Tuesday Reads: Democratic Debate and Trump’s Troubles

David Hockney, Woldgate Woods, 2008

Good Morning!!

The latest Democratic debate airs on CNN tonight at 8PM. You can read about what to expect in this piece at Vox.

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I have to admit that I’m far from enthused about watching it, although I’ll try to give it a chance. I’m sick of the irrelevant candidates like Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Tom Steyer; and as for the top three–Biden, Warren, and Sanders–I still believe they are too old for the job.

If we are going to have a septuagenarian president, I would rather have it be Hillary. I guess I have to face the fact that I’ll never be as excited about a candidate as I was about her.

Another issue with tonight’s debate is the Biden campaign’s decision to allow Hunter Biden to participate in an ABC News interview today.

From The Daily Beast: Biden’s Rivals Are Utterly Perplexed at the Timing of Hunter’s Interview.

After months of staying silent amid an avalanche of attacks by President Trump and his team, Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president, made his first public comments in an interview Tuesday morning just about 12 hours before his father takes the debate stage Tuesday night.

Wassily Kandinsky, Autumn in Murnau, 1908

For the majority of the Democrats running for president, and even one notable surrogate to Joe Biden himself, there is a sense of confusion as to why Hunter is choosing now to finally speak up about the extent of his business ties in Ukraine and China.

“I wouldn’t have put Hunter on the air,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a top surrogate for Biden, told The Daily Beast. “I think the more you respond, the more you’re playing into Donald Trump.” [….]

For Team Biden, Hunter’s Biden’s interview, which aired on ABC News’ Good Morning America, was an opportunity to clear the air and turn the attention back to the widespread corruption running rampant in the Trump White House. It also gave the younger Biden a chance to present facts in his own words to counter Trump’s misinformation campaign.

In the interview, he admitted that he had shown “poor judgment” in taking the job with a Ukrainian natural gas company but insisted that he had done nothing unethical.

Does anyone believe that the debate moderators will ignore all this and focus on Donald Trump and his children’s blatant self-dealing? I don’t.

Meanwhile, Trump is burning down the post-WWII world order. That should be the subject of tonight’s debate, not Hunter Biden.

Edward Hopper, October on Cape Cod

Fred Kaplan at Slate: Trump’s Worst Betrayal Yet.

President Trump didn’t make a “mistake” in pulling troops out of northeastern Syria last week, as many have charged. It’s what he has long wanted to do. The mistake was not understanding—and, more to the point, not caring about—the consequences.

Trump’s fateful phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6, giving him the green light to cross the Syrian border and crush the Kurds without U.S. resistance, did more than any single act has ever done to demolish the post-WWII global order and isolate America from the rest of the world. This, again, has been Trump’s goal since he entered the White House.

Until recently, one or more of his advisers—Jim Mattis, H.R.
McMaster, John Bolton, or Gen. Joseph Dunford—obstructed or dissuaded him from withdrawing. Now all of those advisers are gone, and their replacements lack either the clout or the gumption to push back.

Trump may believe that he’s doing the right thing, that abandoning the rest of the world’s problems will “make America great again.” He doesn’t realize that America’s might and wealth depend, in large measure, on the cooperation it receives from others—either offered or coerced—in pursuing its interests around the world.

He is also blind to the fact—or loath to admit—that he, in fact, is not getting out of the world. On Friday, days after abandoning the Kurdish allies to the Turks (and consequently, all of Syria to Bashar al-Assad and the Russians), Trump announced that he was sending 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia. But to Trump’s mind, there was a big difference in this deployment.
“Saudi Arabia, at my request, has agreed to pay us for everything we are doing to help them,” he told reporters. “That’s a first. We appreciate that.”

Georgia O’Kefee, Autumn Leaves, 1924

To Trump, the U.S. military is nothing more than a mercenary force to be rented out to the highest bidder.

It was as if sending American troops abroad doesn’t count as a commitment if taxpayers don’t have to pay for it. It was as if Trump were telling the world that the U.S. military is now a mercenary force. It was a message to any country currently hosting American troops at least in part at our largesse—because, say, previous presidents have considered it in U.S.
interests to keep troops there—that they should start rethinking their options for how to stay secure

Trump has made a practice of abrogating treaties, filching on commitments, and alienating allies, but, more than any single act, the betrayal of the Kurds should tell everyone that—as long as Trump is president and, who knows, perhaps beyond—there is no reason to trust the United States on anything.

I hope you’ll go read the rest at Slate.

From Axios, here’s a quote from deep thinker Trump on abandoning the Kurds:

“Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte.” read one of the president’s tweets. “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

He doesn’t seem at all concerned about getting U.S. troops out of Syria safely or getting our nukes out of Turkey.

Trump even tried to blame the Kurds for the release of Islamic State prisoners. From The Week:

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark Monday morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump’s suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — an opening to invade.

Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest I, 1902

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are being deliberately released, but it’s actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups and was once recruited by the CIA to aid the U.S. in its fight against ISIS — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. The Free Syrian Army has also been accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing unarmed civilians.

As for the Kurds, one U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump’s theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces. “That has enraged our forces in Syria,” another senior U.S. administration official said. “Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly reckless and dishonest thing to say.”

Yesterday, Trump’s former Russia and Ukraine adviser Fiona Hill testified at the Impeachment hearings. Here’s the latest on that.

The Washington Post: Trump’s ex-Russia adviser told impeachment investigators of Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.

Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, told impeachment investigators on Monday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump, according to people familiar with her testimony.

Hill, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, was the latest witness in a fast-moving impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president abused his office by using the promise of military aid and diplomatic support to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

Henri Rousseau, Eiffel Tower at Sunset, 1910

In a closed-door session that lasted roughly 10 hours, Hill told lawmakers that she confronted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about Giuliani’s activities which, she testified, were not coordinated with the officials responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to disclose details of her deposition.

Sondland played a leading role in the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to open investigations of the president’s political rivals, text messages obtained and later released by House Democrats show. Three congressional committees are now probing how Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election in an attempt to damage Trump’s candidacy.

Sondland plans to testify on Thursday and the Committees are now talking about questioning John Bolton.

The New York Times: Bolton Objected to Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Calling Giuliani ‘a Hand Grenade.’

The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.

Paul Gauguin, Landscape in Arles near the Alyscamps, 1888

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)

Read the rest at the NYT.

Finally, The Daily Beast reports that Trump Suspects a Spiteful John Bolton Is Behind Some of the Ukraine Leaks.

In recent weeks, numerous leaks have appeared in the pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other major papers and news outlets detailing the president’s attempts to enlist foreign leaders to help dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and also aid Trump’s quest to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s concluded investigation. And as is his MO, the media-obsessed president has been fixated on not just the identity of the whistleblower behind the internal complaint that brought this scandal to the fore, but also on who, exactly, has been namelessly feeding intel to the press.

In the course of casual conversations with advisers and friends, President Trump has privately raised suspicions that a spiteful John Bolton, his notoriously hawkish former national security adviser, could be one of the sources behind the flood of leaks against him, three people familiar with the comments said. At one point, one of those sources recalled, Trump guessed that Bolton was behind one of the anonymous accounts that listed the former national security adviser as one of the top officials most disturbed by the Ukraine-related efforts of Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney who remains at the center of activities that spurred the impeachment inquiry.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


34 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Democratic Debate and Trump’s Troubles”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    More from the NYT story quoted in the post on next steps in the impeachment inquiry:

    House Democrats widened their net in the fast-paced inquiry by summoning Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who abruptly resigned last week, to testify Wednesday.

    Career diplomats have expressed outrage at the unceremonious removal of Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch from Ukraine after she came under attack by Mr. Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and two associates who have since been arrested on charges of campaign violations.

    The interviews indicated that House Democrats were proceeding full tilt with their inquiry despite the administration’s declaration last week that it would refuse to cooperate with what it called an invalid and unconstitutional impeachment effort.

    Three other administration officials were scheduled to talk with investigators this week despite the White House statement. Mr. Sondland, who backed out of testifying at the last minute last week on orders of the State Department, is now set to appear on Thursday.

    George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state who deals with the region, is scheduled to testify on Tuesday. And the committee on Monday set an interview for Friday with Laura K. Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia policy.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

    omg! I just want to dive into that first painting! It’s bee like nearly 15 years since I’ve seen an actual fall with all those colors! I didn’t realize how much I missed it! The last time I saw one like that was on my 40th birthday up in the Smoky Mountains.

    • NW Luna says:

      Beautiful colors in that one too. My favorites are the Gauguin and Kandinsky paintings.

    • palhart says:

      Now is the time, mid-October, to join thousands who flock to the Great Smoky Mountains to see the leaves change colors from greens to golden yellow, bright yellow, and red. It’s a sight to behold!

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    Where is our Barry Goldwater?

    Why has no one from the GOP leadership marched up to the Oval Office and tell Trump that it is time to go?

    Surely they can recognize the danger that this man promotes across the globe. What is happening in Syria right now will definitely spill over into other European countries as ISIS makes a comeback and possible those nuclear weapons will be put to use.

    Our role in the world is being diminished by the hour since this monster took office. Alliances have been crushed. Treaties torn up. Boundaries dismissed. Dictators embraced. The environment alone is slowly being poisoned but those who can curb this behavior refuse to do so.

    We have never, even in wartime, seen anything as openly criminal as what is happening today. We are at the mercy of foreign adversaries because of Trump. Either for his business reasons or because he is too stupid to think beyond the moment, this country is suffering. He has no idea of what he is doing economically, diplomatically, or militarily.

    I hold the entire Republican Party and Fox News completely guilty for allowing this tragedy of leadership to happen and continue.

    We no longer can say that we are better than this. We are not. It is beyond shameful.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Unless we show up next year in good enough numbers – this country will keep barrelling down the path to oligarchy – just like Russia. We’re probably already closer to that than we think. One of our two major parties is thoroughly corrupt (and not a few Dems too I’m sure) – and our corporate overlords have had us in a vise for decades.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Reading a headline with John Bolton (My Atom Bomb) calling some one a hand grenade is jolting. It’s a weird world when he might turn out to be one of the good guys in getting rid of these mobsters and the orange snot blob

  6. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      “Respectfully”? He’s thrashing on the floor screaming and kicking his heels. I cannot imagine Trump acting respectively to anyone except his puppetmaster.

      Also, he believes his 2 hand-picked judges on SCOTUS will do as they’re told, so he gets a majority in his favor. If SCOTUS rules in his favor, America is gone.

  7. dakinikat says:

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  10. Virginia says:

    Love the topics,thoughtful insights,references, links and art themes woven through your message. My third (?) visit.

  11. NW Luna says:

    Well, yet another present for Vlad.

  12. NW Luna says:

    I don’t think Hunter Biden speaking on Ukraine is a good idea now. He’ll just get jumped on by the GOP and his words twisted out of proportion. It’s similar to when Elizabeth Warren said publicly that she did take a DNA test and has a bit of American Indian in her genetic background. That was misinterpreted (even by me until I was set right by quixote) and blown out of proportion.

  13. dakinikat says:

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  15. dakinikat says:

    DOJ has still not answered question about Firtash extradition, says senator’s office
    A U.S. senator’s office says after 18 months it has no answer from the DOJ about why an oligarch linked to Paul Manafort hasn’t been extradited to the U.S.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/doj-has-still-not-answered-question-about-firtash-extradition-says-n1066521?fbclid=IwAR1L3qFwUnAA87HuWdcv-IAHmyeEX5K37P7JrVm-kCAT7CHqqWEGmX_etvg

    On June 25, Austria approved the extradition of Firtash, who has been living in Vienna since his 2014 arrest, but Firtash has asked that the case be reopened.

    Sen. Wicker sent a letter to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2018 asking about the status of Firtash’s extradition. NBC News exclusively obtained that letter through Freedom of Information Act litigation with the Justice Department.

    Wicker alleged in the letter that Firtash, who has also been linked to Russian organized crime, had made “hundreds of millions” in “illicit profits” while fighting extradition to the U.S.

    “This corruption undermines Ukrainian reform efforts that the United States strongly supports,” Wicker wrote to Sessions. He asked Sessions about the status of Firtash’s extradition case.

    Firtash was indicted in 2014 for what federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois allege was his role in bribing Indian officials in order to get a lucrative mining deal to sell titanium to Boeing. He was arrested in Vienna in March 2014, released on $174 million bail, and has been contesting his extradition to the U.S. ever since.

    Federal prosecutors said in a 2017 filing that Firtash and his co-defendant in the alleged scheme, Andras Knopp, “have been identified by United States law enforcement as two upper-echelon associates of Russian organized crime.”

  16. dakinikat says: