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!!

26 Comments on “Haunting Halloween Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    It has been raining here all week and some towns have switched trick or treating to tomorrow night. It’s very spooky-looking outside my windows.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    We had an incredible storm last night/this morning but I’m happy to report all my utilities appear to be functional It’s just really really really cold now. Bone chilling you might say … which reminds me, I love your paintings today!

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    Debbie Downer here and I have been grappling with this question for a couple of days: what happens after the trial and the verdict are over?

    The House will vote too impeach. The Senate, probably not. Again, there must be 67 votes for impeachment and I seriously question they will come through.

    So what happens next? Trump gets another “free pass” to continue breaking rules and defying laws? He gets even richer in the process? He breaks more treaties and continues to kiss up to Putin and the other dictators he so admires? And who is there to stop him?

    Not the GOP if they do not vote too impeach. Much of this is their fault for refusing to rein him in.

    I worry about the aftermath. What comes next?

    • Enheduanna says:

      I’m not qualified to answer you Pat, but I think having the public hearings is very important. It tanked Nixon and it will hurt Dump. Dump will become one of only three? or four POTUS to be impeached – a permanent stain on his administration. Over half of voters polled want him removed as well – so maybe this will also harm some of his GOP senate supporters.

      Also we can’t not do this. He’s a criminal.

    • quixote says:

      Yup. Plus Moscow Mitch just refused to let seven (7!) election security bills get anywhere near the Senate. So we can count on another, even bigger push to steal the next election.

      Now, there’s also still some major and endless money laundering crimes to come out (if the Dems don’t slow walk it all to death), as well as potential info that the hacked Repub emails Putin has but did not release show election tampering by Repubs going back to godknowswhen.

      If Pelosi does have a grand strategy (and isn’t simply doing what she can given the constraints she sees) it’s apparently to bend everything toward the election timetable.

      If that works, then maybe two years from now we’ll be going “yay.”

      If there’s enough of the spirit of the country left to come out of the coma.

      (Debbie Downer? You and me, both.)

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. bostonboomer says:

    I’m not sure what this means, but it seems strange.

    • bostonboomer says:

      • NW Luna says:

        Hmmm. So no change until after the 2020 elections. Wonder why Grassley suddenly wanted Judiciary back?

        • bostonboomer says:

          Maybe he doesn’t like the way Graham has been carrying on. I hope we find out. Grassley should retire.

  8. NW Luna says:

  9. Minkoff Minx says:

    So with tRump officially becoming a “Floridian” …what does this do to his cases in the Southern District of NY? Does this have any impact on the argument of his tax returns? Since technology he will be a resident of a state that no longer has state taxes? Would his lawyers try to use this as another way to stall the handing over of his NY state tax return? By saying, hey, he is no longer a resident of NY… just to waste more time in the courts.

    • quixote says:

      Oh Chrrrriiiist. I can just see more stalling. It’s worked beautifully for him for going on forty years.

      The law seems to have zero defences against due process being used to subvert due process.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t see how it would matter. He was a NY resident when the relevant actions took place. Moving your residence doesn’t change any crimes you may have committed elsewhere. Besides, Trump Org. is in NY, so he’ll still have to pay taxes there.