Thursday Reads: The Walls Are Closing In

Edvard Munch, Cabbage Field, 1915

Good Afternoon!!

Another psychiatrist’s tweets on Trump’s ailing brain caught the attention of Newsweek’s Shane Croucher: Trump’s “Mental Impairment Means He Cannot Think Strategically or in Abstract Terms,” Claims Professor of psychiatry.

“Trump has no policy on any issue because his mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms,” tweeted John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center.

“He cannot weigh options, assess risk, or foresee consequences. Concepts like fairness, justice, honor, and integrity quite literally do not register. You can see this in every interview or press encounter. He never states an abstract thought or idea.

Man in a cabbage field, 1916, Edvard Munch

“Instead he falls back on simple adjectives: disgraceful, horrible, low-intelligence, perfect, innocent, nasty, stupid, fake, etc. He’s driven by negative emotion, often paranoid and often insulting, vulgar, vitriolic.”

Talmadge wrote that Trump expresses positivity in a “shallow tone” using “childish adjectives” and is non-specific when discussing plans or projects.

“The meaning of this is clear. Trump does not have a vision or a plan, because he can think only in concrete, elementary, childlike, one dimensional terms. He does not process an abstract idea like American forces stabilizing a multilateral conflict with geopolitical implications,” Talmadge wrote.

“This Trumpian brain failure is hard for normal people to understand because for normal people, abstract thought is natural, baked in, largely unnoticed. Normal people see the consequences, assess risk, make rational decisions most of the time.

“What is true today is that Trump is not normal, Trump is mentally impaired, Trump cannot think normally, and Trump is dangerous. When he is removed from office he literally will not understand what happened. He will have to make up a story, tell lies, and rant about Hillary’s DNC server.”

I’ve been following Talmadge for awhile. He refers to Trump’s cognitive deficit as “presidementia.”

Trump tweeted this morning that he was joking, but he clearly wasn’t and what he said wasn’t the least bit humorous.

What an embarrassment he is! He just opens his deformed mouth and spews out whatever his brain coughs up in the moment. And the idiots in the audience actually cheered his nonsense. This is our reality now.

To defend their cognitively impaired “president,” Republicans, led by drunk driver Matt Gaetz, staged a moronic “protest” of what they claimed are “secret” impeachment depositions that large numbers of GOP members are free to–and do–attend. One of those GOP attendees is Mike Pence’s brother! Buzzfeed:

As dozens of House members in charge of the impeachment investigations sit in on closed-door depositions about Ukraine, at least one person in the room has unusually close ties to President Donald Trump’s administration — Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Rep. Greg Pence.

Edvard Munch, Landscape with train smoke

The first-term member of Congress sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of three House committees leading the impeachment investigation (along with the House Intelligence and Oversight committees). He was assigned to the committee earlier this year by members of the Republican House Steering and Policy committees, long before the impeachment inquiry began.

Pence has had access to all the closed-door testimonies of officials speaking on Trump’s actions, US–Ukraine relations, and the controversial phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, which sparked the official impeachment investigation.

Oopsie! This morning on Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano explained the morning idiots how Congressional investigations work. Trump will be furious!

Republicans keep complaining about the impeachment process, but they shy away from trying to defend Trump on the content of the testimony because, as the NYT editorial board writes, what Trump did in the Ukraine scandal is impossible to defend. The most damaging testimony so far has come from Ambassador Bill Taylor, a career diplomat and public servant who refused to be sucked into Trump’s conspiracy with the three amigos, Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Rick Perry.

From Robert Makey at The Intercept: Trump Pressed Ukraine’s President to Act Out a Fake News Script, Live on CNN.

Before agreeing to release nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine, President Donald Trump extorted a promise from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to appear on American television and act out a script prepared for him by Trump’s aides, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.

The Road to Borre, 1905, Edvard Munch

The scene a desperate Zelensky finally agreed to perform would have been the very definition of fake news: a dramatic announcement by the Ukrainian president, during a CNN interview, that he was opening criminal investigations on Joe Biden’s family and other Democrats.

The plot, which would have duped American voters into believing that there was some substance to a debunked conspiracy theory about Biden’s work in Ukraine as vice president, came very close to working.

Taylor testified that:

until early September, Zelensky and his aides had resisted pressure from Trump to help him smear Biden. Zelensky was supposed to do this by investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company the former vice president’s son Hunter was once paid to advise, as well as claims that Ukrainian officials had revealed evidence of financial crimes by Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2016 to help elect Hillary Clinton.

But once the Ukrainians became aware that the much-needed security assistance Trump had personally held up might never be delivered, Zelensky, who was an actor and comedian before entering politics this year, agreed to play his part in a ruse intended to lend credibility to baseless conspiracy theories about Biden and other Democrats.

Landscape Near Skøyen, Edvard Munch

By the first week of September, Taylor said, the “favor” Trump had alluded to in vague terms in a July phone call with Zelensky had become a very specific demand: Ukraine’s president, a former actor, would be required to deliver lines on CNN prepared for him by two American diplomats acting on orders from Trump and his shadow secretary of state, Rudy Giuliani.

Text messages released earlier this month between those two diplomats — Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — show that they drafted language for Zelensky’s statement in August to send to the Ukrainian president’s close friend and personal aide, Andrey Yermak.

Head over to The Intercept to read the rest.

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: “The Walls Are Closing In”: Bill Taylor’s Testimony Puts Trump’s Impeachment In Overdrive.

In this story, Ukraine is an object,” Taylor told lawmakers in his opening statement Tuesday.

Over the course of more than nine hours, he meticulously outlined Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly announcing investigations into Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, and an unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukraine framed Russia for election meddling in 2016. And Taylor confirmed that the White House made these investigations a precondition for the release of nearly $400 million in military aid to help Ukraine counter an ongoing Russian invasion—the quid pro quo Trump and his allies have been denying since the story broke.

“This was a game changer,” a senior Democratic congressional aide told me. “Ambassador Taylor looks like he’ll end up being the star witness for the prosecution in this impeachment trial of a mob boss president. He not only exposed the full scope of corruption in the White House, but he left no doubt that President Trump was deliberately extorting a foreign country to try and get them to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. The president has to know the walls are closing in.”

Another landscape with train smoke by Edvard Munch, 1900

Trump and his lackeys are attacking Taylor as “a radical,” but that won’t hold water.

Taylor, who was appointed ambassador to Ukraine by Republican President George W. Bush, kept meticulous, contemporaneous notes of his interactions with Sondland and other Trump officials as the Ukraine scandal came into focus. “He wrote it all down: This is what happened, this is what I was thinking at the time, and this is what happened next,” said a former high-ranking State Department official who knows Taylor well. “That is part of the whole deal; it is part of the job to have notes on every conversation.”

A highly credible witness, in other words. And hardly the “radical” bureaucrat that Trump officials are trying to claim. “He does have a reputation for being a very straight-up decent guy,” a second former high-ranking State Department official told me. “You can take his words seriously. He’s not prone to dramatics or exaggeration.”

Trump has led a war against long-term, non-political employees of the CIA, FBI, DOJ, and State Department beginning before his election, and now those anonymous federal employees are getting their revenge.

The New York Times: Trump’s War on the ‘Deep State’ Turns Against Him.

Nameless, faceless and voiceless, the C.I.A. officer who first triggered the greatest threat to President Trump’s tenure in office seemed to be practically the embodiment of the “deep state” that the president has long accused of trying to take him down.

But over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present, who have defied a White House attempt to block cooperation with House impeachment investigators and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower.

Landscape By Travemünde, Edvard Munch

The parade of witnesses marching to Capitol Hill culminated this week with the dramatic testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., a military officer and diplomat who has served his country for 50 years. Undaunted by White House pressure, he came forward to accuse the same president who sent him to Ukraine a few months ago of abusing his power to advance his own political interests.

The House impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to force Ukraine to investigate Democrats is the climax of a 33-month scorched-earth struggle between a president with no record of public service and the government he inherited but never trusted. If Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, it will be in part because of some of the same career professionals he has derided as “absolute scum” or compared to Nazis.

“With all the denigration and disparagement and diminishment, I think you are seeing some payback here, not by design but by opportunity,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat from Washington’s Virginia suburbs who represents many federal employees. “It’s almost karmic justice. All of a sudden, there’s an opportunity for people who know things to speak out, speak up, testify about and against — and they’re doing so.”

Read the rest at the NYT, even though they should have at least put quotes around the term “deep state” in the story.

And soon–probably in November–the impeachment hearings will go public. The Washington Post reports:

House Democrats are preparing to move their largely private impeachment inquiry onto a more public stage as soon as mid-November and are already grappling with how best to present the complex Ukraine saga to the American people….

Moonlight, Edvard Munch

Among the witnesses Democrats hope to question in open session are the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., and his predecessor, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Both are seasoned diplomats who, in earlier House testimony, effectively conveyed outrage over a White House plan to withhold much-needed military aid from Ukraine, a long-standing ally battling pro-Russian separatists….

Another top priority for many Democrats is John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who made known around the White House his visceral opposition to the campaign to pressure Zelensky, a campaign directed in part by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Testimony from Bolton could be particularly devastating for the White House, though it was unclear whether Democrats would subpoena him or when. After Bolton resigned last month, he told The Washington Post that he would “have my say in due course.”’

Democrats have long been expected to shift to public hearings, which offer the opportunity to build the case against Trump while also building support among American voters.

Click on the WaPo link to read the rest.

Who knows what horrors today will bring? What are you reading and what are you doing for self-care? I’m still mostly escaping into books, but looking at paintings helps a lot too. Yesterday I explored landscapes by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.


20 Comments on “Thursday Reads: The Walls Are Closing In”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. MarkmBha says:

    Another fine article, BostonBoomer.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Whoa … That Taylor Testimony … a scripted performance on CNN? I didn’t see that last night!

    The paintings are beautiful. Watercolor landscapes are my thing. I have quite a few from me and and actually few I brought back from England when I was there in 1982 by David Cox who actually is a well known artist but not pricey like those must be … love the road … it’s so colorful!

    And Presidementia! Yes! I follow him but again, been so distracted by craziness here I must’ve missed that.

    This must’ve been difficult to write. So much craziness! xoxo

  4. Enheduanna says:

    BB thanks for the article – agree with everyone it’s packed with news (Pence’s brother?? holy cow). Wonder if he’ll vote to impeach so Mike can be POTUS for five minutes.

    Can’t wait to see Taylor and Yovanovitch on teevee. Also interesting if they’ll get Bolton to testify.

    Gorgeous paintings! I also love watercolors, Dak and The Road to Borre is my favorite too.

    Is it Friday yet?

    • bostonboomer says:

      I like the cabbages.

      • NW Luna says:

        Love the colors in these Munch paintings! Thank you; I’ve not explored his oeuvre but this inspires me to look up more. The evergreens in The Road to Borre look rather Emily Carr-ish, though she used more definition. But that general style (not the right words but I’m not familiar with the right painting-technique descriptions) was somewhat common in paintings in the early decades of the 1900s.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Add Biden to the list of the Gabbard defenders, not that anyone here was going to vote for him in the primary.

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. NW Luna says: