Thursday Reads: The Impeachment “Trial” Continues

Claude Monet, Le Havre scene

Good Morning!!

I’m going to use the above painting for relaxation purposes today–to take my mind off my anger, frustration, and fear for the future of our country.

The Senate impeachment “trial” is not over yet, and we could still see witnesses and documents; but it doesn’t look likely. Even though polls show that 51 percent of Americans think Trump should be removed from office, 72 percent think there should be witnesses, and 57 percent say House managers should be able to present new evidence, Republican Senators clearly are not taking their responsibilities seriously.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: ‘S.O.S.! PLEASE HELP ME!’ The world’s greatest deliberative body falls to pettifoggery.

Just minutes into the session, as lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) presented his opening argument for removing the president, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) displayed on his desk a hand-lettered message with big block letters pleading: “S.O.S.”

In case that was too subtle, he followed this later with another handwritten message pretending he was an abducted child:

“THESE R NOT MY PARENTS!”

“PLEASE HELP ME!”

Paul wrote “IRONY ALERT” on another scrap of paper, and scribbled there an ironic thought. Nearby, a torn piece of paper concealed a crossword puzzle, which Paul set about completing while Schiff spoke. Eventually, even this proved insufficient amusement, and Paul, though required to be at his desk, left the trial entirely for a long block of time.

Paul wasn’t alone in his disrespectful behavior. Republicans ignored the rules requiring them to remain in their seats and be quiet.

Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) read press clippings. (Blackburn had talking points on her desk attacking the whistleblower.) Sessions begin with an admonition that “all persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment,” but Ernst promptly struck up a conversation with Dan Sullivan (Alaska), who talked with Ron Johnson (Wis.). Steve Daines (Mont.) walked over to have a word with Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Tim Scott (S.C.), who flashed a thumbs-up.

Lindsey Graham (S.C.) variously shook his head in disagreement with the managers, picked his teeth and yawned. Tom Cotton (Ark.) ordered up a glass of milk, then another, then unwrapped a chocolate bar to share with Ernst. An aisle over, James Risch (Idaho), who fell asleep during Tuesday’s session, talked loudly enough to be heard in the press gallery.

And check out this insane tweet from Indiana Senator Mike Braun:

Law and Crime: ’21 Empty Seats’: More Than One-Third of GOP Senators Reportedly Left Room During Schiff’s Speech.

A large bloc of Republican Senators reportedly skipped large portions of Wednesday’s impeachment trial, flouting Senate rules requiring them to remain in their seats at all times during the proceedings, according to journalist Michael McAuliff.

“Just counted 21 empty seats on the GOP side of the Senate, 2 on the Dem side, a couple hours into [Adam] Schiff’s presentation. Some are just stretching their legs, but most are not in the chamber. Some of them have been out of there for a while,” McAuliff said.

That means more than one-third of 53 Republican senators tasked with deciding the president’s fate all missed the same segment of the historic trial. Among those absent from the action “for a long time” were Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La), and Jim Risch (R-Idaho).

While Graham had already publicly stated his belief that the impeachment proceedings were a sham–and backed a plan to have the charges against President Doanld Trump dismissed with a pre-trial motion–Sen. Cassidy on Tuesday said he planned to “listen to both sides with an open mind” before reaching a decision.

While Graham had already publicly stated his belief that the impeachment proceedings were a sham–and backed a plan to have the charges against President Doanld Trump dismissed with a pre-trial motion–Sen. Cassidy on Tuesday said he planned to “listen to both sides with an open mind” before reaching a decision.

At Vox, Aaron Rupar reports: Fox News devised a way to cover the impeachment trial without covering it at all.

As the impeachment trial got underway in the Senate on Wednesday, Fox News covered it in a way that gave the appearance of journalism but was actually propaganda.

In fairness, the network did cover the entirety of Rep. Adam Schiff’s two-hour opening statement. But after that, while CNN and MSNBC continued to broadcast the trial, Fox News turned to spin.

Back in November, Fox News spun the House impeachment hearings by featuring short, out-of-context clips of Republicans defending President Trump that portrayed things in the best possible light for them. But that option wasn’t available on Wednesday, as the entirety of the day was allotted to Democratic impeachment managers.

Starting with The Five, the network’s early evening roundtable commentary show, and continuing throughout the evening, Fox News broadcast portions of screen-in-screen video of the trial. But instead of playing the audio, network hosts provided the normal Trumpian spin. So while someone who just looked at the screen may have concluded Fox News was covering the trial, in fact it wasn’t covering it at all.

The network went as far as to broadcast screen-in-screen video of the trial during commercial breaks — but, again, without the sound that was necessary to make any sense of what was being discussed.

Fox News primetime hosts did everything they could to diminish the significance of the impeachment trial. Tucker Carlson began his show by comparing it to “a movie written and directed by children whose ending you already know, and by the way, it’s 20 hours long, in Hungarian, with misspelled subtitles.” He even offered a tongue-in-cheek apology to viewers when he did show brief clips from the trial.

Despite the indifference of GOP Senators, new evidence did come out yesterday, and Rep. Adam Schiff discussed it during the “trial.” CNN: The damning new evidence about the Zelensky phone call.

At President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday, the House managers stressed, as they did Tuesday, the need to subpoena relevant witnesses and documents for the trial. But their arguments took on a new power and urgency on the heels of Tuesday’s release of critical new evidence showing that White House officials were preparing to halt the release of almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine on July 24, the day before the President’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky….

While it has been previously shown that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent an email to the Department of Defense instructing them to withhold military aid to Ukraine roughly 90 minutes after the President’s July 25 call, the new documents provide the first concrete evidence that the White House was preparing to withhold aid to Ukraine prior to the call. They also provide a road map of efforts led by Michael Duffey, the associate director of OMB, to coordinate the halting of the aid with the White House Counsel’s office and the Department of Defense.

This revelation follows just days after the non-partisan General Accounting Office declared that the withholding of Ukrainian military aid by the White House was unlawful.

Tuesday night’s evidence comes from almost 200 pages of heavily redacted documents turned over by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by a watchdog group, American Oversight.

It would be easy, given the considerable evidence that the House managers have detailed on Wednesday during their opening arguments on the Senate floor, to see these emails as duplicative of existing evidence and testimony.

But they are not.

They are something far more important as they show that the President’s effort to bully Zelensky to “do us a favor” was premeditated, planned and timed to give the President a hammer to compel a foreign leader to do Trump’s personal bidding for his personal gain. (Trump vehemently denies that this was his intent.)

The President needed to know that the nearly $400 million in aid could be withheld; he needed to know that he wielded this powerful hammer over Zelensky, should the Ukrainian President choose not to comply.

So Trump’s request for a “favor” from Zelensky wasn’t just something he talked about off the top of his head. It was planned and others in the administration knew about it.

Democrats have actually used their presentations to introduce evidence by way of videos of House witness testimony and of Trump himself.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump tapes help incriminate the President at his own trial

Republicans might be blocking new testimony in the Senate trial but Democratic impeachment managers keep returning to the person who makes their case better than anyone: the President himself.

Trump, of course, is not literally in the Senate chamber — though he said Wednesday he’d “love” to be in the front row to stare at his “corrupt” accusers.

But for Democrats, there’s no better evidence with which to paint a picture of what they say is a self-dealing, obstructive leader with a kingly view of his own powers than the highlight reel already compiled by the most television-obsessed president in history.

“I have, in Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President,” Trump says in one clip aired on Tuesday by lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California.

The Trump tapes not only break up hours of dense legal arguments. They also put the President at the center of the action, portraying him as the ringleader of the scheme to pressure Ukraine for political favors, and not an outsider player.

They also confront the Republican senators, serving as jurors, with the direct evidence of what Democrats say is outlandish, impeachable behavior in a way that may not change their minds but is deeply uncomfortable.

As the “trial” proceeds, Trump keeps right on incriminating himself.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Senate Republicans need to end this trial before Donald Trump confesses to anything else.

“We’re doing very well,” Trump said, summing up the performance of his legal team after watching the trial from Davos, Switzerland. “But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

His timing was problematic, to say the least. Democrats had just spent a marathon Senate session trying to get Republicans to agree to force Trump to hand over potentially incriminating “material,” including new witnesses and evidence.

The President’s lawyers say he’s got every right to withhold evidence pertinent to the case, because executive privilege covers sensitive presidential decisions. And who knows what “material” Trump really meant? But his tendency to blow the whistle on himself is one reason why the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, wants Trump acquitted as soon as possible..

Blurting out inconvenient truths is more than a verbal tic. It’s a sign of obliviousness or disdain for codes of presidential restraint — which may be what got Trump into impeachment trouble in the first place.

Trump apparently spent all day yesterday watching TV and tweeting. The Washington Post: Trump’s second-heaviest Twitter day mirrored the heaviest: Lots of feedback about things on TV.

The day arguments in his impeachment trial began in the Senate, Trump tweeted 142 times, most of them retweets. Data from Factba.se, an index of Trump’s public comments, make clear that, like that…the tweets…had a theme. In this case, it was defenses of his interactions with Ukraine, the events at the heart of the trial.

Retweets have become an increasing part of Trump’s Twitter repertoire. So far this month, more than half of his tweets have been retweets. The figure is actually about 6 in 10, just as it was last month. December 2019 and January 2020 are, to date, the only months in which half of his tweets have been retweets. November of last year came close.

Notice, too, that Trump has been much more active on Twitter in the past few months. In 2017, Trump averaged 217 tweets per month. In 2018, with the midterm elections looming, the average was about 300. In 2019? An average of about 650 tweets per month, including two months with more than 1,000 tweets….

You can see that Trump’s average tweets per day began to spike in about February of last year. In March, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III completed his work, releasing his report in April. In May, Mueller testifies publicly. The arrival of the impeachment threat coincided with the peak of the recent spike.

Trump’s cognitive decline also continues. Raw Story: Trump makes bizarre statement about protecting the inventor of the wheel in rambling interview.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday made a bizarre statement about needing to protect the intellectual property of famous American inventors — including, apparently, the person who invented the wheel thousands of years ago.

During an interview with CNBC while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the president was asked about what he made of the success of electric car company Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk.

“Well, you have to give him credit,” Trump replied. “I spoke to him very recently, and he’s also doing the rockets, he likes rockets, and, uh, he does good at rockets too… And I was worried about him because he’s one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our geniuses. You know, we have to protect Thomas Edison, and we have to protect all of these people that, uh, came up with, originally, the light bulb and the wheel, and all of these things.”

That’s all I have for you today. Are you watching the “trial?” What other stories have you been following?


18 Comments on “Thursday Reads: The Impeachment “Trial” Continues”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice day everyone!!

    • dakinikat says:

      End of my work week and I’m exhausted. Have to get used to edutaining for 3 hours in a class again. And wow, are my Swiss students smart! Anyway, here we go again and Poserdent Orange Snot Blob is home so batten down the Twitter hatches for name caller and toddler tantrums!!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

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  4. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I think I’m at my 1,672nd expression of disgust and outrage about Trump’s behavior.

    • quixote says:

      He’s probably pretty proud of himself at this point for knowing that Kurds and Quds are not the same. Progress!

      (I’m still at my first feeling of revulsion: it started when this Dump of orange dog poo first turned up on my radar and has been continuous, with intensifications, ever since.)

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    What in hell is this clown even saying?

    Am reading the latest book, “A Very Stable Genius” which is once again exposing the utter ignorance of this fool.

    It is astonishing that this moron ever could have been elected to anything let alone POTUS.

    The man is completely ignorant of anything! But more astonishing are those people who gave these interview – roughly 200 of them – who have so far remained quiet about the dangerous of someone so stupid ever leading a nation and encouraged by enablers as he is.

    My guess in “reading between the lines” that these authors were able to get information from Kelly, Mattis, Tillerson, Bannon, and even Kellyanne because of their attendance at some of these meetings that left the room astounded by the indifference and ego of this man.

    Yet he goes on. And on. And on. It is jaw dropping at how, with all his flaws and failures, he has defenders willing to defend him and his behavior.

    The man is an idiot!

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. NW Luna says:

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  9. dakinikat says:

  10. NW Luna says:

    Even the Russians?

    Trump creates new hurdles for pregnant women seeking U.S. tourist visas

    The Trump administration says it is cracking down on what it calls “birth tourism” and will instruct consular officers to assess whether women requesting visas to visit the United States are hoping to give birth here to obtain U.S. citizenship for the child.