Impeachment Monday: Live Blog on Impeachment Hearings in the Judiciary

Image result for georgia okeeffe leaves

Red And Brown Leaves Autumn Leaves 1925 Artist: Georgia O’Keeffe

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

So, I’m here with the TV blaring the Impeachment hearings and cup of coffee when I finally see the credentials of the majority Republican on the Judiciary Committee. There’s a reason that every time he speaks up that he seems like the Grand Inquisitor in service to the Evil King.  I rather made the false assumption that most of the folks on that committee are well-qualified lawyers because, well judiciary committee.

The Chief Inquisitor for the Republicans–Representative Doug Collins from Georgia–is that most horrid of people, a southern bible banging snake handler!.  He went to a Baptist seminary before trotting his ass off to a buy a law degree from a private, for profit Law Degree Mill in Atlanta.  It took this silly little school until 2005 for the ABA to actually recognize it as something maybe more than a paper mill.

Collin’s has a habit of peddling in toxic things.  He even spent time as a  salesman  selling hazardous material safety products to Georgia’s state and local governments. He’s also co-owner of a Scrapbook Store with his wife.  Wow!  That’s certainly some credentials to spend your days trying to figure out what’s constitutional and what’s not.  No wonder he can’t espouse the most simple concept of US America Law.

We’ve already had several mentions of the walking example of Trumpist Corruption, America’s Black Mailer, Rudy Guiliani.  Guilliani is no fool unlike Collins who opens his mouth to prove it daily. Rudy knows what he’s doing as outlined in this article from The Atlantic and Franklin Foer.  Just as Collins is the Grand Inquisitor putting blind faith before the rule of law, Rudy Guilliani is the ultimate fixer who once worked on the right side of the rule of law.

In the pages of Adam Schiff’s impeachment report, however, an entirely different character emerges. That Giuliani is a savvy operator who rolls his bureaucratic opponents with ruthlessness and ease. He is the master of what Ambassador William Taylor branded the “irregular channel,” which appears to have been a very profitable piece of turf. Giuliani’s unofficial perch in the Trump administration seems to be the basis for a booming business. Butt-dials aside, he should be regarded as one of the most outrageously effective influence peddlers of all time.

To understand the practice Giuliani has built, it’s useful to compare his trajectory with that of Paul Manafort. Both men offered their services to Trump for free, which they likely understood would ingratiate themselves with the mogul, who notoriously hates paying contractors. And they seem to have shared a theory of how Trump could be monetized. After establishing their proximity to the president, they likely understood that the perception of incomparable access would have magnetic appeal to foreign clients. When Manafort landed in jail, Giuliani had no rival for the title of the ultimate fixer in Trump’s Washington.

Giuliani has specialized in the growth market of kleptocrats hoping to avoid jail. He has represented a Romanian real-estate magnate imprisoned for a shady land deal, and a Turkish gold trader accused of funneling money to Iran. Then there’s his mystery client suspected of foreign bribery, whose case he discussed with the head of the Department of Justice’s criminal division. Giuliani described this client to The New York Times as “very, very sensitive.” These clients seem to hire Giuliani not for his courtroom skills or strategic acumen, but in the hopes that his prestige and bureaucratic skill can rescue them from prosecution.

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Georgia O’Keeffe Fall Maple Leaves, 1925

Both Guiliani and AG Barr work to defend Trump using their deep experience and understanding of US Law to further the corruption of the President and to support their own interests and ideologies.  This is from Politico today by Natasha Bertrand and .Darren Samuelson.  Trump’s behavior during the election season with the Russians and his continued courting of Putin’s favor brings an answer to Collins question this morning in his opening screed about what’s the central theme of this impeachment.  It is, Grand Inquisitor Collins, “all roads lead to Russia”.

Amid President Donald Trump’s years-long quest to undermine the Russia investigation and claim “total exoneration,” a tale of two lawyers has emerged.

The first — a former New York City mayor-turned fixer for various foreign potentates and, ultimately, for the president of the United States — took the outside lane, attempting to exonerate his client with a backchannel pressure campaign on Ukraine that would ostensibly clear Trump, and Moscow, of wrongdoing in 2016.

The second, a veteran corporate attorney who’s now served two Republican presidents as attorney general, has taken an inside track, defending Trump in the courts, congressional testimony, press conferences and speeches—and at times within his own department.

The work of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and a key outside adviser dating back to the 2016 campaign, all but imploded when a whistleblower complaint about the president’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian leaders set off an impeachment investigation.

Attorney General Bill Barr’s efforts have arguably been more successful—at least, that is, in pleasing his boss.

Barr’s presentation of the special counsel’s investigation as essentially clearing Trump of wrongdoing generated favorable headlines for the president and obscured key findings from Robert Mueller’s 448-page report. The review he ordered of the intelligence community’s conduct in the Russia probe may not yield the bombshells imagined by the president and his defenders, but it has fed a steady drip of stories in the conservative press touting damning revelations to come.

Even the long-awaited Justice Department Inspector General report due out Monday that is expected to debunk several conspiracy theories about the FBI’s Russia probe has served Barr’s interests in a way — generating cable chyrons announcing a criminal inquiry, albeit into the conduct of a low-level FBI lawyer.

Dark and Lavender Leaves1931 by Georgia O’Keeffe

That report is the next shoe to drop in the continuing saga of tinfoil hat hypotheses that the President is doing nothing wrong and that he’s not serving masters who fund him from the Russian State.

The Report should be out some time today.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report is expected to address a simmering dispute that lies at the heart of the partisan fight that has animated Washington for the past two years.

The question is, Did the Justice Department and FBI do anything improper when investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia?

While political battles over the Russia probe have recently given way to the impeachment fight over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, Republicans and Democrats have been eagerly awaiting the inspector general’s report in the hopes that it will support their respective claims.

The report, which will run hundreds of pages, is expected to contain elements that both sides can seize to buttress their respective arguments about the FBI, the Justice Department and the propriety of investigating the actions of the candidate who became president and those around him.

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986). <em>2 Yellow Leaves (Yellow Leaves)</em>, 1928. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 1/8 in. (101.6 x 76.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Georgia O'Keeffe, 87.136.6. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 87.136.6_SL1.jpg)

2 Yellow Leaves (Yellow Leaves) Georgia O’Keeffe 1928

Today’s Impeachment hearings has turned into a partisan brawl under the craziness of Collins and his Republican cronies who are protecting their head of state with the fervor of the cult fanatic.  WAPO is providing live updates at this link.

In an increasingly heated effort, Judiciary Committee Republicans repeatedly demanded a point of order to halt the hearing until the Democrats agree to give the GOP its own hearing with its own witnesses.

“In a blatant and egregious violation of the rules to schedule a hearing, therefore, I insist on my point of order unless you are willing to schedule a minority hearing date,” said Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.),the top Republican on the Judiciary Committe.

Nadler refused to recognize the Republicans’ attempts to throw the hearing off track.

Several other Republican members interjected, including Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who accused Nadler of shutting out minority voices while seeking “to overturn the results of an election of the elected people.”

The Democrats invited Trump’s legal team to testify, but they declined. The Republicans want to bring in witnesses the Democrats say are outside the scope of the question of whether Trump abused his power, such as Hunter Biden.

As Nadler moved on to Barry H. Berke, a Democratic counsel to the committee, Collins said, “The steamroll continues.”

 

Large Dark Red Leaves on White 1925 Painting By Georgia O'Keeffe

Large Dark Red Leaves on White 1925 Artist: Georgia O’Keeffe

It’s hard to watch this knowing that there is an ongoing obstruction of justice action going by every one around Trump.  Just Security has this fact check up today on the Republican’s report from the Intelligence Committee.  “Seven Outright Falsehoods in GOP Staff Report on Impeachment”.  How can you consider their actions any thing but bad faith and tinfoil hat takes?  We should not lose the fact that the AID to the Ukrainians is still not fully paid and it took some actions by Congress to restore it.  This is the absolute PRIME narrative to follow in this impeachment hearings.

Not everything in the report is a lie. In many instances, it is clear that, where possible, there was great care taken to avoid outright mistruths, through the careful phrasing of arguments to suggest a more sweeping defense than is actually offered, or through focusing on irrelevant and ambiguous witness testimony while ignoring direct and clear testimony to the contrary.

But staying within the bounds of the factual record – or even within the bounds of reasonable subjective interpretation of the record – could only get House Republican staff so far, and much of the report doesn’t just dance around the truth so much as it strides into deliberate falsehood. In order to depict the events at the heart of the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry in a light that could at all be construed as a defense of President Trump’s conduct, it appears that some outright lies were needed.

Here is a list of the seven most damaging falsehoods included in the minority report:

1. “Although the security assistance was paused in July, it is not unusual for U.S. foreign assistance to become delayed.” (Minority at 32)

The minority report dismisses the hold on the security assistance to Ukraine as a routine quirk in the way government operates – “not unusual,” and nothing more than “a bureaucratic issue that would be resolved.” (Minority at 32)

This is a lie. The hold was not routine – nothing like it had ever happened before. (e.g., Cooper at 98; Sandy at 88) The hold was not bureaucratic – it was ordered directly by President Trump himself. (e.g., Hale at 180) And the hold was not due to any sort of interagency conflict – because “the unanimous view of all the agencies [involved in Ukraine and apportionment policy] was that the hold should be lifted and the aid should flow to Ukraine.” (Williams at 115)

In fact, witness testimony showed that, in the entirety of the U.S. government, there is exactly one person who is known to have been in favor of the hold on security assistance to Ukraine. And that is President Trump himself. Witnesses unanimously testified that the agencies were given no explanation for the hold (see Part II), or for the eventual decision to restore the aid.

What’s perhaps most devastating to the Minority’s argument is that the White House actually exceeded the deadline for all of the security assistance to be spent—despite the Pentagon’s warning this would occur (Cooper). It took a new act of Congress to restore the full aid, which occurred in September.

Ram’s Skull with Brown Leaves, 1936 Georgia Okeefe.

Indeed, this is yet another Trumpist exercise to  Gaslight the nation.  It is only fitting the fight is led by an old timey Southern Baptist snake handler with a specious Law degree.

The Republicans continue to throw parliamentary inquiries around like first graders trying to learn how to be student council members.  They’re doing everything to block the witnesses including complaining about to many documents (8000) and too little.

Let’s see how much more of this we can take!

Oh, dear sweet kingcake baby jezuz that Craziness from Louisiana’s Republican hack Johnson continues.  He wants to quit the process because folks are being mean to Trumpers.

So, on to witnesses …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: All my friends are dictators…

Surely you have seen these updates or heard the latest shit from tRump. I’m blocking the asshole out this weekend so this is just a few tweets that caught my attention.

It’s an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

By Do Fournier

Good Morning!!

How can a person whose brain is this dementia-ravaged actually be “president?” Bloomberg: Trump Orders Toilet Rule Review Over Low-Flow Flushing.

The president on Friday said he ordered a federal review of water efficiency standards in bathroom fixtures and complained that “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once” in homes with low-flow appliances.

He said other bathroom fixtures have slowed water to a trickle.

“You can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water comes out of the faucet, and the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands, you end up using the same amount of water,” he said at an event with small-business owners at the White House.

He said the Environmental Protection Agency was looking into the issue on his recommendation….

Trump said Friday it was “common sense” to review standards he said resulted in showers with water “quietly dripping out” and toilets that “end up using more water” because of repeated flushing.

The Bloomberg article made the Trump rant seem less crazy than it actually was. He also complained about light bulbs.

He also wants American cars to be less fuel-efficient.

Can we please put him out to pasture before he blows up the world?

Trump also defended Saudi Arabia after a Saudi national killed 3 people at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.

How awkward for the king and Trump that 6 other Saudis are being questioned in the attack–some of whom were seen filming it. The New York Times: Six Saudis Said to Be Questioned After Pensacola Navy Base Shooting.

A United States military official identified the suspect, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the attack, as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He was one of hundreds of military trainees at the base, which is considered the home of naval aviation.

Japanese blind, by Jane Lewis, British

Six other Saudi nationals were detained for questioning near the scene of the shooting, including three who were seen filming the entire incident, according to a person briefed on the initial stages of the investigation. A group that monitors online jihadist activity said that shortly before the shooting, a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s posted a “will” calling the United States a “nation of evil” and criticizing its support for Israel….

The attack by a foreign national inside an American military installation raised questions about the vetting process for international students who are cleared by the Department of Defense and is likely to complicate military cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia at a time when relations with the kingdom are already tense.

In recent months, President Trump has held fast against bipartisan congressional efforts to rebuke his fierce support for Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has pressed for his kingdom to rise as a global player in international finance and politics.

Trump values his relationships with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Russia far more highly than he does our traditional allies. We saw how little those allies respect the idiot “president” during the recent NATO summit. At The Washington Post, Brian Klaas writes: America’s allies despise Trump — and that’s a threat to NATO.

By now we’ve all heard or read about the hot-mic incident at the NATO summit in the United Kingdom this week. A camera caught several national leaders joking about the antics of President Trump. Many commentators drew unflattering comparisons with Trump’s oft-cited claim that other countries “are laughing at us” and left it at that.

Yet this might miss the full significance of the story. The leaders of our NATO allies aren’t alone in seeing Trump as a dangerous joke — their citizens do, too. And Trump’s deepening unpopularity in the other countries of the West is becoming as much of a threat to NATO as Trump himself.

By Ophelia Redpath (1965- present, British)

It’s worth noting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t disavow his own comments in the recorded incident — doing so would have made him look like an appeaser to his own deeply Trump-skeptical public. At the NATO summit, Trudeau also attended a news conference with the U.S. president — far less widely noted by the media — at which Trump referred to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) as a “deranged human being” and a “maniac.” No other world leader behaves like that at an international forum.

Such outbursts, which have a devastating effect on the United States’ reputation overseas, make it far harder for our allies to be seen as close to Trump. And because their citizens see Trump as the current representation of the United States, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the leaders of Germany, or Britain, or Canada, or France to sell pro-American positions to their own voters. Just witness Boris Johnson’s carefully choreographed dance to avoid Trump’s company during the NATO summit, knowing that any all-too-obvious association with the U.S. president could doom the prime minister’s chances in the approaching British election. For the leaders of our allies, proximity to Trump is electoral poison.

There are foreign policy consequences to Trump’s toxicity. Since he took office, global support for U.S. leadership has plummeted. According to Pew Research in a late 2018 study, there has been a collapse in global confidence that the U.S. president will “do the right thing in world affairs.” From President Barack Obama to Trump, such confidence has fallen 76 percentage points in Germany, 75 percentage points in France, 58 percentage pointsin Canada, 52 percentage points in Australia, 51 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 48 percentage points in Japan. In Russia, by contrast, confidence in the U.S. president has increased by 8 percentage points.

Justice Ginsburg granted Trump’s request for an emergency stay on a lower court’s order that his financial records be released to Congress. Politico:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg temporarily blocked a lower court ruling ordering two banks to release President Donald Trump’s financial records to House Democrats.

Two cats, Jenna Fornier

Trump had asked Ginsburg to consider the emergency request earlier Friday. The temporary stay sets the issue on hold pending full consideration by the high court, it does not reflect how judges will rule in the underlying case.

The stay is ordered until 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, and the court ordered that a response must be filed on or before Dec. 11 by 11 a.m.

The emergency filing came after a federal appeals court in New York ruled on Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One should comply with subpoenas from the House Financial Services and House Intelligence committees seeking information about Trump’s finances.

The House subpoenas seek documents including tax returns, evidence of suspicious activity and, in the case of Deutsche Bank, any internal communications regarding Trump and his ties to foreign individuals.

Trump-related requests are piling up at the Supreme Court — and the outcomes could set precedent on significant questions related to separation-of-power issues and whether a president is immune from state-based criminal investigations while in office.

Recently it was reported that Cover-Up General Bill Barr made some chilling remarks about law enforcement. Florida Rep. Val Demings responded in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday: What William Barr doesn’t understand about law enforcement.

This week, Attorney General William P. Barr honored 19 law enforcement officers selected by the Justice Department for “Distinguished Service in Policing.” I’m glad he did. I have no doubt that each officer earned the distinction. Law enforcement is a tough and dangerous job, and we are unwaveringly grateful for those who go above and beyond the call of duty.

By Misha Askenazy, black Kimono

Unfortunately, while speaking to the officers, the attorney general showed that he simply does not understand the foundational values of modern American policing. “If communities don’t give . . . support and respect” to law enforcement, he said, “they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

I hope this statement was made in ignorance rather than malice. It is a knife in the heart of decades of painstaking work to develop bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve.

Law enforcement is not a protection racket. It is a sacred charge. We take an oath not to any individual or faction but to the Constitution, or, in other words, to society at large. Because, at the end of the day, law enforcement and the community are the same. The police are the community, and the community is the police.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Here’s an interesting related article at The New York Times: ‘I Got Tired of Hunting Black and Hispanic People.’

At a police station tucked into an end-of-the-line subway terminal in South Brooklyn, the new commander instructed officers to think of white and Asian people as “soft targets” and urged them to instead go after blacks and Latinos for minor offenses like jumping the turnstile, a half-dozen officers said in sworn statements.

“You are stopping too many Russian and Chinese,” one of the officers, Daniel Perez, recalled the commander telling him earlier this decade.

Another officer, Aaron Diaz, recalled the same commander saying in 2012, “You should write more black and Hispanic people.”

The sworn statements, gathered in the last few months as part of a discrimination lawsuit, deal with a period between 2011 and 2015. But they are now emerging publicly at a time when policing in the subway has become a contentious issue, sparking protests over a crackdown on fare evasion and other low-level offenses.

The commander, Constantin Tsachas, was in charge of more than 100 officers who patrolled a swath of the subway system in Brooklyn, his first major command. Since then, he has been promoted to the second-in-command of policing the subway system throughout Brooklyn. Along the way, more than half a dozen subordinates claim, he gave them explicit directives about whom to arrest based on race.

Those subordinates recently came forward, many for the first time, providing signed affidavits to support a discrimination lawsuit brought by four black and Hispanic police officers.

Click the NYT link to read the rest.

Those are my recommended reads for today. What stories have you been following?


Impeachment Friday Reads: Full Speed Ahead

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“Pineapple Bud,” Georgia O’Keeffe in Hawaii , 1939.

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Congressional Democrats continue to make progress towards the goal of impeaching Donald J. Trump.  Susan B Glasser —writing for The New Yorker–has interviewed Adam Schiff on “TRUMP, IMPEACHMENT, AND WHAT’S NEXT.”  One of the largest hurdles for Schiff has been the way the White House has refused to cooperate with documents requests and ordered key witnesses to ignore subpoenas. This is likely to lead to an article outlined in the category of obstruction of justice.

… Schiff noted the dilemma that Trump had created for the House by refusing to coöperate with the impeachment inquiry—the first time a President had issued such a broad order. The House Intelligence panel heard from seventeen current and former Trump Administration officials who defied the President and agreed to testify, but senior figures, such as Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, refused, and not a single department agreed to hand over documents. “What Turley is arguing on behalf of the Administration is you should allow the President’s obstruction to succeed,” Schiff told me. “And that’s not a particularly powerful argument when the President continues to solicit foreign interference in our election.” Later, he added a clear preview of what one of the articles of impeachment against Trump will end up being: “You could not have a more open-and-shut case of obstruction of Congress.”

Still, Schiff told me that he knows there is more the investigation could learn and that it remains open, saying, tantalizingly, that “there may very well be a great body of evidence at the trial that’s not available to us today.” I pressed him on why, then, his panel had not subpoenaed some key witnesses, such as Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to whom the President essentially deputized Ukraine policy; the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who listened in on the famous July 25th call; or the Vice-President, Mike Pence, who met with Zelensky in Trump’s place in late summer, when Trump was withholding nearly four hundred million dollars in congressionally appropriated military assistance for Ukraine. Schiff said that there was no point in doing so, given that his panel had subpoenaed a dozen Administration officials, including Mulvaney, who had refused to comply.

In the case of John Bolton, Trump’s former national-security adviser, who, according to aides who testified, had called the Ukraine scheme a “drug deal,” Schiff told me that his staff had been in touch with Bolton’s legal team after a court recently ordered the former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a House subpoena, in hopes that the ruling would change Bolton’s mind. His staff said, “ ‘Hey, if you’re sincere, the McGahn ruling ought to persuade you,’ ” Schiff recalled. “They made it clear, ‘No, you subpoena Bolton, he’s going to sue you, and this will be tied up indefinitely in the courts.’ The long and the short of it is, though, given that the President is today trying to get foreign interference in the next election to help him, we do not feel that, when we already have overwhelming evidence, we should wait any longer.”

Image result for Georgia O'Keeffe's 'White Bird of Paradise,' 1939

Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘White Bird of Paradise,’ 1939

The Judiciary Committee spent a day listening to testimony on Trump’s guilt in terms of  the U.S. Constitution, writers of the Constitution, and prior examples of impeached officials from both English and US History.  This Washington Post headline suggests that more than the three democratic witnesses agree that Trump’s actions and words are impeachable.  This headline suggests quite a few more than three actually:  “More than 500 law professors say Trump committed ‘impeachable conduct’ “

More than 500 legal scholars have signed on to an open letter asserting that President Trump committed “impeachable conduct” and that lawmakers would be acting well within their rights if they ultimately voted to remove him from office.

The signers are law professors and other academics from universities across the country, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan and many others. The open letter was published online Friday by the nonprofit advocacy group Protect Democracy.

“There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress,” the group of professors wrote. “His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”

Image result for georgia o'keeffe images cup of silver

Cup of Silver Ginger, 1939 by Georgia O’Keeffe

Senate Republicans continue to be recalcitrant.  However, they do not want to turn their role in the impeachment process into a joke.  Politico reports today that “GOP leaders have no interest in turning the Senate into a circus with the hard-line demands of Trump’s House allies.”

On Wednesday, a conservative backbencher in the House issued an explosive request to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham: Subpoena the phone records of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.

On Thursday, Graham had a succinct response: “We’re not going to do that.”

The demand from Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) reflects House Republicans’ eagerness to see Democrats squirm once impeachment moves to the GOP-controlled Senate and out of the “sham” process they’ve derided in the House.

“I’m talking to my Senate colleagues: here are the witnesses you should call and here are the questions you should ask,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah). “It’s going to cast us in a different very light. This is a chance to tell the other side of the story.”

President Donald Trump has joined in as well, tweeting on Thursday that he wants to call Schiff, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Bidens as witnesses in his impeachment trial.

But Senate Republicans are beginning to deliver a reality check to the president and House Republicans that there are limits to what they can do.

“You got two different bodies here,” Graham, a stalwart Trump ally, told reporters on Thursday. “Are we going to start calling House members over here when we don’t like what they say or do? I don’t think so.”

Senate GOP leaders have signaled they intend to defend Trump wholeheartedly, but they’re also loath to let the upper chamber descend into chaos or divide their caucus ahead of a tough 2020 cycle. And even if Senate Republicans wanted to embrace the hard-line posture of the House, the party’s narrow majority makes that all but impossible under Senate rules.

Calling controversial witnesses will require near lockstep party unity from 51 of the 53 Senate Republicans to make any procedural maneuvers, a tough task given the diverse views in the GOP, according to senators and aides.

Image result for Georgia O'Keeffe, ‘Heliconia: Crab's Claw Ginger,’ 1939.

Heliconia’s Crab’s Claw Ginger (1939) by Georgia O’Keeffe.

This is from The Bulwark and Charles Sykes. I admit I am no fan of his and tend to grab the channel changer when I see him on MSNBC or elsewhere. However, this will give you some idea of what Republicans who are not part of the Trump Cult believe.

It now seems inevitable that at least one of the articles of impeachment will center on Trump’s obstruction of Congress and/or justice.

So this is a good time to step back and recognize the most salient fact about Trump’s obstruction: It is working.

As galling as it may be to acknowledge it, the reality is that Trump’s effort to obstruct Congress is a success, much like his well-documented efforts to obstruct the Mueller probe. The House decision not to push for the enforcement of its subpoenas virtually guarantees that the case will go to the Senate without volumes of pertinent evidence.

I am among those who think the evidence at hand is more than sufficient to justify Trump’s impeachment. But his partisan supporters will continue to declare the effort a sham and the case unproven while unironically complaining about the lack of direct evidence—and at the same time ignoring Trump’s all-out effort to conceal such direct evidence from Congress.

Historians, who will know far more about Trump’s conduct that we do now, will marvel at how much evidence of his misconduct was left on the table. They will have access to documents, emails, text messages, memoirs, and transcripts (possibly even eventual court documents, should we wind up with a case titled something like United States vs. Giuliani) that we have not seen.

At least some of them will write, “in fairness…” and then note the comprehensive nature of Trump’s obstruction. But, by then, Trump will have been acquitted by the Senate and claimed “total exoneration.”

For Trump, this is the lesson that he learned from the Mueller probe: Investigations can be successfully obstructed, the rule of law be damned. 

Pink Ornamental Banana

Georgia O’Keeffe,Pink Ornamental Banana, 1939

NPR reports that  Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary committee believes Trump should participate in the House inquiry.  So far, the Congressman from Georgia has done himself no real favors in his performance to date.  But, he may have some sway or not.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its second hearing in the impeachment inquiry on Monday, when counsel for Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee will discuss the evidence against the president. In a letter on Thursday to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Collins said Republicans on the committee should be allowed a hearing day before articles of impeachment can move forward. Meanwhile, the White House faces a Friday deadline to inform the committee on whether it will participate in future proceedings.

A vote by the full House on whichever impeachment articles are adopted by the Judiciary Committee could come by the end of the month. The process would then move to the Senate, where 20 Republicans would need to break ranks and join Democrats to reach the 67 votes, or two-thirds majority, required to convict and remove the president from office.

Given those numbers, Collins said there is nothing to indicate impeachment can pass the Senate. “Many of us believe it’s already been decided,” he said. “Why waste our time?”

Image result for Georgia O’Keeffe, Hibiscus with Plumeria, 1939

Georgia O’Keeffe, Hibiscus with Plumeria, 1939

So, it’s still basically looking like the Senate will likely not vote to remove Trump from Office and that Congressional Republicans can seethe all they want over whatever injustices they’ve invented.  The Public, however, seems to have fairly consistent views of the matter.  This is the latest from Forbes writer Karlyn Bowman.

Opinion is moving in a narrow range. Republicans oppose impeaching the president, Democrats favor the action. Independents are split. Polling in some key 2020 states suggests less support than the national polls for impeaching and removing Donald Trump. The president’s overall approval rating has hardly budged—in late September in the RealClearPolitics average of polls has him at 44%. But a closer examination of the polls unearths some meaningful findings that haven’t received much media attention.

First a quick update on recent polls. In CNN’s November 21-24 poll, 50% said President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. The responses were identical to CNN’s mid-October poll. When asked whether they felt strongly or not strongly, 91% of those who supported impeachment and removal said they felt strongly, as did 89% of those who felt strongly that he shouldn’t be impeached. In Quinnipiac’s late November poll, 45% of registered voters said he should be impeached and removed; 48% didn’t think so. In their late October poll, those responses were 48% to 46%. Eighty-six percent in the poll said their minds were made up. Only 13% said they could change their minds. A new FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll will follow the same people over the course of the next three months to see “if, when, or how Americans change their minds on the facts underlying the Trump impeachment inquiry.” In the initial commentary, the pollsters noted that since October “support for impeachment has been remarkably steady . . ., and Americans’ appetite for impeaching and removing Trump may have even started to plateau.” The early December Reuters/Ipsos poll describes opinion about whether Trump should face impeachment as “unchanged.” But what other kinds of questions are pollsters asking, and what do they tell us?

You may read about those questions at the link.

Today’s paintings are from Georgia O’Keefe’s 1939 trip to Hawaii. You may see more paintings and read about more about the trip here at Daily Art Magazine  and Artsy.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This morning, Nancy Pelosi announced that she is authorizing the drafting of articles of impeachment against Trump.

The Washington Post reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that President Trump’s wrongdoing strikes at the heart of the Constitution and asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.”

Her address, in which she invoked principles espoused by the nation’s founders, came shortly after Trump went on Twitter to urge House Democrats to impeach him quickly, if they plan to do it, and suggested he would call an expansive list of witnesses during a trial in the Republican-led Senate.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that President Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine in the face of Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Of course Trump has weighed in.

Somehow I missed this, but Trump has started calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” again, and North Korea is not amused. The New York Daily News:

Looks like the North Korean honeymoon is over.

President Trump reprised his “Rocket Man” insult for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Tuesday as tensions spiraled between the two leaders who once boasted of their durable friendship.

North Korea has set a year-end deadline for Trump to return to the nuclear negotiating table, and has underlined its insistence on new talks by escalating its nuclear tests.

The U.S. appears to be doing its best to ignore Kim’s threats.

“He definitely likes sending up rockets, doesn’t he,” Trump said on the sidelines of the NATO summit, referring to KIm. “That’s why I call him Rocket Man.”

Now North Korea has responded. Kyodo News: N. Korea lambastes Trump for calling Kim “Rocket Man” again: KCNA.

A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump for calling him a “Rocket Man” again, saying it represents a “very dangerous challenge.”

“What makes us feel further worse is that the figurative style was dare used at random with no courtesy when referring to the supreme leadership of dignity of the DPRK,” First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hu said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency in English….

“It would be fortunate if the utterances of the use of military force and the title of figurative style made by President Trump were an instantaneous verbal lapse, but matter becomes different if they were a planned provocation that deliberately targeted us,” Choe said.

“If this is meant to make expressions, reminiscent of those days just two years ago when a war of words was fought across the ocean, surface again on purpose, it will be a very dangerous challenge,” she added.

I don’t support Joe Biden, but this is best anti-Trump ad I’ve seen yet.

I haven’t read it yet, but this looks like an important article by Julia Ioffe in GQ: Trump Is Waging War on America’s Diplomats.

Last year, just before Halloween, Lewis Lukens, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London, visited a pair of English universities where he spoke about the importance of international cooperation, beseeching students not to “swipe left” on the historic “special relationship” between the U.K. and America. The speeches were—according to a copy of the remarks that Lukens provided to GQ—fairly anodyne, reprising all the things Americans and Brits had learned from each other, all the ways we’ve helped each other over the years, disagreements notwithstanding. At the time, things between the two countries had been strained—in part because President Trump had attacked British leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan—but Lukens, the second-most-senior American diplomat to the United Kingdom, had a request for the students who had gathered to see him: “Don’t write off the special relationship.”

A week later, Lukens says, his boss, the U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a Trump political appointee, told him that he was done, firing Lukens from his post seven months ahead of when he was scheduled to leave for a new assignment. After nearly 30 years as a foreign service officer, his State Department career was over. The reason? Lukens says he had unwittingly committed a fatal error in his speech: He had mentioned former president Barack Obama.

To open the speech, Lukens, who had worked for presidents of both parties, used an anecdote from his time as ambassador to Senegal to illustrate how allies can handle disagreements. He mentioned Obama’s 2013 visit to the country. “There was incredible excitement,” Lukens said in his speech. “He had a guard of honor, crowds shouting his name, street vendors selling WE LOVE OBAMA T-shirts. It was really amazing. And the president had really great talks with the Senegalese president, Macky Sall. They got on really well. But what I remember most of all was the disagreement they had—as friends.” Lukens explained that during the trip, an American journalist had asked Obama whether he had pressed the Senegalese leader on LGBT rights—a provocative topic in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized as “unnatural” and where the LGBT community faces widespread discrimination. Lukens told the students that Obama handled the thorny question well. And then he moved on to the rest of the speech, not realizing the damage he’d done with a single anecdote. (When asked about the episode and Lukens’s ouster, the State Department declined to comment. The American embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.)

Read the rest at GQ.

I know many younger people don’t understand why some of us think John F. Kennedy was a good president and could have been a great one if he had not been murdered. Here’s an example of the kind of thoughtful discourse we heard from him as president. What a contrast to the current occupant of the office.

That;s all I have for you this morning, because I’m having some problems with watery eyes that make it difficult for me to read on the computer. This happens to me occasionally. So . . . what stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Drump All Over The World

That cartoon seems too fitting now…so I had to feature it again.

Here are some tweets:

And…

Dead frozen rat wearing hats and boots… should have sent that to the NATO Summit in Great Britain…would have been less offensive than tRump.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Plenty of Breaking News Today

Winter Glow, Boston Common, by Julia O’Malley Keyes

Good Morning!!

As you can see from the paintings I’ve chosen, I have snow on the brain this morning; as an early winter storm is still hovering over the Boston area for the third day. It’s a lovely winter wonderland outside my window, but I’m hoping the snow will leave us sometime this afternoon.

Trump is at the NATO meeting in the UK making a fool of himself as usual. He just finished a tense meeting with French president Macron in which the two talked past each other and exchanged hostile comments. We’ll have to wait for analysis from reporters, but here are some twitter takes.

The Washington Post: Trump calls French president’s criticism of NATO ‘nasty’ and ‘disrespectful’

LONDON — President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.

Shoveling Snow, New England, Frederick Childe Hassam

Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.” [….]

“I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”

Trump’s tough talk on France came just a day after the United States threatened new tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French products, including wine, cheese and yogurt — a response, Trump’s chief trade negotiator said, to a French digital services tax that the United States concluded is discriminating against American Internet companies.

More from The New York Times: In Tense Exchange, Trump and Macron Put Forth Dueling Visions for NATO.

A once-cordial relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France devolved in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, as the two leaders publicly sparred over their approach to containing the threat of terrorism and a shared vision for the future of NATO, a 70-year-old alliance facing existential threats on multiple fronts.

A Hare In The Snow by Bruno Andreas Liljefors

In a lengthy appearance before reporters, the president met a cool reception from Mr. Macron, who earlier in the day Mr. Trump derided as “very insulting” for his recent remarks on the “brain death” of the alliance. When asked to address his earlier comments on the French leader, Mr. Trump, a leader averse to face-to-face confrontation, initially demurred, but Mr. Macron was direct.

“My statement created some reactions,” Mr. Macron said. “I do stand by it.”

What followed was an extended, terse back-and-forth over trade, immigration, and Mr. Trump’s relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Mr. Trump’s interactions with the Turkish president are also sure to be closely watched. Mr. Erdogan, who has already upset NATO allies by purchasing a sophisticated Russian antiaircraft missile system, the S-400, is now threatening to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of Poland and the Baltic countries if the alliance does not join him in labeling some Kurdish groups as terrorists.

”Who is the enemy today?” Mr. Macron asked. “And let’s be clear and work together on that.”

More breaking news from Twitter:

CNBC: Trump loses appeal to block Deutsche Bank, Capital One from handing his financial records to Congress.

— A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can hand over years of President Donald Trump’s financial records in compliance with House Democrats’ subpoenas.

— The ruling offers another loss in the courts for Trump, who has fought attempts to obtain his financial records through multiple lawsuits.

— The case is likely destined for the Supreme Court, where the president has already appealed two other lower court decisions requiring the disclosure of his financial records.

Vincent van Gogh, Snow-covered field with a harrow (after Millet) (1889)

Aaron Blake has an interesting piece at The Washington Post on the timeline of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine even before Zelensky took over as president: 2 key Trump-Ukraine events we should be paying more attention to.

The first event:

In February 2017, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Poroshenko had spoken by phone and “discussed plans for an in-person meeting in the future.”

Even as Trump met with a procession of foreign leaders in those early months, though, a meeting with Poroshenko wasn’t scheduled. Indeed, it didn’t happen until late June. And why is that date significant? Because it was very shortly after Poroshenko’s government took action on an investigation of personal interest to Trump — and in a Trump-friendly direction.

Here’s a quick timeline:

June 8, 2017: Trump ally Rudolph W. Giuliani meets with Poroshenko and then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.
June 9, 2017: Lutsenko’s office joins an existing investigation into the “black ledger,” which implicated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The investigation had previously been handled only by Ukraine’s independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), and critics alleged the new move was meant to bury the scandal.
June 14, 2017: Reports in Europe indicate Poroshenko will meet with Trump.
June 19, 2017: Spicer says Poroshenko will meet with Vice President Pence, but doesn’t confirm a meeting with Trump.
June 20, 2017: Poroshenko gets a brief “drop-in” visit with Trump.

Marurice de Vlaminck, French 1876-1958

The second event:

In December 2017, the Trump administration made a key decision to provide Ukraine with lethal aid — specifically antitank missiles called Javelins. This is the same weaponry Trump and Zelensky would later talk about on their fateful July 25, 2019, phone call.

Republicans have hailed Trump’s decision to provide such weaponry as evidence of his support for Ukraine and as a counterpoint to the idea that he has been leveraging it. But what if the Javelins were also used as leverage?

What we can say is that they weren’t delivered until after another significant investigatory decision from Ukraine in Trump’s favor — one that was even more narrowly beneficial to Trump.

In early April 2018, according to the New York Times, Ukraine halted its investigations of Manafort and also its cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In addition, it reportedly allowed a potential witness in Mueller’s collusion investigation to leave the country for Russia, where they couldn’t be interviewed.

Later that month, the Javelins arrived. Poroshenko posted as much on Facebook on April 30, and U.S. officials soon confirmed it.

These don’t look like coincidences to me, and they probably didn’t look that way to Zelensky either.

Paul Gauguin, Breton Village in the Snow (1894)

At The Atlantic, Professor Kim Wehle of the University of Baltimore School of Law argues that House Democrats should be tougher on witnesses who refuse to testify in the impeachment inquiry: The House Is Making This Fight Too Easy for Trump.

Last week marked a low point in Donald Trump’s quest for presidential superpowers. On Monday, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have absolute immunity from having to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding misconduct by Trump and his associates in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. “Presidents are not kings,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

In practical terms, the court declared that Trump cannot lawfully forbid anyone and everyone he’s ever worked with from heeding legislative requests for information. This isn’t even a close question, as the stark language of Jackson’s 120-page ruling made clear. Notwithstanding White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s October 8 letter—in which he deemed the impeachment inquiry unconstitutional and announced that the administration would not cooperate in any way—the president cannot prohibit current or former government employees from testifying when called before Congress.

Which is why House Democrats’ milquetoast response to widespread defiance of congressional subpoenas is both perplexing and disturbing. When faced with credible evidence of serious misconduct, Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the president accountable on behalf of the people. Yet House leaders have psyched themselves out of fully exercising that duty.

Read the rest at The Atlantic link.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winterlandschaft (1811)

Bill Barr is working hard to be Trump’s personal defense attorney. The Washington Post reports: Barr disputes key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation.

Attorney General William P. Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horo­witz, is due to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Justice Department, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The discord could be the prelude to a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.

Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, these people said.

Barr’s public defenses of President Trump, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have led Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney and eroding the independence of the Justice Department. But Trump and his Republican allies have cheered Barr’s skepticism of the Russia investigation.

Claude Monet, The Magpie

Finally, The Daily Beast is running a series of three articles by Patricia Ravalgi about how officials who previously worked together for the benefit of U.S. national security are now on opposite sides because of Trump. Here are the first two installments and introductory paragraphs:

Mueller, Barr, Giuliani, Comey and Kallstrom Once Fought Terror Together—Now Trump Has Them Fight Each Other.

The constellation of federal investigators, attorneys, prosecutors and judges orbiting Donald Trump in the last three years have a unique, shared history.

Relatively unknown to the American public is the fact that before many of them became household names, cast as either the heroes or villains of the Trump saga (depending on where you stand on Trump), they were colleagues in the trenches of some of America’s biggest terrorism cases.

They crossed paths numerous times in courtrooms and at crime scenes, often united by a single case. From my perch working for the House Intelligence Committee, at the FBI as a congressional liaison, and then on the 9/11 Joint Inquiry, I observed what in many respects were their finest achievements, how those played out politically, how they fought their turf battles at home and with foreign governments, how they learned to communicate with the American public after each tragedy—and ultimately, fundamentally how they changed America’s approach to national security.

Once-Heroic Agents Have Helped Trump’s Effort to Divide and Conquer the FBI.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 carrying 230 summer vacationers, would-be tourists, and crew members took off from New York’s JFK airport en route to Rome. Ten minutes into the flight, the plane’s captain reported unusual readings on the Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS). Two minutes after that, a catastrophic explosion occurred.

TWA 800 broke apart mid-air into three huge sections that came crashing into the sea. People on the South Shore of Long Island would report seeing the fireball in the night. Others reported seeing lights streaking across the sky around the same time as the explosion.

Alongside the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI launched an investigation led by the assistant director for the New York field office, James Kallstrom. Until recently, he was defined in history as the man who headed that $20 million, 16-month investigation into the explosion—and who kept conspiracy theories from spinning out of control. And that was no easy task. Pierre Salinger, President John F. Kennedy’s former press secretary, was reporting from France that he had secret information that the plane had been brought down by the friendly fire of a U.S. Navy missile, and that theory has never been completely exorcised from the popular imagination.

These are long reads, with one more installment to come.

It looks like we’ll continue to have a busy news day today and a busy week of news to come. What stories are you following today?