Lazy Saturday Reads: Are There Really Any “Adults” In The Trump Administration?

Trump with so-called “adults”

Good Morning!!

Now that we know that one of the so-called “adults” in the White House day care center–John Kelly–is just another Trump clone with slightly better language skills, what do we do now? Are the other so-called “adults” in the administration–Mattis and McMaster–also “fake” adults (to use the word that Trump claims he “invented?” I have to believe that no one is going to “save” us from Trump.

If there are any “adults” in the day care center that is the WH, they’re not paying attention to what the baby-man is doing this morning.

Even worse than attacking a member of the House of Representatives, Trump retweeted an account that claimed that the family of fallen soldier La David Johnson has “colluded w extremist Dems to politicize death of Army hero.”

Oh, and have you heard that we’re not allowed to question the word of “the generals” even when they are caught in transparent lies?

The Washington Post: Video shows Kelly made inaccurate claims about lawmaker in feud over Trump’s condolence call.

The White House’s aggressive effort to discredit a congresswoman from Florida who criticized President Trump over a military condolence call ran into a new set of problems Friday when a video emerged showing that the chief of staff had made false claims about her.

It marked the fifth day of a controversy that has raged since Trump attempted to deflect criticism of his handling of the deaths of four service members in an ambush in Niger. The ensuing debate has focused on attacks against Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D) that have proved to be inaccurate but that the White House has refused to back away from, with the latest episode ensnaring Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a decorated retired Marine general.

From left, John Kelly, James Mattis, and four other Marine four-star generals.

The escalating political mud fight has overshadowed the grief of Myeshia Johnson and the heroism of her dead husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, who gave his life for his country.

Trump aides Friday stood by Kelly’s contention that Wilson had boasted about her role in winning funding for a federal building, even after video of her remarks emerged and showed that he was wrong.

But if you’re a journalist, don’t even think about questioning anything Kelly says or does. Washington Post: Sarah Huckabee Sanders to reporter: How dare you challenge one of our generals?

…reporters were primed on Friday afternoon to take up the matter with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. What of this discrepancy? Will Kelly amend the record?

That’s what CBS News correspondent Chip Reid did. After he teed up the topic, Reid and Sanders had this exchange:

Can he come out here and talk to us about this at some point?

Sanders: I think he’s addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday.

Reid: He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was … before she came into Congress.

Sanders: If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.

This is coming from an underling of the fellow who once said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

Chip Reid

Both Trump and Kelly owe apologies to Rep. Wilson and the Johnson family.

Trump also claimed that he had contacted every family who had lost a loved one on his watch, but that was a lie too. Roll Call reports: Exclusive: Pentagon Document Contradicts Trump’s Gold Star Claims.

In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.

The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate — but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.

Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.

The exchange between the White House and the Defense secretary’s office occurred about 5 p.m. on Oct. 17. The White House asked the Pentagon for information about surviving family members of all servicemembers killed after Trump’s inauguration so that the president could be sure to contact all of them.

Capt. Hallock Mohler, the executive secretary to Defense Secretary James Mattis, provided the White House with information in the 5 p.m. email about how each servicemember had died and the identity of his or her survivors, including phone numbers.

Click on the link to read the rest. Two more articles you might want to check out:

The New Yorker: John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup, by Masha Gessen.

Vox: John Kelly has become a field commander in Trump’s culture war.

Sgt. Byron Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson

Lost in all the fuss over condolence calls and letters is the fact that the question Trump was asked in his Monday press conference was about why, after 12 days, he had not commented on the Niger ambush that cost the lives of four green berets. What are Trump and “the generals” hiding?

NBC News: Niger Ambush Came After ‘Massive Intelligence Failure,’ Source Says.

A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a “massive intelligence failure.” [….]

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about the scope of the U.S. mission in Niger, and whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground there.

There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, he said, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If it weren’t for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans….

The aide said questions are being asked about whether the U.S. soldiers were intentionally delayed in the village they were visiting. He said they began pursuing some men on motorcycles, who lured them into a complex ambush. The enemy force had “technical” vehicles — light, improvised military vehicles — and rocket-propelled grenades, the official said.

After the rescue when it became clear that one soldier was missing, “movements and actions to try and find him and bring him back were considered. They just were not postured properly [to get him].” The body of Sgt. La David Johnson was not recovered until nearly 48 hours after the Oct. 4 attack.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis answers a question about the ambush of U.S. troops in Niger before a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Pentagon, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

LA Times: Pentagon investigating troubling questions after deadly Niger ambush.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, troubled by a lack of information two weeks after an ambush on a special operations patrol in Niger left four U.S. soldiers dead, is demanding a timeline of what is known about the attack, as a team of investigators sent to West Africa begins its work.

The growing list of unanswered questions and inability to construct a precise account of the Oct. 4 incident have exacerbated a public relations nightmare for the White House, which is embroiled in controversy over President Trump’s belated and seemingly clumsy response this week to console grieving military families….

The attack, apparently carried out by militants affiliated with Islamic State, was the deadliest since Trump took office, yet the U.S. military’s Africa Command still does not have a clear “story board” of facts that commanders usually gather swiftly after deadly incidents. That has senior Pentagon officials and lawmakers suggesting incompetence.

The questions arising from the incident, particularly about the availability of additional military support to the patrol, echo those raised in the aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four people: U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, foreign service information officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Thursday that getting to the bottom of what happened may require subpoenas.

Read more at the LA Times.

The most concerning questions are about what happened to Sgt. La David Johnson. Why wasn’t he picked up with the rest of the dead and injured? Was he alive when he was abandoned on the ground? CNN: Missing soldier found nearly a mile from Niger ambush, officials say.

The Pentagon is still looking at the exact circumstances of how and when Johnson became separated from the 12-member team as they were ambushed by 50 ISIS fighters but is emphasizing that the search for Johnson began immediately and dozens of US forces were quickly moved to Niger’s capital Niamey to be ready to go into the field, which some did.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters on Thursday that US, French and Nigerien forces “never left the battlefield” until Johnson was found.
The entire Green Beret-led team has been interviewed about when they last saw Johnson, officials said.
Johnson’s body was recovered in a remote area of the northwestern African country by Nigerien troops nearly 48 hours after he was discovered to be missing in the wake of the attack, according to US officials….
There have been reports that some type of tracking beacon was emitting a signal possibly from Johnson. On Friday, officials said this is a detail they are still trying to verify — it could have been one of the vehicles tracking devices that was emitting the signal.
We need to know Johnson’s cause of death and why Mrs. Johnson was told she could not have an open casket funeral or see her husband’s body. What happened to him? Was his body mutilated? We need answers, “the generals” had better get them make them public.
I’ll end with this post from October 15 at Forward.com: There Are No Adults In The White House. Worse, There Are No Mensches, by Robert Zaretsky.

…there may well be adults in attendance, at least if you define adulthood as James Mann did in the New York Review of Books this month. In an article entitled “The Adults in the Room,” Mann argues that adulthood used to be a matter of policies and process in our nation’s capital. Adults pursued moderate and middle of the road goals, and practiced pragmatic and reasonable methods to achieve them, per Mann. But all that changed since November 2016.

Trump’s rise to power has transmogrified the meaning of adulthood, says Mann. It is no longer the stuff of policy, but instead of personality (or, indeed, of psychosis). The adults in the room are now expected, in Mann’s words, “to preserve a modicum of stability within the administration.” How do they do this? By “cleaning up” the presidential messes, he writes, as well as by sending “signals that they are trying to keep Trump from veering off course.” And should all of these efforts fail? Well, according to Mann, the adults in the room will act on their adultness by leaving the room. “They simply distance themselves from his tirades.”

But what the Trump Administration is really missing is not adults so much as mensches. For cleaning up Trump’s messes and explaining away his tirades may be the acts of an adult, but they are not the actions of a mensch.

“The key to being a real mensch is character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous,” writes Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish.

What do you think? What other stories are you following today?

Friday Reads: Drumpfistan Detritus

568bd9b21f0000a101e9cf1fGood Afternoon!

I’m going to litter this edition of the latest attacks of the petty dictator and his general on some one simply doing her job with the work of Gustav Klimt.   And no surprises!  It’s a black woman congressman who has represented her Florida District supremely well.

The Despot of Drumpfistan needs enemies to prop up his regime and his ego.  There is nothing he goes after with more relish than a woman.  It seems General Kelly shares that belief.  They have attacked a strong, principled woman of color and this shows their vision of white nationalism even more.  John Kelly’s lecture to Congresswoman Wilson included a list of what he considered American values which sounded a lot like the fever dreams of the patriarchy. Both Drumpf and Kelly did not use the names of any black woman involved in their attack.  How positively dehumanizing!

First up,  a Klimt break … because this thread is going to outline gross incompetence, pettiness, and meanness by Kremlin Caligula and the supposedly sane and normal general protecting the interests of our Republic.

Okay, I lied. First I’m going to highlight words spoken by former Presidents Obama and Dubya Bush about our country. Then, I’m going full bore be cause I believe Frederica Wilson and I watched Rachel last night.

the-maiden-gustav-klimtHere’s the full text of the Bush speech.

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)
And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

gustav-klimt-mother-and-childAnd from Obama in Virginia:

“We’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage,” Obama told the 7,500 people gathered in the Greater Richmond Convention Center. “So the question for you tonight for the next 19 days: Do you want a politics of division and distraction, or do you believe in a better kind of politics?”

He praised Northam, a former Army doctor, pediatric neurologist and current lieutenant governor, as the kind of leader the country needs.

“At a time so many of us are cynical about government and public service, to have someone step up who you can trust and just wants to do right by the people of Virginia, that’s worth something,” said Obama, who in 2008 became the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential race in 44 years.

Joy Ann Reid recognizes what’s what better than many since she reported on politics in Florida from Florida for a number of years. She delivers the facts to Kelly and his boss.

Frederica Wilson is no liar. On Thursday, Gen. John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff, confirmed that. Kelly also made clear that he works for a man who has redefined the meaning of shameless.

The Florida congresswoman is the latest—and pointedly, the latest woman and person of color—to be attacked by Trump for daring to tell the truth about him. She joins a roster that includes broadcaster Jemele Hill, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and before that, a Latina former Miss Universe. Now add in Hillary Clinton and the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault. Trump has attacked or threatened a few men too, notably black NFL and NBA stars, Gold Star father Khizr Khan (along with his wife), decorated Vietnam War veteran John McCain and other United States senators, but he typically reserves his greatest vitriol for those who aren’t white and male. We’re all still waiting for the president’s sure-to-be-blistering response to Eminem.

Trump on Wednesday used one of his increasingly frequent press availabilities to essentially call Wilson a liar, after she told the world what he said to the widow of Staff Sgt. La David T. Johnson; one of four special forces soldiers killed during a still murky mission in Niger. Wilson first gave her account to local reporters in Miami who met the limousine carrying her, Myeshia Johnson and Staff Sgt. Johnson’s adoptive parents to the funeral home to claim the body of the fallen soldier. Apparently, the White House had alerted the media that he would call Johnson’s widow, evidently hoping to reap some rare good press for the most hated president in modern U.S. history.

She later repeated what she heard to national news outlets and to this reporter.

Handpainted-Portrait-Oil-Painting-Replicas-Portrait-of-Adele-Bloch-Bauer-I-Gustav-Klimt-s-Painting-onTrump goes on the offensive when he’s trying to hide something and cover up for his huge mistakes.  Rachel Maddow believes that the huge mistake of putting Chad on the travel ban list may have cost Staff Sgt Johnson and his comrades their lives. She makes a most compelling argument.

When President Donald Trump’s White House instituted the travel ban and randomly added the African country of Chad to the list, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow says it may have destabilized the region. That lack of allied troops could have then been the cause of the deaths of the four soldiers killed two weeks ago in Niger.

Maddow began by walking through the extensive history of the groups of African and French fighters who have managed to battle Islamic extremists like ISIS and Boko Haram in central Africa and actually win. Most of these groups are headquartered in Chad, because the best of the best soldiers managed to run out the majority of the terrorist groups.

Yet, somehow, Chad ended up on Trump’s travel ban list. When it did, there was an uproar of foreign policy experts who warned this was a terrible decision because it would destabilize the region and isolate American troops fighting there. Both the State and Defense Departments were also opposed to Trump’s decision to put Chad on the list, because they knew it would cause military problems in the area. But the Trump administration demanded it.

“Several terrorist groups are active in Chad,” Maddow cited the administration’s reasoning. “If that’s the reason you end up on the travel ban list, why wouldn’t you put Mali or Niger or even Iraq and Afghanistan?”

A former State Department official who worked on that region went even further, telling the New York Times that putting Chad on that list could truly put Americans in harm’s way.

Chad then began to withdraw their troops from the fight against Boko Haram in Niger. In fact, Chad’s troops were gone a week after Trump added Chad to the ban list. According to Reuters, once the soldiers left, Boko Haram moved back in and people began to flee for their lives again. Shortly after the “battle-hardened” Chad fighters left, four American soldiers were attacked and killed in an ambush by ISIS extremists in Niger. Chad announced it began pulling its troops out two weeks ago on Oct. 13, which Maddow said would put their timeline for withdrawal at the end of September.

“Which would be the Friday after the Trump administration made this decision to insult and harm our closest military ally in that region, against ISIS and Boko Haram where ISIS has been trying to establish another caliphate,” Maddow said. “But those Chadian troops were really doing something in Niger. They were protecting those villages in that whole region from ISIS militant groups being able to operate freely and be able to take more territory from there once again. And pulling those troops out had an immediate effect in emboldening those ISIS attacks.”

Within days of the Chadian soldiers beginning to pull out from protecting those villages from ISIS, four soldiers were ambushed.

072c52c0bba091cb782165894124b3c6--gustavo-klimt-klimt-artWhat’s worse, is the attack now has turned to Gold Star Families and Congresswoman Wilson.  Kelly got it very wrong and used patronizing and racist dog whistles to attack the Congresswoman.

When White House Chief of Staff John Kelly condemned a Miami congresswoman on Thursday for sneering at President Donald Trump’s condolence call to a soldier’s widow, the retired general recalled when the two attended a somber ceremony in Miramar to dedicate a new FBI building named after two slain FBI agents.

Kelly criticized Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson for claiming “she got the money” for the new building during the 2015 ceremony while he and others in the audience were focused on the heroism of agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, killed during a 1986 shootout with bank robbers south of Miami.

Thursday night, Wilson said Kelly got the story flat-out wrong. In fact, she said Washington approved the money before she was even in Congress. The legislation she sponsored named the building after Grogan and Dove, a law enacted just days before the ceremony.

“He shouldn’t be able to just say that, that is terrible,” Wilson said of Kelly’s remarks in the White House briefing room, the latest volley in the controversy over Trump’s condolence call to a military widow from Miami Gardens, an area Wilson represents. “This has become totally personal.”

In 2015, Wilson won praise from Miami Republicans for sponsoring the bill to name the long anticipated federal building after two agents who became legends in local law enforcement.

Frederica Wilson 2

Kelly called US Congressman Frederica Wilson “an empty barrel”. 

I think Kelly took on the wrong Congresswoman. She is not going to be moved and she has righteousness on her side.

 

So, here’s a picture of Gustav Klimt and his cat!   Have a good Friday and a great weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  

gustav-klimt-photo

 


Thursday Reads: Time to Invoke the 25th Amendment

Elisabeth Macke, August; 1887-1914. “Unser Wohnzimmer in Tegernsee”, 1909/10.

Good Afternoon!!

It just keeps getting worse. Yesterday, decent Americans watched in horror as Trump repeatedly insulted a gold star family and in the process politicized and diminished all fallen soldiers and their families. How much lower can he go? I guess we’ll find out, because there doesn’t seem to be anything too sacred for Trump to trash and disparage.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump trivializes the deaths of four soldiers.

STAFF SGT. Bryan C. Black, 35, always relished a challenge. As a child, he drove himself to learn chess; as a teen, he excelled as a wrestler; and as an adult, he joined the Army, where he finished Ranger school and joined the Special Forces. Deployed to Niger, he learned the local dialect.

Before joining the Army, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah “J.W.” Wayne Johnson, 39, owned and operated a successful business. In uniform he became a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, was a good student and talented athlete. When he joined the Army he continued a family military legacy dating to 1812.

Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, was known to be both determined and playful, as demonstrated by how he commuted to a job at Walmart — removing the front wheel of his bike and becoming known as the “Wheelie King.”

These are the four soldiers who were killed Oct. 4 when their unit was ambushed by Islamist extremists in West Africa. Their lives, their brave service and the sacrifice of their grieving families should be discussed and honored. Instead — thanks to a president with a compulsive need to be the center of attention — their deaths have been trivialized. President Trump reduced condolences to a political competition and treated the grieving families who received them as pawns in a game.

You know the rest; if not you can read it at the Post. At this point, the entire world knows our shame–that the U.S. president is a disgrace and unfit for the office he holds.

Reading aloud, Julius LeBlanc Stewart

Aaron Blake at the Washington Post: Trump’s unmoored week shows just how aimless he is.

President Trump’s most faithful supporters like to believe he’s always a step ahead of the media and the political establishment — that he’s playing three-dimensional chess while we’re stuck on checkers. Where we see utter discord, they see carefully orchestrated chaos.

This week should disabuse absolutely everybody of that notion.

On two issues — health care and calling the families of dead service members — the White House has shown itself to be clearly unmoored, careening back and forth based upon the unhelpful and impulsive comments and tweets of its captain.

Again, you probably know the rest. I spent the day yesterday on the verge of tears, trying desperately not to sink into depression. Unlike Trump, I’m capable of empathy. I have my own life issues to deal with, as we all do; but always the fear of what is happening to our country hangs over everything and makes it difficult to handle day-to-day worries.

I can’t imagine what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his family must be feeling. CNN reports: Sources: Kelly didn’t know Trump would publicize that Obama didn’t call when his son died.

Chief of Staff John Kelly told President Donald Trump that President Barack Obama never called him after his son’s death prior to Trump raising the issue in a Tuesday radio interview, multiple White House officials told CNN.

But, according to these sources, Kelly never thought the President would use that information publicly.

Kelly and much of the White House were caught off-guard by Trump’s comments, one official said, struck by how the President took a story Kelly has tried to keep private — the death of his son — and used it to defend his handling of four soldiers killed in Niger.

Roberto Ploeg, 1955

Trump, in defense of his own previous claim that Obama didn’t call the loved ones of fallen soldiers, floated the idea Tuesday that reporters ask Kelly, a retired general, whether Obama called him after his son died in Afghanistan.

“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump said during a Fox News radio interview.

It’s not clear to me why Kelly expected Trump to keep his confidence. Trump is a sociopath. He doesn’t care any more about Kelly or his dead son than he does about any of the grieving families. He cares only for himself and filling the dark empty hole in his soul with flattery and praise from others.

Kelly should resign or at least begin working with other cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment before it’s too late.

NBC News Opinion: The 25th Amendment Proves Why Trump’s Mental Health Matters, by Richard Painter and Leanne Watt.

The 25th Amendment is the ultimate constitutional “check” — a corrective mechanism for an American president who is physically or psychologically unable to lead. Most important, it grants legal authority to those closest to power — first, the vice president and Cabinet members, then members of Congress — to stage an intervention. At the very least, these individuals are authorized to call a temporary timeout if the president is judged unfit to govern.

Is America today in need of such an unprecedented intervention?

The amendment, ratified in 1967 after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was constructed to assure a smooth transition when a president becomes incapable of leadership. (Its vague wording leaves room for both physical and psychological justifications.) By the 1960s, the dangers of an incapacitated president were far greater than at the founding of our country. But arguably, the stakes have only gotten higher. With tensions flaring around the globe, there can be no doubt as to the fitness of the man or woman in possession of U.S. nuclear codes.

Pundits and politicians alike have called for the amendment’s implementation over the past few months. But it is both practically and philosophically a tool of last resort. Unlike impeachment, which is controlled solely by Congress, the 25th Amendment requires action by the majority of the president’s Cabinet and potentially Congress. This means that even in today’s polarized climate, partisan removal is unlikely. In addition, the bar for diagnosing mental health conditions is quite high.

This is a deep dive into what would be required to invoke the amendment to rid the country of a dangerous president. I hope you’ll read the whole thing.

Today, Trump is off on a new tangent because he’s apparently worried about the Russia investigation again. It started yesterday with baseless attacks on former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton.

Today he actually accused the FBI of colluding with Russia and Clinton against him.

Those are all lies. Clinton did not sell uranium to Russia. Two people from Fusion GPS did take the 5th, because they have refused to accept the unilateral subpoena issued by Devin Nunes, who is supposedly recused from the Russia investigation. Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: The founders of the firm behind the Trump Russia dossier appeared before the House Intel Committee and refused to testify.

The founders of the opposition-research firm that produced the dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia met behind closed doors with House Intel Committee staff on Wednesday and asserted their constitutional privileges not to testify.

The founders of Fusion GPS — Glenn Simpson, Thomas Catan, and Peter Fritsch — were required to appear before the committee by its chairman, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who had subpoenaed them earlier this month.

Fusion’s counsel, Josh Levy, wrote a 17-page letter to Nunes earlier this week urging him not to force Simpson, Catan, and Fritsch to appear before the committee, because if they did they would have no choice but to assert their constitutional privileges not to testify.

Edouard Vuillard, Lucy Hessel_Reading

“We cannot in good conscience do anything but advise our clients to stand on their constitutional privileges, the attorney work product doctrine and contractual obligations,” Levy wrote.

Nunes required them to appear anyway, prompting Levy to release a blistering statement accusing Nunes — who stepped aside from the committee’s Russia investigation in April but still has subpoena power — of abusing his power as chairman.

“No American should have to experience today’s indignity,” Levy wrote. “No American should be required to appear before Congress simply to invoke his constitutional privileges. But that is what Chairman Nunes did today with our clients at Fusion GPS, breaking with the practice of his committee in this investigation. The committee has not imposed this requirement on any other witness, including the president’s men.”

He added that the “disparate treatment and abuse of power” by Nunes was “unethical, according to the DC Bar rules.”

That Trump would accuse the FBI of conspiring with Russia against him is beyond belief. How can anyone doubt that this man is mentally incompetent?

I just noticed that George W. Bush gave a speech this morning that seems directed at the dangers of Trump’s presidency. Excerpts from The Hill:

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that “bigotry seems emboldened” in the modern U.S.

“Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts,” he observed during a speech for the George W. Bush Institute. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

Vanessa Bell, Interior with artist’s daughter

Bush also said that public confidence in the country’s institutions has declined in recent decades.

“Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy,” he said.

There are signs, Bush said, that the intensity of support for democracy itself has “waned.”

More from The Washington Examiner:

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that America should not downplay Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. election.

“Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy,” Bush said in a speech sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute and others in New York. “And that begins with confronting a new era of cyberthreats.”

“America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions,” he said. “According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systemic and stealthy. It’s conducted a range of stealthy media platforms.”

“Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed,” he added. “But foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated.”

That Bush is speaking out seems like a good sign. Will Republicans in Washington DC listen?

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?