Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Lawyers Try to Defend the Indefensible

Elizabeth Blackadder, Cats and Hibiscus

Good Morning!!

Today Trump’s “legal” team begins presenting his “defense.” Here’s what the “president” had to say about it this morning on Twitter.

Like Joyce Vance, I still find it difficult to believe that this disgusting person is stilling in the White House. I don’t know if I can stomach watching much of the lying that will go on today in the Senate “trial.” Here’s what we know so far about Trump’s “defense.”

The Washington Post: Trump’s defense team to target Bidens in counterpunch to impeachment charges.

Hishida Shunso Hana Zakuro or Flowering Pomegranate

White House lawyers are gearing up for a scorched-earth defense of President Trump in the impeachment trial, mounting a politically charged case aimed more at swaying American voters than GOP senators — and damaging Trump’s possible 2020 opponent, Joe Biden.

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, plan to use their time in the trial to target the former vice president and his son, Hunter, according to multiple GOP officials familiar with the strategy. Trump’s allies believe that if they can argue that the president had a plausible reason for requesting the Biden investigation in Ukraine, they can both defend him against the impeachment charges and gain the bonus of undercutting a political adversary.

The strategy — aimed squarely at muddying the waters surrounding the two impeachment articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — carries potential risk. Some congressional Republicans have encouraged the White House to prioritize a line-by-line rebuttal of the Democrats’ case, ensuring that wary moderates are provided enough cover to vote for Trump’s acquittal. It is unclear whether going after a former colleague will sway that core constituency, protecting moderates from possible political blowback at home — though a senior administration official made clear that Trump’s legal team would try to do both.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The problem for those of us who still care about the U.S. Constitution and about preserving democracy in our country is that Republicans no longer seem to care about facts and truth.

Alexander Nazaryan at Yahoo News: Fact, along with Trump, is on trial in the Senate.

“The truth is there,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said at the opening of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, a statement repeated and paraphrased countless times by the seven House impeachment managers, who have treated the case against Trump as self-evidently true based on the facts they have gathered.

Now they just have to convince Republicans.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Artemis Dreaming, Geraniums and cats

That will be difficult to do because, from the president himself to the most junior members of the House, Republicans have resisted acknowledging the uncontested facts of Trump’s months-long campaign to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce politically motivated investigations into the 2016 election and the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. Trump and his allies seem to be operating on a principle best expressed in 2018 by Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who is now the president’s personal attorney: “Truth isn’t truth.”

That leaves a confounding question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry: If one side believes in fixed truth, and the other treats truth as a fluid concept, how can the two parties even begin to seriously debate the articles of impeachment?

The trial has put in sharp focus what Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute described as “epistemic closure” in the conservative movement: a refusal to even consider ideologically inconvenient facts, no matter how obvious. The phenomenon infects right-wing media, including some of the president’s favorite anchors on Fox News, his supporters in Congress and the White House itself, where Trump is comfortable saying whatever seems to serve his purposes best at any moment — for example, denying he knows Giuliani’s erstwhile associate Lev Parnas, despite the existence of numerous photographs of them together.

Unfortunately for the “president” and his supporters, the truth is eventually going to come out, as Adam Schiff said yesterday in his closing remarks. From the Washington Post:

Mr. Schiff pointed out that, whether or not GOP senators demand relevant testimony and documents during the trial, more facts will eventually come out. Those who choose now to disregard the evidence against Mr. Trump and abet his obstruction will be reduced to watching in the months and years to come as the case against him — and against their abdication of constitutional duty — grows steadily stronger.

Blinking in the Sun, 1881, by Ralph Hedley

As we have repeatedly seen, Trump himself is likely to destroy his own lawyers’ “defense” by publicly confessing to his many crimes. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:

As Donald Trump’s defense team prepares to make its first arguments on the floor of the Senate on Saturday, top Republicans are increasingly worried that Trump’s lawyers are woefully unprepared to counter Democrats’ meticulous, fact-based case for removing Trump. In the president’s circle there’s not full-blown panic—but there’s worry. “A lot of Republicans think the Democrats have done a very good job,” a prominent Republican who is close to Trump’s legal team told me. “It’s been a lot better than we expected.” Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s fiercest House allies, seemingly spoke for many when he blasted Trump’s lawyers, telling Politico this week that the Trump team’s presentation was worse than “an eighth-grade book report.”

Trump himself is making the situation worse, both with his rages—he set a 142-tweet record on Wednesday—and his insistence that Republicans buy in fully to his defense strategy. “It’s really not helpful,” the Republican close to the legal team said. “Trump is mad at Republicans that they aren’t saying his call with [Volodymyr] Zelensky was perfect. He really thinks his call was perfect. It wasn’t.”

Removing Trump from office remains a distant outcome, but the dynamics of the Senate trial are clearly shifting in directions that are dangerous for the president. A new Emerson poll released on Thursday showed 51% of registered voters support removal, an uptick of two points. A Reuters poll published on Wednesday showed nearly three quarters of Americans want to hear new witnesses. The prospect that former national security adviser John Bolton would testify is alarming Republicans. (Trump and Bolton’s relationship is badly damaged. A day after Bolton left the administration in September, Trump raged that Bolton was “a liar and a leaker,” according to a person briefed on the conversation.) “If witnesses start coming and Bolton is negative, it could win some Republicans,” a source close to Trump told me. “Senators really dislike Trump and are tired of having to go to the mat for him on crazy, batshit stuff,” the source said. “We know if senators took a secret vote today, he’d be removed.”

Painting by Jeong Seon Chuil (Korean)

At the New Yorker, Susan Glasser writes that Republicans weren’t listening to case against Trump: The Closing of the Senatorial Mind.

In Trump’s exhausted, jaded capital, there is some listening, but certainly no hearing. Civility is as often as not a dirty word, a synonym for moral compromise and not a prescription for practical politics. In days of watching the trial, I have observed only a handful of instances of Republicans and Democrats interacting with each other in any way. The Senate of the United States in 2020 is not a place where meaningful talking across the aisle is possible. It is not a place where facts are mutually accepted and individuals of good will can look at them and come to opposite but equally valid conclusions. The distance is too vast, the gulf unbridgeable….

There are two observations from the Senate floor that stick with me after three long days of hearing the House present its case. These observations speak to how essentially impossible the task of addressing the jury was for Schiff and his fellow-prosecutors. The Republican John Kennedy, a canny Rhodes Scholar from Louisiana who is nonetheless known for his folksy observations, told a reporter, as he headed into the arguments on Friday morning, that the managers had made a mistake in reading their audience. “Very few souls are saved after the first twenty minutes of the sermon,” he said. Less charitable was the view of Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, who said that she had been watching her Republican colleagues squirm in their chairs and understood that nobody likes to be forced to listen to something that they disagree with. “Most of us get restless when we are presented with information we don’t want to hear,” Hirono said, and of course she was right. Imagine doing that for twelve hours or more a day, confined to a hard wooden seat, with no food and every bathroom break you take scrutinized by reporters as proof that you are not taking your job seriously. That, roughly, is the predicament in which the Senate Republican members found themselves this week. It is no surprise that they looked unhappy.

One more commentary from Sophia A. Nelson at USA Today: For Republicans, patriotism has left the Senate chamber.

Still Life With Flowers And Cat is a painting by C Kuipers, 18 century

Patriotism is not about words. Patriotism is about what we do. Patriotism is about what we stand for, who we stand up to and what we are willing to put on the line. Patriotism is about truth, honor, liberty, equality and freedom. The Republican-held Senate voted down all 11 amendments introduced by the minority party. Worse, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn attacked decorated Iraq War veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Twitter Thursday, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted about a “drinking game” when the word “drug deal” or “get over it” is used by House Managers….

I am troubled because I do not believe you can be both a patriot and be complicit in tyranny at the same time. It is not possible. The Republican House members and now, the Republican senators, are all intelligent and accomplished people. Perhaps, they are even good people who have somehow taken leave of themselves, and turned on their countrymen to support the flawed and dangerous leader of their party.

They know Trump is guilty. Many of them, according to presidential candidate and former Massachusettes Gov. Bill Weld and former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, would like to vote to convict the president. As House Manager Adam Schiff of California said Thursday night: “Right matters. … If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. … If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

I can no longer keep silent about what I see on social media, in my community, even in my church. Trump’s supporters are not bad people, and that is what makes it so hard to swallow. These Republican lawmakers are people who have sold themselves to a circus ringmaster. He is the Pied Piper and they are following him, taking the country with them as they walk into destruction.

We can only hope that reporters will continue to seek out and publish the truth about Trump’s crimes and his authoritarian aspirations and that patriotic Americans will go to the polls in November and vote him out.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


22 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Lawyers Try to Defend the Indefensible”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. dakinikat says:

    Every time I turn this on for like a couple minutes it’s either lies or conspiracy theories.

    • dakinikat says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    The defense for today is now over after two hours of lies.

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. NW Luna says:

    George Takei: The ‘Star Trek’ vision was hopeful. Trump’s is the mirror image.

    There’s a famous episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series” called “Mirror, Mirror,” in which half the bridge crew of the USS Enterprise suddenly find themselves in a parallel universe where the peaceful United Federation of Planets is now an “Empire.” In this terrifying version of reality, violence and cruelty have displaced peace and diplomacy as the hallmarks of governance.
    The “evil” version of my own character, Sulu, plots to kill both Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock so that he can take command of the ship.

    In classic “Star Trek” style, the script for this episode carried loaded meaning. The writers were issuing a warning: A free and democratic society can flip in the blink of an ion storm, and all that we take for granted about the rule of law, the chain of command and the civilized functions of government can be gone in an instant.

  7. NW Luna says:

    The cat pictures are a wonderful visual respite to the news!

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Wow. Obama called Trump a fascist in 2016.

    NBC News: Obama called Trump a ‘fascist’ during phone call, Sen. Kaine says in new Clinton film

    Kaine, Clinton’s running mate on the Democratic ticket, recounts the call during an exchange with Clinton that was caught on camera in 2016. Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, was also present.

    “President Obama called me last night and said: ‘Tim, remember, this is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House,'” Kaine says before adding with a laugh that Obama “knows me and he knows that I could tend to err.”

    Clinton replies, nodding, “I echo that sentiment.”

    She then puts her hands to her chest and says, “But that’s really — the weight of our responsibility is so huge.”

    The Atlantic: Obama’s 2016 Warning: Trump Is a ‘Fascist’

    In an interview at Sundance today with Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Clinton elaborated on her exchange with Kaine. “If you look at the definition [of fascist], which I’ve had the occasion to read several times,” Clinton said, “I think we can agree on several things: One, he has authoritarian tendencies and he admires authoritarian leaders, [Vladimir] Putin being his favorite. He uses a form of really virulent nationalism. He identifies targets: immigrants, blacks, browns, gays, women, whoever the target of the day or week is … I think you see a lot of the characteristics of what we think of [as] nationalistic, fascistic kinds of tendencies and behaviors.”

    • quixote says:

      So if Obama was well aware what was coming into the White House after him, why didn’t he declassify all the evidence showing election subversion and vote stealing and Russian influence, and everything they had on money laundering by the Member of the Transnational Crime Syndicate pretending to be President?

      Why?

      If the proof of the obvious truth had been out there, maybe, *maybe* people would have been galvanized to avert the worst.

      I just can’t understand his motivations except in a horribly cynical light which I sure hope is not true.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Obama was always too cautious. We would have been so much better off if he had waited and Hillary had been elected in 2008. We could have had 16 years of Democratic rule.

      • NW Luna says:

        “in a horribly cynical light which I sure hope is not true.”

        It’s true. He was always weak in this regard. Fearful, not wanting to rock the boat, too bipartisan? I’ve softened my opinion on Obama but he is partially responsible for Trump. Our own intelligence agencies knew Trump as a useful idiot for Russia but Obama thought he would stay above it all when he was really abdicating his responsibility to our country.