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

Elizabeth Blackadder, Cats and Hibiscus

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

Hishida Shunso Hana Zakuro or Flowering Pomegranate

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

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

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

Read the rest at the WaPo.

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

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

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

Now they just have to convince Republicans.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Artemis Dreaming, Geraniums and cats

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

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

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

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

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

Blinking in the Sun, 1881, by Ralph Hedley

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

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

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

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

Painting by Jeong Seon Chuil (Korean)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Finally Friday Reads: Things that go Boom!

A leveled building and broken windows and doors for half a mile after an explosion at a business in northwest Houston

A leveled building and broken windows and doors for half a mile after an explosion at a business in northwest Houston  Credit: Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

These are surely weird times we live in and they can be very frightening. Is it just me or are we getting a big lesson in impermanence?

There was a huge explosion last night in a Houston suburb that has killed two people in the plant experiencing the explosion.  Here’s the latest on that from the NYT.

At least two people were killed in a large explosion at an industrial site in Houston on Friday, and the authorities have started a criminal investigation to try to determine whether the cause of the blast was arson, the police chief said.

The blast jolted residents from their beds in the early hours of the morning, blowing out windows and scattering debris across roughly half a mile.

The Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, said it was part of the department’s protocol to investigate a possible criminal cause but added that “we have no reason to believe, we have no evidence at this point, that terrorism is involved.”

He said it was not clear whether the two people killed were employees at the industrial site.

Worker’s dead body exposed after tarp falls from Hard Rock collapse site The City asked residents not to take photos of the remains, which are clearly visible from the street. from WWLTV

Professor Anita Hill reminds us that she never got an apology from Joe Biden for his heinous treatment of her while she testified of her experience of sexual harassment by Uncle Clarence Thomas.  She told an Iowa crowd this week that the statue of limitations was up on it.  Was that the boom of a mic drop I heard?

Hill, a law professor, accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings. Biden, then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over the hearings and has faced persistent criticism since for how he and the all-white, all-male panel treated Hill during her nationally televised testimony.

Her appearance was part of the school’s MLK Human Rights Week program, but also came 11 days before Iowa holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses. Biden is among the frontrunners.

“I know you all are getting ready to caucus,” Hill said as she opened her remarks.

A question submitted later for the Q&A came from someone who said they were considering caucusing for Biden but could not forget his role in the 1991 confirmation hearings. How hard, the questioner wondered, could it be for Biden to simply say he was wrong?

“The statute of limitations for his apology is up,” Hill said to applause. “Here is what I want now … What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do today? Will you promise as leader of this country … would you promise to use all of your energy to address the problem as it happened and to prevent it from happening to another generation? That’s what I want to hear. And I not only want to hear from him, I want to hear from every one of them who want to be the leader of this country.”

Hill made a similar “statute of limitations” comment in late 2018, but in the months between then and Biden’s launch of his 2020 presidential campaign, the former senator and vice president reached out to her directly to express his regrets. Hill said at the time the call became public that she found his words insufficient.

Later, in an appearance on The View, Biden was grilled for his passive statements — “I’m sorry for the way she got treated” — and the story lingered for days. It had faded in the subsequent months as Biden’s campaign accelerated. Last June, Hill told NBC News she was open to voting for Biden.

“I was criticized because I didn’t immediately open my arms and embrace him [and say], ‘OK, I forgive you,’” Hill told her Iowa audience Thursday night. “One of the reasons I didn’t was because I didn’t think it was enough.” The other, she said, was that she didn’t want “every young woman” to “feel like they had to follow” her lead.

We have a weird, macabre twist to the Hard Rock Hotel Collapse story here in New Orleans.   This is from Jules Bentley writing for Antigravity Magazine: “BUILT TO KILL,The Hard Rock Collapse is Simply Business as Usual for Louisiana”.

Have you ever encountered a really termite-eaten beam? It looks kind of like wood, but when you touch it, your finger sinks into papery crud; it’s comprised entirely of putrescence. That’s the case for all parties involved in the Hard Rock Hotel; anywhere you poke, you find nothing but rot. Because the Kailas family is one of metro New Orleans’ biggest landowners and developers, almost everyone’s in bed with them, including former Governor Jindal, whose various campaigns they provided with tens of thousands of dollars of donations, monetary and in-kind.

In just one year under Jindal’s tenure (2011-2012), the Kailas-owned Lago Construction firm got more than $1.5 million of taxpayer money through state contracts—contracts which, thanks to the hard work of WWL’s investigative team and David Hammer, we now know were variously improper and fraudulent. On dates they charged taxpayers for long days of public service work, Lago employees were instead laboring on the Kailas family’s multi-million dollar Bayou St. John mansion. You won’t find them there now, alas. In 2016, they sold that property to Metro Disposal CEO Jimmie Woods for ten dollars.

Lago has a history of being cozy with the state. In much the same way Louisiana politicians slide seamlessly between public office and oil-and-gas industry lobbying gigs, a gentleman named Mark Maier was simultaneously the head of a private consultancy firm that partnered with the Kailas family and the head of a Louisiana state government office, the Small Rental Recovery Program, that the Kailas family was defrauding.

Longtime Louisiana journalist Tom Aswell, writing in his “Louisiana Voice” blog, details the case of Tony Pelicano, a Metairie landlord whose building on North Turnbull Street had been damaged by the 2005 failure of the federal levees. In 2009, Pelicano was personally contacted by Maier and invited to become the first test applicant for a “forgivable loan” program for small rental property owners that would pay a contractor up to $75,000 to bring the building back into livability.

Pelicano was not allowed to choose the contractor who did the work, and when he met with Maier in 2012 to complain about problems with the work—construction change orders made behind his back, including substituting cheaper, non-pressure-treated lumber—he says he was threatened that “his bank note would be accelerated” and he’d be sued. After a third-party firm Pelicano hired verified the disastrous quality of the workmanship, Maier’s office contacted Lago, the Kailas company that Maier’s consultancy partnered with, to do its own inspection. Lago then issued a contradictory report dismissing Pelicano and the third-party firm’s findings.

Maier returned the favor a few years later. When Lago Construction was initially accused of stealing money from the Small Rental Property Program, Maier wrote a note absolving them of any wrongdoing, and the state’s investigation was dropped.

Alas for the forces of progress, the feds weren’t convinced by Maier’s note. HUD continued to investigate, and the U.S. Attorney’s office eventually filed charges. When Praveen Kailas admitted to filing fraudulent invoices worth $236,000, the judge agreed to go below the recommended sentencing range since, in her words, Praveen was taking “the fall for family members involved and not charged.” This slightly delayed development of the Hard Rock Hotel, but only slightly. Praveen just handed it off to his dad.

Image result for New Orleans hard rock hotel collapse who is in charge of the site?

And now for the story connected to picture further up from WWLTV: “Worker’s dead body exposed after tarp falls from Hard Rock collapse site/ The City asked residents not to take photos of the remains, which are clearly visible from the street.”  Yes, Mardi Gras Routes–like that of Zulu–are being changed because a dead man’s leg’s are dangling over Canal Street.

A tarp has fallen from the Hard Rock Hotel collapse site, exposing the remains of one of the workers killed in the collapse.

The City of New Orleans says they may not be able to cover the body again any time soon.

“A tarp put in place to conceal the remains of one of the victims of the Hard Rock collapse has been shifted by the wind,” a statement from City Spokesperson LaTonya Norton said. “The condition of the building and the altitude above street level complicate efforts to replace the tarp, as they have prevented recovery thus far.”

Photos of two legs sticking out from the rubble started to circulate on social media Tuesday afternoon. Below them, the red tarp that has covered the remains for months dangles in the wind.

Photos of two legs sticking out from the rubble started to circulate on social media Tuesday afternoon. Below them, the red tarp that has covered the remains for months dangles in the wind.

The implosion of the site is scheduled for some time in late March but guess who is still in charge of the site?  Go back up to that AG and read about the wonderful developers again. It’s still in their hands to blow the thing up but the City does have some say also.

Well, check this out from Mayor Cantrell: “Cantrell says New Orleans council has ‘no role’ in Hard Rock process amid calls for hearings”  by staff writer Jeff Adelson frin the New Orleans TP/Advocate.

At least four council members are now backing council hearings into the collapse.

“I believe it is the role of this legislative body to ensure and demand a proper investigation and seek the truth behind this tragedy,” Councilwoman Helena Moreno said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “While we have been patient as the official investigation is still ongoing, ultimately, those responsible must be held to account — both for the victims and for the city as well so that we see to it that this never happens again.”

Those calls, however, ran into quick opposition from Cantrell and her administration.

“Investigation into this incident will be handled by the appropriate law enforcement authorities within the judicial system,” Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said in a statement. “City legislators have no role in that process.”

That is unlikely to deter the council members, however.

“This is a public safety hazard, this is a matter of commerce, and this is also a matter of closure for the families that still have their loved ones inside that building. And this needs to come to a resolution and this building needs to come down like yesterday,” Councilman Jared Brossett said.

Image result for images hard rock hotel new orleans

I would also like to remind you that a whistle blowing construction worker was scooped up by ICE and sent out of the country quite quickly.

Delmer Ramirez Palma, a Honduran national, was one of more than a dozen workers who were injured at the construction site on October 12. At least two people were killed.

Two separate letters from a state agency investigating the collapse and Ramirez Palma’s attorney say he was very vocal about alleged faulty work conditions on the Hard Rock site, which they believe are connected to Ramirez Palma’s deportation back to Honduras.

So, speaking of Crooked Real Estate Developers building things that collapse and kill people, the Poseurdent is being put on trial to do for the Obstruction part of the Impeachment articles.  If you watch one thing today, make it this from last night:

Or you can listen to this: “‘Take her out’: Recording appears to capture Trump at private dinner saying he wants Ukraine ambassador fired. Trump apparently heard discussing firing Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.”via ABC News 

A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached.

“Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”

So, let’s see what blows up today on us.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: The Impeachment “Trial” Continues

Claude Monet, Le Havre scene

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

“THESE R NOT MY PARENTS!”

“PLEASE HELP ME!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they are not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday Reads: Senate Impeachment “Trial” Begins

Chief Justice John Roberts presides over the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

Good Morning!!

The Senate impeachment “trial” begins this afternoon, and Mitch McConnell is doing his damnedest to make sure it won’t be a real or fair one. Awhile back, McConnell said this trial would follow the rules set for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, but–surprise!–that was just one big fat lie.

Nicholas Fandos at The New York Times: McConnell Impeachment Rules Modify Clinton Precedent.

But when Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, finally released a draft of his resolution on Monday evening, less than 24 hours before the Senate was expected to consider it, there were several meaningful differences from the rules that governed Mr. Clinton’s impeachment, some of which were in line with Mr. Trump’s preferences and his legal team’s strategy.

The measure is expected to pass on Tuesday along party lines, over strenuous Democratic objections….

Mitch McConnell and pals

Like in the Clinton trial, the Democratic House impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers will have up to 24 hours to argue their respective cases for and against conviction on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But in 1999, the Senate imposed no additional limit on how the time was used. Mr. McConnell’s proposal states that each side much complete its work within two days, beginning as early as Wednesday.

That means opening arguments could be finished by the end of this week, allowing the senators 16 hours for questioning and a subsequent debate early next week over whether to consider witness testimony. In the fastest possible scenario, the Senate could vote to convict or acquit by the end of January….

When the Clinton trial opened, the Senate “admitted into evidence,” printed and shared with senators all records generated by the House impeachment inquiry into Mr. Clinton. Not so this time.

Though the House’s evidence from the Trump impeachment inquiry would still be printed and shared with senators, it would only be formally considered by the Senate as part of its official record if a majority of senators voted to do so. That vote could only take place after the Senate decided whether to call witnesses and seek additional documents — that is, as the trial moves toward conclusion.

So it’s already looking like a kangaroo court, which surprises no one. McConnell’s rules also don’t guarantee there will be new witnesses or documents.

It says that after senators conclude their questioning, they will not immediately entertain motions to call individual witnesses or documents. Instead, they will decide first whether they want to consider new evidence at all. Only if a majority of senators agree to do so will the managers and prosecutors be allowed to propose and argue for specific witnesses or documents, each of which would then be subject to an additional vote.

If a majority of the Senate ultimately did vote to call a witness for testimony, that witness would first be interviewed behind closed doors and then the “Senate shall decide after deposition which witnesses shall testify, pursuant to the impeachment rules,” if any. Consistent with the Clinton trial rules, this essentially means that even if witnesses are called, they might never testify in public.

Naturally Democrats are not going to take this lying down. The House impeachment managers are holding a press conference right now and Chuck Schumer has already stated his objections. He told NPR this morning that McConnell’s rules are “a national disgrace” and told MSNBC that “Everything in these rules is rigged.” Right now Jerry Nadler is saying that McConnell’s rules amount to an obvious cover-up.

The White House is doing it’s best to make sure the “trial” will be a complete joke. The Hill reports on the Republican impeachment “advisers”:

The White House announced Monday that President Trump appointed several prominent Republican House members to advise his impeachment defense team ahead of the Senate trial set to begin this week.

GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), John Ratcliffe Texas), Mike Johnson (La.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Doug Collins are set to play leading roles.

A statement from the White House said the lawmakers “have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives” throughout the House proceedings and would continue to do so in the Senate.

You’ll notice that those are the Reps who tried to turn the House impeachment process into a shriekfest. According to the Hill, Democrats and even even some GOP Senators didn’t like the idea of House members getting involved in the Senate process.

Key Republican allies in the Senate have also warned against such appointments, warning that the addition of Republican House members would cast the Senate trial in a partisan light.

“I don’t think it’s wise. I think we need to elevate the argument beyond body politics, beyond party politics and talk about the constitutional problems with these two articles,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters earlier this month.

I wonder if McConnell is at all worried about what the public reaction could be to a show trial. The latest CNN poll found that 51 percent of Americans think Trump should be removed from office and 69 percent believe that the Senate trial should include witnesses.

The poll is the first major national telephone poll since the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, formally launching Trump’s trial there. They are also the first such poll results since Soviet-born businessman Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, publicly implicated the President in the Ukrainian pressure campaign during a series of television interviews.

The new poll also finds majorities of Americans view each of the charges on which Trump will face trial as true: 58% say Trump abused the power of the presidency to obtain an improper personal political benefit and 57% say it is true that he obstructed the House of Representatives in its impeachment inquiry.

Of course there are partisan, gender, race, age, and geographical differences in attitudes toward the trial:

Overall, 89% of Democrats say he should be removed from office, while just 8% of Republicans feel the same way. Among independents, it’s nearly dead even: 48% say the Senate should vote to remove him, while 46% say that they should not. Views on whether Trump should be impeached and removed are also evenly split across battleground states, 49% are on each side across the 15 states decided by 8 points or less in 2016. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

House impeachment managers take articles of impeachment to Senate.

Beyond partisanship, there are wide divisions in the poll by gender, race, education and age. Nearly six in 10 women (59%) say the Senate should remove Trump from office; 42% of men agree. Among African Americans, 86% say Trump should be removed. That drops to 65% among Hispanics and 42% among whites.

Combining race and gender, about eight in 10 women of color (79%) say he should be removed. That dips to 59% among non-white men, 49% among white women and 33% among white men. For whites, education adds another degree of division: 59% of white women with college degrees say the Senate should remove Trump, compared with 43% among white women without degrees, 44% among white men with degrees and 27% among white men without college degrees. A majority (56%) of those under age 45 say the President should be removed, while older Americans are more evenly split (47% in favor among those age 45 and over, 50% opposed).

This from Politico is shocking, but not surprising: Justice Department backed Trump strongarm of House impeachment probe.

The Justice Department secretly blessed President Donald Trump’s decision to stonewall the Democratic-led House over impeachment last year, the president’s legal team disclosed Monday.

The legal brief submitted to the Senate as part of Trump’s defense includes an opinion from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concluding that Trump was justified in categorically rejecting the House’s demands for information before lawmakers passed a formal impeachment resolution on October 31.

“We conclude that the House must expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation and to use compulsory process in that investigation before the committee may compel the production of documents or testimony in support of the House’s sole power of impeachment,” Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel wrote in the detailed legal rationale.

The opinion was officially dated Sunday and released by the Justice Department on its website Monday, timing that appeared to dovetail with a Senate-set noon, holiday deadline for Trump’s first substantive brief in the impeachment trial.

Chuck Schumer is giving a press conference right now. He is emphasizing that McConnell is trying to make sure that Americans don’t watch the trial because it will begin in the afternoon and last late into the night and early morning hours. There will be a battle between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate today, but so far it appears that McConnell has to votes to pass his ridiculous rules.

The White House is also trying to make sure the American people don’t hear from John Bolton. The Washington Post: Trump’s lawyers, Senate GOP allies work privately to ensure Bolton does not testify publicly.

President Trump’s legal defense team and Senate GOP allies are quietly gaming out contingency plans should Democrats win enough votes to force witnesses to testify in the impeachment trial, including an effort to keep former national security adviser John Bolton from the spotlight, according to multiple officials familiar with the discussions.

While Republicans continue to express confidence that Democrats will fail to persuade four GOP lawmakers to break ranks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has opposed calling any witnesses in the trial, they are readying a Plan B just in case — underscoring how uncertain they are about prevailing in a showdown over witnesses and Bolton’s possible testimony.

One option being discussed, according to a senior administration official, would be to move Bolton’s testimony to a classified setting because of national security concerns, ensuring that it is not public.

To receive the testimony in a classified session, Trump’s attorneys would have to request such a step, according to one official, adding that it would probably need the apReaproval of 51 senators.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Here are a couple of good articles analyzing Trump’s impeachment defense.

From Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Constitutional Nonsense’: Trump’s Impeachment Defense Defies Legal Consensus.

As President Trump’s impeachment trial opens, his lawyers have increasingly emphasized a striking argument: Even if he did abuse his powers in an attempt to bully Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election on his behalf, it would not matter because the House never accused him of committing an ordinary crime.

Their argument is widely disputed. It cuts against the consensus among scholars that impeachment exists to remove officials who abuse power. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” means a serious violation of public trust that need not also be an ordinary crime, said Frank O. Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and the author of a recent book on the topic.

“This argument is constitutional nonsense,” Mr. Bowman said. “The almost universal consensus — in Great Britain, in the colonies, in the American states between 1776 and 1787, at the Constitutional Convention and since — has been that criminal conduct is not required for impeachment.”

But the argument is politically convenient for Mr. Trump. For any moderate Republican senator who may not like what the facts already show about his campaign of pressure on Ukraine, the theory provides an alternative rationale to acquit the president.

Read the rest at the NYT.

More analysis from Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes at The Atlantic: Trump’s Impeachment Brief Is a Howl of Rage.

The House managers’ brief is an organized legal document. It starts with the law, the nature and purposes of Congress’s impeachment power, then walks through the evidence regarding the first article of impeachment, which alleges abuse of power, and seeks to show how the evidence establishes the House’s claim that President Trump is guilty of this offense. It then proceeds to argue that the offense requires his removal from office….

By contrast, the White House’s “Answer of President Donald J. Trump” to the articles of impeachment, filed by the president’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, does not read like a traditional legal argument at all. It begins with a series of rhetorical flourishes—all of them, to one degree or another, false. The articles of impeachment are “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their President,” the president’s lawyers write—as though the impeachment power were not a constitutional reality every bit as enshrined in the founding document as the quadrennial election of the president. The articles are “a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election,” and are “constitutionally invalid on their face,” they write, as though the president’s right to extort foreign leaders for political services were so beyond reasonable question, it is outrageous that anyone might object to it.

This document reads like one of the president’s speeches at his campaign rallies. The language is a little more lawyerly, if only a little. In Sekulow and Cipollone’s hands, Trump’s cries of “Witch hunt!” have turned into “lawless process that violated basic due process and fundamental fairness.” His allegations that Democrats are a “disgrace” have turned into “an affront to the Constitution.” And Trump’s insistence that there’s a plot to destroy his presidency has become a “highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the president [that] began the day he was inaugurated and continues to this day.”

But the message is unchanged. It’s not a legal argument. It’s a howl of rage.

Read more at The Atlantic.

I’ve tried to lay out the basics; we’ll soon be able to watch what happens in the Senate for ourselves. Please share your reactions as the day goes on, but feel free to post on other topics as well. It should be an interesting day!


Sunday Reads: Space Force, it’s only Jungle Wars…

View this post on Instagram

Day 1093: In which President* Treason Weasel gives a criminal underling the Eric Trump treatment, says he’s never met the guy. #levparnas #trumpcrimefamily #lockthemup #magaisformorons #asteriskpresident #thedailydon

A post shared by Jesse Duquette (@the.daily.don) on

View this post on Instagram

This one is for all the folks who marched today! #womensmarch #womensmarch2020 ——————————————- 20 days of gratitude / Day 16 Anyone who invests $10+ in the badass topple the patriarchy US/Canada tour has a chance to receive this piece in the mail. Invest now and you are eligible for all future thank you surprises. #BadassTour You can give via GoFundMe (link in bio) or via ❤️ Venmo Shannon-Downey Yesterday’s randomly selected (using spreadsheets and a random number generator) thank you gift recipient: Peggy Dimmock! —————————————- #craftivism #craftivist #feminism #feminist #nofucks #feministfairytale #onceuponatime #badasstour #badasscrossstitch #embroidery #modernembroidery

A post shared by Shannon Downey (@badasscrossstitch) on

View this post on Instagram

Dissent is and always will be patriotic. #womensmarch2020

A post shared by ACLU (@aclu_nationwide) on

View this post on Instagram

The @womensmarch is a good time to remember the journey that we’re on. The day after Trump’s Inauguration, millions of people marched across the country. Then, 6,000 women signed up to run for office. We're finally starting to see more women in power— let's keep going. #WomensMarch

A post shared by Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) on

View this post on Instagram

Thousands gathered Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington and at similar demonstrations throughout the country in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Denver. The annual protest burst into the national consciousness in 2017, when it inspired millions to take to the streets in Washington and across the globe. Read more by clicking the link in our bio. (Photos by @salwangeorges/The Washington Post)

A post shared by The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) on

View this post on Instagram

The rally for #WomensMarchSF is about to kick off. We are here and hope we run into you in Civic Center. #TogetherWeRise

A post shared by Global Fund for Women (@globalfundwomen) on

View this post on Instagram

We are powerful. We are women. ✊✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏿

A post shared by Women's March (@womensmarch) on

View this post on Instagram

Snow and sleet can't stop this momentum 🥰 #WomensMarch2020 is 🥳

A post shared by Planned Parenthood Action (@ppact) on

I wanted to share some of the #womensmarch with you. I love looking at the signs.

Speaking of which:

Those fuckers!

How a Reporter Discovered the Doctored Photo From the 2017 Women’s March

The National Archives had blurred protest signs critical of President Donald Trump.

It seems with the outrage, they have corrected it…

And with that in mind, we see how tRump administration corrupts everything.

With regards to the latest Space Farce news…if y’all didn’t see the official “new uniform” photos released the other day:

People Are Pointing Out A Hilarious Flaw With The Space Force Uniform

Take a look at that link for some hilarious tweets.

I want to end this post with someone magnificent, Osiel Gouneo:

Follow him here:

https://instagram.com/osielgouneo?igshid=343zdlcf7eq4

This is an open thread…


Thursday Reads: The Proverbial Sh** Is Hitting The Fan

Good Morning!!

Lately I’ve been feeling as if I’m treading water, waiting to see what is going to happen with impeachment. I felt that way even before Nancy Pelosi finally decided the time was right to do it. In the past few weeks while she held off on transmitting the articles to the Senate, more evidence has become public, and even yesterday as the articles were delivered more shocking news broke. Now it feels as if the proverbial shit is finally hitting the fan.

Former Giuliani pal Lev Parnas turned over documents to the House and those documents were sent to the Senate along with the impeachment articles and then released to the public. The New York Times interviewed him yesterday: Lev Parnas, Key Player in Ukraine Affair, Completes Break With Trump and Giuliani.

Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman who played a central role in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals of President Trump, completed his break with the White House on Wednesday, asserting for the first time in public that the president was fully aware of the efforts to dig up damaging information on his behalf.

In an interview with The New York Times on the day the House transmitted articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate, Mr. Parnas also expressed regret for having trusted Mr. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and the architect of the Ukraine pressure campaign. His lawyer said he was eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Mr. Giuliani.

Trump with Lev Parnas

Mr. Parnas made his remarks as House impeachment investigators released more material he had turned over to them. The material, including text messages, photos and calendar entries, underscored how deeply Mr. Parnas and others were involved in carrying out the pressure campaign and how new information continues to surface even as the Senate prepares to begin Mr. Trump’s trial next week. And it provided additional evidence that the effort to win political advantage for Mr. Trump was widely known among his allies, showing that Mr. Parnas communicated regularly with two top Republican fund-raisers about what he was up to.

Text messages and call logs show that Mr. Parnas was in contact with Tom Hicks Jr., a donor and Trump family friend, and Joseph Ahearn, who raised money for pro-Trump political groups, about developments in the Ukraine pressure campaign.

In the text messages, Mr. Parnas kept Mr. Hicks and Mr. Ahearn apprised of efforts to disseminate damaging information about targets of Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani, including the United States ambassador to Kyiv, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ukrainians who spread information about Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.

The records seem to expand the circle of people around Mr. Trump who were aware in real time of the pressure campaign. The campaign led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment in the House last month and a Senate trial that will start next week just as the 2020 presidential campaign is moving into high gear.

In the interview with The Times, Mr. Parnas said that although he did not speak with Mr. Trump directly about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.

Parnas also gave an interview to Rachel Maddow. Some of it aired on Maddow’s show last night with more to come tonight. Deadline: Rachel Maddow’s Bombshell Interview With Lev Parnas: Trump Was In The Loop, And So Were Many Others.

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani, basically confirmed what House Democrats have been saying all along as they pursued impeachment against Donald Trump: He was very much in the loop.

In Parnas’s words, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He knew all of my movements.”

Given that Parnas described a scheme to shakedown the new Ukrainian government until they announced an investigation of Joe Biden, that means a lot, as he described in detail a pressure campaign that was placed on Ukrainian officials.

An early episode came last spring, when Parnas said that he was enlisted to warn an aide to incoming president Volodymyr Zelensky that if an investigation was not announced, Vice President Mike Pence’s visit for Zelensky’s inauguration would be cancelled. The aide refused, and Pence’s visit was canceled.

“I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president,” Parnas said to Maddow.

He also confirmed other claims made during the impeachment inquiry, including the serious charge that aid to Ukraine was withheld as government officials continued to hold off on announcing a Biden investigation. “It wasn’t just military aid; it was all aid” that was under threat of being withheld, Parnas said.

But Trump’s team is likely to spend the next few days trying to discredit Parnas, who, along with another associate, Igor Furman, was arrested in October on campaign finance charges. As Maddow was playing her interview with Parnas, her Fox News rival Sean Hannity was calling MSNBC the “state run, MSNBC conspiracy channel media.”

Lev Parnas, Kevin McCarthy, and Igor Fruman

More on Parnas documents from Politico: Democrats release more Parnas evidence, including voicemails with Trump associates.

House impeachment investigators released a new set of evidence that was obtained from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani — including voicemails, photos, and text messages between Parnas and high-level figures within Trump’s orbit.

The material includes voicemail messages Parnas received from Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, a prominent Trump-aligned lawyer, both of whom have been identified as players in an effort to force the removal of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, during the spring.

“Hey Lev. VT here. We’ve got a request to talk to the big one,” Toensing said in the April 23, 2019, voicemail message. “So I just wanted to get the latest from you, if I could. I know it’s late there. I’m sorry.”

The timing of the Toensing voicemail coincides with a flurry of activity involving Yovanovitch’s ouster. On April 23, Giuliani tweeted that Ukraine was investigating 2016 election interference, and Trump recalled Yovanovitch from Ukraine on April 24.

The previously undisclosed documents, released late Tuesday night but not publicly noticed, were posted ahead of the House formally sending its impeachment articles to the Senate, underscore the evolving nature of an investigation that House Democrats say is ongoing — and was stifled in its early stages by Trump’s refusal to allow his aides and associates to comply with congressional subpoenas.

The most shocking information that came out of the Parnas documents was the possibility that Trump allies were stalking and perhaps even physically threatening then Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas told Maddow that he didn’t believe that had actually happened and it was just a fantasy created by a “loony” Trump ally Robert Hyde.

Marie Yovanovitch

Nonetheless, Ukraine has opened an investigation into the possible threat to Yovanovich. NBC News: Ukraine launches probe into alleged surveillance of former U.S. envoy.

Ukraine has launched criminal investigations into the possible illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the reported hacking of Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment.

“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” the Interior Ministry, which runs the police forces, said in a statement.

However, recent reports pointed to the possible violation of Ukrainian and international law, it said.

“Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state,” the statement added….

“Our goal is to investigate whether there actually was a violation of Ukrainian and international law, which could be the subject for proper reaction. Or whether it is just bravado and fake information in the informal conversation between two U.S. citizens,” the ministry said.

Some background on Robert Hyde from The Washington Post: GOP figure who said he tracked U.S. ambassador was previously involuntarily committed, records show.

A Republican congressional candidate and former Marine who suggested last year that he was tracking a U.S. ambassador who had fallen out of favor with President Trump was once involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital after an incident at one of the president’s resorts and is the subject of a restraining order obtained by a political consultant, police and court records show.

On Tuesday, Robert F. Hyde became the latest figure to emerge in the drama surrounding the Trump administration’s recall last year of Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine when his 2019 messages were made public on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial. His exchanges with an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, had been turned over to House Democrats in response to a subpoena.

In the messages to Lev Parnas, Hyde claimed to be in contact with a “private security” team near the embassy in Kyiv and suggested that he had the ambassador under physical and electronic surveillance. “It’s confirmed we have a person inside,” he wrote in March.

Robert Hyde with Trump

On Wednesday, Hyde claimed he had been “joking” in the messages he sent to Parnas.

On his social media accounts, Hyde, a long-shot candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, has posted numerous photos of himself and Trump or members of the president’s family, many of them taken at Trump properties. He appeared grinning with Trump on Easter at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

Among the photos and videos is a picture from a party to which, according to the post, Hyde had taken friends on May 7 at a bowling alley in the White House complex.

The bowling party occurred about a week before police were called to Trump’s Doral resort in Miami-Dade County for a “male in distress fearing for his life,” according to a police report from the incident.

Hyde told officers that he had been “set up and that a hit man was out to get him,” officers wrote. Hyde “spoke about emails he sent that may have placed his life in jeopardy” and said he believed that painters and landscape workers were trying to harm him and that the Secret Service was watching him.

Read more at the links I’ve provided.

I’ve only scratched the surface of today’s news. We have no idea what will happen with impeachment now, except that Mitch McConnell will do his best to protect Trump. He’s planning to shut the media out of the impeachment trial–will he get away with it? It’s beginning to look as if he will have a tough time, as more and more shit hits the media fan. I expect we’ll learn even more today. It’s all going to come out.

Dahlia Lithwick argues that McConnell’s cover-up plan is in big trouble: How Will the Senate Get Away With Its Sham Trial Now?

Interestingly, with an impeachment trial in the Senate raising the stakes perhaps even higher than those for a Supreme Court vacancy, McConnell committed a rare unforced error before Christmas: He proclaimed that Senate Republicans would “be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president.” This essentially amounts to a confession he’d be rigging up a show trial to acquit the president without hearing any material evidence—not exactly what that whole “trial” mechanism is meant to do, legally speaking. Perhaps as a result of that unfortunate admission, McConnell now has to contend with at least a handful of vulnerable Republicans in the Senate who are not perfectly cool with the “we’re coordinating with Trump to get him acquitted super fast” situation. And as such, we enter this historic week of Senate impeachment with at least the wisp of a hope that there might be a fairer trial ahead than anyone could have anticipated.

That slim hope nests in a variety of cozy places, including but not limited to the prospect that Chief Justice John Roberts has some institutional interests in avoiding a kangaroo trial, the fact that the American public has shown some bipartisan interest in hearing actual testimony from actual witnesses, and the fact that the president appears to continue to conflate his personal political ambitions with the national interest, even after being impeached for precisely that conduct in the House. (Maybe this will finally prove to be too much for even the most casual observer?) Plus, newly released documents from Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukraine-gate confederate, Lev Parnas, again confirm that the rough contours of the aid-for-oppo research scheme. But they go even further: The new documents (with more to come) add elements of actual threats to the welfare of a sitting U.S. ambassador, directed by the associates of Trump’s associates, which has implications for Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer. Senate Republicans will need to explain why none of this matters and why they want to know nothing more about the back deals and thuggery that, it is now clearer than ever, were conducted under the president’s directive. That means that there is at least a smidgen of hope wafting off senators like Mitt Romney of Utah, who says he’d like to hear testimony from John Bolton, and Susan Collins of Maine, who says she is possibly open to impeachment witnesses and documents, all of which makes it trickier for McConnell to magic up his dream trial of opening statements leading to closing statements leading to a brisk victory lap-slash-acquittal.

Read the rest at Slate.

I’ll post some more links in the comment thread; it’s so difficult to figure out what to highlight these days. I hope you’ll share the stories you are following too.


Tuesday Reads: Pelosi Is Winning On Impeachment, But Russia Is Still Helping Trump.

By Félix Edouard Vallotton

Good Morning!!

Lots of tweeting about Trump and Melania at the LSU-Clemson game yesterday. Melania wore some kind of raincoat that looked like it was made out of garbage bags. More people are starting to notice Trump’s odd standing and walking issues.

See more tweets at Raw Story: Internet speculates about Trump’s strange gait at Clemson vs LSU championship.

There was disagreement about whether Trump or Melania released the other’s hand, but Melania looks angry. Some people suggested she was digging her fingernails into his hand before he let go. Watch and see what you think.

 

Enough gossip, there is also breaking news on impeachment. CNN: Pelosi sets up floor vote as soon as Wednesday to name impeachment managers and send articles to the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that that the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution to name the impeachment managers for the Senate trial of President Donald Trump and transmit the articles to the chamber, two sources told CNN on Tuesday.

Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues Tuesday morning at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill that she won’t announce impeachment managers during that meeting, according to a source familiar with the remarks. Last week, Pelosi told Democrats she planned to discuss plans for sending over the articles of impeachment, which she’s held following a vote last month.

By Belinda Del Pesco

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Monday night that the House vote to name the impeachment managers “could be” on Wednesday, adding that the Senate has “practical problems” if they were to move sooner since three Democratic senators are participating in the presidential debate.

After a several week delay to formally send the articles, Pelosi’s move will kick the impeachment fight officially into the Senate’s court, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is readying a resolution of his own to set out the rules of the trial.

It looks like Pelosi’s decision to hold onto the articles for a few weeks is paying off. The New York Times: Republicans Rule Out Outright Dismissal of Impeachment Charges.

Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump, proceeding instead to a trial with arguments and the possibility of calling witnesses that could begin as soon as Wednesday.

Dismissal was always a long shot given Republicans’ narrow control of the Senate, but it was the subject of renewed discussion after Mr. Trump said on Sunday that he liked the idea put forward by some conservatives as a way to deny the House’s case the legitimacy of a trial. Other Republicans had signed on to a resolution that would have dismissed the House’s impeachment articles if they were not promptly brought to trial.

In interviews, rank-and-file senators and party leaders made clear on Monday that even if they wanted to pursue dismissal, the votes simply were not there to succeed — at least not at the outset of the trial. They did not rule out considering a motion to dismiss the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after opening arguments from both sides.

“Our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a top Republican leader. “They think both sides need to be heard. They believe the president needs to be heard for the first time in a fair setting.”

By Henri Lebasque

Mitch doesn’t have the votes for dismissal anymore. The Washington Post: Top Senate Republicans reject Trump’s renewed call for immediate dismissal of impeachment charges.

On Monday, senior Republicans said immediate dismissal could not win approval in the chamber, where Republicans hold a 53-seat majority. And even some staunch Trump allies argued that the president’s legacy would benefit from a robust trial.

“I don’t think there’s any interest on our side of dismissing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the fourth-ranking GOP senator. “Certainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he wants the trial — only the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history — to follow the format used 21 years ago in the trial of President Bill Clinton. In that case, the Senate approved a resolution that would have allowed the Senate to vote to dismiss the charges.

But senior Republicans signaled Monday that they are not inclined to include such a provision in the resolution that will kick off Trump’s trial, perhaps as soon as Thursday….

Another GOP senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss legislation that is not yet public, also said the inclusion of a provision to dismiss is unlikely.

Even the White House now admits there are going to be witnesses, according to CBS News: White House expects GOP defections on calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial.

Senior White House officials tell CBS News they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a “wild card” and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an “institutionalist” who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it.

By Edouard Vuillard

Last week, Collins said she was working with a “fairly small group” of GOP senators to allow new testimony, adding that her colleagues “should be completely open to calling witnesses.” Romney has expressed an interest in hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he would testify under subpoena. Murkowski said last week that the Senate should proceed as it did during the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial.

Gardner and Alexander have both said the Senate trial should be fair and impartial. Paul has said the president should be able to call his own witnesses, including the whistleblower whose complaint about Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.

More on Rand Paul from Politico: Republicans face reckoning on impeachment witnesses.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul offered a warning to his colleagues as they began debating whether to hear from witnesses like John Bolton in President Donald Trump’s imminent impeachment trial.

“Don’t think you can just vote for Bolton and not the witnesses Trump wants,” Paul told senators at a party lunch last week, according to two attendees and two people briefed on the meeting. He advised that incumbent senators’ conservative base would be enraged if vulnerable lawmakers were seen as undercutting Trump.

The blunt advice from Paul laid bare the GOP’s perilous task in handling Trump’s impeachment trial in an election year, all while the president delivers stage directions on his Twitter account. Trump over the weekend first requested that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and even Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear as witnesses, then argued a few hours later that the trial should be dismissed summarily before it begins….

By Patrick Bornemann

The GOP has tried to stay focused on its game plan to shut down Democratic hopes of locking in witnesses at the outset of the trial, but it’s become increasingly clear the party will face an internal reckoning during the trial as it defends its Senate majority and faces a president who demands complete loyalty.

In other news, The New York Times broke this stunning story last night: Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment

With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the company.

By Ethel Sands

Russia is still listening to what Trump wants them to do. And don’t forget, they could also have planted fake information to be released at appropriate times. They did that in 2016 when they hacked John Podesta’s emails.

At The Washington Post, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul warns: Be prepared to fight a dangerous new wave of disinformation during the Senate trial.

In a matter of days, U.S. senators will be exercising one of their most solemn constitutional duties as they take part in the second phase of the impeachment process. When they do so, they — and the rest of us — should take heed of Hill’s warning. By now it should be amply clear that Russian-style disinformation tactics, whether employed by Russians or Americans, represent a major threat to American democracy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his proxies deploy several methods of disinformation to strengthen their power and influence. The first is to deny facts. For instance, Putin initially denied that Russian soldiers had seized control of Crimea in February 2014, denies Russian involvement in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, and denies any Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A second tactic is to deflect attention from the facts, also known as “whataboutism.” When criticized about Crimean annexing Crimea, Putin’s media shoot back, what about Kosovo? Or New Mexico? When criticized about civilian casualties from Russian military intervention in Syria, Kremlin defenders retort, what about Iraq, Vietnam or Hiroshima? When confronted with evidence of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, the Russian standard refrain is, you do it all the time.

By Harold Knight

A third practice is the dissemination of lies. Russian state media once asserted that President Barack Obama and former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi embraced the same ideology. I may be more sensitive than most about this tactic, because when I was serving as U.S. ambassador to Russia, Kremlin media outlets accused me of fomenting revolution against Putin’s regime; perhaps most disgustingly of all, a video was circulated suggesting I was a pedophile. When Putin met with President Trump in July 2018 in Helsinki, the Russian president again lied about me, claiming I had broken Russian law while working in the White House.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More stories to check out, links only:

The Daily Beast: Warren and Sanders’ Famous Friendship Finally Ices Over.

Business Insider: Trump needed to show Soleimani was an imminent threat to assassinate him — and could be in dangerous legal territory now he’s abandoned the argument.

The Daily Beast: Jitters at MSNBC as Brass Eyes Moving Chuck Todd and Talks to Shep Smith.

NPR: Here Are The Lawyers Who Will Defend President Trump Against Impeachment.

The Washington Post: Trump retweeted Pelosi in Muslim garb. The White House made it worse.

NBC News: Muslim groups denounce Trump retweet of fake Pelosi-Schumer photo.

Courthouse News Service: Trump Campaign Adviser Pleads Guilty to Child Porn, Sex Trafficking.

The Daily Beast: U.S. Embassies Were Never Told of Supposed Soleimani Threat Because It Didn’t Exist: Officials.

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