A bipartisan Senate report on the January 6 insurrection came out last night, and it’s highly critical of the Capitol Police, but it doesn’t address Trump’s role in encouraging the riot.
A new Senate report reveals previously unknown details about the stunning security breakdowns ahead of the January 6 US Capitol attack, including a finding that the US Capitol Police’s main intelligence unit “was aware of the potential for violence” beforehand.
The report adds an authoritative emphasis to previous evidence that there were massive intelligence failures, critical miscommunications, and unheeded warnings that ultimately led to the chaotic response that day.
Among the failures was an inability by intelligence officials to tie together a swirl of troubling internet chatter leading up to the riot and a reliance on using past, non-violent Trump rallies in security planning.
There are also several glaring omissions in the report including any examination of Donald Trump’s role in the riots, raising questions about whether lawmakers, in their quest for bipartisanship, exposed the limits of a Congress divided and unable to agree on certain truths, particularly those related to the former President’s actions.
Sources tell CNN that in order for this report, which was compiled by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, to have support from both parties, the language had to be carefully crafted, and that included excluding the word “insurrection,” which notably does not appear outside of witness quotes and footnotes.
Clearly we need an independent commission to investigate the origins of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Nevertheless the Senate report does reveal new information.
Recommendations for the future?
The report’s recommendations, which call for better planning, training and intelligence gathering, largely mirror those of other investigators who have examined the topic, and its contents steer clear of offering any assessment or conclusion about Trump’s responsibility for the riot.
Still, the report provides a vivid picture of how poor communication and unheeded warnings left officers underequipped to face violent threats about which they had not been made aware, leaving the Capitol vulnerable to an attack that otherwise might have been preventable.
According to the report, Capitol Police intelligence officers knew as early as Dec. 21 that protesters planned to “bring guns” and other weapons to the Jan. 6 demonstration and turn them on any law enforcement officers who blocked their entry into the Capitol. They knew that would-be rioters were sharing maps of the Capitol campus online and discussing the building’s best entry points — and how to seal them off to trap lawmakers inside. But that information was shared only with command officers.
A separate security assessment dated Dec. 23 made no mention of those findings. Neither did a follow-up Dec. 30.
Read more at the WaPo.
The New York Times: ‘Does Anybody Have a Plan?’ Senate Report Details Jan. 6 Security Failures.
Top federal intelligence agencies failed to adequately warn law enforcement officials before the Jan. 6 riot that pro-Trump extremists were threatening violence, including plans to “storm the Capitol,” infiltrate its tunnel system and “bring guns,” according to a new report by two Senate committees that outlines large-scale failures that contributed to the deadly assault.
An F.B.I. memo on Jan. 5 warning of people traveling to Washington for “war” at the Capitol never made its way to top law enforcement officials. The Capitol Police failed to widely circulate information from its intelligence unit that supporters of President Donald J. Trump were posting online about pressuring lawmakers to overturn his election loss.
“If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,” one post said.
“Bring guns. It’s now or never,” said another.
The first congressional report on the Capitol riot is the most comprehensive and detailed account to date of the dozens of intelligence failures, miscommunications and security lapses that led to what the bipartisan team of senators that assembled it concluded was an “unprecedented attack” on American democracy and the most significant assault on the Capitol in more than 200 years….
The 127-page joint report, a product of more than three months of hearings and interviews and reviews of thousands of pages of documents, presents a damning portrait of the preparations and response at multiple levels. Law enforcement officials did not take seriously threats of violence, it found, and a dysfunctional police force at the Capitol lacked the capacity to respond effectively when those threats materialized.
There are many more details on the report at the NYT link.
U.S. Capitol Police leaders learned that Trump supporters were discussing ways to infiltrate tunnels around the complex and target Democratic members of Congress on Jan. 6 but failed to act on the threats, according to a new Senate report summing up what it says were profound intelligence and security failures that contributed to one of the worst incidents of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.
The report also says that officers complained about a lack of leadership within the department as they tried to repel the attack — and that top leaders were virtually silent as they begged for help.
Through tips from the public and other sources, Capitol Police “knew about social media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on January 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence,” the report said, but the police force’s intelligence division “did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners.”
The Capitol Police’s possession of the specific intelligence had been previously flagged by the department’s inspector general in a report that has not made public, NBC News and other news organizations have reported. But the Senate document sheds new light on it. The failure to distribute the information widely, the report says, left rank-and-file Capitol Police officers unprepared to defend themselves from the armed mob.
“The objects thrown at us varied in size, shape and consistency,” an officer said. “Some were frozen cans and bottles, rebar from the construction, bricks, liquids, pepper spray, bear spray, sticks of various widths, pipes, bats.”
Another officer told Senate investigators: “We were ill prepared. We were NOT informed with intelligence. We were betrayed.”
In other news, CNN obtained a recording of a 2019 phone call between Rudy Giuliani and a Ukrainian official: Exclusive: New audio of 2019 phone call reveals how Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate baseless Biden conspiracies.
Never-before-heard audio, obtained exclusively by CNN, shows how former President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Rudy Giuliani relentlessly pressured and coaxed the Ukrainian government in 2019 to investigate baseless conspiracies about then-candidate Joe Biden.
The audio is of a July 2019 phone call between Giuliani, US diplomat Kurt Volker, and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The call was a precursor to Trump’s infamous call with Zelensky, and both conversations later became a central part of Trump’s first impeachment, where he was accused of soliciting Ukrainian help for his campaign.
During the roughly 40-minute call, Giuliani repeatedly told Yermak that Zelensky should publicly announce investigations into possible corruption by Biden in Ukraine, and into claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to hurt Trump. (These separate claims are both untrue.)
“All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out,” Giuliani said, according to the audio. “… Somebody in Ukraine’s gotta take that seriously.”
The new audio demonstrates how Giuliani aggressively cajoled the Ukrainians to do Trump’s bidding. And it undermines Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that “there was no quid pro quo” where Zelensky could secure US government support if he did political favors for Trump.
The call was one of the opening salvos in the years-long quest by Trump and his allies to damage Biden and subvert the 2020 election process — by soliciting foreign meddling, lying about voter fraud, attempting to overturn the results, and inciting the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol.
I hadn’t heard of this crazy conspiracy theory until yesterday. Vanity Fair: Trump’s Deranged Theory That Democrats Would Replace Biden Might Have Helped Him Lose 2020.
In early 2020, a frustrated and furious Donald Trump described Joe Biden as “a mental retard” while struggling to cope with his own placement in early polls, according to a passage from “Frankly, We Did Win This Election”: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, a forthcoming book by senior Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. The author notes that Trump vented his anger at the time by interrupting “a policy meeting in the Oval Office to ask, ‘How am I losing in the polls to a mental retard?’”
In another moment Bender writes that Trump held back on focusing his firepower on Biden during the primary stage of the election because he was convinced that the Democratic Party was scheming to switch out now president Biden for a different candidate—such as Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama—over the summer. The source of this conspiracy theory, per Bender, was Dick Morris, a former Clinton White House adviser who was “quietly advising Trump” last year. “Dick Morris told Trump that Biden was too old and too prone to gaffes to be the nominee,” Bender writes, while others in Trumpworld felt Biden would exit the race and be replaced by someone else if Trump began bashing him too hard. “Others said Fox News anchor Sean Hannity expressed concern that Biden would collapse under a sustained attack from Trump.”
According to Bender, Trump also felt that his attack strategy had backfired during the first stage of the Democratic primary. “The president, meanwhile, had often complained that his early attack on [Elizabeth] Warren had damaged her presidential bid, which he regretted because he viewed her as an easier opponent than Biden,” Bender writes. “Now he worried that a heavy blitz of attack ads would hasten the secret plot being hatched by Democrats, and his mind raced with who they might select in Biden’s place.” During a meeting held the month after the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., Trump expressed his Biden replacement theory to advisers, saying that Democratic leadership would “realize [Biden is] old, and they’re going to give it to somebody else. They’re going to give it to Hillary, or they’re going to give it to Michelle Obama.”
One person in Trump’s circle did work to put a stop to this absurd belief, which Trump apparently clung to so deeply that he “had cited it as a reason to hold off on heavy spending against Biden earlier in the month.” Bender writes that Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio “devoted nearly an entire page of [a campaign memo] to debunking a conspiracy theory that had bubbled up inside Trump World, including with the president, that Democrats were going to steal Biden’s nomination at the convention.” In the memo, Fabrizio reportedly wrote, “I know there is some concern (which I strenuously disagree with) that if we go after Biden too soon, we can collapse him, and the Dems will replace him at their convention. I know POTUS tends to share this opinion.” Bender adds: “The pollster aimed to debunk the theory by outlining the remaining Democratic primaries, in which Biden had no significant challenger, and the delegate math to secure the nomination. Biden would have enough delegates to secure the nomination in just three weeks, Fabrizio explained, and it would be mathematically impossible to steal it in four weeks.”
How on earth could this wacko actually have been POTUS?
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.
The New York Times: Erdogan Hands ‘Tough Guy’ Letter Back to Trump.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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….
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….
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.