Haunting Halloween Reads

Frida Kahlo, “Girl with Death Mask (She Plays Alone)” 1938

Ghoul Morning!!

Washington DC is an exciting place these days. Last night the Washington Nationals won the World Series and this morning the House of Representatives is debating a resolution on impeachment of the fake “president.”

CNN and MSNBC showed the House deliberations live and, as  I write this, votes are being counted. And the resolution has now passed.

The New York Times Editorial Board on the Democrats’ impeachment resolution: The Rules of Impeachment. Democrats get serious about the next phase of inquiry.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on whether to erect a series of guardrails of its own, for the possible impeachment of the president. The resolution now before Congress avoids past missteps by allowing extended questioning of witnesses by staff lawyers before preening lawmakers take the stage, and it sets fair rules that respect precedent.

Paul Cézanne, “Pyramid of Skulls,” 1901

Such rules are needed because the stakes are so high and the charges against Mr. Trump so serious. The latest bombshell landed Tuesday, when Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer who serves as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, testified that he was on the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and that he heard Mr. Trump ask Mr. Zelensky to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. More concerning, Colonel Vindman shared that the White House’s reconstructed transcript of the call left out some key details — and that administration officials refused his repeated efforts to correct the record before it was released to the public, according to an account in The Times.

With such revelations piling up, the White House and its backers have opted for a defense strategy that avoids addressing the president’s actions and focuses instead on discrediting the impeachment process as illegitimate and unfair. They have criticized House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for not holding a formal authorization vote, for conducting closed-door depositions and for denying the president the due process afforded in formal criminal proceedings.

None of these objections hold up. Even so, Democrats aim to address them with the provisions of the resolution they will consider on Thursday.

Central to the resolution’s ambitions are ensuring order, transparency and fairness as the inquiry moves to the public stage. Rules are being set for conducting public hearings (including who gets to question whom and for how long), publicly disclosing depositions and issuing subpoenas. Guidelines have been established for the participation of Mr. Trump and his lawyers and the transfer of evidence from other committees to the Judiciary Committee, where any articles of impeachment would be considered. The rules providing for the minority party to call its own witnesses are basically the same as those set by Republicans during the Clinton impeachment.

Henryk Weyssenhoff, “Premonition,” 1893

Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: Column: Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment deliberateness has been maddening, but it’s finally paying off.

It’s all disturbing. Very disturbing. Or rather, as Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) put it after sitting through Tuesday’s impeachment inquiry testimony, “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing.”

So, triple-X disturbing. If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is conducting an orchestra with this probe, she’s left the quiet early movements far behind.

With each witness, the maestra and her House of Representatives colleagues are building intensity. It’s getting hot and loud in the nation’s capital — and, sure, it’s disturbing. But it’s also galvanizing.

For fully half of Americans, the ones who now favor the president’s removal from office, there’s finally hope that Trump might — at long last — be held responsible for the grave injuries he’s done to this country.

Read the rest at the link.

Ronald Brownstein at The Atlantic: Nancy Pelosi’s Predictions for Impeachment.

Nancy Pelosi wants you to know that the House Democratic leadership has not committed to impeaching President Donald Trump—notwithstanding the muscle she’s thrown behind the inquiry, or tomorrow’s vote on how its next stage will proceed.

“We have not made any decision to impeach,” the House speaker insisted during a meeting with a small group of columnists earlier this week.

Aksel Waldemar Johannessen, “The night,” 1920

But Pelosi nevertheless left little doubt that’s where the process is headed. She said flatly that she believes the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation has already accumulated enough evidence about Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to justify such a decision. “I do think we have enough,” she said. “We’ve had enough for a very long time … but as long as there is corroboration, we might as well get some more. And then we’ll see.” She was equally unequivocal that the core charges against Trump—that he withheld congressionally appropriated military aid to try to force Ukraine to investigate a political opponent—reach the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” required for impeachment.

“If this president were to get away with this, forget about it all,” she said, sitting in a conference room in her suite of offices in the Capitol. “We might as well not even run for office. You don’t need this branch of government if he’s going to overturn the power of the purse, if he is going to overturn all of the other checks and balances, the power of inquiry.”

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

I won’t publish the name here, but Republicans have publicly identified a man they claim is the whistleblower who brought attention to the Ukraine scandal. They’re exulting because he is a Democrat, but it doesn’t matter one whit, because the allegations in the whistleblower complaint have now been corroborated by multiple witnesses. Here’s the latest:

This morning, Tim Morrison, who resigned from the White House yesterday, is testifying to the impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post: White House official expected to confirm diplomat’s account that Trump appeared to seek quid pro quo.

Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on President Trump’s National Security Council, is expected to corroborate the testimony of a senior U.S. diplomat who last week offered to House impeachment investigators the most detailed account to date for how Trump tried to use his office to pressure Ukraine into launching an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, said a person familiar with the matter.

Odilon Redon, “The Cyclops,” 1898-1900

Morrison is expected to tell impeachment investigators on Thursday that the account offered by Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr., is accurate, particularly that Morrison alerted him to the president’s and his deputies’ push to withhold security aid and a meeting with the Ukrainian president until Ukraine announced an investigation of the Bidens and 2016 election interference, the person said on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions

Morrison will also say that he did not necessarily view the president’s demands as improper or illegal, but rather problematic for U.S. policy in supporting an ally in the region, the person said.

Morrison’s testimony comes a day after he told colleagues he plans to leave the Trump administration. His testimony was sought due to his proximity to critical White House decisions and recurring presence in testimony from previous U.S. officials.

Also at the Washington Post, Josh Rogin writes that Morrison is not the Democrat’s friend: National Security Council aide Tim Morrison will not be part of the Resistance.

National Security Council official Tim Morrison is a lot of things: a Trump administration political appointee, a John Bolton acolyte, a naval reserve intelligence officer, a lawyer and a Russia hawk, to name a few. But Democrats might not want to pin their impeachment hopes on his testimony Thursday, because there are three things Morrison is not: a whistleblower, a Never Trumper or a potential member of the Resistance.

Each administration witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry is approaching his or her testimony differently. Kurt Volker resigned as Ukraine envoy and handed over all his documents. Acting ambassador William B. Taylor didn’t resign, delivered blistering testimony accusing President Trump of abusing his power, then returned to his post in Kyiv and received a hero’s welcome. Morrison’s former supervisor, Charles Kupperman, is declining to be deposed at all and is appealing to the courts.

Read more at the link.

Last night, the name of the lawyer who ordered Trump’s Ukraine phone call transcript hidden was revealed. The Washington Post: White House lawyer moved transcript of Trump call to classified server after Ukraine adviser raised alarms.

Moments after President Trump ended his phone call with Ukraine’s president on July 25, an unsettled national security aide rushed to the office of White House lawyer John Eisenberg.

Salvador Dali, “The Face of War,” 1940

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine adviser at the White House, had been listening to the call and was disturbed by the pressure Trump had applied to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals, according to people familiar with Vindman’s testimony to lawmakers this week.

Vindman told Eisenberg, the White House’s legal adviser on national security issues, that what the president did was wrong, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad, Eisenberg proposed a step that other officials have said is at odds with long-standing White House protocol: moving a transcript of the call to a highly classified server and restricting access to it, according to two people familiar with Vindman’s account.

The details of how the White House clamped down on information about the controversial call comes as the House impeachment inquiry turns its focus to the role of Eisenberg, who has served as deputy White House counsel since the start of Trump’s administration. House impeachment investigators on Wednesday evening announced they have asked Eisenberg and a fellow White House lawyer, Mike Ellis, to testify Monday.

It’s getting real for Trump, and Mitch McConnell has told him to stop attacking GOP Senators who will be jurors in an impeachment trial. Politico: After McConnell advice, Trump lays off GOP senators on impeachment.

Sitting inside the White House, Mitch McConnell gave Donald Trump some straightforward advice: Stop attacking senators — including Mitt Romney — who likely will soon judge your fate in an impeachment trial.

Vincent Van Gogh, Head of a Skeleton with a burning cigarette, 1886

The one-on-one meeting last week between the Senate majority leader and the president covered several weighty issues including Syria, according to two people familiar with the conversation. But like everything these days when it comes to Trump, impeachment was high on the president’s mind.

And in this case, Trump appears to have listened to the man in the Senate who controls the future of his presidency.

As he juggles legislative priorities like funding the government and passing a new North American trade deal, Trump can’t get his mind off Democrats’ efforts to oust him from the White House. He’s been courting his congressional allies with golf, a World Series game and frequent phone calls — all to develop an echo chamber of support from his allies in Congress.

But the White House is largely leaving the prickly task of managing the Senate Republican Conference to McConnell. Though much of the pair’s contact is concealed even from aides, people familiar with the conversations say they speak all the time — and there’s been an uptick in recent weeks as the impeachment threat grows more serious.

Can Trump resist attacking his critics? I seriously doubt it, but we’ll see.

Happy Halloween, Sky Dancers!!


Wednesday Reads: tRump Masks

Fucking frightening!

This is…an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Climate Change Action and Impeachment Inquiry News

Good Morning!!

Action on Climate Change

Before I get started on the latest news, I want to share some information about a climate action that is taking place today in several U.S. cities, including Boston. My sister-in-law is a leader in her local chapter of Mothers Out Front, an organization that fights climate change. The group has been working to call attention to Blackrock, a huge asset management corporation whose CEO Larry Fink has tried to position himself as pro-environment, while leading the company that contributes more than any other to the problem of global warming.

My brother made this video to publicize today’s actions.

Some background:

The Guardian, May 21, 2019: World’s biggest investor accused of dragging feet on climate crisis.

[Blackrock CEO Larry] Fink, who was paid $24m (£18.8m) in 2018, began BlackRock as part of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity group, and spun it out in 1995. Since then, New York-based BlackRock has risen to become an investing behemoth, controlling $6.5tn in assets – a value more than twice the annual output of the UK economy.

That staggering size has placed BlackRock at the heart of the global fossil fuel industry: it is the largest investor in coal worldwide, according to InfluenceMap, an environmental campaign group, and has by far the highest density of coal holdings of the world’s 10 largest investors. BlackRock effectively owns 2.1bn tonnes of thermal coal reserves, based on the size of its stakes in major miners.

In August, two of the country’s fastest growing grassroots groups – Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front – sent a bold message to BlackRock staff at their Boston office.

BlackRock is counted among the top three shareholders in every oil “supermajor” bar France’s Total, and is among the top 10 shareholders in seven of the 10 biggest coal producers, according to Guardian analysis of data from financial information firm S&P.

Yet Fink, 66, who moves in US Democrat political circles, argues it is not his company’s duty to fight the climate emergency. In the real version of his annual letter to shareholders, published in January, Fink said that his overriding duty is to make customers money.

“Our firm is built to protect and grow the value of our clients’ assets,” Fink wrote. “We often get approached by special interest groups who advocate for BlackRock to vote with them on a cause. In many cases, I or other senior managers might agree with that same cause – or we might strongly disagree – but our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter here. Our decisions are driven solely by our fiduciary duty to our clients.”

Also from The Guardian, September 17, 2019: Wall Street investment giants voting against key climate resolutions.

Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report.

The report, published on Tuesday by the Washington DC-based Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project, claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.

Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims….

“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub.

“Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change,” Kasargod-Staub added.

Unfortunately, it’s raining in Boston today. I expect the mothers will still show up for the demonstration though. I’ll report back if I hear anything about how it went.

UPDATES from the Boston BlackRock protest

Impeachment Inquiry News

Today a White House insider who heard Trump’s call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will testify in the impeachment inquiry.

The New York Times: Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns.

A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, arriving Tuesday on Capitol Hill.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”


Monday in my Bubble Read

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I went to the other timeline for a very brief moment on Saturday and I’m trying to stay in the good timeline for awhile.  Today, we can stay in our bubble.  I’m giving myself permission to believe that most of us that live in this country have just about had enough of the last few years.  I personally have endured enough.  Join me in a bubble with “Gutsy Women” and the book tour that came to New Orleans with its authors Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsean Clinton.  It’s a delightful book and I had a delightful time including getting to sing happy birthday to Hillary and handing her my Krewe of Hillary Campaign button while telling her that all her New Orleans Volunteers wore them proudly.  I will always be with her.   Fellow Hillary Volunteer Sharon Normand caught the moment on the photo at the top here.  Yup, that’s my hand!

But Clinton received a rapturous response Saturday when she and her daughter Chelsea spoke at a sold-out event at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans about “The Book of Gutsy Women — Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience.”

The 450-page book by both mother and daughter profiles more than 100 women, in politics (Shirley Chisholm and Ann Richards), athletics (Abby Wambach and Venus and Serena Williams), medicine (Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton) and other fields, including Ruby Bridges, who integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.

The 900 people who filled the Uptown church heard stories about famous and little-known women for $45, which included a copy of the book from Octavia Books, which sponsored the event.

“I’ve been a fan of hers for my entire life,” said Jennifer Greene, a New Orleans attorney originally from Little Rock. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

Neither Clinton mentioned President Donald Trump by name.

The closest came when Chelsea answered a question about the rise of bullying in the United States.

“The bullies are often quoting the president, particularly when girls are being bullied,” Chelsea said. “It’s just so painful to me that his demeaning treatment of women broadly but specifically with my mom and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and others is clearly being watched by kids across the country and often has given further motivation to the meanness already there.”

j=NO.hillary.102719.007.jpgIt really was just a conversation about how Chelsea and Hillary had picked the women for the book.  Chelsea told us that that it had been significantly downsized given the original number of essays they had written.  Some of the women were historical and some still lived or had lived recently so there some quite personal stories too.  It was nice to be around nice people talking primarily about nice things.  I long for the days when we could discuss things more politely and civilly.

Here is an excerpt of the Book from CBS “Sunday Morning”.  It’s Hillary’s essay on Margaret Chase Smith. 

When I was a little girl, my family subscribed to Life magazine, which came to our house every week on Friday. When I came home from school, I’d eagerly grab it and lie down on the floor in our living room to read it before I had to set the table for dinner. It was in those pages that I first encountered Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who was the first example I ever remember seeing of a woman elected official. Following her career—from the campaigns that led to her becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress to her history-making candidacy for president of the United States in 1964—shaped my understanding of politics and public service. She embodied the thrill of breaking barriers—and the challenges that come with being “the first.”

Born and raised in Maine, Margaret discovered a passion for politics when her husband, Clyde Harold Smith, was elected to Congress. She campaigned for him and, after he was elected, joined him in Washington. During his first term, he became gravely ill, and Margaret stepped in to fill as many of his obligations as she could. She traveled back and forth between Washington and Maine, appearing at events on behalf of her husband. With Margaret’s help, Clyde was reelected in 1938. His health, however, declined quickly. In the spring of 1940, he put out a statement urging his friends and supporters to stand behind Margaret if he could not run in the upcoming election. “I know of no one who has the full knowledge of my ideas and plans or is as well qualified as she is, to carry on these ideas and my unfinished work for my district.” He died the next day.

Margaret easily won the special election to serve out her husband’s unexpired term. At the time, most of the few women who served in office had been elected or appointed to fill a seat vacated by a husband or father. It was so common it even had a name: “the widow’s mandate.” Though she had never planned on it, Margaret was now the state’s first woman member of Congress. (“Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington,” read one headline.)

Oh, and the Clintons stopped by Melba’s which is probably the most unique restaurant/literacy center/laundromat you’d ever want to see!  And, did I mention the food?    MMMMMMmmm …

On Saturday morning the Creole gumbo was simmering, the daiquiri machines were churning and the dryers were spinning at Melba’s and Wash World, the connected po-boy shop and laundry at Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.

Then the sleek black SUVs pulled up and out stepped former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, former president Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea Clinton.

The political power family was not here to talk politics.

Instead, they were visiting the unique literacy program and family learning initiative that has taken root at Melba’s and Wash World with the support of their foundation. It’s a program they plan to bring nationwide in the months ahead.

Melba’s and Wash World together present a kaleidoscope of local art and New Orleans emblems around the business of doing some laundry and grabbing a quick bite.

Earlier this year, it also debuted its latest feature, the Family Read & Play Space. A colorful niche by the washers and dryers has kid-sized furniture, toys, coloring materials and a collection of books for a wide range of young readers. The aim is to turn the time families spend together on a laundry errand into an investment in a child’s future, strengthening early literacy and engaging their curiosity.

“We’re thrilled with what they’ve done here,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But back to to the book event! They took two questions from the audience.  Both were from little girls.  One of the little girls just wrote you are my president. The other asked about bullying. Chelsea had some great stories and advice.  She’s really a most articulate and impressive young woman.

The event’s most personal moment happened when a 9-year-old child in the audience asked the Clintons how they stand up to mean comments. Chelsea said she has gotten used to getting hate all her life because of who her parents were. People told her when she was 8 years old that they wished she had been aborted. When Bill Clinton was in the White House, everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Saturday Night Live made fun of teenage Chelsea’s appearance.

As painful as that experience was, she’s grateful because it’s left her better able to handle the abuse that many famous women have to deal with in the social media age. Today, she said, the most hateful comments come anti-abortion commenters, because of her pro-choice stance, and anti-vaccination activists, because she’s a professor of public health.

“I’m really thankful that that happened at a young age, because I think that has served me well, particularly in this moment we’re living through when there’s lots, sadly, of ugliness,” Chelsea Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton praised her daughter for always responding with politeness and “cheerful shade.” She said there will always be hate in society; what’s important is that “leaders in a democracy like ours are supposed to be trying to bring people together. They’re certainly not supposed to be fomenting bullying and hatred.”

She quoted what her husband Bill Clinton said in his recent eulogy for U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Freedom cannot last if half of us are supposed to hate the other half about everything.”

Secretary Clinton never explicitly mentioned Donald Trump, the man she lost the 2016 election to, but he lingered as the elephant in the room.

At one point the moderator, Susan Larson, asked her to talk about “the role of anger as a motivating force for women.” Clinton gave a sighing, drawn-out, “OK …” and the entire room burst into laughter and applause.

“I think what’s important here is that the anger that you’re talking about is anger at injustice,” Clinton continued. “It’s anger at inequality… It’s that kind of anger that can motivate the movement into courage and into taking action.”

So, for me, today is a day where I just may continue to leave the TV off. Between watching the service for Elijah Cummings and listening to our last president’s words and then spending Saturday awash with tales of Gutsy Women by Gutsy Women I really want to stay in the bubble today and maybe for awhile longer.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Baghdadi?

This:

So…what can that be about?

Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

In other what the fuck news:

Another point to be made:

Did y’all see this?

Let’s end this…

…as an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads: 2020 and Impeachment

Good Morning!!

It’s looking like the media has successfully erased Kamala Harris’ candidacy, but yesterday Trump gave her a publicity boost. Trump was inexplicably given an award at a traditionally Black college in South Carolina, but only 10 students were invited to attend the forum, which was filled with Trump supporters.

Greenville News: President Trump addresses political allies as Benedict students are asked to stay in dorms.

COLUMBIA – In a way, what happened outside Benedict College’s gates in the heart of downtown felt quite small. At its peak, the crowd covered less than 100 yards of the sidewalk. But the scene itself represented something much bigger: the fractured, divisive, sometimes ugly and often loud American political climate.

Protests were mounted outside the 150-year-old historically black college where inside a school auditorium President Donald Trump spoke to a room filled with more political allies than students.

The event was billed as a keynote speech on bipartisan success in criminal justice reform, which the president tied to a booming economy that he told his audience has helped black people more than ever before.

Benedict students — some of whom pondered the week prior what questions they might ask the president once his surprise visit to the weekend-long “2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum” was announced — were asked to stay in their dorms.

Seven students were allowed inside for the speech….

The announcement that Trump would join came late and to the surprise of those participating in the forum. The original announcement of the event highlighted only that Democratic candidates were participating.

When Kamala Harris learned about Trump’s appearance she cancelled her own visit to Benedict College.

Trump attacked Harris for this on Twitter and this morning she responded.

I know it’s unlikely Americans are ready for Black woman as the Democratic nominee, but I continue to admire this woman greatly and I believe she will continue make a difference in the years to come.

Greenville News: Kamala Harris backs out of Benedict forum after Trump receives award on visit to SC.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has withdrawn from participating in the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum today at Benedict College after learning President Donald Trump received an award at the forum on Friday.

Harris, the junior senator from California, was due to speak at the event at the historically black college alongside fellow 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, but she posted a message on Twitter announcing her withdrawal less than 24 hours before she was scheduled to speak.

She cited the Bipartisan Justice Award that the president received and event organization that left only nine Benedict students to be invited, only seven of whom were able to attend according to a school spokesperson.

“I won’t be complicit in papering over Trump’s record,” Harris tweeted in part before announcing she’ll instead take part in a panel at Benedict College’s Antisdel Chapel with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Joe Biden is still leading in most polls, but he has been struggling to raise money for his campaign.

Politico: Why Biden is getting crushed in the all-important money race.

Joe Biden’s campaign is drawing more support from big-ticket donors than any other candidate in the race — yet he still can’t match his rivals’ cash flow.

Biden has raised $20.7 million from contributions of at least $500 — $1.5 million more than his nearest competitor, despite entering the race later than all of them — thanks to the former vice president’s strong connections and goodwill among the traditional donors who have long financed the Democratic Party. Biden drew donations from 114 former big money fundraisers for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the third quarter, the most of any Democrat, according to a POLITICO analysis.

But it’s been nowhere near enough to make Biden the leader of the fundraising pack. In fact, his big-dollar dominance, and his reliance on those donors, is more evidence of how quickly small-dollar donations have become the most important component of political fundraising in a sprawling, fractured Democratic race. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are all outraising Biden, and stockpiling cash significantly faster than him, on the back of major support from online donors that Biden has been unable to build.

Biden is spending too much time holding big money fundraisers and not enough time campaigning. A bit more:

The bundler contributions and connections are helping keep Biden’s campaign afloat, but some of those donors are cringing at the way Biden is running his campaign.

“I don’t think Joe Biden is going to be the nominee,” said one major fundraiser, who said he gave to Biden out of loyalty during the third quarter. “I think there’s a thirst for something down the road taking us towards something bigger and better. That’s not going to be Joe Biden, for whom I have the utmost respect. He is acting his age and showing his age.”

Much more at the Politico link. Yesterday Biden approved formation of a super pac. Politico: Biden throws his campaign a lifeline.

By reversing course and dropping his opposition to super PACs, Joe Biden has all but admitted he’s getting swamped in fundraising.

But it was a strategic retreat that could end up paying big dividends for his cash-starved campaign.

Calls to a half-dozen maxed-out Biden donors Friday revealed that they would gladly dig deeper for the former vice president and contribute to a super PAC that enables them — and corporations — to give and spend unlimited amounts of money.

The witching hour by Lisa Parker

“Joe Biden has not raised as much money as the others through his own campaign efforts. But you have to understand, that’s basically how it works. Bernie Sanders had, what, 20,000 people at an event in New York? Suppose each one of those people gave $100,” said Joe Cotchett, a major Bay Area bundler for Biden. “Does Joe have the ability to have 20,000 people at a rally right now? The answer is no. But hopefully for Joe, it will come.”

Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has already endorsed Biden, said it would likely commit to a Biden super PAC.

“We would be in a position to support that effort,” said Schaitberger. “We’re certainly capable of spending in the six figures.

We’ll see. I still don’t think Biden will win the nomination, but at this point, I’ve stopped caring. I’ll vote for Kamala if she’s still around on Super Tuesday, and I’ll hold my nose and vote for whoever the Dems nominate. I don’t think we’ll beat Trump in an election. He has to be impeached and removed or forced to resign. There’s no evidence right now that the 2020 election will be legitimate.

Another problem for Biden is the drip drip drip about his son Hunter. If he is the nominee, the Republicans will talk about Hunter non-stop, and it won’t matter if he did anything illegal. He certainly traded on his father’s name. The latest from The New York Times: Giuliani Is Drawing Attention to Hunter Biden’s Work in Romania. But There’s a Problem.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, signaled this month that he planned to open a new front in his attacks against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — work done by Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden for a wealthy Romanian business executive facing corruption charges.

But there’s a problem with that strategy: Mr. Giuliani participated in an effort that would have helped the same executive, and was in fact recruited to do so by Louis J. Freeh, a former F.B.I. director who had been brought onto the matter by Hunter Biden.

In effect, Mr. Giuliani and Hunter Biden were on the same team, if not at the same time. And their work to help the business executive, along with that of Mr. Freeh, stood in contrast to efforts by the United States, including Vice President Biden while he was in office, to encourage anti-corruption efforts in Romania.

The dynamic in Romania underscores how Mr. Giuliani has done a brisk international business with clients who sometimes seem to be seeking to capitalize on his connections to Mr. Trump even as he has accused Hunter Biden of seeking to capitalize on his father’s name while doing business in other countries. And the disclosure of the connection between his role in Romania and Mr. Biden’s comes at a time when Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for possible violations of foreign lobbying laws.

Trump will bash Hunter unmercifully if Biden is the nominee and it won’t matter that Trump is far more corrupt and that his own children are raking in millions through his presidency. The media doesn’t focus on Trump’s nepotism now and they likely won’t in 2020. The focus will be on “both sides,” and pretending that Joe and Hunter’s questionable ethics or, even worse, Elizabeth Warren’s long history of claiming Native American ancestry. It will be the new “her emails.”

I’m sorry to sound so negative today. It’s still a long time until the primaries begin, but it’s not looking good right now. The good news is that the Impeachment inquiry is going full speed ahead.

Catbatting by Maggie Vandewalle

The New York Times: Impeachment Inquiry Is Legal, Judge Rules, Giving Democrats a Victory.

A federal judge handed a victory to House Democrats on Friday when she ruled that they were legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a decision that undercut President Trump’s arguments that the investigation is a sham.

The declaration came in a 75-page opinion by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington. She ruled that the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

Typically, Congress has no right to view such evidence. But in 1974, the courts permitted lawmakers to see such materials as they weighed whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon. The House is now immersed in the same process focused on Mr. Trump, Judge Howell ruled, and that easily outweighs any need to keep the information secret from lawmakers.

And in a rebuke to the Trump administration, she wrote that the White House strategy to stonewall the House had actually strengthened lawmakers’ case. She cited Mr. Trump’s vow to fight “all” congressional subpoenas and an extraordinary directive by his White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, that executive branch officials should not provide testimony or documents to impeachment investigators.

“The White House’s stated policy of noncooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure,” Judge Howell wrote. “Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”

Of course we don’t know what the right-wing SCOTUS will ultimately decide.

One more interesting piece from Just Security: George Washington’s Advisors Agreed: Impeachment Did Away with Executive Privilege.

President George Washington’s decision to withhold diplomatic papers from the House of Representatives with respect to the Jay Treaty has become an important precedent in current debates over executive privilege. Earlier this month, the White House Counsel’s Office invoked this precedent as its first cited source in claiming executive privilege with respect to the scope of the testimony of Fiona Hill, the former top Russia advisor on the National Security Council. And as the Ukraine affair first came to light and impeachment entered the discussion, John Yoo, writing for the New York Times, cited this precedent as a major stumbling block that would thwart any impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s abuse of his diplomatic powers.

But as one of us pointed out in a recent post for Just Security, Washington clearly signaled that executive privilege would not be available if the House were pursuing an impeachment inquiry. In withholding the papers, he wrote that

“It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution [requesting the papers] has not expressed.”

(Judge Naomi Rao recently quoted this language in drawing a distinction between the information that Congress can access in an impeachment proceedings as opposed to lawmaking in a dissent.)

Earlier this week, we published an op-ed, highlighting this and other evidence from the Founding era and discussed its significance for current events. While writing, we were impressed by just how unanimous Washington’s advisors were on an impeachment carve-out to executive privilege. Here are some key quotes (with emphasis added), from Washington’s Cabinet (whose advice he had requested) and several others…

Read the rest at the link. Maybe the courts will save us yet–if Chief Justice Roberts can bring himself to care about the Constitution more than partisanship.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?


Friday Feeling Heartsick Reads: Americans lose a real Hero and the Heart of its Justice

Image result for elijah cummingsGood Morning Sky Dancers

I’ve been watching a large number of people pay tribute to Congressman Elijah Cumming’s service. He represents the experience of many Black Americans living in the South who came from Share Cropping families.  He looked at Jim Crow and said “Not Today” heading to university and law school and then to prominence in the US Congress.   He will be eulogized by two US Presidents.  He will be sorely missed by all Americans who yearn for peace and justice.

Earlier this morning, fond memories of the Congressman were shared by the Pelosi family and Hillary Clinton.   A very humble hero is being sent home today

Speakers at the New Psalmist Baptist Church include former Presidents Barack Obama andBill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bishop Walter S. Thomas Jr. of New Psalmist began the ceremony in a moment of silence as a military honor guard unfolded an American flag across Cummings’ casket.

Pictures of Cummings throughout his career hung on a sprawling sage behind the speaker’s podium.

Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren delivered readings from the Old Testament as one of the first politicians invited to speak at the ceremony.

Following the brief readings, one of Cummings favorite lyrical artists, BeBe Winas, sang along with the New Psalms Choir, bringing the audience to their feet.

Former Secretary of State Clinton first offered her condolences to Cummings’ wife, Maya and reflected on his legacy, comparing him to the Elijah of the Bible.

“Like the prophet, our Elijah could call down fire from heaven — but he also prayed and worked for healing,” she said.

To a long applause, Clinton added, “Like that Old Testament prophet, he stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.”

Hillary Clinton’s tribute can be found here at Raw Story.  There’s a live link to the service that I will post in the thread below so we can all share our two best last Presidents as they pay tribute to America’s Congressman.

Tributes to the great man are pouring in.  He certainly will be missed in so many ways by colleagues, family, young women and men he mentored, and all justice-minded Americans.

Democrats and Republicans came together on Thursday to honor and celebrate the extraordinary life of longtime Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who passed away last week at the age of 68: ” … a leader who — like the prophet whose name he shared — ‘saw wrongdoing and spent his life working to banish it from our land,'” our colleagues Jenna Portnoy and Ovetta Wiggins write. 
The escalating partisan drama of an impeachment inquiry that has divided Congress more than ever was put aside for a day to remember the person who, as chair of the House Oversight Committee, had taken a prominent role in investigating President Trump.The Maryland lawmaker was described by colleaguesas a moral force, loyal to the city of Baltimore and devoted to civil rights and his constituents — “our North Star” and “a mentor of the House,” according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
  • “He was strong, very strong when necessary, but also kind and caring and honorable,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), adding that Cummings was “universally respected and admired in a divided time” for standing by his principles.
  • “His voice could shake mountains, stir the most cynical hearts, inspiring us all to better,” Schumer added.
  • “Elijah E. Cummings did not just represent Baltimore, he embodied it,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • McConnell explained Cummings rose in the political ranks “not because he outgrew his hometown, but because he was so committed to it,” per The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Baker. 

Words to remember: A teary-eyedRep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) delivered a eulogy for the lawmaker he called his “dear friend,” who was lying in state in the Statuary Hall:

  • “Some have classified it as an unexpected friendship but for those of us that know Elijah … it’s not unexpected or surprising,” Meadows said, per NPR’s Amita Kelly.
  • “So Elijah has left his tent to go to a mansion, a better place. Perhaps this place and this country would be better served with a few more unexpected friendships,” he said. “I know I’ve been blessed by one.”

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This is from Tyler Tynes writing for The Ringer: “The Giant Life of Elijah Cummings. Remembering the conscience of Congress, who died Thursday at age 68”

I first met Representative Cummings in Washington during the spring of 2016. I had just moved to the nation’s capital, knowing nothing of the world except what I’d read in books. Cummings was delivering one of his emphatic, pulpit-inspired monologues about the un-American atrocities of the Flint water crisis. I ran him down in the hallway later that day for clarification on some minutiae that would be the news of the day. He answered me gleefully and walked off, only to stroll back to return a question.

“Do you know who I am?” he said.

“I do,” I remember responding.

“Good,” he replied. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t think I was John Lewis!” he laughed and then hurried back down the hallway.

This became a classic story for young, black reporters covering Congress during that time. Cummings introduced himself that way to many of us. He understood the unspoken thing between black members and black writers, that despite our roles, we see each other. That day, Cummings made sure I saw him, and before me stood a giant of American progress, a deity to Baltimore, and an unflinching politician who fought for equality every day until his dying breath.

Sadly, that came Thursday as Cummings died at age 68 in the same place he was born and fought for, his beloved Baltimore. He was a true public servant and a beacon for civil rights. His life was defined by the love of his community and a fierce, unyielding commitment to ensuring that truth wins over power. Any Hill staffer I spoke with on Thursday either fought through tears or kept repeating how “devastating” his death was. As the Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, said in a statement the morning Washington awoke to Cummings’s death, “quite possibly no elected official mattered so much to his constituents.” Cummings was a black man who gave a booming voice to Baltimore’s black population. “He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem,” his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, said.

Cummings was born in Baltimore in 1951, the son of sharecroppers from South Carolina, when America was raging over state-sanctioned racial segregation. He was the progeny of America’s original sin, a child of parents who became beloved as preachers and moved north during the Great Migration to improve the prospects of their kids. At age 11, he was among the first to integrate a city pool, as whites holding signs reading “White People Have Rights Too” pelted him with rocks and bottles, which left a scar on his face for the remainder of his days. He was a man of Howard University, a law student of Maryland, and the first black person in the state’s House of Delegates to be named “speaker pro tem.”

He was sworn into Congress in 1996, with his father crying at the top of the chamber. He was the same on his first day as he would be on his last: staunch shoulders and furrowed brow, a singing cadence but a stern bottom lip. Cheers rang throughout the hall with members yelling, “Speech! Speech! Speech!” as Cummings hugged black members tightly. The applause, carried by C-SPAN, grew raucous. The cheers ebullient. The claps didn’t cease for nearly 90 seconds. It was a beautiful sight. How frequently, in the rooms that slaves built, do we see the black body cherished in such a way?

Related image I feel somewhat disrespectful to Cummings having to cover this story along with paying tribute to him but in some strange way I feel he’d want us all not to stop fighting injustice even today. This is a story of injustice and its source is supposed to be the Constitutional Bearer of Justice for the United States People.

We already have a lot of evidence that Attorney General Barr supports a theocratic imperial presidency in the person of Donald Trump.  His recent actions include opening a criminal investigation into the so-called “origins” of the Mueller probe and the role of Justice Department and National Security in some cooked up conspiracy theory.  He’s also travelling around to our allies asking them to spill dirt on American Diplomats and National Security Employees. This stabs at the very heart of our Democracy and Rule of Law.  First, he obviously buried the Whistle Blower Complaint about the Quid Pro Quo demanded by Trump of the newly elected President of Ukraine.

We continue to discover the absolute level of abuse of power orchestrated by Trump and his Trio of Stooges in the Ukraine to dig dirt up on the Bidens.  Here’s some background information found by BB last night that may elucidate all that’s going on.  I have to admit that I’m always boggled by conspiracy theories that are convoluted and obviously invented.  Here’s some explanation from the blog Just Security: “The Missing Link: Getting Dirt on Biden Was Key Part of “Investigation into 2016 Election” Too.”  We’re in a national snipe hunt to put bandages on Trump’s hurt fee fees over the 2016 election and to ensure his reelection and Barr is leading the chase.

On the same day that Pompeo appeared on the three Sunday news shows, Giuliani was also on Fox News Sunday, where the President’s private attorney laid out his theory of the case.

Giuliani’s (unfounded) conspiracy theory is that Biden removed Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin and approved the new prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko as part of an effort to “frame” Paul Manafort and the Trump Campaign in the 2016 election. Giuliani asserts (without evidence) that the new Prosecutor dropped a case against an organization that had produced information (in coordination with the Democrats and U.S. officials) to taint Manafort. This conspiracy theory fits in with the overall idea that Russia was not behind the 2016 election interference, but instead the real collusion involved Ukrainian and Democratic operatives. It is worth quoting Giuliani’s statement on Fox News in reference to Biden in full:

I went there as a lawyer defending his client. I — I have known about this for five months. I have been trying to get people to cover this for five months. So, I knew it would be very, very hard to get this out.

And what I’m talking about, this, it’s Ukrainian collusion, which was large, significant, and proven with Hillary Clinton, with the Democratic National Committee, a woman named Chalupa, with the ambassador, with an FBI agent who’s now been hired by George Soros who was funding a lot of it.

When Biden got the prosecutor fired, the new prosecutor, who Biden approved — you don’t get to approve a prosecutor in a foreign country, unless something fishy is going on.

The new prosecutor dropped the case, not just on Biden’s kid and the crooked company that Biden’s kid work for, Burisma. That was done as a matter of record in October of 2016, after the guy got tanked.

He also dropped the case on George Soros’ company called AntAC. AntAC is the company where there’s documentary evidence that they were producing false information about Trump, about Biden. Fusion GPS was there.

Go back and listen to Nellie Ohr’s testimony. Nellie Ohr says that there was a lot of contact between Democrats and the Ukraine.

Giuliani had, in fact, been referencing this theory for months. Two days after Biden announced his candidacy to replace Trump as president, Giuliani attempted to call attention to “possible conspiracy(collusion)between DNC and Clinton operatives and Ukrainian officials to set up members of the Trump campaign.”

Related imageThis is an insane conspiracy theory.  It seems to be based in the idea that Biden and Obama were out to create a false flag operation in the Ukraine that would make it  look as though the Russians were helping Trump win in 2016.  This, of course, goes against all FBI and National Security Findings and even the conclusions of a Republican Senate led committee finding.  Fleshing out an insane conspiracy theory is now part of what Barr is doing travelling around the world trying to find dirt on both National Security employees and Employees in the Justice Department including many in the FBI.

This is from CNN and Evan Perez: “Barr’s investigation into origins of Trump-Russia probe is now a criminal investigation“.  This is subjecting both Department of Justice Employees and former employers and National Security Employees former and current to criminal indictment.  Again, it’s based on this insane conspiracy theory that the FBI under Obama as well as the National Security Agencies were out to set up Trump.  How many people must suffer because Trump is outraged that he did not win the presidency outright but under incredible spurious and illegal  circumstances.

Attorney General William Barr’s probe into the intelligence and origins of the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation is now a criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The so-called investigation of the investigators is led by John Durham, a Connecticut-based federal prosecutor, who so far has conducted some interviews but also has run into some obstacles from witnesses who have declined voluntary interviews, CNN reported last week.

The move to make it a criminal inquiry was always anticipated, and it allows Durham to use subpoenas to compel testimony and comes as President Donald Trump faces an onslaught of negative headlines stemming from the House impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine. It’s not clear what, if any, part of the Trump-Russia investigation is a target of Durham’s criminal probe.

The New York Times was first to report on the new stage of the investigation.

The investigation has been driven by Barr’s suspicions that some of the officials overseeing the counterintelligence probe of the 2016 Trump campaign may have acted improperly.

Barr’s embrace of these theories aligns with Trump’s chief grievance that he was the victim of a “deep state” spy operation that has clouded his presidency.

The President has publicly called for investigations of former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, among others.

And in recent weeks the President’s eagerness for the Justice Department to focus on his perceived critics has caused awkward issues for Durham and the department.

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You can read and watch Rachel Maddow explain more.  This will undoubtedly be a worsening situation and in the name of Elijah Cumming, American Rule of Law, the Constitution and the ideals of Justice we need to follow it and figure it out.

You may also read the original research and article at the NYT.  Katie Benner has the first byline and is an amazing investigative reporter.

The move also creates an unusual situation in which the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into itself.

Mr. Barr’s reliance on Mr. Durham, a widely respected and veteran prosecutor who has investigated C.I.A. torture and broken up Mafia rings, could help insulate the attorney general from accusations that he is doing the president’s bidding and putting politics above justice.

It was not clear what potential crime Mr. Durham is investigating, nor when the criminal investigation was prompted. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Mr. Trump is certain to see the criminal investigation as a vindication of the years he and his allies have spent trying to discredit the Russia investigation. In May, Mr. Trump told the Fox News host Sean Hannity that the F.B.I. officials who opened the case — a counterintelligence investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Moscow’s election sabotage — had committed treason.

“We can never allow these treasonous acts to happen to another president,” Mr. Trump said. He has called the F.B.I. investigation one of the biggest political scandals in United States history.

So, I’m going to post this with a lot of questions to follow about this to watch Former President Bill Clinton eulogize Representative Cummings.  You can watch it live here at NBC.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?