Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee this morning, but Trump and Pompeo ordered him not to do it.

The New York Times: Witness in Trump-Ukraine Matter Ordered Not to Speak in Impeachment Inquiry.

The Trump administration directed a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine not to appear Tuesday morning for a scheduled interview in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment….

Robert Luskin, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, said in a statement that as a State Department employee, his client had no choice but to comply with the administration’s direction. He said Mr. Sondland had been prepared and happy to testify, and would do so in the future if allowed.

Of course that is simply not true.

Background on Sondland from the Times article.

Mr. Sondland has become enmeshed in the burgeoning scandal into how the president sought to push the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals. Although Ukraine is not in the union, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Sondland — a wealthy hotelier and campaign contributor — to take a lead in relations between the Trump administration and the country. Democrats consider him a key witness to what transpired between the two countries.

Mr. Sondland interacted directly with Mr. Trump, speaking with the president several times around key moments that House Democrats are now investigating, including before and after Mr. Trump’s July call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The president asked Mr. Zelensky on the call to do him “a favor” and investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have committed him to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The diplomats consulted with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the statement, believing they needed pacify him in order to allow the United States to normalize relations with the Ukrainians.

Adam Schiff responded to the Trump administration’s illegal action.

Yesterday Newsweek talked to a member of the National Security Council who heard the call between Trump and Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan after which Trump ordered U.S. troops out of northern Syria: Exclusive: Official Who Heard Call Says Trump Got ‘Rolled’ By Turkey And ‘Has No Spike.’

In a scheduled phone call on Sunday afternoon between President Trump and President Erdogan, Trump said he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria. The phone call was scheduled after Turkey announced it was planning to invade Syria, and hours after Erdogan reinforced his army units at the Syrian-Turkish border and issued his strongest threat to launch a military incursion, according to the National Security Council official to whom Newsweek spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. withdrawal plays into the hands of the Islamic State group, Damascus and Moscow, and the announcement left Trump’s own Defense Department “completely stunned,” said Pentagon officials. Turkey, like the United States, wants regime change in Syria. Russia and Iran support the Assad regime.

“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council source told Newsweek. “The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.” [….]

According to the NSC official, who had first-hand knowledge of the phone call, Trump did not endorse any Turkish military operation against Kurdish Forces, but also did not threaten economic sanctions during the phone call if Turkey decided to undertake offensive operations.

Trump has also invited Erdogan to visit the White House next month.

Here’s a reminder what happened on a previous visit by Erdogan.

Yesterday, Trump threatened Turkey in a tweet that would cause any other person’s family to request a psychiatric evaluation:

Some outlets are reporting that Trump has been walking back the original order. We’ll see….

Meanwhile Turkey isn’t backing down. The Washington Post: Turkey rejects Trump’s threats amid conflicting U.S. signals over Syria offensive.

 Turkey’s vice president said Tuesday that his country would “not react to threats,” as it prepared to mount a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, a day after President Trump warned that he would destroy Turkey’s economy if the offensive did not meet with his approval.

“When it comes to the security of Turkey, as always, our president emphasized Turkey will determine its own path,” the vice president, Fuat Oktay, said in a speech at a university in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to create a “safe zone” in a lengthy swath of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border.

Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested for days that the military operation could begin at any moment. Turkish troop convoys have headed to the border, and local media outlets have published details of what they say is the battle plan. Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote Tuesday on Twitter that all its preparations for the operation were complete.

But there was no sign yet that Turkish troops were moving forward, as the United Nations and aid agencies warned of potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and as the Trump administration delivered confusing signals about how it views Turkey’s plans to attack a Syrian-Kurdish force that partnered with the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State militant group.

A new poll shows that 59 percent of Americans support the impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post: Poll: Majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

A majority of Americans say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, and nearly half of all adults also say the House should take the additional step and recommend that the president be removed from office, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.

The findings indicate that public opinion has shifted quickly against the president and in favor of impeachment proceedings in recent weeks as information has been released about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian government officials to undertake an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 campaign rival, and Biden’s son Hunter.

Previous Post-Schar School or Post-ABC News polls taken at different points throughout this year found majorities of Americans opposing the start of an impeachment proceeding, with 37 percent to 41 percent saying they favored such a step. The recent revelations appear to have prompted many Americans to rethink their position.

The poll finds that, by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent, Americans say the House was correct to undertake the inquiry. Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical.

Read more at the WaPo.

Vanity Fair has a long piece on Bill Barr’s past history. Author Marie Brenner suggests that Barr’s relationship with his father could provide clues to Barr’s alignment with Trump: “I Had No Problem Being Poltically Different”: Young William Barr Among the Manhattan Liberals. A brief excerpt:

Who, then, is the real William Barr? I wanted to investigate that question through the prism of his growing up as a young conservative in the intellectually demanding and socially cosseted world of New York private schools—ironically, the same schools that educated Cohn. I wanted to understand how he might have been affected in the 1970s by the public scandal that consumed his father, Donald Barr, then the headmaster of the tony Dalton School and a respected voice in academics, on the right-wing opinion pages, and at the center of America’s calamitous culture wars.

Donny Montana: October 6, 2019

William Barr’s origin story is, in fact, a parable of how family, education, protest, and principle served to shape the era—and shape a young man who would become America’s chief law enforcement officer. At the same time, it is also a narrative about how a charismatic, domineering, and doctrinaire figure named Donald might have helped define the contours of his son’s formative years….

In the 1967 Horace Mann yearbook, Barr had already been tagged with his future persona: “a staunch conservative on political issues,” a master of “facial contortions,” and a brilliant mimic of his Catholic school priests. Often, he rode the subway home with another classmate, Barry Scheck, who would become an attorney and eventually cofound the Innocence Project, using DNA evidence to free wrongly convicted prisoners. “We would argue all the way down from school and all the way back,” Scheck said.

Barr and his three brothers revered their father, spending countless hours at the dinner table discussing philosophy, politics, and the issues of the day. Before attending Horace Mann, all four siblings had gone to Corpus Christi, a nearby parochial school where he was in class with many Irish, Hispanic, and black students. William Barr was the privileged son of an intellectual. In first grade, he made a speech in class supporting Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. At age eight, Barr told his parents that he wanted to learn to play the bagpipes. His father not only encouraged him but located a former Scottish pipes major in the British army and for years personally escorted his son up to 168th Street for Tuesday-night classes. At one point, the young Barr even declared to his Horace Mann adviser that when he grew up, he wanted to become head of the CIA.

Horace Mann was another environment entirely: completely secular, with a large Jewish contingent. A few who knew the Barr boys came to call them “the bully Barrs”; the siblings, these former classmates claimed, could be intimidating. The fact that his father was born Jewish was not a factor in Bill Barr’s upbringing. While he knew he had Jewish relatives, he never discussed the specifics with his father. “He had become more Catholic than the Catholics,” he said to those who asked.

The school was an enclave of conservative privilege that had educated New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, historian Robert A. Caro, and Si Newhouse Jr., the late owner of Condé Nast (the parent company of Vanity Fair). The head of the history department, Alfred Briggs, lectured on the evils of communism and Red China, and lavished praise on Horace Mann’s most notorious graduate, Roy Cohn. “We need more Roy Cohns in the world,” Briggs frequently said. “Roy was my best student of all time.”

I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I plan to do it as soon as this post goes up.

One more by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: Opinion: Do Barr, Pompeo and Giuliani share a death wish?

Atty. Gen. William Barr, who is deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, doesn’t care about his place in history. “I’m at the end of my career,” he told Jan Crawford of CBS in March. “Everyone dies.”

Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s fixer, who is even more deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, is likewise indifferent. “I don’t care about my legacy,” he told the New Yorker last month. “I’ll be dead.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 55, who is especially embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, also has his eye on an End Times cleansing. “It is a never-ending struggle,” he told a Kansas church group, describing his work for the president. “Until the Rapture.”

Poets have envisioned death in thousands of ways. Clouds, worms, reunions, virgins and more. But Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo — each in the midst of a distinct moral crisis — may have a new one. Death as sweet, sweet liberation from congressional oversight.

Let me propose an epitaph, suitable for any of these men when the time comes: “He’s gone where subpoenas can lacerate his heart no more.”

But if these men are counting on death to end their sea of troubles, the House doesn’t intend to give them that chance. With every letter or subpoena, Congress is demanding that these men stop daydreaming about oblivion or ecstatic union with Jesus and do what’s right in the here and now.

Read the rest at the link.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


49 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

    WaPo: Trump’s 2016 campaign was run on a shoestring. His reelection machine is huge — and armed with consultants.

    Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015 had no pollster, rapid-response team or fundraiser. A bare-bones staff fueled by pizza and energy drinks toiled in a makeshift office at Trump Tower. His opponents vastly outspent him — and lost.

    But as president, Trump’s campaign machine has dramatically escalated, powered by a historically large war chest of donations large and small that has given him a head start over the eventual Democratic nominee.

    At this point in the last election, Trump’s campaign employed 19 consultants. Now, there are more than 200. When Trump had all but locked up the nomination by May 2016, he had spent $63 million. Thus far, pro-Trump committees have spent $531 million.

    Trump’s overflowing coffers have allowed him to spend lavishly early in the race. For instance, the committees recently launched $10 million ad offense targeting Democrats, including former vice president Joe Biden.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. roofingbird says:

    I’ve been getting drumf ads on free tv and youtube all month. Certainly not much evidence of concern for the seventh generation in the “‘l’ll be dead position”. Just screw around with folks, confess your sins and wait for the rapture.

    • Enheduanna says:

      These men obviously could care less about their families – who, whether they deserve it or not, will be associated with their legacies.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Warren’s position surprises me. I listened to that short video clip, and she seemed to be saying pull the troops because US troops should not stay there indefinitely. She didn’t say anything about the Kurds and the effect of this sudden turnaround is US actions, or Ergodan’s aggressiveness. Maybe she did say more but they cut the video early. I think she should have first spoken out about the Kurds and the US’s position with allies, and about Trump’s instability in foreign policy.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to find out more about it.

      UPDATE:

      I apologize. The CNN video I posted on Warren was old. I saw it on Twitter and people were talking about it, so I thought it was new. I agree with Warren on getting troops out of these endless wars, but I do think she needs to articulate some specifics about her position.

      I’m so sorry about doing this. I hope you’ll agree it’s not like me to be fooled like this. I decided to remove the video from the post.

    • dakinikat says:

      I watched it a few times and was confused because there was this part where it referred to her forming a exploratory committee. I played it like three times and BB called me on the third to say what she says below. Glad she did. I was thinking I’ve really missed something here because it really doesn’t seem timed for what happened over the weekend but kept thinking i must be missing something.

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      I read that article on Warren having been approved for a second year of teaching and then submitting her resignation two months later. It’s bullshit because the school board may not have known she was pregnant when they re-upped her and then fired her when they found out.

      Warren did tell a different story earlier, so she can address that at the debate. They’ll probably ask her, because NPR reported it this morning. The media is going to harp on and find fault with every woman candidate.

      • bostonboomer says:

      • NW Luna says:

        Yep. And women can get forced out without being actually fired.

      • NW Luna says:

      • NW Luna says:

      • dakinikat says:

        My experience: 1975. I got married. My boss automatically changed my name to my husband’s and sent it off to social security where I got a new card. I lost all my credit cards because I had credit but he didn’t. 1978. I went to a interview for a teaching job. First question out of the mouth of the dude, I noticed your married, last one I hired got pregnant immediately and I don’t want to have to deal with that all over again. What are your plans? I said I have no plans for having kids at all atm. Never got called back.

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. NW Luna says:

    Apparently China has higher ethics than Trump in this instance. Or they just flipped him off. Trump will be furious. Hah!

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  13. quixote says:

    I guess we were all predicting that Agent Orange would start a war when he was close to being caught. But, fergawdsake, did it also have to betray an ally?

    Even the crappiest gangsters don’t do shit like that.

  14. bostonboomer says:

    Tommy Christopher has posted some historical information about Elizabeth Warren’s attitudes when she was still a Republican. The arguments she made then are consistent with her expressed beliefs today. Very interesting and helpful.

    She was in favor of school desegregation and critical of SCOTUS “retreat” on the issue; and she spoke to the Federalist Society in 1991 arguing against setting limits on bankruptcy protections. Of course that has always been her signature issue. I still don’t understand why she voted for Reagan, but she is still head and shoulders above Biden on both of these issues.

    • NW Luna says:

      Republicans used to be fairly sane. Way back when they were about the same as moderate Dems today.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      I listened to her speech. I did not listened to the guy that followed. But all I got from it was that she really KNOWS how this stuff works and I wish she were in charge.

      Have I missed something?

  15. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I do not understand why lesbian and gay rights are always lumped in with transgender rights. They are quite different. I’m worried that SCOTUS will conflate gender with sex. So many people and institutions already do now.

      Gender refers to socially accepted ideas of masculinity and femininity — not sexual/biological characteristics. BTW, someone’s sex is observed, not assigned. I’m baffled at people thinking gender “identity” entitles them to invade the space of another sex. And it’s seems to be always women’s space and women’s sports which are invaded. People can dress however they want; that doesn’t bother me.

      IMO anything a man does is masculine, and anything a woman does is feminine. And there’s tremendous overlap between the two. The idea of gender “nonconformance” simply reinforces social definitions of how men and women are supposed to behave.

      • dakinikat says:

        I have no idea. I think it’s the entire thing with the republicans where their pet interpretation of christianity is taken for truth and science s considered not tested. When some one can explain to me why they believe in a sky fairy that never shows up and lets chaos and death rule the world over simple scientific explanations other than some kind of addiction to brain farts I’m ready to listen.

      • quixote says:

        Indeed. They all have something to do with sexuality, so being good Victorians, let’s lump them all together. But lesbian, gay, and straight are about sex. Whereas the whole point of trans is about gender.

        And we can — and should — all have the same civil rights, but some trans ideology goes way beyond that. It’s mainly lesbians (of course?) who get picked on, but they’re supposed to be attracted to trans-identified males because the latter *feel* they’re women. Through the looking glass stuff, and about as anti-gay as any fundie conversion therapy fanatic.

        Like dak says, whether it’s belief in a sky fairy or a gender fairy, forcing fantasy social constructs onto other people never ends well.

  16. dakinikat says:

  17. NW Luna says:

    I want to cry over this. Just another case of destruction by man.

  18. NW Luna says:

    This stinks to high heaven.