Tuesday Reads: Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial Begins Today


Good Morning!!

Yesterday Dakinikat posted one of those typical Politico “both-sidesy” “Democrats in disarray” articles about second Trump impeachment trial, which begins today. Supposedly Democrats are torn about whether they should go all out to convict trump or just give up because the whole thing is a “lost cause.” Why call witnesses and make a big scene when Republicans hold all the cards anyway? Of course Politico ignores the fact that a clear majority of Americans support conviction. CBS News:

As former President Trump’s second impeachment trial begins, a 56%-majority of Americans would like the Senate to vote to convict him, and the same percentage say he encouraged violence at the Capitol — views that are still somewhat linked to Americans’ presidential votes in 2020, reflecting ongoing partisan division.

To those in favor of conviction, this trial is described as holding Mr. Trump “accountable” and “defending democracy.” To those Americans (mostly, Republicans) opposed to it, the trial is “unnecessary” and a “distraction.”  

Media critic Eric Boehlert writes: Sorry Politico, impeachment’s not “lost cause” for Dems — it’s a home run.

As the impeachment curtain rises in the Senate today, with Trump being charged with “incitmdent of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the D.C. press once again seems to think the impeachment of a Republican president poses political problems…for Democrats. It’s a strange prism through which to view the historic proceedings, as Trump becomes the first president in 240 years to be impeached twice — and in the span of just 13 months….

Overall, the press seems much more focused on the fact that Democrats likely won’t win a conviction, than they are on the swelling movement nationwide in favor of conviction. Republicans are clearly out of step with the public, but it’s Democrats who are portrayed as being boxed in and “muzzled.”

lk011421dapr_0As for Republicans and the political consequences impeachment poses for them? Politico wasn’t interested, and made no suggestion that the GOP stands at the crossroads regarding Trump and the murderous mob he inspired to ransack the U.S. Capitol. The GOP, apparently, faces no impeachment fallout, only Democrats.

This is the type of coverage we saw during Trump’s impeachment last year, when news outlets flipped common sense on its head and became wed to idea that an unpopular Republican president being impeached represented a political problem for his opponents. The Washington Post insisted “hand-wringing” Democrats were “bracing” for scores of impeachment defections in the House. In the end, exactly two Democrats defected. Meanwhile, adopting Republican talking points, the New York Times reported that the first impeachment was “a political plus” for Trump, and “risky” for Democrats.

Talk about turning the tables. Back when Democrat Bill Clinton was impeached in 1999, the overriding political story was how badly would the historic proceeding damage Democrats? That, despite the fact that polling showed Americans overwhelmingly opposed the impeachment of Clinton, whose approval rating swelled into the 70’s while being persecuted by the GOP.  Yet last year when it was Democrats who were doing the impeaching, and when they had the support of the public, the press assumed they’d be the ones to pay a high price. Same is true again this year.

For Democrats, it’s heads you lose, tails you lose.

Read the whole thing at the link. As the trial plays out, we need to remember that there really is no liberal media. In fact, the “savvy” DC press always works hard to find a “both-sides” narrative, no matter how bad things get for Republicans.

At Yahoo News, Kendell Karson and Meg Cunningham write: GOP on defense as Democrats harness party’s ties to extremism.

As the GOP contends with its future and Trump’s role in it, Democrats are seizing on the deep divisions within the Republican ranks over its right wing and seeking to define the frontline of the party by its most extreme members.

lk020721daprHouse Democrats’ campaign apparatus deployed $500,000 for an advertising campaign tethering Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader, and seven vulnerable House Republicans in districts President Joe Biden won last year to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s extremist rhetoric and the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The opening shot by Democrats accuses the swing district Republicans of standing “with Q, not you.

“Washington Republicans have made their choice — they chose to cave to the murderous QAnon mob that has taken over their party,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They are “refusing to hold those responsible for the attack on the Capitol accountable, offering nothing but empty words after years of hyping up lies and conspiracy theories.”

Read more at the link.

Schumer and McConnell have reached an agreement for how the trial will proceed. The Hill:

The timeline would allow the trial to wrap up as early as next week, if both sides agree not to call witnesses. 

Under the deal, the Senate will debate and vote on Tuesday on whether the trial is constitutional. The effort to declare the trial unconstitutional will fall short after Rand Paul (R-Ky.) forced a vote on the issue late last month. Forty-four GOP senators supported his effort. 

Opening arguments will start on Wednesday. Under the deal, the House impeachment managers and Trump’s team will have 16 hours over two days each to present their case to the Senate….

The deal also leaves the door open to calling witnesses. The House impeachment managers previously invited Trump to testify under oath, an offer his attorneys rejected. They haven’t yet said if they will try to get the Senate to call other witnesses.

Today the Senators will debate the constitutionality of trying a president who has left office. Trump’s lawyers claim that is unconstitutional, but the expert they rely on for their arguments says they are misinterpreting his scholarship. 

20210202ednac-aAt NPR, Nina Totenberg interviews that expert: ‘I Said The Opposite’: Criticism Of Trump’s Impeachment Defense Intensifies.

A constitutional law professor whose work is cited extensively by former President Trump’s lawyers in their impeachment defense brief says his work has been seriously misrepresented.

In a 78-page brief filed in the U.S. Senate Monday, Trump’s lawyers rely heavily on the work of Michigan State University Professor Brian Kalt, author of the seminal article about impeachment of a former president. His work is cited 15 times in the Trump brief, often for the proposition that the Senate does not have the authority under the constitution to try an impeached ex-president.

The problem is that Kalt’s 2001 book-length law review article concluded that, on balance, the historical evidence is against Trump’s legal argument.

“The worst part is the three places where they said I said something when, in fact, I said the opposite,” Kalt said in an interview with NPR.

Trump’s lawyers argue that the Senate lacks jurisdiction because the president is already out of office, making an impeachment trial pointless. Kalt argues that impeachment is about more than removal; it’s about accountability and deterrence. “The framers worried about people abusing their power to keep themselves in office,” he adds. “The point is the timing of the conduct, not the timing of the legal proceeding.”

Read the rest at NPR.

David Corn at Mother Jones: Why the Second Impeachment of Donald Trump Is More Important Than the First.

[D]espite the the deja-vu-ness of this been-there/done-that impeachment and the absence of a possible political death sentence, the second Trump impeachment is far more important than the first, for it ultimately is about securing and protecting the defining ideal of the United States: that this nation is a democracy that honors principle not power….

20210201edwas-aThe core issue is a president jeopardizing American democracy. For the first time since the republic was born, the United States did not experience a peaceful transfer of power following a presidential election. (Yes, there’s an asterisk for the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln that led six months later to the Civil War.) Trump spent weeks prior to the election plotting how to subvert it should he lose, and then he put his scheme in motion, pushing the big lie that massive fraud had occurred and a nefarious cabal had stolen his victory. He falsely declared victory before all the votes were counted. He and his allies refused to accept legitimate and certified results, filing frivolous lawsuits that were routinely tossed out and spreading baseless conspiracy theories. They lied—over and over—about vote tallies and supposed irregularities that did not exist. It was a psyop campaign, information warfare—similar to the covert attack waged against the 2016 election by Vladimir Putin. And evoking his infamous Ukraine phone conversation, Trump called Georgia state officials and pressured them to “find” him just enough votes to secure a victory in that state. Coercing local officials to falsify election results can be a crime.

This all happened before the seditious and murderous attack on the US Capitol on January 6. For months, Trump had waged war against the election and the American political system, seeking to discredit it so he could retain power, misleading millions of America, and exploiting paranoia, fear, and political division. His impeachable acts did not begin on the that dreadful day. “The full story is a crime story, a long crime story,” one of the House impeachment managers tells me. The attack on Congress—which aimed to overturn the election results—was the product of a lengthy stretch of disinformation and incitement.

More points of view on the trial:

cjones02032021Richard H. Pildes at The Atlantic: January 6 Was Just One Day in a Sustained Campaign.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump’s trial set to rock Washington and echo through the ages.

Peter D. Keisler and Richard D. Bernstein: at The Atlantic: Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Mean What Trump’s Lawyers Want It to Mean.

Steve Coll at The New Yorker: Trump’s Impeachment Trial Offers a Chance to Seize the Initiative on the Future of Free Speech.

Michael Conway: How Republicans’ defense of Trump over his impeachment trial hurts him in the long run.

The Daily Beast: Trump Preps Nutty Impeachment Defense as D.C. Ducks.

Vanity Fair: Trump’s Impeachment Lawyers: He was Heartbroken by Capitol Violence, How Dare You Suggest Otherwise

Will you be watching today’s arguments? If so, let us know what you think. 

New Year’s Eve Reads: Trumpschmerz

New Year’s Eve by Sabzi

Good Morning!

One more day until 2020 begins. Here’s what’s happening right now:

As 2019 draws to a close with “Death to America” is trending on Twitter. The New York Times: Protesters Attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Chanting ‘Death to America.’

BAGHDAD — Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside to express their anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend.

The men did not enter the main embassy buildings and later withdrew from the compound, joining thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside who chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks, covered the walls with graffiti and demanded that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.

The situation remained combustible, with protesters vowing to camp outside the compound indefinitely. Their ability to storm the most heavily guarded zone in Baghdad suggested that they had received at least tacit permission from Iraqi security officials sympathetic to their demands.

Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians play Auld Lang Syne, by David Lloyd Glover

The American airstrikes on Sunday have resulted in the most serious political crisis in years for the United States in Iraq, stoking anti-Americanism and handing an advantage to Iran in its competition for influence in the country.

The airstrikes targeted an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States accused of carrying out a missile attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded American and Iraqi service members. A spokesman for the militia denied involvement in the attack.

But the size of the American response — five strikes in Iraq and Syria that killed two dozen fighters and wounded dozens of others — prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum and accusations that the United States had violated Iraqi sovereignty.

Trump is blaming Iran, The Washington Post reports:

President Trump responded angrily Tuesday to the protesters’ actions, charging that Iran was behind a deadly militia attack that led to the airstrikes and blaming Tehran for the embassy siege.

“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

Painting for The New Yorker by Owen Smith

A spokesman for the Kataib Hezbollah militia said the demonstrators intend to besiege the embassy until the facility shuts down and U.S. diplomats leave Iraq.

But the angry demonstrators defied appeals delivered over loudspeakers by the group’s leaders not to enter the embassy compound and smashed their way into one of the facility’s reception areas, breaking down fortified doors and bulletproof glass and setting fire to the room.

American guards inside the embassy fired tear gas to keep the militia supporters at bay. U.S. troops could be seen nearby and on rooftops, their weapons drawn, but they did not open fire. Embassy civil defense workers just inside the gates attempted to put out the fires with water hoses.

The protesters also smashed security cameras, set two guardrooms ablaze and burned tires. They made a bonfire out of a pile of papers and military MREs (meals ready to eat) found in the reception area, where guards normally search visitors. Kataib Hezbollah flags were draped over the barbed wire protecting the embassy’s high walls.

So much for Trump and Kushner’s plans for peace in the Middle East. And didn’t American taxpayers spend $750 million to make the Baghdad embassy impenetrable?

Here’s a little comic relief from The Daily Beast: Team Trump’s Furious Hunt to Find Out Who ‘Liked’ a Chelsea Clinton Tweet.

On the evening of July 10, 2017, staffers at the U.S. embassy in Brussels—the official office for the ambassador to the European Union—received an unusual call from the seventh floor of the State Department back in Washington. The office of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was irate. Someone in Brussels with access to the mission’s Twitter account had liked the wrong tweet. It had set off alarm bells in Foggy Bottom.

The tweet wasn’t just any tweet. It was one written by Chelsea Clinton and directed at President Donald Trump in a public spat that took the internet by storm.

A New Years Eve Night by A. Snegirev, 1982

That week in July, Trump drew criticism for his decision to let his daughter Ivanka fill his seat at the G-20 meeting of top economic powers in Hamburg, Germany. After days of the pile-on, Trump took to Twitter the morning of July 10 to claim his decision to have Ivanka represent the U.S. at the G-20 was “very standard” and that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed. Not more than 15 minutes later, he switched his tenor and began attacking Clinton and the press. “If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother, as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!,” Trump said.

Clinton shot back: “It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not.”

That tweet garnered more than half a million likes, including by the account for the U.S. mission to the European Union. That kickstarted a weeks-long investigation, prompted by the secretary’s office, into who exactly at the Brussels mission had access to the Twitter account and hit “Like” on Clinton’s tweet, according to two former U.S. officials. (Full disclosure: Clinton sits on the board of IAC, The Daily Beast’s parent company.) Nearly 10 people were interviewed about whether they, as administrators of the account, had mistakenly or deliberately pressed the “Like” button. All of them denied any wrongdoing, those sources said. One individual familiar with the exchanges said the secretary of state’s top managers in Washington “wanted blood” and called Brussels numerous times demanding the name of the culprit.

U.S. officials in Belgium were never able to give Tillerson’s office a name and soon after, the embassy restructured the Twitter account and limited access to just two individuals.

The Trumpies know what’s really important–protecting their boss’s fragile ego.

New Year’s Still Life, by Moesey Li

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent explains why Mitch McConnell is counting on the political media to help him protect Trump in a fraudulent impeachment trial: Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump’s impeachment defenses.

If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.

But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.

McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.

The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.

Please go read the rest at the link. It’s long but important.

I’ve been pretty successfully ignoring the news during these two holiday weeks, except for when I’ve had a blog post to write. Susan Glasser of The New Yorker had more trouble doing that, and now she has found a word to describe life in Trumpworld: Our Year of Trumpschmerz.

So much for the holidays. In the quiet of Christmas and New Year’s, the President of the United States has repeatedly attacked “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi and her family, inveighed against the “bogus Impeachment Scam” and circulated the alleged name of the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint triggered it, retweeted an account that described former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim Scum,” hosted the accused war criminal he recently pardoned over the objections of military leaders, and promoted a post calling himself “the best President of all time.” He even accused the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, of personally ordering Canadian television to cut a seven-second snippet of the schmaltzy Christmas movie “Home Alone 2” that features Trump, an accusation the President refused to retract, although it was quickly proven that the scene was one of many edited out as a time-saver back in 2014, long before either Trudeau or Trump was anywhere close to power.

Dance at the Moulin Rouge, by Toulouse Lautrec

Even now, three years into the Trump Presidency, there is no language to fully capture the madness of all this, though many of my journalistic colleagues have gone to great lengths to record and codify just how disturbingly nutty 2019 has been. The Washington Post reports that Trump ended the year having made more than fifteen thousand four hundred false and misleading statements since his inauguration. CNN’s “Inside Politics” produced a four-page, single-spaced list of all the people and institutions Trump has attacked by name this year. There are online trackers for the unprecedented levels of turnover in Trump’s Administration and for the rapidly proliferating array of lawsuits involving Trump’s assertions of sweeping executive authority. By any measure, 2019 will go down as a remarkable year in the annals of the American Presidency: Trump began it by causing the longest-ever federal government shutdown in history, after Congress refused to spend billions on his proposed border wall, and ended it as only the third President in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

Glasser searched for a word to encompass the horrors of living in Trump’s world.

There must be one of those long German words for all that soul-sickening worry, right? Some tortured mouthful of consonants that captures the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity of Washington in the age of Trump? I asked my friend, the German scholar and writer Constanze Stelzenmüller, an astute observer of Trumpism at the Brookings Institution and especially of its toxic effect on the troubled transatlantic relationship. She said that, even in Trump-skeptical Berlin, there was no single, widely accepted word that describes this phenomenon but gamely offered up her own stab at it. The word she came up with is “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz.”

Her word has pretty much everything that has come to characterize this uniquely dysfunctional moment in America’s troubled capital: Trump and his Administration (“regierung” means government); the slow-motion car crash of constant controversies (“schlamassel”); and the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all (“schmerz”). Sure, it’s a mouthful, but that’s the point: there should be one word that sums up the Trumpian disruption we are experiencing, not merely a jumble of different ones. It’s the tweets and the other stuff, too: the endless attacks on enemies, real and imagined; the torrent of lies; the eroding of the basic functions of government; and the formerly unimaginable assault on our institutions. It’s impeachment and the Mueller Report and migrant children in cages, the bullying of allies, and the lavish praise of adversaries. It’s the uncertainty and worry that comes with all of the above.

On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche. There is no taking a vacation from it. I confess that I have not yet figured out how to pronounce this unwieldy linguistic invention that so deftly captures our national Trump-soul-sickness. Luckily, I received a follow-up e-mail from Constanze, in which she proposed a shortened version that gets right to the angsty, anxious point: If “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz” is too much, she said, you can just use “Trumpschmerz.” Either way, in German or in English, it’s my nominee for the word of the year in 2019. I suspect it will be in 2020 as well.

And with that I’ll turn the floor over to you, Sky Dancers. What stories are you following, if any?