Thunderous Thursday Reads: What Did Trump Promise A Foreign Leader?

Gustav Klimt, Large Poplar II (Approaching Thunderstorm)

Good Morning!!

Last night The Washington Post broke a story on the mysterious whistleblower complaint that Trump and Cover-up General Barr are trying to keep secret from Congress: Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress, former officials say.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. spy agencies. One former official said the communication was a phone call.

Gustav Klimt, Landscape with Birch Trees

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

But acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers, touching off a legal and political dispute that has spilled into public view and prompted speculation that the spy chief is improperly protecting the president.

The dispute is expected to escalate Thursday when Atkinson is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in a classified session closed to the public. The hearing is the latest move by committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to compel U.S. intelligence officials to disclose the full details of the whistleblower complaint to Congress. Maguire has agreed to testify before the panel next week, according to a statement by Schiff. He declined to comment for this article.

This seems like a very big deal. Atkinson is meeting right now behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee. And the Dotard is up and tweeting about it.

Yes, I’d say quite a few of us believe that the dummy in the WH would do that. Some background from the WaPo story:

The complaint was filed with Atkinson’s office on Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

Trump met with other foreign leaders at the White House in July, including the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of the Netherlands and the emir of Qatar.

The Swamp, Gustav Klimt

Most likely the call in question is the one with Putin. As you may recall, that was the call in which Trump supposedly offered Russia help with the wildfires in Siberia. The Russian readout of the call was very different. Putin claimed that Trump’s offer demonstrated that normalization of relations between the two countries was possible.

Putin, in response, expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Trump and said that if necessary, he will accept the offer, the Kremlin said on its website.

“The President of Russia regards the US President’s offer as a sign that it is possible that full-scale bilateral relations will be restored in the future,” the statement from the Kremlin read.

“The presidents of Russia and the United States agreed to continue contacts both in a telephone format and in person,” it added.

However, the two countries differed somewhat in their interpretations of the call.

As NPR’s Tamara Keith reports, “Russia announced the call first, saying President Trump offered Putin assistance fighting wildfires in Siberia. … Putin assessed the offer as a sign that relations between the two countries would be fully restored. Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and is still under U.S. sanctions.”

Speculation from Twitter about what happened:

Shugarman has posted a thread with timelines from other twitter users of events that took place during the time in question. Click on the above tweet to read the thread. More timelines:

Response from @swatkins109:

“Also Huntsman (Ambassador to Russia) resigns Aug 6 Sept 3 trump announces military spending for NATO countries canceled.”

Make of all that what you will. I can’t wait till the whole story comes out, and it will.

David Frum writes at The Atlantic: The Question Posed by Trump’s Phone Call: A whistle-blower complaint raises the possibility that President Trump has betrayed the duties of his office.

On the 20th of July 1787, Gouverneur Morris rose inside the stiflingly hot Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, to explain why he had changed his mind and now favored including a power of impeachment in the constitutional text.

Until that point, he and others had feared that an impeachment power would leave the president too dependent on Congress. He had thought that the prospect of reelection defeat would offer a sufficient control on presidential wrongdoing.

A Morning by the Pond, Gustav Klimt

But Morris ultimately changed his mind.

Foreign corruption inducing treason was the core impeachable offense in the eyes of the authors of the Constitution.

Which is why a whistle-blower report filed with the inspector general for the intelligence community, reportedly concerning an improper “promise” by President Donald Trump to a foreign leader, has jolted Congress.

Earlier in the constitutional debates—back when he still opposed an impeachment provision—Morris argued that a corrupt or treasonable president “can do no criminal act without Coadjutors who may be punished.” Trump is surrounded by coadjutors, yet so far all are acting with impunity, joined now by the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who is withholding from Congress the apparently explosive information.

Trump has been engaged in improper contacts with foreign governments for years, and built deep business relationships with foreign nationals. Russian assistance helped elect him. Money from wealthy Russians reportedly helped keep his businesses alive from 2006 to 2016. Since 2016, more and more foreign money has flowed Trump’s way. Trump literally has a hotel open on Pennsylvania Avenue to accept payments—there’s a big carpet in front, his name on the door, nothing even remotely clandestine about the flow of corruption. That corruption seeks returns. Again and again, Trump has acted in ways that align with the interests of foreign states, raising questions about his motives.

Exactly what was promised in this particular conversation, and to whom, America and the world wait to hear.

I certainly hope we learn something from Adam Schiff when he emerges from that private briefing with the Inspector General.

Gustav Klimt, The Marshy Pond

The New York Times just broke a story about the hearing: Watchdog Refuses to Detail Whistle-Blower Complaint About Trump.

The internal watchdog for American spy agencies declined repeatedly in a briefing on Thursday to disclose to lawmakers the content of a potentially explosive whistle-blower complaint that is said to involve a discussion between President Trump and a foreign leader, according to two people familiar with the briefing.

During a private session on Capitol Hill, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, told lawmakers he was unable to confirm or deny anything about the substance of the complaint, including whether it involved the president, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door conversation. The meeting was still underway.

The complaint, which prompted a standoff between Congress and Mr. Trump’s top intelligence official, involves a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader, according to a person familiar with the complaint….

Few details of the whistle-blower complaint are known, including the identity of the world leader. And it is not obvious how a communication between Mr. Trump and a foreign leader could meet the legal standards for a whistle-blower complaint that the inspector general would deem an “urgent concern.”

Under the law, the complaint has to concern the existence of an intelligence activity that violates the law, rules or regulations, or otherwise amounts to mismanagement, waste, abuse, or a danger to public safety. But a conversation between two foreign leaders is not itself an intelligence activity.

And while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit, legal experts said.

The NYT has the name of the whistleblower’s lawyer.

Andrew P. Bakaj, a former C.I.A. and Pentagon official whose legal practice specializes in whistle-blower and security clearance issues, confirmed that he is representing the official who filed the complaint. Mr. Bakaj declined to identify his client or to comment.

Obviously this story will be making news all day today. As the Dotard likes to say, “we’ll see what happens. Please post your thoughts on this story or anything else you find interesting in the comment thread below.


Tuesday Reads

Louise Williams Jackson, Woman Reading a Book on a Sofa

Good Morning!!

For months now, we’ve been talking about the society-wide depression and anxiety that Trump’s “presidency” has caused. Speaking for myself, I managed to stay glued to the news for quite a long time, but lately I’ve tried to protect myself by stepping back as much as possible and finding ways to nourish my psyche in order to avoid falling into despair over what is happening to this country.

I’ve still paid close attention to the damage Trump is doing, and I’ve found that I can do that without watching cable TV constantly and reading every horrific article I encounter. I’m still experiencing “Trump depression” though and I know I’m not alone.

In light of that, I want to begin this post by highlighting this helpful article by Paul Rosenberg at Salon: The Trump depression (and we don’t mean the economy): Key symptom of autocratic regimes. It’s quite long, but I hope you’ll go read the entire thing. Some excerpts:

Reviewing “Trump’s Wacky, Angry, and Extreme August” on Twitter, the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser said the experience “was exhausting, a dark journey to a nasty and contentious place.” But that’s hardly news: it’s a place we live in every day. We try to turn the volume down and ignore it, and that may work for a while. But it won’t last. It can’t. It’s getting worse, and we can all see where we’re headed.

We know who Donald Trump admires, who he wants to be like — “president for life” as he keeps on telling us — and the countries they rule. Even as Trump insulted Americans and allies with abandon, Glasser noted, he found time to praise North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

America is nowhere near as bad as Brazil or China, much less North Korea. But our democracy is eroding significantly. Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) tracks hundreds of attributes of democracy for 202 countries, spanning more than two centuries. Its 2019 report found that “24 countries are now severely affected by what is established as a ‘third wave of autocratization,'” an erosion of democratic rights “that has slowly gained momentum since the mid 1990s. … Among them are populous countries such as Brazil, India and the United States.”

If Trump has his way — demolishing all restraints on his power — things will only get much worse, with the journey Glasser took as a tour book guide of what’s to come. And people are feeling it in their bones.

By Keith Gantos ( EUA 1957) óleo sobre madeira

I think we all acknowledge at this point that Trump wants to be a dictator in the mold of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. He has managed to get rid of the so-called “adults in the room” and surround himself with sycophants, yes men, and acting cabinet members whose jobs are subject to his whims. On the “Trump depression,” Rosenberg quotes “physician and scholar” Frederick Burkle.

“In America under Trump there is a population-based depression taking hold. It is a very subtle, smoldering, pervasive and serious condition that people in autocratic countries chronically live with,” physician and scholar Frederick “Skip” Burkle told me in a recent interview. Burkle has any number of academic credentials: He was founding director of the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance at the University of Hawaii, and currently serves in advisory or research capacities at the Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University Medical Institutes, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and elsewhere.

It was Burkle who first described Trump as a schoolyard bully to me, as I described in July. His own first childhood encounter with a bully taught him that such people were driven by “not just the violence and intimidation, but the narcissist’s hallmark sense of impunity, backed up by effortless deceit, blame-shifting, and manipulation,” as I expressed it.

“When I did see young adults with sociopathy and narcissism, the depression among their caretaker parents was pervasive,” Burkle told me in our recent conversation. “They control the agenda and suck all the oxygen out of the room every day. They also sap all the energy out of their caretaker parents and staff later in life, and are quick to blame others for the consequences.” It’s not accidental, he observed, that Trump underlings like Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn are the ones convicted of crimes.

Meanwhile, the wider public, overwhelmed by the Trumpian chaos, becomes depressed, disoriented and exhausted, as Burkle puts it.

Woman Reading In Bath by Chen Bolen

Rosenberg cites several other experts, including Elizabeth Mika who wrote a chapter in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

When I reached out to Mika…, she cited two concepts as particularly important for “understanding our sociopolitical situation” — both what’s driving the depression Burkle speaks of, and what points toward the way out.

“The first one is pathocracy,” Mika said. “which is the rule of pathological characters — specifically, people with entirely absent or severely compromised conscience — who, because of their character defect, are devoted pretty much exclusively to the pursuit of power by any means possible.”

Pathocracies spread into general populace like cancer, taking over and destroying organs of social and political life, along with individual human beings. People living under pathocracies become demoralized and despondent. Depression and despair, along with various social pathologies, are predictable consequences of being forced to adjust to immoral and inhumane socio-political systems based on lies and exploitation.

Yet “just as pathocracy spreads in a populace, so does a healthy resistance to it,” she explained.

Awakening to the reality of pathocracy, mobilizing against it and dismantling it, is a process of positive disintegration — the second concept I mentioned at the start — during which individuals come to realize the importance of higher values, and start implementing them, little by little, in their daily lives.

The way out is not a return to normalcy, since as Mika noted above, “The tyrant shows up in a society that is already weakened by disorder.”

I know I’ve quoted a lot, but there’s much more to read at the link. I hope you’ll check it out.

Fyffe Christie (1918-1979) – The artist’s wife reading (1953)

I don’t know why this story on Russian spying at Yahoo News isn’t getting more attention: Exclusive: Russia carried out a ‘stunning’ breach of FBI communications system, escalating the spy game on U.S. soil, by Zach Dorfman, Jenna McLaughlin and Sean D. Naylor.

On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government. As the Russians burned papers and scrambled to pack their bags, the Kremlin protested the treatment of its diplomats, and denied that those compounds — sometimes known as the “dachas” — were anything more than vacation spots for their personnel.

The Obama administration’s public rationale for the expulsions and closures — the harshest U.S. diplomatic reprisals taken against Russia in several decades — was to retaliate for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But there was another critical, and secret, reason why those locations and diplomats were targeted.

Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community.

It appears that Russian interference in our elections was only the tip of the iceberg.

“It was a very broad effort to try and penetrate our most sensitive operations,” said a former senior CIA official.

Girl reading a book, (after 1930) by Bertold Piotr Oczko born 1910 in Bielsko, Poland died 1943 in Krakau, Poland

American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet. Senior FBI and CIA officials briefed congressional leaders on these issues as part of a wide-ranging examination on Capitol Hill of U.S. counterintelligence vulnerabilities.

These compromises, the full gravity of which became clear to U.S. officials in 2012, gave Russian spies in American cities including Washington, New York and San Francisco key insights into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and likely the actual substance of FBI communications, according to former officials. They provided the Russians opportunities to potentially shake off FBI surveillance and communicate with sensitive human sources, check on remote recording devices and even gather intelligence on their FBI pursuers, the former officials said.

“When we found out about this, the light bulb went on — that this could be why we haven’t seen [certain types of] activity” from known Russian spies in the United States, said a former senior intelligence official.

The compromise of FBI systems occurred not long after the White House’s 2010 decision to arrest and expose a group of “illegals” – Russian operatives embedded in American society under deep non-official cover – and reflected a resurgence of Russian espionage. Just a few months after the illegals pleaded guilty in July 2010, the FBI opened a new investigation into a group of New York-based undercover Russian intelligence officers. These Russian spies, the FBI discovered, were attempting to recruit a ring of U.S. assets — including Carter Page, an American businessman who would later act as an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Once again, I’ve quoted a great deal, but it’s a very long piece that is both interesting and alarming.

A lady reading a book Ernst Liebermann born May 8, 1869 in Langemuss (Meiningen), Germany

This next story is horrific, and once again it began under Obama. The Washington Post: U.S. officials knew bomb-sniffing dogs were dying from neglect in Jordan. They sent more.

The State Department sent dozens of highly skilled explosive-detection dogs to Jordan, even after the agency assessed a high degree of mistreatment and failure to care for the animals in 2016, according to an inspector general report concluded last week. It ultimately led to their early deaths and crushed their spirits so brutally that the dogs “lost the will to work,” the report says.

At least 10 dogs provided to Jordan died of “various medical problems” out of at least 100 canines sent there between 2008 and 2016, the report found, and surviving dogs were starved in kennels smeared with feces and dirt. Dogs were overworked in the desert, suffered hip dysplasia and other conditions. Engorged ticks ringed their ears.

Zoe, [a] Belgian Malinois, died of heat stroke on the Syrian border in 2017, less than a year after her arrival. Veterinarians told investigators that such deaths are not accidental and pointed to negligence on the part of Jordanian handlers.

The report reveals an alarming and fast collapse of dogs that arrived healthy and strong in Jordan, only to be fighting for their lives in a matter of months….

Athena, a 2-year old Belgian Malinois, was found starved in Jordan by U.S. dog handling officials and evacuated to the United States for recovery.

Photos in Jordan show Athena’s malnourished body. Feces covered her kennel floor, her water bowl bone-dry. The State Department had two full-time dog handling mentors on the ground “during the entire time” Athena was in Jordan, the report found, but her condition did not set off any alarms until a site visit in April 2018.

By then, the State Department knew for two years — after an April 2016 site visit — that Jordan was unable to adequately care for and protect dogs carrying out dirty, hot and dangerous work to find explosives in violent places like the Syrian border.

Yet at least 60 dogs arrived in six waves through 2018 after the assessment, the report found

As the Brits say, bloody hell. This is intolerable!

Woman Reading, by Lex Veen

More reads, links only.

Vanity Fair: “They Played It Up Pretty Big”: Turmoil Engulfs The Times Over The Kavanaugh Debacle.

Mimi Rocah at USA Today: Confirmed: Powerful men ignored women in short-circuited Brett Kavanaugh investigation.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: The New Kavanaugh Reporting Shows How Far Trump’s Control Goes.

Vox: Susan Collins is in the political fight of her life, and Brett Kavanaugh is a huge factor.

The Washington Post: Pentagon urges restraint after strikes on Saudi oil facilities.

Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump has dug himself into a hole with Iran.

Politico: Trump’s deference to Saudi Arabia infuriates much of D.C.

Buzzfeed News: Donald Trump Keeps Telling World Leaders The Same Bizarre Story About Kim Jong Un.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Trump is Annoyed Pence Hasn’t Been Defending Him More”: Is Trump’s Long-Suffering V.P. in Danger of Getting Bounced?

Politico: Air Force crews stayed at Trump’s Turnberry resort for days at a time.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Post-Debate Speculation

Edvard Meownch

Good Afternoon!!

The mainstream (AKA white male) media has decided for us that only the oldest (white) Democratic candidates are acceptable to them. It also appears they have mostly rejected Bernie Sanders and embraced Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. I’d like to offer some rare counterarguments, even though it might be a futile exercise.

Henry Olsen at The Washington Post: The three big winners of the Houston debate.

Thursday’s Democratic debate lacked the sparks and conflicts that characterized the first two outings. It nonetheless produced three clear winners: former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Obviously, I disagree with Olsen about Biden but, after all, he is a white man. He does note that Biden “weakened” over the course of the three hours and gave “convoluted” answers to foreign policy questions. He doesn’t mention Biden’s racist response to a question about overcoming the long-term effects of slavery. On Harris and Klobuchar:

By Tetsuo Takahara

Harris was charismatic. Alternately funny and serious, warm and strong, she came across as a real person with real experience and a passion for change. Her answers lacked some of the policy detail of her competitors, but she more than made up for that with her wit and some planned one-liners. Former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro spoke about how Democratic presidential winners excited millions of voters to put together their victorious coalitions. His low-energy performance did not show he was the person to do that, but Harris’s suggested she could.

Whether she can turn a winning persona into a winning campaign remains to be seen. Democrats looking for passionate progressivism have found their champions, and Harris wisely is not trying to out-shout Sanders or Warren. Democrats looking for a steady, more centrist hand also have their person, and Biden thus far hasn’t given them reason to change. But the race is still young, and we know from experience that candidates drop rapidly in the face of attacks and under the pressure of the moment. If Harris can keep this up, she is positioned to pick up former supporters of any of the top three if they falter.

Klobuchar was the surprise of the night, finally showing some energy and life. Her opening statement carefully presented her case as the Midwestern working mom who can unite the country while advancing liberal policy goals. Cleverly blasting Sanders’s signature Medicare-for-all proposal by saying, “While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” was a masterstroke. Her closing statement was superb as she argued that only someone from the middle of the country could speak to the middle of the political spectrum.

By Anatoly Merkushov

She won’t gain much in the polls from her performance, but it nonetheless demonstrates how she could break out of the pack. Her standing in Iowa polls is slightly higher than her national standing, and her debate strategy was laser-targeted on the Iowa voter who isn’t a staunch progressive.

Christopher Frizzelle at The Stranger: Kamala Harris Landed One Solid Blow After Another Against Trump.

Kamala Harris may not be my number-one choice for nominee, but hot damn she can land a punch. At a previous debate, she took her prosecutorial skills straight to Joe Biden. Last night, she changed tack and went for Trump, over and over again. In doing so, she demonstrated what kind of adversary she would be in general-election debates against Trump, and probably did herself some favors by making it easier to picture her as the nominee. (Not that “winning” debates against Trump in a general election would necessarily mean beating him: Hillary Clinton’s debate performances were flawless).

See videos of Harris’ attacks on Trump at the link. Here’s her opening statement:

 

On the Biden front, I posted this piece by Jamil Smith in a comment yesterday, but it’s so important that I’m posting again here:

As you can see from these few articles in which I found praise of Harris, she probably will never be accepted as a legitimate candidate by the media or the “Justice Democrats,” who favor Sanders and Warren. But it’s possible she could attract the black vote if Biden drops out. And we need the black vote.

Rolling Stone: Why It’s Time for Joe to Go.

Donald Trump is not merely a bully, but a racist one. Bigotry has been the marrow of his presidency, so whoever hopes to face him next year will need to at least be fluent in the language of antiracism, if not be practicing it. It is not enough, as author Ibram X. Kendi writes in his new book How to Be an Antiracist, to simply claim that you are “not a racist.” Democrats, particularly white liberals, have skated on that for generations. There is too much institutional cruelty for the next president to undo should a Democrat defeat Trump next fall….

By Robert Romanowicz

Thankfully, ABC seemed to understand this. They had excellent moderators, including Univision’s Jorge Ramos and ABC correspondent Linsey Davis, the panel’s only African American. She asked several questions of the entire field that provoked the kind of frank and open discussion of black concerns and political interests that is rare for a presidential debate. It was fitting, given the setting on the historically black campus of Texas Southern University, but also because Davis said that young black voters consider racism their chief concern….

Davis…directed a question at Biden concerning his alarming 1975 comments on school segregation. She read the full quote, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago,” and Biden smirked oddly as she did so. The correspondent followed up by asking, “What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” Without missing a beat, the Democratic front-runner delivered a response that was considerably more disqualifying than anything Castro said all night.

Having just had something offensive that he said 44 years ago quoted back to him, Biden took the opportunity to say something that was arguably worse.

Night City by Marija Jevtic

After proposing that teacher raises are the first step to undoing the legacy of slavery, Biden said the following. It’s worth reading in full.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.

That’s the current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination a) first appearing to treat the mere mention of an old segregationist quote of his as ridiculous, then b) responding to a question about repairing the legacy of slavery by saying that the government needs to have teachers go into the homes of kids in poor schools to teach the parents how to raise those children. And what color are the children, disproportionately, going to those poor schools? Nowhere in that answer is a prescription for making the poor families less so, nor for improving the schools. It’s the kind of paternalistic racism that has so long existed in both liberal and conservative circles, and was on Thursday night spilling out of the mouth of the former vice president on the campus of an HBCU. It was all quite a sight to behold.

Theophile Steinlen lithograph, 1909

Jamil Smith is right. We need an anti-racist candidate if we are going to defeat Trump. Biden can’t pass that test, and so far Warren hasn’t done it either. I guess we’ll find out if she has it in her as time goes on, but so far what we have is her claim of Native Americans blood that offended actual Native Americans and the fact that Trump will repeatedly call her “Pocahantas” in the general election campaign if she’s the nominee.

Jonathan Chait has an interesting argument about what may be happening in the Democratic primary race: What If the Only Democrat Who Isn’t Too Radical to Win Is Too Old?

Here is a science-fiction scenario: Imagine a strange new virus that incapacitates everybody below the age of 75. The virus wipes out the entire political leadership, except one old man, who has survived on account of his age, but may also be too old to handle the awesome task before him.

Now suppose — and I am not certain this is the case, but just suppose — that this is happening to the Democratic presidential campaign. The virus is Twitter, and the old man is (duh) Joe Biden.

Apparently Chait doesn’t see Sanders as a Democrat, and I agree with him. Chait argues that after 2016, liberal Democrats bought into the notion that, based on Bernie Sanders’ performance in the primaries, voters were ready to embrace the most progressive ideas and policies and that Trump’s election proved that “a nominee with extreme positions could still win.”

Dan Casado 2012

Neither of these conclusions was actually correct. The Bernie Sanders vote encompassed voters who opposed Hillary Clinton for a wide array of reasons — including that she was too liberal — and were overall slightly to the right of Clinton voters. And political-science findings that general election voters tend to punish more ideologically extreme candidates remain very much intact. (Trump benefited greatly by distancing himself rhetorically from his party’s unpopular small-government positions, and voters saw him as more moderate than previous Republican nominees, even though he predictably reverted to partisan form once in office.)

And yet, this analysis seemed to race unchallenged through the Democratic Party from about 2016 — it seemed to influence Clinton, who declined the traditional lurch toward the center after vanquishing Sanders — through this year.

Of course after Trump won, the media and many Democrats bought into the idea that they needed to work harder to win over white working class voters, but Chait doesn’t mention that.

Nowhere was the gap between perception and reality more dramatic than on health care. In the run-up to the primary, most of the field signed on to Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan. Sanders had not managed to work out solutions to the obstacles that have bedeviled single-payer health-care supporters for decades: How to assure Americans who currently have employer-sponsored insurance to accept higher taxes and that they’ll be happier on a public plan.

Engraving, 19th century, by George White, Vermont.

Kamala Harris has had second thoughts, and has twisted herself into a pretzel trying to wriggle away from the proposal. Cory Booker has largely avoided discussing it. Elizabeth Warren was signaling last year that she would support more moderate reforms, but has instead handcuffed herself to the Sanders plan.

The vulnerabilities of this position have been on bright display in every Democratic debate. Neither Warren nor Sanders could supply a coherent response to the question of whether middle-class voters would pay higher taxes or whether they would like being moved off their employer plan. “I’ve never met anybody who likes their health-insurance company,” Warren insisted, eliding the clear reality that most people who have employer-sponsored insurance do like it. When asked about higher taxes, they dodged by changing the question to total costs. And while it’s probably true that they could design a plan where higher wages — by taking insurance off the company books — would cancel out the high taxes, neither inspired confidence that they could persuade skeptical voters they’d come out ahead in the deal.

The odd thing about this race to the left is that there’s little evidence it appeals to the primary electorate, let alone the general election version. Democrats strongly support universal coverage, but have lukewarm feelings on the mechanism to attain this. They prefer reforms that involve a combination of public and private options over the Bernie movement’s manic obsession with crushing private health insurance.

This applies as well to the party’s general ideological orientation. More Democratic voters express concern the party will nominate a candidate who’s too liberal (49 percent) than one who’s not liberal enough (41 percent). By a similar 54–41 margin, more Democrats want their party to move toward the center than toward the left.

It’s an interesting article and there’s more at the link. I don’t agree with Chait on everything, but I do think Democrats need to think carefully about whether focusing on unrealistic policies that will never get through Congress instead of on the dangers of a Trump second term is a winning strategy.

This post is too long, but I want to call attention to one more important article by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: What Happens if Trump Won’t Step Down? National security expert Josh Geltzer on why we should be prepared for the worst.

Min Zhen, The Black Cat, 18th century, Princeton University Art Museum

In February, Georgetown Law professor Josh Geltzer began to ponder aloud what would happen if President Donald Trump refused to leave office were he to be defeated in 2020. It sounded far-fetched, but Geltzer isn’t a conspiracy theorist. Actually, he served as senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council and, prior to that, as deputy legal adviser to the NSC and counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security. When he wrote his essay suggesting that perhaps it was time to start preparing for if Trump, who has repeatedly shown a willingness to overstep his constitutional authority, simply refused to leave the Oval Office, he was met with silence. When Michael Cohen warned in his March testimony before Congress, “given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” he too was met with awkward silence. But the anxieties gradually began to grow. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fretted about this possibility in a May interview in the New York Times. When Politico probed the question this summer, it noted: “Constitutional experts and top Republican lawmakers dismiss the fears as nonsense, noting there are too many forces working against a sitting president simply clinging to power—including history, law and political pressure.” But commentators now seem less confident in those forces.

On Thursday, Edward Luce at the Financial Times noted how often Trump jokes about having a third term, observing that, because of Trump’s belief that he could face prosecution after he leaves office, “no other US president has faced the prospect of being re-elected or going to jail.” He added that for Trump, losing the 2020 election is an existential threat, and he has openly invited foreign interference, while Mitch McConnell refuses to even consider legislation to secure the vote. And even if Trump is truly joking when he tweets that he deserves to be credited two extra years in his existing term, years he believes were lost to the Mueller probe, or riffs on staying on the job long after he’d been term-limited out, the tweets send a dangerous message to his loyalists.

Please go read the whole thing.

So . . . what stories are you following? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a peaceful, relaxing weekend.


Thursday Reads: Good, Bad, and Very Ugly

Good Afternoon!!

Some things that made me smile yesterday:

HuffPost: Hillary Clinton Spent An Hour Reading Her Emails At A Mock Resolute Desk For Art.
Hillary Clinton paid a visit to an art exhibition in Venice, Italy, that involved her sitting at a mock Resolute Desk and reading copies of her now-infamous emails.

Images cropped up online Wednesday showing the 2016 Democratic nominee for president in Despar Teatro Italia, which is currently hosting a solo exhibition by the artist and poet Kenneth Goldsmith called “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails.”

Goldsmith told HuffPost via email that Clinton’s visit “was a surprise,” while curator Francesco Urbano Ragazzi said organizers thought the possibility of her visiting was a joke.

“Someone close to Mrs. Clinton contacted us very informally a few days before her visit. We realized that it wasn’t a joke only when we saw the security service inside the exhibition space at 9 am on Tuesday,” they told HuffPost via email….

Goldsmith’s exhibition makes public “for the first time in printed format” some 60,000 pages of Clinton’s emails, which, per WikiLeaks, “were sent from the domain clintonemail.com between 2009 and 2013,” according to the description from exhibit co-organizer Zuecca Projects….

“Everybody was very excited [during Clinton’s visit],” Urbano Ragazzi said. “I think the scene was so extraordinary that many customers believed that she was just a lookalike at first.” [….]

The artist shared on Twitter that Clinton read her emails for an hour and, per a translation from an Italian news outlet, said: “This exhibition is further proof that nothing wrong or controversial can be found on these emails. It makes them accessible to everyone and allows everyone to read them.”

He also recalled Clinton saying, as an aside, to Urbano Ragazzi: “They are just so boring.”

If only so many in the media hadn’t been determined to destroy her, we could have had a competent president with a sense of humor.

Thanks to Dakinikat for alerting me to this important message from NBC’s Katy Tur, who returned from maternity leave yesterday. On her show yesterday, she passionately for paid maternity leave for working mothers and fathers.

Democratic debate tonight

The third Democratic Debate airs tonight from 8-11PM on ABC and Univision. CNN:

The third Democratic presidential debate takes place tonight in Houston, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sharing the debate stage for the first time this cycle, having previously avoided a direct confrontation as a result of the random draw process.

Democratic voters will see the current top three candidates — Biden, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — share the stage together, setting up the ideological battle in the nominating race between the more moderate and progressive wings of the party.

For most of the other seven candidates sharing the stage, who have either failed to break into the top tier or have seen their positions stall in the Democratic race, the debate will be another chance to inject their candidacies with much-needed momentum heading into the fall sprint ahead of the first contests early next year.</

The media have decreed that our choices are between two ancient white men and a 70-year-old woman who agrees with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on Trade and on supporting primary challengers to Democratic incumbents.

The full list of candidates who qualified for tonight’s debate:

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Businessman Andrew Yang

Impeachment news:

NBC News: Impeachment inquiry ramps up as Judiciary panel adopts procedural guidelines.

The House Judiciary Committee took a big step Thursday morning in its ongoing investigation into whether to recommend the filing of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, passing a resolution that set procedures and rules for future impeachment investigation hearings.

The resolution passed along party lines, 24-17.

“But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so.”

Earlier this week, Nadler told NBC News that the purpose of the resolution was to put into effect “certain procedures to make that investigation more effective,” a necessary move given that “the inquiry is getting more serious.”

Under the resolution, which does not need to be approved by the full House, Nadler can designate hearings run by the full committee and its subcommittees as part of the impeachment investigation. The committee’s lawyers are also able to question witnesses for an additional hour beyond the five minutes that are allotted to each member of Congress on the panel.

“Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement Thursday.

Read more at the link.

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein critiques the Democrats’ impeachment efforts: Why Are Democrats in Disarray Over Impeachment?

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are planning a step Thursday to make their de facto impeachment inquiry into something more formal. They’re doing it, however, in what Greg Sargent describes as a “muddle.” He has it right: This isn’t a messaging failure as much as it is a substantive one.

The basic problem is that House Democrats can’t seem to agree on where their impeachment effort stands. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says that “formal impeachment proceedings” are underway. Others, including in the House leadership, have expressed much more ambiguous views of what’s happening.

A few things are contributing to this muddle. One is a push from many party actors who basically judge everything short of impeaching President Donald Trump as a total flop – a position that I still think doesn’t make much sense. Another is that some House Democrats in tough districts are overly cautious about taking on the president. But perhaps the biggest factor is that the Democrats have had a majority in the House for more than nine months now and have at best managed to produce a handful of memorable moments in oversight hearings on Trump’s many scandals and general lawlessness. At best. Maybe.

Some impeachment-or-nothing advocates suspect that this is all part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s secret scheme to avoid impeachment altogether – that she fears effective oversight hearings because they’d inevitably lead to more calls for ousting the president. But a better explanation is simple incompetence. Successful hearings would in fact help resolve Pelosi’s difficult choices. There’s an outside possibility that they could shift some Republicans toward supporting impeachment. But even if they didn’t, the House leadership could explain that continued hearings would actually be more effective than a symbolic impeachment vote. That’s an argument that won’t convince anyone right now because no one thinks the hearings to date have had any effect.

Of course Trump has effectively been stonewalling Democrats’ efforts to obtain evidence and witness testimony.

To be fair: Trump’s stonewalling of legitimate House oversight is unprecedented, and a legitimate reason for impeachment and removal from office. The House has never had to deal with anything this extreme, and is fighting back in court. But there’s simply no excuse for their failure to dramatize Trump’s misconduct in ways that would really catch the attention of voters.

There’s still the problem I’ve discussed before, and that Sargent addresses in his item, that an impeachment inquiry really does imply an eventual next step of either clearing the president or moving to a vote, and Democrats probably don’t want to do either right now. But muddling through sometimes works out in the long run even if it looks like a mess to careful observers. Remember that hardly any voters are paying attention to anything Congress does, including impeachment investigations or inquiries or whatever they want to call it.

Whether there’s a train wreck ahead for Democrats or not, figuring out how to hold effective hearings would help in the meantime. Eventually, it’s really going to take some better results from Nadler and the rest of his party.

Read the rest at Bloomberg Opinion..

Now for the bad (AKA Trump) news, links only

The New York Times: Supreme Court Says Trump Can Bar Asylum Seekers While Legal Fight Continues.

Mother Jones: The Supreme Court Just Made It Virtually Impossible for Anyone to Seek Asylum at the Border.

The New York Times: Trump Pressed Top Aide to Have Weather Service ‘Clarify’ Forecast That Contradicted Trump.

Newsweek: ICE Is Building a ‘State-of-the-Art’ ‘Urban Warfare’ Training Facility that Will Include ‘Hyper-Realistic’ Simulations of Homes in Chicago and Arizona.

The New York Times: Trump Administration to Finalize Rollback of Clean Water Protections.

The Washington Post: ‘You’re a prop in the back’: Advisers struggle to obey Trump’s Kafkaesque rules.

The Daily Beast: Trump Flirts With $15 Billion Bailout for Iran, Sources Say.

The Washington Post: ‘I don’t blame Kim Jong Un’: In dismissing Bolton, Trump sides with North Korean leader — again.

Trump wants to open concentration camps for homeless people:

The Washington Post: Trump officials tour unused FAA facility in California in search for place to relocate homeless people.

The New York Times: Trump Eyes Crackdown on Homelessness as Aides Visit California.

KRON4: San Francisco mayor, advocates address Trump Admin’s crackdown on homelessness.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday!

 


Tuesday Reads: Is Trump Destroying U.S. Intelligence Capabilities?

Good Morning!!

As often happens since Trump entered the White House, it’s impossible to pick the most shocking news of the day. Is it Trump’s trashing of the opportunity to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan? Is it Wilbur Ross reportedly threatening to fire National Weather Service employees for accurately reporting the weather? Is it Trump’s corrupt use of his office for self-dealing? I guess I’d have to say Trump’s efforts to destroy the U.S. government’s intelligence capabilities probably wins today’s prize.

UPDATE: Naturally, as I was wrapping up this post, another big story broke.

The New York Times: Trump Fires John Bolton as National Security Adviser

President Trump fired John R. Bolton, his third national security adviser, on Tuesday amid fundamental disagreements over how to handle major foreign policy challenges like Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”

His departure comes as Mr. Trump is pursuing diplomatic openings with two of the United States’ most intractable enemies, efforts that have troubled hard-liners in the administration, like Mr. Bolton, who view North Korea and Iran as profoundly untrustworthy.

The president has continued to court Kim Jong-un, the repressive leader of North Korea, despite Mr. Kim’s refusal to surrender his nuclear program and despite repeated short-range missile tests by the North that have rattled its neighbors. In recent days, Mr. Trump has expressed a willingness to meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran under the right circumstances, and even to extend short-term financing to Tehran, although the offer has so far been rebuffed.

Back to previous programming:

CNN: Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017.

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter….

The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.

At the time, Mike Pompeo was CIA director, and he claimed “too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset.” Frankly, I don’t trust Pompeo to act in the national interest, but that’s just me. Click on the CNN link to read more about “concerns” the intelligence community had about Trump revealing classified information.

The New York Times: C.I.A. Informant Extracted From Russia Had Sent Secrets to U.S. for Decades.

Decades ago, the C.I.A. recruited and carefully cultivated a midlevel Russian official who began rapidly advancing through the governmental ranks. Eventually, American spies struck gold: The longtime source landed an influential position that came with access to the highest level of the Kremlin.

As American officials began to realize that Russia was trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election, the informant became one of the C.I.A.’s most important — and highly protected — assets. But when intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.

C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed.

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.’s most explosive conclusion about Russia’s interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself. As the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.’s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump’s election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Psst! Don’t Tell Trump.

It’s sometimes lost amid Donald Trump’s endless affronts to the Republic, but the undermining of American intelligence capabilities is one of the overarching stories of his administration….

Putin and his puppet in Helsinki

Even the possibility that Trump jeopardized America’s most important intelligence asset in Russia should be a very big deal, though I’m not sure it will be. The pundit class has mostly grown bored of the story behind Trump’s corrupt relationship with Russia. And too many in power, including almost all of the Republican Party, have grown used to the president deploying national security secrets in the same way he once traded tabloid gossip. He discloses American intelligence to deflect attention from unflattering stories, suck up to people he wants to impress, or simply on a whim. He treats it, as he treats everything else in American government, as a private tool of self-gratification.

Trump, you’ll remember, was in office for only a few months before he revealed to Russia classified intelligence about ISIS that originated in Israel, potentially endangering a source who was, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by Islamic State.” This led a senior German politician to describe the president as a “security risk for the entire Western world.”

Not long after, Trump bragged to Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte about the presence of American nuclear submarines off North Korea. (“We never talk about subs!” stunned Pentagon officials told BuzzFeed News.) Then, that September, after a subway bombing in London, Trump tweeted out that the perpetrators “were in the sights of Scotland Yard,” information that had not been publicly released. This prompted a rebuke from the British prime minister.

Less than two weeks ago, Trump tweeted what was likely a classified photo of the aftermath of an explosion at an Iranian space center. From the image, journalists and internet sleuths were able to deduce important information about the type and location of the satellite that produced it. “This is the first time in three and a half decades that an image has become public that reveals the sophistication of U.S. spy satellites in orbit,” reported Wired.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Final story on this topic from CNN: Trump skeptical of using foreign spies to collect intel on hostile countries, sources say.

President Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries, according to multiple senior officials who served under Trump.

Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President “believes we shouldn’t be doing that to each other,” one former Trump administration official told CNN.

In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump “believes they’re people who are selling out their country.”

Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. Responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong Un’s brother as a spy, Trump said he “wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”

Why is this man still acting as “president?”

Trump’s opposition to using intelligence from foreign sources doesn’t extend to his campaign for reelection, in which he’s willing to use his pal Rudy Giuliani and withholding military aid to force Ukraine to manufacture intel on an opponent.

Just Security: Trump and Giuliani’s Quest for Fake Ukraine “Dirt” on Biden: An Explainer.

Those efforts yesterday became the focus of a new joint investigation by three House committees – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform. In letters to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking “any and all” related records and a list of personnel involved, the three Democratic committee chairs outlined a litany of meetings, phone calls, tweets and other threats, including the withholding of the $250 million of security aid the reporter had referenced in the question to Pence.

“President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump’s reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme,” the chairmen wrote.

Starting at least late last year, President Donald Trump and his personal attorney and advisor, Rudy Giuliani, have agitated for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden, the current frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race and the candidate they apparently think could be Trump’s biggest rival for a second term.

Trump and Giuliani allege, contrary to evidence, that Biden improperly pressured the Ukrainian government in 2016 to fire then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in the midst of a corruption investigation of one of Ukraine’s biggest gas companies, Burisma Group. Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, was serving on the company’s board at the time.

But the prosecutor, in fact, was the target of pressure by Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates and a host of international supporters of Ukraine, who argued he should be fired for failing to pursue major cases of corruption. And it was the widely known and publicly espoused position of the U.S. government, across a half dozen agencies, that the prosecutor’s ouster was among crucial anti-corruption measures that the Ukrainian government needed to take to move forward economically and politically. As President Barack Obama’s point man on Ukraine, Biden dutifully relayed those messages at every opportunity.

Yet Trump and Giuliani have turned that real-life scenario on its head, falsely alleging that Biden sought to corruptly influence a Ukrainian prosecutor’s decisions in his son’s favor.

Click on the link to read the rest.

I’ll end with this story by Jeff Hauser at The Daily Beast that would sound crazy if it were about any other president; but in the current environment it actually seems plausible: Trump’s Going to Manipulate the Government to Stay in Power.

The power of an incumbent president to aid re-election by abusing the executive branch has in the past been limited by a few powerful forces: Presidential integrity; the fear of a scandal emerging in the media; and the prospect of aggressive congressional oversight.

Due to forces outside their control, the Democratic nominee won’t be saved by the first two “norms based” options. And as a result of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy of not “focusing on Trump,” the president has every reason to scoff at the prospect of aggressive congressional oversight, up to and including a genuine “go big” effort at impeachment.

Combined, these elements must force us to consider a truly horrifying series of questions: Does President Trump have the means, motive, and opportunity to tilt the 2020 election? The answer, unfortunately, is yes, yes, and yes. And it behooves Democrats to understand that now, before it is too late.

Hauser spells out what he sees as “the means, motive, and opportunity.” Read all about it at The Daily Beast.

So . . . what else is happening? what stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Dotard Dictator’s Open Corruption

Henri-Matisse, Chinese Vase on the Table with Cat Underneath

Good Afternoon!!

It’s the end of another week in which the Dotard Dictator’s insanity and massive corruption have dominated the news. And once again more unbelievable stories broke on Friday.

After spending days ranting about Alabama being in the path of Hurricane Dorian because he said so, Trump forced administrators at NOAA to issue an unsigned statement claiming he was right all along.

The Washington Post: NOAA backs Trump on Alabama hurricane forecast, rebukes Weather Service for accurately contradicting him.

The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service has sided with President Trump over its own scientists in the ongoing controversy over whether Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated Alabama was in fact threatened by the storm at the time Trump tweeted Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Girl and Cat

Referencing archived hurricane advisories, the NOAA statement said that information provided to the president and the public between Aug. 28 and Sept. 2 “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

In an unusual move, the statement also admonished its National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Ala., which had released a tweet contradicting Trump’s claim and stating, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

The NOAA statement said: “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

The Dotard Dictator must not be questioned! But:

Released six days after Trump’s first tweet on the matter, the NOAA statement was unsigned, neither from the acting head of the agency nor any particular spokesman. It also came a day after the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser released a statement justifying Trump’s claims of the Alabama threat.

The NOAA statement Friday makes no reference to the fact that when Trump tweeted that Alabama was at risk, it was not in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty,” which is where forecasters determine the storm is most likely to track. Alabama also had not appeared in the cone in days earlier, and no Hurricane Center text product ever mentioned the state.

Marc Chagall – La Poeté

And this next story that broke last night is even more shocking. Not only has the Dotard Dictator been profiting from his golf outings to his personal properties, he has forced the Defense Department to pay extra use his preferred airport in Scotland and pay for members of the military to stay at his Scottish golf resort.

Politico: Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip: Trump’s Scottish resort.

In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.

What wasn’t routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay — both en route to the Middle East and on the way back — at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.

The inquiry is part of a broader, previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around the Trump property in Scotland. According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport — the closest airport to Trump Turnberry — since October 2017, fuel that would be cheaper if purchased at a U.S. military base. The letter also cites a Guardian report that the airport provided cut-rate rooms and free rounds of golf at Turnberry for U.S. military members.

Taken together, the incidents raise the possibility that the military has helped keep Trump’s Turnberry resort afloat — the property lost $4.5 million in 2017, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018.

“The Defense Department has not produced a single document in this investigation,” said a senior Democratic aide on the oversight panel. “The committee will be forced to consider alternative steps if the Pentagon does not begin complying voluntarily in the coming days.”

Normally, refueling in foreign countries is done at U.S. military bases where layovers are less expensive.

Suzan Valadon – Raminou

House Democrats are also investigating why Mike Pence stayed at the Dotard’s golf resort in Ireland on his recent visit as well as the wannabe dictator’s efforts to make foreign countries pay him to attend the next G7 meeting.

The New York Times: Pence’s Stay at Trump Resort in Ireland and Trump’s G7 Plans Draw Democrats’ Scrutiny.

House Democrats, furious over President Trump’s continued promotion of his branded properties for government business, said on Friday that they would scrutinize whether two recent cases would violate the Constitution’s ban on presidents profiting from domestic or foreign governments.

Two chairmen acting in tandem sent letters to the White House, the Secret Service and the Trump Organization asking for documents and communications related to Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to stay this week at Mr. Trump’s resort in Ireland during an official visit, as well as Mr. Trump’s recent statements promoting Trump National Doral, near Miami, as a possible site for the Group of 7 summit of world leaders next year.

In both cases, the Democrats argued, Mr. Trump stands to benefit financially from American taxpayer dollars, and in the case of the potential summit in Doral, from foreign funds as well. The Constitution’s emoluments clauses prohibit presidents from accepting any payment from federal, state or foreign governments beyond their official salary.

“The committee does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies,” wrote Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee. The cases in question, he added, could be a conflict of interest.

Georg Baselitz, Cat Head, 1966-67

And from a couple of days ago, the Dotard Dictator is trying to strong arm a foreign country into helping him win the 2020 election. Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is trying to move his country toward reform and away from Vladimir Putin’s influence, but the Dotard is apparently trying to blackmail Zelensky.

The Washington Post: Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.

Not only has Mr. Trump refused to grant the Ukrainian leader a White House visit, but also he has suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to a country still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces.

Some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence. But we’re reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.

The strong-arming of Mr. Zelensky was openly reported to the New York Times last month by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said he had met in Madrid with a close associate of the Ukrainian leader and urged that the new government restart an investigation of Mr. Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, while Joe Biden, as vice president, urged the dismissal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who investigated the firm.

Mr. Giuliani also wants a probe of claims that revelations of payments by a Ukrainian political party to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were part of a plot to wreck Mr. Trump’s candidacy. In other words, Trump associates want the Ukrainian government to prove that Ukraine improperly acted against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election; but they also want it to meddle in his favor for 2020.

By Louis Wain

The situation is getting more and more dire, and finally the Jerry Nadler has decided to openly more toward impeachment.

Politico: House Judiciary panel preparing vote to define Trump impeachment probe.

The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to take its first formal vote to define what Chairman Jerry Nadler calls an ongoing “impeachment investigation” of President Donald Trump, according to multiple sources briefed on the discussions.

The panel could vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution to spell out the parameters of its investigation. The precise language is still being hammered out inside the committee and with House leaders. A draft of the resolution is expected to be release Monday morning.

The issue was raised Friday during a conference call among the committee’s Democrats. A source familiar with the discussion said any move next week would be intended to increase the “officialness” of the ongoing probe, following a six-week summer recess in which some Democrats struggled to characterize to their constituents that the House had already begun impeachment proceedings. Democrats are hopeful that explicitly defining their impeachment inquiry will heighten their leverage to compel testimony from witnesses.

More from CNN: House panel to take formal steps on impeachment probe next week.

The vote, which is expected to occur on Wednesday, will lay out the ground rules for conducting hearings now that the committee has publicly announced it is considering recommending articles of impeachment against Trump. It is expected to follow the precedent set in 1974 over the committee’s procedures during then-President Richard Nixon’s impeachment proceedings.

Sources told CNN on Friday that the resolution is expected to spell out that Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, has the authority to call hearings at either the full committee or subcommittee level in connection with its impeachment deliberations.

The resolution, sources say, is expected to make clear that future House Judiciary hearings can be conducted in ways different from most congressional hearings since the panel is considering impeachment. For instance, the resolution is expected to authorize committee staff counsels to question witnesses, something that is typically not done at congressional hearings.

The resolution also will spell out how secret grand jury information can be reviewed in closed-door sessions. And it will say that the President’s counsel can respond in writing to the committee.

The exact legislative language is still being drafted and could be introduced as soon as Monday. The committee Democrats discussed the matter on a Friday conference call, which Politico first reported.

Can it get any worse? My guess is yes it can. Please post your thoughts on this and links to your own recommended stories in the comment thread below.


Thursday Reads

Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer, 1898

Good Afternoon!!

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way up the Atlantic coast, the Dotard continues to insist that he was right when he claimed that Alabama was in the hurricane’s path. He tweeted this morning,

Alabama was going to be hit or grazed, and then Hurricane Dorian took a different path (up along the East Coast). The Fake News knows this very well. That’s why they’re the Fake News!

If only he would shut the f@ck up! Yesterday, he committed a federal crime by altering a weather map as “proof” for his false statement.

The Washington Post: Trump continues to push erroneous claim about Alabama as Dorian lashes Carolinas.

After the Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer, 189In his first tweets of the morning, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.

As Hurricane Dorian unleashed torrential rains on the Carolinas on Thursday morning, President Trump continued to push his erroneous contention from the weekend that Alabama could have been affected by the life-threatening storm.“What I said was accurate! All Fake News in order to demean!” Trump wrote.

In his first tweets of the morning, Trump insisted that what he first said in a Sunday tweet was accurate at the time and attacked the news media.

Trump’s latest tweets on the subject came a day after he attempted to retroactively justify his Sunday tweet by displaying in the Oval Office a modified National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, dated Aug. 29, indicating Alabama could in fact be affected. The graphic appeared to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.

The Dotard is loony tunes and he has access to the nuclear codes. He cares more about justifying his silly mistake than about the millions of human beings in the path of the storm.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That diagnosis no longer fits. Trump is a criminal psychopath, IMHO. In other words, he very likely qualifies for a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Here are the DSM IV-TR criteria for ASPD:

A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the
rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three
(or more) of the following: having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from
another.
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful
behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that
are grounds for arrest.
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases,
or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated
physical fights or assaults.
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure
to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial
obligations.
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or
rationalizing.

B.  The individual is at least age 18 years.
C. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15
years.
D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the
course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

Aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Artist Unknown

You can read the new DSM V criteria at the above link. That description is longer, so I won’t post it here. Tell me Trump doesn’t qualify as ASPD. The only thing we don’t know for sure is whether Trump had Conduct Disorder in childhood. But it seems like, since he is known to have attacked a teacher as young child and his parents sent him away to military school at age 13, presumably because of his behavior. On top of the ASPD, he likely has ADHD and worsening dementia.

Today’s news is full of Trump’s selfish, destructive, cruel behavior. Here are just three examples:

Politico: Watchdog: Migrant children separated from families experienced intense trauma.

Migrant children in government custody who were separated from their parents experienced intense trauma that shelters were unprepared to handle, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.

The findings echo reports from physicians and mental health advocates about lasting ills stemming from the Trump administration’s family separation policies. They come as the administration is trying to revise the so-called Flores agreement, a long-standing court order that outlines standards of care for migrant children and families.

Many children in HHS custody already faced trauma in their home countries or during their journey to the United States, according to the watchdog report, which was based on visits to 45 shelters operated by the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement in August and September 2018. Children then experienced additional trauma after they were separated from their parents, including intensified fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress.

Shelter staff said that they were unprepared to address the problems because of a lack of resources and ongoing efforts to reunify children with their parents. The share of children under the age of 12 in ORR custody rose to 24 percent from 14 percent from April to May of last year.

Please go read the rest at Politico.

Hurricane Sandy, Illustration by Yuko Shimizu

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Wanted to Obliterate the U.S. Economy to Get Revenge on China.

One of the scariest aspects of the current national nightmare that is Donald Trump is that for as much of a dystopian hellscape as his presidency has turned out to be, we’re periodically reminded that if he got his way, it would be even worse. Over the past two and a half years we’ve learned that he had to be convinced not to invade Venezuela, or nuke hurricanes, or escalate tensions with Syria by assassinating Bashar al-Assad, or scrap a trade deal with South Korea, the latter of which was avoided when then-National Economic Council director Gary Cohn reportedly swiped a letter from the president’s desk that Trump didn’t even realize had gone missing. According to a new report, the president also wanted to shiv the U.S. economy in a characteristically self-defeating attempt to get back at China—a move that was only prevented by a chorus of staffers and CEOs begging him not to go through with it.

CNBC reports that after China retaliated with $75 billion worth of tariffs last month, the president was so angry—and apparently surprised, despite the fact that China has responded this way every time he’s ratcheted up the trade war—that he wanted to double existing tariffs on Chinese goods. That such a move would have hit the economy even harder than the trade dispute already has, and undoubtedly send the stock market into free fall, apparently did not cross his mind, even though people have tried to sit him down and explain it to him many times. Unable to talk him off the ledge on their own, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer apparently enlisted multiple CEOs to call the president and get it through his seemingly impenetrable skull that the impact of such an action would be, in his own words “not good!” Instead, Trump simply chose to unleash a series of belligerent tweets about how he “hereby ordered” U.S. companies to cease doing business with China “immediately,” sending the Dow plummeting, which he later joked about. (He also settled for a 5% hike in tariffs on $550 billion in Chinese products.)

The news that Trump wanted to go nuclear on China comes days after aides confirmed that the president was lying about Chinese negotiators calling his “top trade people” and saying they wanted to “get back to the table.”

Desaturated – Hurricane Katrina, by El Franco Lee

Reuters: Pentagon pulls funds for military schools, daycare to pay for Trump’s border wall.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would pull funding from 127 Defense Department projects, including schools and daycare centers for military families, as it diverts $3.6 billion to fund President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Schools for the children of U.S. military members from Kentucky to Germany to Japan will be affected. A daycare center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland – the home of Air Force One – will also have its funds diverted, the Pentagon said.

Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year to access the funds from the military construction budget. In March, the Pentagon sent to Congress a broad list of projects that could be affected.

A Pentagon official said in a briefing that the department was given a “lawful order” by Trump to divert the funds. She said the Pentagon is working closely with Congress and its allies abroad to find funding to replace money diverted for the wall, but that there are not any guarantees that those funds will come.

More articles on this topic:

PBS: Full list: The 127 defense projects postponed for the border barrier.

HuffPost: GOP Senators Who Backed Trump’s Emergency Declaration Lose Military Funding.

CNN: Lawmakers furious after learning how military will pay for Trump’s wall.

I’m going to wrap this up, because it’s getting really late. Please post your own thoughts and links in the comment thread.