Two days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, there has been almost no attention paid to the other 7 people who died in the tragic accident. Read about them at Buzzfeed News: Teenage Girls And Beloved Coaches Were Among The 9 Victims Of The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant.
John Altobelli, a 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and youngest daughter, Alyssa, 13, were among those who died.
Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. The team was set to play against a Fresno youth team on Sunday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.
John Altobelli had been a coach and mentor at Orange Coast College (OCC) for 27 years, helping many student-athletes earn scholarships so they could play at the four-year level, the college said in a statement.
“Coach Alto,” the college said, helped lead the Pirates to more than 700 wins and four state championships. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.
The Altobelli’s are survived by two other children, a son JJ and daughter Lexi, now orphans.
Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team.
“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post. “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”
The couple has three children, ages 11, 9, and 3….
Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash. Payton was a basketball player, NBC News reported.…
Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View Elementary School, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Payton, his former student, and her mother, calling them “two gorgeous human beings.”
“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt wrote in a Facebook post.
Chester leaves behind a husband Chris and two 16-year-old sons Hayden and Riley.
Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter, was a beloved figure in the aviation community. He was “instrument-rated” which meant he was able to fly in fog and clouds, KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci said.
Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot, according to one of his flight students, Darren Kemp.
So many people–including young children–are devastated by these deaths, but all the attention has gone to the former basketball player. I still can’t get past my anger at the lionizing of Bryant, who was credibly accused of rape and never publicly dealt with the damage he did to the life of a 19-year-old woman. Ever since I saw the way the basketball stars were treated as if they could do no wrong in my high school, I’ve resented the way athletes are allowed to get away with almost anything, especially violence against women.
Somewhere the woman that Bryant raped is watching the coverage of his death and most likely reliving the trauma she experienced as she sees so much praise heaped upon her abuser.
On Sunday, Jill Filipovic wrote that Bryant has a “complicated legacy.” No, it’s not really complicated. He was a huge basketball star with a giant ego and he got away with rape. He’s certainly not alone in that. Gavin Polone at the Hollywood Reporter:
I guess our society thinks that certain transgressions by celebrities can be forgiven. What’s perplexing is the contrast between which wrongs are and aren’t forgivable. Based on what I’ve read, I believe Kobe most probably raped a woman and still was paid $26 million in 2015 by Nike, Hublot, Panini Authentic, Turkish Airlines and others to endorse their products; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping two women and still made more than $35 million for one year as an NFL quarterback; Greg Hardy certainly beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend and was signed to play defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston was sued for the rape of a student at FSU and didn’t even break stride to the NFL (having watched the victim’s recounting of events, I believe her). Both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were accused of sexual misconduct, yet the former still is performing and the latter practically has been deified.
But what isn’t forgiven? Killing someone? Nope, Ray Lewis was accused of that, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and now is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and played the next year. So violence, especially against women, can be excused.
Here’s a piece at Vice by Albert Berneko that counters Filipovic’s “complicated legacy” notion: Kobe Bryant Was No More Complicated Than Anyone Else.
Maybe the actual very last thing the world needs or ever will need, ever again, is for one more man’s power or fame or brilliance or death to be used as a reason to throw the word “complicated” over his abuses like an obscuring blanket. It’s a dishonest sidestep, anyway. Everyone is complicated. You can be a tortured mass of endless complications and still never sexually assault anyone.
What the fact of having committed, or having credibly been accused of committing, sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word “complicated”: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so. I have integrated the fullness of this imperfect person; when I now return to praising him, be sure that it is with the appropriate level of personal internal conflicted feeling.
It seems reasonable to guess that former Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant was a complicated person, because he was a person and not the Archangel Gabriel. More relevant to a summation of his life, he was also a great and spectacular basketball player, one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, and a powerful man who, in 2003 and at the height of his celebrity, was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and then avoided a trial by leaking his accuser’s identity and shaming her into silence. I don’t think these things complicate each other, unless you happen to believe there’s a personal moral component to being good at making contested jump-shots.
To top off the protect-Kobe hysteria, Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post–who was editor of the Boston Globe when the Spotlight team exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church–publicly shamed one of his reporters, Felicia Sonmez who is a survivor of sexual assault.
As the collective grief crested on Twitter following TMZ’s shocking scoop that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez had a different idea. She shared a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing a rape allegation made against the NBA legend more than a decade earlier. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she tweeted Sunday, “even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”
Vitriol and threats streamed into Sonmez’s inbox, which she relayed on Twitter, along with screenshots of the attacks. The Bryant-related tweets have since been deleted. By Sunday afternoon, Somnez had been suspended—placed on “administrative leave”—a move that’s prompted anger and confusion inside the Post newsroom. “There’s incredible outrage. The outrage is like nothing I’ve ever seen here,” one Post source told us. “People just feel like it was way over the top.”
The Daily Beast article was an exhaustive chronicle of the allegations against Bryant and his response to them. While far from flattering to Bryant, it described an inescapable part of his history, and, fraught as social media can be in the current world of journalism, it was difficult for many to see how posting it was out of bounds. Post staffers were looking for clarity Monday after managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement that Sonmez violated the newsroom’s social media policy and “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”
I hope you’ll go read the rest. Sonmez spent the night in a hotel after her address was posted on-line by outraged Kobe fans. I’d also suggest reading this piece in the Post by Eric Wemple: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets.
I’ll be quiet about this now, but I just had to get it off my chest. I can acknowledge that millions of people are sad about the death of their idol. I just think there should be some recognition that the way we treat (male) athletes in our culture means that the people who dare to say no to their desires are publicly shamed and punished.
Some other news stories to check out today:
On the Bolton revelations:
Barbara McQuade at WaPo: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar.
Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone.
Other impeachment news and comment:
Impeachment expert Frank Bowman at The Atlantic: Trump’s Defense Against Subpoenas Makes No Legal Sense.
Jamelle Bouie at NYT: Mitch McConnell’s Complicity Has Deep Roots.
Vetting Bernie Sanders (finally)
David Frum at the Atlantic: Bernie Can’t Win.
Richard North Patterson at the Bulwark: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders.
Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.
Other campaign news:
Politico: Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire.
What stories are you following today?
Lately I’ve been feeling as if I’m treading water, waiting to see what is going to happen with impeachment. I felt that way even before Nancy Pelosi finally decided the time was right to do it. In the past few weeks while she held off on transmitting the articles to the Senate, more evidence has become public, and even yesterday as the articles were delivered more shocking news broke. Now it feels as if the proverbial shit is finally hitting the fan.
Former Giuliani pal Lev Parnas turned over documents to the House and those documents were sent to the Senate along with the impeachment articles and then released to the public. The New York Times interviewed him yesterday: Lev Parnas, Key Player in Ukraine Affair, Completes Break With Trump and Giuliani.
Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman who played a central role in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals of President Trump, completed his break with the White House on Wednesday, asserting for the first time in public that the president was fully aware of the efforts to dig up damaging information on his behalf.
In an interview with The New York Times on the day the House transmitted articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate, Mr. Parnas also expressed regret for having trusted Mr. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and the architect of the Ukraine pressure campaign. His lawyer said he was eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Parnas made his remarks as House impeachment investigators released more material he had turned over to them. The material, including text messages, photos and calendar entries, underscored how deeply Mr. Parnas and others were involved in carrying out the pressure campaign and how new information continues to surface even as the Senate prepares to begin Mr. Trump’s trial next week. And it provided additional evidence that the effort to win political advantage for Mr. Trump was widely known among his allies, showing that Mr. Parnas communicated regularly with two top Republican fund-raisers about what he was up to.
Text messages and call logs show that Mr. Parnas was in contact with Tom Hicks Jr., a donor and Trump family friend, and Joseph Ahearn, who raised money for pro-Trump political groups, about developments in the Ukraine pressure campaign.
In the text messages, Mr. Parnas kept Mr. Hicks and Mr. Ahearn apprised of efforts to disseminate damaging information about targets of Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani, including the United States ambassador to Kyiv, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ukrainians who spread information about Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.
The records seem to expand the circle of people around Mr. Trump who were aware in real time of the pressure campaign. The campaign led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment in the House last month and a Senate trial that will start next week just as the 2020 presidential campaign is moving into high gear.
In the interview with The Times, Mr. Parnas said that although he did not speak with Mr. Trump directly about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.
Parnas also gave an interview to Rachel Maddow. Some of it aired on Maddow’s show last night with more to come tonight. Deadline: Rachel Maddow’s Bombshell Interview With Lev Parnas: Trump Was In The Loop, And So Were Many Others.
Rachel Maddow’s interview with Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani, basically confirmed what House Democrats have been saying all along as they pursued impeachment against Donald Trump: He was very much in the loop.
In Parnas’s words, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He knew all of my movements.”
Given that Parnas described a scheme to shakedown the new Ukrainian government until they announced an investigation of Joe Biden, that means a lot, as he described in detail a pressure campaign that was placed on Ukrainian officials.
An early episode came last spring, when Parnas said that he was enlisted to warn an aide to incoming president Volodymyr Zelensky that if an investigation was not announced, Vice President Mike Pence’s visit for Zelensky’s inauguration would be cancelled. The aide refused, and Pence’s visit was canceled.
“I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president,” Parnas said to Maddow.
He also confirmed other claims made during the impeachment inquiry, including the serious charge that aid to Ukraine was withheld as government officials continued to hold off on announcing a Biden investigation. “It wasn’t just military aid; it was all aid” that was under threat of being withheld, Parnas said.
But Trump’s team is likely to spend the next few days trying to discredit Parnas, who, along with another associate, Igor Furman, was arrested in October on campaign finance charges. As Maddow was playing her interview with Parnas, her Fox News rival Sean Hannity was calling MSNBC the “state run, MSNBC conspiracy channel media.”
More on Parnas documents from Politico: Democrats release more Parnas evidence, including voicemails with Trump associates.
House impeachment investigators released a new set of evidence that was obtained from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani — including voicemails, photos, and text messages between Parnas and high-level figures within Trump’s orbit.
The material includes voicemail messages Parnas received from Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, a prominent Trump-aligned lawyer, both of whom have been identified as players in an effort to force the removal of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, during the spring.
“Hey Lev. VT here. We’ve got a request to talk to the big one,” Toensing said in the April 23, 2019, voicemail message. “So I just wanted to get the latest from you, if I could. I know it’s late there. I’m sorry.”
The timing of the Toensing voicemail coincides with a flurry of activity involving Yovanovitch’s ouster. On April 23, Giuliani tweeted that Ukraine was investigating 2016 election interference, and Trump recalled Yovanovitch from Ukraine on April 24.
The previously undisclosed documents, released late Tuesday night but not publicly noticed, were posted ahead of the House formally sending its impeachment articles to the Senate, underscore the evolving nature of an investigation that House Democrats say is ongoing — and was stifled in its early stages by Trump’s refusal to allow his aides and associates to comply with congressional subpoenas.
The most shocking information that came out of the Parnas documents was the possibility that Trump allies were stalking and perhaps even physically threatening then Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas told Maddow that he didn’t believe that had actually happened and it was just a fantasy created by a “loony” Trump ally Robert Hyde.
Nonetheless, Ukraine has opened an investigation into the possible threat to Yovanovich. NBC News: Ukraine launches probe into alleged surveillance of former U.S. envoy.
Ukraine has launched criminal investigations into the possible illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the reported hacking of Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment.
“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” the Interior Ministry, which runs the police forces, said in a statement.
However, recent reports pointed to the possible violation of Ukrainian and international law, it said.
“Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state,” the statement added….
“Our goal is to investigate whether there actually was a violation of Ukrainian and international law, which could be the subject for proper reaction. Or whether it is just bravado and fake information in the informal conversation between two U.S. citizens,” the ministry said.
Some background on Robert Hyde from The Washington Post: GOP figure who said he tracked U.S. ambassador was previously involuntarily committed, records show.
A Republican congressional candidate and former Marine who suggested last year that he was tracking a U.S. ambassador who had fallen out of favor with President Trump was once involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital after an incident at one of the president’s resorts and is the subject of a restraining order obtained by a political consultant, police and court records show.
On Tuesday, Robert F. Hyde became the latest figure to emerge in the drama surrounding the Trump administration’s recall last year of Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine when his 2019 messages were made public on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial. His exchanges with an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, had been turned over to House Democrats in response to a subpoena.
In the messages to Lev Parnas, Hyde claimed to be in contact with a “private security” team near the embassy in Kyiv and suggested that he had the ambassador under physical and electronic surveillance. “It’s confirmed we have a person inside,” he wrote in March.
On Wednesday, Hyde claimed he had been “joking” in the messages he sent to Parnas.
On his social media accounts, Hyde, a long-shot candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, has posted numerous photos of himself and Trump or members of the president’s family, many of them taken at Trump properties. He appeared grinning with Trump on Easter at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
Among the photos and videos is a picture from a party to which, according to the post, Hyde had taken friends on May 7 at a bowling alley in the White House complex.
The bowling party occurred about a week before police were called to Trump’s Doral resort in Miami-Dade County for a “male in distress fearing for his life,” according to a police report from the incident.
Hyde told officers that he had been “set up and that a hit man was out to get him,” officers wrote. Hyde “spoke about emails he sent that may have placed his life in jeopardy” and said he believed that painters and landscape workers were trying to harm him and that the Secret Service was watching him.
Read more at the links I’ve provided.
I’ve only scratched the surface of today’s news. We have no idea what will happen with impeachment now, except that Mitch McConnell will do his best to protect Trump. He’s planning to shut the media out of the impeachment trial–will he get away with it? It’s beginning to look as if he will have a tough time, as more and more shit hits the media fan. I expect we’ll learn even more today. It’s all going to come out.
Dahlia Lithwick argues that McConnell’s cover-up plan is in big trouble: How Will the Senate Get Away With Its Sham Trial Now?
Interestingly, with an impeachment trial in the Senate raising the stakes perhaps even higher than those for a Supreme Court vacancy, McConnell committed a rare unforced error before Christmas: He proclaimed that Senate Republicans would “be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president.” This essentially amounts to a confession he’d be rigging up a show trial to acquit the president without hearing any material evidence—not exactly what that whole “trial” mechanism is meant to do, legally speaking. Perhaps as a result of that unfortunate admission, McConnell now has to contend with at least a handful of vulnerable Republicans in the Senate who are not perfectly cool with the “we’re coordinating with Trump to get him acquitted super fast” situation. And as such, we enter this historic week of Senate impeachment with at least the wisp of a hope that there might be a fairer trial ahead than anyone could have anticipated.
That slim hope nests in a variety of cozy places, including but not limited to the prospect that Chief Justice John Roberts has some institutional interests in avoiding a kangaroo trial, the fact that the American public has shown some bipartisan interest in hearing actual testimony from actual witnesses, and the fact that the president appears to continue to conflate his personal political ambitions with the national interest, even after being impeached for precisely that conduct in the House. (Maybe this will finally prove to be too much for even the most casual observer?) Plus, newly released documents from Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukraine-gate confederate, Lev Parnas, again confirm that the rough contours of the aid-for-oppo research scheme. But they go even further: The new documents (with more to come) add elements of actual threats to the welfare of a sitting U.S. ambassador, directed by the associates of Trump’s associates, which has implications for Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer. Senate Republicans will need to explain why none of this matters and why they want to know nothing more about the back deals and thuggery that, it is now clearer than ever, were conducted under the president’s directive. That means that there is at least a smidgen of hope wafting off senators like Mitt Romney of Utah, who says he’d like to hear testimony from John Bolton, and Susan Collins of Maine, who says she is possibly open to impeachment witnesses and documents, all of which makes it trickier for McConnell to magic up his dream trial of opening statements leading to closing statements leading to a brisk victory lap-slash-acquittal.
Read the rest at Slate.
I’ll post some more links in the comment thread; it’s so difficult to figure out what to highlight these days. I hope you’ll share the stories you are following too.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I continue to be gobsmacked by exactly how lawless the Trumpist regime has become. Fortunately, Iran decided to signal what it could do to US bases with a warning shot at US Troops rather than providing a full show of force. The second and third order conditions are now playing out. It appears that an Iranian missile may have accidentally taken down that Ukrainian commercial airliner killing all on board.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737–800 en route from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airpot to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, stopped transmitting data Tuesday just minutes after takeoff and not long after Iran launched missiles at military bases housing U.S. and allied forces in neighboring Iraq. The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet, the three officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told Newsweek.
One Pentagon and one U.S senior intelligence official told Newsweek that the Pentagon’s assessment is that the incident was accidental. Iran’s anti-aircraft were likely active following the country’s missile attack, which came in response to the U.S. killing last week of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, sources said.
U.S. Central Command declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Newsweek. No reply was returned from the National Security Council or State Department.
Of the 176 people on board, 82 were Iranian, 63 were Canadian and 11 were Ukrainian (including nine crewmembers), along with 10 Swedish, seven Afghan and three German nationals. None survived.
The Senate is getting anxious to deal with Trump’s impeachment. Here are some of the latest headlines.
Some Democrats in the House and Senate have joined Republicans in recent days in saying it’s time for Pelosi to send the articles to the Senate.
After initially saying in an interview Thursday morning that he thought Pelosi should submit the articles, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., backtracked, tweeting that he “misspoke.”
The initial comments from Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, came as several Democratic senators this week called on Pelosi to send the articles to Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., so the impeachment trial can begin.
“I understand what the speaker is trying to do, basically trying to use the leverage of that to work with Democratic and Republican senators to try to get a reasonable trial, a trial that would actually show evidence, bring out witnesses,” Smith told CNN. “But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate.”
The sticking point continues to be allowing witnesses to Testify that were blocked from testifying before the House. Also, if the Republicans will be able to force the country to go down the Biden/Ukraine conspiracy theory by bringing both Bidens in and subjecting them to the Benghazi treatment
There was no pre-impeachment criminal investigation of Trump’s efforts to compel Ukraine to pursue the alleged corruption of his political opponent. There were no lawyers and FBI investigators interviewing witnesses. There was no grand jury—merely the cumbersome House-committee process. That process didn’t last nine months; it lasted less than three. Rather than produce tens of thousands of documents, the White House and the executive branch withheld almost all those subpoenaed by the House. Likewise, rather than eventually allowing executive-branch witnesses to testify, the White House stonewalled the House inquiry: President Trump successfully frustrated the House’s efforts to hear from witnesses like former White House Counsel Don McGahn and former National Security Adviser John Bolton. And of course, President Trump never told his side of the story under oath.
So, unlike with Clinton, the Trump impeachment investigation is incomplete. Far from being given an exhaustive record on which to make a determination, the Senate has received only part of the story from the House. The Senate is not in the position of wondering whether, for example, John Bolton was truthful in what he has said already. Rather, if he is called to testify, the Senate will hear what he has to say for the first time. The process now isn’t about credibility; it’s about establishing facts.
Senator McConnell’s proffered analogy to the Clinton impeachment is ill-considered, if not disingenuous. While the Senate might, with some justification, have thought that the evidence was complete and that no witnesses were necessary to decide the Clinton matter, it cannot reasonably make the same claim now. Though the analogy of a House impeachment to a grand-jury indictment is rather strained, it does carry a bit of truth: The House has found sufficient evidence to start an impeachment trial, and it is up to the Senate now to conduct a more in-depth inquiry—a trial. Trials are for hearing evidence. That task lies before the Senate.
Clearly, Speaker Pelosi is not impressed by McConnell’s posturing to date.
And, members of both Houses are not impressed with the briefing by the Trumpist regime on the assassination of Soleimani.
Greg Sargent / Washington Post:
Now, in the interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Lee has gone into more alarming detail. Lee reiterated that officials “were unable or unwilling to identify any point” at which they’d come to Congress for authorization for the use of military force.
Trumpist Regime officials warned Congress to not ask too many questions and not to debate war powers. This is really surreal since the Constitution is clear on this. It’s just another pretzel we find ourselves in over the Constitutionality of a lawless president and the people protecting him.
On the eve of a House vote Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Congress not to debate limits to President Donald Trump’s power to strike Iran because doing so might embolden Tehran and hurt U.S. troops, multiple sources tell ABC News.
The suggestion by Esper, in a classified briefing for lawmakers on Wednesday, enraged some members, including Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who swiftly marched to the television cameras following the 75-minute briefing to declare it “insulting.” Lee said the briefing felt like being told to be “good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.”
“I find that absolutely insane,” he said.
Pence is now justifying holding information back from even the Gang of Eight which is virtually unprecedented. The rationale? Congress might compromise methods and sources. That’s rich coming from the shadow of the man whose speech just–and once again–presented highly classified information on sonic weapons under development.
Vice President Mike Pence responded Thursday to lawmakers, including Republicans, who criticized the lack of information shared by the Trump administration during classified congressional briefings on the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying the intelligence was too sensitive to share.
On NBC’s “TODAY,” Pence told Savannah Guthrie that the administration could not provide Congress with some of the “most compelling” intelligence behind the administration’s decision to kill Soleimani because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods.
“Some of that has to do with what’s called sources and methods,” Pence said. “Some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence that we have — it could compromise those sources and methods.”
Pence said “those of us” who were made aware of the intelligence “in real time know that President Trump made the right decision to take Qassem Soleimani off the battlefield.” He added that Soleimani “was planning imminent attacks against American forces.”
In killing Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Trump administration said it launched the attack because of intelligence that showed Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on U.S. personnel. But the administration has yet to make public the evidence behind that assertion and, according to Democratic and two Republican senators, it did not detail that intelligence in a classified setting on Wednesday.
Trump–in a scrum today–mentioned it was because of attacks on the Baghdad Embassy even though it was clear all of that was coming from Iraqi proxies and there is still no real evidence of any actual bigger plans of an attack.
This increasing looks likes Benghazi reaction formation. He doesn’t want to be seen by any one in the same light as Clinton or Obama seriously overreacts at anything that might leak up to what he perceives as their weakness. However, his January speech definitely showed his continual physical and mental decline.
So, I really am revisiting more of those things that I assumed would remain as characteristics of our nation. Clearly, we are not in the position of claiming to be the temperament and thoughtful nation. Maybe it’s because I finally got used to the No Drama Obama model where we sometimes took what seemed like ages to arrive at actions and policy. Now, it’s totally a shoot from the hip of a psychologically and neurologically challenged individual surrounded by End Times Nutters who lie the majority of the time. Fact Checking that speech gave us peek Pinocchio numbers. It’s a very long list. Sit down with a good cup of coffee.
Anyway, I have to prep for a Financial Engineering class I teaching starting next Wednesday so I need to switch from the real weapons of mass destruction to the financial ones (h/t to Warren Buffet). It is quite math and a bit like teaching physics so it’s that too. My hair will be totally gray by the end but at least it’s all good students from seniors to mbas to doctoral students so there’s that. AND, it’s back on the ground at my old University so I will have a G/A. Yippie!
What’s on your reading an blogging list today?
One more day until 2020 begins. Here’s what’s happening right now:
As 2019 draws to a close with “Death to America” is trending on Twitter. The New York Times: Protesters Attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Chanting ‘Death to America.’
BAGHDAD — Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside to express their anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend.
The men did not enter the main embassy buildings and later withdrew from the compound, joining thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside who chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks, covered the walls with graffiti and demanded that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.
The situation remained combustible, with protesters vowing to camp outside the compound indefinitely. Their ability to storm the most heavily guarded zone in Baghdad suggested that they had received at least tacit permission from Iraqi security officials sympathetic to their demands.
The American airstrikes on Sunday have resulted in the most serious political crisis in years for the United States in Iraq, stoking anti-Americanism and handing an advantage to Iran in its competition for influence in the country.
The airstrikes targeted an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States accused of carrying out a missile attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded American and Iraqi service members. A spokesman for the militia denied involvement in the attack.
But the size of the American response — five strikes in Iraq and Syria that killed two dozen fighters and wounded dozens of others — prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum and accusations that the United States had violated Iraqi sovereignty.
Trump is blaming Iran, The Washington Post reports:
President Trump responded angrily Tuesday to the protesters’ actions, charging that Iran was behind a deadly militia attack that led to the airstrikes and blaming Tehran for the embassy siege.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
A spokesman for the Kataib Hezbollah militia said the demonstrators intend to besiege the embassy until the facility shuts down and U.S. diplomats leave Iraq.
But the angry demonstrators defied appeals delivered over loudspeakers by the group’s leaders not to enter the embassy compound and smashed their way into one of the facility’s reception areas, breaking down fortified doors and bulletproof glass and setting fire to the room.
American guards inside the embassy fired tear gas to keep the militia supporters at bay. U.S. troops could be seen nearby and on rooftops, their weapons drawn, but they did not open fire. Embassy civil defense workers just inside the gates attempted to put out the fires with water hoses.
The protesters also smashed security cameras, set two guardrooms ablaze and burned tires. They made a bonfire out of a pile of papers and military MREs (meals ready to eat) found in the reception area, where guards normally search visitors. Kataib Hezbollah flags were draped over the barbed wire protecting the embassy’s high walls.
So much for Trump and Kushner’s plans for peace in the Middle East. And didn’t American taxpayers spend $750 million to make the Baghdad embassy impenetrable?
Here’s a little comic relief from The Daily Beast: Team Trump’s Furious Hunt to Find Out Who ‘Liked’ a Chelsea Clinton Tweet.
On the evening of July 10, 2017, staffers at the U.S. embassy in Brussels—the official office for the ambassador to the European Union—received an unusual call from the seventh floor of the State Department back in Washington. The office of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was irate. Someone in Brussels with access to the mission’s Twitter account had liked the wrong tweet. It had set off alarm bells in Foggy Bottom.
The tweet wasn’t just any tweet. It was one written by Chelsea Clinton and directed at President Donald Trump in a public spat that took the internet by storm.
That week in July, Trump drew criticism for his decision to let his daughter Ivanka fill his seat at the G-20 meeting of top economic powers in Hamburg, Germany. After days of the pile-on, Trump took to Twitter the morning of July 10 to claim his decision to have Ivanka represent the U.S. at the G-20 was “very standard” and that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed. Not more than 15 minutes later, he switched his tenor and began attacking Clinton and the press. “If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother, as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!,” Trump said.
Clinton shot back: “It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not.”
That tweet garnered more than half a million likes, including by the account for the U.S. mission to the European Union. That kickstarted a weeks-long investigation, prompted by the secretary’s office, into who exactly at the Brussels mission had access to the Twitter account and hit “Like” on Clinton’s tweet, according to two former U.S. officials. (Full disclosure: Clinton sits on the board of IAC, The Daily Beast’s parent company.) Nearly 10 people were interviewed about whether they, as administrators of the account, had mistakenly or deliberately pressed the “Like” button. All of them denied any wrongdoing, those sources said. One individual familiar with the exchanges said the secretary of state’s top managers in Washington “wanted blood” and called Brussels numerous times demanding the name of the culprit.
U.S. officials in Belgium were never able to give Tillerson’s office a name and soon after, the embassy restructured the Twitter account and limited access to just two individuals.
The Trumpies know what’s really important–protecting their boss’s fragile ego.
At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent explains why Mitch McConnell is counting on the political media to help him protect Trump in a fraudulent impeachment trial: Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump’s impeachment defenses.
If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.
But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.
McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.
That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.
The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.
Please go read the rest at the link. It’s long but important.
I’ve been pretty successfully ignoring the news during these two holiday weeks, except for when I’ve had a blog post to write. Susan Glasser of The New Yorker had more trouble doing that, and now she has found a word to describe life in Trumpworld: Our Year of Trumpschmerz.
So much for the holidays. In the quiet of Christmas and New Year’s, the President of the United States has repeatedly attacked “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi and her family, inveighed against the “bogus Impeachment Scam” and circulated the alleged name of the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint triggered it, retweeted an account that described former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim Scum,” hosted the accused war criminal he recently pardoned over the objections of military leaders, and promoted a post calling himself “the best President of all time.” He even accused the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, of personally ordering Canadian television to cut a seven-second snippet of the schmaltzy Christmas movie “Home Alone 2” that features Trump, an accusation the President refused to retract, although it was quickly proven that the scene was one of many edited out as a time-saver back in 2014, long before either Trudeau or Trump was anywhere close to power.
Even now, three years into the Trump Presidency, there is no language to fully capture the madness of all this, though many of my journalistic colleagues have gone to great lengths to record and codify just how disturbingly nutty 2019 has been. The Washington Post reports that Trump ended the year having made more than fifteen thousand four hundred false and misleading statements since his inauguration. CNN’s “Inside Politics” produced a four-page, single-spaced list of all the people and institutions Trump has attacked by name this year. There are online trackers for the unprecedented levels of turnover in Trump’s Administration and for the rapidly proliferating array of lawsuits involving Trump’s assertions of sweeping executive authority. By any measure, 2019 will go down as a remarkable year in the annals of the American Presidency: Trump began it by causing the longest-ever federal government shutdown in history, after Congress refused to spend billions on his proposed border wall, and ended it as only the third President in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
Glasser searched for a word to encompass the horrors of living in Trump’s world.
There must be one of those long German words for all that soul-sickening worry, right? Some tortured mouthful of consonants that captures the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity of Washington in the age of Trump? I asked my friend, the German scholar and writer Constanze Stelzenmüller, an astute observer of Trumpism at the Brookings Institution and especially of its toxic effect on the troubled transatlantic relationship. She said that, even in Trump-skeptical Berlin, there was no single, widely accepted word that describes this phenomenon but gamely offered up her own stab at it. The word she came up with is “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz.”
Her word has pretty much everything that has come to characterize this uniquely dysfunctional moment in America’s troubled capital: Trump and his Administration (“regierung” means government); the slow-motion car crash of constant controversies (“schlamassel”); and the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all (“schmerz”). Sure, it’s a mouthful, but that’s the point: there should be one word that sums up the Trumpian disruption we are experiencing, not merely a jumble of different ones. It’s the tweets and the other stuff, too: the endless attacks on enemies, real and imagined; the torrent of lies; the eroding of the basic functions of government; and the formerly unimaginable assault on our institutions. It’s impeachment and the Mueller Report and migrant children in cages, the bullying of allies, and the lavish praise of adversaries. It’s the uncertainty and worry that comes with all of the above.
On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche. There is no taking a vacation from it. I confess that I have not yet figured out how to pronounce this unwieldy linguistic invention that so deftly captures our national Trump-soul-sickness. Luckily, I received a follow-up e-mail from Constanze, in which she proposed a shortened version that gets right to the angsty, anxious point: If “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz” is too much, she said, you can just use “Trumpschmerz.” Either way, in German or in English, it’s my nominee for the word of the year in 2019. I suspect it will be in 2020 as well.
And with that I’ll turn the floor over to you, Sky Dancers. What stories are you following, if any?
I have a sense this morning of living in an insane, out-of-control world. I’m sure I’m not alone. Last night, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. While he was being impeached, Trump ranted for more than two hours at one of his Hitler-style rallies. Even the audience couldn’t handle it–people were streaming out of the rally as he incoherently shouted out inane, childish insults.
The New York Times Editorial Board: Trump Has Been Impeached. Republicans Are Following Him Down.
On Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives impeached the president of the United States. A magnificent and terrible machine engineered by the founders, still and silent through almost all of American history, has for only the third time in 231 years shifted into motion, to consider whether Congress must call a president to account for abuse of power.
So why does it all seem so banal? The outcome so foreordained?
Most people say they know what’s going to happen, and who are we to say they’re wrong? The House voted to impeach Donald Trump by a party-line vote, with the exception of three Democrats representing Trump-friendly districts who voted against at least one article of impeachment. In the next month or two, the Senate will almost surely acquit him, also on a party-line vote.
It isn’t supposed to be this way. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the intense — really, infantilizing — degree of polarization that has overwhelmed American politics across the past 40 years. But the nihilism of this moment — the trashing of constitutional safeguards, the scorn for facts, the embrace of corruption, the indifference to historical precedent and to foreign interference in American politics — is due principally to cowardice and opportunism on the part of Republican leaders who have chosen to reject their party’s past standards and positions and instead follow Donald Trump, all the way down.
It’s a lot to ask of Republicans to insist on holding their own leader accountable, just as that was a lot to expect of Democrats during the Clinton impeachment inquiry. But while many Democrats then criticized President Bill Clinton and some voted to impeach him, Republican lawmakers would not breathe a word against Mr. Trump on Wednesday.
It looks like Nancy Pelosi has more tricks up her sleeve: The Washington Post: Pelosi says House may withhold impeachment articles, delaying Senate trial.
Moments after a historic vote to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House could at least temporarily withhold the articles from the Senate — a decision, she suggested, that could depend on how the other chamber chooses to conduct its trial on Trump’s removal.
“We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” she said, referring to the House “managers” who present the case for removal to the Senate. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”
The comments came as a group of House Democrats pushed Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders to withhold the articles — a notion that has gained traction among some on the political left as a way of potentially forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to conduct a trial on more favorable terms for Democrats. And if no agreement is reached, some have argued, the trial could be delayed indefinitely, denying Trump an expected acquittal.
Pelosi would not answer questions about whether she was entertaining an indefinite hold on the articles — one that could prevent a trial from taking place before the next presidential election.
“We’re not having that discussion,” she said, adding that it “would have been our intention” to send the articles forthwith, “but we’ll see what happens over there.”
President Donald Trump’s response to the House of Representatives’ approval of two articles of impeachment against him was, in some respects, even uglier than could’ve reasonably been anticipated. And given Trump’s track record, that’s saying something.
At the exact moment the House approved the first article of impeachment, Trump was 600 miles away at a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, telling a relatively innocuous, absurd tale he’s repeatedly told about how the military’s stealth planes are literally invisible.
Things took a darker turn from there, however. Instead of backing away from the conspiracy theories about the Bidens that are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Trump leaned into them, at one point claiming that if he did what the Bidens have done, “they’d bring the electric chair back.” Though that said more about his sense of victimization by House Democrats, its underlying assumption is that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter did something criminal. But the bad optics of Hunter Biden serving in a lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time as his father was involved in Ukraine policy aside, there’s not a shred of evidence supporting Trump’s claims.
At other points during the rally, Trump basked in “lock her up!” chants directed at Hillary Clinton, and suggested she might end up behind bars. (The crowd also directed “lock her up” chants at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in the night, when Vice President Mike Pence was on stage.) He heaped scorn on the Democrat who oversaw the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings, chair Adam Schiff, calling him “not the best looking guy I’ve ever seen,” and on former FBI Director James Comey, saying “Did I do a great job when I fired his ass?”
Olivia Nuzzi at New York Magazine: Rep. Debbie Dingell Responds to Trump Suggesting Her Late Husband Is in Hell.
As Donald Trump told a crowd in Battle Creek that the deceased Michigan Representative John Dingell might be in hell, his widow Debbie Dingell, who occupies his former seat, was back in Washington on the House floor as Democrats voted to impeach him.
“Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump said, “So, she calls me up, like, eight months ago — her husband was here a long time.” It was actually Trump who called Dingell after her husband’s death in February.
In a series of unfinished sentences and odd impersonations, Trump went on to claim that Debbie had asked for special treatment to honor John, requesting that flags be lowered and that he lie in state in the Capitol rotunda, which never happened.
“But I didn’t give him the B treatment,” Trump said. “I didn’t give him the C or the D — I could’ve. I gave the A-plus treatment.” As if to impersonate Debbie, he said, “Take down the flags.” Then, in a voice that suggested someone else asked him the question, he said, “Why you taking them down?” He answered the question in his own voice, “For ex-Congressman Dingell.” Then he assumed the other character, “Oh, okay.” Then he was Debbie again, “Do this, do that, do that. Rotunda.”
“Everything,” he said, “I gave him everything. That’s okay. I don’t want anything for it. I don’t need anything for anything. She calls me up, ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much, John would be so thrilled, he’s looking down, he’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.’ I said that’s okay, don’t worry about it. Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe.”
Trump is a deranged monster and he’s in the most powerful job in the world.
Here’s a piece by Jonathan Chait that could only have appeared in the Onion three years ago: Vladimir Putin, Director of Influential Pro-Trump Super-PAC, Endorses Reelection.
President Trump has worked hard to hold key elements of his electoral coalition, and today his campaign received a major though expected boost when Russian president Vladimir Putin announced his support. “I don’t think Trump will be voted out of power on made-up charges,” the Russian strongman told reporters in Moscow Thursday. “Democrats lost the last election, and now they want to win by other means.”
Putin effectively runs a pro-Trump super-PAC. In 2016, his government developed a strong preference for Trump’s election, which it supported through targeted social media, a spattering of rallies and, most effectively, an email-hacking operation against his opposition. A close ally of Putin’s has reportedly financed efforts by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, Trump’s leading opponent at the moment.
Putin obviously stands to lose a great deal if Trump fails to win a second term. While Trump was only able to delay but not stop a package of military aid to Ukraine that passed by veto-proof margins, he has taken a number of pro-Russian positions out of character with other U.S. politicians. Betsy Swan reports that Trump is currently opposing a bill sanctioning Russia for its attacks on Ukraine and interference in the U.S. election. He has also withheld diplomatic support for Ukraine, which would give that country leverage in its peace negotiations with Russia, and pleaded the case for readmitting Russia at G7 summits. Trump has previously repeated strange Russian talking points, such as that NATO is a bad idea because Montenegro is aggressive and might attack Russia, and that the USSR had to invade Afghanistan to repel terrorist attacks.
Read the rest at New York Magazine.
This is interesting. Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s most loyal supporters is not running for reelection. The Washington Post:
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of President Trump’s closest allies and staunchest defenders in Congress, announced Thursday that he would not seek reelection next year but would instead stay “in the fight” with Trump in an unspecified role.
“For everything there is a season,” Meadows said in a statement. “After prayerful consideration and discussion with family, today I’m announcing that my time serving Western North Carolina in Congress will come to a close at the end of this term.”
Meadows, a former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who has served in Congress since 2013, is the 25th House Republican to announce he will not seek reelection next year, according to a tally by the House Press Gallery.
Meadows, 60, was considered for the position of Trump’s chief of staff last year, but Trump ultimately told him that he would like him to remain on Capitol Hill.
Maybe Trump is planning to dump Mulvaney for Meadows?
Tonight seven white candidates will appear in a <a href=”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/19/us/politics/when-december-democratic-debate.html” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Democratic presidential debate</a>. Not one of of those candidates is someone I can vote for in the primary. I don’t know if I’ll even watch the infernal thing. It feels like a nightmare to me.
But hope springs eternal. Kamala Harris, who has left the race will now be able to focus her attention on the Senate trial. She fired opening shots in an op-ed at The New York Times this morning: Kamala Harris: Will McConnell Let the Senate Hold a Fair Impeachment Trial?
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump. That means that sometime early in the new year, I will take an oath on the Senate floor to uphold the Constitution, review evidence and follow the facts wherever they lead, regardless of party or ideology. Every one of my colleagues will be required to do the same.
As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of holding powerful people accountable. I know that every trial requires fairness and truth. Having worked my whole life serving the people, I know that any trial that abandons the pursuit of truth cannot be considered fair or just.
But the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, appears more interested in covering up the president’s misconduct than in pursuing truth and fairness. He is already trying to limit the impeachment trial by preventing witnesses from testifying, and he has all but announced a verdict. In doing so, he showed the American people that he has no intention of honoring his oath.
Let’s be clear: Mr. McConnell doesn’t want a Senate trial. He wants a Senate cover-up.
Fortunately, Mr. McConnell does not have the power to unilaterally undermine this trial. Every single senator will be empowered with an equal vote on how the trial will proceed. Though in just the past year, Mr. McConnell has used his position to unilaterally block legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, lower the prices of prescription drugs and address the gun violence epidemic, he cannot wield the same authority in a Senate impeachment trial.
Read the rest at the NYT.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?