How can a person whose brain is this dementia-ravaged actually be “president?” Bloomberg: Trump Orders Toilet Rule Review Over Low-Flow Flushing.
The president on Friday said he ordered a federal review of water efficiency standards in bathroom fixtures and complained that “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once” in homes with low-flow appliances.
He said other bathroom fixtures have slowed water to a trickle.
“You can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water comes out of the faucet, and the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands, you end up using the same amount of water,” he said at an event with small-business owners at the White House.
He said the Environmental Protection Agency was looking into the issue on his recommendation….
Trump said Friday it was “common sense” to review standards he said resulted in showers with water “quietly dripping out” and toilets that “end up using more water” because of repeated flushing.
The Bloomberg article made the Trump rant seem less crazy than it actually was. He also complained about light bulbs.
He also wants American cars to be less fuel-efficient.
Can we please put him out to pasture before he blows up the world?
Trump also defended Saudi Arabia after a Saudi national killed 3 people at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.
How awkward for the king and Trump that 6 other Saudis are being questioned in the attack–some of whom were seen filming it. The New York Times: Six Saudis Said to Be Questioned After Pensacola Navy Base Shooting.
A United States military official identified the suspect, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the attack, as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He was one of hundreds of military trainees at the base, which is considered the home of naval aviation.
Six other Saudi nationals were detained for questioning near the scene of the shooting, including three who were seen filming the entire incident, according to a person briefed on the initial stages of the investigation. A group that monitors online jihadist activity said that shortly before the shooting, a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s posted a “will” calling the United States a “nation of evil” and criticizing its support for Israel….
The attack by a foreign national inside an American military installation raised questions about the vetting process for international students who are cleared by the Department of Defense and is likely to complicate military cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia at a time when relations with the kingdom are already tense.
In recent months, President Trump has held fast against bipartisan congressional efforts to rebuke his fierce support for Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has pressed for his kingdom to rise as a global player in international finance and politics.
Trump values his relationships with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Russia far more highly than he does our traditional allies. We saw how little those allies respect the idiot “president” during the recent NATO summit. At The Washington Post, Brian Klaas writes: America’s allies despise Trump — and that’s a threat to NATO.
Such outbursts, which have a devastating effect on the United States’ reputation overseas, make it far harder for our allies to be seen as close to Trump. And because their citizens see Trump as the current representation of the United States, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the leaders of Germany, or Britain, or Canada, or France to sell pro-American positions to their own voters. Just witness Boris Johnson’s carefully choreographed dance to avoid Trump’s company during the NATO summit, knowing that any all-too-obvious association with the U.S. president could doom the prime minister’s chances in the approaching British election. For the leaders of our allies, proximity to Trump is electoral poison.
There are foreign policy consequences to Trump’s toxicity. Since he took office, global support for U.S. leadership has plummeted. According to Pew Research in a late 2018 study, there has been a collapse in global confidence that the U.S. president will “do the right thing in world affairs.” From President Barack Obama to Trump, such confidence has fallen 76 percentage points in Germany, 75 percentage points in France, 58 percentage pointsin Canada, 52 percentage points in Australia, 51 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 48 percentage points in Japan. In Russia, by contrast, confidence in the U.S. president has increased by 8 percentage points.
Justice Ginsburg granted Trump’s request for an emergency stay on a lower court’s order that his financial records be released to Congress. Politico:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg temporarily blocked a lower court ruling ordering two banks to release President Donald Trump’s financial records to House Democrats.
Trump had asked Ginsburg to consider the emergency request earlier Friday. The temporary stay sets the issue on hold pending full consideration by the high court, it does not reflect how judges will rule in the underlying case.
The stay is ordered until 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, and the court ordered that a response must be filed on or before Dec. 11 by 11 a.m.
The emergency filing came after a federal appeals court in New York ruled on Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One should comply with subpoenas from the House Financial Services and House Intelligence committees seeking information about Trump’s finances.
The House subpoenas seek documents including tax returns, evidence of suspicious activity and, in the case of Deutsche Bank, any internal communications regarding Trump and his ties to foreign individuals.
Trump-related requests are piling up at the Supreme Court — and the outcomes could set precedent on significant questions related to separation-of-power issues and whether a president is immune from state-based criminal investigations while in office.
Recently it was reported that Cover-Up General Bill Barr made some chilling remarks about law enforcement. Florida Rep. Val Demings responded in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday: What William Barr doesn’t understand about law enforcement.
This week, Attorney General William P. Barr honored 19 law enforcement officers selected by the Justice Department for “Distinguished Service in Policing.” I’m glad he did. I have no doubt that each officer earned the distinction. Law enforcement is a tough and dangerous job, and we are unwaveringly grateful for those who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Unfortunately, while speaking to the officers, the attorney general showed that he simply does not understand the foundational values of modern American policing. “If communities don’t give . . . support and respect” to law enforcement, he said, “they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”
I hope this statement was made in ignorance rather than malice. It is a knife in the heart of decades of painstaking work to develop bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve.
Law enforcement is not a protection racket. It is a sacred charge. We take an oath not to any individual or faction but to the Constitution, or, in other words, to society at large. Because, at the end of the day, law enforcement and the community are the same. The police are the community, and the community is the police.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Here’s an interesting related article at The New York Times: ‘I Got Tired of Hunting Black and Hispanic People.’
At a police station tucked into an end-of-the-line subway terminal in South Brooklyn, the new commander instructed officers to think of white and Asian people as “soft targets” and urged them to instead go after blacks and Latinos for minor offenses like jumping the turnstile, a half-dozen officers said in sworn statements.
“You are stopping too many Russian and Chinese,” one of the officers, Daniel Perez, recalled the commander telling him earlier this decade.
Another officer, Aaron Diaz, recalled the same commander saying in 2012, “You should write more black and Hispanic people.”
The sworn statements, gathered in the last few months as part of a discrimination lawsuit, deal with a period between 2011 and 2015. But they are now emerging publicly at a time when policing in the subway has become a contentious issue, sparking protests over a crackdown on fare evasion and other low-level offenses.
The commander, Constantin Tsachas, was in charge of more than 100 officers who patrolled a swath of the subway system in Brooklyn, his first major command. Since then, he has been promoted to the second-in-command of policing the subway system throughout Brooklyn. Along the way, more than half a dozen subordinates claim, he gave them explicit directives about whom to arrest based on race.
Those subordinates recently came forward, many for the first time, providing signed affidavits to support a discrimination lawsuit brought by four black and Hispanic police officers.
Click the NYT link to read the rest.
Those are my recommended reads for today. What stories have you been following?
This morning, Nancy Pelosi announced that she is authorizing the drafting of articles of impeachment against Trump.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that President Trump’s wrongdoing strikes at the heart of the Constitution and asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.”
Her address, in which she invoked principles espoused by the nation’s founders, came shortly after Trump went on Twitter to urge House Democrats to impeach him quickly, if they plan to do it, and suggested he would call an expansive list of witnesses during a trial in the Republican-led Senate.
At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that President Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine in the face of Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Of course Trump has weighed in.
Somehow I missed this, but Trump has started calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” again, and North Korea is not amused. The New York Daily News:
Looks like the North Korean honeymoon is over.
President Trump reprised his “Rocket Man” insult for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Tuesday as tensions spiraled between the two leaders who once boasted of their durable friendship.
North Korea has set a year-end deadline for Trump to return to the nuclear negotiating table, and has underlined its insistence on new talks by escalating its nuclear tests.
The U.S. appears to be doing its best to ignore Kim’s threats.
“He definitely likes sending up rockets, doesn’t he,” Trump said on the sidelines of the NATO summit, referring to KIm. “That’s why I call him Rocket Man.”
Now North Korea has responded. Kyodo News: N. Korea lambastes Trump for calling Kim “Rocket Man” again: KCNA.
A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump for calling him a “Rocket Man” again, saying it represents a “very dangerous challenge.”
“What makes us feel further worse is that the figurative style was dare used at random with no courtesy when referring to the supreme leadership of dignity of the DPRK,” First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hu said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency in English….
“It would be fortunate if the utterances of the use of military force and the title of figurative style made by President Trump were an instantaneous verbal lapse, but matter becomes different if they were a planned provocation that deliberately targeted us,” Choe said.
“If this is meant to make expressions, reminiscent of those days just two years ago when a war of words was fought across the ocean, surface again on purpose, it will be a very dangerous challenge,” she added.
I don’t support Joe Biden, but this is best anti-Trump ad I’ve seen yet.
I haven’t read it yet, but this looks like an important article by Julia Ioffe in GQ: Trump Is Waging War on America’s Diplomats.
Last year, just before Halloween, Lewis Lukens, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London, visited a pair of English universities where he spoke about the importance of international cooperation, beseeching students not to “swipe left” on the historic “special relationship” between the U.K. and America. The speeches were—according to a copy of the remarks that Lukens provided to GQ—fairly anodyne, reprising all the things Americans and Brits had learned from each other, all the ways we’ve helped each other over the years, disagreements notwithstanding. At the time, things between the two countries had been strained—in part because President Trump had attacked British leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan—but Lukens, the second-most-senior American diplomat to the United Kingdom, had a request for the students who had gathered to see him: “Don’t write off the special relationship.”
A week later, Lukens says, his boss, the U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a Trump political appointee, told him that he was done, firing Lukens from his post seven months ahead of when he was scheduled to leave for a new assignment. After nearly 30 years as a foreign service officer, his State Department career was over. The reason? Lukens says he had unwittingly committed a fatal error in his speech: He had mentioned former president Barack Obama.
To open the speech, Lukens, who had worked for presidents of both parties, used an anecdote from his time as ambassador to Senegal to illustrate how allies can handle disagreements. He mentioned Obama’s 2013 visit to the country. “There was incredible excitement,” Lukens said in his speech. “He had a guard of honor, crowds shouting his name, street vendors selling WE LOVE OBAMA T-shirts. It was really amazing. And the president had really great talks with the Senegalese president, Macky Sall. They got on really well. But what I remember most of all was the disagreement they had—as friends.” Lukens explained that during the trip, an American journalist had asked Obama whether he had pressed the Senegalese leader on LGBT rights—a provocative topic in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized as “unnatural” and where the LGBT community faces widespread discrimination. Lukens told the students that Obama handled the thorny question well. And then he moved on to the rest of the speech, not realizing the damage he’d done with a single anecdote. (When asked about the episode and Lukens’s ouster, the State Department declined to comment. The American embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.)
Read the rest at GQ.
I know many younger people don’t understand why some of us think John F. Kennedy was a good president and could have been a great one if he had not been murdered. Here’s an example of the kind of thoughtful discourse we heard from him as president. What a contrast to the current occupant of the office.
That;s all I have for you this morning, because I’m having some problems with watery eyes that make it difficult for me to read on the computer. This happens to me occasionally. So . . . what stories are you following today?
As you can see from the paintings I’ve chosen, I have snow on the brain this morning; as an early winter storm is still hovering over the Boston area for the third day. It’s a lovely winter wonderland outside my window, but I’m hoping the snow will leave us sometime this afternoon.
Trump is at the NATO meeting in the UK making a fool of himself as usual. He just finished a tense meeting with French president Macron in which the two talked past each other and exchanged hostile comments. We’ll have to wait for analysis from reporters, but here are some twitter takes.
The Washington Post: Trump calls French president’s criticism of NATO ‘nasty’ and ‘disrespectful’
LONDON — President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.
Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.” [….]
“I would say that nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said. “That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”
Trump’s tough talk on France came just a day after the United States threatened new tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French products, including wine, cheese and yogurt — a response, Trump’s chief trade negotiator said, to a French digital services tax that the United States concluded is discriminating against American Internet companies.
More from The New York Times: In Tense Exchange, Trump and Macron Put Forth Dueling Visions for NATO.
A once-cordial relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France devolved in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, as the two leaders publicly sparred over their approach to containing the threat of terrorism and a shared vision for the future of NATO, a 70-year-old alliance facing existential threats on multiple fronts.
In a lengthy appearance before reporters, the president met a cool reception from Mr. Macron, who earlier in the day Mr. Trump derided as “very insulting” for his recent remarks on the “brain death” of the alliance. When asked to address his earlier comments on the French leader, Mr. Trump, a leader averse to face-to-face confrontation, initially demurred, but Mr. Macron was direct.
“My statement created some reactions,” Mr. Macron said. “I do stand by it.”
What followed was an extended, terse back-and-forth over trade, immigration, and Mr. Trump’s relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
Mr. Trump’s interactions with the Turkish president are also sure to be closely watched. Mr. Erdogan, who has already upset NATO allies by purchasing a sophisticated Russian antiaircraft missile system, the S-400, is now threatening to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of Poland and the Baltic countries if the alliance does not join him in labeling some Kurdish groups as terrorists.
”Who is the enemy today?” Mr. Macron asked. “And let’s be clear and work together on that.”
More breaking news from Twitter:
— A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can hand over years of President Donald Trump’s financial records in compliance with House Democrats’ subpoenas.
— The ruling offers another loss in the courts for Trump, who has fought attempts to obtain his financial records through multiple lawsuits.
— The case is likely destined for the Supreme Court, where the president has already appealed two other lower court decisions requiring the disclosure of his financial records.
Aaron Blake has an interesting piece at The Washington Post on the timeline of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine even before Zelensky took over as president: 2 key Trump-Ukraine events we should be paying more attention to.
The first event:
In February 2017, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Poroshenko had spoken by phone and “discussed plans for an in-person meeting in the future.”
Even as Trump met with a procession of foreign leaders in those early months, though, a meeting with Poroshenko wasn’t scheduled. Indeed, it didn’t happen until late June. And why is that date significant? Because it was very shortly after Poroshenko’s government took action on an investigation of personal interest to Trump — and in a Trump-friendly direction.
Here’s a quick timeline:
June 8, 2017: Trump ally Rudolph W. Giuliani meets with Poroshenko and then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.
June 9, 2017: Lutsenko’s office joins an existing investigation into the “black ledger,” which implicated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The investigation had previously been handled only by Ukraine’s independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), and critics alleged the new move was meant to bury the scandal.
June 14, 2017: Reports in Europe indicate Poroshenko will meet with Trump.
June 19, 2017: Spicer says Poroshenko will meet with Vice President Pence, but doesn’t confirm a meeting with Trump.
June 20, 2017: Poroshenko gets a brief “drop-in” visit with Trump.
The second event:
In December 2017, the Trump administration made a key decision to provide Ukraine with lethal aid — specifically antitank missiles called Javelins. This is the same weaponry Trump and Zelensky would later talk about on their fateful July 25, 2019, phone call.
Republicans have hailed Trump’s decision to provide such weaponry as evidence of his support for Ukraine and as a counterpoint to the idea that he has been leveraging it. But what if the Javelins were also used as leverage?
What we can say is that they weren’t delivered until after another significant investigatory decision from Ukraine in Trump’s favor — one that was even more narrowly beneficial to Trump.
In early April 2018, according to the New York Times, Ukraine halted its investigations of Manafort and also its cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In addition, it reportedly allowed a potential witness in Mueller’s collusion investigation to leave the country for Russia, where they couldn’t be interviewed.
Later that month, the Javelins arrived. Poroshenko posted as much on Facebook on April 30, and U.S. officials soon confirmed it.
These don’t look like coincidences to me, and they probably didn’t look that way to Zelensky either.
At The Atlantic, Professor Kim Wehle of the University of Baltimore School of Law argues that House Democrats should be tougher on witnesses who refuse to testify in the impeachment inquiry: The House Is Making This Fight Too Easy for Trump.
Last week marked a low point in Donald Trump’s quest for presidential superpowers. On Monday, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have absolute immunity from having to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding misconduct by Trump and his associates in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. “Presidents are not kings,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”
In practical terms, the court declared that Trump cannot lawfully forbid anyone and everyone he’s ever worked with from heeding legislative requests for information. This isn’t even a close question, as the stark language of Jackson’s 120-page ruling made clear. Notwithstanding White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s October 8 letter—in which he deemed the impeachment inquiry unconstitutional and announced that the administration would not cooperate in any way—the president cannot prohibit current or former government employees from testifying when called before Congress.
Which is why House Democrats’ milquetoast response to widespread defiance of congressional subpoenas is both perplexing and disturbing. When faced with credible evidence of serious misconduct, Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the president accountable on behalf of the people. Yet House leaders have psyched themselves out of fully exercising that duty.
Read the rest at The Atlantic link.
Bill Barr is working hard to be Trump’s personal defense attorney. The Washington Post reports: Barr disputes key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation.
Attorney General William P. Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is due to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Justice Department, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The discord could be the prelude to a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.
Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, these people said.
Barr’s public defenses of President Trump, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have led Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney and eroding the independence of the Justice Department. But Trump and his Republican allies have cheered Barr’s skepticism of the Russia investigation.
Finally, The Daily Beast is running a series of three articles by Patricia Ravalgi about how officials who previously worked together for the benefit of U.S. national security are now on opposite sides because of Trump. Here are the first two installments and introductory paragraphs:
The constellation of federal investigators, attorneys, prosecutors and judges orbiting Donald Trump in the last three years have a unique, shared history.
Relatively unknown to the American public is the fact that before many of them became household names, cast as either the heroes or villains of the Trump saga (depending on where you stand on Trump), they were colleagues in the trenches of some of America’s biggest terrorism cases.
They crossed paths numerous times in courtrooms and at crime scenes, often united by a single case. From my perch working for the House Intelligence Committee, at the FBI as a congressional liaison, and then on the 9/11 Joint Inquiry, I observed what in many respects were their finest achievements, how those played out politically, how they fought their turf battles at home and with foreign governments, how they learned to communicate with the American public after each tragedy—and ultimately, fundamentally how they changed America’s approach to national security.
On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747 carrying 230 summer vacationers, would-be tourists, and crew members took off from New York’s JFK airport en route to Rome. Ten minutes into the flight, the plane’s captain reported unusual readings on the Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS). Two minutes after that, a catastrophic explosion occurred.
TWA 800 broke apart mid-air into three huge sections that came crashing into the sea. People on the South Shore of Long Island would report seeing the fireball in the night. Others reported seeing lights streaking across the sky around the same time as the explosion.
Alongside the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI launched an investigation led by the assistant director for the New York field office, James Kallstrom. Until recently, he was defined in history as the man who headed that $20 million, 16-month investigation into the explosion—and who kept conspiracy theories from spinning out of control. And that was no easy task. Pierre Salinger, President John F. Kennedy’s former press secretary, was reporting from France that he had secret information that the plane had been brought down by the friendly fire of a U.S. Navy missile, and that theory has never been completely exorcised from the popular imagination.
These are long reads, with one more installment to come.
It looks like we’ll continue to have a busy news day today and a busy week of news to come. What stories are you following today?
I hope everyone has a lovely day whatever you choose to do. As always these days, there is plenty of news even though it’s a holiday. Some stories to check out if you want a distraction from cooking, eating and visiting with family and friends:
The Washington Post: Ken Cuccinelli walked into a bar. And Martin O’Malley lit into him.
A liberal ex-governor walks into a bar, followed by a conservative Trump administration official.
Instead of a punchline, what followed, one witness said, was a “shame-invoking tirade” by Martin O’Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland, directed at Ken Cuccinelli II, the former Virginia attorney general who is acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The two political polar opposites crossed paths Wednesday night at the Dubliner, a Capitol Hill Irish pub popular on Thanksgiving Eve with Gonzaga College High School graduates. Both men attended the school, graduating five years apart in the 1980s.
Siobhan Arnold, who was visiting from Philadelphia, had just met O’Malley at the bar when Cuccinelli walked in. Soon the two men were face-to-face, she said, with O’Malley excoriating Cuccinelli over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
O’Malley said “something about his [Cuccinelli’s] grandparents,” Arnold said in an interview. Cuccinelli said little if anything in reply, she added, quickly leaving the pub.
“O’Malley was shouting,” Arnold said. “I don’t think Cuccinelli was responding. I think he’s like, ‘Time to go. Just got here and I’m leaving.’ He pretty much retreated.”
Speaking to the Post over text message, O’Malley, who served as Maryland governor from 2006 to 2014 and made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, confirmed the incident, but said he did not believe he had shouted at Cuccinelli, but had simply raised his voice “just to be heard” in the popular venue.
The former governor said he also was not the only one to air his grievances with Cuccinelli, who he described as “the son of immigrant parents who cages children for a fascist president,” that evening.
“We all let him know how we felt about him putting refugee immigrant kids in cages,” O’Malley said, adding that such practices were “certainly not what we were taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga.”
Ousted Navy Secretary published an op-ed at the Washington Post: Richard Spencer: I was fired as Navy secretary. Here’s what I’ve learned because of it.
The case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was charged with multiple war crimes before being convicted of a single lesser charge earlier this year, was troubling enough before things became even more troubling over the past few weeks. The trail of events that led to me being fired as secretary of the Navy is marked with lessons for me and for the nation.
It is highly irregular for a secretary to become deeply involved in most personnel matters. Normally, military justice works best when senior leadership stays far away. A system that prevents command influence is what separates our armed forces from others. Our system of military justice has helped build the world’s most powerful navy; good leaders get promoted, bad ones get moved out, and criminals are punished.
President Trump involved himself in the case almost from the start. Before the trial began, in March, I received two calls from the president asking me to lift Gallagher’s confinement in a Navy brig; I pushed back twice, because the presiding judge, acting on information about the accused’s conduct, had decided that confinement was important. Eventually, the president ordered me to have him transferred to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks. I came to believe that Trump’s interest in the case stemmed partly from the way the defendant’s lawyers and others had worked to keep it front and center in the media.
After the verdict was delivered, the Navy’s normal process wasn’t finished. Gallagher had voluntarily submitted his request to retire. In his case, there were three questions: Would he be permitted to retire at the rank of chief, which is also known as an E-7? (The jury had said he should be busted to an E-6, a demotion.) The second was: Should he be allowed to leave the service with an “honorable” or “general under honorable” discharge? And a third: Should he be able to keep his Trident pin, the medal all SEALs wear and treasure as members of an elite force?
On Nov. 14, partly because the president had already contacted me twice, I sent him a note asking him not to get involved in these questions.
Read the rest at the WaPo link.
Tensions that have been mounting for months between some of the nation’s most senior military officers and President Donald Trump are boiling over after his decision to intervene in the cases of three service members accused of war crimes.
A long-serving military officer put it bluntly, telling CNN “there is a morale problem,” and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the President’s behavior.
Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump’s sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria. But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump’s intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored….
Trump had upped the ante at a rally on Tuesday by issuing an extraordinary declaration that he took action in the face of “deep state” opposition. In fact, senior Pentagon officials had been unanimously opposed to the President’s intervention because they believed it would undermine military discipline and order.
The President’s comments and his intervention — at the urging of Fox News commentators — reflect another worry among military leaders that Trump continues to be influenced by the network in ways that encourage him to politicize the military, an institution that is meant to stay above the political fray.
Read more at CNN.
Some uncomfortable stories have been coming out about Trump’s EU Ambassdor and impeachment witness Gordon Sondland.
First up, did he fabricate the call in which he claimed Trump said “I want nothing….no quid quo pro?” The Washington Post: Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ call.
Sondland’s recollection of a phone conversation that he said took place on Sept. 9 has emerged as a centerpiece of Trump’s defense as House Democrats argue in an impeachment inquiry that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
However, no other witness testimony or documents have emerged that corroborate Sondland’s description of a call that day.
Trump himself, in describing the conversation, has referred only to the ambassador’s account of the call, which — based on Sondland’s activities — would have occurred before dawn in Washington. And the White House has not located a record in its switchboard logs of a call between Trump and Sondland on Sept. 9, according to an administration official who, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
But there is evidence of another call between Trump and Sondland that occurred a few days earlier — one with a very different thrust, in which the president made clear that he wanted his Ukrainian counterpart to personally announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents.
The conflicting information raises serious questions about the accuracy of Sondland’s account, one that Trump has embraced to counter a growing body of evidence that he and his allies pressured Ukraine for his own political benefit.
More Sondland stories:
Bad news for Trump at The New York Times: Russia Inquiry Review Is Expected to Undercut Trump Claim of F.B.I. Spying.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said.
The determination by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is expected to be a key finding in his highly anticipated report due out on Dec. 9 examining aspects of the Russia investigation. The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped. The startling accusation generated headlines but Mr. Trump never backed it up.
The finding is one of several by Mr. Horowitz that undercuts conservatives’ claims that the F.B.I. acted improperly in investigating several Trump associates starting in 2016. He also found that F.B.I. leaders did not take politically motivated actions in pursuing a secret wiretap on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — eavesdropping that Mr. Trump’s allies have long decried as politically motivated.
But Mr. Horowitz will sharply criticize F.B.I. leaders for their handling of the investigation in some ways, and he unearthed errors and omissions when F.B.I. officials applied for the wiretap, according to people familiar with a draft of the report. The draft contained a chart listing numerous mistakes in the process, one of the people said.
More news, links only:
The Washington Post: North Korea launches two projectiles in Thanksgiving message to Trump.
The New York Times: Time Is Running Out for Trump’s North Korean Diplomacy, Analysts Say.
Edward Luce at The Financial Times: How money laundering is poisoning American democracy.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Report: Trump’s Business More Fraudulent Than Previously Known.
Have a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving Day, everyone!!
Today fallout continues from Trump’s pardons of accused and/or convicted war criminals. Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over an internal review board investigation of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy Seal who was convicted of posing for a trophy photo of a dead ISIS fighter. Gallagher was also accused of stabbing to death the teenager in the photo was acquitted.
In today’s New York Times, two former Navy secretaries Richard J. Danzig and write: Trump and the Military Do Not Share the Same Values.
“Get back to business!” With this tweet, President Trump directed his secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, to stop the naval officers charged with oversight of the SEALs from disciplining one of their own. That order was confirmed on Monday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and over the weekend, Mr. Spencer was fired.
There are three problems with Mr. Trump’s action. The first is that it is very much the Navy’s business — and every military’s business — to maintain, as the military so often recites and Mr. Spencer put it in his final letter to the president, “good order and discipline.” In conducting their “business,” our military services are not and must not be commanded in support of political ends, as Mr. Trump was apparently doing here.
How the president chooses to value order and discipline in his White House, and if at all, is of real concern to all Americans. But the military is not an extension of his White House. Some may argue that all actions by a president may have some political component, yet instead of constraining that component, this action by this president celebrates and encourages it.
The second problem intensifies the first. Contamination from the president’s approach is amplified when his judgment is largely shaped by television commentators and his decision announced by tweet. The military has well-established procedures for assuring good order and discipline. They begin by eliciting a judgment by peers. No one is as well positioned to balance the exigencies of combat and the demands of law and ethics as a panel of fellow sailors, Marines, airmen or soldiers….
Finally, there is the judgment itself. An American service member shared a photograph of himself with a corpse along with the message: “I have got a cool story for you when I get back. I have got my knife skills on.” Our president’s endorsement of the perpetrator will be taken as a representation of our values. Our own troops, many of them teenagers, will be misled by the president’s sense, or lack of sense, of honor.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How Richard Spencer’s firing illustrates some of Trump’s most corrupt impulses.
One key reason Donald Trump’s presidency has been so damaging is that he has a way of corrupting all the people and institutions he comes in contact with, infecting them with his virus. No one remains untouched.
As the sudden firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer shows, that includes the military. Spencer’s story also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ukraine scandal, in the way people with their own agendas played on Trump’s most repugnant impulses to manipulate him.
Spencer’s firing has its roots in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who became a Fox News hero. Gallagher’s long and complicated case began when members of his own unit accused him of a series of war crimes, including firing on civilians and murdering a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter receiving medical treatment from his unit.
Gallagher allegedly stabbed the wounded fighter multiple times, then took a picture with his corpse and texted it to friends, with the caption “Got him with my hunting knife.” He was also charged with covering up his crime by threatening to kill members of his platoon if they reported it. They did anyway….
Trump pardoned him, along with two other service members who had also been accused of war crimes.
Those pardons generated enormous controversy both inside and outside the military, but they were not surprising. From the time he began running for president, Trump has shown nothing but contempt for ideas like military order and discipline, respect for human rights and standards of wartime conduct. He has advocated torturing detainees, suggested that a way to fight terrorism would be to murder the families of suspected terrorists and mused about committing genocide. Accused war criminals are his kind of people.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll go read the rest.
Spencer stepped down at the request of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday amid an ongoing controversy over Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, whose case attracted President Trump’s attention.
Esper told reporters Monday that he fired Spencer after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor.” He accused Spencer of secretly proposing a deal to the White House that would allow Gallagher to retire and retain his Trident pin, which denotes his status as a SEAL, a move Esper said was “completely contrary” to what the two had discussed.
In an interview Monday, Spencer told CBS News he spoke with White House counsel Pat Cipollone on November 15 and proposed an arrangement in which Gallagher would be allowed to retire as a SEAL if the president agreed not to intervene in the case and “let the Navy do its administrative work.” Spencer said Cipollone called back the same day to decline the offer, saying the president would be involved.
“In order to preserve the resiliency of the naval institution, I had to step up and do something when it came to the Gallagher case,” Spencer said.
Spencer acknowledged not telling Esper about the proposal.
“I will take the bad on me, for not letting him know I did that,” Spencer said. “But as far as I was concerned, at that point, the president understood the deal. Arguably, he doesn’t have to deal with anyone. He said, ‘I’m going to be involved.’ He sent a signed letter to me, an order with his signature on it, saying, ‘Promote Edward Gallagher to E7,'” the rank of chief petty officer.
Esper acknowledged Monday that when confronted about his secret negotiations with the White House, Spencer “was completely forthright in admitting what had been going on.”
Read more at the link.
The Independent spoke to veterans about the situation: US veterans say Trump views military ‘as tool for massacres’ after reinstating accused war criminal to Navy.
Numerous veterans spoke out about the move to The Independent after Secretary of Defence Mark Esper confirmed he was ordered by the president to retain Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s status in the elite service, as well as his Trident pin, a prestigious special warfare insignia.
“Ever since Donald Trump became president he’s been tearing the military apart, putting troops in the difficult position of needing to choose between obedience to his unhinged orders, and staying true to our code of honour,” said Alexander McCoy, a former Marine and political director of the veteran group Common Defence. “By pardoning war criminals because Fox News told him to, Trump showed he sees our military as a tool for massacres, not as the professional, honourable force we aspire to be.” [….]
The president’s demands could cause “significant long-term damage to the Naval Special Warfare community,” according to James Waters, a former Navy SEAL platoon commander and White House staff member in the Bush administration, who told The Independent: “The only people who weigh in on whether a Navy SEAL deserves to keep his Trident are people who have their Trident.”
“Every SEAL knows he must ‘earn your Trident every day’ – even after officially qualifying – and the same standard should apply here,” Mr Waters said. “Unless you’ve been through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and served in the Teams and know the specific facts related to a person’s performance, you’re not qualified to weigh in.” [….]
“There’s a reason we have the Geneva Convention. There’s a reason we have the Universal Code of Military Justice. There’s a reason we have the morale and ethics that we learn in training,” said Josh Manning, a former Army intelligence officer. “For Trump to just step in and undermine centuries worth of morale and discipline undercuts the very military that he’s trying to command.” [….]
Charlotte Clymer, an Army Veteran and press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, said Mr Trump appeared to be “hell-bent on exploiting” the military justice system for his own purposes.
“My colleagues and I, those still serving and not, are openly horrified by the way this coward has explicitly condoned war crimes, seemingly to pander to people who don’t understand how this undermines our moral authority,” she told The Independent. “I’ve talked to other service members and veterans, and none of us are sure how this could get worse.”
They’re suggesting that Trump wants to take us back to Vietnam years when we had shameful incidents like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
In a final outrage, Trump now says he wants to use the pardoned war criminals in his 2020 campaign. Daily Beast: Trump Tells Allies He Wants Absolved War Criminals to Campaign for Him.
If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.
Despite military and international backlash to Trump’s Nov. 15 clemency—fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday—Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. Right-wing media have portrayed all three as martyrs brought down by “political correctness” within the military.
“He briefly discussed making it a big deal at the convention,” said one of these sources, who requested anonymity to talk about private conversations. “The president made a reference to the 2016 [convention] and where they brought on-stage heroes” like former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who refused to execute detained civilians ahead of a devastating Taliban attack.
So next year he wants to celebrate men who chose to execute civilians and detainees?
What stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
The US Navy is the latest institution to be undermined by Trumpist attacks on the Constitution and basic decency. The Navy–which is the the longest standing fighting force in the US–is just the latest institution undermined by Trump’s lack of morality and intelligence. Our relationships with other nations may never be the same as we break treaties and conventions meant to protect our country as well as our allies and friends.
This read is from NBC as reported by Alex Johnson. Here’s the headline: “Navy Secretary Richard Spencer fired in dispute over discipline of SEAL.” The Navy–as do our other branches of service–have strict codes on how to engage their duties. It is imperative to moral and behavior. Certain behaviors elicit institutional responses. War crimes are considered heinous and subject to specific action until now. Many of those actions listed as war crimes have been negotiated throughout history with allies and foes alike. They’re part of treaties. They’re actions that we promise not to commit because they are highly immoral and because we do not want our military committing them or being subjected to them.
But, we have a Criminal Syndicate in our Government acting as the Republican Party enabling their crime boss. They let him get away with anything.
From the link:
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired Sunday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who ordered that a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder be allowed to remain in the elite commando corps, the Defense Department said.
Esper asked for Spencer’s resignation after President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher would retain the gold Trident insignia signifying his status as a member of the Sea, Air, and Land Teams, or SEALs. Spencer told reporters on Friday that he believed the review process over Gallagher’s status should go forward.
In a letter to Trump, Spencer said he acknowledged his “termination,” saying the president deserved a Navy secretary “who is aligned with his vision.”
“Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me,” Spencer wrote.
“In regards to the key principle of good order and discipline, I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted that he was displeased not only by the way that “Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy” but also because “large cost overruns from [the] past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction.”
“Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” he wrote. He said he would nominate retired Adm. Kenneth Braithwaite, the U.S. ambassador to Norway, to succeed Spencer.
He forgave a murderer for perceived cost overruns? WTAF? The USA Today Editorial Board has all kinds of questions this morning that are worth considering. First among them is this: “Do Navy leaders have a ‘duty to disobey’ Trump in Gallagher case?”
Most Americans understand that, under military law, soldiers must disobey an illegal command. It’s a doctrine that demolished Nazi war criminals’ claims during the Nuremberg trials that they were just following orders.
But what if the order is legal, but unethical or even immoral? What is a member of the military to do then?
For some top Pentagon officials, the question might be more than hypothetical. They apparently resisted President Donald Trump’s efforts to protect a Navy SEAL accused of misconduct, and by late Sunday afternoon one of them — Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — was out of a job.
This issue came to a head last week, when Trump threatened to issue an order many senior military leaders see as bordering on unethical. The order would have effectively undermined efforts by a Navy leader to restore good order and discipline among the vaunted Navy SEALs.
A key focus was the conduct of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who had earned a reputation as a rule-breaking “pirate,” accused of committing war crimes in Iraq, including the indiscriminate firing into a neighborhood with a machine gun and killing a teenage captive with a custom-made knife.
When the criminal case against Gallagher fell apart at trial in July, he was convicted only of posing in a photograph with the dead teenager and demoted. Right-wing commentators flocked to Gallagher’s defense, and Trump ordered Gallagher’s rank restored Nov. 15.
The Department of State is another institution undermined by the current usurper of the Oval Office. “As the Rich Get Richer, the Ambassadors Get Worse. Gordon Sondland embodies an age-old problem—one that the flood of donor money into American politics is only exacerbating.” is a feature article at The Atlantic written by Dennis Jett.
Trump’s administration is full of rogue actors dismissing the experts in their field under the right wing tropes of being “deep state”. Curiously, Faux provocateur Jeanne Piro has now called Sondland a deep state actor. Greg Jaffee–writing for WAPO-– writes this ”
Sondland’s appointment succeeded even though it, too, was obviously transactional. The hotel owner did not support Trump for the Republican nomination and did little to get him elected. But once he won, Sondland wrote a big check. And just like magic, he was off to live in Brussels as the American ambassador to the European Union. Along with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Sondland became the president’s go-to guy for dealing with Ukraine—even though that country is not part of the EU. For Trump, it seems, Sondland’s disdain for note-taking was an asset, not a flaw.
National security is harmed when diplomacy is done badly. When the United States has a problem with another country, it can resolve it by diplomacy, force, or just ignoring it and hoping it goes away. When the first option is debilitated by putting incompetent presidential sycophants in charge of embassies, that leaves only the two other alternatives. If command of an aircraft carrier were handed over to a real-estate developer because he had contributed to a political campaign, the outrage would be immediate. But putting our soft power, our ability to conduct diplomacy, in the hands of the unqualified and clueless is somehow acceptable.
That Sondland gave bad diplomatic advice was clear in the cellphone conversation he had with the president on July 26 as he sat in a restaurant in Kyiv. Trump had personally intervened in favor of A$AP Rocky, an African American recording artist who was arrested and charged with assault in Sweden. Sondland, according to the testimony of the U.S. diplomat who was eating with the ambassador, suggested that Trump “let [the rapper] get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape [parade] when he comes home.” Sondland then helpfully added that Trump would be able to tell the Kardashians that he had tried to help A$AP Rocky. In other words, Sondland was encouraging the president’s impulse to let a celebrity family dictate the status of our relationship with a significant ally.
Indeed, nearly every aspect of our Foreign engagements has been turned on its head since Trump stole office. Here is an exclusive from Axios and Jonathan Swan. “Scoop: White House directed block of Armenian genocide resolution”.
Many were perplexed and outraged when, right after clashing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a heated Oval Office meeting on Nov. 13, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham hurried back to the Senate floor and did something that likely delighted Erdoğan. Graham blocked a resolution that would have formally recognized Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people.
Behind the scenes: Graham had just scolded Erdoğan over his invasion of Syria and attacks on the Kurds, according to sources in the room.
I’m feeling under the weather today, but I’ll do the best I can to share some interesting reads. I think everyone has probably been following the breaking news pretty closely this week, so I’m just going to post some random stories.
I’m no fan of Joe Biden, but I still found this article in The Atlantic interesting and even moving. John Hendrickson who had a very bad stutter as a child, convinced Biden, to talk about his own history of stuttering: What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say.
His eyes fall to the floor when I ask him to describe it. We’ve been tiptoeing toward it for 45 minutes, and so far, every time he seems close, he backs away, or leads us in a new direction. There are competing theories in the press, but Joe Biden has kept mum on the subject. I want to hear him explain it. I ask him to walk me through the night he appeared to lose control of his words onstage.
“I—um—I don’t remember,” Biden says. His voice has that familiar shake, the creak and the croak. “I’d have to see it. I-I-I don’t remember.”
We’re in Biden’s mostly vacant Washington, D.C., campaign office on an overcast Tuesday at the end of the summer. Since entering the Democratic presidential-primary race in April, Biden has largely avoided in-depth interviews. When I first reached out, in late June, his press person was polite but noncommittal: Was an interview really necessary for the story?
Then came the second debate, at the end of July, in Detroit. The first one, a month earlier, had been a disaster for Biden. He was unprepared when Senator Kamala Harris criticized both his past resistance to federally mandated busing and a recent speech in which he’d waxed fondly about collaborating with segregationist senators. Some of his answers that night had been meandering and difficult to parse, feeding into the narrative that he wasn’t just prone to verbal slipups—he’s called himself a “gaffe machine”—but that his age was a problem, that he was confused and out of touch.
Detroit was Biden’s chance to regain control of the narrative. And then something else happened. The candidates were talking about health care. At first, Biden sounded strong, confident, presidential: “My plan makes a limit of co-pay to be One. Thousand. Dollars. Because we—”
He stopped. He pinched his eyes closed. He lifted his hands and thrust them forward, as if trying to pull the missing sound from his mouth. “We f-f-f-f-further
support—” He opened his eyes. “The uh-uh-uh-uh—” His chin dipped toward his chest. “The-uh, the ability to buy into the Obamacare plan.” Biden also stumbled when trying to say immune system.
Fox News edited these moments into a mini montage. Stifling laughter, the host Steve Hilton narrated: “As the right words struggled to make that perilous journey from Joe Biden’s brain to Joe Biden’s mouth, half the time he just seemed to give up with this somewhat tragic and limp admission of defeat.”
What follows is a fascinating and enlightening discussion between the two men about the pain of being mocked and bullied as children and continuing to struggle with expressing themselves as adults. It won’t make me vote for Joe Biden, but it did give me some insight into his history of verbal gaffes and some sympathy for his struggle with words.
The New York Times: ‘Tuesday Afternoon Impeachment’ Is as Big as ‘Monday Night Football’
On the third day that impeachment hearings blanketed American televisions, from morning talk shows to late-night monologues, Representative Devin Nunes came out with a public service announcement.
“TV ratings are way down, way down,” Mr. Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, declared — on live television — to a pair of witnesses seated before him in Congress. “Whatever drug deal the Democrats are cooking up from the dais, the American people aren’t buying it.”
Mr. Nunes was wrong.
In fact, America’s impeachment drama, titled “Days of Our Impeachment” on a recent “Saturday Night Live,” is drawing “Monday Night Football”-level viewership. On some days, its ratings have topped popular procedurals like “NCIS.”
After five full days of hearings across two weeks, the average live TV viewership for impeachment has been roughly 12 million people, according to Nielsen. Ratings have dipped slightly from a peak on Day 1, Nov. 13, which drew an audience of 13.1 million, but the drop-off is less than what many sitcoms see after a season premiere.
And the numbers for cable news are superlative: Last week, Fox News notched its highest-rated week of the year in terms of total viewership. MSNBC enjoyed the best week in its 23-year history for total viewers.
We definitely need more hearings, but for now Schiff’s committee is going to work on a report that will be submitted to the Judiciary Committee so they can decide on articles of impeachment.
Susan Glasser thinks Trump and the GOP’s “facts be damned” approach is working: The Awful Truth About Impeachment.
A couple of weeks ago, before Dr. Fiona Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch showed Americans what it means to speak unapologetically wonkish truth to Trumpian power, before the Republican donor turned diplomat Gordon Sondland gave a bad name to rich-guy dilettantes everywhere and tried to redeem himself by throwing Trump and his senior advisers under the bus, I wondered whether President Trump was already winning. From the start of the inquiry into his scheme to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations for his personal political benefit, the President has defined winning as making sure that impeachment remained an entirely partisan issue, with Democrats pushing it and Republicans standing with him to oppose it. By that standard, he was winning before the hearings—and he is still winning after them. If anything, his political hand is now even stronger as Republicans, presented with incontrovertible facts, have chosen not to accept them—and to become even more vociferous in Trump’s defense….
On Thursday morning, in what was meant to be the powerful culminating moment of the hearings, Hill gave a searing statement to Republican members of the panel about the big lie behind Trump’s demand that Ukraine investigate its own alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, an obsession of the President’s because he hoped to disprove the massive Russian interference on his behalf in that campaign. Trump and his defenders, she made clear, are simply trafficking in Russian-fuelled conspiracy theories. It is a “fictional narrative,” Hill told the committee calmly and authoritatively, a hoax “perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” What’s more, Russia’s sweeping effort has been confirmed by the U.S. intelligence community, as well as by Congress and the very Intelligence Committee holding the hearing. “The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” Hill, who served as Trump’s top National Security Council expert on Russia until she announced her resignation, in July, said. “It is beyond dispute.”
Republicans, though, chose to dispute it. They had accepted this fact in the past, but now it was politically inconvenient for the President. Trump did not want to believe it, and so Republicans wouldn’t, either. If anyone thought that Hill’s stirring insistence on the facts would have any effect, that notion was quickly dispelled. By 11:23 a.m., the Trump campaign had sent out a “rapid response” to its e-mail list, with the subject heading “Ukrainian election interference.”
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Jack Holmes at Esquire on Trump’s crazy Fox News rant yesterday: President Fox News Grandpa Had Himself a Morning on Fox & Friends.
If you are in any way tethered to observable reality, you will have noticed that this was not a good week for Donald Trump, American president. A parade of witnesses testified under oath that he’d engaged in a corrupt scheme to force a foreign government to attack American democracy for his personal benefit. Luckily for him, he’s not tethered at all, and neither is his favorite teevee network, The Fox News Channel. The impeachment hearings over the last fortnight have exposed that we do indeed live in two worlds: one, where members of Congress interviewed witnesses familiar with events, under penalty of perjury, to better understand what happened; two, the world of CrowdStrike, and Bruce and Nellie Ohr, and the Steele Dossier, and the “nude photos,” and whatever the hell else the reprehensible Devin Nunes kicked off every hearing by ranting about.
It was that world in which the president elected to keep himself safely ensconced on this Friday morning, as he joined his best friends in the whole world—the Fox & Friends—to discuss the week’s events. But as you will see, his view on events is no longer merely filtered through the kaleidoscopic bullshit of The Fox News Channel. He is now living in an entirely alternate reality, one where Ukraine attacked us in 2016, not Russia, who were framed, and Ukraine was in some kind of cahoots with the Democratic National Committee, and then the DNC gave the Ukrainians a server, which the Ukrainians refused to give the FBI, and if we could just get the server, which he asked President Zelensky for “very directly,” then we’d all get to the bottom of this little spy caper.
That is to say: the president is a Fox News Grandpa who phones into his favorite teevee show and sounds like one of the more deranged callers on C-SPAN who’s cut off midway through their third sentence. Trump was on-air for nearly an hour.
Andrew Feinberg at he Independent: After a damaging week and a bizarre Fox rant, psychiatrists and GOP strategists are worried for Trump.
….when Friday finally arrived without an impeachment hearing to capture anyone’s attention, Trump decided to air the grievances he’d been nursing for past 10 days, with — as the Beatles put it — a little help from his [Fox and] Friends.
For just under an hour, whatever dam that had held back the presidential logorrhea that had accumulated while most eyes were trained on the Capitol broke with spectacular results.
And as the faces on hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade vacillated from excited to fascinated to very concerned, Trump spewed forth some of the same conspiracies that a succession of witnesses had debunked at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
From his baseless claim that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him to the equally baseless claim that Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election and there’s a server secreted away in the former Soviet republic which can prove it, it was a parade of Trump’s favorite fever dreams.
He even threw in some self-incrimination for good measure by directly tying his attempt to withhold $391 million in military aid to Ukraine to his desire for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to investigate that non-existence server. He then admitted — for the second time — that he’d fired former FBI Director James Comey to stave off an investigation into him.
Read the rest at the link.
A relaxing musical interlude:
More stories to check out:
Daily Beast: Trump’s Gatekeeper Put Rudy in Touch With Pompeo: Emails.
The Washington Post: The 66-year alliance between the U.S. and South Korea is in deep trouble.
How about some more music?
Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers!!