Posted: December 8, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, liability protections for corporations, Mitch McConnell, Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed, Pfizer vaccine, Rudy Giuliani, safe harbor deadline, Trump pardon spree
As Trump continues his coup attempt and Mitch McConnell continues to block relief for struggling Americans, Covid-19 is ravaging our country.
The New York Times: The U.S. has recorded its most Covid-19 deaths in a week.
With a seven-day average of 2,249 deaths, the country broke the previous mark of 2,232 set on April 17 in the early weeks of the pandemic. Seven-day averages can provide a more accurate picture of the virus’s progression than daily death counts, which can fluctuate and disguise the broader trend line.
The United States is approaching 300,000 total deaths, with nearly 283,000 recorded, according to a New York Times database. The nation is averaging nearly 200,000 cases per day, an increase of 15 percent from the average two weeks earlier, and has recorded over than 15 million total cases.
Much has changed since the previous peak in April. The coronavirus is no longer concentrated in big urban areas like New York City and now envelops much of the country, including rural areas that had avoided it for several months.
Many of the hardest-hit counties on a per person basis are now in the Midwest. North Dakota, where one in every 10 residents has contracted the virus, has the highest total reported cases by population, followed closely by South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
The latest wave to hit the United States has hospitalized record numbers. Each day since Dec. 2, more than 100,000 Covid-19 patients were in hospitals. That far surpasses the number of people hospitalized during the peaks spring and summer, which at their worst had nearly 60,000 Americans in the hospital daily.
The new peak also comes as the nation prepares for holiday celebrations, and as colder temperatures may push people to congregate indoors. Infectious-disease experts have warned that trends in the United States, which reported a record 2,885 deaths on Wednesday, could continue to worsen over the next several weeks.
We are getting closer to a vaccine, and the FDA has found that the Pfizer vaccine “worked well” after the first dose “regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age.” But yesterday The New York Times revealed that there most likely won’t have enough to go around: Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered months ago to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses.
Before Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was proved highly successful in clinical trials last month, the company offered the Trump administration the chance to lock in supplies beyond the 100 million doses the pharmaceutical maker agreed to sell the government as part of a $1.95 billion deal months ago.
But the administration, according to people familiar with the talks, never made the deal, a choice that now raises questions about whether the United States allowed other countries to take its place in line.
As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans on Tuesday to issue an executive order that proclaims that other nations will not get the U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated.
But the order appears to have no real teeth and does not expand the U.S. supply of doses, according to a description of the order on Monday by senior administration officials.
Read more details at the link.
On Trump’s executive order, Politico reports: ‘I literally don’t know’: Operation Warp Speed scientist can’t explain Trump’s vaccine order.
The chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was unable to explain President Donald Trump’s latest executive order Tuesday, which aims to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries.
Moncef Slaoui, who Trump tapped in May to head up the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, appeared puzzled when asked to clarify the president’s order during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this. I can’t comment,” Slaoui said. “I literally don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” asked anchor George Stephanopoulos.
“Yes,” Slaoui said.
“But you’re the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed,” Stephanopoulos pressed.
“Our work is, you know, rolling,” Slaoui replied. “We have plans. We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don’t know exactly what this order is about.”
Indeed, it remains unclear how Trump’s executive order would be enforced, as drugmakers are already making agreements to deliver supplies for other countries.
Slaoui was similarly dismissive when asked about the executive order in another interview Tuesday, telling Fox News that “what the White House is doing is what the White House is doing.”
The incompetence would be funny if it weren’t going to kill people.
The Washington Post: Pfizer tells U.S. officials it cannot supply substantial additional vaccine until late June or July.
Pfizer has told the Trump administration it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply, according to multiple individuals familiar with the situation.
That means the U.S. government may not be able to ramp up as rapidly as it had expected from the 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that it purchased earlier this year, raising questions about whether it can keep to its aggressive schedule to vaccinate most Americans by late spring or early summer.\Trump administration officials denied there would be availability issues in the second quarter, citing other vaccines in the pipeline — most immediately, Moderna’s, also expected to be approved in coming weeks. Both vaccines are two-dose regimens, so the 100 million doses purchased of each would cover 50 million people each.
“I’m not concerned about our ability to buy vaccines to offer to all of the American public,” Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the government’s initiative to expedite vaccine development, said in an interview Monday. “It’s clear that Pfizer made plans with other countries. Many have been announced. We understand those pieces.”
But several officials knowledgeable about the contracts said that supplies from other companies may be insufficient to fill the gap.
Let’s hope the Biden administration will be able to deal with the mess that Trump is leaving them.
Trump and his buddies continue to flaunt warnings about wearing masks and social distancing to prevent spreading the virus. Of course these people will get the best treatments, while others whom they expose may not. The Daily Beast: Rudy Giuliani’s COVID Case Shows There’s No Vaccine to Treat the Disease the GOP Has Become.
Trump’s lawyer needs a doctor. If you saw him gallivanting across the country for the past month trying to overturn the election, it should come as no surprise to you that Rudy Giuliani, once revered as “America’s Mayor,” was hospitalized for COVID-19 this week.
Giuliani, a potential one-man superspreader whose recent visit forced the entire Arizona legislature to close up shop, is being treated at Georgetown University Medical Center. For the rich and powerful, there’s always room at the inn. Or hospital. And while we all hope for his speedy recovery, this is the latest sign that a pattern of privilege has emerged. It goes like this: Having tempted fate by refusing to social distance or wear masks, Trump and his team contract the virus. Next, they receive world-class medical treatment. Last, they quickly recover.
It’s not a victimless advantage. Their miraculous recovery reinforces the resentment of every hoohaw who won’t wear a mask and throws a fit at a bar in Staten Island because last call comes early at 10 p.m. The problem with these quick recoveries is that they demonstrate (to people who are the most susceptible to this message) that COVID-19 isn’t really a big deal.
Trump said yesterday that Giuliani is doing well and doesn’t have a fever. Then why is he in the hospital? I’m 73. Would I be hospitalizes with mild symptoms and no fever?
Meanwhile, there’s still no stimulus coming from Congress; and the one they are working on doesn’t include checks to help us regular folks, but it does include liability protections for corporations that force people to work in unsafe conditions. John Nichols at The Nation:
What the United States desperately needs is a multitrillion-dollar stimulus package to provide the resources to fight the current coronavirus surge, to provide for the unemployed and underemployed, to keep small businesses and small farms afloat, to fund state and local governments and schools, and to organize and implement the distribution of the vaccines that are vital to ending the current crisis.
What the United States does not need is a massive corporate bailout that allows the wealthiest and most powerful businesses in this country to avoid liability for actions they take that sicken and kill Americans.
Unfortunately, that is what Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his minions have been battling to include in a new Covid-19 “relief” package. And key Democrats could end up going along with the grim reaper’s ghoulish scheme as he again uses federal legislation to insulate irresponsible CEOs from accountability—and, conveniently, to reward the business interests that fund Republican campaigns.
Exploiting the sense of urgency over the peaking pandemic and the prospect of what President-elect Joe Biden refers to as a “long dark winter” for working families, McConnell and his colleagues have for months held relief proposals hostage over the issue of a so-called “liability shield.” Such a shield—even if it is limited, even if it is only temporary—would give corporations immunity from lawsuits related to Covid-19.
Considering the stark evidence of irresponsibility on the part of US corporations since the pandemic hit, the proposal is absurd. Yet the “COVID Emergency Relief Framework” scheme that was initially proposed by corporate-aligned centrists in Congress but has now attracted backing from leading congressional Republicans and Democrats proposes just such a liability shield. The one-page outline of the plan released last week includes among its proposals: “Provide short term federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response.”
Click the link to read the rest.
Today could be the last day for Trump’s stupid coup attempt. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Trump’s Desperate Effort To Overturn The Election Is Running Out Of Time.
Tuesday marks the “safe harbor” deadline — the date when states must certify results if they want protection under federal election law against Congress stepping in to decide which candidate gets their electoral votes. The fact that lawsuits are pending won’t prevent states from getting the benefits of certifying results by that date, according to election law experts. Judges are already wary of injecting legal uncertainty into the election and causing chaos and will be even more reluctant to do so after the deadline passes.
“The doors close significantly after the safe harbor deadline passes,” said Rebecca Green, codirector of the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School. “It’s going to be a heavy lift to convince a judge to defy federal deadlines. I think it would only happen or be successful if some kind of wild evidence of just unbelievable scale were unearthed that was credible.”
Trump’s campaign has conceded that the Dec. 8 deadline is key to the fate of its legal challenges. It has pushed courts to rush to consider cases by then. In the campaign’s failed constitutional challenge to Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Trump’s lawyers argued on Nov. 22 that it was “critically important” for a federal appeals court to hear the case before the deadline, which at that point was 16 days away. The court agreed to expedite the case and ruled against Trump in a 3–0 decision just five days later.
Read more at Buzzfeed.
Coming soon: the Trump pardon spree. Once again, this would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous. Axios: Trump plots mass pardons, even to people not asking.
President Trump isn’t just accepting pardon requests but blindly discussing them “like Christmas gifts” to people who haven’t even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios.
Behind the scenes: Trump recently told one adviser he was going to pardon “every person who ever talked to me,” suggesting an even larger pardon blitz to come. As with most Trump conversations, the adviser wasn’t sure how seriously to take the president — although Trump gave no indication he was joking.
The big picture: The president relishes his unilateral authority to issue get-out-of-jail-free cards. Lately, though, he’s been soliciting recipients, asking friends and advisers who they think he should pardon.
Trump has also interrupted conversations to spontaneously suggest that he add the person he’s speaking with to his pardon list, these sources said.
Finally, at The Washington Post, Michael Luttig, a former judge writes: No, President Trump can’t pardon himself.
The pardon clause’s language is broad indeed, unambiguously allowing the president to pardon seemingly any other person convicted for any federal criminal offense. But its language does not unambiguously include the president himself. Had the Framers intended to give the president such broad power, we would expect them to have clearly said so. After all, the new nation was in the process of rejecting a monarchical government in favor of a democratic republic.
Instead, the words they chose to confer the pardon power on the president contemplate his granting of reprieves and pardons only to persons other than himself. The word “grant” connotes a gift, bestowal, conferral or transfer by one person to another — not to himself. That would have been the understanding of this word at the time of the Constitution’s drafting, and it is how the term “grant” was understood and is used elsewhere in the Constitution.
At the same time, the “take care” argument against the power to self-pardon merely assumes the very conclusion it reaches: that the pardon clause does not empower the president to pardon himself, and therefore that his self-pardon would be irreconcilable with his responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. This begs the question just as much as the textual argument made for self-pardons. If the Constitution allows a president to pardon himself, there could be no argument that in pardoning himself the president was not faithfully executing the laws.
Read the full argument at the WaPo.
Hang in there Sky Dancers! We just have to survive 43 more days of this insanity until the Inauguration.
Posted: November 24, 2020 Filed under: 2020 Elections, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus vaccines, Donald Trump, GSA, presidential transition, Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Rush Limbaugh, SCOTUS, Trump legal team
We have to survive 57 more days of Trump insanity–along with the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic–between now and January 20, 2021. At least Trump finally agreed to let the official presidential transition begin–but he’s still refusing to give Joe Biden access to the government’s vaccine plans.
The New York Times: Trump Administration Approves Start of Formal Transition to Biden.
President Trump’s government on Monday authorized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner, a strong sign that the president’s last-ditch bid to overturn the results of the election was coming to an end.
Mr. Trump did not concede, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved fruitless. But the president said on Twitter on Monday night that he accepted the decision by Emily W. Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, to allow a transition to proceed.
In his tweet, Mr. Trump said that he had told his officials to begin “initial protocols” involving the handoff to Mr. Biden “in the best interest of our country,” even though he had spent weeks trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud. Hours later, he tried to play down the significance of Ms. Murphy’s action, tweeting that it was simply “preliminarily work with the Dems” that would not stop efforts to change the election results.
Still, Ms. Murphy’s designation of Mr. Biden as the apparent victor provides the incoming administration with federal funds and resources and clears the way for the president-elect’s advisers to coordinate with Trump administration officials.
Trump had to be talked into allowing the transition to begin.
Mr. Trump had been resisting any move toward a transition. But in conversations in recent days that intensified Monday morning, top aides — including Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel; and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer — told the president the transition needed to begin. He did not need to say the word “concede,” they told him, according to multiple people briefed on the discussions….
Some of the advisers drafted a statement for the president to issue. In the end, Mr. Trump did not put one out, but aides said the tone was similar to his tweets in the evening, in which he appeared to take credit for Ms. Murphy’s decision to allow the transition to begin.
“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
This morning, NBC News published an op-ed by Sen. Chris Murphy: As Trump’s GSA begins election transition, Biden needs access to Covid-19 vaccine plans.
At the very moment President-elect Joe Biden will take the reins of government, the federal government will be in the early stages of implementing the most complicated, most expensive and most important mass vaccination program in our nation’s history. On Monday, General Services Administration signaled that it is ready to begin the formal transition process. There is not a moment to lose….
…vaccines don’t protect people; vaccinations do. And the effort to make sure that every person in America, as soon as possible, gets vaccinated, is a logistical project on par with than anything the American health care system has ever accomplished. Trump’s teams at Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have begun to develop and implement this system, but it will be barely up and running by Jan. 20. That means that there must be an errorless transition of responsibility from Trump’s team to Biden’s team. And yet for weeks, Trump’s team refused to allow Biden’s transition team access to the plan. Hopefully, the GSA’s announcement means this will change. But we cannot just assume it will happen.
As leaders of Operation Warp Speed, the coalition of federal agencies overseeing the plan for vaccine distribution, told the Senate last week, Trump had been blocking them from communicating at all with the Biden-Harris transition team. Why? Because of Trump’s petulant crusade against reality. Indeed, Trump is still refusing to accept the election results, hoping that desperate lawsuits and the bullying of local elections officials will somehow allow him to remain in office despite the fact that he lost the election convincingly.
Murphy believes the Trump plans are inadequate and Biden will need to make changes. Read Murphy’s detailed recommendations at NBC News.
Trump may have been talked into allowing the formal transition to begin, but he’s still obsessed with proving the election was fraudulent. Now that his many lawsuits have been thrown out of court for lack of evidence, he is becoming concerned that his crazy legal team is making him look bad. As if he hadn’t already done that to himself.
NBC News: Behind the scenes, Trump frustrated with his legal team’s maneuvers.
While President Donald Trump has publicly praised his legal team’s efforts, he has privately expressed frustration with the slapdash nature of his election defense fight, according to several people familiar with the discussions.
The president has been complaining to aides and allies about his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and recently-removed lawyer Sidney Powell’s over-the-top performances at a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters last week, these people said. Both Giuliani and Powell have continued to make conspiratorial and baseless claims about widespread voter fraud, for which they have provided no evidence.
The president is concerned his team is comprised of “fools that are making him look bad,” said one source familiar with the thinking. Asked why he would not fire them, this person replied, in essence, who knows?
The president grew less impressed with Powell over the weekend, as she continued to make outlandish comments, including falsely accusing Georgia’s Republican governor and its secretary of state of being part of a scheme to alter votes.
That ultimately led to the terse statement the Trump campaign put out Sunday night on behalf of Giuliani and senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis: “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity,” it read.
Trump was also not pleased with the optics of the brown substance, presumed to be hair dye or a makeup product, dripping down Giuliani’s face during the nearly two-hour news conference Thursday, according to one of the sources familiar with the president’s reaction.
Even Rush Limbaugh is complaining about the “legal team.” Earth to Trump: you chose these morons. Only the best people, right?
Elie Honig at CNN: Trump’s bizarro-world ‘elite strike force’ legal challenge is about to implode.
Just moments after a federal judge issued a blistering rebuke of their evidence-free, legally-confused effort to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump’s legal team flailed to spin the crushing loss as some sort of bizarro-world victory. Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis claimed in a statement that the dismissal “turns out to help us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the US Supreme Court.”
But if the Trump campaign’s legal team is counting on the Supreme Court to save them, they’re delusional. In this case, and in the larger effort to contest the outcome of the 2020 election, Trump’s team is just about out of runway.
In a news conference laden with false statements and incomprehensible legal claims, Ellis labeled Trump’s legal team an “elite strike force.” But their utter failure to uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud, or to articulate a coherent legal theory, suggests otherwise. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a staunch Trump political ally — more aptly called Trump’s legal team a “national embarrassment.” The Trump team later distanced itself from Sidney Powell, an attorney on Trump’s legal team, after she spread conspiracy theories about the election.
Indeed, Saturday’s ruling by federal judge Matthew Brann — an appointee of President Barack Obama who previously held various positions in Pennsylvania’s Republican party — is one of the harshest rebukes I’ve ever seen from any judge. Brann heaped scorn on the Trump campaign’s “strained legal arguments” which, he noted, are “without merit … and unsupported by evidence.” He ridiculed one of the Trump team’s primary constitutional claims as a “Frankenstein monster.” And Brann noted that the Trump campaign position, if adopted, would “disenfranchise almost seven million voters.”
There’s much more at the CNN link. I seriously doubt that even the most extreme SCOTUS justices are going to want to touch the Trump cases with a ten-foot pole.
And then there’s Trump’s crazy pal Roger Stone. The Daily Beast: Roger Stone-Tied Group Threatens GOP: If Trump Goes Down, So Does Your Senate Majority.
Conservative operatives and a super PAC with ties to infamous GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone are calling for Trump supporters to punish Republicans by sitting out Georgia’s crucial Senate runoffs or writing in Trump’s name instead. And though their efforts remains on the party’s fringes, the trajectory of the movement has Republicans fearful that it could cost the GOP control of the Senate.
The most aggressive call to boycott or cast protest ballots in the two runoff races has, so far, come from a dormant pro-Trump super PAC with ties to Stone, which unveiled a new initiative to retaliate against the Republican Party’s supposed turncoats by handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.
The group, dubbed the Committee for American Sovereignty, unveiled a new website encouraging Georgia Republicans to write in Trump’s name in both of the upcoming Senate runoff elections, which could determine the party that controls the upper chamber during President-elect Joe Biden’s first two years in office. The PAC argued that doing so will show support for the president in addition to forcing Republicans to address the wild election-fraud conspiracy theories floated by Trump supporters and members of his own legal team.
“If we can do this, we have a real chance at getting these RINO senators to act on the illegitimate and corrupt election presided over by a Democrat party that is invested in the Communist takeover of Our Great Nation,” the group wrote on its new website, writeintrumpforgeorgiasenate.com. “We will not stop fighting for you, the American Patriot, against the evils of Socialism and inferior Religions.”
The effort is representative of a broader push among some of President Trump’s most devoted supporters to withhold support for the two Georgia Republican senators facing competitive runoff challenges, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in the hope of leveraging the party’s fear of losing the U.S. Senate to get more establishment backing for their drive to change the result of the election. The goal, those operatives say, is to expose a supposed vast election fraud conspiracy abetted by high-level Republicans in Georgia’s state government, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Can we survive 57 more days of this insanity? I guess if we got through four years of it, we can hang on a bit longer–but it won’t be easy.
Take care, Sky Dancers! Enjoy your Tuesday in whatever way works best for you. I plan to read a novel and take a nap this afternoon. Please check in with us in the comments if you have the time and inclination.
Posted: November 21, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, failed coup attempt, remaining norms Trump could break, Rudy Giuliani, Trump has lost it
Mary Fedden, Cat along the shore
I’m not too with it these days. I’ve had a nagging cold for a couple of weeks now and it isn’t going away. I’m afraid it might be turning into a sinus infection. I’ve been trying to keep up with the posts and comments as best I can. I got a coronavirus test last week just in case. It was negative. Anyway, I’m going to call my doctor’s office again on Monday if I don’t feel better. I just thought I’d let you know why I haven’t been commenting as much as usual.
Trump is still trying to stage a half-baked coup. Here’s the latest on that pathetic story.
At The Daily Beast, William Bredderman provides a summary of Trump’s recent attempts to reverse the election results: The Desperate Final Gasps of Team Trump’s Flailing ‘Mini-Coup’
The past week saw Team Trump piling up losses and running out of road.
The campaign dropped its lawsuit to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan, while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the campaign’s claim that COVID-19 restrictions had deprived GOP observers of their right to monitor the postal vote count.
Cat on the carpet, Gleb Baranov
Then, on Thursday night, with just four days remaining before both Michigan and Pennsylvania certify their results, Rudolph Giuliani and local lawyer Marc Scaringi dropped a wild new brief in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Probably the most audacious of the dozens of legal Hail Marys the campaign and Republican interests have hurled into the end zone since Election Night, the filing argues that the campaign’s constitutional rights have been violated and asks the judge to declare Trump the winner of the Keystone State’s 20 electoral college votes.
But, according to Charles Fried, solicitor general under Ronald Reagan, this brief’s legal claim hangs almost entirely on a single word: “meaningful”—as in the “meaningful observation of the canvassing of mail ballots.” The professor at Harvard Law School told The Daily Beast that, in this context, ”meaningful” has no meaning at all.
The suit makes essentially the same argument that the state Supreme Court rejected: that observers in several counties could not get as near to the tabulation as they wanted. Now, at the federal level, they argue the system in Pennsylvania violated the campaign’s due process rights under the 14th Amendment by denying them “meaningful” access.
According to Fried, however, “meaningful” has no legal definition, nor is it adequately described in the legal team’s filings.
“There’s no allegation here. It’s just an unsubstantiated claim, which was thrown out in several courts,” he told The Daily Beast. “And now they’ve gone to federal court. Why should the result be any different?”
Fried described this latest tack as “garbage”—the same way he characterized the Trump team’s legal efforts two weeks ago, before the campaign shed several attorneys and took on Giuliani and Scaringi.
Read more details about Trump’s garbage lawsuits at the link.
Dog and Cat, Alex Colville
Also from The Daily Beast, by Asawin Suabsaeng and Sam Stein: Team Trump Leaders, Including Campaign Manager Bill Stepien, Have No Faith in Rudy.
While Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani embarks on a quixotic and potentially destructive effort to reverse the results of the 2020 election, much of the president’s official campaign apparatus wants to disown it.
Several officials in leadership positions on Trump’s re-election team, including campaign manager Bill Stepien, have recently told associates they have zero faith in Giuliani, and are currently waiting for what they view as a doomed, haphazard legal fight to burn out and end, according to four sources with knowledge of the situation.
One Trumpadviser called the current strategy a “dead end,” and said Giuliani’s high-profile attempts at drumming up legal obstacles to the certification of Biden’s election amounted to a “hostile takeover of the campaign.”
“The obvious thing is, this is a shitshow,” the adviser said. “When the Rudy show started, that was a sidelining of everyone else. At that point, it became an issue of going through the motions and the recognition of, ‘OK, this is definitely over because we don’t have a chance with… these conspiracy theories.’”
But Trump apparently thinks what Rudy is doing is just ducky.
The sense of resignation felt privately by a chunk of the Trump campaign operation is at odds with the president’s personal assessment of how his long-shot efforts to recapture a second term are going.
by Orovida Camille Pissarro
As of Friday night, two sources close to the president said he remained intensely invested and personally supportive of Giuliani’s legal challenges. It was presumed among campaign staff that he was thrilled with his team’s now-infamous press conference on Thursday, in which Giuliani, and two other allied lawyers—Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis—presented a smorgasbord of wild conspiracy theories about election fraud, including a lengthy explanation of how anti-Trump Venezuelan villains supposedly worked to rob Trump of legal votes. And, for that reason, there was little appetite for anyone to say anything questioning the current approach—at least with their name attached to it.
“It appears that none of us are allowed to say [publicly] that that was one of the weirdest fucking things we’ve ever witnessed,” one senior Trump administration official said, noticeably exasperated.
Click the link to read the rest.
Of course we have long known that Trump is out of his mind. This is from David Smith at The Guardian: Trump’s monumental sulk: president retreats from public eye as Covid ravages US.
There was one thing that even Donald Trump’s harshest critics were never able to accuse him of: invisibility….
Yet two weeks after his defeat by Joe Biden in the election, Trump has effectively gone missing in action. Day after day passes without a public sighting. He does not hold press conferences any more. He has even stopped calling into conservative media….
John French Sloan, Chinese Restaurant
Amid the deafening silence, Trump’s only “proof of life” since Biden’s victory has been a handful of public events at the White House and a military cemetery, weekend outings to his golf course in Virginia and a barrage of tweets airing grievances and pushing baseless conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from him.
“I don’t think we’ve had a president since Richard Nixon who is as far in the bunker and detached from the country as Donald Trump is right now,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.
“Donald Trump has not only suffered a catastrophic political defeat, he’s clearly also suffering from a deep emotional break. This behavior is even more erratic than usual and he has retreated. He has put himself in a form of psychological isolation. His emotional state is clearly abysmal. In the popular lexicon, he’s lost it.”
Trump’s pathetic efforts are still dangerous, writes Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Danger (and Ineptitude) of Trump’s Failed Coup.
In his address to the Democratic National Convention in August, Barack Obama warned that the Trump administration “has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win.” Kamala Harris began her first speech as vice-president-elect by saying “America’s democracy is not guaranteed.”
By Felix Vallotton
Some may have dismissed this as mere hyperventilated campaign rhetoric. But in the days that followed the election, Trump fulfilled the stark prophecies. He has seized whatever powers he still has in his grasp to rattle the system and to take vengeance against his successor by leaving him with a ruin.
Trump has attempted to retain power much as he wielded it throughout his term: with a comic ineptitude of his means that made it difficult to absorb the seriousness of his ends. If you had predicted four years ago that Trump would finish his term by proposing to cancel the election and reinstall himself in a second term, you’d have been brushed off as a hysteric. And yet here he is attempting to do just that and recruiting Republican allies to his mad scheme. The certainty of his failure does not make the damage caused by the coup effort disappear. It simply makes it harder to see clearly. The surreality of Mussolini continually slipping on banana peels is the defining paradox of this sordid era.
To lead his attempted coup, Trump has turned once again to Rudy Giuliani. Just weeks before, Giuliani — who is the subject of a criminal investigation for his efforts to shake down Ukraine while working for Trump and who was colluding publicly with a man identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Russian spy — had produced what he called “evidence” of a global criminal plot by Joe Biden and his family. (Many people on the right spent the last ten days of the campaign scolding the media for failing to take his accusations seriously.) In the aftermath of the election, Giuliani emerged to claim he had uncovered yet another worldwide plot — this one even wider and more sinister in scope.
Read more at the link.
By Edward Bawden 1903-1989
Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic: The 3 Norms Trump Could Still Break.
America has seen little of Donald Trump since the election. Speaking to the nation largely through Twitter, he’s barely strayed outside the White House as he absorbs a defeat that shattered the myth he created of his own invincibility. Still, he’s been busy—firing officials he deems disloyal and plotting ways to stay in power. He can’t and won’t overturn the election result, but he can cause plenty more havoc on his way out. Some of the ways would be immediately evident; others, hidden.
“We’re going to have to be very vigilant in the next two months for abuse of the pardon power, awarding of contracts to friends and family, and destruction of records, as well as policy decisions to box in the incoming administration,” Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who helped prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year, told me.
Trump, too, may feel boxed in, and for that reason he may be more prone to acting out. Congressional investigators still want to see his tax records. Prosecutors in New York are scrutinizing his business practices. The Biden administration will face intense public pressure to examine the money that flowed to Trump’s hotels and golf clubs over the past four years.
Soon enough, Trump will be stripped of the leverage that arms presidents looking to protect their interests. As he confronts an uncertain future, he could stretch or smash the boundaries of presidential power in ways no one else has tried. He could damage the basic notion that presidents are accountable for their actions and answerable to the law. All of which makes the interregnum before Joe Biden’s swearing-in an especially precarious time.
Nicholas writes that Trump could:
1) try to pardon himself (and his compatriots)
2) try to ditch important records.
3) spout state secrets.
Read the Nicholas’ detailed arguments at The Atlantic link.
That’s it for me today. I’m going back to bed. Take care everyone!
Posted: January 16, 2020 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, impeachment, Lev Parnas, Marie Yovanovitch, Mitch McConnell, Robert Hyde, Rudy Giuliani, Ukraine scandal
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.
Trump with Lev Parnas
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.”
Lev Parnas, Kevin McCarthy, and Igor Fruman
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.
Robert Hyde with Trump
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.