Good Day Sky Dancers!
Susan B Glasser puts it this way “THE SENATE CAN STOP PRETENDING NOW”. As I’ve lurched through my life, I always thought the most dangerous theory of constitutional law was the idea of a “unitary executive” on steroids and testosterone. It seemed destined to run in to some one thrown into the presidency on false pretense and not up to the vast responsibility and morality that entails. But, impeachment was supposed to checkmate that … right?
Well, the kid that took civics in high school, constitutional law at university, and lived through Watergate, several specious wars up to and including the Iraq invasion is now facing the bottomless pit of possibility that we’ve just lost our system of checks and balances. I politic therefore I blog. Today, I blog from depression and desperation.
What happens when Trump just gets away with everything unconstitutional that he’s done? What happens when he gets his notion that he’s above the law constantly fed by the Republicans in Congress? Well, if we thought we saw lawlessness in the past, we’re about to go on the big kids roller coaster of anything goes!
Around 10 p.m., Alexander and Murkowski joined with another fervent Trump critic turned defender in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, to pose a question to Trump’s defense team. “Isn’t it true,” they asked, that, even if Bolton testified and everything he said was accurate, it “still would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, and that therefore his testimony would add nothing to the case?” Sensing where this was going, Trump’s lawyer Patrick Philbin hastened to agree.
“It’s over,” one Democratic senator said to another, according to a reporter in the gallery. And, indeed, it was. The question offered a preview of the Alexander statement to follow. A few minutes later, Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, gave a truncated closing statement that suggested that he, too, knew what was about to happen. “They are afraid of the witnesses,” Nadler said. “They know Mr. Bolton and others will only strengthen the case.” On that note, the trial adjourned at 10:41 p.m. Nineteen minutes later, Alexander’s office tweeted out his statement. Murkowski did not join in, at least not yet. “I am going to reflect on what I’ve heard, reread my notes, and decide whether I need to hear more,” she told reporters; her office said she would announce her decision on Friday morning. Her colleague Susan Collins, meanwhile, announced that she would vote yes for the witnesses. Mitt Romney followed suit first thing Friday morning, as well. But how much did it matter?
All fifteen previous impeachment trials in the U.S. Senate, including the two previous Presidential-impeachment trials, had witnesses. But Lamar Alexander has spoken. Donald Trump’s stonewalling will succeed where Nixon’s failed. Perhaps Alexander has done us all a favor: the trial that wasn’t really a trial will be over, and we will no longer have to listen to it. The Senate can stop pretending.
What’s left to give us any hope that this horrid man will be thrown to history to pillage? What can we do to ensure that he won’t fix our next elections or just refuse to leave the White House if soundly trounced? Is there any hope in these final hours of Senate Failure? Jordain Carney at The HIll writes “Three ways the end of the impeachment trial could play out”
The Senate is expected to convene by 1 p.m. on Friday. Senators are warning that if Republicans successfully block witnesses, senators are likely to move quickly to Trump’s acquittal on Friday night or early Saturday.
Before a vote on witnesses, both Trump’s legal team and House managers get up to two hours each to make their cases to the Senate, according to a resolution passed last week on the rules for the trial.
What happens after that? There are a few scenarios to watch for.
Scenario One: The Senate rejects calling witnesses and moves to acquit Trump
This appears to be the most likely outcome, as the pool of potential Republican votes is quickly shrinking.
n a stark turnaround from just days ago when Republicans were caught flat footed by allegations from former national security adviser John Bolton, GOP senators are voicing renewed confidence that they will be able to defeat the request for witnesses.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stopped short of declaring victory but told reporters, “I’ve never been more optimistic that we’re in a good spot.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) added that he expects a vote on “final judgement” to happen by Friday night
This has been a difficult time to live in and to understand especially for those of us that have been steeped in American History and the development of our Constitutional Republic.
This is from Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: “The Republican Cover-up Will Backfire. The House Can Keep Investigating Trump.”
Toward the end, the impeachment trial’s strategic purpose narrowed into an obsessive quest to produce evidence. Democrats have defined victory not as removal, but as winning a procedural vote to allow more testimony, especially by John Bolton. The House managers have designed their arguments not to reinforce Trump’s guilt but to underscore the need for more testimony. They seem to have given little attention to the question of whether such a victory would actually serve their larger strategic purposes at all. Republicans may have succeeded in blocking all new evidence and driving toward the rapid conclusion they seek, bu the tactical victory may well become a strategic defeat.
If the several days that have passed since the Bolton revelation have proved anything, it is just how uninterested Republicans are in holding Trump to account for his misconduct. Initially, even Trump’s staunchest supporters conceded that pressuring Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals would be, if true, unacceptable. (Lindsey Graham: “very disturbing”; Steve Doocy: “off-the-rails-wrong.”) As evidence of guilt accumulated, their denial that this unacceptable conduct took place narrowed to a tiny, highly specific claim: No witness testified that Trump personally ordered them to carry out a quid pro quo. Bolton is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
It is probably for this reason that Republicans have fallen back to a quasi-legal argument offered by Alan Dershowitz: Even if true, abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. While Dershowitz’s reasoning is ahistorical, legally absurd, and opens the door to aspiring strongmen, it signals the party’s determination to acquit Trump regardless of the facts. Democrats hoped to persuade four Republicans to allow new evidence, and thus to extend the trial for perhaps a few weeks, prove Trump’s culpability even more thoroughly than they have. But this would only proceed to a partisan vote to acquit.
From my Friend John Buss who has drawn what I feel and have tried to express here and that is my infinite frustration that the Republican Party has put this horrid human above the law. And for what? WHAT? I ask you? Thirty six year old judges that have never even argued a case? No primary opponents? Kompromat held in the deep state?
This is about all I’m capable of today. We have a Republic and we may not be able to keep it. It’s truly depressing
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
We’re through the looking glass now folks. Yesterday during Trump’s impeachment “trial,” Alan Dershowitz argued that Trump can do anything he wants if he thinks it’s in the national interest for him to win an election.
Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz told senators that presidents cannot be impeached for using their powers of office to boost their own political fortunes, as long as they believe their reelection is best for the country. Even Republicans aren’t following him down that trail.
While responding to questions from senators Wednesday, Dershowitz argued that presidents cannot be impeached for demanding a quid pro quo to help get themselves reelected.
“Every public official I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right,” he said. “Your election is in the public interest. And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Dershowitz laid out three types of presidential motivations: public interest, political interest, and private financial interest. Acting for personal financial gain — such as withholding foreign aid unless you receive a million-dollar kickback — is clearly corrupt, argued Dershowitz.
“But a complex middle case is ‘I want to be elected. I think I’m a great president. I think I’m the greatest president that ever was, and if I’m not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly.’ That cannot be an impeachable offense,” he said.
The Washington Post Editorial Board responds to another defense of Trump–that he was just advancing U.S. policy in Ukraine: Republicans’ damaging new line of defense.
John Bolton has not yet testified or spoken anywhere in public about the Ukraine affair, but his unpublished manuscript is exerting a gravitational pull on the Senate trial of President Trump. The former national security adviser is reported to have written that Mr. Trump directly connected his freeze on military aid to Ukraine with his demand that the country’s president launch politicized investigations, including of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the former vice president. The result is that some Republican senators who previously insisted that there was no evidence of such a quid pro quo have now retreated to a new line of defense: Maybe there was but, if so, there is nothing wrong with it.
The new response has the advantage of acknowledging the mounting evidence that Mr. Trump used congressionally appropriated aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 election campaign. “We basically know what the facts are,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told Fox News on Tuesday. Yet Mr. Cornyn and other GOP senators are now arguing that the behavior is not an abuse of power, merely a routine presidential act. “Presidents always leverage foreign aid,” said Mr. Cornyn.
That contention is as dangerous as it is wrong. Presidents do occasionally wield U.S. assistance to advance foreign policy ends. But Mr. Trump was manifestly seeking a personal gain. An investigation of Mr. Biden was not a goal of U.S. foreign policy. There was no domestic probe of his actions and no evidence that he was guilty of wrongdoing. On the contrary, the proof that the then-vice president was pursuing official U.S. policy when he intervened in Ukraine is overwhelming.
And on the Dershowitz argument that Trump can do anything he wants:
The implications of this position are frightening. If Republicans acquit Mr. Trump on the basis of Mr. Dershowitz’s arguments, they will be saying that presidents are entitled to use their official powers to force foreign governments to investigate any U.S. citizen they choose to target — even if there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Mr. Trump could induce Russia or Saudi Arabia or China to spy on Mr. Biden, or on any other of the many people subject to his offensive tweets. In exchange for any embarrassing information, the president might offer official favors, such as arms sales or a trade deal or the lifting of sanctions. Do Republicans really wish to ratify such presidential authority? Will they not object if the next Democratic president resorts to it?
At USA Today, historian and former Republican Tom Nichols addresses the “Trump was just pursuing U.S. foreign policy” argument: Trump is being impeached over an extortion scheme, not a ‘policy dispute.’
The “policy dispute” defense rests on the obvious truth that under Article II of the Constitution, the president of the United States has the right to set foreign policy. Subject to the restrictions of federal law, the Constitution and the power of the purse that is reserved for Congress in Article I, the president can choose to bring us closer to some countries, give the cold shoulder to others, and negotiate treaties and other international agreements as he or she chooses.
None of that is at issue in this impeachment. What Trump did was to state one policy in public — that is, the policy his subordinates and the executive departments of the United States were expected to follow — and then to run a second policy, a plot concocted in secret and executed by an unaccountable circle of conspirators.
This scheme (it is too misleading even to call it a “policy”) was a rogue operation against Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, conducted by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a squad of shady characters, none of whom were answerable to anyone but Trump himself. (One wonders how Sen. Lee’s constitutionalism squares with foreign operations being conducted by the likes of Giuliani and Lev Parnas, out of sight of pesky members of Congress and their annoying questions.)
Trump’s personal goal, however, was to hold Ukraine hostage and risk the lives of its people and soldiers until Zelensky would agree to stand in front of a television camera and lie for the benefit of one Donald J. Trump.
Click the link to read the rest.
Meanwhile, Lev Parnas dropped another bombshell on CNN last night, claiming that Lindsey Graham has been aware of the Ukraine conspiracy since 2018.
Lev Parnas, a Ukraine-born businessman charged with campaign finance violations, told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” that Graham has a personal interest in keeping witness testimony out of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
“Sen. Lindsey Graham I haven’t had any contact with, but because of my relationship with Rudy Giuliani, I have a lot of information about his dealings,” Parnas said. “It was, like, surreal to watch Lindsey Graham up there, sit there — he’s out there talking about all the stuff, that this is a sham, that this should go away.”
“At the end of the day,” Parnas added, “he was in the loop just like everybody else. He (had) a very good relationship with Rudy Giuliani, he was aware of what was going on going back to at least 2018, maybe even earlier. If you recall, he was the one Rudy Giuliani was supposed to bring Viktor Shokin to when the visa got denied, and I think he was even, if you check the records, involved in getting the request for the visa somehow.”
Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy released letters Wednesday signed by a Ukraine-born U.S. citizen Michael Guralnik to both Graham and Sigal Mandelker, then a top official at the U.S. Treasury Department pushing for sanctions against various Ukrainian political and business leaders.
A month or so later Giuliani tried to help Shokin, a former top prosecutor in Ukraine regarded as corrupt by the previous administration and U.S. allies, obtain a visa to meet with Graham in the U.S.
“Sen. Graham was involved even before I got involved with Mayor Giuliani, so he had to have been in the loop and had to have known what was going on,” Parnas said. “I was with Giuliani every day, that was what was happening.”
Time is running out for John Bolton to be a patriot. The White House is threatening to hold up publication of his book indefinitely. CNN:
The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
In a letter to Bolton’s lawyer, a top official at the National Security Council wrote the unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s book “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information” and couldn’t be published as written.
The letter, which is dated January 23, said some of the information was classified at the “top secret” level, meaning it “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security.”
“The manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter read.
Jennifer Rubin writes an open letter to Bolton: John Bolton, it’s now or never.
Dear John Bolton:
Before you were national security adviser, before you represented the United States at the United Nations, you were a lawyer — a pretty good one, as I understand. As a member of the bar, you must have been pained and shaken to hear President Trump’s attorney Alan Dershowitz argue for the proposition that anything a president thinks he needs to do to get reelected — bribe or extort a foreign country, even — cannot be impeachable. This defies and defiles our constitutional system, one in which even the president is not above the law. It’s a proposition that would have boiled your blood had President Bill Clinton or President Barack Obama advanced it.
And yet here we are. The president asserts that he is king, and the spineless Republicans (who smear and insult you and mouth Russian propaganda) are too cowardly to oppose him. Meanwhile, your First Amendment rights to publish your account are being trampled on by a vague, overly broad and baseless assertion that your manuscript contains “Top Secret” materials. (And yet the president, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others have spoken to the contents of the same conversations you apparently will describe, thereby declassifying whatever they tried to classify.)
We have the perfect formula for tyranny: The executive claims unlimited power; his critics are muzzled. I do not think you spent decades in public life to allow this to play out before your eyes. What’s more, as you have surely realized in serving in this administration filled with toadies and careerists, you will, by acquiescing to White House demands, ensconce in power a president emotionally, temperamentally and intellectually unfit to serve, one who will now be convinced that he operates above and beyond any restraint on his power.
The moral and constitutional instincts that drove you to condemn the “drug deal” being cooked by Trump’s aides and to repeatedly tell your former employees to report their concerns to White House attorneys should now compel you to throw sand in the gears of a totalitarian-minded president.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
There will be an other day of questions in the Senate impeachment “trial” beginning at 1:00 this afternoon. A vote on witnesses will be held tomorrow. Bolton needs to speak up today.
Have a nice Thursday, Sky Dancers. We’re not living in a dictatorship just yet. This is an open thread.
Who would’ve thunk it? Ya suck the soul out through the ear? I always thought it was the asshole…
On that train of thought, being assholes who have lost their souls…
#MoscowMitch leaked some news late last night:
Maybe, we will get to hear Bolton speak? Perhaps even get testimony from witnesses to this enormous quid pro quo and ridiculous car wreck of a cover up?
It definitely was a strange night on the Twitter.
Watch this with the sound on:
Then, check out the other tweets:
You can even hear someone from Fox News on a hot mic giggling in the background…
I want to bring these next few stories to your attention:
It looks like the number of injuries from Iraq has jumped up,
And…while in ICE custody:
Now for a few cartoons:
This is an open thread.
Two days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, there has been almost no attention paid to the other 7 people who died in the tragic accident. Read about them at Buzzfeed News: Teenage Girls And Beloved Coaches Were Among The 9 Victims Of The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant.
John Altobelli, a 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and youngest daughter, Alyssa, 13, were among those who died.
Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. The team was set to play against a Fresno youth team on Sunday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.
John Altobelli had been a coach and mentor at Orange Coast College (OCC) for 27 years, helping many student-athletes earn scholarships so they could play at the four-year level, the college said in a statement.
“Coach Alto,” the college said, helped lead the Pirates to more than 700 wins and four state championships. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.
The Altobelli’s are survived by two other children, a son JJ and daughter Lexi, now orphans.
Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team.
“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post. “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”
The couple has three children, ages 11, 9, and 3….
Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash. Payton was a basketball player, NBC News reported.…
Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View Elementary School, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Payton, his former student, and her mother, calling them “two gorgeous human beings.”
“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt wrote in a Facebook post.
Chester leaves behind a husband Chris and two 16-year-old sons Hayden and Riley.
Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter, was a beloved figure in the aviation community. He was “instrument-rated” which meant he was able to fly in fog and clouds, KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci said.
Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot, according to one of his flight students, Darren Kemp.
So many people–including young children–are devastated by these deaths, but all the attention has gone to the former basketball player. I still can’t get past my anger at the lionizing of Bryant, who was credibly accused of rape and never publicly dealt with the damage he did to the life of a 19-year-old woman. Ever since I saw the way the basketball stars were treated as if they could do no wrong in my high school, I’ve resented the way athletes are allowed to get away with almost anything, especially violence against women.
Somewhere the woman that Bryant raped is watching the coverage of his death and most likely reliving the trauma she experienced as she sees so much praise heaped upon her abuser.
On Sunday, Jill Filipovic wrote that Bryant has a “complicated legacy.” No, it’s not really complicated. He was a huge basketball star with a giant ego and he got away with rape. He’s certainly not alone in that. Gavin Polone at the Hollywood Reporter:
I guess our society thinks that certain transgressions by celebrities can be forgiven. What’s perplexing is the contrast between which wrongs are and aren’t forgivable. Based on what I’ve read, I believe Kobe most probably raped a woman and still was paid $26 million in 2015 by Nike, Hublot, Panini Authentic, Turkish Airlines and others to endorse their products; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping two women and still made more than $35 million for one year as an NFL quarterback; Greg Hardy certainly beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend and was signed to play defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston was sued for the rape of a student at FSU and didn’t even break stride to the NFL (having watched the victim’s recounting of events, I believe her). Both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were accused of sexual misconduct, yet the former still is performing and the latter practically has been deified.
But what isn’t forgiven? Killing someone? Nope, Ray Lewis was accused of that, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and now is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and played the next year. So violence, especially against women, can be excused.
Here’s a piece at Vice by Albert Berneko that counters Filipovic’s “complicated legacy” notion: Kobe Bryant Was No More Complicated Than Anyone Else.
Maybe the actual very last thing the world needs or ever will need, ever again, is for one more man’s power or fame or brilliance or death to be used as a reason to throw the word “complicated” over his abuses like an obscuring blanket. It’s a dishonest sidestep, anyway. Everyone is complicated. You can be a tortured mass of endless complications and still never sexually assault anyone.
What the fact of having committed, or having credibly been accused of committing, sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word “complicated”: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so. I have integrated the fullness of this imperfect person; when I now return to praising him, be sure that it is with the appropriate level of personal internal conflicted feeling.
It seems reasonable to guess that former Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant was a complicated person, because he was a person and not the Archangel Gabriel. More relevant to a summation of his life, he was also a great and spectacular basketball player, one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, and a powerful man who, in 2003 and at the height of his celebrity, was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and then avoided a trial by leaking his accuser’s identity and shaming her into silence. I don’t think these things complicate each other, unless you happen to believe there’s a personal moral component to being good at making contested jump-shots.
To top off the protect-Kobe hysteria, Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post–who was editor of the Boston Globe when the Spotlight team exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church–publicly shamed one of his reporters, Felicia Sonmez who is a survivor of sexual assault.
As the collective grief crested on Twitter following TMZ’s shocking scoop that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez had a different idea. She shared a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing a rape allegation made against the NBA legend more than a decade earlier. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she tweeted Sunday, “even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”
Vitriol and threats streamed into Sonmez’s inbox, which she relayed on Twitter, along with screenshots of the attacks. The Bryant-related tweets have since been deleted. By Sunday afternoon, Somnez had been suspended—placed on “administrative leave”—a move that’s prompted anger and confusion inside the Post newsroom. “There’s incredible outrage. The outrage is like nothing I’ve ever seen here,” one Post source told us. “People just feel like it was way over the top.”
The Daily Beast article was an exhaustive chronicle of the allegations against Bryant and his response to them. While far from flattering to Bryant, it described an inescapable part of his history, and, fraught as social media can be in the current world of journalism, it was difficult for many to see how posting it was out of bounds. Post staffers were looking for clarity Monday after managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement that Sonmez violated the newsroom’s social media policy and “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”
I hope you’ll go read the rest. Sonmez spent the night in a hotel after her address was posted on-line by outraged Kobe fans. I’d also suggest reading this piece in the Post by Eric Wemple: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets.
I’ll be quiet about this now, but I just had to get it off my chest. I can acknowledge that millions of people are sad about the death of their idol. I just think there should be some recognition that the way we treat (male) athletes in our culture means that the people who dare to say no to their desires are publicly shamed and punished.
Some other news stories to check out today:
On the Bolton revelations:
Barbara McQuade at WaPo: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar.
Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone.
Other impeachment news and comment:
Impeachment expert Frank Bowman at The Atlantic: Trump’s Defense Against Subpoenas Makes No Legal Sense.
Jamelle Bouie at NYT: Mitch McConnell’s Complicity Has Deep Roots.
Vetting Bernie Sanders (finally)
David Frum at the Atlantic: Bernie Can’t Win.
Richard North Patterson at the Bulwark: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders.
Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.
Other campaign news:
Politico: Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire.
What stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Chinese New Year was on Saturday and nothing starts a new year off right like a twist in the prevailing media narrative! It’s the year of the rat and I’m pretty sure that’s what the mob boss in the oval office will be calling former Ambassador John Bolton in tweet after tweet after tweet as Capos Moscow Mitch and Boom Boom Barr and Senate bag men–like Lady Lindsey– fight to keep Bolton from testifying in the Senate impeachment trials. Trump is already tweeting denials. But, then, maybe we also need to hear from Boom Boom ?
I really love this emphatic lede from AXIOS: “Republicans fear “floodgates” if Bolton testifies”. We’re all waiting for those floodgates to open!
There may be enough new pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial, after the leak from a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton that contradicts what the White House has been telling the country.
Why it matters: This is a dramatic, 11th-hour inflection point for the trial, with an eyewitness rebuttal to Trump’s claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to investigations into Joe Biden.
- GOP sources say the revelation could be enough to sway the four Republican senators needed for witnesses — especially since Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine have already strongly signaled they’d vote for witnesses.
What happened: Bolton alleges in his book — “The Room Where It Happened,” out March 17 — that Trump explicitly told him “he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” the N.Y. Times reported.
- Trump strongly denied Bolton’s claims on Twitter early today: “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. … If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
The state of play: Republican sources tell Axios that party leaders and the White House will still try to resist witnesses because, as one top aide put it, “there is a sense in the Senate that if one witness is allowed, the floodgates are open.”
- “If [Bolton] says stuff that implicates, say Mick [Mulvaney] or [Mike] Pompeo, then calls for them will intensify,” the aide said.
What we can expect Trump’s defense lawyers to say as they make their case at the trial, beginning at 1 p.m. today and continuing tomorrow:
- They’ll say Bolton’s account doesn’t change any key facts, and reiterate that the aid, which was only briefly paused, was released without the announcement of any investigations.
- They’ll emphasize that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was no pressure, the call record shows no linkage between the two, and Zelensky got his meeting with Trump at the UN.
- They’ll also argue that Trump’s concerns about corruption in Ukraine were well-known: He questioned giving aid to the country for a number of reasons, just as he has done with other countries.
The intrigue: Bolton submitted the book to the White House on Dec. 30 for a standard prepublication security review for classified information.
- The Times notes: “The submission … may have given Mr. Trump’s aides and lawyers direct insight into what Mr. Bolton would say if he were called to testify.”
- “It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying.”
So, there’s the highlights. Here’s some analysis from Aaron Blake at WAPO:. “John Bolton’s bombshell gives the GOP a glimpse of its nightmare scenario”.
The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that they give Trump the quick and witness-free acquittal that he apparently desires, but then information like Bolton’s keeps coming out. Bolton now suggests Trump was indeed telling people privately that the withheld military aid was part of a quid pro quo — a quid pro quo that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he communicated to the Ukrainians. This is something Trump’s team has strenuously denied, including at the impeachment trial. What if Bolton isn’t the only person Trump told this to who might suddenly contradict them? However closely this has already been tied to Trump, it can always be tied more closely. Bolton’s upcoming book — slated for March 17 — is a great example of how the hastily assembled walls the Trump team have built around its defense can quickly crumble and, in some cases, already have.
The evidence, after all, is pretty compelling that Trump wasn’t truly concerned about corruption in Ukraine. Giuliani actually said publicly that these investigations weren’t about foreign policy but were instead about helping “my client.” There are also several confirmations that these were quid pro quos — including both military aid and a White House meeting — and that the quid pro quos were communicated to the Ukrainians, even if previous witnesses couldn’t say whether Trump explicitly signed off on them. Indeed, both Bolton and Mulvaney — two very high-ranking White House aides — have now offered confirmation of the quid pro quos, even though Mulvaney recanted his.
Here’s from the NYT Noah Weiland: “5 Takeaways on Trump and Ukraine From John Bolton’s Book. New revelations from the former White House national security adviser could complicate President Trump’s impeachment trial.”
Mr. Bolton wrote that Mr. Pompeo privately acknowledged to him last spring that Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Marie L. Yovanovitch, then the American ambassador to Ukraine, had no basis, including allegations that she was bad-mouthing Mr. Trump. Mr. Pompeo suggested to Mr. Bolton that Mr. Giuliani may have wanted Ms. Yovanovitch out because she might have been targeting his business clients in her anti-corruption efforts. Yet Mr. Pompeo still went through with Mr. Trump’s order to recall Ms. Yovanovitch last May.
Mr. Pompeo lashed out at a National Public Radio host on Friday and Saturday after she asked him in an interview about Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal.
Mr. Bolton also wrote that he had concerns about Mr. Giuliani. He said he warned White House lawyers last year that Mr. Giuliani might have been using his work representing the president as leverage to help his private clients.
Among other names Mr. Bolton referenced in the manuscript: Attorney General William P. Barr. Mr. Bolton wrote that he raised concerns with Mr. Barr about Mr. Giuliani’s influence on the president after Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. That call was a critical piece of the whistle-blower complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Barr on Sunday denied Mr. Bolton’s account through a spokeswoman.
Sarah K Burris–writing for Raw Story–writes: “John Bolton went to Bill Barr with concerns about Giuliani’s ‘shadow foreign policy’ in Ukraine: report”. Well, Barr’s in it deep now and I can’t want to see Giuliani in an orange jumpsuit.
Attorney General Bill Barr was cited recently by Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas as being part of the “team” of people workign to create a conspiracy to help get President Donald Trump reelected.
“Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,” said Parnas in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “Mr. Barr had to know about everything.”
Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph Bondy, has demanded that Barr recuse himself from overseeing the Parnas trial and investigation.
In his recently submitted manuscript, former national security adviser John Bolton revealed that he went to Barr with concerns about Giuliani after the notorious July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call,” the New York Times reported.
According to Barr’s spokesperson, however, Barr didn’t learn about the call from Bolton and didn’t find out about it until mid-August.
Bad news on the Democratic Primary front. Bernie Sanders is surging and David Leonhardt (NYT) argues this: “Iowa Should Never Go First Again. The current system is a form of white privilege that warps the process.”
The strongest part of the case for change, of course, is the racial aspect of the current calendar. Iowa and New Hampshire are among the country’s whitest states. About 6 percent of their combined population is black or Asian-American. Almost 87 percent is non-Hispanic white, compared with 60 percent for the country as a whole. Demographically, Iowa and New Hampshire look roughly like the America of 1870.
Julián Castro, the former presidential candidate, was right when he called out the Democratic Party’s hypocritical support for the status quo. “Iowa and New Hampshire are wonderful states with wonderful people,” Castro said. But Democrats can’t “complain about Republicans suppressing the votes of people of color, and then begin our nominating contest in two states that hardly have people of color.”
The typical defense from Iowa officials is that their state can be trusted because it once voted for a black man (Barack Obama) — which is a pretty stark bit of paternalism.
In truth, the whiteness of Iowa and New Hampshire matters. Consider that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were doing as well as Amy Klobuchar in early polls of more diverse states; they led Pete Buttigieg in some polls. But Booker and Harris are finished, in no small part because of their struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire. Klobuchar and Buttigieg still might break out.
Or consider that a candidate with strong white support (like Bernie Sanders) could win both Iowa and New Hampshire this year. That result would create a media narrative about Joe Biden’s campaign being badly wounded, even though Biden leads among two large groups of Democratic voters: African Americans and Latinos. Those voters, however, are told to wait their turn.
Politico looks at the potential of record turnout in Iowa.
“The national conversation seems to be moving past Pete, past Elizabeth, to Bernie and Biden. That’s where I think everything’s heading, or returning,” said Doug Herman, who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. “It’s kind of a reset back to the beginning of the race.”
But if there is high turnout in Iowa, he said, “It may help the other candidates: It may be what they need to stay viable.”
The Iowa Democratic Party has been preparing for record-breaking turnout for more than a year, driven both by Democrats’ angst about President Donald Trump and by an unusually large field of candidates — many of them with their own significant, independent turnout operations. The state party chairman, Troy Price, said the party is anticipating more caucus-goers than in 2008, which set a record when 239,000 Democratic voters participated, lifting Obama to victory.
“The winner is always who’s bringing a bunch of new [voters], said Sue Dvorsky, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman who backed Sen. Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the race.
The difficulty this year, she said, is that new voters could go to any number of different candidates. “There literally is no historical analogy here,” she said.
Every candidate could see potential advantages in a high-turnout caucus. And the weekend saw each of them working furiously to swell their lanes of support.
These are certainly interesting times we live in. Some times, I wish they weren’t so heart stopping. Maybe it’s just something we can blame on the year of the Rat!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?