Lazy Caturday Reads

By Olga Kost

Good Afternoon!!

The occupant of the people’s White House began his morning with more racist attacks on people of color. This time it was Rep. Elijah Cummings and the people of Baltimore. I won’t subject you to the tweets, but he claimed that Cummings’ district in Maryland is “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and “very dangerous & filthy place” and that “no human being would want to live there.” He also called Cummings a “brutal bully” because he criticized Trump’s concentration camps.

Apparently the occupant was watching TV this morning before he heads out to play more golf.

Cummings also announced recently that he has subpoenaed the White House for employees’ emails sent on personal accounts. That would include Ivanka and Jared.

This morning, CNN’s Victor Blackwell gave an eloquent response to the occupant’s ugly tweets.

Of course the real source of Trump’s rage is the fact that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have opened an impeachment inquiry into his crimes.

Joshua Matz at The Washington Post: The House has already opened an impeachment investigation against Trump. (Matz is the co-author of To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.

Has the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry? That question is starkly presented by a petition that the House Judiciary Committee filed in federal court on Friday. It is also answered by that petition. No matter what certain House Democratic leaders might say about the politics of the matter, there can now be no doubt that the committee is engaged in an investigation of whether to impeach President Trump.

Flora Merleau, Dear Alexander

Through its petition, the committee seeks access to portions of the report by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that were redacted to protect grand jury secrecy. The panel also seeks grand jury testimony bearing on Trump’s knowledge of criminal acts, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Russian connections to his campaign. Finally, the committee seeks grand jury testimony about actions taken by former White House counsel Donald McGahn; this last request probably anticipates the committee’s rumored plans to seek an order compelling McGahn to testify.

It is settled law that House committees can obtain grand jury materials as part of impeachment investigations. So the legal dispute will probably center on whether such an inquiry is underway.

The Constitution itself does not use phrases like “impeachment investigation” or “impeachment proceedings.” This has led some to mistakenly assume that the House is disregarding its impeachment power because it has not yet held a floor vote approving articles of impeachment (or expressly instructing the Judiciary Committee to deliberate on such articles).

But to those who specialize in these matters, that all-or-nothing vision of the impeachment power is mistaken. The Constitution’s text and structure — supported by judicial precedent and prior practice — show that impeachment is a process, not a single vote. And that process virtually always begins with an impeachment investigation in the judiciary committee, which is already occurring.

Here is the historic announcement made by Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

At The Atlantic, four members of the House of Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon, David Cicilline, Pramila Jayapal, and Veronica Escobar write: Why We’re Moving Forward With Impeachment.

Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees was a watershed moment. At this point, it is up to Congress to act on the evidence of multiple counts of obstruction of justice committed by the president, and to continue our investigation into whether he has committed other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Beryl Cook, The Great Cat

Despite assertions to the contrary by the president and his allies, the special counsel’s report and testimony are not the end of our investigations. We have now filed a petition in court to obtain the grand-jury documents referenced in the special counsel’s report. In that filing, we have made clear that we will utilize our Article I powers to obtain the additional underlying evidence, as well as enforce subpoenas for key witness testimony, and broaden our investigations to include conflicts of interest and financial misconduct.

While many people believe that beginning an impeachment investigation can begin only with a vote of the full House of Representatives, this is not true. Article I authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to begin this process.

As members of the House Judiciary Committee, we understand the gravity of this moment that we find ourselves in. We wake up every morning with the understanding of the oath that binds us as members of Congress, and the trust that our constituents placed in us to uphold that oath. We will move forward with the impeachment process. Our investigation will seriously examine all the evidence as we consider whether to bring articles of impeachment or other remedies under our Article I powers.

Our Constitution requires it. Our democracy depends on it.

An so finally, it is happening.

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell blocked two more election security bills in the Senate. Twitter responded by getting the hashtag #MoscowMitch trending. Newsweek:

The hashtag #MoscowMitch was trending on Twitter on Friday morning after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two election bills designed to deter interference by Russia and other states, claiming it was “partisan legislation” by the Democratic Party.

It followed special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday that Russia is still attempting to interfere in American democracy, further to its meddling in the 2016 presidential election, with a view to disrupting the 2020 contest.

Barbara Perrine Chu, Woman with Black Cat

Then on Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a report detailing Russian interference dating back to at least 2014 through to 2017 that targeted U.S. election infrastructure with an “unprecedented level of activity.”

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough used the moniker “Moscow Mitch” in reference to McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, multiple times during his MSNBC show on Friday, and tore into the congressional leader for several minutes.

Scarborough made reference to an effort in 2016 ahead of the election by President Barack Obama to sound the alarm to American voters about Russian interference by urging congressional leaders to sign a bipartisan statement condemning it publicly.

At the time, according to The Washington PostMcConnell rebuffed Obama’s suggestion, and said he would view the White House talking publicly about Russian interference before polling day as an act of partisanship designed to aid the then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

As everyone here knows, Sanctioned Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska has promised to pour millions into McConnell’s home state of Kentucky by opening a new aluminum plant there. In addition, Newsweek reports that Mitch McConnell received donations from voting maachine lobbyists before blocking election security bills.

This morning Dana Millbank went there at The Washington Post: Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.

Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.

This doesn’t mean he’s a spy, but neither is it a flip accusation. Russia attacked our country in 2016. It is attacking us today. Its attacks will intensify in 2020. Yet each time we try to raise our defenses to repel the attack, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, blocks us from defending ourselves.

By Mariana Kalacheva

Let’s call this what it is: unpatriotic. The Kentucky Republican is, arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.

Robert Mueller sat before Congress this week warning that the Russia threat “deserves the attention of every American.” He said “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in our election is among the most serious” challenges to American democracy he has ever seen. “They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign,” he warned, adding that “much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but others as well.”

Millbank provides specifics of McConnell’s unpatriotic behavior:

McConnell has blocked all such attempts [to protect our elections], including:

A bipartisan bill requiring Facebook, Google and other Internet companies to disclose purchasers of political ads, to identify foreign influence.

A bipartisan bill to ease cooperation between state election officials and federal intelligence agencies.

A bipartisan bill imposing sanctions on any entity that attacks a U.S. election.

A bipartisan bill with severe new sanctions on Russia for its cybercrimes.

McConnell has prevented them all from being considered — over and over again. This is the same McConnell who, in the summer of 2016, when briefed by the CIA along with other congressional leaders on Russia’s electoral attacks, questioned the validity of the intelligence and forced a watering down of a warning letter to state officials about the threat, omitting any mention of Russia.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

On Hardball yesterday, John Brennan discussed McConnell’s behavior in 2016.

This days, the GOP is filled with Russian assets like Trump’s suck-up golf buddy Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, who tried to block funding to help 9/11 first responders but fights sanctions on a Russian pipeline. The Daily Beast:

Advocates for a massive Russian natural gas pipeline project have a powerful, quiet ally in Congress: Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and close friend of President Donald Trump. He has quietly worked against sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project, which would dramatically expand Russia’s shipments of natural gas to Germany. Critics say it would also dramatically expand Russia’s influence in Western Europe while harming Ukraine. The Trump administration has weighed sanctioning the project, but has yet to do so. And Trump himself has criticized it.

On Thursday, the senator postponed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s mark-up of legislation that would have put sanctions on the project, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the committee’s proceedings. And while Paul hasn’t publicized his opposition to the proposed sanctions, he sent Senate colleagues a letter before the mark-up explaining his stance. The letter, which The Daily Beast obtained, argues that the legislation in question—a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeanne Shaheen—doesn’t clearly state which entities would be sanctioned.

That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?


Friday Reads: Heroes and Villians Edition

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It’s Friday!!

I truly believe that many parts of our country–mainly the deep south and the hinterlands–have simply elected Professional Trolls to Congress.  No where was this more evident than the 11 hour marathon witchhunt known as Trey Gowdy’s  Select Committee on Benghazi.  It is simply surreal that these Trolls actually spend our precious tax dollars chasing down right wing conspiracy theories found on the most obnoxious and untruthful websites on the internet .  Once again, Hillary Clinton has shown herself more than able to deal with the worst humanity has to offer as well as the best.438px-Villainc

Rep. Elijah Cummings is one of our best.

Yesterday’s ordeal should send serious messages to any one voting Republican.  Is this really what you want from our country?  Actually, Represenative Elijah Cummings said it best yesterday in his closing.  You can read his opening statement here at Tiger Beat on the Ptomac.

Here is the bottom-line. The Select Committee has spent 17 months and $4.7 million in taxpayer funds. We have held four hearings and conducted 54 interviews and depositions. Yes, we have received some new emails—from Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Stevens, and others. And yes, we have conducted some new interviews.

But these documents and interviews do not show any nefarious activity. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The new information we have obtained confirms and corroborates the core facts we already knew from the eight previous investigations. They provide more detail, but they do not change the basic conclusions.

It is time for Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition. Tax money is not to be spent on baitcasting reels and cigars. We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. We need to finally make good on our promises to the families, and we need to start focusing on what we here in Congress can do to improve the safety and security of our diplomatic corps in the future.

dragon-the-cat-is-scary-af-2-1234-1427902801-16_dblbigThe truely bizarre questions asked by some of the Republicans gives me compelling evidence that some of them should not even be allowed to walk the streets let alone serve in a policy making body.  We have imaginary “Clinton Doctrines” and weird interest in her sleeping arrangments.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) diverted from the Benghazi attacks on Thursday and accused Hillary Clinton of a broader pattern of trying to take personal political advantage of foreign policy successes while she was secretary of state.

Roskam went so far as to mockingly call it the “Clinton doctrine” in a biting exchange during Clinton’s high-profile testimony before a select committee on the attacks.

Roskam accused Clinton of hogging the limelight when Muammar Gaddafi’s regime fell and even planning her PR push months ahead of that event. The Illinois Republican also claimed that White House staff told Clinton’s State Department staff they were concerned she took too much credit on Libya.

“Let me tell you what I think the Clinton doctrine is,” Roskam said. “I think it’s where an opportunity is seized to turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And at the precise moment when things look good take a victory lap, like on all the Sunday shows three times that year before Gaddafi was killed, and then turn your attention to other things.”

Much of Roskam’s questioning Thursday seemed to be trying to establish that Clinton was deeply invested in a narrative of Libya being a successful U.S. intervention—a narrative the Benghazi attacks threatened to undo.

The Republican women and their line of questioning were beyond the pale.  I kept wondering if any one would ask a man some of the same questions along the line of do you really care about your employees and do you let them call you and email you with every little issue they have?
Then, there was the were you sleeping alone that night question.  Clinton and most of the room erupted in laughter on that question and it seemed to actually confuse Rep. (Bless her lil heart) Roby as to why that line of questioning was a strange. hqdefault

As Thursday’s Benghazi hearing entered the ninth of its 11 hours, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, asked Hillary Clinton about leaving her office to go home after the attacks.

“Were you alone (at home)?” Roby asked.

“I was alone,” Clinton said.

“The whole night?” Roby asked.

“Well, yes, the whole night,” Clinton said with a laugh.

It was, The New York Times noted, “the first laugh in an otherwise heavy session.”

Roby was not amused, The Hill reported:

“I don’t know why that’s funny,” the Republican chided. “Did you have any in-person briefings? I don’t find it funny at all.”

Still chuckling, Clinton responded, “I’m sorry, a little note of levity at 7:15. Note it for the record.”

“The reason I say it’s not funny is because it went well into the night when our folks on the ground were still in danger, so I don’t think it’s funny to ask if you’re alone the whole night,” Roby replied.

“Clinton insisted that she had the needed equipment at home to stay in close contact with State Department officials,” The Hill report continues.

“I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing,” she said.

Roby may well be the new Sarah Palin.  The SNL skit simply wrote itself.

3VillainsAll of the press–including the conservative media outlets–considered the hearing a big win for Clinton and for Elijah Cummings although nearly all of the Democratic members of the Select Committee had theire day pointing out how ludicrous the proceedings had become.  WAPO’s Editorial

THE HOUSE Select Committee on Benghazi further discredited itself on Thursday as its Republican members attempted to fuel largely insubstantial suspicions about Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Grilling Ms. Clinton all day, they elicited little new information and offered little hope that their inquiry would find anything significant that seven previous investigations didn’t.
In fact, the highlight of the hearing came before lawmakers asked any question at all, in Ms. Clinton’s opening statement, as she offered a stout defense of the need for assertive U.S. diplomacy and engagement — even, or especially, when the circumstances are not ideal.

“America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places,” Ms. Clinton said. “We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, aggressors seek to fill the vacuum, and security everywhere is threatened, including here at home.” It would be disastrous if future administrations held back in fear of politicized backlash if and when tragedies occurred.

When questioning began, Ms. Clinton repeatedly pointed out that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, one of four Americans who died in the attacks, did not ask to pull out of Benghazi; in fact, he chose to travel there with knowledge that doing so carried significant risk. Republicans argued that those facts did not excuse the lack of significant diplomatic security in Libya, grilling Ms. Clinton on why more of Mr. Stevens’s requests for additional security were not honored.

On that, Ms. Clinton argued that she was not personally responsible for diplomatic security — the State Department’s security experts were — and she insisted that budget constraints limited how much security they could deploy around the world. She also pointed out that intelligence experts lacked knowledge about the dangers in eastern Libya around Sept. 11 and 12, 2012, and they knew of no credible threat to U.S. diplomats on those days in particular. An astoundingly large portion of the rest of the hearing focused on petty questioning related to Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal and other wastes of time.

Sahil Kapur from Bloomberg characterizes the conservative meeting as basically saying that Clinton won the day. joker2-tm

“A hearing that was once a threat has really become an opportunity for her,” John Dean, a former White House counsel for Richard Nixon who is now a political independent, said on MSNBC hours into the hearing. “I think this is really Hillary’s day. It’s going to help her presidential campaign. As somebody who’s been both a witness and a counsel, this is a textbook example of how to be a good witness.”

Among House Republicans, there were no high-fives: A half-dozen lawmakers surveyed offered a muted response when asked about the hearing on Thursday afternoon. Many conservative commentators were unimpressed, if not angry with the proceedings.

“So a hearing billed as an epic, High Noon-style confrontation—granted, the hype came from the media, not Republican committee members themselves—instead turned out to be a somewhat interesting look at a few limited aspects of the Benghazi affair,” wroteByron York at the Washington Examiner. “In other words, no big deal. And that is very, very good news for Hillary Clinton.”

Conservative radio host Erick Erickson described the hearings as “a waste of time because everything about it is politicized and nothing is going to happen.”

“There will be no scalp collection,” he wrote in a blog post, adding: “It was all a political spectacle. God bless Trey Gowdy for trying to learn the facts and understand what happened. But the rest of it was just a carnival road show of back bench congresscritters playing to the cameras and Hillary Clinton working hard to play persecuted victim.”

Erickson lamented that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent comments on Fox News bragging about the Benghazi committee’s deleterious effect on Clinton’s poll numbers “discredited this episode before it began in the minds of the press.” McCarthy’s remarks were followed by a second Republican congressman, New York’s Richard Hanna, saying the panel was created “to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.” Meanwhile, a former Benghazi committee staffer says he’s preparing to sue the panel for allegedly being fired because he didn’t want to target Clinton.

Days before the hearing, Gowdy told Politico that “these have been among the worst weeks of my life” and went on CBS to instruct his colleagues to “shut up” about the work of the committee, insisting it was about fact-finding and not politics. The hearing didn’t provide much to boost his outlook.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s dominance in the polls continues.  Lincoln Chaffee has folded tent.   Jeb Bush continues to downsize.  The last debate as well as this grueling committee hearing has made Clinton look downright presidential. The Republicans Congress Critters, however, appeared to be posturing for political ads made for Tea Party Conspiracy theories.rs_560x415-140514134818-1024.Disney-Villains-The-Rescuers-Madame-Medusa.jl.051414

None of the GOP committee members are personally opposing Clinton for the presidency next year, but picking a fight with the Democratic front-runner was an electoral no-brainer.

Every single one of them will be running for reelection in 2016 — mostly in gerrymandered districts where the biggest threat posed to their political survival comes from the right (Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, especially). So battering the party’s prime target on video — in the loudest, most confrontational way possible — makes perfect political sense. Sure it was grating, annoying and confusing to almost everyone else, but a 45-second YouTube clip of your candidate bellowing in the face of the most hated figure in the Democratic Party is pure partisan gold, perfect for TV ads or campaign websites.

Take Pompeo, who peppered Clinton repeatedly — but almost always with a reference to the folks back in his Kansas district, where he’s famously friendly with a few high-profile locals — like the anti-Clinton Koch brothers.

“Why didn’t you fire someone?” he asked Clinton. “In Kansas, I get asked constantly why has no one been held accountable.”

grid-cell-31706-1428248759-0This was an unprecedented witch hunt.

The hearing provided an extraordinary spectacle, starting in the morning and stretching well into the night, far longer than such sessions typically last even with multiple witnesses.

Through the lengthy session, Clinton maintained a relentlessly calm and smiling demeanor, showing few visible signs of fatigue other than a hoarse throat that began to develop in the 10th hour.

From her opening statement on, she sought to seize a rhetorical high ground above the partisan fray, reminding members of the panel that after attacks on diplomatic facilities during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in which hundreds of Americans were killed, members of both parties “rose above politics” to examine what had gone wrong.

It would be easy to write this off as the latest adventure in CDS.  Afterall, the entire impeachment of Bill Clinton was a total charade that looks even more silly now that we know exactly how many of his worst critics had more skeletons in the closet than a Hallowen Haunted House attraction.  But, this is symbolic of what goes on in Congress now that the Republicans have taken over each of the Houses and are being torn three different ways and none of them are good for the country.  Every one in the media–even enablers like George Will and David Brooks– now sees that the party is s0 completely dysfunctional it won’t govern and can’t be trusted with anything else.

The problem is that some of these Representatives come from such incredibly gerrymandered districts that there are worse people waiting in the wings that will likely replace them as the entire mentality right now is thrown every one out continually.  Can our country continue to do anything but decline given that we can’t even fund things like our highways without a major ideological showdown.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have to rely on the few heroes and sheroes that are still fighting the good fight.

Don’t forget that Rachel Maddow will be interviewing Clinton on her show tonight at 9 pm edt.  Maddow has indicated they will talk about her experience yesterday and her thoughts on the Biden decision.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?