Thursday Reads: Day 1 of Impeachment Hearings and Other News

By Aliza Nisenbaum

Good Morning!!

We finally got the first day of impeachment hearings yesterday, with more to come on Friday and next week. Republicans claim it was all so booooring.  No one could watch these and stay awake.

Funny, Kellyanne’s husband George Conway didn’t seem to agree. He spent yesterday on MSNBC arguing in favor of impeaching and removing Trump.

Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: ‘I’m horrified. I’m appalled’: George Conway takes Trump-bashing mind to MSNBC.

Conway brought his pro-impeachment views to MSNBC on Wednesday morning. Asked about what constitutes an impeachable offense, Conway — who bailed on the Republican Party last year — offered the following:

That goes to the very heart of what a high crime and misdemeanor is. I mean, there are two ways to look at it: The first — the way I prefer to look at it — is the holistic view, and the holistic view is that when you become president, you raise your right hand and you swear to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and also the Constitution provides and uses that word, those words “faithfully execute,” in reference to faithfully execute the laws. And when you take on that duty — and the framers really took oaths seriously — you are promising to take that awesome power that’s being thrust upon you and use it for the nation’s benefit and not for your own benefit. And the problem with Donald Trump is, he always sees himself first.

It just so happens, noted Conway, that in the case of Ukraine, President Trump used the “most unchecked” power of the presidency — foreign policy, that is — to “advance his own personal interests as opposed to the country’s.” As several witnesses have claimed in closed and open House depositions, Trump and his associates attempted to condition military aid and an Oval Office meeting on the Ukrainian president’s announcement of an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

As for why some folks can’t see the abuses of power, Conway need look no further than another cable-news channel — one where his sentiments might be a bit less welcome. “I’m horrified. I’m appalled,” said Conway about the Republican response to Trump’s misdeeds.

Lois Rossbach Ellis (American; born 1925), 1953

Actually, there was an unexpected bombshell in Wednesday’s testimony. Ambassador Bill Taylor revealed that a member of his staff overheard Trump asking about the “investigations” he was pressuring Ukraine to undertake when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland called Trump on a cell phone in a Ukrainian restaurant. The call took place on July 26, one day after Trump’s infamous phone call to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Washington Post: Ambassador’s cellphone call to Trump from Kyiv restaurant was a stunning breach of security, former officials say.

A U.S. ambassador’s cellphone call to President Trump from a restaurant in the capital of Ukraine this summer was a stunning breach of security, exposing the conversation to surveillance by foreign intelligence services, including Russia’s, former U.S. officials said.

The call — in which Trump’s remarks were overheard by a U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv — was disclosed Wednesday by the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., on the dramatic opening day of public impeachment hearings into alleged abuse of power by the president.

“The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone” asking U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about “the investigations,” Taylor testified, referring to the president’s desire for a probe of the son of Trump’s potential political opponent in 2020, Joe Biden, and the Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden once served.

Sondland, Taylor said, told Trump in that conversation that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward” on the investigations.

The U.S. Embassy staffer who overheard the call, political counselor David Holmes, is scheduled to testify Friday before House impeachment investigators in a closed session.

Paritosh Sen, Woman Reading a Newspaper

After the call ended Holmes asked Sondland how Trump felt about Ukraine. Sondland replied that Trump cared more about investigating Biden than helping Ukraine.

More from the Post on the security implications of the call:

“The security ramifications are insane — using an open cellphone to communicate with the president of the United States,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a former senior director of the White House Situation Room and a former chief of staff to the CIA director. “In a country that is so wired with Russian intelligence, you can almost take it to the bank that the Russians were listening in on the call.” [….]

It was also noteworthy in that ambassadors typically don’t just pick up the phone and call presidents. “They never do so to discuss Ukraine policy,” former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said in a tweet. “Doing so on a cellphone from Kyiv means [the] whole world was listening in.”

Mediaite reports that, according to Watergate alum John Dean, First Day of Trump Hearings Yielded More Damning Testimony Than All of Watergate.

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean characterized the first day of public impeachment testimony against President Donald Trump as both thorough and damning, saying House Democrats “already have more than they had against Richard Nixon to impeach him. Just on all accounts….

“John, I mean, given what you saw today, did this move the needle for any Republican senators who are watching?” CNN host Anderson Cooper asked Dean.

“There’s a conspiracy, we know from what’s come out of the executive sessions, generally, where this is going,” Dean said. “What struck me today in listening to these two witnesses is they already have more than they had against Richard Nixon to impeach him. Just on all accounts.”

“Why do you say that?” asked fellow panelist, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Eda Sterchi, Portrait of a woman reading a newspaper

“Because the evidence is there,” Dean responded. “It was my testimony, a few people that were lower in the pecking order than me, and it happened before the tapes.”

Unlike the already released call summary where Trump is seen soliciting an investigation into his potential political rival, the blockbuster revelation that a White House taping system existed only came out weeks after Dean’s testimony in June 1973. The subsequent legal fight by the Nixon White House to prevent releasing the tapes to Congress became another impeachable offense and the infamous 18-and-a-half-minute gap on a tape where Nixon discussed the Watergate break-in became a key piece of evidence proving the Nixon cover-up.

Meanwhile, Republicans have conspiracy theories. Yesterday at Buzzfeed News: The Witnesses At Today’s Impeachment Hearing Weren’t Trying To Evade Republicans’ Questions. They Couldn’t Understand Them.

From the very first questions that Republicans asked in the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Wednesday, it was clear that a core part of the proceedings will not be about determining whether the president committed an impeachable offense. Instead, it will be an example of the damage that years of right-wing misinformation has done to the highest levels of the country’s political system.

Many of the questions from the House Intelligence Committee left Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior state department official, in disoriented silence.

In their opening statements, both Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the Intelligence Committee, and the committee’s vice chair, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, brought up elements of the prominent, but baseless, CrowdStrike conspiracy theory that a cybersecurity firm attempted to cover up evidence that Ukraine tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Whereas Schiff’s questions seemed framed to establish that Trump and his allies spent years chasing rumors, Nunes and the other Republicans on the Intelligence Committee staked much of their time on nonsense yanked from conservative Facebook groups and hyperpartisan news sites.

Anthony Watkins, Sunday News

“Trump then requested that Zelensky investigate a discredited 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and, even more ominously, look into the Bidens,” Schiff said. “Neither of these investigations was in the US national interest.”

“This is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign,” Nunes said. “Now they accuse Trump of malfeasance in Ukraine, when they themselves are culpable.”

There is one America that believes what was in former FBI director Robert Mueller’s report, that there was coordinated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which helped the Trump campaign. But there is a second America that believes that in the summer of 2016, the Democratic National Committee colluded with Ukrainian nationals to frame the Trump campaign for collusion with Russia, implicating a Ukrainian American DNC contractor, Alexandra Chalupa, in the collusion and the California-based cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in the subsequent cover-up.

The impeachment inquiry has also revealed the vast damage that Trump has done to U.S. diplomacy.

Joshua J. Geltzer at The Atlantic: The System Was Blinking Red.

Those who listened to the first day of public impeachment hearings, focused on Ukraine-related matters, heard a lot about Donald Trump and a lot about Rudy Giuliani. And for good reason: Both were central players in the White House–driven push to trade American weapons and a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s help with Trump’s reelection.

But listeners also heard a lot about long-serving U.S. government officials, including the two witnesses who testified, and how they reacted to the push led by Trump and Giuliani. What might have gotten lost in the day’s testimony is that these more ordinary officials were doing extraordinary things. Those included repeated threats to resign and repeated referrals to lawyers of possible violations of U.S. law by U.S. officials. This is not normal—not normal behavior by public servants, not normal disagreement within the policy-making process, not normal at all. To the contrary, this is a sign that inside the U.S. government, Trump’s improper bullying of Ukraine was setting off alarms—and the system was blinking red.

Miki de Goodaboom, woman Reading a Newspaper

Start with the multiple threats of resignation that Ambassador William Taylor, America’s top diplomat in Ukraine, indicated he’d made with utter sincerity (an indication confirmed by the written record). Threats of resignation by government officials—especially officials like Taylor, with decades of service to presidents of both political parties—are extremely rare. Given how dramatic a threat of resignation is, and given how frequent such resignations have been under the Trump administration, it’s important to remember that this isn’t, say, an ordinary negotiating tactic for government officials as they jostle with colleagues in formulating policy. Quite the opposite—this is the ultimate card to play, and most government officials go through their entire careers without ever considering it. (I never played it while I served in government!) [….]

And it wasn’t just the policy process’s breakdown that was clear to U.S. government officials seeing this all unfold; it was adherence to the law as well. The first day of testimony confirmed earlier reporting that U.S. government officials who realized the nature of the White House’s Ukraine push repeatedly asked that White House national-security lawyers be notified out of concern that matters were headed seriously, even dangerously, awry. That, too, is not normal—not even close to it.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

The Daily Beast: Revealed: The Pro-Trump Playbook for Smearing U.S. Diplomats.

Foreign governments have settled on a new strategy to sideline American officials they don’t like: peddling conspiratorial dirt on those officials to portray them as enemies of President Donald Trump.

The impeachment inquiry has revealed the success of that strategy in Ukraine, where ethically dubious officials teamed up with Trump’s personal attorney to remove a U.S. ambassador. A Hungarian government-backed campaign against a top National Security Council official was less successful, though not for a lack of effort. And according to senior U.S. officials, the same strategy succeeded in scuttling a nominee to be America’s top diplomat in Albania.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that John Solomon, one of Rudy Giuliani’s favorite conservative columnists and conspiracy-peddlers, makes an appearance in both the Ukraine and Albanian dramas.

Woman in black reading a newspaper, Rik Wouters (1882-1916), painted in 1912.

“We have permitted open season on our diplomats,” declared Fiona Hill, a former senior Trump White House national security official, during her closed-door testimony to the impeachment inquiry. “Any one of us here could be subject to this kind of claims and these kinds of attacks, any single person who gets crosswise with any of these individuals or any of these countries, if they think that any of us are in the way.”

The attacks frequently invoke George Soros, the right-wing bogeyman and Fox News primetime fixture. And they appear tailor-made to Trump’s idiosyncratic sensibilities, focusing on issues and controversies that tend to grab the attention of right-wing media—and, by extension, the president himself. The strategies also bear the hallmarks of the surreptitious campaign to undermine U.S. diplomats in Ukraine by people close to the president, chiefly hRis personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Read the rest at the link.

More stories to check out:

Renato Mariotti at Politico: Impeachment Is Not a Fair Fight, and on Day One It Showed.

John Harris at Politico Magazine: Trump Exposed: A Brutal Day for the President.

The New York Times: As Talks With Putin Loom, Ukraine Looks in Vain for U.S. Help.

Slate: The Seven Ways Wednesday’s Hearing Clarified Trump’s Real Motives.

Axios: Erdogan upends Oval meeting to play anti-Kurd film on iPad.

The New York Times: Erdogan Hands ‘Tough Guy’ Letter Back to Trump.

The Washington Post: Leaked Stephen Miller emails show Trump’s point man on immigration promoted white nationalism, SPLC reports.

NBC News: Democrats call for Stephen Miller to resign after leak of xenophobic emails.

CBS News: Michael Bloomberg won’t file for New Hampshire primary.

The New York Times: Michael Bloomberg Has a History of Demeaning Comments About Women.

FiveThirtyEight: Why Deval Patrick Is Making A Late Bid For The Democratic Nomination.

CNN: Exclusive: Trump DC hotel sales pitch boasts of millions to be made from foreign governments.

 


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

Image result for vintage photos veterans day parades

1967 PRESS PHOTO VETERANS DAY PARADE IN ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tulsa Veterans Day Parade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young spectators at Veteran’s Day Parade, 1983.

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

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

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

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

Image result for vintage photos veterans day parades black americans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for vintage photos veterans day parades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your reading and blogging list today?

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

lyrics and song by Jimmy Webb


Tuesday Reads: Climate Change Action and Impeachment Inquiry News

Good Morning!!

Action on Climate Change

Before I get started on the latest news, I want to share some information about a climate action that is taking place today in several U.S. cities, including Boston. My sister-in-law is a leader in her local chapter of Mothers Out Front, an organization that fights climate change. The group has been working to call attention to Blackrock, a huge asset management corporation whose CEO Larry Fink has tried to position himself as pro-environment, while leading the company that contributes more than any other to the problem of global warming.

My brother made this video to publicize today’s actions.

Some background:

The Guardian, May 21, 2019: World’s biggest investor accused of dragging feet on climate crisis.

[Blackrock CEO Larry] Fink, who was paid $24m (£18.8m) in 2018, began BlackRock as part of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity group, and spun it out in 1995. Since then, New York-based BlackRock has risen to become an investing behemoth, controlling $6.5tn in assets – a value more than twice the annual output of the UK economy.

That staggering size has placed BlackRock at the heart of the global fossil fuel industry: it is the largest investor in coal worldwide, according to InfluenceMap, an environmental campaign group, and has by far the highest density of coal holdings of the world’s 10 largest investors. BlackRock effectively owns 2.1bn tonnes of thermal coal reserves, based on the size of its stakes in major miners.

In August, two of the country’s fastest growing grassroots groups – Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front – sent a bold message to BlackRock staff at their Boston office.

BlackRock is counted among the top three shareholders in every oil “supermajor” bar France’s Total, and is among the top 10 shareholders in seven of the 10 biggest coal producers, according to Guardian analysis of data from financial information firm S&P.

Yet Fink, 66, who moves in US Democrat political circles, argues it is not his company’s duty to fight the climate emergency. In the real version of his annual letter to shareholders, published in January, Fink said that his overriding duty is to make customers money.

“Our firm is built to protect and grow the value of our clients’ assets,” Fink wrote. “We often get approached by special interest groups who advocate for BlackRock to vote with them on a cause. In many cases, I or other senior managers might agree with that same cause – or we might strongly disagree – but our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter here. Our decisions are driven solely by our fiduciary duty to our clients.”

Also from The Guardian, September 17, 2019: Wall Street investment giants voting against key climate resolutions.

Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report.

The report, published on Tuesday by the Washington DC-based Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project, claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.

Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims….

“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub.

“Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change,” Kasargod-Staub added.

Unfortunately, it’s raining in Boston today. I expect the mothers will still show up for the demonstration though. I’ll report back if I hear anything about how it went.

UPDATES from the Boston BlackRock protest

Impeachment Inquiry News

Today a White House insider who heard Trump’s call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will testify in the impeachment inquiry.

The New York Times: Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns.

A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, arriving Tuesday on Capitol Hill.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”


Thursday Reads: The Walls Are Closing In

Edvard Munch, Cabbage Field, 1915

Good Afternoon!!

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

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

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

Man in a cabbage field, 1916, Edvard Munch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edvard Munch, Landscape with train smoke

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Road to Borre, 1905, Edvard Munch

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

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

Taylor testified that:

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

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

Landscape Near Skøyen, Edvard Munch

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

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

Head over to The Intercept to read the rest.

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

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

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

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

Another landscape with train smoke by Edvard Munch, 1900

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landscape By Travemünde, Edvard Munch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moonlight, Edvard Munch

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

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

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

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

Click on the WaPo link to read the rest.

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


Monday Mash Up: WTF were They Thinking Edition

Image result for famous paintings on thinking

Portrait of Dr Gachet. Vincent Van Gogh,1890

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Ever have one of those days where you’re so lost in your head that even the most menial daily tasks wind up all wrong?  Well, today, I managed to start the coffee pot without putting the coffee pot in the machine, went out to walk Temple, and came back to a steaming pile of wet grounds all over the kitchen cabinet and floor. I’m just exhausted.  That’s my excuse.  I’ve spent several weeks watching a building that shouldn’t have been built to begin with tumble down towards beautiful historic buildings and people  on the street and then spent a 3 day vigil hoping US engineers could accomplish a demolition feat which it appears they mostly did.  Three people died for some one’s profit maximization exercise.

I also have a houseful of guests that should be gone by now and work and bills keep piling up. I’m overwhelmed.

I know I’m distracted but this and watching genocide in Syria on TV knowing full well we had a hand in it although We the People don’t like it.  And, that we’re being grifted by a bunch of Thugs passing themselves off as a Political party while the economy is falling apart and we’re picking up the bills for stuff we really shouldn’t be.

Oh, and did I mention all roads from the White House lead to a very happy Vladimir Putin?

What’s an American Girl to do?

So, what the Fuck was Mitt Romney thinking when he did this?

thinking of him 1963 POP Artists Oil Paintings

Thinking of him, Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

Yes, Mitt Romney has a sock puppet that evidently represents his conscience or his manhood or something …  This is by

Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, former Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, is also, apparently, the man behind a Twitter account that uses the moniker “Pierre Delecto.”

Mr. Romney on Sunday admitted to McKay Coppins, a writer at The Atlantic, that he was responsible for the social media account, which he uses to covertly monitor political discourse and occasionally defend himself. It’s unclear what, if anything, Pierre Delecto is a reference to.

Several events preceded the admission.

First, The Atlantic published on Sunday a profile of Mr. Romney, one of the few prominent Republican lawmakers to criticize President Trump over his efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. Those efforts form the basis of an impeachment investigation by the House.

Mr. Trump lashed out in response this month, calling the senator on Twitter a “pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning.” In one tweet, the president used the hashtag “#IMPEACHMITTROMNEY.”

I wonder if Pierre Delecto chats up Carlos Danger. Oh, and why do these names sound like sleazy characters from bad pulp fiction?  This is from Ashley Feinberg writing for Slate ” This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account (Update: It Is) Meet “Pierre Delecto.”  So there’s a difference between a sleazy sock puppet sending Dick picks trying to prop up Weiner’s manhood and a sleazy sock puppet trying to prop up Mitt Romney’s, right?

Earlier today, the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins published a lengthy profile on Mitt Romney, apparently part of Romney’s effort to set himself up as the noble Republican foil to an out-of-control president. These sorts of pieces, which are more about narrative setting than anything else, typically don’t contain a lot of new information, but this had one notable exception. About midway through, the usually guarded senator revealed that, just like fellow lone-voice-of reason-haver James Comey, he was the owner of a secret Twitter account.

At one point, as Coppins asked him about the #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY hashtag Trump tweeted into being earlier this month, Romney said this:

“That’s kind of what he does,” Romney said with a shrug, and then got up to retrieve an iPad from his desk. He explained that he uses a secret Twitter account—“What do they call me, a lurker?”—to keep tabs on the political conversation. “I won’t give you the name of it,” he said, but “I’m following 668 people.” Swiping at his tablet, he recited some of the accounts he follows, including journalists, late-night comedians (“What’s his name, the big redhead from Boston?”), and athletes. Trump was not among them. “He tweets so much,” Romney said, comparing the president to one of his nieces who overshares on Instagram. “I love her, but it’s like, Ah, it’s too much.”

In other words, a wealth of information that would be highly useful to anyone hoping to track down the senator’s supposedly secret Twitter hideout— or more specifically, to me. The chances seemed high that Romney, a known family man, would want to keep close tabs on his offspring. And as luck would have it, Romney has plenty of offspring . 

Not all of his five sons have public Twitter accounts, and some of them, like the dreaded Tagg, have too many followers to possibly dig through. Romney’s oldest grandchild, Allie Romney Critchlow, however, has just 481 followers, making digging through them an annoying-but-not-impossible feat. As I scrolled, while focusing on the ones that appeared to make an effort to conceal their real identities, one in particular caught my eye.

Reader, meet Twitter user @qaws9876, otherwise known as Pierre Delecto.

Seated Harlequin, 1901, Pablo Picasso

Yeah, you can go see what he’s been up to as his super hero alter ego that he undoubtedly costumes in superhero jammies while tweeting away.
And we’re still watching Trumpists wiggle worm their way out of the idea of a Quid Quo Pro that’s been verified and something speculative.  You would think a Secretary of State with that much education would have something better to do on a Sunday that make a fool of himself. But then, he’s a Trumpist and a Fundie and a fool

This is from Peter Wade writing for Rolling Stone:  “Stunned Into Silence, State Department Chief Recalls Manafort at His Guiltiest. Sec. Mike Pompeo’s attempts to deflect questions about the president’s Ukraine quid pro quo scandal died a horrible death on Sunday.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s attempts to deflect and avoid giving honest and straight answers about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo scandal died a horrible death on Sunday during his appearance on ABC News’ The Week.

Host George Stephanopoulos asked the secretary if it was appropriate to withhold military aid to Ukraine until they pursued an investigation into the president’s political rivals. Stephanopoulos was referring to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitting to the quid pro quo earlier this week. Pompeo said, “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals and secondary things based on what someone else has said.”

Stephanopoulos responded, “Except it’s not a hypothetical.”

um,,, cue the video

That was a poignant pause worthy of Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise!

That is the moment when you could almost see Pompeo start to sweat and one could imagine the memes starting to multiply that would include the intro of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” playing in the background as Pompeo went quiet for a prolonged period of time. Then the secretary eventually awoke from his coma and, with a gravelly voice, righted himself and continued to insist that the question was a hypothetical.

As national security editor for the New Republic Adam Weinstein pointed out, the scene was reminiscent of Trump’s former campaign manager and now-jailed felon Paul Manafort’s infamous 2016 viral moment when he was stumped and stuttered through his answer when asked about Trump’s relationships with Russian oligarchs.

Image result for famous paintings on thinking mattise

Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937 by Henri Matisse

So, we also have this from the Philadephia Inquirer: by Julia Terruso:  “No one shows up to Joe Biden debate-watch parties in Philly. Does that matter? ”  Personally, I’ve been invited to both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris down here in New Orleans and both were held in very crowded bars, well attended, and not the only watch parties in town.

David Bradford set up a bowl of chips, salsa, and some grapes in the common room of his Center City apartment building.

He was hosting a presidential debate-watching party for Joe Biden supporters just blocks from the former vice president’s national campaign headquarters. He didn’t expect a big crowd, but in the end only one other person showed up.

The two men watched in silence and both left before the three-hour debate ended. A reporter turned off the TV on her way out. Bradford’s was one of three watch parties within a 20-mile radius of Center City registered with the campaign. None drew more than seven people.

Elsewhere in Philadelphia, fans of Sen. Elizabeth Warren pinned on buttons and wore “Philly for Warren” T-shirts. They gathered in six different locations from South Philadelphia to Wynnefield cheering at Warren’s responses and jeering when her opponents took shots. Local supporters of Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have also had well-attended watch parties here.

It makes for quite a contrast. But does it matter?

Biden draws from an older, less progressive, often less-educated crowd. That’s not the demographic that often gathers for watch parties. Polling shows his support is more pragmatic than passionate. His campaign has pushed back on the idea he has an “enthusiasm gap” before, arguing it’s something political operatives and journalists obsess over that means little to most Democratic voters.

“The Twitter Democrats are a very small subset of the Democratic Party,” said U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D.,Pa.), who supports Biden. “They are a much younger, more educated, wealthier, whiter subset — they’re important but let’s not make the mistake of extrapolating that they are the party.”

On the other hand, the kind of grassroots momentum that begins in bars and homes can turn into organization: Volunteers canvassing can have a tangible impact. And if some of Biden’s support is less enthusiastic, which polls suggest, there’s the risk it fractures.

Excuses! Excuses!  Sounds like something Pierre Delecto would say!  And then, here’s when the President got corrected by a Science GRRLLL up there in Space like a real Super Hero!

Seems like a lot of things are just not going as planned … and I’ll provide you with something that only slightly went awry when the entire project was a clusterfuck from the get go.  The Great Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans Crane Implosion.  We know have a huge crane body stationed like a metal christmas tree impaling Rampart Street.  Fortunately, it only took out a sewer and not the main gas and electric lines into the French Quarter.  So that was a win because of that and only a few historic buldings like the Saenger Theatre and the Old Roosevelt Hotel where my parents honeymooned in the late 40s lost a few windows.

From TV station WDSU “City: Demolition at Hard Rock went ‘as good as it could have’; next phase is search and extraction”.   Also, the next phase is just wait until we learn more about how a crooked developer got this pass the city council and mayor a few years back and managed a go round the planning commission and the master plan and undoubtedly got it through a crook in the city permits office.

Well, it’s a long post already and I’ve only covered a few things in the domestic news. Don’t ask me to look abroad today. Please don’t!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Democratic Debate and Trump’s Troubles

David Hockney, Woldgate Woods, 2008

Good Morning!!

The latest Democratic debate airs on CNN tonight at 8PM. You can read about what to expect in this piece at Vox.

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I have to admit that I’m far from enthused about watching it, although I’ll try to give it a chance. I’m sick of the irrelevant candidates like Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Tom Steyer; and as for the top three–Biden, Warren, and Sanders–I still believe they are too old for the job.

If we are going to have a septuagenarian president, I would rather have it be Hillary. I guess I have to face the fact that I’ll never be as excited about a candidate as I was about her.

Another issue with tonight’s debate is the Biden campaign’s decision to allow Hunter Biden to participate in an ABC News interview today.

From The Daily Beast: Biden’s Rivals Are Utterly Perplexed at the Timing of Hunter’s Interview.

After months of staying silent amid an avalanche of attacks by President Trump and his team, Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president, made his first public comments in an interview Tuesday morning just about 12 hours before his father takes the debate stage Tuesday night.

Wassily Kandinsky, Autumn in Murnau, 1908

For the majority of the Democrats running for president, and even one notable surrogate to Joe Biden himself, there is a sense of confusion as to why Hunter is choosing now to finally speak up about the extent of his business ties in Ukraine and China.

“I wouldn’t have put Hunter on the air,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a top surrogate for Biden, told The Daily Beast. “I think the more you respond, the more you’re playing into Donald Trump.” [….]

For Team Biden, Hunter’s Biden’s interview, which aired on ABC News’ Good Morning America, was an opportunity to clear the air and turn the attention back to the widespread corruption running rampant in the Trump White House. It also gave the younger Biden a chance to present facts in his own words to counter Trump’s misinformation campaign.

In the interview, he admitted that he had shown “poor judgment” in taking the job with a Ukrainian natural gas company but insisted that he had done nothing unethical.

Does anyone believe that the debate moderators will ignore all this and focus on Donald Trump and his children’s blatant self-dealing? I don’t.

Meanwhile, Trump is burning down the post-WWII world order. That should be the subject of tonight’s debate, not Hunter Biden.

Edward Hopper, October on Cape Cod

Fred Kaplan at Slate: Trump’s Worst Betrayal Yet.

President Trump didn’t make a “mistake” in pulling troops out of northeastern Syria last week, as many have charged. It’s what he has long wanted to do. The mistake was not understanding—and, more to the point, not caring about—the consequences.

Trump’s fateful phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6, giving him the green light to cross the Syrian border and crush the Kurds without U.S. resistance, did more than any single act has ever done to demolish the post-WWII global order and isolate America from the rest of the world. This, again, has been Trump’s goal since he entered the White House.

Until recently, one or more of his advisers—Jim Mattis, H.R.
McMaster, John Bolton, or Gen. Joseph Dunford—obstructed or dissuaded him from withdrawing. Now all of those advisers are gone, and their replacements lack either the clout or the gumption to push back.

Trump may believe that he’s doing the right thing, that abandoning the rest of the world’s problems will “make America great again.” He doesn’t realize that America’s might and wealth depend, in large measure, on the cooperation it receives from others—either offered or coerced—in pursuing its interests around the world.

He is also blind to the fact—or loath to admit—that he, in fact, is not getting out of the world. On Friday, days after abandoning the Kurdish allies to the Turks (and consequently, all of Syria to Bashar al-Assad and the Russians), Trump announced that he was sending 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia. But to Trump’s mind, there was a big difference in this deployment.
“Saudi Arabia, at my request, has agreed to pay us for everything we are doing to help them,” he told reporters. “That’s a first. We appreciate that.”

Georgia O’Kefee, Autumn Leaves, 1924

To Trump, the U.S. military is nothing more than a mercenary force to be rented out to the highest bidder.

It was as if sending American troops abroad doesn’t count as a commitment if taxpayers don’t have to pay for it. It was as if Trump were telling the world that the U.S. military is now a mercenary force. It was a message to any country currently hosting American troops at least in part at our largesse—because, say, previous presidents have considered it in U.S.
interests to keep troops there—that they should start rethinking their options for how to stay secure

Trump has made a practice of abrogating treaties, filching on commitments, and alienating allies, but, more than any single act, the betrayal of the Kurds should tell everyone that—as long as Trump is president and, who knows, perhaps beyond—there is no reason to trust the United States on anything.

I hope you’ll go read the rest at Slate.

From Axios, here’s a quote from deep thinker Trump on abandoning the Kurds:

“Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte.” read one of the president’s tweets. “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

He doesn’t seem at all concerned about getting U.S. troops out of Syria safely or getting our nukes out of Turkey.

Trump even tried to blame the Kurds for the release of Islamic State prisoners. From The Week:

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark Monday morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump’s suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — an opening to invade.

Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest I, 1902

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are being deliberately released, but it’s actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups and was once recruited by the CIA to aid the U.S. in its fight against ISIS — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. The Free Syrian Army has also been accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing unarmed civilians.

As for the Kurds, one U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump’s theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces. “That has enraged our forces in Syria,” another senior U.S. administration official said. “Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly reckless and dishonest thing to say.”

Yesterday, Trump’s former Russia and Ukraine adviser Fiona Hill testified at the Impeachment hearings. Here’s the latest on that.

The Washington Post: Trump’s ex-Russia adviser told impeachment investigators of Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.

Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, told impeachment investigators on Monday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump, according to people familiar with her testimony.

Hill, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, was the latest witness in a fast-moving impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president abused his office by using the promise of military aid and diplomatic support to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

Henri Rousseau, Eiffel Tower at Sunset, 1910

In a closed-door session that lasted roughly 10 hours, Hill told lawmakers that she confronted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about Giuliani’s activities which, she testified, were not coordinated with the officials responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to disclose details of her deposition.

Sondland played a leading role in the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to open investigations of the president’s political rivals, text messages obtained and later released by House Democrats show. Three congressional committees are now probing how Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election in an attempt to damage Trump’s candidacy.

Sondland plans to testify on Thursday and the Committees are now talking about questioning John Bolton.

The New York Times: Bolton Objected to Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Calling Giuliani ‘a Hand Grenade.’

The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.

Paul Gauguin, Landscape in Arles near the Alyscamps, 1888

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)

Read the rest at the NYT.

Finally, The Daily Beast reports that Trump Suspects a Spiteful John Bolton Is Behind Some of the Ukraine Leaks.

In recent weeks, numerous leaks have appeared in the pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other major papers and news outlets detailing the president’s attempts to enlist foreign leaders to help dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and also aid Trump’s quest to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s concluded investigation. And as is his MO, the media-obsessed president has been fixated on not just the identity of the whistleblower behind the internal complaint that brought this scandal to the fore, but also on who, exactly, has been namelessly feeding intel to the press.

In the course of casual conversations with advisers and friends, President Trump has privately raised suspicions that a spiteful John Bolton, his notoriously hawkish former national security adviser, could be one of the sources behind the flood of leaks against him, three people familiar with the comments said. At one point, one of those sources recalled, Trump guessed that Bolton was behind one of the anonymous accounts that listed the former national security adviser as one of the top officials most disturbed by the Ukraine-related efforts of Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney who remains at the center of activities that spurred the impeachment inquiry.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Fractured Fairy Tale Friday Reads: Russians Hiding under the White House Beds

Wassily Kandinsky artwork

Two riders before the red, 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re beginning to see just how wrapped up Republicans are with Russians.  I ran across this from bellingcat this morning by Casey Michel.  And we thought only the NRA was awash in Russian money and influence!!!   “Money Talks: Len Blavatnik And The Council On Foreign Relations”.

Last month, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), one of America’s leading think tanks, announced that it had received a substantial donation that would help round out the organization’s upcoming budget. As a statement on the CFR’s website detailed, a CFR member had graciously decided to help facilitate funding for CFR’s intern program. The donation, as CFR’s statement detailed, would provide “paid internships to over one hundred interns each year,” and would help “cultivat[e] the next generation of leaders in government, academia, and the private sector.” CFR President Richard Haass, as he wrote on Twitter, was “[g]rateful” for the “generous gift.”

It’s easy to see why CFR’s brass would express gratitude for the gift. After all, issues surrounding paying interns have circulated among any number of American institutions over the past decade, from media to civil society to, as CFR’s announcement noted, think tanks. A CFR spokesperson told Bellingcat that the donation totaled $12 million.

There was one problem, though. As CFR noted, the donation had come from the Blavatnik Family Foundation — and was specifically facilitated by CFR member Len Blavatnik.

Blavatnik may not be a household name in the United States and has not been sanctioned by any Western governments, but the involvement of Blavatnik, born in the USSR in what is now southern Ukraine, has already sparked a firestorm of internal controversy at CFR.

CFR’s willingness to accept the donation from Blavatnik’s foundation has been a case study in the “soft enabling of kleptocracy,” Sarah Chayes, one of the leading anti-corruption voices in the U.S., told Bellingcat. It also fits into Blavatnik’s previous history of working with what she described as “image launderers,” all of whom have helped Blavatnik — who has worked closely over the years with figures now sanctioned specifically by the U.S. for their role in spreading the Kremlin’s kleptocracy — in shaping the reputation of someone who accrued substantial wealth in the mad scramble for post-Soviet resource and industry.

The pushback over the previous weeks has culminated in an unprecedented protest against CFR’s move to accept and publicize the donation from Blavatnik’s foundation. One letter, addressed to Haass and signed by dozens of the most prominent anti-corruption activists in the U.S. and Ukraine, leading experts on post-Soviet kleptocracy, and former members of the Treasury Department, State Department, and National Security Council, condemned the move as a means of helping “Blavatnik [export] Russian kleptocratic practices to the West.”

Haass and CFR, however, haven’t expressed any concern about the donation, nor about the fact that the U.S.’s leading anti-kleptocracy voices have condemned the move. There’s no indication that CFR will walk back the donation, despite the unprecedented pushback they’ve received.

Three Riders in red, blue and black 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

Blavatnik’s donations to US institutions run a lot deeper than you’d think and the article is worth your time to read.  Follow this author.  He’s part of the Kleptocracy Initiative and keeps track of these sorts of things.

Along the way, Blavatnik kept a relatively low profile politically, and made efforts — both personal and financial in nature — to retain friends all across the political spectrum, especially in the U.S. Having gained U.S. citizenship, Blavatnik has made a concerted effort to financially back both Democratic and Republican candidates over the years. In 2016, though, Blavatnik split with his prior precedent, and poured some $6 million into Republican coffers, as well as donating  $1 million directly to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Over the past year, Blavatnik has returned to his old habits, and begun donating across the aisle, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

But in the aftermath of Russia’s 2016 interference efforts, new questions began to swirl about Blavatnik’s funding. Not only did the U.S. sanction individuals like Vekselberg, figures with whom Blavatnik had previously been close, but last year it emerged that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office had specifically investigated Blavatnik’s donations to Trump’s inauguration. Vekselberg also told the Financial Times that he attended Trump’s inauguration at a table Blavatnik paid for, although Blavatnik’s spokesperson denied this.

Mikhail Vrubel. Pearl.
1904. Cardboard, pastel, gouache, coal.

Kenneth Vogel–writing for the NYT–has the byline for this important read Giuliani’s Ukraine Team: In Search of Influence, Dirt and MoneyThe president’s lawyer was paid by Lev Parnas, who with Igor Fruman worked on behalf of President Trump in Ukraine.”

When Rudolph W. Giuliani set out to dredge up damaging information on President Trump’s rivals in Ukraine, he turned to a native of the former Soviet republic with whom he already had a lucrative business relationship.

Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman with a trail of debts and lawsuits, had known Mr. Giuliani casually for years through Republican political circles. Last year, their relationship deepened when a company he helped found retained Mr. Giuliani — associates of Mr. Parnas said he told them he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars — for what Mr. Giuliani said on Thursday was business and legal advice.

Even as he worked with Mr. Parnas’s company, Fraud Guarantee, Mr. Giuliani increasingly relied on Mr. Parnas to carry out Mr. Trump’s quest for evidence in Ukraine that would undercut the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference on his behalf in the 2016 election and help him heading into his 2020 re-election campaign.

Mr. Giuliani dispatched Mr. Parnas and an associate, Igor Fruman, a Belarusian-American businessman, to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where, despite fending off creditors at home, BuzzFeed reported, they ran up big charges at a strip club and the Hilton International hotel. Their mission was to find people and information that could be used to undermine the special counsel’s investigation, and also to damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospective Democratic challenger to Mr. Trump.

 

Image result for Alexej von Jawlensky

Girl with Red Ribbon Alexej von Jawlensy

Here’s a brief take of the Josh Chafetz piece from Common Dreams: “Law Professor’s Advice to House Democrats: Arrest Rudy Giuliani.”

Faced with an intransigent White House unwilling to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s pressuring of the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden, the House should take aggressive action including arresting Rudy Giuliani, a law professor argues in a column for The New York Times Thursday.

“The answer is unlikely to be found in a courtroom,” writes law professor Josh Chafetz.

The White House has repeatedly refused to answer subpoenas and on Tuesday afternoon, as Common Dreams reported, announced in an eight page letter that the administration will flatly refuse to cooperate in the inquiry, a move that could set up a constitutional crisis.

“There is no legal basis for Trump’s position,” NBC analyst Katie Phang said on Twitter Tuesday. “Hard stop.”

House Democrats need to think outside the box, Chafetz argues.

“The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors—as the person in violation of the order is called—especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official,” Chaftez writes.

Chafetz acknowledges that the move was extreme, but said that the net benefits of taking things to that level would outweigh the possible negatives of such an action and allow for the House to open the door to other punitive actions seen as less radical.

“The House arresting someone would be explosive and clearly should not be undertaken lightly,” says Chafetz. “But the very explosiveness of it would be a way for the House to signal the seriousness of White House obstructionism to the public.”

The Demon Seated, Mikhail Vrubel 1890

The State Department is getting into the spotlight more and more on the entire Ukrainian situation as a Senior Advisor to Pompeo resigns. This is from WAPO. And an Ambassador removed by Trump speaks out.

Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo’s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy.

A senior officer who has held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, McKinley was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service.

Pompeo was expected to issue a statement Friday announcing the departure.

McKinley declined to comment Thursday evening.

Among the many issues in which he played a role, McKinley has been closely involved in administration policy on Venezuela, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, where last month President Trump abruptly canceled U.S. peace negotiations with the Taliban that both sides had said were near an agreement.

There seems to be a large number of career professionals in various departments ready to testify and go to Congress as well as the press. And it’s about time.

Which also means that Trump needed a hit from a Hatefest Bong.  This time the Orange Plague went to Minneapolis home of Minnesota Nice.

Musicians from Queen to Prince’s estate are suing Trumpto quit using their music.  It probably will do as much good as trying to bill the campaign for the public safety issues surrounding every Trump Rally where attendees are none to bully press and public alike and fights frequently break out with encouragement of the Orange Snot Blob.  More people protested the visit than attended the rally.

And, as usual Trump lied his fat ass off as well as spewed the usual racist, misogynistic, bigoted crap.  He made a point of attacking Somali Refugees in a place where they are an integral part of the community and recently sent Congresswoman Ilhan Abdullahi Omar to serve as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2019. The district includes all of Minneapolis and some of its suburbs.

Safe places from Trumpists in any place will always be bookstores, universities, and libraries were no Trumper dares go.  Facts and knowledge are to them what garlic and wooden stakes are to Vampires.

Image result for Alexej von Jawlensky

Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sakharov, 1909

Here’s the AP FactCheck.

Here’s a look at his claims at a Minneapolis rally, his first since Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry of Trump’s actions as president:

TRUMP: “If our opponent had won that election, you know what would have happened? Right now, China would be the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world. And right now, I can tell you, they’re not even close.”

THE FACTS: No matter who got elected in 2016 — Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton — China’s economy could not have caught up to America’s.

Even if the U.S. economy had not grown at all since 2016, China’s gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — would have had to have surged a fantastical 79% in three years to pull even with America’s. That comes to growth of more than 21% a year — something even China’s super-charged economy has never approached.

The Chinese economy continues to slowly narrow the gap because every year it grows much faster than America’s. In 2019, for example, the International Monetary Fund expects Chinese GDP to increase 6.2%, more than double the 2.6% growth it expects for the United States. But it’s got a long way to go to surpass the U.S.

___

TRUMP: “We have totally defeated the ISIS caliphate.”

THE FACTS: His claim of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State still poses a threat.

IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate.

Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

IS controlled large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, where they declared a caliphate in 2014 along with large parts of neighboring Iraq.

U.N. experts warned in August that IS leaders are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands.”

Mädchen mit Zopf

Mädchen mit Zopf,Alexei Jawlensky (1864-1941)

But, most importantly, Congress heard from Marie Yovanovich today.  This is from WAPO “Ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch tells Congress Trump pressured State Dept. to remove her.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine whose abrupt ouster in May has become a topic of interest for House impeachment investigators said Friday that her departure came as a direct result of pressure President Trump placed on the State Department to remove her, according to her prepared remarks before Congress obtained by The Washington Post.

Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was forced to leave Kiev on “the next plane” this spring and subsequently removed from her post, with the State Department’s No. 2 official telling her that, though she had done nothing wrong, the president had lost confidence in her and the State Department had been under significant pressure to remove her since the summer of 2018.

In explaining her departure, she acknowledged months of criticisms by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had accused her of privately badmouthing the president and seeking to protect the interests of former vice president Joe Biden and his son who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Yovanovitch denied those allegations and said she was “incredulous” that her superiors decided to remove her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” She also took direct aim at Giuliani’s associates whom she said could’ve been financially threatened by her anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.

“Contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” she said.

The sweeping criticisms by a diplomat with more than 30 years in the foreign service came amid rising dissatisfaction inside the State Department at what is seen as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s failure to defend his subordinates who became targets in the Ukraine controversy. Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Pompeo, resigned from his post this week as resentment in the building has grown.

Alexej von Jawlensky - Selbstportrait - Self Portrait

Alexej von Jawlensky, self portrait, 1905

We’ve definitely gotten to a watershed here.   I’ll end with this from Jonathan Lemire  of the Associated Press: “Analysis: In impeachment fight, it’s Trump vs. Constitution

 Donald Trump has spent his time in office trying to bend the conventions of the American presidency to his will. Now he appears to be trying to override a core principle of democracy: that no one is above the law.

Faced with an impeachment inquiry, Trump has openly defied the core constructs of the Constitution. He chafes at the idea of co-equal branches of government and rejects the House’s right to investigate him.

He has deployed a convoluted logic in which he has declared that the courts can’t investigate him because as president he cannot be charged with a crime but also that Congress cannot impeach him because its inquiry is politically illegitimate.

It’s a “heads he wins, tails you lose” formulation.

“It’s anathema to his character and his life story to be checked and balanced by anything,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham, a professor at Vanderbilt University. “The Constitution was formed to contain appetite. And we now have the president who is driven entirely by appetite.”

In a scathing eight-page letter this week, the Republican president’s lawyers served notice there will be no cooperation with the impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s White House has ignored document requests and subpoenas. It readily invokes executive privilege — going so far as to argue that the privilege extends to informal presidential advisers who never held White House jobs. And his team all but dares Democrats to hold them in contempt.

The impeachment standoff follows a pattern Trump has established throughout his presidency as he has jettisoned experienced advisers and flouted conventions.

The fact that he survived the special counsel’s Russia investigation without paying much of a political penalty left him all the more emboldened.

One day after Robert Mueller’s faltering testimony brought an end to that threat, Trump unleashed a new one by asking Ukraine’s president to investigate his political foe Joe Biden. That prompted the fast-moving impeachment inquiry that Trump now resists.

After two weeks of a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week was a declaration of war.

While it was filled with dubious legal arguments, its intent was clear: Trump would not play ball, claiming that the game was rigged against him.

It’s time to shut the Trump Circus down and send him and the monkeys to jail.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?