Veteran’s Day Reads and a National Security Threat in the Oval Office

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1967 PRESS PHOTO VETERANS DAY PARADE IN ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

We’ve made it to another Monday, Sky Dancers!

It seems odd that we have to listen to someone who has attacked and disrespected more decorated vets from the Oval Office and other places politicp in front of a parade to honor them. Some Vets are not standing for it.

The Hill reports on a Veteran’s group that has launched “a campaign labeling Trump as a ‘national security threat'”.

One of the largest progressive veterans groups in the country is launching a new campaign against President Trump on Monday that seeks to raise pressure on several Republican senators up for reelection next year.

To mark Veterans Day, VoteVets will fly planes over key Senate battleground states like North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky and Colorado Monday morning, with a banner that reads: “Vets: Trump is a National Security Threat.” The group seeks to specifically target Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

“In less than a year, voters will go to the polls. We intend to remind them every day between now and then that Donald Trump is a national security threat and that these key Senate Republicans encourage and enable him at every step of the way,” Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets, wrote in a statement announcing the campaign.

In addition to the planes, the group also plans to run digital ads and to launch a website detailing all the ways in which Trump has posed a national security threat to the United States. This includes everything from allegedly “inviting foreign interference in our elections” to “raiding funds for our military families to build his wall.”

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Tulsa Veterans Day Parade

Our Foreign Policy is being dictated by personal financial interests and not any interest of our country’s. The AP reports this “After push from Perry, backers got huge gas deal in Ukraine.” The Chicken Hawks appear to be plundering wherever they’ve been able.

Two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country’s new president.

Perry’s efforts to influence Ukraine’s energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the United States to defend against Russian aggression and allies of President Donald Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.

A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.

Perry likely had outsized influence in Ukraine. Testimony in the impeachment inquiry into Trump shows the energy secretary was one of three key U.S. officials who were negotiating a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian leader.

I don’t know about you, but I’d say the Three Amigos are going to spend an awful lot of time in Federal Prison. I can’t imagine it’s going to be pretty there for any of them.

Our hopes to end this lawless regime rests in the hands of the other two branches. We’ve been following the impeachment process closely. There will be open hearings shortly as reported by Reuters today: “As Trump fumes, public impeachment hearings set to grab spotlight.”

This week will mark a new and unparalleled chapter in Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency, as the Democratic-led impeachment probe goes public with televised hearings into allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Beginning on Wednesday, three witnesses will publicly detail their concerns, previously expressed behind closed doors, that the Trump administration sought to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the Republican president’s potential Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden.

The testimony will be carried by major broadcast and cable networks and is expected to be viewed by millions, who will watch current and former officials from Trump’s own administration begin to outline a case for his potential removal from office.

Young spectators at Veteran’s Day Parade, 1983.

Veteran’s Day Parade, 1983. San Antonio Texas.

Trump’s various court attempts to block the process are working there way through the courts. We’ve all worried about the Supreme Court for some time. The New Yorker has an article up suggesting that Elena Kagan may be a key player in the court’s future.

Yet Kagan, who has long been admired by legal scholars for the brilliance of her opinion writing and the incisiveness of her questioning in oral arguments, is emerging as one of the most influential Justices on the Court—and, without question, the most influential of the liberals. That is partly because of her temperament (she is a bridge builder), partly because of her tactics (she has a more acute political instinct than some of her colleagues), and partly because of her age (she is the youngest of the Court’s four liberals, after Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor). Vladeck told me, “If there’s one Justice on the progressive side who might have some purchase, especially with Roberts, I have to think it’s her. I think they respect the heck out of each other’s intellectual firepower. She seems to understand institutional concerns the Chief Justice has about the Court that might lead the way to compromises that aren’t available to other conservatives. And the Chief Justice probably views her as less extreme on some issues than some of her colleagues.”

Kagan comes from a more worldly and political milieu than the other Justices. She is the only one who didn’t serve as a judge before ascending to the Court. When Obama nominated her, she was his Solicitor General. In the nineties, she had worked in the Clinton White House, as a policy adviser, and had served as a special counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she helped Joe Biden prepare for Ginsburg’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. For much of Kagan’s career, though, she was a law professor—first at the University of Chicago and then at Harvard. Between 2003 and 2009, she was the dean of Harvard Law School, where she was known for having broken a deadlock between conservative and left-wing faculty that had slowed hiring, and for having earned the good will of both camps. Einer Elhauge, a Harvard Law professor who worked with her on faculty hiring, said, “She was really good at building consensus, and she did it, in part, by signalling early on that she was going to be an honest broker. If she was for an outstanding person with one methodology or ideology this time, she would be for an outstanding person with a different methodology or ideology the next time.”

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Another long time republican congressman is retiring. This time it’s Peter King from New York. They appear to be dropping like flies this year. This is from NBC News.

Longtime Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., announced Monday he will retire from Congress at the end of his term.

“I have decided not to be a candidate for re-election to Congress in 2020,” King, 75, said in a statement. “I made this decision after much discussion with my wife Rosemary; my son Sean; and my daughter Erin. The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford.”

King, who has represented a Long Island district for more than 25 years, added that retirement “was not an easy decision.”

May 30, 1939: World War I veteran Joe Adgar, left, and Spanish-American War veteran P.P. Finnerin kneel by the graves of comrades at the Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery. (Los Angeles Times))

As, I mentioned, the three Amigos look headed for Jail. This is the latest bad news for Giuliani. It popped up late last night from the NYT: “Giuliani Associate Says He Gave Demand for Biden Inquiry to Ukrainians. The claim by the associate, Lev Parnas, is being vigorously disputed. “

Not long before the Ukrainian president was inaugurated in May, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s journeyed to Kiev to deliver a warning to the country’s new leadership, a lawyer for the associate said.

The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government that it had to announce an investigation into Mr. Trump’s political rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing-in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said.

The claim by Mr. Parnas, who is preparing to share his account with impeachment investigators, challenges the narrative of events from Mr. Trump and Ukrainian officials that is at the core of the congressional inquiry. It also directly links Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions made to the Ukrainians, something he has strenuously denied.

But Mr. Parnas’s account, while potentially significant, is being contradicted on several fronts. None of the people involved dispute that the meeting occurred, but Mr. Parnas stands alone in saying the intention was to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainian leadership.

Yes, Our Country has fought in a lot of wars, but not since the Civil War has there been such a threat from people seeking to overturn the US. Constitution and our rule of law.

As his losses pile up, Donald Trump has made it plain he expects the Supreme Court to serve as his ultimate protector from the overreaching “Deep State” and its allies in Congress.

We’re about to find out if Chief Justice John Roberts and other members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority will accept Trump’s designation of their institution as his personal guardian. The court would do so at its own peril, as stepping in to protect the president could help elect a Democratic president and Senate, and encourage them to put a quick end to the court’s long-standing conservative majority.

Notably, the court has yet to weigh in as Trump has stonewalled nearly all efforts to gain access to key White House witnesses and documents for months. But it may weigh in soon, now that a federal appeals court in New York upheld a district court ruling ordering Trump’s accounting firm to hand over Trump business and financial records in its files, including the tax returns of the President and his businesses.

The case raises issues going “to the heart of our Republic,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said as he declared that Trump will petition the Supreme Court for relief. Under an agreement between the parties, Trump will be asking the court to decide the case during its current term, meaning a reckoning is coming. Trump’s argument that his accountants cannot be subpoenaed for his financial records is quite weak, particularly given that the court upheld a subpoena directly to the president for the White House tapes during Watergate, in its 8-0 United States v. Nixon decision.

Apart from this week’s decision, in the upcoming weeks and months, Trump could well be petitioning the Supreme Court to protect him from lower court rulings requiring a number of other disclosures, as well as testimony from his acolytes.

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The list that follows is long. So, if Kagan becomes a voice for reason and Roberts sees fit to protect a legacy and the US Constitution. We may make it through. Stayed tuned for the public hearings to see what Trump and his Three stooges have done to our international standing and any small claim we may have to rule of law.

Oh, and as if we need any more reason to suspect any Trumpist check out this headline from TPM: “National Sec Adviser: Top Impeachment Probe Witness Will Be Removed From WH Council”.

Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who gave a bombshell testimony in the House impeachment investigation last month on President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scheme, will be removed from his post at the White House National Security Council.

“Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who has testified under oath, is serving on the National Security Council currently,” CBS News’s “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan said during her interview with O’Brien. “Will he continue to work for you despite testifying against the President?”

“Well look, one of the things that I’ve talked about is that we’re streamlining the National Security Council,” O’Brien replied. “It got bloated to like 236 people up from 100 in the Bush administration under President Obama.”

The national security adviser said Vindman, who currently serves as the council’s Director for European Affairs, will be removed as a part of the White House’s “streamlining” efforts.

“My understanding is he’s–that Colonel Vindman is detailed from the Department of Defense,” O’Brien said. “So everyone who’s detailed at the NSC, people are going to start going back to their own departments and we’ll bring in new folks.”

What’s your reading and blogging list today?

Galveston, oh Galveston
I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannon flashing
And I clean my gun
And I dream of Galveston

lyrics and song by Jimmy Webb


Lazy Caturday Reads: 2020 and Impeachment

Good Morning!!

It’s looking like the media has successfully erased Kamala Harris’ candidacy, but yesterday Trump gave her a publicity boost. Trump was inexplicably given an award at a traditionally Black college in South Carolina, but only 10 students were invited to attend the forum, which was filled with Trump supporters.

Greenville News: President Trump addresses political allies as Benedict students are asked to stay in dorms.

COLUMBIA – In a way, what happened outside Benedict College’s gates in the heart of downtown felt quite small. At its peak, the crowd covered less than 100 yards of the sidewalk. But the scene itself represented something much bigger: the fractured, divisive, sometimes ugly and often loud American political climate.

Protests were mounted outside the 150-year-old historically black college where inside a school auditorium President Donald Trump spoke to a room filled with more political allies than students.

The event was billed as a keynote speech on bipartisan success in criminal justice reform, which the president tied to a booming economy that he told his audience has helped black people more than ever before.

Benedict students — some of whom pondered the week prior what questions they might ask the president once his surprise visit to the weekend-long “2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum” was announced — were asked to stay in their dorms.

Seven students were allowed inside for the speech….

The announcement that Trump would join came late and to the surprise of those participating in the forum. The original announcement of the event highlighted only that Democratic candidates were participating.

When Kamala Harris learned about Trump’s appearance she cancelled her own visit to Benedict College.

Trump attacked Harris for this on Twitter and this morning she responded.

I know it’s unlikely Americans are ready for Black woman as the Democratic nominee, but I continue to admire this woman greatly and I believe she will continue make a difference in the years to come.

Greenville News: Kamala Harris backs out of Benedict forum after Trump receives award on visit to SC.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has withdrawn from participating in the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum today at Benedict College after learning President Donald Trump received an award at the forum on Friday.

Harris, the junior senator from California, was due to speak at the event at the historically black college alongside fellow 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, but she posted a message on Twitter announcing her withdrawal less than 24 hours before she was scheduled to speak.

She cited the Bipartisan Justice Award that the president received and event organization that left only nine Benedict students to be invited, only seven of whom were able to attend according to a school spokesperson.

“I won’t be complicit in papering over Trump’s record,” Harris tweeted in part before announcing she’ll instead take part in a panel at Benedict College’s Antisdel Chapel with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Joe Biden is still leading in most polls, but he has been struggling to raise money for his campaign.

Politico: Why Biden is getting crushed in the all-important money race.

Joe Biden’s campaign is drawing more support from big-ticket donors than any other candidate in the race — yet he still can’t match his rivals’ cash flow.

Biden has raised $20.7 million from contributions of at least $500 — $1.5 million more than his nearest competitor, despite entering the race later than all of them — thanks to the former vice president’s strong connections and goodwill among the traditional donors who have long financed the Democratic Party. Biden drew donations from 114 former big money fundraisers for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the third quarter, the most of any Democrat, according to a POLITICO analysis.

But it’s been nowhere near enough to make Biden the leader of the fundraising pack. In fact, his big-dollar dominance, and his reliance on those donors, is more evidence of how quickly small-dollar donations have become the most important component of political fundraising in a sprawling, fractured Democratic race. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are all outraising Biden, and stockpiling cash significantly faster than him, on the back of major support from online donors that Biden has been unable to build.

Biden is spending too much time holding big money fundraisers and not enough time campaigning. A bit more:

The bundler contributions and connections are helping keep Biden’s campaign afloat, but some of those donors are cringing at the way Biden is running his campaign.

“I don’t think Joe Biden is going to be the nominee,” said one major fundraiser, who said he gave to Biden out of loyalty during the third quarter. “I think there’s a thirst for something down the road taking us towards something bigger and better. That’s not going to be Joe Biden, for whom I have the utmost respect. He is acting his age and showing his age.”

Much more at the Politico link. Yesterday Biden approved formation of a super pac. Politico: Biden throws his campaign a lifeline.

By reversing course and dropping his opposition to super PACs, Joe Biden has all but admitted he’s getting swamped in fundraising.

But it was a strategic retreat that could end up paying big dividends for his cash-starved campaign.

Calls to a half-dozen maxed-out Biden donors Friday revealed that they would gladly dig deeper for the former vice president and contribute to a super PAC that enables them — and corporations — to give and spend unlimited amounts of money.

The witching hour by Lisa Parker

“Joe Biden has not raised as much money as the others through his own campaign efforts. But you have to understand, that’s basically how it works. Bernie Sanders had, what, 20,000 people at an event in New York? Suppose each one of those people gave $100,” said Joe Cotchett, a major Bay Area bundler for Biden. “Does Joe have the ability to have 20,000 people at a rally right now? The answer is no. But hopefully for Joe, it will come.”

Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has already endorsed Biden, said it would likely commit to a Biden super PAC.

“We would be in a position to support that effort,” said Schaitberger. “We’re certainly capable of spending in the six figures.

We’ll see. I still don’t think Biden will win the nomination, but at this point, I’ve stopped caring. I’ll vote for Kamala if she’s still around on Super Tuesday, and I’ll hold my nose and vote for whoever the Dems nominate. I don’t think we’ll beat Trump in an election. He has to be impeached and removed or forced to resign. There’s no evidence right now that the 2020 election will be legitimate.

Another problem for Biden is the drip drip drip about his son Hunter. If he is the nominee, the Republicans will talk about Hunter non-stop, and it won’t matter if he did anything illegal. He certainly traded on his father’s name. The latest from The New York Times: Giuliani Is Drawing Attention to Hunter Biden’s Work in Romania. But There’s a Problem.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, signaled this month that he planned to open a new front in his attacks against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — work done by Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden for a wealthy Romanian business executive facing corruption charges.

But there’s a problem with that strategy: Mr. Giuliani participated in an effort that would have helped the same executive, and was in fact recruited to do so by Louis J. Freeh, a former F.B.I. director who had been brought onto the matter by Hunter Biden.

In effect, Mr. Giuliani and Hunter Biden were on the same team, if not at the same time. And their work to help the business executive, along with that of Mr. Freeh, stood in contrast to efforts by the United States, including Vice President Biden while he was in office, to encourage anti-corruption efforts in Romania.

The dynamic in Romania underscores how Mr. Giuliani has done a brisk international business with clients who sometimes seem to be seeking to capitalize on his connections to Mr. Trump even as he has accused Hunter Biden of seeking to capitalize on his father’s name while doing business in other countries. And the disclosure of the connection between his role in Romania and Mr. Biden’s comes at a time when Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for possible violations of foreign lobbying laws.

Trump will bash Hunter unmercifully if Biden is the nominee and it won’t matter that Trump is far more corrupt and that his own children are raking in millions through his presidency. The media doesn’t focus on Trump’s nepotism now and they likely won’t in 2020. The focus will be on “both sides,” and pretending that Joe and Hunter’s questionable ethics or, even worse, Elizabeth Warren’s long history of claiming Native American ancestry. It will be the new “her emails.”

I’m sorry to sound so negative today. It’s still a long time until the primaries begin, but it’s not looking good right now. The good news is that the Impeachment inquiry is going full speed ahead.

Catbatting by Maggie Vandewalle

The New York Times: Impeachment Inquiry Is Legal, Judge Rules, Giving Democrats a Victory.

A federal judge handed a victory to House Democrats on Friday when she ruled that they were legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a decision that undercut President Trump’s arguments that the investigation is a sham.

The declaration came in a 75-page opinion by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington. She ruled that the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

Typically, Congress has no right to view such evidence. But in 1974, the courts permitted lawmakers to see such materials as they weighed whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon. The House is now immersed in the same process focused on Mr. Trump, Judge Howell ruled, and that easily outweighs any need to keep the information secret from lawmakers.

And in a rebuke to the Trump administration, she wrote that the White House strategy to stonewall the House had actually strengthened lawmakers’ case. She cited Mr. Trump’s vow to fight “all” congressional subpoenas and an extraordinary directive by his White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, that executive branch officials should not provide testimony or documents to impeachment investigators.

“The White House’s stated policy of noncooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure,” Judge Howell wrote. “Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”

Of course we don’t know what the right-wing SCOTUS will ultimately decide.

One more interesting piece from Just Security: George Washington’s Advisors Agreed: Impeachment Did Away with Executive Privilege.

President George Washington’s decision to withhold diplomatic papers from the House of Representatives with respect to the Jay Treaty has become an important precedent in current debates over executive privilege. Earlier this month, the White House Counsel’s Office invoked this precedent as its first cited source in claiming executive privilege with respect to the scope of the testimony of Fiona Hill, the former top Russia advisor on the National Security Council. And as the Ukraine affair first came to light and impeachment entered the discussion, John Yoo, writing for the New York Times, cited this precedent as a major stumbling block that would thwart any impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s abuse of his diplomatic powers.

But as one of us pointed out in a recent post for Just Security, Washington clearly signaled that executive privilege would not be available if the House were pursuing an impeachment inquiry. In withholding the papers, he wrote that

“It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution [requesting the papers] has not expressed.”

(Judge Naomi Rao recently quoted this language in drawing a distinction between the information that Congress can access in an impeachment proceedings as opposed to lawmaking in a dissent.)

Earlier this week, we published an op-ed, highlighting this and other evidence from the Founding era and discussed its significance for current events. While writing, we were impressed by just how unanimous Washington’s advisors were on an impeachment carve-out to executive privilege. Here are some key quotes (with emphasis added), from Washington’s Cabinet (whose advice he had requested) and several others…

Read the rest at the link. Maybe the courts will save us yet–if Chief Justice Roberts can bring himself to care about the Constitution more than partisanship.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads: The Walls Are Closing In

Edvard Munch, Cabbage Field, 1915

Good Afternoon!!

Another psychiatrist’s tweets on Trump’s ailing brain caught the attention of Newsweek’s Shane Croucher: Trump’s “Mental Impairment Means He Cannot Think Strategically or in Abstract Terms,” Claims Professor of psychiatry.

“Trump has no policy on any issue because his mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms,” tweeted John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center.

“He cannot weigh options, assess risk, or foresee consequences. Concepts like fairness, justice, honor, and integrity quite literally do not register. You can see this in every interview or press encounter. He never states an abstract thought or idea.

Man in a cabbage field, 1916, Edvard Munch

“Instead he falls back on simple adjectives: disgraceful, horrible, low-intelligence, perfect, innocent, nasty, stupid, fake, etc. He’s driven by negative emotion, often paranoid and often insulting, vulgar, vitriolic.”

Talmadge wrote that Trump expresses positivity in a “shallow tone” using “childish adjectives” and is non-specific when discussing plans or projects.

“The meaning of this is clear. Trump does not have a vision or a plan, because he can think only in concrete, elementary, childlike, one dimensional terms. He does not process an abstract idea like American forces stabilizing a multilateral conflict with geopolitical implications,” Talmadge wrote.

“This Trumpian brain failure is hard for normal people to understand because for normal people, abstract thought is natural, baked in, largely unnoticed. Normal people see the consequences, assess risk, make rational decisions most of the time.

“What is true today is that Trump is not normal, Trump is mentally impaired, Trump cannot think normally, and Trump is dangerous. When he is removed from office he literally will not understand what happened. He will have to make up a story, tell lies, and rant about Hillary’s DNC server.”

I’ve been following Talmadge for awhile. He refers to Trump’s cognitive deficit as “presidementia.”

Trump tweeted this morning that he was joking, but he clearly wasn’t and what he said wasn’t the least bit humorous.

What an embarrassment he is! He just opens his deformed mouth and spews out whatever his brain coughs up in the moment. And the idiots in the audience actually cheered his nonsense. This is our reality now.

To defend their cognitively impaired “president,” Republicans, led by drunk driver Matt Gaetz, staged a moronic “protest” of what they claimed are “secret” impeachment depositions that large numbers of GOP members are free to–and do–attend. One of those GOP attendees is Mike Pence’s brother! Buzzfeed:

As dozens of House members in charge of the impeachment investigations sit in on closed-door depositions about Ukraine, at least one person in the room has unusually close ties to President Donald Trump’s administration — Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Rep. Greg Pence.

Edvard Munch, Landscape with train smoke

The first-term member of Congress sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of three House committees leading the impeachment investigation (along with the House Intelligence and Oversight committees). He was assigned to the committee earlier this year by members of the Republican House Steering and Policy committees, long before the impeachment inquiry began.

Pence has had access to all the closed-door testimonies of officials speaking on Trump’s actions, US–Ukraine relations, and the controversial phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, which sparked the official impeachment investigation.

Oopsie! This morning on Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano explained the morning idiots how Congressional investigations work. Trump will be furious!

Republicans keep complaining about the impeachment process, but they shy away from trying to defend Trump on the content of the testimony because, as the NYT editorial board writes, what Trump did in the Ukraine scandal is impossible to defend. The most damaging testimony so far has come from Ambassador Bill Taylor, a career diplomat and public servant who refused to be sucked into Trump’s conspiracy with the three amigos, Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Rick Perry.

From Robert Makey at The Intercept: Trump Pressed Ukraine’s President to Act Out a Fake News Script, Live on CNN.

Before agreeing to release nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine, President Donald Trump extorted a promise from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to appear on American television and act out a script prepared for him by Trump’s aides, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.

The Road to Borre, 1905, Edvard Munch

The scene a desperate Zelensky finally agreed to perform would have been the very definition of fake news: a dramatic announcement by the Ukrainian president, during a CNN interview, that he was opening criminal investigations on Joe Biden’s family and other Democrats.

The plot, which would have duped American voters into believing that there was some substance to a debunked conspiracy theory about Biden’s work in Ukraine as vice president, came very close to working.

Taylor testified that:

until early September, Zelensky and his aides had resisted pressure from Trump to help him smear Biden. Zelensky was supposed to do this by investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company the former vice president’s son Hunter was once paid to advise, as well as claims that Ukrainian officials had revealed evidence of financial crimes by Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2016 to help elect Hillary Clinton.

But once the Ukrainians became aware that the much-needed security assistance Trump had personally held up might never be delivered, Zelensky, who was an actor and comedian before entering politics this year, agreed to play his part in a ruse intended to lend credibility to baseless conspiracy theories about Biden and other Democrats.

Landscape Near Skøyen, Edvard Munch

By the first week of September, Taylor said, the “favor” Trump had alluded to in vague terms in a July phone call with Zelensky had become a very specific demand: Ukraine’s president, a former actor, would be required to deliver lines on CNN prepared for him by two American diplomats acting on orders from Trump and his shadow secretary of state, Rudy Giuliani.

Text messages released earlier this month between those two diplomats — Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — show that they drafted language for Zelensky’s statement in August to send to the Ukrainian president’s close friend and personal aide, Andrey Yermak.

Head over to The Intercept to read the rest.

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: “The Walls Are Closing In”: Bill Taylor’s Testimony Puts Trump’s Impeachment In Overdrive.

In this story, Ukraine is an object,” Taylor told lawmakers in his opening statement Tuesday.

Over the course of more than nine hours, he meticulously outlined Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly announcing investigations into Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, and an unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukraine framed Russia for election meddling in 2016. And Taylor confirmed that the White House made these investigations a precondition for the release of nearly $400 million in military aid to help Ukraine counter an ongoing Russian invasion—the quid pro quo Trump and his allies have been denying since the story broke.

“This was a game changer,” a senior Democratic congressional aide told me. “Ambassador Taylor looks like he’ll end up being the star witness for the prosecution in this impeachment trial of a mob boss president. He not only exposed the full scope of corruption in the White House, but he left no doubt that President Trump was deliberately extorting a foreign country to try and get them to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. The president has to know the walls are closing in.”

Another landscape with train smoke by Edvard Munch, 1900

Trump and his lackeys are attacking Taylor as “a radical,” but that won’t hold water.

Taylor, who was appointed ambassador to Ukraine by Republican President George W. Bush, kept meticulous, contemporaneous notes of his interactions with Sondland and other Trump officials as the Ukraine scandal came into focus. “He wrote it all down: This is what happened, this is what I was thinking at the time, and this is what happened next,” said a former high-ranking State Department official who knows Taylor well. “That is part of the whole deal; it is part of the job to have notes on every conversation.”

A highly credible witness, in other words. And hardly the “radical” bureaucrat that Trump officials are trying to claim. “He does have a reputation for being a very straight-up decent guy,” a second former high-ranking State Department official told me. “You can take his words seriously. He’s not prone to dramatics or exaggeration.”

Trump has led a war against long-term, non-political employees of the CIA, FBI, DOJ, and State Department beginning before his election, and now those anonymous federal employees are getting their revenge.

The New York Times: Trump’s War on the ‘Deep State’ Turns Against Him.

Nameless, faceless and voiceless, the C.I.A. officer who first triggered the greatest threat to President Trump’s tenure in office seemed to be practically the embodiment of the “deep state” that the president has long accused of trying to take him down.

But over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present, who have defied a White House attempt to block cooperation with House impeachment investigators and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower.

Landscape By Travemünde, Edvard Munch

The parade of witnesses marching to Capitol Hill culminated this week with the dramatic testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., a military officer and diplomat who has served his country for 50 years. Undaunted by White House pressure, he came forward to accuse the same president who sent him to Ukraine a few months ago of abusing his power to advance his own political interests.

The House impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to force Ukraine to investigate Democrats is the climax of a 33-month scorched-earth struggle between a president with no record of public service and the government he inherited but never trusted. If Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, it will be in part because of some of the same career professionals he has derided as “absolute scum” or compared to Nazis.

“With all the denigration and disparagement and diminishment, I think you are seeing some payback here, not by design but by opportunity,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat from Washington’s Virginia suburbs who represents many federal employees. “It’s almost karmic justice. All of a sudden, there’s an opportunity for people who know things to speak out, speak up, testify about and against — and they’re doing so.”

Read the rest at the NYT, even though they should have at least put quotes around the term “deep state” in the story.

And soon–probably in November–the impeachment hearings will go public. The Washington Post reports:

House Democrats are preparing to move their largely private impeachment inquiry onto a more public stage as soon as mid-November and are already grappling with how best to present the complex Ukraine saga to the American people….

Moonlight, Edvard Munch

Among the witnesses Democrats hope to question in open session are the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., and his predecessor, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Both are seasoned diplomats who, in earlier House testimony, effectively conveyed outrage over a White House plan to withhold much-needed military aid from Ukraine, a long-standing ally battling pro-Russian separatists….

Another top priority for many Democrats is John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who made known around the White House his visceral opposition to the campaign to pressure Zelensky, a campaign directed in part by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Testimony from Bolton could be particularly devastating for the White House, though it was unclear whether Democrats would subpoena him or when. After Bolton resigned last month, he told The Washington Post that he would “have my say in due course.”’

Democrats have long been expected to shift to public hearings, which offer the opportunity to build the case against Trump while also building support among American voters.

Click on the WaPo link to read the rest.

Who knows what horrors today will bring? What are you reading and what are you doing for self-care? I’m still mostly escaping into books, but looking at paintings helps a lot too. Yesterday I explored landscapes by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.


Thursday Reads: The Latest News, With Trolls

Painting by John Bauer, 1915

Good Morning!!

My latest escape from Trump world has been reading a Swedish horror/crime novel, The Shapeshifters, by Stefan Spjut. It’s not really that scary; it involves people investigating crimes by trolls and other creatures from Swedish folklore. A prominent character in the story is the famous Swedish artist John Bauer, whose painting illustrated books of Swedish fairy tales. I’m using some of his paintings in this post.

Trolls are huge in all Scandinavian folklore, but my sister-in-law, who is Danish, informed me that Swedish trolls are big, ugly, and frightening while Danish trolls are small and cute. I don’t know about Norwegian, Finnish, and Icelandic trolls. It would be fun to find out about those.

Now on to the news. Breaking this morning from The Wall Street Journal: Two Foreign-Born Men Who Helped Giuliani on Ukraine Arrested on Campaign-Finance Charges.

Two foreign-born donors to a pro- Trump fundraising committee who helped Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Democrat Joe Biden were arrested late Wednesday on criminal charges of violating campaign finance rules and are expected to appear in court on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter.

Troll mother and child, by John Bauer

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Florida businessmen, have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, and are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia later on Thursday, the people said. The men’s nationalities were unclear, though both were believed to have been born in former Soviet republics.

Mr. Giuliani, President Trump’s private lawyer, identified the two men in May as his clients. Both men have donated to Republican campaigns including Mr. Trump’s, and in May 2018 gave $325,000 to the primary pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, through an LLC called Global Energy Producers, according to Federal Election Commission records.

I wonder if Cover-Up General Barr with allow this to continue? A bit more:

Messrs. Parnas and Fruman had a dinner with the president in early May 2018, according to since-deleted Facebook posts captured in a report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. They also met with the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. , later that month at a fundraising breakfast in Beverly Hills, Calif., along with Tommy Hicks Jr. , a close friend of the younger Mr. Trump who at the time was heading America First Action. Mr. Parnas posted a photo of their breakfast four days after his LLC donated to the super PAC.

If you saw Rachel Maddow’s show last night you heard about another new Trump corruption story that broke at Bloomberg News: Trump Urged Top Aide to Help Giuliani Client Facing DOJ Charges.

President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.

From the story The Trolls and the Youngest Tomte

Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.

Tillerson immediately repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation just outside the Oval Office, emphasizing that the request would be illegal. Neither episode has been previously reported, and all of the people spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the conversations….
The Turkish attacks continue in Syria.

Zarrab was being prosecuted in federal court in New York at the time on charges of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. He had hired former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Giuliani, who has said he reached out repeatedly to U.S. officials to seek a diplomatic solution for his client outside the courts.

The president’s request to Tillerson — which included asking him to speak with Giuliani — bears the hallmarks of Trump’s governing style, defined by his willingness to sweep aside the customary procedures and constraints of government to pursue matters outside normal channels. Tillerson’s objection came to light as Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders face intense scrutiny following the July 25 call with Ukraine’s president that has sparked an impeachment inquiry in the House.

Read the rest at the link.

More corruption news from the Financial Times: Trump adviser says China provided information about Hunter Biden.

Michael Pillsbury, an informal White House adviser on China, said he received information about the business activities of Hunter Biden during a visit to Beijing in the same week Donald Trump urged China to probe the son of Joe Biden.

“I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese,” Mr Pillsbury told the Financial Times.

By John Bauer

Mr Trump came under heavy criticism last week after publicly urging China to investigate the Bidens in a move that mirrored his request to the Ukraine’s president in a July phone call that has sparked an impeachment inquiry.

Mr Pillsbury’s comments to the FT came after he revealed on Fox Business that he had raised the issue of the Bidens during a visit to China a week ago.

“I tried to bring up the topic in Beijing,” Mr Pillsbury told the television channel. “I’ve never seen them get so secretive in my entire life. They would discuss ICBM warheads sooner than talk about what Hunter Biden was doing in China with [former] vice-president Biden.” Mr Pillsbury, a China hawk who was widely seen as far from the mainstream before the Trump administration came to power, shares a similar stance on China to Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to Mr Trump.

But Trump was just “joking” when he publicly asked China for help for his reelection campaign, according to Republicans.

The Turkish assault on the Kurds and others in northern Syria, enabled by Trump, continues. The latest:

The New York Times: Death Toll Climbs as Turkish Offensive in Syria Enters 2nd Day.

SANLIURFA, Turkey — Fighting lit up the sky early Thursday as Turkish troops pressed their air and ground offensive against United States-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. At least 16 Kurds were reported to have been killed, one monitoring group said.

Members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in the Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain areas of northeastern Syria, along with six attackers of unknown identity, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a conflict monitor based in Britain. American troops had withdrawn from both areas on Monday.

An additional 33 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces were wounded, the monitoring group said.

The Turkish military’s move into Syria began on Wednesday, following President Trump’s decision on Sunday to pull American troops out of Turkey’s way, despite disagreement from his own military officers and State Department.

Even Fox News is publishing stories condemning Trump’s actions: Turkey’s Syria invasion: Member of US Special Forces says, ‘I am ashamed for the first time in my career.’

A member of U.S. Special Forces serving alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria told Fox News on Wednesday they were witnessing Turkish atrocities on the frontlines.

“I am ashamed for the first time in my career,” said the distraught soldier, who has been involved in the training of indigenous forces on multiple continents. The hardened service member is among the 1,000 or so U.S. troops who remain in Syria.

Forest Troll, John Bauer

“Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It’s horrible,” the military source on the ground said. “We met every single security agreement. The Kurds met every single agreement [with the Turks]. There was no threat to the Turks — none — from this side of the border.” [….]

At least seven civilians have been killed in strikes in northeastern Syria since the assault began on Wednesday, according to activists and a war monitor. Turkey later announced that its ground forces had invaded the region to fight the Kurds.

“This is insanity,” the concerned U.S. service member said. “I don’t know what they call atrocities, but they are happening.”

The New Yorker: Defying the World, Turkey Launches a War Against a U.S. Ally in Syria.

Two of America’s closest allies in the Middle East went to war on Wednesday—and Donald Trump didn’t seem to care. In what may have been the first declaration of hostilities on Twitter, the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced that Turkey, a nato ally, had launched an invasion of Syria, to clear out a Kurdish-led militia that controls about a third of the country. The militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, has been allied with the United States for the past five years in the war against isis. Both sides have been equipped by the United States, albeit in vastly different ways.

Erdoğan dubbed the invasion “Operation Peace Spring.” It is anything but. Panic swept across northern Syria as Turkey’s warplanes pounded Kurdish towns and artillery fired across the border, in order to—in ironic military jargon—“soften up” the terrain for a ground offensive. The S.D.F. posted videos on social media of the aftermath, showing fires, destruction, and bodies on the ground.

John Bauer painting from The Boy Who Was Never Afraid

The region’s latest war is a deeply uneven match—and has the potential to be a slaughter of the Kurds. Turkey, which contributes the second largest force to nato, is considered the ninth most powerful military in the world. It has more than three hundred and fifty thousand active-duty soldiers—and twice that with reserves. The S.D.F. militia has about sixty-thousand men and women in uniform, including reserves; they have only rudimentary training.

Click the link to read the rest.

Trump has been busy making ludicrous excuses for his insane behavior. The Washington Post: Trump downplays U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds, saying ‘they didn’t help us in the Second World War.’

President Trump said Wednesday that it would be “easy” for the United States to form new alliances if Syrian Kurds leave the fight against the Islamic State to fend off a Turkish attack, noting that “they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us in Normandy” and were only interested in fighting for “their land.”

“With all of that being said, we like the Kurds,” he said in response to questions about Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks, following a White House ceremony where he signed unrelated executive orders, came as the administration continued an effort to correct what it has called the misimpression that Trump enabled the offensive against the U.S.-allied Kurds that Turkey launched Wednesday.

In his impromptu news conference, Trump said he expected Erdogan to conduct the offensive “in as humane a way as possible.”

“We’ll have to define that as we go along,” he said. “He can do it in a soft manner, he can do it in a very tough manner. If he doesn’t do it fairly, he’s going to [pay] a very big economic price.”

Yeah sure, asshole. Unfortunately, the rest of the world won’t just blame Trump for this outrage. They’ll hold all Americans responsible.  Trump is making all of Putin’s dreams come true. More Syria stories:

The New York Times: Military Leaders Fear They’ve Seen This Before. It Ended in the Iraq War.

NBC News: Intel officials say ISIS could regroup after U.S. ‘betrayal’ of Kurds in Syria.

Wolves circle a troll, John Bauer

I’ll end with this piece at Just Security by Frank O. Bowman III, who wrote High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump. White House Letter Distorts Both Law and History on Impeachment.

The White House letter of October 8 refusing all executive branch cooperation with the ongoing House impeachment inquiry is, simply put, a public relations exercise. The legal arguments it intersperses between insults to members of the House Democratic leadership and appeals to the President’s base voters are without foundation. The errors and mischaracterizations are so numerous that they cannot all be addressed in this space. Instead, I will consider only the fundamental misconceptions at the heart of the White House argument, as well as a single illustrative historical incident – the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson.

The White House justifies its refusal to respond to the House’s investigative demands on three basic grounds: First, it claims that the House impeachment inquiry is “constitutionally invalid” because the full House has not passed a resolution specifically authorizing an impeachment inquiry of this president. Second, it maintains that the House inquiry now underway is illegitimate because it does not afford the president “due process” rights the letter suggests are required under the Constitution. Third, it asserts that the first two points are established by “every past precedent.” All these assertions are wrong.

Read Bowman’s critique at the link.

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


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee this morning, but Trump and Pompeo ordered him not to do it.

The New York Times: Witness in Trump-Ukraine Matter Ordered Not to Speak in Impeachment Inquiry.

The Trump administration directed a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine not to appear Tuesday morning for a scheduled interview in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment….

Robert Luskin, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, said in a statement that as a State Department employee, his client had no choice but to comply with the administration’s direction. He said Mr. Sondland had been prepared and happy to testify, and would do so in the future if allowed.

Of course that is simply not true.

Background on Sondland from the Times article.

Mr. Sondland has become enmeshed in the burgeoning scandal into how the president sought to push the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals. Although Ukraine is not in the union, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Sondland — a wealthy hotelier and campaign contributor — to take a lead in relations between the Trump administration and the country. Democrats consider him a key witness to what transpired between the two countries.

Mr. Sondland interacted directly with Mr. Trump, speaking with the president several times around key moments that House Democrats are now investigating, including before and after Mr. Trump’s July call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The president asked Mr. Zelensky on the call to do him “a favor” and investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have committed him to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The diplomats consulted with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the statement, believing they needed pacify him in order to allow the United States to normalize relations with the Ukrainians.

Adam Schiff responded to the Trump administration’s illegal action.

Yesterday Newsweek talked to a member of the National Security Council who heard the call between Trump and Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan after which Trump ordered U.S. troops out of northern Syria: Exclusive: Official Who Heard Call Says Trump Got ‘Rolled’ By Turkey And ‘Has No Spike.’

In a scheduled phone call on Sunday afternoon between President Trump and President Erdogan, Trump said he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria. The phone call was scheduled after Turkey announced it was planning to invade Syria, and hours after Erdogan reinforced his army units at the Syrian-Turkish border and issued his strongest threat to launch a military incursion, according to the National Security Council official to whom Newsweek spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. withdrawal plays into the hands of the Islamic State group, Damascus and Moscow, and the announcement left Trump’s own Defense Department “completely stunned,” said Pentagon officials. Turkey, like the United States, wants regime change in Syria. Russia and Iran support the Assad regime.

“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council source told Newsweek. “The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.” [….]

According to the NSC official, who had first-hand knowledge of the phone call, Trump did not endorse any Turkish military operation against Kurdish Forces, but also did not threaten economic sanctions during the phone call if Turkey decided to undertake offensive operations.

Trump has also invited Erdogan to visit the White House next month.

Here’s a reminder what happened on a previous visit by Erdogan.

Yesterday, Trump threatened Turkey in a tweet that would cause any other person’s family to request a psychiatric evaluation:

Some outlets are reporting that Trump has been walking back the original order. We’ll see….

Meanwhile Turkey isn’t backing down. The Washington Post: Turkey rejects Trump’s threats amid conflicting U.S. signals over Syria offensive.

 Turkey’s vice president said Tuesday that his country would “not react to threats,” as it prepared to mount a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, a day after President Trump warned that he would destroy Turkey’s economy if the offensive did not meet with his approval.

“When it comes to the security of Turkey, as always, our president emphasized Turkey will determine its own path,” the vice president, Fuat Oktay, said in a speech at a university in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to create a “safe zone” in a lengthy swath of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border.

Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested for days that the military operation could begin at any moment. Turkish troop convoys have headed to the border, and local media outlets have published details of what they say is the battle plan. Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote Tuesday on Twitter that all its preparations for the operation were complete.

But there was no sign yet that Turkish troops were moving forward, as the United Nations and aid agencies warned of potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and as the Trump administration delivered confusing signals about how it views Turkey’s plans to attack a Syrian-Kurdish force that partnered with the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State militant group.

A new poll shows that 59 percent of Americans support the impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post: Poll: Majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

A majority of Americans say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, and nearly half of all adults also say the House should take the additional step and recommend that the president be removed from office, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.

The findings indicate that public opinion has shifted quickly against the president and in favor of impeachment proceedings in recent weeks as information has been released about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian government officials to undertake an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 campaign rival, and Biden’s son Hunter.

Previous Post-Schar School or Post-ABC News polls taken at different points throughout this year found majorities of Americans opposing the start of an impeachment proceeding, with 37 percent to 41 percent saying they favored such a step. The recent revelations appear to have prompted many Americans to rethink their position.

The poll finds that, by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent, Americans say the House was correct to undertake the inquiry. Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical.

Read more at the WaPo.

Vanity Fair has a long piece on Bill Barr’s past history. Author Marie Brenner suggests that Barr’s relationship with his father could provide clues to Barr’s alignment with Trump: “I Had No Problem Being Poltically Different”: Young William Barr Among the Manhattan Liberals. A brief excerpt:

Who, then, is the real William Barr? I wanted to investigate that question through the prism of his growing up as a young conservative in the intellectually demanding and socially cosseted world of New York private schools—ironically, the same schools that educated Cohn. I wanted to understand how he might have been affected in the 1970s by the public scandal that consumed his father, Donald Barr, then the headmaster of the tony Dalton School and a respected voice in academics, on the right-wing opinion pages, and at the center of America’s calamitous culture wars.

Donny Montana: October 6, 2019

William Barr’s origin story is, in fact, a parable of how family, education, protest, and principle served to shape the era—and shape a young man who would become America’s chief law enforcement officer. At the same time, it is also a narrative about how a charismatic, domineering, and doctrinaire figure named Donald might have helped define the contours of his son’s formative years….

In the 1967 Horace Mann yearbook, Barr had already been tagged with his future persona: “a staunch conservative on political issues,” a master of “facial contortions,” and a brilliant mimic of his Catholic school priests. Often, he rode the subway home with another classmate, Barry Scheck, who would become an attorney and eventually cofound the Innocence Project, using DNA evidence to free wrongly convicted prisoners. “We would argue all the way down from school and all the way back,” Scheck said.

Barr and his three brothers revered their father, spending countless hours at the dinner table discussing philosophy, politics, and the issues of the day. Before attending Horace Mann, all four siblings had gone to Corpus Christi, a nearby parochial school where he was in class with many Irish, Hispanic, and black students. William Barr was the privileged son of an intellectual. In first grade, he made a speech in class supporting Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. At age eight, Barr told his parents that he wanted to learn to play the bagpipes. His father not only encouraged him but located a former Scottish pipes major in the British army and for years personally escorted his son up to 168th Street for Tuesday-night classes. At one point, the young Barr even declared to his Horace Mann adviser that when he grew up, he wanted to become head of the CIA.

Horace Mann was another environment entirely: completely secular, with a large Jewish contingent. A few who knew the Barr boys came to call them “the bully Barrs”; the siblings, these former classmates claimed, could be intimidating. The fact that his father was born Jewish was not a factor in Bill Barr’s upbringing. While he knew he had Jewish relatives, he never discussed the specifics with his father. “He had become more Catholic than the Catholics,” he said to those who asked.

The school was an enclave of conservative privilege that had educated New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, historian Robert A. Caro, and Si Newhouse Jr., the late owner of Condé Nast (the parent company of Vanity Fair). The head of the history department, Alfred Briggs, lectured on the evils of communism and Red China, and lavished praise on Horace Mann’s most notorious graduate, Roy Cohn. “We need more Roy Cohns in the world,” Briggs frequently said. “Roy was my best student of all time.”

I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I plan to do it as soon as this post goes up.

One more by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: Opinion: Do Barr, Pompeo and Giuliani share a death wish?

Atty. Gen. William Barr, who is deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, doesn’t care about his place in history. “I’m at the end of my career,” he told Jan Crawford of CBS in March. “Everyone dies.”

Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s fixer, who is even more deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, is likewise indifferent. “I don’t care about my legacy,” he told the New Yorker last month. “I’ll be dead.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 55, who is especially embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, also has his eye on an End Times cleansing. “It is a never-ending struggle,” he told a Kansas church group, describing his work for the president. “Until the Rapture.”

Poets have envisioned death in thousands of ways. Clouds, worms, reunions, virgins and more. But Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo — each in the midst of a distinct moral crisis — may have a new one. Death as sweet, sweet liberation from congressional oversight.

Let me propose an epitaph, suitable for any of these men when the time comes: “He’s gone where subpoenas can lacerate his heart no more.”

But if these men are counting on death to end their sea of troubles, the House doesn’t intend to give them that chance. With every letter or subpoena, Congress is demanding that these men stop daydreaming about oblivion or ecstatic union with Jesus and do what’s right in the here and now.

Read the rest at the link.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Fresh Hell Friday Reads: The Plot Thickens

Image result for images sunlight paintings famous artists

The Sun, 1909 by Edvard Munch

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Before you do anything today follow the link on this Twitter from  Congressman Adam Schiff.  Then ask yourself, is Felonious Trump “self impeaching?”

Here Comes the Sun!

There’s nothing I cant think of more today than the bright rays of sunlight pouring into a den of thieves.

The Daily Beast calls these tweets “damning”.

Democratic committee chairmen released a stunning cache of text messages late Thursday night detailing exchanges among senior U.S. diplomats as they went to great lengths to play along with President Trump’s campaign to pressure a foreign government to launch an investigation into his political rival.

The texts laid bare, with great specificity, a coordinated effort among State Department officials and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to compel the new Ukrainian government of Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly commit to investigating a firm tied to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, thereby making foreign aid contingent on the Ukrainians helping Trump’s re-election efforts.

By September, that effort so alarmed the recently appointed chargé d’affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Bill Taylor, that he called it “crazy” and spiraling toward a “nightmare scenario.” Another Trump appointee, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, insisted Taylor was “incorrect” about Trump dangling a “quid pro quo” before Zelensky—the same quid pro quo that Sondland and his colleagues, from Trump on down, had spent months orchestrating.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor said in a message dated Sept. 9, 2019, referring to the White House decision to mysteriously withhold nearly $400 million in military assistance that Ukraine needs to fight back against Russian forces waging war against the country in the east.

The Washington Post reported that Trump ordered the funds withheld nearly a week before his July 25 phone call with Zelensky, the contents of which were presented in a memo released last week by the White House.

With the Ukrainians alarmed over having their military aid from Washington suddenly frozen, Taylor grew urgent. “The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key,” he texted Sondland. “With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Hence my nightmare scenario.”

The letter, which included the text messages, was written jointly by the chairmen of the House committees on intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs, and was circulated publicly following a marathon deposition on Capitol Hill from one of the pressure campaign’s key participants, the Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, whom Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed into resigning last week.

“These text messages reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay,” the chairmen wrote. “He also directly expressed concerns that this critical military assistance and the meeting between the two presidents were being withheld in order to place additional pressure on Ukraine to deliver on the president’s demand for Ukraine to launch politically motivated investigations.”

 

Image result for images sunlight paintings famous artists

Edward Hopper, People in the Sun, 1960, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.61

As to the “self-impeaching” question,  here’s some thoughts on that from Susan Glasser at The New Yorker.  Today’s headlies are filled with takes on the calls from Trump on the White House Driveway for both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.  Glasser documents the Orange Snot Blob’s further descent into madness.   We need to get rid Felonious Trump and all his thugs.

In the ten days since the House of Representatives launched its impeachment inquiryPresident Trump has spoken and tweeted thousands of words in public. He has called the investigation a “coup” and the press “deranged.” He has demanded that his chief congressional antagonist, the California representative he demeans as “Liddle’ Adam Schiff,” be brought up on treason charges. He has attacked the “Do Nothing Democrats” for wasting “everyone’s time and energy on bullshit.”

There have been so many rationales coming from the President that it’s been hard to keep them straight. “How do you impeach a President who has created the greatest Economy in the history of our Country, entirely rebuilt our Military into the most powerful it has ever been, Cut Record Taxes & Regulations, fixed the VA & gotten Choice for our Vets (after 45 years), & so much more,” he complained via tweet last week, in a less-than-accurate recap of his Administration’s record. He called the charges against him a “hoax” and, quoting his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said that he was “framed by the Democrats.” He has blamed the “#Fakewhistleblower” and the “fake news” for the impeachment investigation, which has now replaced the Mueller investigation in Trump’s rhetoric as “the Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our country.” Trump has also insisted, over and over again, that there was nothing at all wrong with his July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine. The call—in which he asked for the “favor” of having Ukraine investigate his 2020 political rival, the former Vice-President Joe Biden, even as he was holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid—triggered the impeachment inquiry in the first place. But Trump says it was “perfect.”

On Thursday morning, Trump appeared to dispense with excuses altogether, no longer even bothering to contest the charge that he leaned on Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. How do we know this? Because Trump did it again, live on camera, from the White House lawn. In a demand that is hard to interpret as anything other than a request to a foreign country to interfere in the U.S. election, Trump told reporters that Ukraine needs a “major investigation” into the Bidens. “I would certainly recommend that of Ukraine,” the President added, shouting over the noise of his helicopter, as he prepared to board Marine One en route to Florida. He also volunteered, without being asked, that China “should start an investigation into the Bidens,” too, given that Hunter Biden also had business dealings there while his father was in office. Trump, minutes after threatening an escalation in his trade war with China, suggested that he might even personally raise the matter of the Bidens with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.

Image result for images sunlight paintings famous artists

Impressions Sunrise, Claude Monet circa 1872

Even the NYT editorial board considers his actions to be self-impeaching.  Trump seems to think if he admits it enough in broad daylight that we’ll become immune to the idea that it’s illegal.  Or perhaps he thinks–like Nixon–it’s not illegal when the President does it.

Federal law expressly states that it is illegal for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive” anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a United States election.

Yet there stood President Trump outside the White House on Thursday, openly soliciting help from a foreign government for his re-election prospects by declaring to the assembled press that “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” This, of course, after Mr. Trump has already become subject to an impeachment inquiry after implicating himself in a scheme to seek foreign help for his campaign in a conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This might seem self-defeating — “self-impeaching,” even. A United States president urging a foreign government to investigate his political rival would seem to be flagrantly violating the law, along with American notions of fair play and decency.

But this president is a master at what Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called defining deviancy down. One baldfaced presidential lie, once exposed, is an outrage; a thousand such lies is a statistic.

Piet Mondrian – Windmill in Sunlight 1908

Today, horrible legislation signed by  the Democratic Louisiana Governor will be heard by a Supreme Court that may go directly for Roe. V. Wade.  This is from Robert Barnes of WAPO.

The Supreme Court will review a restrictive Louisiana law that gives the justices the chance to reconsider a recent ruling protecting abortion rights.

The court said Friday it would consider whether the 2014 law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals unduly burdens women’s access to abortion. Clinic owners said the effect of the law would be to close most of the state’s abortion clinics and leave the state with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure.

The law is almost identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. But in that case, now retired justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals to form a majority. Since then, President Trump has added two new justices who were enthusiastically supported by antiabortion groups.

The court could uphold or overturn that 2016 precedent or distinguish it in a way that a restriction deemed unconstitutional in one state is allowed in another.

It was not a surprise the court accepted the case. Last February, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s liberals entered a stay that kept the law from going into effect.

The court’s 2016 decision in the Texas case said the admitting-privileges requirement “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Hospitalization after an abortion is rare, all sides agree, and the lack of admitting privileges by the doctor who performed the procedure is not a bar to the woman getting needed medical care. Roberts was one of the dissenters in the 5 to 3 decision.

bright sun over a featureless sea

After the Deluge (also known as The Forty-First Day) George Frederic Watts, first exhibited as The Sun in an incomplete form in 1886 and completed in 1891

Mark Joseph Stern–writing for Slate– believes that the 2020 court will take a hard right to “launch a conservative revolution.”  I’m not surprised the American Women will be its first victims as white men start asserting their property rights over every one that’s not them.

After Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court in October 2018, most of the justices seemed eager to do whatever they could to keep SCOTUS out of the limelight. Less than two weeks earlier, Christine Blasey Ford had declared on live TV that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a teenager; Kavanaugh, in response, accused Democrats of orchestrating a “grotesque character assassination” driven by “pent-up anger about President Trump” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

The Supreme Court’s legitimacy rests in large part on the perception it is a nonpartisan institution, but Kavanaugh joined the bench engulfed in a toxic cloud of political rancor. In the year after the ugly confirmation hearing, the justices mostly kept their heads down, ducking many controversial cases for no apparent reason. They decided only two bona fide blockbusters, throwing partisan gerrymandering claims out of federal court and blocking the census citizenship question. Meanwhile, they dodged cases about Dreamers, abortion, religious freedom, and discrimination, effectively deciding not to decide.

But the Supreme Court has amassed far too much power to avoid any contentious issue for long. As Congress remains deadlocked and the White House melts down, SCOTUS has become the only fully functioning branch of the federal government. It has taken on the role of policymaker, obligated to resolve many of the battles that engulf the political branches. Republicans understand this fact, and it is a key reason why they fought so hard for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. With lawmakers paralyzed, momentous disputes wind up at the Supreme Court. And now, thanks to Kavanaugh’s vote, many of these battles will be decided by a 5–4 conservative majority.

A slew of potentially earthshaking cases has already piled up on the court’s docket for the upcoming term. Multiple transformative decisions will come down in June, thrusting the court into the middle of the 2020 presidential campaign. And the full impact of Kavanaugh’s appointment will become clear as the court is dragged further to the right. This jurisprudential bloodbath will heighten the stakes of the 2020 race, amplifying the power of the president and the role of the judiciary in the most explosive political fights of the day.

I just need to remind you that three of these judges do not belong on the court.  There’s not enough sunlight in the world that will change that.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  I am assuming more stuff is out there and will be out there.  Post what you find down thread!  Thanks

Impeach Felonious Trump!

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Rats are Abandoning Trump’s Sinking Ship and Leaking Like Crazy

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was quite a day. In the afternoon, it became abundantly clear that the rats are jumping off Trump’s sinking ship, competing to see who can be the first to leak dirt on the Dotard and his gang of miscreants. Here’s summary from CBS News: New revelations shed light on Trump-Ukraine call — live updates.

A series of rapid-fire developments brought the House impeachment inquiry into clearer focus Monday afternoon, with Democrats issuing new demands for evidence and new revelations about the circumstances of the president’s call with Ukraine coming to light.

Just before 4 p.m., three House committees announced they had subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, for documents related to his work on behalf of President Trump to persuade Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. The committees also requested material about Giuliani’s work to secure Ukraine’s cooperation into a Justice Department review of the origins of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Shortly after the subpoena was announced, The Wall Street Journal reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the July 25 call between the president and the Ukrainian leader. CBS News has confirmed Pompeo was on the call.

The New York Times reported Mr. Trump had called the prime minister of Australia to request assistance in the Justice Department review. The call came at the behest of Attorney General William Barr.

A Justice Department official then told CBS News that Barr had asked Mr. Trump to reach out to a number of foreign officials to request their assistance in his review, which is being led by the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. A source familiar with the matter said Barr traveled to Italy as part of his effort, and The Washington Post reported he has also reached out to intelligence officials in the United Kingdom.

In the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Mr. Trump repeatedly asked him to work with Barr to pursue a fringe conspiracy theory about the origins of the 2016 U.S. counterintelligence investigation that would became the Mueller probe.

But it wasn’t just Australia. At about 8:30 last night, The Washington Post reported: Barr personally asked foreign officials to aid inquiry into CIA, FBI activities in 2016.

Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter….

The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath.

The attorney general’s active role also underscores the degree to which a nearly three-year-old election still consumes significant resources and attention inside the federal government. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct.

So far, we’ve learned that Barr and Trump sought help to discredit their own intelligence community from Australia, the UK, and Italy. What other countries have been approached? I imagine we’ll learn more soon. Keep in mind that this entire criminal enterprise is designed to help Vladimir Putin by discrediting the Mueller investigation and removing sanctions on Russia.

Elliot Hannon at Slate: Trump Is Now Enlisting Foreign Leaders to Discredit Russian Election Meddling on His Behalf.

It’s now abundantly clear that President Trump is actively deploying the resources of the U.S. government explicitly to bolster his chances of reelection in 2020. The recent whistleblower complaint revealed one part of the two-pronged strategy: leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to compel the Ukrainian government to dredge up old allegations on political rival Joe Biden. The second aspect of the Trump vindication-through-vilification reelection strategy has led Trump and his allies to investigate the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election to try to muddy the water sufficiently that Trump looks clean by comparison—or by confusion. That effort is also being propelled by the power vested in the highest offices of the U.S. government, including, of course, the presidency. Yet another example, the New York Times reports, is a recent phone call made by President Trump to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking the foreign leader to assist Attorney General Bill Barr in the investigation of the Mueller investigation.

Will Trump get away with it? He is opening inciting violence against the whistleblower, Adam Schiff, and anyone else who tries to stand up to him. We don’t know yet what will happen, but history shows that politicians who mess with the CIA/FBI are playing with fire. I expect more drip drip drip revelations in the coming days.

Yesterday David Remnick at The New Yorker highlighted Trump’s unhinged attacks on anyone who tries to stand up to him:

Shortly after eight this morning, the President of the United States, making maximal use of his “executive time,” wielded his smartphone to issue a legal threat against the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It is worth reading the missive from @realDonaldTrump in full:

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”

Were the collective nerve endings of the electorate not so frayed and numbed by now, we might be even more alive to the ugliness of this message from the White House. One of the consequences of the Trump Presidency is the way  that it constantly diminishes our expectations of anything other than hideous rhetoric and action. But there are those who are intensely aware of the potential consequences of such a threat. Sources close to Schiff told The New Yorker today that Democrats in Congress are deeply worried about the President using Twitter to incite violence and to direct it at specific members.

The threat to Schiff via Twitter came just a few days after the President, speaking at the United States Mission to the United Nations, said that whoever provided information to the whistle-blower about his July 25th telephone call with the President of Ukraine was “close to a spy.” Trump went on to wax nostalgic about how spies were dealt with “in the old days”—with the death penalty, in other words. “As soon as I heard that, I thought, He has the soul and the mind of an authoritarian,” Nicholas Burns, a former high-ranking diplomat who has served in Republican and Democratic Administrations, told me. “What other President in American history would say that?”

As Remnick points out, Trump’s violent threats against his “enemies” are nothing new and they are likely to get worse as the impeachment investigation continues.

This could be an ominous sign for Trump. The Washington Post: McConnell says if House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to start a trial.

Should the impeachment spotlight turn to the Senate in the coming weeks, McConnell — who faces a reelection fight next year — will confront the dual pressures of minimizing political pain for his Senate majority and ensuring legitimacy and a sense of fairness for what would be only the third impeachment trial of a president in American history.

On Monday, McConnell said he was bound by existing Senate rules governing the impeachment and conviction process, amid speculation that he could simply ignore the specter of putting Trump on trial. Senior Republican aides had worked to try to tamp down that notion over the weekend.

“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell said during a CNBC interview. “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up, based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”

The Kentucky Republican — who hasn’t hesitated in the past to revise Senate rules to benefit Republicans, specifically the president’s judicial nominees — stressed he would not change them to aid Trump. That move would require the support of 67 senators, almost certainly an insurmountable threshold.

I’m waiting with bated breath to see what breaks today in this massive scandal that has now engulfed Trump, his personal attorney, his White House lawyers, his Secretary of State, and his Attorney General.

And what about the second whistleblower complaint that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has been sitting on? Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: There’s another whistleblower complaint. It’s about Trump’s tax returns.

An unnamed civil servant is alleging serious interference in government business. If the allegations are true, they could be a game-changer. They might set in motion the release of lots of other secret documents showing that President Trump has abused his authority for his personal benefit.

Wait, you thought I meantthe whistleblower from the intelligence community?

Nope. I’m talking about a completely different whistleblower, whose claims have gotten significantly less attention but could prove no less consequential. This whistleblower alleges a whole different category of impropriety: that someone has been secretly meddling with the Internal Revenue Service’s audit of the president.

In defiance of a half-century norm, Trump has kept his tax returns secret.

We don’t know exactly what he might be hiding. His bizarre behavior, though, suggests it’s really bad.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More interesting reads, links only:

The New York Times Magazine: This Is the Moment Rachel Maddow Has Been Waiting For.

Miami Herald: ‘He conned us from day one’: Giuliani’s Ukraine ally leaves trail of South Florida debts.

David Enrich at The New York Times: Me and My Whistle-Blower.

Alex Pascal at The New York Times: Did the Trump White House Mishandle the Ukraine Call Memo?

Politico: Trump may have lied to Mueller, House Democrats say

The Los Angeles Times: Trump’s ‘favor’ and delay of U.S. aid weakened Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

Politico: Hillary Clinton says staying in her marriage was ‘gutsiest’ thing she’s ever done.

Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Tuesday!!