.

It’s not just that Donald Trump made himself look really inept in the eyes of an unusually sober Fox News audience. The real problem for Trump is that even a lot of Fox viewers seem to be looking for serious solutions and governmental competence right now – and Trump has absolutely no idea how to deliver that or even address it. Serious moments require serious leaders, and Trump is more of a failing carnival barker than ever.

Palmer Report, Opinion: There is no letter! Bill Palmer, May 4, 2020. Last night Donald Trump announced on live national television that Joe Biden recently wrote him a letter of apology over the way the coronavirus crisis has been handled. Because Trump was talking to a pair of Fox News nitwits, they didn’t bother to challenge him on this seemingly blatant lie.

Fortunately, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has confirmed what we pretty much instinctively already knew: there is no such letter. Donald Trump is making it up. That’s right, the sitting President of the United States just falsely claimed that his current general election opponent has sent him a written letter of apology. In any other time, this would be a major scandal. But because the bar is set so low for Trump and he has so many other scandals going on, there probably won’t even be a widespread call for Trump to turn over this supposed letter or admit he’s lying.

bill palmer report logo headerBut there should be. This week we saw multiple major media outlets make the ludicrous assertion that Joe Biden should turn over the entire contents of his Senate archive at the University of Delaware in the name of "transparency," simply because a false allegation was made against him, even though there is zero expectation that the archive will contain anything relevant to the false allegation. It’s a fishing expedition and nothing more. The media is hoping to poke around in Biden’s archives, find some random thing that it can mischaracterize into a scandal, and drum it up for ratings.

Since Donald Trump can’t produce this supposed letter that he claims he received, we think he should have to turn over the full contents of his archives, along with his bank account, tax returns, and personal vault for good measure, or else he’s not being transparent, is he. If we’re going to invent ludicrous standards of transparency, we should at least apply them to the candidate who’s lying about everything and whose entire life has been one big long scandal.

Trump Team Corruption?

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Before pandemic, Trump’s stockpile chief put focus on biodefense. An old client benefited, Jon Swaine, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Aaron C. Davis​, May 4, 2020. Robert Kadlec’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services made a deal to buy up to $2.8 billion of smallpox vaccine from a company that once paid him as a consultant, a connection he did not disclose on a Senate questionnaire when he was nominated.

After Robert Kadlec was confirmed as President Trump’s top official for public health preparedness in 2017, he began pressing to increase government stocks of a smallpox vaccine. His office ultimately made a deal to buy up to $2.8 billion of the vaccine from a company that once paid Kadlec as a consultant, a connection he did not disclose on a Senate questionnaire when he was nominated.

Under the agreement struck last year with Emergent BioSolutions, Kadlec’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services is paying more than double the price per dose it had previously paid for the drug. Because Emergent is the only licensed maker of the vaccine, Kadlec’s office arrived at the price through negotiations with the company rather than through bidding.

The 10-year contract is part of an effort by Kadlec to bolster the nation’s stockpile of defenses against biological and chemical weapons, a focus he made a priority over preparing for a natural pandemic, an examination by The Washington Post found. Kadlec, a decorated veteran and biodefense expert, has argued for more than two decades in government and the private sector that the nation should devote more of its resources to preparing for bioweapon attacks.

In the two years before the coronavirus pandemic, Kadlec aggressively pursued efforts to fulfill his vision for national preparedness, the Post examination found. He assumed greater control over acquisitions for the Strategic National Stockpile, which in 2018 was moved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and placed under his authority, the examination found.

Kadlec scaled back a long-standing interagency process for spending billions of dollars on stockpile purchases, diminishing the role of government experts and restricting decision-making to himself and a small circle of advisers, according to three former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

 

 U.S. Pandemic Politics

Michigan thugs yell State Sen. Dayna Polehanki

Protester at Michigan's State Capitol on April 30, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Coronavirus Is Becoming a Battle Cry for U.S. Extremists, Neil MacFarquhar, May 4, 2020 (print ed.). White supremacists are seeking to stoke the fear and disruption caused by the pandemic to push their agenda — and to recruit.

abc news logoAmerica’s extremists are attempting to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a potent recruiting tool both in the deep corners of the internet and on the streets of state capitals by twisting the public health crisis to bolster their white supremacist, anti-government agenda.

Although the protests that have broken out across the country have drawn out a wide variety of people pressing to lift stay-at-home orders, the presence of extremists cannot be missed, with their anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic signs and coded messages aimed at inspiring the faithful, say those who track such movements.

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washington post logoWashington Post, White House, Congress clash over liability protections for businesses, Erica Werner and Tom Hamburger, May 4, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans insist that employers be shielded from liability if their workers contract the coronavirus, while Democrats oppose blanket protections. The issue could have sweeping implications for health care and the economy.

Congressional leaders are girding for a huge fight over the reentry of millions of Americans to the workplace, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisting that employers be shielded from liability if their workers contract the coronavirus. He appears to have the backing of top White House officials.

Democratic leaders have declared they will oppose such blanket protections, putting Washington’s power brokers on opposite sides of a major issue that could have sweeping implications for health care and the economy in the coming months. The battle has unleashed a frenzy of lobbying, with major industry groups, technology firms, insurers, manufacturers, labor unions, and plaintiffs lawyers all squaring off.

The clash is a sharp departure from the past six weeks, when lawmakers from both parties came together to swiftly approve nearly $3 trillion in emergency funds as Americans hunkered down during the pandemic. Now, lawmakers are warring over what the rules should be when millions of Americans return to the workplace.

  • Washington Post, 34 days of pandemic: Inside Trump’s desperate attempts to reopen U.S., Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Robert Costa and Lena H. Sun, May 4, 2020 (print ed.).

 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Fox News town hall disaster just opened up a whole new can of worms for him, Bill Palmer, right, May 4, 2020. What bill palmera lot of people don’t understand is that Fox News is a for-profit corporation like any other major news outlet. The only difference is that Fox has a business centered around feeding convenient lies to conservatives in order to rile them up and keep them tuned in. But even Fox has to maintain relative credibility with its gullible audience, or it risks losing them.

When Donald Trump agreed to do a coronavirus town hall on Fox News last night, he and his handlers must have been expecting a series of softball questions. After all, Fox News viewers are the people who like him. Perhaps he thought he’d get asked questions about how successful he is, or what an amazing job he’s done with the coronavirus crisis. Instead, the audience questions were are all fairly reasonable and topical.

bill palmer report logo headerFox could have cherry picked questions that were about how great Trump is – surely a few were submitted – but that’s clearly not where Fox’s audience is. Even these gullible conservatives are worried about treatments and vaccines, food and income, and the importance of what’s going on right now. Donald Trump must not have expected these questions, because he had no idea how to answer almost any of them.

fox news logo SmallAt one point Donald Trump was telling a bizarre and inaccurate story about World War I. He’d been asked about nursing homes. At another point Trump began rambling about airline bailouts. He’d been asked about how to save an individually-run business with no employees. His answers didn’t even match the questions.

It’s not just that Donald Trump made himself look really inept in the eyes of an unusually sober Fox News audience. The real problem for Trump is that even a lot of Fox viewers seem to be looking for serious solutions and governmental competence right now – and Trump has absolutely no idea how to deliver that or even address it. Serious moments require serious leaders, and Trump is more of a failing carnival barker than ever.

May 2

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s head is spinning, Bill Palmer, May 2, 2020. Over the past twenty-four hours Donald Trump has seemed to insinuate that the phony allegation against Joe Biden is both credible and fake. Last night Trump’s lapdog Lindsey Graham went on Fox News and dct underage wmr tweetstrongly defended Biden against the allegation, suggesting that Team Trump wants nothing to do with it – even amid reports that the Trump campaign was testing out a TV ad aimed at legitimizing the phony allegation. So what’s going on?

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s pretty clear that Donald Trump and his team don’t know what to do with this phony Biden scandal. That’s not surprising. It wasn’t invented for Trump’s benefit. It was invented by "Bernie or Bust" fanatics masquerading as journalists, in a desperate last-ditch attempt at taking Biden down, under the delusional belief that this would somehow result in Bernie Sanders being the nominee instead. Nevermind that Sanders has dropped out and strongly endorsed Biden; now that Bernie has formally divorced himself from the "Bust" crowd, they’ve become even more deranged in their behavior.

Joe Biden aced his interview about the fake scandal yesterday, meaning it’s not going to have the impact that the "Bust" crowd was hoping for.

Biden has a 100% chance of being the nominee. Sanders isn’t going to withdraw his endorsement and magically reenter the race, no matter how much time his more deranged supporters spend fantasizing over this.

Bernie’s reasonable supporters are already lined up behind Biden. Yet now this Biden vs Trump race has a fake Biden scandal that could end up djt pedo graphic IMG 3170 Custombeing more of a problem for Trump than for Biden.

The mere existence of the phony Biden scandal has prompted the media and the public to recall that Donald Trump has dozens of credible accusers.

If Trump and his team start trying to promote the Biden scandal, it could backfire on them, as everyone is reminded of who the actual sexual criminal is in this race. On the other hand, as the focus shifts more toward Trump’s status as a sexual predator, he and his team could feel compelled to try to play up the fake Biden allegation in the hope of shifting the focus back.

There’s a reason Donald Trump’s head is spinning as he tries to figure out how to handle this. When a fake scandal is invented about a Democratic candidate, it’s usually invented by the Republicans, meaning they get to come up with a fake scandal that specifically works in their favor.

This is a fake scandal about a Democratic candidate that was invented by the fringe left to keep the Democrat from getting to the general election to begin with, so it’s not at all a good fit for what Trump needs right now. No wonder he’s not sure what to do with it.

April

April 28

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Roger Stone WikiLeaks conspiracy just took a remarkably ugly turn involving Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2020. Roger Stone is scheduled to report to prison in just a few days, unless Donald Trump is stupid enough to pardon him first, which would hand the Democrats a compelling talking point in the 2020 election about how Trump is a criminal. Even as we wait to see what Trump does, the whole thing just got a lot more complicated.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was always fairly clear that Robert Mueller was only able to charge Roger Stone for a fraction of his crimes, before Bill Barr managed to shut Mueller down. Accordingly, multiple major news outlets went to court to obtain the search warrants in the Stone case, and today they succeeded. Sure enough, there was a whole lot more going on with Stone than what he was charged with.

The search warrants reveal that Roger Stone and Julian Assange were communicating in 2017, after the election. Stone assured Assange that if he was pursued by Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, Stone would "bring down the entire house of cards" by taking it to the "highest level of government." Stone is clearly referring to his closest friend Donald Trump; the only question is whether Stone really was communicating with Trump about this, or if Stone was bluffing.

Either way, these warrants reveal that Roger Stone isn’t just some guy who lied under oath and then tried to intimidate the witnesses against him. He’s a guy who was conspiring with an international cyberterrorist against the United States. This makes it a lot harder for Donald Trump to sell the notion of pardoning Stone, because the blowback would be tremendous.

On the other hand, if Roger Stone has dirt tying Donald Trump to Julian Assange, then Trump has to worry about Stone leaking it if Trump doesn’t pardon him. Trump is now in a rather complicated no-win situation, with just days to decide whether to pardon Stone or let him report to prison. These search warrants also make clear that Attorney General Bill Barr committed felony obstruction of justice when he forced Mueller off the job before Stone could be charged with the rest of his crimes. Barr is going to end up needing a pardon of his own, or he’ll end up in prison as well.

April 26

Public Health Top Stories

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jonathan swan twitterAxios Sneak Peek, White House to shift to economic message, Jonathan Swan, right, April 26, 2020. The White House plans to shift its coronavirus messaging toward boosting the economy and highlighting "success stories" of businesses, reducing its public emphasis on health statistics, according to two officials familiar with the planning.

Driving the news: The Coronavirus Task Force — and the doctors who've become household names, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci — "will continue but take a back seat to the forward-looking, 'what's next' message," a White House official told Axios.

• President Trump is expected to make fewer, shorter appearances at press conferences, as we reported on Friday.
• Nothing's ever set with Trump, and these decisions will be made day by day. But on Saturday, for the first day in weeks, the White House didn't hold a press briefing and the president made no public appearances.

What we're hearing: "Expect to see a pivot from the White House in the days ahead, focusing on the economy and a more hopeful, forward-looking message," one of these officials said.

washington post logoDonald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Washington Post, 13 hours of Trump: The president fills briefings with attacks and boasts, but little empathy, Philip Bump and Ashley Parker, April 26, 2020. A Post analysis reveals a president using the White House lectern to vent and rage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid suspension, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Souad Mekhennet​, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). The president's aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the WHO on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body, U.S. and foreign officials involved in the discussions said.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: The White House attempts to humiliate CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Erik Wemple, April 25, 2020.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s latest coronavirus stunt is unconscionable, Bill Palmer, right, April 26, 2020. Donald Trump is guilty of so many kinds bill palmerof atrocities, it’s difficult to keep track of them all, let alone quantify them. The two common themes about his darkest of stunts is that they’re all about him, and that he doesn’t care who gets hurt or killed in the process.

The coronavirus crisis in the United States is entirely due to the dishonesty and negligence of Donald Trump. Legal experts are already saying he’s committed negligent homicide against the Americans who have died. Lately he’s been trying to drive the death toll higher in a general sense by urging the nation to reopen before it’s safe to do so. Now he’s pulling one specific stunt that should get him arrested on the spot.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has decided that he’s going to give the commencement address at the West Point graduation ceremony – in the middle of a pandemic. He’s aiming to force the graduates to travel from their homes back to the academy, just for an in-person graduation ceremony, just so he can give the speech. How risky is this? The New York Times says that waivers will need to be involved, because the military has already banned all personnel from travel.

This is sick beyond words. Donald Trump will be putting these kids’ lives at risk just so he can stroke his own ego. Regardless of whatever social distancing measures might be taken in a gathering this large, the coronavirus will spread among the cadets in attendance. Many will get sick, and statistically speaking, some will die. Trump is trying to pull this stunt with the military because it’s the one entity that can’t legally say no to him. After Trump loses the election, he needs to be placed on military trial for this stunt.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion / Parody: Trump is exhibiting all the symptoms of a hydroxychloroquine overdose, Dana Milbank, right, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). My study hasn’t dana milbank Custombeen peer reviewed yet, but my evidence — based on a hunch that originated in my gut — is very strong: President Trump has overdosed on hydroxychloroquine.

Trump, who claims a "natural instinct for science" not from formal training but because his late uncle was a scientist, once used this innate ability to determine that climate change was a hoax and that windmills cause cancer.

More recently he mobilized the U.S. government to make sure thousands of covid-19 patients were treated with the antimalarial clorox graphic Customhydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin — because Trump’s instinct told him the drug cocktail would be a "phenomenal" "game changer."

Sadly, evidence from all over suggests that the drugs cause heart problems and worsen death rates.

No matter! The stable genius dropped his hydroxychloroquine hypothesis faster than you can say "snake oil" and is now touting a new miracle cure for the virus: injecting the lungs with bleach (graphic at right), alcohol or other common disinfectants, possibly along with massive doses of heat and ultraviolet light.

djt smiling fileNoting that disinfectants kill the virus "in a minute" on inanimate surfaces, Trump asked: "Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside? Or almost a cleaning? … It would be interesting to check that."

Government scientists dutifully promised to investigate the boss’s lung-bleaching idea.

As it happens, I, too, have a natural instinct for science (my brother is a urologist) and I have used it to conclude that hydroxychloroquine abuse has caused Trump and some top aides and allies to suffer a condition we experts refer to as acute nuttiness.

First, it is scientifically obvious from Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine that he has been using it himself. While taking the drugs, he has not succumbed to coronavirus. He has concluded, therefore, based on his study population (N=1), that the drugs prevent coronavirus 100 percent of the time.

U.S. Media / Politics News

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everyone piles on as illiterate Donald Trump goes berserk about "Noble Prizes," Bill Palmer, April 26, 2020. Donald Trump is having a bad day today. He’s screwed up his press briefings so badly, he’s had to stop holding them. He hasn’t been able to golf or hold rallies for some donald trump twittertime now. He’s stuck home alone, with a pathetic existence and a failing presidency, and nothing left but his infamous Twitter account. You can guess how this went. Also, he’s illiterate and he’s an idiot, which doesn’t help his cause.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was bad enough that Trump had just finished posting an illiterate rant about a "hamberger" before deleting it. He then decided to tackle the trickier topic of Pulitzer Prizes, which he now thinks are Nobel Prizes. Or as Trump thinks they’re called, "Noble Prizes." Trump tweeted this:

"When will all of the "reporters" who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished "Nobles" so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right. I can give the Committee a very comprehensive list. When will the Noble Committee DEMAND the Prizes back, especially since they were gotten under fraud? The reporters and Lamestream Media knew the truth all along Lawsuits should be brought against all, including the Fake News Organizations, to rectify this terrible injustice. For all of the great lawyers out there, do we have any takers? When will the Noble Committee Act? Better be fast!"

Not only is Trump threatening retaliation against the reporters who won the Nobel Prizes, he also appears to be threatening the Nobel Committee. Wait til he finds out there are five separate Nobel Committees.

Also, wait til he finds out it’s not a "Noble Prize." He’s going to be really upset when he finds out journalists win the Pulitzer Prize, not the Nobel Prize or the Noble Prize. This guy is totally, totally losing it – and the day is barely half over.

Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, White House officials weigh replacement of HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, April 26, 2020. Frustrations have grown over his handling of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, as well as of his removal last week of a top vaccine official in his agency, which created an uproar.

White House officials are discussing whether to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, as frustrations have grown over his handling of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, as well as of his removal last week of a top vaccine official in his agency, which created an uproar.

alex azar o cropped CustomSeveral top White House aides are discussing Azar’s removal and have mused over possible replacements, but President Trump has not weighed in, said five people familiar with the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

It remains unclear whether the president will want to replace his top health official amid a pandemic, because it could signal more chaos and turmoil in the administration’s response, which has come under repeated fire. More than 53,000 Americans have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 900,000 U.S. cases have been reported as of Sunday.

Over the past several weeks, Azar has rarely appeared at the daily White House coronavirus news briefings and has been largely sidelined from Mike Pencethe response. He oversaw that effort until Feb. 26, when he was replaced by Vice President Pence, right, amid anger over the continued lack of coronavirus testing and conflicting messages from health officials about the threat of the virus.

His agency, however, is still responsible for crucial aspects of the pandemic response, such as leading the search for treatments and vaccines and distributing $100 billion worth of relief to hospitals that was allocated by Congress.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

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ny times logoNew York Times, Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking the Senate With Him, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, April 26, 2020 (print ed.). Ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the G.O.P. worried about a Democratic takeover in November.

rnc logoPresident Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course.

The scale of the G.O.P.’s challenge has crystallized in the last week. With 26 million Americans now having filed for unemployment benefits, Mr. Trump’s standing in states that he carried in 2016 looks increasingly wobbly: New surveys show him trailing significantly in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and he is even narrowly behind in must-win Florida.

republican elephant logoDemocrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter in the most pivotal congressional races, according to recent campaign finance reports. And while Mr. Trump is well ahead in money compared with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic donors are only beginning to focus on the general election, and several super PACs plan to spend heavily on behalf of him and the party.

Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Coronavirus and the Price of Trump’s Delusions, Michelle Goldberg, right, April 26, 2020. A cult of personality is no match for a pandemic.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that a second wave of coronavirus infections this coming winter "will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through," because it will coincide with flu season. He also called the protests against stay-at-home orders "not helpful."

Donald Trump was apparently not pleased, tweeting that Redfield was "totally misquoted by Fake News @CNN." On Wednesday evening, after another rant about fake news, Trump brought Redfield onstage at his daily press briefing, where Redfield had the unenviable task of trying to explain his remarks, which he acknowledged were quoted accurately, without contradicting the president. The fall and winter might be "more difficult and potentially more complicated" due to the confluence of coronavirus and influenza, Redfield said, but that didn’t mean the second wave would be "worse."

Trump, meanwhile, spoke of the crisis in the past tense, as something America is now emerging from, suggesting that all the country will face in the future is "some embers of corona." The day before, the country had recorded around 2,200 deaths, making it one of the deadliest days of the pandemic in the United States.

Over the last three and a half years, Americans have had to accustom themselves to a relentless, numbing barrage of lies from the federal government. In one sector after another, we’ve seen experts systemically purged and replaced with toadying apparatchiks. The few professionals who’ve kept their jobs have often had to engage in degrading acts of public obeisance more common to autocracies. Public policy has zigzagged according to presidential whim. Empirical reality has been subsumed to Trump’s cult of personality.

But as long as the economy was decent and many of the crises Trump created were far away, the immediate costs of Trump’s narcissistic governance have been, for most citizens, more psychic than material. That changed with the coronavirus. Today the lies are no longer about the size of the audience at Trump’s inauguration, the fruits of sucking up to North Korea or the findings of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. Now the bill for a president with a tyrant’s contempt for truth and competence has come due

April 25

Pandemic Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Dire Warnings and Aggressive Pushback as Trump Promotes Sham Cures, Katie Rogers, Christine Hauser, Alan Yuhas and Maggie Haberman, Updated April 25, 2020. Responding to the criticism from public health officials around the country, the president said he was playing a trick on reporters.

In Maryland, so many callers flooded a health hotline with questions that the state’s Emergency Management Agency had to issue a warning that "under no circumstances" should any disinfectant be taken to treat the coronavirus. In Washington State, officials urged people not to consume laundry detergent capsules. Across the country on Friday, health professionals sounded the alarm.

Injecting bleach or highly concentrated rubbing alcohol "causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst," Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, said in an interview. "It can definitely be a fatal event."

Even the makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomThe frantic reaction was prompted by President Trump’s suggestion on Thursday at a White House briefing that an "injection inside" the human body with a disinfectant like bleach or isopropyl alcohol could help combat the virus.

"And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute," Mr. Trump said after a presentation from William N. Bryan, an acting under secretary for science at the Department of Homeland Security, detailed the virus’s possible susceptibility to bleach and alcohol.

"One minute," the president said. "And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that."

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, right, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was sitting to the side in the White House briefing room, blinking deborah birx profile palmer Customhard and looking at the floor as he spoke. Later, Mr. Trump asked her if she knew about "the heat and the light" as a potential cure.

"Not as a treatment," Dr. Birx said, adding, "I haven’t seen heat or light —" before the president cut her off.

Mr. Trump’s remarks caused an immediate uproar, and the White House spent much of Friday trying to walk them back. Also Friday, the Food and Drug Administration warned that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, two drugs that the president has repeatedly recommended in treating the coronavirus, can cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm in coronavirus patients and has resulted in some deaths.

The F.D.A. said the drugs should be used only in clinical trials or hospitals where patients can be closely monitored for heart problems.

"Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines," Kayleigh McEnany, the new White House press secretary, said in a statement criticizing the coverage of Thursday night’s briefing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants, Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd and Brittany Shammas, April 25, 2020 (print ed.). After a presentation Thursday that touched on the disinfectants that can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air, President Trump pondered whether those chemicals could be used to fight the virus inside the human body.

"I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute," Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. "And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."

The question, which Trump offered unprompted, immediately spurred doctors, lawmakers and the makers of Lysol to respond with incredulity and warnings against injecting or otherwise ingesting disinfectants, which are highly toxic.

"My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea," Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. "This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous."

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Donald Trump suddenly went soft on China, Bill Palmer, April 25, 2020. For awhile there, Donald Trump was trying to gain the cheapest of political points by referring to the coronavirus as the "Chinese Virus." It was a blatant attempt at scapegoating Chinese-Americans and Asian-Americans over the virus, in the hope of stirring up xenophobia within his racist base, thus distracting them from his own failures.

bill palmer report logo headerThen a couple weeks ago Trump suddenly stopped calling it the "Chinese Virus" and instead delivered a monologue about how Asian-Americans shouldn’t be blamed for this. This was a good development, of course. But as Palmer Report pointed out at the time, a bad person like Trump only does something like that when he has ulterior motives. Now we’re getting some answers.

Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars to a Chinese government-controlled bank, and he’s scheduled to have to make a huge payment on that loan soon, according to an eye opening new report from Politico. Based on the fact that six of Trump’s top revenue-producing properties are currently shut down in the pandemic, and the recent reporting that he’s already reduced to begging Deutsche Bank to push back his payments, it’s more clear than ever that Trump has no cash on hand.

No wonder Donald Trump suddenly went soft on China. President Xi must have reminded him that China owns him, and that it can seize control of his buildings if he loses the election and can’t pay up. Again, it’s a good thing that Trump has stopped calling it the "Chinese Virus." But it’s disturbing to think that Trump only stopped using that racist term because China reminded him that it literally owns him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid suspension, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Souad Mekhennet​, April 25, 2020. The president's aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the WHO on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body, U.S. and foreign officials involved in the discussions said.

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Salon, Psychologist John Gartner: Trump is a "sexual sadist" who is "actively engaging in sabotage," Chauncey DeVega, April 25, 2020. Leading psychotherapist and author on Trump's worsening sadistic "addiction" to causing harm, pain and death.

As of Friday, the coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 50,000 people in the United States. That number is likely to be an undercount, and it's possible we will never have a true reckoning.

At almost every juncture, Donald Trump has made decisions about the coronavirus pandemic that have led to more death. His behavior is that of a person who has no care or concern for the health, safety and welfare of the American people. Nothing could epitomize that more perfectly than his grotesque suggestion this week that "injecting" disinfectants or household cleaning products might kill the coronavirus. This would seem comical, and entirely unbelievable, if it had not actually happened.

In 2016 the Obama administration told then President-elect Trump and his advisers of the high likelihood that a pandemic would strike the nation and advised the incoming administration to take appropriate steps to reduce its impact. Obama officials also left their Trump counterparts a step-by-step guide on how to respond to a pandemic. Trump and his inner circle ignored that guidance.

Last November, the U.S. military warned Donald Trump that the country was likely to be afflicted with a devastating pandemic originating in China.

In January 2020, the Trump administration was told by its own experts that the coronavirus would spread beyond China and become a global pandemic. Again, Trump chose inaction.

Trump has deprived Democratic-led regions of the country from receiving needed medical supplies. He also waited months to begin using the Defense Appropriation Act to compel American companies to produce more ventilators, masks and other emergency equipment.

Late last year, Americans working with the World Health Organization began to warn Trump and his administration about the coronavirus pandemic. These doctors and other medical professionals were ignored.

In these examples and many others, Trump and his inner circle ignored or purged experts and other truth-tellers, and lied about, misrepresented, deflected or denied the dire threat to the American people posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Considered in total, Trump and his regime have shown themselves to be incompetent, callous, malevolent and deeply cruel in their response to the coronavirus crisis (as well as to a plethora of other issues).

But to merely document the Trump regime's deadly failures in response to the coronavirus pandemic is to ignore the most important question: What were Trump and his advisers' underlying motivations?

This forensic question must be answered if we are ever to have a full accounting of the coronavirus, and see justice done for the sick, the dead and the dying as well as the damage done to the broader American community.

Media critic (and former Salon writer) Eric Boehlert summarizes the importance of determining Donald Trump's motives this way:

As I stressed last week, the media's preferred storyline that suggests Trump is simply incompetent doesn't add up because Trump has made the wrong decision every single time in terms of how crises like this are supposed to be dealt with. (i.e. Be consistent, transparent, factual, and credible.) It's increasingly not believable for the press to suggest Trump has been distracted or inept during this crisis, in part because of the level of White House uselessness has become so staggering.

Maybe Trump's vengeful. Maybe he wants to wreck the economy to create investment opportunities? He's under the thumb of a foreign entity? He wants to cause panic and cancel the November elections? He's a fatalist? Who knows. And honestly, the specific "why" isn't what matters now. What matters is asking the difficult questions and pondering what the Trump presidency is truly about, no matter what lurks in the shadows….

Now the press needs to shift some of its focus and ask the truly alarming questions about Trump and his motives. Because we still don't know why he essentially ordered the federal government to stand down for the virus invasion.

Psychologist and psychotherapist John Gartner, contributor to the bestselling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and co-founder of the Duty to WARN PAC, has an answer: Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist. Our president's mental pathologies inexorably compel him to hurt and kill large numbers of people — including his own supporters.

Dr. Gartner taught for many years at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and has private therapeutic practices in Baltimore and New York, specializing in the treatment of borderline personality disorders. In our most recent conversation, he explains that sadism and violence are central to Trump's malignant narcissism and his decision-making about the coronavirus pandemic. Gartner also warns that Donald Trump is an abuser locked into a deeply dysfunctional relationship with the American people and that, like other sadists, Trump enjoys causing harm and suffering.

Ultimately, Gartner concludes that Donald Trump is engaging in "democidal behavior" and cautions that the tens of thousands of dead (so far) from the coronavirus pandemic are not simply collateral damage from Trump's policies, but rather the logical outcome of Trump's apparent mental pathologies and the poor decisions that flow from them.

April 24

April 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration, Karen world health organization logo CustomDeYoung, Lena H. Sun and Emily Rauhala, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). The presence of U.S. scientists in Geneva undercuts president’s argument that the WHO failed to communicate with Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small business program dry, Jonathan O'Connell, April 20, 2020. The federal government gave national hotel and restaurant chains millions of dollars in grants before the $349 billion program ran out of money Thursday, leading to a backlash that prompted one company to give the money back and a Republican senator to say that "millions of dollars are being wasted."

Thousands of traditional small businesses were unable to get funding from the program before it ran dry. As Congress and the White House near a deal to add an additional $310 billion to the program, some are calling for additional oversight and rule changes to prevent bigger chains from accepting any more money.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a chain that has 150 locations and is valued at $250 million, reported receiving $20 million in funding from the small business portion of the economic stimulus legislation called the Paycheck Protection Program. The Potbelly chain of sandwich shops, which has more than 400 locations and a value of $89 million, reported receiving $10 million last week.

republican elephant logoShake Shack, a $1.6 billion burger-and-fries chain based in New York City, received $10 million. After complaints from small business advocates after the fund went dry, company founder Danny Meyer and chief executive Randy Garutti announced Sunday evening that they would return the money.

They said they had no idea that the program would run out of money so quickly and that they understood the uproar.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has tried to defend the program in recent days, wrote on Twitter that he was "glad to see" Shake Shack return the money.

In all, more than 70 publicly traded companies have reported receiving money from the program, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) criticized the program, saying that "companies that are not being harmed at all by the coronavirus crisis have the ability to receive taxpayer-funded loans that can be forgiven."

JPMorgan explained that larger companies may have been served more quickly because its commercial banking unit, which serves larger clients, was able to complete "most of the applications it received" while many more applications poured in from traditional small businesses.

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 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s testing czar was forced out of job developing vaccine projects in 2015, Michael Kranish, April 20, 2020.  A performance evaluation at Texas A&M in 2015 said he was "more interested in promoting yourself" than the health science center where he worked.

Brett Giroir, right, the federal official overseeing coronavirus testing efforts, says that his experience working on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University helped prepare him for this historic moment. He once said that his vaccine effort was so vital that "the fate of 50 brett giroir Custommillion people will rely on us getting this done."

But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired. His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was "more interested in promoting yourself" than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a "team player."

Now President Trump has given Giroir the crucial task of ending the massive shortfall of tests for the novel coronavirus. Some governors have blasted the lack of federal help on testing, which they say is necessary to enact Trump’s plan for reopening the economy.

  • Washington Post, U.S. stocks tumble amid steep drop in oil prices, Jacob Bogage and Thomas Heath, April 20, 2020. The three major U.S. indexes flashed red following a two-week rally, as U.S. crude prices hit 20-year lows on falling energy use and storage capacity issues.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Head of Government, Leans Into Antigovernment Message, Maggie Haberman, April 20, 2020. With his poll numbers fading after a rally-around-the-leader bump, the president is stoking protests against stay-at-home orders.

First he was the self-described "wartime president." Then he trumpeted the "total" authority of the federal government. But in the past few days, President Trump has nurtured protests against state-issued stay-at-home orders aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.

djt hands up mouth open CustomHurtling from one position to another is consistent with Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency over the past three years. Even when external pressures and stresses appear to change the dynamics that the country is facing, Mr. Trump remains unbowed, altering his approach for a day or two, only to return to nursing grievances.

Not even the president’s re-election campaign can harness him: His team is often reactive to his moods and whims, trying but not always succeeding in steering him in a particular direction. Now, with Mr. Trump’s poll numbers falling after a rally-around-the-leader bump, he is road-testing a new turn on a familiar theme — veering into messages aimed at appealing to Americans whose lives have been disrupted by the legally enforceable stay-at-home orders.

djt maga hatWhether his latest theme will be effective for him is an open question: In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, just 36 percent of voters said they generally trusted what Mr. Trump says about the coronavirus.

But the president, who ran as an insurgent in 2016, is most comfortable raging against the machine of government, even when he is the one running the country. And while the coronavirus is in every state in the union, it is heavily affecting minority and low-income communities.

Media News  deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings! Charles M. Blow, right, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). The media is allowing disinformation to charles blow customappear as news.

Around this time four years ago, the media world was all abuzz over an analysis by mediaQuant, a company that tracks what is known as "earned media" coverage of political candidates. Earned media is free media. The firm computed that Donald Trump had "earned" a whopping $2 billion of coverage, dwarfing the value earned by all other candidates, Republican and Democrat, even as he had only purchased about $10 million of paid advertising.

Simply put, the media was complicit in Trump’s rise. Trump was macabre theater, a man self-immolating in real time, one who was destined to lose, but who could provide entertainment, content and yes, profits while he lasted. The Hollywood Reporter in February of 2016 quoted CBS’s C.E.O. as saying, "It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS," because as The Reporter put it, "He likes the ad money Trump and his competitors are bringing to the network."

I fear that history is repeating itself.

For over a month now, the White House has been holding its daily coronavirus briefings, and most networks, cable news channels and major news websites have been carrying all or parts of them live, as millions of people, trapped inside and anxious, have tuned in.

The briefings are marked by Trump’s own misinformation, deceptions, rage, blaming and boasting. He takes no responsibility at all for his abysmal handling of the crisis, while each day he seems to find another person to blame, like a child frantically flinging spaghetti at a wall to see which one sticks.

He delivers his disinformation flanked by scientists and officials, whose presence only serves to convey credibility to propagandistic performances that have simply become a replacement for his political rallies.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are also in the middle of a presidential campaign, and I shudder to think how much "earned media" the media is simply shoveling Trump’s way by airing these briefings, which can last up to two hours a day.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Pro-gun activists use Facebook to promote protests of orders to remain at home, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm​, April 20, 2020 (print ed.).​ Three far-right provocateurs are behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine demonstrations, offering the latest evidence that some seemingly organic protests are engineered by a network of conservative activists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: With no good answer for lost month of virus preparation, Trump snaps at another female reporter, Amber Phillips, April 20, 2020 (print ed.). When President Trump was asked at Sunday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing why he didn’t warn Americans in February that the virus was spreading and implement social distancing earlier, Trump’s response was to go back to late January, when he issued the travel restrictions on Chinese people coming to the United States.

In other words: More than two months into this crisis, Trump doesn’t have an answer for why he didn’t do more in this crucial window to prepare the country for the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Trump got defensive when a reporter asked him why his administration had not done more to prepare. He told CBS’s Weijia Jiang to "lower her voice" and to take it "nice and easy."

April 19

Public Health Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration, Karen world health organization logo CustomDeYoung, Lena H. Sun and Emily Rauhala, April 19, 2020. The presence of U.S. scientists in Geneva undercuts president’s argument that the WHO failed to communicate with Washington.

More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials.

cdc logo CustomA number of CDC staffers are regularly detailed to work at WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said.

The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trump’s charge that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. live updates: Governors in U.S. Hot Spots Plead for More Testing, Staff reports, April 19, 2020. New York and New Jersey, epicenters of the outbreak in the United States, say they can’t reopen their economies without wider tests for the virus.

 virus fox rallies to reopen economy april 18 may 2 Custom 2

Media Matters, Commentary: Fox News promotes protests against social distancing, Matt Gertz, April 19, 2020 (first published April 16). Introduction by John Whitehead: This is (still) as serious as it gets. Lives are on the line with how this coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is covered. It's clear that right-wing media are not just failing this test, but failing it badly.

Over the last few days, Fox News has enthusiastically promoted protests against social distancing orders. Hosts and other network figures have promoted and encouraged viewers to join in.

On Saturday, Fox aired the above map of planned protests. The entire affair is very similar to how the network promoted Tea Party protests in 2009. In fact, the map (shown below) was even similar.

tea party rallies 2009 fox Custom 2

There's substantial evidence that some of these protests are astro-turfed. But even taking into account that some people really do feel this way, the fact is that polls show that the vast majority of Americans are more worried about governments opening things too quickly.

As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone told Vox, Fox News and right-wing media didn't create these protests, but they are legitimizing them, whitewashing extremist ties, and bringing them to a larger audience, both in terms of pushing people to participate and pushing other media outlets to cover them. The goal is to change public opinion about the pandemic.

The difference this time is that this is about science, not politics. And these protests -- and those like Fox that promote them -- only help spread the virus.

Fox News triggered Trump's all-caps endorsement of protests against his own guidelines for re-opening the economy

President Donald Trump endorsed conservative protests against social distancing measures in three states immediately after Fox News aired a segment on the efforts. Trump, who was apparently watching the segment, responded to it in real-time by expressing support for the protests, sending multiple tweets saying, "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!," "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!," "LIBERATE VIRGINIA."

Earlier this week, Fox hosts cheered on protests by conservative activists against Michigan’s stay-at-home order. As Matt Gertz noted at the time: "If Trump sees Fox’s protest coverage and endorses the effort, social distancing will become even more politically polarized. The hard-won progress in the fight against the virus could evaporate in an instant, leaving behind a shattered economy and an influx of COVID-19 deaths."

This is not hyperbole. We've already seen data indicate that there may be a surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin after Republicans and the Supreme Court forced that state's voters to go to the polls.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, As U.S. nears 750,000 confirmed cases, conservatives protest coronavirus restrictions, Staff reports, April 19, 2020. Pence says Trump’s ‘LIBERATE’ tweets were meant to encourage governors to ‘safely and responsibly’ reopen states.

  • Pelosi: State protests of stay-at-home orders are a ‘distraction’
  • Pope Francis says ‘selfish indifference’ in pandemic response would be worse than virus itself
  • Boris Johnson missed five initial emergency meetings about coronavirus, reports say

Newsday, Opinion: An early casualty of the coronavirus pandemic has been the loss of easy access to public information, Miranda S. Spivack, Updated April 19, 2020. In Hawaii, Gov. David Ige suspended the open meetings and open records laws. In California, numerous governments and public agencies, including San Francisco, announced suspension or substantial delays in providing public records.

In Ohio, the state labor department stopped issuing daily unemployment figures. In the District of Columbia, the city council approved a measure that allows agencies to suspend fulfilling public information requests during "days of a Covid-19 closure."

"Many state agencies are releasing data on Twitter," said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, an open-government advocacy group. "That’s better than nothing, but it means there is a ton of data being released in a very disjointed way."

The picture is even bleaker at the federal level. The FBI quickly shut down its record division and refused to accept any electronic request for records, insisting instead on paper inquiries.The White House ordered that high-level meetings about the coronavirus be classified. The Army stopped providing data on soldiers who are infected with the virus, saying the information could fall into the hands of the nation’s enemies.

Federal officials have declined to identify nursing homes where residents are ill from the virus. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27 includes a provision that exempts the Federal Reserve from holding public meetings, a remarkable development because the agency will play a key role in shepherding the federal monetary response to the pandemic — and will be able to do so away from the public.

It is obvious that some delays and detours are necessary as governments adjust to the new normal and step up their public health response. But the virus in the United States also should be an opportunity for governments to rethink how they maintain — and yes — enhance the ability of the public to track government actions and data whenever possible in real time. Daily briefings are good, but there is so much more that governments can do to keep the public informed, especially during a public health crisis of this magnitude.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign decides to focus on Biden rather than try to promote his pandemic response, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Annie Linskey and Toluse Olorunnipa, April 19, 2020. Both Democrats and Republicans shifted their strategies after polling showed declining approval ratings for President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

President Trump’s campaign is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Joe Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision by top campaign advisers, which has met pushback from some White House officials and donors, reflects polling showing a declining approval rating for Trump among key groups and growing openness to supporting Biden in recent weeks, according to officials familiar with the data who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The shift represents a remarkable acknowledgment by aides to a self-described "wartime president," leading during what might have been a rally-around-the-flag moment, to ­effectively decide it is better to go on the attack than focus on his own achievements. Campaign polling found more than three-quarters of voters blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak, underscoring the potential benefits of tying the presumptive Democratic nominee to ­Beijing.

The planned China push, which has already been embraced by pro-Trump outside groups, comes as both the Trump and Biden campaigns have been anxiously recalibrating their plans in response to the most catastrophic economic and health crisis in the United States in generations. The two title contenders for the 2020 elections are finally set, but neither campaign, with their mismatched strengths and weaknesses, knows what the election arena will look like.

washington post logoWashington Post, #FloridaMorons trends after people flock to reopened Florida beaches, Meryl Kornfield and Samantha Pell, April 19, 2020 (print ed.). Aerial snapshots of people flocking to a reopened beach in Jacksonville, Fla., made waves on the Internet on Saturday.

Local news aired photos and videos of Florida’s shoreline dotted with people, closer than six feet apart, spurring #FloridaMorons to trend on Twitter after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gave the go-ahead for local beachfront governments to decide whether to reopen their beaches during a news briefing Friday. Duval and St. Johns counties have reopened their beaches, while Miami-Dade County officials said they are considering following suit.

On the same day that Florida reported 58 deaths from the coronavirus — its highest daily toll since the pandemic began — DeSantis told reporters that it’s essential that Floridians get exercise outdoors.

 Media / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Coronavirus Story Isn’t About the President, Ben Smith, April 19, 2020. Trump has begun his corona campaign. We don’t have to play along, our columnist writes.

Did you hear? The president said some things today. Mean things! About someone I know … I can’t quite remember the details, or whether it was today or yesterday, or what day of the week it is, anyway.

President Trump has figured out the answer to one of the less important questions of 2020: How do you run a presidential campaign amid a pandemic? He can’t hold rallies, he can’t kiss babies, he can’t shake hands, not that he likes doing that anyway. And he can’t talk about anything else.

What Mr. Trump can do, it turns out, is host rolling, raucous, two-plus-hour daily television variety shows to keep his connection with the faithful and, incidentally, to variously entertain and appall the rest of the homebound American public. He can rally gun owners in Virginia as well as angry suburbanites in Michigan. He can attack the news media to make sure it’s paying attention.

This is it — the corona campaign. The most effective form of direct presidential communication since Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Mr. Trump wanted to start a radio show, my colleague Elaina Plott reported, but really, television was the medium that made him and the one he knows and loves. Get used to it, because given its power, he’s not going to stop in November, win or lose. He’ll most likely broadcast on his favorite medium until the day he dies.

So how do we, citizens and — to stick to my particular beat here at The Times — journalists, handle this?

April 13

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court for first time to hold arguments via teleconference next month, Robert Barnes, April 13, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has forced a change at the Supreme Court that justices have long resisted: live audio of the court’s oral arguments, including President Trump’s legal battle to prevent congressional committees and a New York prosecutor from obtaining his financial records.

The court announced Monday that it will hold oral arguments via teleconference for the first time in its history next month, on a set of cases that had been postponed in March and April.

Supreme Court Public Information Officer Kathleen Arberg said audio of the teleconference hearing will be released through a network pool, and thus immediately available on media platforms. She said it is not likely to be posted live on the court’s website due to concerns over the site’s capacity to handle such high volume.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, Reopening economy by May 1 may be unrealistic, say experts, including some in administration, Felicia Sonmez, Taylor Telford and Elise Viebeck, April 13, 2020. The comments by officials came as the number of confirmed U.S. cases stood at more than 550,000 and the number of deaths passed 21,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump retweets call to fire Fauci after virus expert says earlier measures ‘could have saved lives,’ Katie Shepherd, April 13, 2020. Right-wing commentators rebuked the infectious disease expert after his criticism. President Trump retweeted a call to fire his top infectious President Donald Trump officialdisease specialist Anthony S. Fauci on Sunday evening, amid mounting criticism of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The call, with the hashtag "FireFauci" came from a former Republican congressional candidate, DeAnna Lorraine, who amassed 1.8 percent of the vote in an open primary challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this year.

It followed an interview with National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Fauci on CNN’s "State of the Union, in which he said a stronger early response by the administration to the outbreak "could have saved lives," but also characterized the decision to implement social distancing guidelines as "complicated."

"Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don’t think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor," Fauci said on CNN Sunday. "It’s very complicated."

washington post logoWashington Post, Who’s getting hundreds of billions in aid? The public may be in the dark, Peter Whoriskey and Heather Long, April 13, 2020. The stimulus allows the Trump administration to loan $349 billion to small businesses without naming the companies receiving the loans.

The names of businesses that collectively will receive hundreds of billions of dollars in coronavirus relief from the federal government may not be disclosed publicly, an omission that critics say could make the massive spending program vulnerable to fraud and favoritism.

The $2.2 trillion Cares Act approved by President Trump last month requires that the names of recipients of some forms of federal aid be published, but those requirements do not extend to significant portions of the relief.

Chief among the omissions is the $349 billion expected to be doled out to small companies in chunks as large as $10 million. The rescue legislation does not compel the Small Business Administration to disclose the identity of the recipients. So far, the agency has said it received about 487,000 applications totaling $125 billion in requests.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: How false hope spread about hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 — and the consequences that followed, Elyse Samuels and Meg Kelly, April 13, 2020.

"But I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer."

— President Trump, at a White House news briefing, March 19, 2020

"Hydroxychloroquine — I don’t know, it’s looking like it’s having some good results. That would be a phenomenal thing."

— Trump, at a White House news briefing, April 3

"What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it."

— Trump, at a White House news briefing, April 4

"It’s this powerful drug on malaria. And there are signs that it works on this. Some very strong signs."

— Trump, at a White House news briefing, April 5

The world is looking for answers in the search for a treatment for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives across the globe. President Trump has repeatedly touted the anti-malarial medications hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as that much-needed solution.

Even before Trump started talking about the drugs, studies abroad sparked interest in them as a potential cure. News about the drugs spread quickly online, percolated to the media and the White House.

Scientists have since pointed to major flaws in those original studies and say there is a lack of reliable data on the drugs. Experts warn about the dangerous consequences of over-promoting a drug with unknown efficacy: Shortages of hydroxychloroquine have already occurred, depriving lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients of access to it. Doctors say some patients could die of side effects. Other potential treatments for covid-19 could get overlooked with so much concentration on one option.

The Fact Checker video team has reconstructed how the claim spread online and illustrates the troubling consequences of such misleading hope in the drugs.

April 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Earlier Warnings, Trump Was Slow to Act on Virus, Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Mark Mazzetti and Julian E. Barnes, April 11, 2020. President Trump was slow to absorb the scale of the virus’s risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message and protecting gains in the economy. Dozens of interviews and a review of records revealed a fuller picture of the extent of Mr. Trump’s halting response.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump casts himself as pandemic patron, personalizing the government’s spread of cash and supplies, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, April 11, 2020 (print ed.). Day after day, the task President Trump seems to relish most is spreading cash and supplies across a beleaguered nation.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump often speaks of federal payments coming to many Americans as an act of his own benevolence, calling the bipartisan stimulus legislation "a Trump administration initiative" and reportedly musing about printing his thick-and-jagged signature on the government checks.

Trump touts the deployment of the USS Comfort to New York Harbor in personal terms, saying it was his choice to allow the hulking Navy hospital ship to be used to for coronavirus patients — and even traveling to "kiss it goodbye" before its trek north.

And Trump talks about the Strategic National Stockpile of ventilators and medical equipment being shipped to hard-hit states as if it were his own storage unit, with governors saying they recognize that in turn they are expected to tread gingerly with him or risk jeopardizing their supply chain.

djt virus trump did it CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: This is a complete disaster on every level, Robert Harrington, April 11, 2020. Testing is the key. We know this because Germany and South Korea made testing a priority, and that is why they have the fewest rates of new cases and the fewest deaths per capita than any other nations on earth. Large numbers of tests followed by rigorous protocols for mandatory quarantine of infected persons has kept the numbers of deaths low. With fewer people infected, Germany and South Korea can focus their resources on care and treatment.

Germany performs 500,000 tests per week. South Korea performs 150,000 tests a week. South Korea is reporting barely 100 new cases a day, while America has twenty times that number in deaths alone. And South Korea had its first reported case on the same day the United States did.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Trump puts it, "We have a great testing system. We have the best testing system in the world." That’s almost true, except for two problems. America has an abysmal testing system. America has the worst testing system in the world and ranks dead last. Otherwise whatever is left of that statement is correct. And, thanks to Trump, America’s testing system is about to get worse. Donald Trump has just moved to end federal funding for coronavirus testing sites this week. You read that right.

Ironically, by Easter Sunday, the day for which Donald Trump issued coronavirus a deadline to get out of Dodge, America will have the highest death toll due to coronavirus in the entire world. Coronavirus has just surpassed every other cause of death in the USA. Mass graves are being dug in New York and filled with coronavirus victims every day. The death rate due to coronavirus in the USA is also among the highest in the world and currently stands at around 4%. You can unequivocally lay those deaths at the feet of Donald Trump. Not content to be a "mere" child rapist, Donald Trump has now graduated to murder.

Should the COVID-19 coronavirus mutate, as the Spanish Flu did twice in 1918, America could be in for a calamity for which it is not remotely prepared. "We … are giving out millions of tests, and every day we’re doing it exponentially," Trump says. Setting aside his vagary about "doing it exponentially," whatever that means, the United States is not "giving out" millions of tests.

Rarely does a social tragedy underline how deadly dangerous is the difference between political theory and factual reality. If nothing proves that Donald Trump is "not just like" Joe Biden, this is it. Biden would have listened to the scientists, he would have made testing a priority because he would have seen that Germany and South Korea were superbly ahead of everyone else precisely because they made testing a priority.

Above all, Biden wouldn’t have become jealous of those countries and allowed his ego to refuse to learn from them, simply because the idea didn’t originate with him first. Biden would not have allowed thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of Americans to needlessly die because, unlike child rapist and murderer Trump, he is capable of listening to what the experts say, and he is capable of learning from them.

History News Network via AlterNet, Author interview on sadism, crime and a love of lies: What 3,500 lawsuits reveal about Trump’s true nature, Interview by Robin Lindley of author James Ziren, April 11, 2020. American presidents before Donald Trump had some record of public achievement in politics, government or the military before they were elected. Donald Trump lacked any of those credentials, but brought his astounding history of involvement in thousands of lawsuits to the nation’s highest office. This trove of cases from more than 45 years reflects Trump’s contempt for ethical standards and for the US Constitution and the rule of law, the foundation of American democracy.

As a perennial litigant, Trump weaponized the law to devastate perceived enemies, to consolidate power, to frustrate opposing parties, as former federal prosecutor and acclaimed author James D. Zirin illuminates in his compelling and disturbing history of Trump’s use and abuse of the law, Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits (All Points Books).

Mr. Zirin is a distinguished veteran attorney who spent decades handling complex litigation. He is also a self-described "middle of the road Republican." Plaintiff in Chief stands as his response to Trump’s disrespect for law and our legal system. He stresses that the book is a legal study, not a partisan takedown.

In his book, Mr. Zirin scrupulously documents Trump’s life in courts of law. Based on more than three years of extensive research, the book examines illustrative cases and how they reflect on the character and moral perspective of the current president. The details are grounded in more than 3,500 lawsuits filed by Trump and against Trump. Litigation usually involves sworn affidavits attesting to accuracy and testimony given under oath if a trial occurs, so Mr. Zirin is able to reference page after page of irrefutable evidence of Trump’s legal maneuvering, misstatements, hyperbole, and outright lies.

As Mr. Zirin points out, Trump learned how to use the law from his mentor, the notoriously unprincipled lawyer and fixer Roy Cohn whose motto was "Fuck the law." Trump took Cohn’s scorched earth strategy to heart and used the law to attack others, to never accept blame or responsibility, and to always claim victory no matter how badly he lost.

In his book, Mr. Zirin scrupulously documents Trump’s life in courts of law. Based on more than three years of extensive research, the book examines illustrative cases and how they reflect on the character and moral perspective of the current president. The details are grounded in more than 3,500 lawsuits filed by Trump and against Trump. Litigation usually involves sworn affidavits attesting to accuracy and testimony given under oath if a trial occurs, so Mr. Zirin is able to reference page after page of irrefutable evidence of Trump’s legal maneuvering, misstatements, hyperbole, and outright lies.

As Mr. Zirin points out, Trump learned how to use the law from his mentor, the notoriously unprincipled lawyer and fixer Roy Cohn whose motto was "Fuck the law." Trump took Cohn’s scorched earth strategy to heart and used the law to attack others, to never accept blame or responsibility, and to always claim victory no matter how badly he lost.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog: Mnuchin acted ‘properly’ on Trump’s tax returns, Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Tom Hamburger, April 11, 2020 (print ed.).  House Democrats had sued in court over the Treasury Department's refusal to disclose the president's returns. Report could complicate Democrats’ efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns, as prospects dim for obtaining filings before November elections.

steven mnuchin wTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left,  followed internal protocols when he refused to give President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, Treasury’s office of inspector general found in a report obtained by The Washington Post on Friday ahead of its public release.

Richard K. Delmar, deputy inspector general of the Department of Treasury, wrote in a letter to House Democrats that Mnuchin "properly" irs logoprocessed the demands for Trump’s returns and followed the guidance of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Lawyers for the legal counsel’s office wrote in a June 2019 opinion that House Democrats’ demands for Trump’s return should be denied because they did not serve a legitimate "legislative purpose."

"The core of our inquiry is that the [Treasury] Department processed the request properly, that it sought legal guidance from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, determined that it was bound by that office’s advice, and based on that advice determined not to provide the returns and tax information sought," Delmar’s one-page letter states.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Secret Service has protected Trump family members on 4,000 trips in three years, Philip Bump, April 11, 2020 (print ed.). jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookThat figure excludes trips focused on Trump or the first lady. In 2018 and 2019, President Trump's family took more than three times as many Secret Service-protected trips as Obama's family did from 2010 to 2016.

Once Trump took office, his position on trips (and on Obama’s golf habit) shifted dramatically, though the rhetoric of many of his supporters didn’t. While the media tracked Trump’s regular trips to his privately owned properties in Florida and New Jersey, Trump’s supporters regularly defended secret service logoTrump by pointing to the frequency and cost of Obama’s trips.

Data compiled by the Treasury Department, which oversees the Secret Service, shows the distribution of protected trips within the administration from 2010 to 2016. The figures, obtained and published by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, show that Obama, then-first lady Michelle Obama and their family took about 4,700 trips from 2010 to 2016. Just under 1,000 of those were for members of the president’s family, excluding Michelle. Most of the protected trips that were taken over that period were by former officials, including former presidents and their families.
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(The Secret Service defines a protected trip as "any instance that an individual protectee spends time within the jurisdiction of a single USSS field office, other than the protectee’s home district.")

The data obtained by CREW extended into Trump’s own term in office. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, members of the presidents’ family took 4,560 trips — the bulk of them in the past two years.

U.S. Politics

 ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Trump Has Emergency Powers We Aren’t Allowed to Know About, Elizabeth Goitein and Andrew Boyle, April 11, 2020. Given that they could make their first appearance in the coronavirus crisis, Congress should insist on having full access to them.

The past few weeks have given Americans a crash course in the powers that federal, state and local governments wield during emergencies. We’ve seen businesses closed down, citizens quarantined and travel restricted. When President Trump declared emergencies on March 13 under both the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act, he boasted, "I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about."

The president is right. Some of the most potent emergency powers at his disposal are likely ones we can’t know about, because they are not contained in any publicly available laws. Instead, they are set forth in classified documents known as "presidential emergency action documents."

These documents consist of draft proclamations, executive orders and proposals for legislation that can be quickly deployed to assert broad presidential authority in a range of worst-case scenarios. They are one of the government’s best-kept secrets. No presidential emergency action document has ever been released or even leaked. And it appears that none has ever been invoked.

Given the real possibility that these documents could make their first appearance in the coronavirus crisis, Congress should insist on having full access to them to ensure that they are consistent with the Constitution and basic principles of democracy.

Elizabeth Goitein is a co-director and Andrew Boyle is a lawyer at the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

April 9

Denver Post, Editorial: Trump is playing a disgusting political game with our lives, Editorial Board, April 9, 2020. President Donald Trump is treating life-saving medical equipment as emoluments he can dole out as favors to loyalists. It’s the worst imaginable form of corruption — playing political games with lives. For the good of this nation during what should be a time of unity, he must stop.

In just the latest example of his gross display, the president tweeted on Wednesday:

Trump had only days before prevented Colorado Gov. Jared Polis from securing 500 ventilators from a private company, instead, taking the ventilators for the federal government. Polis sent a formal letter pleading for medical equipment, but the president took the time to make clear he was responding to a request from Gardner. We are left to believe that if Colorado didn’t have a Republican senator in office, our state would not be getting these 100 ventilators. How many ventilators would we be getting if we had a Republican governor and a second Republican senator? Would that indicate we had more Republican lives in our state worth saving for Trump and resources would start flowing? Should Utah be concerned that Sen. Mitt Romney voted to remove the president from office?

This behavior comes, of course, weeks after Trump informed states they would have to compete against one another in the procurement of medical supplies at a time of global shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government should be procuring medicine, masks, and ventilators and distributing them to states on a set formula based on population, rate of infection and need. Instead, Trump’s messaging makes it feel as though he will watch with glee from the White House as people suffer in states being led by his enemies. If that’s not the case, then the president needs to act as though he’s working on behalf of all of us, not just those who voted for him or cow-towed to his corrupt administration.

On March 27, Trump informed Americans that he had told Vice President Mike Pence, who is running the coronavirus task force, not to call governors in states that are not appreciative.

"I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him," Trump said. "Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.’ You know what I say: ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’ He’s a different type of person; he’ll call quietly anyway."

Trump should not target Democratic governors like Polis, Jay Inslee of Washington and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan during this difficult time. Regardless of the personal feuds that may exist between the president and these elected officials, their constituents, the ones who would benefit from resources, are blameless.

It’s far too early to reflect on the performance of Trump’s administration during this crisis, but on this one urgent point — the immediate allocation resources to states — we felt it essential to speak up immediately. We find it hard to believe decisions are being made on such a morally bankrupt basis, but Trump is doing this nation no favors by giving us the impression that politics will drive his administration’s response to a virus that has already killed thousands of Americans and will kill thousands more.

April 7

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Strategic Culture Foundation, Historical Commentary: Libertarian Leaders – A Recipe for Lethal Government Incompetence and Criminality, Wayne strategic culture logoMadsen, April 7, 2020. Throughout the world in countries that elected right-wing anti-government libertarian leaders – from the United States and Brazil to the United Kingdom and Australia – incompetence and lack of preparedness for the Covid-19 pandemic will directly lead to hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. The political rhetoric of those leaders who practice "barbarian laissez-faire" policies have been exposed by Covid-19 as worthless pablum designed to enthrall their unthinking supporters.

Donald Trump’s penchant for believing in conspiracy theories and his blatant xenophobia and racism clouded his judgement on the outbreak of Cobid-19 as a "Chinese" problem. Trump and his fellow right-wing allies around the world pushed back against a need for mandatory stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and social distancing.

Trump’s disdain for international cooperation and science, as well as his "America First" dogma, resulted in several factors that led to an unforeseen epidemic blossoming in Wuhan, China to transform into a global and extremely deadly and disruptive pandemic.

The Trump administration was criminally derelict in abandoning several units and programs initiated by past administrations to combat a global pandemic. These include the National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense; the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), which conducted modeling as recommended by the 2006 National Strategy for Pandemic Implementation Plan; and the federal government’s PREDICT program that worked with 60 worldwide laboratories, including that in outbreak city Wuhan – which originally identified SARS-CoV-2, the novel Covid-19 – and 1,200 other viruses.

Pandemics on the scale of Covid-19 are believed by many to have wiped out or contributed to the downfall of entire civilizations, the Olmec, Mayan, Aztec, and Byzantine empires, as well as the Athens hegemon.

Palmer Report, Opinion: What’s going on with Donald Trump’s health now? Bill Palmer, April 7, 2020. Donald Trump’s press conference on Monday was about as much of a disaster as usual. He hurled a racist tirade at an Asian reporter. He appeared to think that a longtime White House correspondent who’s been asking him questions for years, was some new guy. But I want to take you back to something that Trump said on djt hands up mouth open CustomSunday’s press conference.

I know it’s a little late by now, but it could be important. Someone pointed out to me that on Sunday, Donald Trump said this about hydroxychloroquine: "I’ve used it for certain reasons." This guy gets so lost in word salad, he may have been trying to say something else entirely. But what if he really did intend to say this?

bill palmer report logo headerIt would only leave two possibilities. The first, and distinct one, is that he’s lying about having taken the drug because he’s trying to make the argument that everyone should be taking it, as part of whatever grift he’s running. But what if he has taken it in the past, for "certain reasons" that he’s never wanted us to know about, and he just gave something away?

If Trump has taken hydroxychloroquine in the past, it would mean he has a pretty severe underlying health issue that would require such a risky drug – and there are only a relative handful of things that it’s prescribed for. Even if we rule out the possibility that he has malaria or lupus, he could be taking it for severe arthritis.

In any case, Donald Trump just claimed that he’s taken a dangerously powerful drug in the past that’s only prescribed for severe chronic health issues, yet his doctors continue to claim he’s in near-perfect health. That alone serves to underline how disqualifying it is that Trump still refuses to release any legitimate medical records. He often comes off as half dead. What, if anything, is he hiding?

April 6

Trump-Kushner 'Grand Theft?'

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Kushner's Grand Theft Ventilator scheme, Wayne Madsen, left, April 6, 2020 (subscription required). The government of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley was shocked when the Trump administration seized over 150 ventilators ordered and pre-purchased by Barbados from five different foreign sources.

jared kushner head shotThe United States has also reportedly seized medical equipment and supplies destined for Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela because of draconian sanctions placed on the three nations by the Trump administration. Jared Kushner's team has also blocked 3M Corp. from sending PPE (personal protective  equipment) shipments to Canada, even though the firm relies on a pulp supplier in British Columbia to produce masks.

In a recent televised White House press briefing, Kushner, right, told the nation that the Strategic National Stockpile of medical equipment and supplies belonged to the Trump administration and not to the states.

1100 Pennsylvania, Investigation: President visited his businesses 20 times since first reports of what's now known as coronavirus, Zach Everson, April 6, 2020. President Donald J. Trump made at least 20 visits to his properties since Dec. 31, 2019, when Chinese officials first reported a cluster of cases of respiratory illness, according to 1100 Pennsylvania’s analysis. Over that span he called on four different Trump businesses: Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Doral, and the D.C. hotel.

Dec. 31, 2019: "Chinese health officials reported a cluster of cases of acute respiratory illness in persons associated with the Hunan seafood and animal market in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province." – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [bold added throughout].

Miracle 'Cure' Scandal?

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washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani, a familiar voice in Trump’s ear, promotes experimental virus treatments, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Jon Swaine, April 6, 2020 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani, shown above in a file photo, is one of many pro-Trump voices who downplayed the severity of the virus, then embraced possible cures.

Giuliani, who was in the center of the impeachment storm earlier this year as an unpaid private attorney for President Trump, has cast himself in a new role: as personal science adviser to a president eager to find ways to short-circuit the coronavirus pandemic.

In one-on-one phone calls with Trump, Giuliani said, he has been touting the use of an anti-malarial drug combination that has shown some early promise in treating covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, but whose effectiveness has not yet been proved. He said he now spends his days on the phone with doctors, coronavirus patients and hospital executives promoting the treatment, which Trump has also publicly lauded.

"I discussed it with the president after he talked about it," Giuliani said in an interview. "I told him what I had on the drugs."

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ignoring Expert Opinion, Trump Again Promotes Unproven Drug, April 6, 2020. Michael Crowley, Katie Thomas and Maggie Haberman, April 6, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s advocacy of the anti-malarial drug has created tensions in his administration, and fears among doctors that it could unnecessarily expose patients to risks. President Trump prevented Dr. Anthony S. Fauci from answering a question on hydroxychloroquine on Sunday during a coronavirus task force briefing,

President Trump doubled down Sunday on his push for the use of an anti-malarial drug against the coronavirus, issuing medical advice that goes well beyond scant evidence of the drug’s effectiveness as well as the advice of doctors and public health experts.

Mr. Trump’s recommendation of hydroxychloroquine, for the second day in a row at a White House briefing, was a striking example of his brazen willingness to distort and outright defy expert opinion and scientific evidence when it does not suit his agenda.

Standing alongside two top public health officials who have declined to endorse his call for widely administering the drug, Mr. Trump suggested that he was speaking on gut instinct and acknowledged that he had no expertise on the subject.

Saying that the drug is "being tested now," Mr. Trump said that "there are some very strong, powerful signs" of its potential, although health experts say that the data is extremely limited and that more study of the drug’s effectiveness against the coronavirus is needed.

"But what do I know? I’m not a doctor," Mr. Trump added.

"If it does work, it would be a shame we did not do it early," Mr. Trump said, noting again that the federal government had purchased and stockpiled 29 million pills of the drug. "We are sending them to various labs, our military, we’re sending them to the hospitals."

Mr. Trump, who once predicted that the virus might "miraculously" disappear by April because of warm weather, and who has rejected scientific consensus on issues like climate change, was undaunted by skeptical questioning.

"What do you have to lose?" Mr. Trump asked, for the second day in a row, saying that terminally ill patients should be willing to try any treatment that has shown some promise.

anthony fauci CustomWhen a reporter at Sunday’s briefing asked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, right, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to weigh in on the subject, Mr. Trump stopped him from answering. As the reporter noted that Dr. Fauci, who has been far more skeptical about the drug’s potential, was the president’s medical expert, Mr. Trump made it clear he did not want the doctor to answer.

"You know how many times he’s answered that question? Maybe 15 times," the president said, stepping toward the lectern where Dr. Fauci was standing.

The president’s advocacy for the drug hydroxychloroquine has created tensions in his administration, and fears among doctors that it could unnecessarily expose patients to risks.

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Palmer Report, Analysis: The real story behind Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and hydroxychloroquine manufacturing, Bill Palmer, right, April 6, 2020. We’ve bill palmerlearned by now that whenever Donald Trump frantically pushes anything, it’s part of some scam aimed at personally benefiting him. As Trump has gotten further into cognitive decline, we’ve also seen that he’s increasingly easily influenced by the scammers around him. This brings us to the question of why Trump is frantically pushing a drug called hydroxychloroquine as a supposed coronavirus miracle cure.

To be clear, no one knows whether hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for coronavirus or not. There have only been limited studies, and experts have had no clear agreement on what the results mean. If you take hydroxychloroquine and you get better, does that mean it worked, or were you going to get better anyway? The drug has potentially fatal side effects, so for now, it may only be worth taking if you’re going to die without it anyway. Scientists and doctors will have more to say about this as they see more data. But for now, Trump is pushing the drug in a manner that’s not consistent with anything scientists are seeing. So why?

bill palmer report logo headerThere are two key pieces of circumstantial evidence. The first is that Rudy Giuliani (above) is pushing hydroxychloroquine even more frantically than Donald Trump is. We’ve already seen that Rudy has a way of getting Trump to listen to him when it comes to dastardly stupid schemes, such as when Rudy talked Trump into criminally conspiring with Ukraine in a way that got him impeached.

michael cohen ap file croppedThe second thing to consider is that if Trump and Giuliani are indeed plotting to personally profit from this drug, there’s got to be a drug manufacturer, distributor, or reseller in on the scheme. Two and a half weeks ago, a drug company named Novartis announced on its website that it would donate up to 130 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients – right around the time Trump started pushing it as a miracle cure.

This of course does not mean Novartis is guilty of anything.

But Michael Cohen, right, has claimed that Novartis tried to hire him to lobby Donald Trump. Now this same company says it’s donating a massive amount of an untested coronavirus drug, at the same time Trump is essentially saying "Look, I found a miracle cure, I’ve fixed the coronavirus crisis!"

Novartis needs to explain why it made this donation, who was involved in the decision, what if any conversations it had with those in Donald Trump’s personal orbit, and what if anything was promised in return for this donation. This is a deadly serious matter, and we have to get to the bottom of it.

Trump Retribution

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Inspector general fired by Trump sends warning signal for American democracy, Aaron Blake, April 6, 2020. Michael Atkinson weighed in Sunday on his firing as intelligence community inspector general, suggesting it's part of a Trump plot to undermine independent michael atkinson ooversight.

President Trump’s controversial decision to fire the inspector general who forwarded the Ukraine scandal whistleblower complaint to Congress has flown somewhat beneath the radar. Such is the case when you’re dealing with a global pandemic and the White House conveniently announces something late Friday night.

But Michael Atkinson doesn’t seem to want people to miss the point: that this is part of an effort to undermine independent oversight of the Trump administration.

Atkinson responded to his firing Sunday in an unusual letter — unusual because inspectors general generally don’t comment on such things. He made clear he is a nonpartisan official and carried out his duties independently. He said he believed that’s exactly why he was fired.

"It is hard not to think that the president’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general," Atkinson said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ousted inspector general says ‘it’s hard not to think’ he was fired by Trump for doing his job, Ellen Nakashima, April 6, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Atkinson, right, handled the whistleblower complaint that helped lead to the president’s impeachment.

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ny times logoNew York Times, He Led a Top Navy Ship. Now He Sits in Quarantine, Fired and Infected, Eric Schmitt and John Ismay, April 6, 2020 (print ed.). Colleagues say the downfall of Capt. Brett E. Crozier, right, was charging headlong into the Trump administration’s narrative that it had everything in the brett crozier navy captain Customcoronavirus pandemic under control.

For days, he fended off fears that the contagion would spread unchecked through his crew. Then last week, the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, who had appealed to his superiors for help, was fired.

By Sunday, friends said, he had come down with the coronavirus himself.

The military has long adhered to a rigid chain of command and tolerated no dissent expressed outside official channels. Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the skipper of the aircraft carrier, knew he was up against those imperatives when he asked for help for nearly 5,000 crew members trapped in a petri dish of a warship in the middle of a pandemic.

us navyBut colleagues say the mistake that could cost Captain Crozier his career was charging headlong into the Trump administration’s narrative that it had everything under control.

Pentagon officials said that although President Trump never ordered Captain Crozier dismissed, he was displeased with the captain’s actions and let the Navy know — a sentiment Mr. Trump made very public on Saturday when he lashed out at the captain.

Friends and colleagues say Captain Crozier, 50, is at peace with a decision that most likely ended a career that vaulted him from the United States Naval Academy to the prestigious job as captain of one of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers.

Raw Story, LISTEN: Sailors yell profanities at Trump’s acting Navy secretary while he trashes fired captain, Brad Reed, April 6, 2020. Angry sailors can be heard yelling profanities at Trump acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly while he trashed their former captain who got fired for sending out a dire warning about the threat COVID-19 posed to the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In a recording of Modly’s speech posted by Task & Purpose, an angry sailor can be heard shouting, "What the f*ck?!" after Modly described former USS Theodore Roosevelt Capt. Brett Crozier as "stupid" and "naive."

Another sailor can be heard yelling, "He was trying to help us!" after Modly complained that Crozier’s actions had created a big controversy in Washington, D.C.

Other sailors can be heard yelling unintelligibly after Modly accused Crozier of committing a "betrayal" of the sailors on board his ship. Video footage released last week showed sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt giving Crozier hearty cheers after he was removed from his post.

April 3

Trump Watch

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just decided to fire the Inspector General in the middle of the night during a pandemic, Bill Palmer, April 3, 2020. With everything that’s going on right now, you’d think Donald Trump would have better things to do than to carry out old petty michael atkinson ogrudges. Then again, he isn’t bothering to do anything useful about the coronavirus crisis anyway, so he has plenty of time on his hands for deranged things. Sure enough, he just fired the Inspector General in the middle of the night.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has fired U.S. intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, right, tonight. If you’re trying to place the name, Atkinson played a key role in Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal. When someone in the intel community discovered what Trump was up to, that person reported it to Atkinson, who reported it to Congress.

Politico says that Trump’s official excuse for firing Atkinson is that he’s lost confidence in him – but of course this is the most thinly veiled of generic excuses. Trump can fire the Inspector General without needing a reason, but he can’t do it for retaliatory reasons, or to try to cover up his own crimes, which is what Trump is doing here.

This is pretty clearly an illegal firing on Donald Trump’s part. He’s hoping that by doing it late on a Friday night, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, it’ll get lost in the news cycle. But this firing is an impeachable crime all by itself.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jared Kushner Is Going to Get Us All Killed, Michelle Goldberg, right, April 3, 2020 (print ed.). Trump’s son-in-law michelle goldberg thumbhas no business running the coronavirus response. Reporting on the White House’s herky-jerky coronavirus response, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has a quotation from Jared Kushner that should make all Americans, and particularly all New Yorkers, dizzy with terror.

According to Sherman, when New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist.

"I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity," Kushner reportedly said. "I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators." (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo’s estimate.)

jared kushner head shotEven now, it’s hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner, left, could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing: "People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections, which are not the realistic projections."

Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures.

Undeterred, he has now arrogated to himself a major role in fighting the epochal health crisis that’s brought America to its knees. "Behind the scenes, Kushner takes charge of coronavirus response," said a Politico headline on Wednesday. This is dilettantism raised to the level of sociopathy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump regime caught altering DHS website after Jared Kushner’s press conference meltdown, Daniel Cotter, April 3, 2020. At Thursday’s press briefing, the guest of the day was the fool who is assigned much, but is effective in nothing. His best qualifications are having been born into a New York real estate family and having married into the family of Donald J. Trump. His name is Jared Kushner.

Kushner made the statement at the press conference: "The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use."

bill palmer report logo headerLike his daddy-in-law, nobody knew what the hell he was talking about when he said it is "our stockpile"- was he saying that it belonged to the federal government or the Trump family? Anyone with a computer, or a cell phone, or a brain knows this is not true. If you go to the Public Health Emergency webpage, which is an official page of the United States Department of Health and Human Services agency, you will find it states:

"When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously."

"When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously."

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

Palmer Report, Opinion: I think I figured it out, Bill Palmer, right, April 3, 2020. We’ve all been chewing on three questions. 1) Why is Donald Trump bill palmerrefusing to fully invoke the Defense Production Act, which could solve all the medical supply shortages? 2) Why is Trump forcing states to outbid each other for the medical supplies they’re buying from foreign governments? 3) Why has the Trump regime been sending U.S. medical supplies overseas all along, when they’re needed here?

bill palmer report logo headerTo decipher any mystery involving Donald Trump, you have to apply two rules. One is that he’s always running a petty con for personal financial gain. The other is that with Trump, it’s always even more treacherous than you imagined. When you apply all of this to the three questions above, I think I’ve figured out what he may be up to.

First, Trump makes sure there’s a scarcity of medical supplies by refusing to order them into mass production. Then Trump sends the federal government’s existing stockpile to foreign countries. Then the individual states, which he’s made desperate for supplies, end up bidding each other through the roof for these supplies. Who’s profiting? The foreign entities – and Trump is the one giving them the djt doesnt listenopportunity to turn that profit.

I’ve come to suspect that Donald Trump is sending our medical supplies to corrupt foreign governments, so they can turn around and sell those supplies back to the states at a huge profit.

Then these foreign governments owe Trump a personal favor. We’ve already seen Trump use this kind of leverage to try to push Ukraine into making up fake scandals about Joe Biden. Why wouldn’t Trump be doing the same with the medical equipment he’s sending overseas? Someone with broader investigative resources than mine should try to get to the bottom of this, because there has to be something to it. With Trump, there always is.

April 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump now says he knew the virus ‘could be horrible’ when he was saying things like ‘it’s going to disappear,’ Amber Phillips, April 2, 2020 (print ed.).  But he didn’t want to tell Americans sooner because he didn’t want to be "negative."

On Tuesday, a somber President Trump acknowledged that under the best-case scenario, 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die of coronavirus. "It’s not the flu," he said, in stark contrast to when he compared it repeatedly with the flu in March.

Now that the president seems to have come around to the gravity of the health crisis, what does he think about his weeks of downplaying a virus he now says is serious? What about not advising social distancing weeks earlier, even though there is widespread agreement among public health experts that Americans should have been isolating sooner than mid-March?

CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Trump those questions repeatedly Tuesday. On this front, Trump had not changed: He was unwilling to admit error.

Let’s start with Trump downplaying the virus. Acosta asked him: "Is there any fairness to the criticism that you may have lulled Americans into a false sense of security? When you were saying things like it’s going to go away and that sort of thing?"

Trump’s answer basically came down to: He did not want to deliver the bad news about how serious the virus could be. What’s more, he said he knew ahead of time it could be this bad (or even worse, killing millions with no government intervention whatsoever), but he did not want to tell Americans that at the time.

"I want to give people a feeling of hope. I could be very negative. I could say ‘wait a minute, those numbers are terrible. This is going to be horrible,’" he said. "Well, this is really easy to be negative about, but I want to give people hope, too. You know, I’m a cheerleader for the country."

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret Service signs contract this week to rent golf carts in town of Trump club, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, April 2, 2020. The Secret Service this week signed a $45,000 contract to rent a fleet of golf carts in Northern Virginia, saying it secret service logoneeded them quickly to protect a "dignitary" in the town of Sterling, home to one of President Trump’s golf clubs, according to federal contracting data.

The contract was signed Monday and took effect Wednesday, records show. The Secret Service paid a West Virginia-registered company, Capitol Golf Cars and Utility Vehicles, to rent 30 carts until the end of September.

The new contract, which the Secret Service described as an "emergency order," does not mention Trump or the golf club by name. But it closely mirrors past contracts signed by the Secret Service, for agents accompanying Trump to his golf clubs in New Jersey and Florida.

March

March 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A phone call with Trump can open doors for executives, celebrities and others with coronavirus asks, James Hohmann, March 31, 2020. But the president doesn’t talk to everyone.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) called President Trump over the weekend to ask a favor. Battelle, a company headquartered in his state, was struggling to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sterilize face masks in bulk so that they can be reused by health workers. So Trump called up FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. "And within a very short period of time," the president said, "they got the approval."

Trump proudly told this story during his news conference in the Rose Garden on Sunday and then he retold it again on Monday evening. He’s trying to demonstrate that he’s a hands-on leader singularly focused on combatting the novel coronavirus and eager to cut through red tape. These kinds of anecdotes have become standard fare during his daily briefings, and they illustrate his view of presidential leadership as the death toll of the pandemic exceeds 3,000 people in the United States. That is more than the number of people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, during the terrorist attacks.

The 73-year-old, who famously loves to kibitz on the phone, is known for reaching out to cable news hosts, rich friends and assorted associates at all hours to shoot the breeze. Cooped up in the White House for weeks now, except for a brief trip to Virginia on Saturday, Trump appears to be working the phones even harder than usual. Corporate executives, governors, celebrities and foreign leaders looking to get something from the U.S. government seem especially eager to secure a telephonic audience with the president.

The president has also implied that phone calls with friends in New York who have been stricken by the coronavirus helped shape his decision to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April. Trump said on Monday that he has "some friends who are unbelievably sick who thought they were going in for a mild stay." One friend – whom he has not named – has gone into a coma because of complications from the virus.

Trump said he spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about the origins of the coronavirus for more than an hour late Thursday night and welcomed his advice on how to combat it in the United States. "It was fascinating to me," Trump told reporters the next day. "You know, they have a whole … different form of government, to put it mildly. He's developed some incredible theories, and all of that information is coming over here. A lot of it’s already come. The data. We call it ‘data.’ And we're going to learn a lot from what the Chinese went through. Our relationship with China is very good."

The Trump White House discontinued the longstanding bipartisan practice of releasing readouts whenever a president speaks with a foreign leader. Often this means we’re dependent on another government to disclose the call or we get Trump’s unique spin on it.

Vogue, Donald Trump’s New Gray Hair Is Just His Latest Political Tactic, Lauren Valenti, March 31, 2020. Donald Trumps New Gray Hair Is Just His Latest Political Tactic.

If you tuned into President Donald Trump’s daily press briefing yesterday evening and got the sense that there was something different about him, you’re not alone. As he stood outside of the White House to update the country on the COVID-19 crisis, Trump—and yes, his hair—had Twitter abuzz.

To start, gusts of wind were once again having their way with his feathery crop, prompting him to address those long-standing rumors that he wears a toupee. "My hair is blowing around, and it’s mine," said Trump. "That’s one thing you can’t get away with—if it’s not yours, then you’ve got a problem if you’re president." While Trump’s need to make every situation about himself was no surprise, Twitter users were more intrigued by his conspicuous hair color change.

Overnight, Trump’s signature flaxen hair had been replaced by a new bright silver shade. Of course, a number of theories were floated about the motive behind his newly blanched hair. One Twitter user theorized that Trump was seeking a more dignified look for the 2020 race, which would certainly align with his brazen political strategizing in the face of a global crisis. Another wondered if it was a symptom of practicing social distancing and being unable to see his hair colorist. If it’s the latter, did Trump take matters into his own hands with a box of Just for Men? Or is it that, after ignoring public-health officials and downplaying the life-threatening nature of COVID-19, the stress of the situation is finally setting in and turning him gray?

Historian Alexis Coe, author of New York Times best seller You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, thinks the latter is unlikely. While Coe acknowledges the long-held truth that being president ages a person, she doesn’t believe Trump’s silver hair is a sudden physical manifestation of emotional strain as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the U.S. but rather a studied strategy. "What I think might be happening is a kind of manipulation of the American public in which he is attempting to show citizens that he is suffering as well," she explains. "It’s about optics—Trump is trying to distract from his late, dangerous, and sometimes fatal messaging around coronavirus."

March 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump just comes out and says it: The GOP is hurt when it’s easier to vote, Aaron Blake, March 30, 2020. Democrats "had levels of voting" in their stimulus proposal, Trump said, "that if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."

President Trump on Monday morning became the latest in a procession of Republicans to say making it easier for more people to vote would hurt his party politically.

In an interview on "Fox & Friends," Trump referenced proposals from Democrats in the coronavirus stimulus negotiations that would have vastly increased funding for absentee and vote-by-mail options. The final package included $400 million for the effort, which was far less than what Democrats had sought.

"The things they had in there were crazy," Trump said. "They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again."

Trump didn’t expand on the thought. But he clearly linked high turnout to Republicans losing elections. The most generous reading of his comment is that he was referring to large-scale voter fraud resulting from the easier vote-by-mail options; Trump has in the past baselessly speculated about millions of fraudulent votes helping Democrats in the 2016 election. The more nefarious reading would be that allowing more people to participate in the process legally would hurt his party because there are more Democratic-leaning voters in the country.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This can’t possibly be Donald Trump’s 2020 strategy, Bill Palmer, March 30, 2020. Considering that Donald Trump yelled "you people" at a black woman yesterday, and brag-tweeted about how his pandemic press conferences are getting higher ratings than The Bachelor, there’s really no reason to think he’s working with any viable or coherent 2020 strategy at all.

bill palmer report logo headerThat said, if he’s settled on a campaign message, it appears to be "I’m doing great because only hundreds of thousands of Americans will die in this pandemic instead of millions of Americans." If this is what he’s really going with, I’m so horrified from a human perspective, I want to throw up. But even from a strictly political perspective, I don’t see how he can make this work.

Yes, Presidents can see a lot of death on their watch and, under the right circumstances, come out ahead for it. Abraham Lincoln lost plenty of Americans in the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt lost plenty of Americans in the Depression, and again in World War II. They’re both on monuments. But in both instances, the majority of people believed that A) the deaths were necessary, and B) the President did everything possible to keep them to a minimum.

When the death toll in the United States starts reaching five and six figures, are the majority of Americans really going to look back at how Donald Trump has handled this and conclude that having him as President resulted in fewer deaths than there otherwise would have been? That’s an awfully tough sell.

We’ve all seen the inaction, the incoherency, the psychopathy on display. His base may or may not stick with him, but they’re the minority to begin with. What’s always mattered is how the average American sees this. His approval rating saw a rather small crisis spike, and is already falling. Now that the death toll is rapidly reaching horrifying proportions, most Americans will look back critically at Trump’s handling of this and conclude that he screwed it up in every way possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Russia’s Troll Farm Is Changing Tactics Before the Fall Election, Davey Alba, March 30, 2020 (print ed.). The Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, which interfered in the 2016 election, is using different methods to hide itself better.

Ahead of November’s election, American intelligence officials and others are on high alert for mischief from Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

Remember it?

The Kremlin-backed group was identified by American authorities as having interfered in the 2016 election. At the time, Russians working for the group stole the identities of American citizens and spread incendiary messages on Facebook and other social media platforms to stoke discord on race, religion and other issues that were aimed at influencing voters.

To avoid detection, the group has since evolved its tactics. Here are five ways its methods have shifted. Before The troll farm published posts with many spelling, grammar and syntax errors.

March 25

Global Health Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate, White House reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, March 25, 2020. Bill to send money directly to many Americans is largest bailout in history. The bill would aid small and large businesses hard hit by the economic downturn. The Senate plans to vote on it this afternoon.

us senate logoThe Senate plans to vote Wednesday afternoon on a $2 trillion stimulus package that is designed to flood the U.S. economy with money in an effort to stabilize households and businesses that have been floored by the coronavirus outbreak.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., after a long day of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials.

The Senate reconvenes at midday, and a vote could come shortly after that.

steven mnuchin w"This is a very important bipartisan piece of legislation that is going to be very important to help American workers, American business and people across America," Mnuchin, right, told reporters early Wednesday morning. "We couldn’t be more pleased."

He said he had "spoken to the president many times today; he’s very pleased with this legislation and the impact that this is going to have."

The legislation, unprecedented in its size and scope, would send $1,200 checks to many Americans, create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, and establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states.

The legislation ensures that these taxpayer-backed loans cannot go to firms owned by President Trump, other White House officials or members of Congress. This would suggest that Trump-owned properties, including hotels that have been impacted, cannot seek taxpayer assistance.

Other provisions include $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds and $130 billion for hospitals.

It would significantly boost unemployment insurance benefits, expanding eligibility and offering workers an additional $600 a week for four month, on top of what state unemployment programs pay. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past few weeks, flooding a system that isn’t designed to cope with a sudden wave of applicants.

As the bill was coming together in the final days, Democrats fought to make numerous changes. For example, the White House and Republicans agreed to allow an oversight board and create a Treasury Department special inspector general for pandemic recovery to scrutinize the lending decisions and detect abusive or fraudulent behavior.

"Every loan document will be public and made available to Congress very quickly, so we can see where the money is going, what the terms are and if it’s fair to the American people," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

After Senate passage, the next step is a little less clear. The House is out of session, so action there could take longer, depending on whether lawmakers can agree to pass the bill by "unanimous consent," which would require agreement from all members of the chamber.

But some liberals and conservatives have already hinted they could oppose it.

"This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people," wrote former Tea Party Republican and now Independent congressman Justin Amash of Michigan. "It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor."

March 5

Raw Story, Commentary: Donald Trump Jr goes down in flames trying to smear, Travis Gettys, March 5, 2020. Do you have a mirror?’ President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, cashed in to the tune of between $25 million to $50 million.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son circulated a report smearing Joe Biden’s younger son, and left other social media users wondering whether he had the capacity of self-awareness. The president’s son, who currently runs Trump Organization, was met with bafflement and ridicule.

March 1

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s odds of going to prison just went way up, Bill Palmer, right, March 1, 2020. Thanks to his thirty point massive blowout win in South Carolina last night, Joe Biden is now in the driver’s seat in the Democratic primary race. We’re seeing supporters of the other mainstream Democratic candidates starting to shift to Biden, in the hope that Biden can take down erratic bumbler Bernie Sanders, and then take down maniacal criminal Donald Trump. As of last night, Trump’s odds of spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement just went up significantly. Bear with me here.

bill palmer report logo headerJoe Biden publicly stated a few weeks ago that he definitely wants Kamala Harris involved in his administration, but he had to talk with her about which role she’d want. There’s wide expectation that Biden will pick either Harris or Stacey Abrams as his running mate. If he picks Abrams, then Harris is probably a lock for Attorney General. And if Harris is VP, then Biden would most likely pick Adam Schiff or some other proven prosecutor as Attorney General.

Harris, Schiff, and anyone else in their league would – without any doubt – bring a federal criminal case against Donald Trump (shown in a Palmer Report graphic) and his co-conspirators. djt prison palmer reportMoreover, they’d build the kind of comprehensive case that would be sure to nail Trump on some rather complex charges. They’d also be able to employ the kind of legal savvy required to work around any attempt Trump might make at trying to pardon himself on certain charges on his way out of the White House. Putting Trump in prison would be a major task, but a solid Attorney General with a strong prosecutorial background would pull it off.

In other words, if Joe Biden becomes the nominee, he’ll probably beat Donald Trump, and if he does, Trump will almost definitely go to prison. New York will go after Trump on state charges one way or the other. But he’s broken a wider variety of federal laws, and so it’s crucial that there also be a strong federal case made against him.

 

February

Feb. 27

Global Public Health

Inside DC

Global Public Health

djt mcconnell ryan pence

Vice President Michael Pence, right, with Donald Trump and Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, left, and House Speaker Paul Ryan in a White House file photo.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 27, 2020. The Trump team confirms all of our worst fears; President Trump on Wednesday addressed the evils associated with the coronavirus. Among them: the reporters asking questions.

So, here’s the response of the Trump team and its allies to the coronavirus, at least so far: It’s actually good for America. Also, it’s a hoax perpetrated by the news media and the Democrats. Besides, it’s no big deal, and people should buy stocks. Anyway, we’ll get it all under control under the leadership of a man who doesn’t believe in science.

cdc logo CustomFrom the day Donald Trump was elected, some of us worried how his administration would deal with a crisis not of its own making. Remarkably, we’ve gone three years without finding out: Until now, every serious problem facing the Trump administration, from trade wars to confrontation with Iran, has been self-created. But the coronavirus is looking as if it might be the test we’ve been fearing.

And the results aren’t looking good.

The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.

Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks. "We’ll leave the field open to microbes," declared Tom Frieden, a much-admired former head of the C.D.C., more than two years ago. But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition.

And the microbes came.

ny times logoNew York Times, Health officials will now have to clear all statements about the virus with Vice President Mike Pence, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 27, 2020. Government health officials and scientists will have to clear statements with the vice president’s office, one of three people designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official.

The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to clear all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump announced Wednesday evening that Mr. Pence would coordinate the government’s response to the public health threat even as he played down the immediate danger from the virus that is spreading rapidly across the globe. Mr. Pence was scheduled to lead a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force on Thursday.

Officials insist the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials showing up on television.

Mr. Pence, right, said Thursday that he had selected Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, to serve as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, enlisting an experienced scientist and physician to manage the response to the potential spread of the virus.

The announcements from the White House were intended to show that Mr. Trump and those around him are taking the potential threat to the health of Americans seriously. Aides said the president wanted governors and members of Congress to have a single point-person to communicate with, eliminating any jockeying for power in a decentralized situation.

But with Mr. Pence’s announcement, Dr. Birx becomes the third person to be designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official.

Mr. Trump said that "Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me." Mr. Pence said it will be Dr. Birx. Meanwhile, Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, remains the chairman of the government’s coronavirus task force.

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS whistleblower says workers without protective gear or proper training met coronavirus evacuees, Lena H. Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb​, Feb. 27, 2020. The whistleblower alleges she was improperly reassigned after raising concerns with HHS Secretary Alex Azar's office.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.

The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, who is a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.

The whistleblower is seeking federal protection because she alleges she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Pence was criticized for his handling of Indiana’s HIV outbreak. He will lead the U.S. coronavirus response, Meryl Kornfield, Feb. 27, 2020. When President Trump announced that Vice President Pence would lead federal efforts against the spread of the coronavirus, he said mike pence oPence, right, was the right person for the task because of his experience.

"He’s got a certain talent for this," Trump said at a White House briefing about the virus, which has infected nearly five dozen people in the United States so far.

The announcement has cast light on Pence’s record as a lawmaker and his handling of a major public health crisis during his time as governor of Indiana. The worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history happened on his watch in 2015, which critics blamed on Pence’s belated response and his opposition to authorizing a needle-exchange program.

In 2011, as a member of Congress, he voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Two years later, a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been the only HIV-testing center in Scott County, Ind., closed after public health spending cuts, HuffPost reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow plunges more than 1,100 points, extending losses in brutal week, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath, Feb. 27, 2020.  The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have all fallen at least 10 percent from their recent highs amid fears the outbreak will bring the economy to a grinding halt.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. markets having worst week since ’08 financial crisis, enter correction territory, Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath, Feb. 27, 2020. The Dow Jones industrial average started the day with a plunge of hundreds of points, and all three major indexes were down more than 10 percent from their most recent highs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Patient in California Was Not Tested for Days, Roni Caryn Rabin and Sheri Fink, Feb. 27, 2020. Restrictive federal criteria meant there was a delay of several days, despite doctors’ suggestions. The patient may be the first person to be infected in the United States china flag Smallwithout a known source.

A California coronavirus patient had to wait days to be tested because of restrictive federal criteria, despite doctors’ suggestions.

The patient, who has tested positive, may be the first person to be infected through community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

cdc logo round CustomC.D.C. officials said it was possible the patient was exposed to a returning traveler who was infected. At the moment, however, the new case appears to be one in which the source of infection is unknown, suggesting that the virus may be transmitted within the community.

Following mounting bipartisan criticism that the administration’s response to the spread of the coronavirus had been sluggish, President Trump on Wednesday named Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the government’s response, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pence just blew it royally, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2020. Yesterday Donald Trump announced that he was putting Mike Pence of all people in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus. Palmer Report pointed out that because this was a suicide mission one way or the other, it appeared Trump was looking to set up Pence as the scapegoat when it all goes wrong. But as it turns out, Pence is wasting no time screwing things up of his own accord.

bill palmer report logo headerAs his first major move in response to the coronavirus, Mike Pence announced today that he’s adding Steven Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow to his response team, according to Marketwatch. Wait, what? Why in the name of all that is holy would the Secretary of the Treasury and a White House economic adviser be in charge of responding to a medical emergency? This would be a boneheaded move even if these two guys weren’t idiots.

Mnuchin is best known for illegally blocking Donald Trump’s tax returns from being turned over to investigators. Larry Kudlow is best known as a guy Donald Trump and Mike Pence logowho can’t put a complete sentence together, and whose economic predictions turn out to be incorrect 100% of the time. Kudlow also went on television a few days ago and falsely claimed that the coronavirus had been "contained" in the United States, on the same day the CDC was confirming the irs logoopposite. So sure, let’s put this flaming clown jackle in charge of the virus response.

It’s not difficult to see what Mike Pence is trying to do here. He’s relying on economic advisers instead of medical experts because he cares a lot less about how many Americans might end up dying, and a lot more about whether the stock market will keep plunging. And by picking two of Donald Trump’s most cartoonish loyalists, Pence is kissing up to Trump in the hope that Trump won’t scapegoat him when it all inevitably goes wrong.bo joe biden farewell jan 12 2017

President Obama and Vice President Biden exchange a formal farewell near the end of their terms at a White House ceremony on Jan. 12, 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama demands South Carolina TV stations pull misleading ad attacking Biden, Michael Scherer and Anu Narayanswamy, Feb. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Former president Barack Obama on Wednesday called on South Carolina television stations to stop running an ad from a super PAC supporting President Trump that uses Obama’s words out of context in a misleading attack on former vice president Joe Biden.

The Committee to Defend the President, a pro-Trump group, circulated an ad that falsely suggests that words Obama spoke in the narration of his own book were meant to describe Biden.

The group, which placed a similar amount of anti-Biden advertising in Nevada earlier this month, reported to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday spending more than $250,000 in South Carolina to oppose Biden.

"This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers," Katie Hill, Obama’s communications director, said in a statement. "In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate."

Hill said Obama has "several friends" in the Democratic presidential primary, "including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President." She also said Obama has "no plans to endorse in the primary."

In an attempt to sway black voters in the state, the ad begins with a narrator saying "Joe Biden promised to help our community. It was a lie. Here’s President Obama."

The ad then runs audio of Obama reading an unrelated passage from his 1995 book, "Dreams from My Father," about a conversation he had with a barber in Chicago when he was a community organizer.

The Obama passage, which describes the mistreatment of black voters by politicians, refers to complaints about "plantation politics" and the history in Chicago of Democratic politicians expecting black votes despite poor housing, poor job opportunities and police brutality.

The ad repurposes a similar attack the Committee to Defend the President ran last year in several states with many black politicians, including Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana, according to PolitiFact. Similar tactics, aimed at decreasing black turnout for Democrats, were used in a radio ad by another pro-Trump super PAC, Great America Alliance, in the 2017 special House election in Georgia.

"Donald Trump and his allies are absolutely terrified that Joe Biden will defeat him in November. Trump even got himself impeached by trying to force another country to lie about the vice president," said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign. "This latest intervention in the Democratic primary is one of the most desperate yet, a despicable torrent of misinformation by the president’s lackeys."

Separately, Republican activists in South Carolina have boasted about a plan called Operation Chaos to encourage Trump backers to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Saturday’s primary. The South Carolina GOP has canceled the state’s Republican primary this year.

 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi signals she’s gearing up for a big swing at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2020. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has impeached Donald Trump, and in the process she’s educated the voting public about his status as a corrupt criminal. The GOP Senate predictably didn’t remove him. But if anyone thinks Pelosi and the House are done with Trump, they haven’t been paying attention.

bill palmer report logo headerAwhile back, Palmer Report pointed out that Pelosi and the House still had multiple court battles brewing over additional evidence against Donald Trump. One is over the Mueller grand jury transcripts. Another is over Trump’s tax returns. These battles take time, and there’s no way to magically speed up the glacial pace at which the courts operate. But these battles are finally close to coming to a head.

Donald Trump recently began demanding on Twitter that two liberal Supreme Court Justices recuse themselves from these cases, for no good reason. djt nancy pelosiIn so doing, Trump tipped off that he fears Chief Justice John Roberts may not vote with him on these matters, and that he may lose by a 5-4 margin. Roberts likes to play both sides in order to increase his own power base, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up siding with Trump in one case, and with Pelosi in the other case.

To give you an idea of how we’re getting closer to a resolution in these cases, Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats just filed a hundred page brief with the Supreme Court on the matter of Donald Trump’s financial records. The House is gearing up to take a big swing at Donald Trump with whatever they end up obtaining from these ongoing court battles. It won’t be this month or next, but it’s surely coming before the election.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

Forbes, Trump Has Now Shifted $1.9 Million From Campaign Donors To His Business, Dan Alexander, Feb. 19, 2020. President Trump Holds Rally In New Hampshire Day Before State's Primary; Supporters go wild as President Trump arrives for a "Keep America Great" rally.

Billionaire Donald Trump still has not donated a cent of his own to his 2020 campaign, opting to fund the effort with money from supporters around the country. At the same time, Trump’s private companies are continuing to charge the campaign for expenses like rent and consulting, according to the latest federal filings. That means that since January 20, 2017, the day Trump officially declared his intent to run for reelection, his campaign has put $1.9 million of donor money into the president’s private business.

"This is a man, who when he first said he was going to run for office, was saying that he was going to do this all out of his own pocket," said Karl Sandstrom, a Democrat who served as a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission from 1998 to 2002. "And now he’s taking money from others and putting it in his pocket."

Forbes first reported on this arrangement more than a year ago, when Trump had already shifted $1.1 million from his campaign to his business. The amount of money has continued to swell since then.

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:

mitt romney senate floor ap Custom

• 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.

Arizona Republic, Hunter Biden is a nepotistic slouch compared to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, E.J. Montini, Jan. 28, 2020. No jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookfamily in American history has cashed in more on a political office and nepotism than the Trumps. That level of profiteering should put Ivanka and Jared in the Nepotism Hall of Fame.

Ivanka and Jared reported $135 million; The two of them, senior advisers to the president, reported an income last year of up to $135 million, which included the kind of foreign entanglements that should scream conflict of interest.

Ivanka Trump’s stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., netted her nearly $4 million just last year. It’s the go-to place for foreign dignitaries and business moguls hoping to suck up to the president.

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

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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 i