Good Morning Sky Dancers!
It’s going to be an interesting Day! #FridayThe13th coincides with the full moon for the first time since 2000, So why is Friday the 13th so unlucky? Yeah, well, guess where most of our superstitions come from? If you said Christianity you were right!
And, it may have started early last night at the debates and the doddering old white grandpas on the stage and in the press who proved they’re still back in the 20th century. I about dropped my wine glass when I heard Chris Matthews discuss the concerns of the Democratic Base with Corey Booker and let slip the old school, objectification term “coloreds”. Matthews and Biden still seem to think that there’s some elusive white male working unicorn class out there like their “dads” that will come to the calming old school, whitie tightie, lexicon. Meanwhile, they both bungle forwards while stuck in the 60s with Bernie and his throwback Berners.
I love this headline by AP’s Julie Pace: “Analysis: Biden looks like a front-runner, until he doesn’t”. He may wind up writing a thank you note to Julian Castro because the only thing that made him look sympathetic was Castro’s performance.
But the debate was punctuated by moments that highlighted why Biden can’t shake questions about his consistency and whispers about his fitness for office, despite his lead in most national polls and early state surveys. Most glaringly: a meandering answer near the end of the debate about his past statements on racial inequality. Biden said poor parents should play the “record player” for their children before veering off into comments about Venezuela.
Biden’s standing in the Democratic contest is the source of much debate within the party. Is he an experienced elder statesman who can calm an anxious nation and peel back some of the white working class voters who helped send President Donald Trump to the White House? Or is the 76-year-old past his prime and out of step with a party that’s growing younger, more diverse and more liberal?
To move further down the analysis:
Perhaps mindful of that reality, most candidates sidestepped overt criticism of the vice president in Thursday’s debate.
The one notable exception was Julián Castro, who served as Obama’s housing secretary and is in need of a jolt to break out of the lower tier of candidates. In a highly charged moment, Castro challenged Biden’s memory — a barely veiled reference to questions about the former vice president’s age.
“Are you forgetting already what you just said two minutes ago?” Castro said during an exchange on health care.
In a post-debate interview, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker laid into Biden as well, saying there were many people concerned about Biden’s ability to carry the ball “across the end line without fumbling.”
Castro and Booker were zeroing in on real questions that are being asked about Biden. Is he too old to serve as president? If he were the nominee, would he make a mistake at a critical moment that could clear the way for Trump?
Biden’s stumbles later in the debate magnified those questions. He struggled through an answer about the war in Iraq and gave a grab-bag answer to a question about how to repair the legacy of slavery in America. He appeared to suggest that poorer families needed help learning how to raise their children.
Biden’s supporters argue that ultimately, those answers — and the questions they raise — matter less to voters than their overall impressions of the former vice president. Indeed, there is a deep reservoir of goodwill for Biden in the Democratic Party, shaped in large part by the eight years he served as Obama’s No. 2.
Ramos then turned to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker with one of the most distinctive questions asked so far in the 2020 debate season: “After the recent fires in the Amazon, some experts suggested that eating less meat is one way to help the environment. You are a vegan since 2014. That’s obviously a personal choice, but President Trump and Brazil’s President Bolsonaro are concerned that climate change regulations could affect economic growth. So should more Americans, including those here in Texas, and in Iowa, follow your diet?”
That drew laughs. Booker got even more laughs when he said, “First of all, I want to say no. Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish: No.”
I also found this analysis interesting from Buzzfeed: “The Real Democratic Primary Starts Now. And It’s All About Elizabeth Warren.“If I could be any candidate right now, I would want to be her.” by Ruby Crame and Ben Smith.
It’s impossible, stupid, and likely embarrassing to predict who is going to win the Democratic presidential primary.
But it’s already become clear who has shaped it: Elizabeth Warren.
Warren, the 70-year-old Massachusetts senator, has put her agenda for structural change at the center of the 2020 campaign, helping turn the party’s center into its right and its radical left into a plausible alternative. She’s set the standard for how you run a presidential campaign and watched her rivals — including the men who typically place ahead of her in the polls — imitate her tactics. She’s the focus of public panic on Wall Street and public attacks from the Democratic Party’s old guard. And as she ticks upward in public polling, she’s also benefiting from a remarkable consensus among the Democratic Party’s professional class, according to interviews with a dozen veterans of presidential politics this week, that she is on her way to becoming the candidate to beat.
In the days before Thursday’s debate here in Texas — a moment that marked the start of a tighter, more competitive fight for the Democratic nomination — Joe Biden and his allies telegraphed a series of new talking points, all seemingly aimed at Warren. That same day, a viral clip showed a CNBC panel voice genuine panic about a Warren presidency: “You talk to executives,” said host Jim Cramer, “they’re more fearful of her winning — I mean I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘Look! Uh, she’s gotta be stopped! She’s gotta be stopped!’” A Wall Street Journal editorial followed the next morning.
Onstage in Houston, Warren commanded the most speaking time alongside Biden, putting herself at the center of policy debates on health care while staying out of the most personal arguments between candidates. Her preparation for the third round of Democratic debates on Thursday, her aides have said, did not deviate much from the first and second rounds beyond one key difference: preparing for her opponents to turn their criticism in her direction.
“I know that the senator says that she’s for Bernie, well, I’m for Barack,” Biden said in the first answer of the night, in response to a question about whether Warren and Bernie Sanders are pushing too far left.
Warren, in her response, cut off the idea that she was out to undo Obama’s legacy. “We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America and committed this country to health care for every human being,” she said. “And now the question is, how best can we improve on it?”
Trump’s epic physical and mental decline was on full display last night for any one that cares. Matt Fuller of HuffPo writes”Trump Gives A Rambling Mess Of A Speech At The GOP’s Baltimore Retreat — And He’s A Hit. The takeover of the Republican Party is complete.”
Trump took the stage clapping along with his excited GOP audience, and he really never stopped praising himself. He cheered his administration’s repeal on Thursday of clean water regulations, while also congratulating himself for what he claimed is the nation’s cleanest water and air in the last 25 years. He cheered the Senate’s confirmation Thursday of his 150th nominee to federal courts. And he lauded the economy that has produced low unemployment rates for minorities.
But far from running through a scripted checklist of accomplishments, Trump delivered a largely extemporaneous ― often bizarre ― speech about, among many other topics, the Democratic presidential candidates, immigration, the 2020 campaign, the 2016 election, the border wall, even cowboy hats.
Trump also told a story about an old business rival that he used to hate and, he said, who used to hate him. He noted that the old rival — who he did not name — was now working to get Trump reelected. He ended the story by remarking that, with the crop of Democrats vying to win the nomination, this old enemy didn’t have a choice but to support him.
“Our country will go to hell if any of these people” win the White House, Trump told the Republicans.
Trump dinged Democrats for their immigration policies ― and spent a considerable amount of time joking about the name of one of the party’s presidential candidates, Pete Buttigieg. But he also praised Democrats for their unity. “We have to stick together like they do,” Trump said.
If the president had any concerns that Republican House members ― who lost their majority in last year’s midterm in a voter rebuke of Trump ― might bail on him, his audience was there to assure him there was no reason to be worried.
As Trump departed the stage to his usual campaign sign-off song, The Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stopped the music to deliver a message. “We’re with you, we’ll never get tired of winning, and we’ll always put America first,” the Californian said.
Mind you: Trump had cracked minutes before that the husky McCarthy was somewhat bovine. The joke came as Trump claimed, falsely, that the Green New Deal pushed by some progressive lawmakers would result in “no more cows, no more planes, I guess no more people.”
“Because Kevin is just like a cow, just smaller,” Trump continued. He added that he couldn’t resist the attempt at humor and he picked McCarthy because he saw his “beautiful” face smiling at him.
Well, those are some things I found but I’m sure we’ll be hearing about it all day. The only thing I haven’t written about today is the Andy McCabe situation.
I think we can clearly call this a DOJ political witch hunt but more stuff will come out I’m sure.
So, join me around the potion kettle tonight and howl at the moon a few times!
What’s on you’re reading and blogging list today?
The debate is on your local ABC affiiate. And, it’s interesting already! Immigration is front and center! What is your family story?
Some things that made me smile yesterday:
HuffPost: Hillary Clinton Spent An Hour Reading Her Emails At A Mock Resolute Desk For Art.
Hillary Clinton paid a visit to an art exhibition in Venice, Italy, that involved her sitting at a mock Resolute Desk and reading copies of her now-infamous emails.
Images cropped up online Wednesday showing the 2016 Democratic nominee for president in Despar Teatro Italia, which is currently hosting a solo exhibition by the artist and poet Kenneth Goldsmith called “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails.”
Goldsmith told HuffPost via email that Clinton’s visit “was a surprise,” while curator Francesco Urbano Ragazzi said organizers thought the possibility of her visiting was a joke.
“Someone close to Mrs. Clinton contacted us very informally a few days before her visit. We realized that it wasn’t a joke only when we saw the security service inside the exhibition space at 9 am on Tuesday,” they told HuffPost via email….
Goldsmith’s exhibition makes public “for the first time in printed format” some 60,000 pages of Clinton’s emails, which, per WikiLeaks, “were sent from the domain description from exhibit co-organizer Zuecca Projects….between 2009 and 2013,” according to the
“Everybody was very excited [during Clinton’s visit],” Urbano Ragazzi said. “I think the scene was so extraordinary that many customers believed that she was just a lookalike at first.” [….]
The artist shared on Twitter that Clinton read her emails for an hour and, per a translation from an Italian news outlet, said: “This exhibition is further proof that nothing wrong or controversial can be found on these emails. It makes them accessible to everyone and allows everyone to read them.”
He also recalled Clinton saying, as an aside, to Urbano Ragazzi: “They are just so boring.”
If only so many in the media hadn’t been determined to destroy her, we could have had a competent president with a sense of humor.
Thanks to Dakinikat for alerting me to this important message from NBC’s Katy Tur, who returned from maternity leave yesterday. On her show yesterday, she passionately for paid maternity leave for working mothers and fathers.
Democratic debate tonight
The third Democratic Debate airs tonight from 8-11PM on ABC and Univision. CNN:
The third Democratic presidential debate takes place tonight in Houston, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sharing the debate stage for the first time this cycle, having previously avoided a direct confrontation as a result of the random draw process.
Democratic voters will see the current top three candidates — Biden, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — share the stage together, setting up the ideological battle in the nominating race between the more moderate and progressive wings of the party.
For most of the other seven candidates sharing the stage, who have either failed to break into the top tier or have seen their positions stall in the Democratic race, the debate will be another chance to inject their candidacies with much-needed momentum heading into the fall sprint ahead of the first contests early next year.</
The media have decreed that our choices are between two ancient white men and a 70-year-old woman who agrees with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on Trade and on supporting primary challengers to Democratic incumbents.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Businessman Andrew Yang
The House Judiciary Committee took a big step Thursday morning in its ongoing investigation into whether to recommend the filing of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, passing a resolution that set procedures and rules for future impeachment investigation hearings.
The resolution passed along party lines, 24-17.
“But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so.”
Earlier this week, Nadler told NBC News that the purpose of the resolution was to put into effect “certain procedures to make that investigation more effective,” a necessary move given that “the inquiry is getting more serious.”
Under the resolution, which does not need to be approved by the full House, Nadler can designate hearings run by the full committee and its subcommittees as part of the impeachment investigation. The committee’s lawyers are also able to question witnesses for an additional hour beyond the five minutes that are allotted to each member of Congress on the panel.
“Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement Thursday.
Read more at the link.
At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein critiques the Democrats’ impeachment efforts: Why Are Democrats in Disarray Over Impeachment?
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are planning a step Thursday to make their de facto impeachment inquiry into something more formal. They’re doing it, however, in what Greg Sargent describes as a “muddle.” He has it right: This isn’t a messaging failure as much as it is a substantive one.
The basic problem is that House Democrats can’t seem to agree on where their impeachment effort stands. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says that “formal impeachment proceedings” are underway. Others, including in the House leadership, have expressed much more ambiguous views of what’s happening.
A few things are contributing to this muddle. One is a push from many party actors who basically judge everything short of impeaching President Donald Trump as a total flop – a position that I still think doesn’t make much sense. Another is that some House Democrats in tough districts are overly cautious about taking on the president. But perhaps the biggest factor is that the Democrats have had a majority in the House for more than nine months now and have at best managed to produce a handful of memorable moments in oversight hearings on Trump’s many scandals and general lawlessness. At best. Maybe.
Some impeachment-or-nothing advocates suspect that this is all part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s secret scheme to avoid impeachment altogether – that she fears effective oversight hearings because they’d inevitably lead to more calls for ousting the president. But a better explanation is simple incompetence. Successful hearings would in fact help resolve Pelosi’s difficult choices. There’s an outside possibility that they could shift some Republicans toward supporting impeachment. But even if they didn’t, the House leadership could explain that continued hearings would actually be more effective than a symbolic impeachment vote. That’s an argument that won’t convince anyone right now because no one thinks the hearings to date have had any effect.
Of course Trump has effectively been stonewalling Democrats’ efforts to obtain evidence and witness testimony.
To be fair: Trump’s stonewalling of legitimate House oversight is unprecedented, and a legitimate reason for impeachment and removal from office. The House has never had to deal with anything this extreme, and is fighting back in court. But there’s simply no excuse for their failure to dramatize Trump’s misconduct in ways that would really catch the attention of voters.
There’s still the problem I’ve discussed before, and that Sargent addresses in his item, that an impeachment inquiry really does imply an eventual next step of either clearing the president or moving to a vote, and Democrats probably don’t want to do either right now. But muddling through sometimes works out in the long run even if it looks like a mess to careful observers. Remember that hardly any voters are paying attention to anything Congress does, including impeachment investigations or inquiries or whatever they want to call it.
Whether there’s a train wreck ahead for Democrats or not, figuring out how to hold effective hearings would help in the meantime. Eventually, it’s really going to take some better results from Nadler and the rest of his party.
Read the rest at Bloomberg Opinion..
Now for the bad (AKA Trump) news, links only
The New York Times: Supreme Court Says Trump Can Bar Asylum Seekers While Legal Fight Continues.
The New York Times: Trump Administration to Finalize Rollback of Clean Water Protections.
The Washington Post: ‘You’re a prop in the back’: Advisers struggle to obey Trump’s Kafkaesque rules.
The Daily Beast: Trump Flirts With $15 Billion Bailout for Iran, Sources Say.
Trump wants to open concentration camps for homeless people:
The New York Times: Trump Eyes Crackdown on Homelessness as Aides Visit California.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday!
Remember Gina, and all the others today.
Eighteen years is a drop of water…in the river of collective years, we will have… that Gina and the others will not.
As often happens since Trump entered the White House, it’s impossible to pick the most shocking news of the day. Is it Trump’s trashing of the opportunity to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan? Is it Wilbur Ross reportedly threatening to fire National Weather Service employees for accurately reporting the weather? Is it Trump’s corrupt use of his office for self-dealing? I guess I’d have to say Trump’s efforts to destroy the U.S. government’s intelligence capabilities probably wins today’s prize.
UPDATE: Naturally, as I was wrapping up this post, another big story broke.
The New York Times: Trump Fires John Bolton as National Security Adviser
President Trump fired John R. Bolton, his third national security adviser, on Tuesday amid fundamental disagreements over how to handle major foreign policy challenges like Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.
Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”
His departure comes as Mr. Trump is pursuing diplomatic openings with two of the United States’ most intractable enemies, efforts that have troubled hard-liners in the administration, like Mr. Bolton, who view North Korea and Iran as profoundly untrustworthy.
The president has continued to court Kim Jong-un, the repressive leader of North Korea, despite Mr. Kim’s refusal to surrender his nuclear program and despite repeated short-range missile tests by the North that have rattled its neighbors. In recent days, Mr. Trump has expressed a willingness to meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran under the right circumstances, and even to extend short-term financing to Tehran, although the offer has so far been rebuffed.
Back to previous programming:
In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.
A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.
The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.
The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter….
The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.
At the time, Mike Pompeo was CIA director, and he claimed “too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset.” Frankly, I don’t trust Pompeo to act in the national interest, but that’s just me. Click on the CNN link to read more about “concerns” the intelligence community had about Trump revealing classified information.
The New York Times: C.I.A. Informant Extracted From Russia Had Sent Secrets to U.S. for Decades.
Decades ago, the C.I.A. recruited and carefully cultivated a midlevel Russian official who began rapidly advancing through the governmental ranks. Eventually, American spies struck gold: The longtime source landed an influential position that came with access to the highest level of the Kremlin.
As American officials began to realize that Russia was trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election, the informant became one of the C.I.A.’s most important — and highly protected — assets. But when intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.
C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed.
The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….
The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.’s most explosive conclusion about Russia’s interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself. As the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.’s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump’s election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Psst! Don’t Tell Trump.
It’s sometimes lost amid Donald Trump’s endless affronts to the Republic, but the undermining of American intelligence capabilities is one of the overarching stories of his administration….
Even the possibility that Trump jeopardized America’s most important intelligence asset in Russia should be a very big deal, though I’m not sure it will be. The pundit class has mostly grown bored of the story behind Trump’s corrupt relationship with Russia. And too many in power, including almost all of the Republican Party, have grown used to the president deploying national security secrets in the same way he once traded tabloid gossip. He discloses American intelligence to deflect attention from unflattering stories, suck up to people he wants to impress, or simply on a whim. He treats it, as he treats everything else in American government, as a private tool of self-gratification.
Trump, you’ll remember, was in office for only a few months before he revealed to Russia classified intelligence about ISIS that originated in Israel, potentially endangering a source who was, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by Islamic State.” This led a senior German politician to describe the president as a “security risk for the entire Western world.”
Not long after, Trump bragged to Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte about the presence of American nuclear submarines off North Korea. (“We never talk about subs!” stunned Pentagon officials told BuzzFeed News.) Then, that September, after a subway bombing in London, Trump tweeted out that the perpetrators “were in the sights of Scotland Yard,” information that had not been publicly released. This prompted a rebuke from the British prime minister.
Less than two weeks ago, Trump tweeted what was likely a classified photo of the aftermath of an explosion at an Iranian space center. From the image, journalists and internet sleuths were able to deduce important information about the type and location of the satellite that produced it. “This is the first time in three and a half decades that an image has become public that reveals the sophistication of U.S. spy satellites in orbit,” reported Wired.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Final story on this topic from CNN: Trump skeptical of using foreign spies to collect intel on hostile countries, sources say.
President Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries, according to multiple senior officials who served under Trump.
Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President “believes we shouldn’t be doing that to each other,” one former Trump administration official told CNN.
In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump “believes they’re people who are selling out their country.”
Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. Responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong Un’s brother as a spy, Trump said he “wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”
Why is this man still acting as “president?”
Trump’s opposition to using intelligence from foreign sources doesn’t extend to his campaign for reelection, in which he’s willing to use his pal Rudy Giuliani and withholding military aid to force Ukraine to manufacture intel on an opponent.
Those efforts yesterday became the focus of a new joint investigation by three House committees – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform. In letters to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking “any and all” related records and a list of personnel involved, the three Democratic committee chairs outlined a litany of meetings, phone calls, tweets and other threats, including the withholding of the $250 million of security aid the reporter had referenced in the question to Pence.
“President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump’s reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme,” the chairmen wrote.
Starting at least late last year, President Donald Trump and his personal attorney and advisor, Rudy Giuliani, have agitated for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden, the current frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race and the candidate they apparently think could be Trump’s biggest rival for a second term.
Trump and Giuliani allege, contrary to evidence, that Biden improperly pressured the Ukrainian government in 2016 to fire then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in the midst of a corruption investigation of one of Ukraine’s biggest gas companies, Burisma Group. Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, was serving on the company’s board at the time.
But the prosecutor, in fact, was the target of pressure by Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates and a host of international supporters of Ukraine, who argued he should be fired for failing to pursue major cases of corruption. And it was the widely known and publicly espoused position of the U.S. government, across a half dozen agencies, that the prosecutor’s ouster was among crucial anti-corruption measures that the Ukrainian government needed to take to move forward economically and politically. As President Barack Obama’s point man on Ukraine, Biden dutifully relayed those messages at every opportunity.
Yet Trump and Giuliani have turned that real-life scenario on its head, falsely alleging that Biden sought to corruptly influence a Ukrainian prosecutor’s decisions in his son’s favor.
Click on the link to read the rest.
I’ll end with this story by Jeff Hauser at The Daily Beast that would sound crazy if it were about any other president; but in the current environment it actually seems plausible: Trump’s Going to Manipulate the Government to Stay in Power.
The power of an incumbent president to aid re-election by abusing the executive branch has in the past been limited by a few powerful forces: Presidential integrity; the fear of a scandal emerging in the media; and the prospect of aggressive congressional oversight.
Due to forces outside their control, the Democratic nominee won’t be saved by the first two “norms based” options. And as a result of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy of not “focusing on Trump,” the president has every reason to scoff at the prospect of aggressive congressional oversight, up to and including a genuine “go big” effort at impeachment.
Combined, these elements must force us to consider a truly horrifying series of questions: Does President Trump have the means, motive, and opportunity to tilt the 2020 election? The answer, unfortunately, is yes, yes, and yes. And it behooves Democrats to understand that now, before it is too late.
Hauser spells out what he sees as “the means, motive, and opportunity.” Read all about it at The Daily Beast.
So . . . what else is happening? what stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
That understated headline from The Atlantic by contributing editor Peter Wehner just about sums up all the news that no one should consider fit to print but blast it at us daily because “Accepting the reality about the president’s disordered personality is important—even essential.”
I wasn’t shy about making the same case publicly. During a July 14, 2016, appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, for example, I responded to a pro-Trump caller who was upset that I opposed Trump despite my having been a Republican for my entire adult life and having served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the George W. Bush White House.
“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”
That statement has been validated.
Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.
It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogyny, predatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this country, mocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)
The most recent example is the president’s bizarre fixation on falsely insisting that he was correct to warn that Alabama faced a major risk from Hurricane Dorian, to the point that he doctored a hurricane map with a black Sharpie to include the state as being in the path of the storm.
“He’s deteriorating in plain sight,” one Republican strategist who is in frequent contact with the White House told Business Insider on Friday. Asked why the president was obsessed with Alabama instead of the states that would actually be affected by the storm, the strategist said, “You should ask a psychiatrist about that; I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.”
The worst thing about this is summed up by Jonathan Chait writing for The New York Magazine today: “Trump Has Figured Out How to Corrupt the Entire Government.” And yet every one in elected office appears unable to face it and get rid of him before he does more damage.
Donald Trump came to the presidency a complete novice to government and often found his corrupt, authoritarian impulses frustrated by its bureaucracy. But he is slowly learning how to control the machine that has stymied him. This is the story of 2019, as Trump has replaced institutionalists attempting to curtail his grossest instincts with loyalists happy to indulge them. It is playing out across multiple dimensions. This is the through-line between several seemingly disconnected episodes from the last several days.
The pattern played out in its most absurd form via Trump’s manic insistence on justifying his inaccurate warning that Alabama “likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” from Hurricane Dorian, at a time when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was forecasting the state faced no risk. At first, Trump attempted to justify his lie by brandishing a chart he crudely doctored.
More ominously, on Friday, the NOAA issued an official statement backing up Trump’s original false claim. And the Washington Post reported the agency had instructed its staff not to contradict Trump’s claims. “This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” an NOAA meteorologist told the Post. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring.”
The controversy might appear absurd and contentless. But Trump views the stakes as high, not without reason. Among his supporters, Trump has created a cultlike devotion to his competence and honesty, both of which are threatened by acknowledging his falsehood about the hurricane.
Also on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported the Department of Justice is launching an antitrust investigation of automakers who had agreed with California to raise their emissions standards. Trump is driven by a desire to overturn an Obama-era rule increasing mileage standards out of an obsession with destroying his predecessor’s legacy and an automatic rejection of any policy to limit climate change. Trump took the agreement as a personal affront, raging publicly at the automakers for dealing with California and undercutting his leverage to loosen emissions standards.
The antitrust investigation is a preposterous abuse. The automakers are not conspiring to fix prices. They are negotiating pollution regulations with a state that is legally entitled to set its own air-pollution rules. But the threat of retribution has already dissuaded automakers from dealing with California. “One person with direct knowledge of negotiations said that Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz had indicated an interest in joining, but later abstained due to fears of political fallout,” reports the Journal. The New York Times notes that other auto firms steered clear of dealing with California because they “fear retribution from an unpredictable administration.”
You can also read Timothy L O’Brien at Bloomberg: “On Trump, Sharpiegate, Turnberry, the Taliban and Chaos. Good government decays when compromised by a cult of personality.” Does this mean the press will stop normalizing what he does now as well as how he behaves?
The U.S. military has also fallen under the president’s sway, it would appear. Politico reported on Friday night that Democrats in the House of Representatives are investigating whether Air Force crews have been improperly routed for stays at the president’s money-losing golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, raising the possibility that taxpayers’ dollars are helping a Trump business stay afloat. As I noted in a column last year about Trump’s financial conflicts of interest there, the “Scottish government has also drawn attention for considering steering business to Turnberry as part of its courtship of the U.S. military.” Politico reported on Sunday night that in response to its reporting, the Air Force has ordered a comprehensive evaluation of its use of Trump resorts to lodge crews.
The Air Force may have chosen to patronize the president’s hotels without any pressure from the president, of course. Vice President Mike Pence bent over backward to say as much when he decided to house his official entourage in a Trump hotel on the west coast of Ireland last week, about 125 miles away from the meetings he had to attend in Dublin. Attorney General William Barr also may have just been picking the best place to throw his annual holiday party when he decided to pay at least $30,000 for the privilege of hosting it at Trump’s Washington hotel.
But however the military, the vice president, and the attorney general all ended up doing business with the president, the mere fact that they are lining Trump’s wallet looks awfully like institutional kowtowing, at a minimum. In a worst-case scenario, it smacks of financial conflicts and the possibility of deeper corruption that has hung over the White House throughout the Trump era. And it’s linked to the same loss of integrity and institutional erosion on display at NOAA.
While obsessing over his Sharpie, Alabama and the media, Trump was also doing end-runs around most of the country’s foreign policy and national security institutions as he tried to orchestrate an end to the war in Afghanistan. He landed on a showy, self-aggrandizing concept: hosting the Taliban, a terrorist organization tied to Osama bin Laden, at Camp David over the weekend – just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The summit unraveled, in part because of possibly irreparable differences between the Taliban and the Afghan government as well as infighting among White House advisers lobbying for Trump’s attention.
There are some responses today but we’ll see what happens.
From the Washington Post: NOAA’s chief scientist will investigate why agency backed Trump over its experts on Dorian, email shows — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency’s response …
From Natasha Bertrand at Politico: Air Force leaders order probe of Trump resort stays
And this one that I still can’t believe since we’ve just seen another year where we’ve got First Responders dying from the events of 9/11 of 18 years ago …
from Chas Danner at New York Magazine: Trump’s Canceled Meeting With Taliban Was a Failed Attempt to Rush a Peace Deal
On Saturday evening, just days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which led to America’s forever war in Afghanistan, President Trump revealed in a series of tweets that he had canceled a secret Sunday summit with Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David. The reason, he claimed, was that the Taliban had admitted to killing an American soldier and 11 others in a suicide bombing last week in order “to build false leverage” in its peace negotiations with the U.S.
“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse,” the president declared.
But speaking of making things worse, the New York Times reported on Sunday that the president’s announcement was hardly the whole story. The Camp David meeting — according to Afghan, Taliban, and Western officials — was actually a failed gamble by the Trump administration. The summit, which the Trump team proposed late last month, was an attempt rush a conclusion to the negotiations by flying Taliban and Afghan leaders to the U.S. so that the parties could iron out the remaining details and conclude with a big peace-deal announcement and photo op.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators have reportedly made real progress in nine rounds of talks over the last year, suggesting America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan may finally soon be over. But finalizing the end of an almost two-decade war is not like finishing the production of a television-show season. Though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani — who is facing reelection at the end of month and had been mostly excluded from the talks — had agreed to the summit, Taliban leaders objected to the plan. They insisted that they would not meet directly with the Afghan government or travel to America until after the deal with the U.S. had been finalized. That didn’t happen, so the hastily arranged summit was scrapped and the Taliban was blamed.
So you may ask yourselves, why am I talking about John Legend and his beautiful outspoken wife? And why am I suddenly seeing #PresidentPussyAssBitch all over Twitter?
Look no further than The Root for this headline “Trump Comes for John Legend and ‘Filthy Mouthed Wife’ Chrissy Teigen on Twitter; Ends Up With a New Nickname We Can All Agree On” by Genetta M Adams.
I think it goes without saying that there’s a lot of bad shit happening in the world right now: the Bahamas and the Carolinas continue to recover from the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Dorian, yet another reminder of the coming climate apocalypse; mass shootings are a regular feature of America life and the global economy is about as jittery as a junkie.
But do you know what the leader of the free world was doing Sunday night? Rage tweeting about musician John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, all because he didn’t think he was getting the credit he deserved for his work on criminal justice reform (yes, I know! I told you the world is crazy right now!)
How did we get here? On Sunday night, Legend appeared with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt in a program about mass incarceration and the broken criminal justice system. Legend was on to discuss Free America, a program he initiated to end mass incarceration.
Clearly, the president tuned in because after the show aired, he threw a four-tweet tantrum because he wanted the world to know that MSNBC failed to give him and the GOP enough credit for passing the First Step Act, a bipartisan (ahem!) law that “reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and eased the federal ‘three strike’ rule imposing a life sentence for three or more convictions,” according to the Insider.
Go to the link if you want to see the tweets. So, you can see why I think that saying “The President isn’t well” is highly understated.
The one agency that appears ready and willing to buck the trend is the NWS. From the AP: “NWS chief backs forecasters who contradicted Trump”. Jay Reeves has the byline.
The head of the National Weather Service issued a strong public defense Monday of forecasters who contradicted President Donald Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama as it approached the United States.
Director Louis Uccellini said forecasters in Birmingham did the right thing Sept. 1 when they tried to combat public panic and rumors that Dorian posed a threat to Alabama. It was only later that they found out the source of the mistaken information, he said.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Weather Association, Uccellini said Birmingham forecasters “did what any office would do to protect the public.”
“They did that with one thing in mind: public safety,” said Uccellini, who prompted a standing ovation from hundreds of forecasters by asking members of the Birmingham weather staff to stand.
Earlier, the president of the 2,100-member association, Paul Schlatter, said any forecast office “would have done the exact same thing” as the Birmingham forecast office.
Trump has defended his tweet about Alabama, and he displayed an altered forecast map in the Oval Office last week in an attempt to make his point. Apparently siding with the president, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an unsigned statement critical of the Birmingham forecasters Friday.
But Alabama had never been included in hurricane advisories and Trump’s information, based on less authoritative computer models than an official forecast, was outdated when he sent a tweet saying Alabama could be affected by Dorian.
Discussing the flurry of social media contacts and phone calls that followed Trump’s tweet, Uccellini said Birmingham forecasters used “an emphasis they deemed essential to shut down what they thought were rumors” when they posted on social media that Alabama’s wasn’t at risk.
“Only later, when the retweets and politically based comments started coming to their office, did they learn the sources of this information,” he said.
Congress of the United States of America! That was the NWS! Be more like the National Weather Service! Show some fucking leadership!!!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Oh, and if you want to see more Things that Look Just Like Donald Trump you can go to Bored Panda. And thanks to Delphyne for finding that last rooster!!!
One day Veronica will get that ball out of her scratching box, until then…she will continue to see the turd for brains tell lies about Alabama and some wind. 🍊💩💨
This is an open thread.