Remember how quaint Watergate was, how it all blew up when the “smoking gun” was discovered? Donald Trump’s got a smoking artillery range, as yet another career diplomat steps forward courageously to testify. Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Mike Pompeo, resigned his post last week, “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,” according to the Washington Post: A person familiar with the situation said McKinley felt that Pompeo had been a positive force compared to his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, in terms of encouraging alternative views within the department, as well as lifting a Tillerson freeze on promotions and prohibitions against spouses working abroad. Although he had no direct involvement with Ukraine, part of McKinley’s job involved taking the temperature of the building for Pompeo. Like many others, he was disappointed in the secretary’s lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy and called to testify before House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into the actions of Trump and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani. McKinley is scheduled to testify Wednesday. Maybe he’ll enlighten us as to what Pompeo was doing, listening in on the telephone conversation between Trump and Zelensky. McKinley is a private citizen now. He doesn’t have the sword of Damocles hanging over him, since he resigned. This could get interesting.
If you are gobsmacked, along with the rest of the world, at how the past 72 hours have played out, with respect to the Middle East, you need to know that Trump planned it this way. The first bread crumb to follow is this morning’s particularly insane tweet. Stunningly stupid tweets from Donald Trump are par for the course, but this one is not only memorable — it is epic. It starts off with a lie, “defeating 100% of ISIS” moves on to an insane proposition, Syria and Assad protecting the Kurds, then degenerates into pure babble, as he, incredibly, washes his hands of the situation. I don’t know how many of his tweets will be featured in the history books, but I guarantee this one will be. ….and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019 Trump is so far off the walls with this that his unforgivable irreverence and lack of solemnity in a time of global crisis, which he fomented, is just being ignored. Here’s how The Hill reported it: Moments before announcing the sanctions, Trump tweeted that the U.S. should not be responsible for defending the Syrian border or protecting the Kurds. He suggested that Assad, China or Russia could be responsible for those roles instead. And Trump PLANNED to wash his hands of this situation, should it arise. That’s how we got into this horrific mess. Just look at this in plain terms: The reality TV actor is suggesting that our allies can find protection at the hands of the Syrian war criminal, Al-Assad–remember him, the guy who used chemical weapons on civilians — because the reality TV actor has been calling the Turkish dictator’s bluff for over two years, thinking that Erdogan would never really invade Syria. Trump was just going to keep tweaking Erdogan, just for the hell of it, because he gets off on it. But this time Erdogan called Trump’s bluff — and Trump was seriously too stupid to even consider that possibility could ever actually manifest, because of the bubble of invincibility in which he lives. Axios: “I think everyone thought Erdoğan was bluffing,” a source close to Trump told me today. The big picture: Trump would tell Erdoğan that if he wanted to invade Syria he would have to own whatever mess ensued, according to these sources. Erdoğan would have to take care of ISIS and manage international condemnation, trouble from Capitol Hill, and the quagmire with the Kurds. And when Trump put it in such stark terms to Erdoğan, the Turkish leader would demur. Until last Sunday, that is, when he told Trump he was moving ahead with the invasion of northern Syria. This time, Erdoğan called Trump’s bluff, having waited for international forces to wipe out the ISIS caliphate. Erdoğan’s decision — which the White House cleared the way for in its Sunday night announcement, alienating and blindsiding key allies including Republican lawmakers and the Christian right — has plunged the Middle East and Trump’s political standing in Washington into crisis. Trump thinks that foreign policy and diplomacy is just one […]
Well, that’s not a headline you’re going to see everyday, those two politicians going into the same fox hole together, but then we are not living in normal times. Here’s what Pelosi said. Pleased to have a conversation with Senator @LindseyGrahamSC this morning. Our first order of business was to agree that we must have a bipartisan, bicameral joint resolution to overturn the President’s dangerous decision in Syria immediately. — Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 14, 2019 As we find ourselves in a situation where the President gave a green light to the Turks to bomb and effectively unleashed ISIS, we must have a stronger sanctions package than what the White House is suggesting. — Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 14, 2019 And while this is going on, you know where Trump’s focus is? He’s ginning up support for Sean Spicer’s “Dancing With The Stars” competition. A reporter fleeing the scene in Syria tried to jerk Trump awake, but I think she’s wasting her time. Sorry I can’t. Too busy fleeing Rojava, leaving Kurdish friends to the mercy of Assad and the military assault started when you told Erdogan you wanted out of ‘endless wars’. https://t.co/j5NTFQcMNi — Lindsey Hilsum (@lindseyhilsum) October 14, 2019 People are getting slaughtered, running for their lives, the Middle East, which has always been a hotbed, is destabilizing further even as we speak, and the reality TV actor is talking about TV — and that does make sense. Because this is ALL JUST TELEVISION to him, as I have said ad infinitum. Trump has no real world experience or understanding of anything else but digital images and ratings. And right now, the Syrian TV show is too bleak and depressing for him, but Dancing With The Stars is sprightly and cute, so that’s where his focus is. I truly believe that this is what is going on in the White House and in Trump’s head. Trump is tweeting while Syria burns. I hope Pelosi and Graham can stop Amerigeddon.
Donald Trump just tweeted at Chris Wallace today. Maybe he’s hoping that Wallace will go the way of Shepard Smith. Somebody please explain to Chris Wallace of Fox, who will never be his father (and my friend), Mike Wallace, that the Phone Conversation I had with the President of Ukraine was a congenial & good one. It was only Schiff’s made up version of that conversation that was bad! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019 Raw Story: It isn’t the first Time Trump has gone after the younger Wallace. In a 2015 debate where Trump attacked former Fox News host Megyn Kelly for “blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump also attacked Chris Wallace for not being as great as his father. “The great Mike Wallace was a friend of mine,” Trump said. “He was a tough cookie and he was great. And the son is only a tiny action of Mike, believe me.” If Trump’s comment ever stung him, Wallace is over it. “One of us has daddy issues, and it isn’t me,” he says. Trump does have Daddy issues. Right now, all he can talk about is how terrible Joe Biden and his son are. Trump claims to know all kinds of celebrities, because he’s such a hot shot himself. Does he not know that the well-adjusted sons of famous and successful fathers, the Michael Douglases and Rob Reiners of the world, are not comparing themselves to Dad, they’re being their own men? And because their fathers raised them to have confidence and forge their own path, they’re able to realize their own potential and not spend their lives enthralled to their fathers’ image and feeling inadequate — like Donald Trump? Trump’s neuroses and lack of self-awareness are getting so pronounced that even those of us who took a couple of psych classes in college can see his issues as clear as day. Pity he can’t. And just for the record, there’s no indication Mike Wallace was ever friends with Trump. He interviewed him once on “60 Minutes.” Mike Wallace interviewed thousands of people on that show, including an old landlord of mine who went to prison for Medicare fraud. Seriously. His name was Paul Zander. I guarantee you, Zander didn’t consider Mike Wallace a friend, au contraire. Wallace and his film crew showed up on the sidewalk outside Zander’s medical prosethetics shop in Westwood, while Zander, who was out on a huge bail bond, while awaiting adjudication of his case, stared out the shop window in disbelief. Things were bad enough when his two buddies from Iran, who managed to flee the country before the feds descended, left him holding the bag, I believe under the doctrine of joint and several liability, but don’t quote me. And then Mike Wallace showed up. It was not a good time. Walllace put people on the hot seat. Trump is actually lucky that Wallace deigned to waste a ten minute interview on him, he usually fried much bigger and more interesting fish. CBS News: “There are a lot of things to do,” Mr. Trump said. “You know, a fertile imagination and a fertile mind, Mike, it’s really amazing what can be thought of.” “Politics?” Wallace interjected. “No, not politics,” Mr. Trump said. “You said you could do a better […]
You may have caught Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Face the Nation Sunday talking about the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria. He gave it the usual anti-war spin, at an attempt at making it sound positive, but what the withdrawal really is, is a pro-Erdogan ploy, which plays right into ISIS’ hands, and our allies are getting slaughtered — and our troops are appalled, and what else could they be? Pete Buttigieg: “If you take away a soldier’s honor, you might as well go after their body armor next, that is what the commander-in-chief is doing right now," he said insisting Trump was “systematically destroying American allies and American values" https://t.co/8h2L9A4Lqu — The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) October 13, 2019 My cousin was in Syria, he’s EOD was helping the Kurds. He called today and said “They’re great fighters and great people, and we fukd em hard” civilians dead, raped, heads being cut off. New ISIS, same as the old ISIS. Fuck you Trump. You have shamed us, you pathetic loser — Christopher Titus (@TitusNation) October 13, 2019 This is not only a horrendous misfire of foreign policy, this is murder — genocide, to be more specific. Daily Beast: A U.S. official told CNN that U.S. policy “has failed” and that the campaign in Syria to defeat ISIS is “over for now,” giving the terrorist group “a second lease on life with nearly 100,000 [people] who will re-join their jihad.” The mixed messaging by the Trump administration is making it difficult for even his most ardent supporters to help unravel his foreign policy on Syria as it spins out of control. Just days after Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria where they have been providing weapons and cover to allied Kurdish fighters on the border between Turkey and Syria, Turkey began a military incursion that has sent the region into a level of chaos it has not seen in recent years. The Daily Beast first reported Friday that claims made by the Trump administration that U.S. troops had been withdrawn were false. “We are out of there. We’ve been out of there for a while,” Trump said Wednesday. “No soldiers whatsoever.” Two officials told The Daily Beast that in fact the U.S. military had only pulled back–not completely out–of northern Syria. They had simply abandoned two small observation posts from which they supported Kurdish allies in the fight against Islamic State fighters. If this doesn’t depress you enough, the New York Times reported that several dozen “high value” ISIS POW prisoners just escaped: The American military was unable to transfer about five dozen “high value” Islamic State detainees out of Kurdish-run wartime prisons before the Pentagon decided to move its forces out of northern Syria and pave the way for a Turkish-led invasion, according to two American officials. In the same area on Sunday, hundreds of Islamic State sympathizers escaped from a low-security detention camp in the region, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the Turkish ground invasion and the accompanying strikes. Both developments underscored the pandemonium unleashed by President Trump’s sudden decision to order American troops to evacuate part of the Syrian region bordering Turkey. “Chaos” “pandemonium” “bloodshed” “crime against humanity” “genocide” — these are the words you’re going to be seeing a lot, along with rape, decapitation, death and […]
Maybe all of the GOP’s social media posts are being run out of the Kremlin, because this is another one of those eff-ups that fit into the You Can’t Make This Shit Up file — which is the file that evidently engulfed our reality and took over at some point, because we appear to be living in it and nothing but it. That's the Russian battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy pic.twitter.com/FJKsRYU1g0 — Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) October 13, 2019 I think I can even see the Russian flag on the back — Ben 🇺🇸 (@ReverendRambo) October 13, 2019 Indeed pic.twitter.com/UVJS9lwYjc — MannequinHybrid (@MotJuinCattleya) October 13, 2019 This was done on purpose. OBVS. — Karla Ruthford (@RuthfordKarla) October 13, 2019 Although, you know, there is logic to this. Since Republicans are paid in rubles these days and Putin is running the White House, ergo, what is the United States property is automatically Russia’s, so wishing the U.S.Navy Happy Birthday with a Russian ship, merely underscores Putin’s bloodless coup. He’s got the Russian Navy, the U.S. Navy, he controls it all. Now what makes this even more ridiculous, is Brian Mast took money from indicted Ukrainian Igor Fruman and he’s going to give it back. Seriously, you make this up. Florida Politics: Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is joining Gov. Ron DeSantis in returning campaign cash from businessman Igor Fruman, who is now facing federal charges for allegedly violating campaign finance laws. Those charges have no connection to the donations to Mast and DeSantis. Fruman and Lev Parnas, associates of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, were charged Thursday in connection with a $325,000 donation in support of Trump’s reelection. Records from the Federal Election Commission show Mast received $2,433 from Fruman in donations between March and June of 2018. A Mast for Congress spokesperson now says that money will be returned. Remember back in the day when it was said that Rohrabacher and Trump were on Putin’s payroll? I wouldn’t want to take bets whose names would be mentioned today.
Rudy Giuliani was not exactly making friends and pleasing people before the Ukraine controversy exploded in the headlines, via the July 25 Trump/Zelensky call, followed swiftly by the revelation of Rudy’s connection with Lev Parnas and Igor Furman, recently indicted for campaign finance violation, while attempting to flee the country. All in all, consensus in Trumpworld is that Rudy should just shut up and go away — and for ample reason. Politico: …Giuliani has been talking — a lot. On Sept. 19, he denied he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, only to admit it 30 seconds later. On Sept. 24, he blew up at radio host Christopher Hahn during a joint television appearance, calling him a “moron” and an “idiot.” On Oct. 6, he yelled at TV host Howard Kurtz, putting his fingers to his lips to shush him in the middle of the interview. And in a series of phone interviews, Giuliani described himself both as a “hero” and the real “whistleblower” in the Ukraine saga, questioning why anyone would praise the person who initially raised concerns about Trump’s call. “If I get killed now, you won’t get the rest of the story,” he warned POLITICO Giuliani is Trump’s “television lawyer,” an area of legal specialization that Trump was heard to frequently demand, along with “killers” another area of law which you won’t find designated for certification in any state bar in the country, but which also features prominently in Trump’s legal lexicon. First Trump interviewed Joe diGeneva, whom he had seen on Fox News but didn’t like when he met in person, and when that didn’t work out, Rudy came to fill the void of television lawyer. The role of killer lawyer was first tried on Matthew Whitaker, whom Trump also discovered on the tube when he wanted to replace Jeff Sessions. When that magnificently flopped, Bill Barr was recruited as Trump’s killer, and Roy Cohn himself would probably approve of that pairing. Roy Cohn, incidentally, found Trump something of a killer himself. Cohn was quoted as saying, “Donald pisses ice water.” In any event, Rudy Giuliani came on board as television lawyer, to head up Trump’s Mueller defense, and now Trump’s aides hold their breath, because impeachment is quite a different kettle of fish — but Rudy’s not worried in the least. “Jay and I got us through the last one, not the peanut gallery,” Giuliani said. “The president has made his views [on impeachment] quite well known.” It’s not the first time prominent Republicans have complained to Trump about Giuliani. But those same allies say the situation has grown dire since the House opened its impeachment inquiry. “I think he’s massively hurting,” said a person close to the Trump campaign. “His TV appearances are so confused and contradictory, he’s creating an impression of internal chaos.” “He’s inarticulate,” said a Republican who speaks to the president. “Rudy hurts the president with inconsistent, confusing messages.” One former senior administration official described it this way when asked what Trump’s strategy against impeachment should be: “Hopefully Rudy will be on the space shuttle.” Doesn’t sound like much of a vote of confidence, does it? Say, what about this? Rudy can head up Space Force.
It will be interesting to see if Donald Trump screams his usual “fake news” accusation at this, or better yet if he tries his Sgt. Schultz defense. He claims he doesn’t know the two Ukrainians who were arrested and indicted last week on campaign fraud charges while trying to flee the country, but lo and behold, there he is in the picture with Lev Parnas. Politico: It was posted on April 2, 2014, on the Facebook account of Shawn Jaros, also known as Shawn Jarosovich. Jaros captioned the photo “the big homies!!!!!!!!!!! for real tho” and then commented on the photo, “salute lev im coming brother!!!!!!!!!” Two weeks earlier, on March 14, Jaros posted, “Shout out to my ukranian boss and brother Lev Parnas thank you for eberything you and your team doing for me, i cant repay you enough!!!!!!!! and i want to meet the donald soon!!!!!!” That post suggests the meeting captured in the photo was not a chance interaction, and that Parnas had discussed his access to Trump with Jaros. Now Jaros is an interesting character. His LinkedIn profile says he’s a “musician and music producer,” who has worked in Fort Lauderdale, Queens, Atlanta and Minneapolis. He also moonlights as an investor of sorts, saying it’s his job to “negotiate and close deals centered on gold, oil, rough diamonds” for a business called Gabriel and Jaros Holdings. That’s an interesting skills set. It reminds me personally of a guy I knew in the movie studios who worked occasionally as a grip on low budget, non union films, but who tried to sell gold bullion to a successful casting director I knew. The casting director’s words to me were, “there’s only about three banks in the world that can do the kind of deal that guy described to me, and that’s who the legitimate players deal with, not some gangster in Los Angeles.” I am having a sense of deja vu right now. But wait, there’s more. POLITICO reported on Friday that the French newspaper Le Figaro interviewed Parnas at the Trump campaign’s invite-only election night party in 2016, and that Parnas described himself to the paper as a friend of Trump’s. Those are not Parnas’ only ties to the campaign. His son, Aaron, volunteered for the Trump campaign in Florida in 2016, according to a 2017 profile in The Palm Beach Post. So much for Trump’s claim, “I don’t know those gentleman. Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You’d have to ask Rudy.”
Donald Trump has been sounding nuttier and nuttier in recent days, no question, tweeting about everything from his “perfect” “beautiful telephone call” to Zelensky, to talking about a soldier “with his face in a thousand fragments,” who wanted to “rebuild his nose.” But he really pulled out all the stops in his recent Minneapolis MAGA rally. Chuck Todd announced that Trump’s worst comments were not going to be broadcast on his network, because to do so would only amplify them and that would not be good journalism to do so, because they were so inappropriate. This is similar to the decision Nicole Wallace made a while back not to re-broadcast Trump tweets, for the same reason. It goes without saying that in the history of our country, journalists have never made a judgement call to withhold broadcasting a president’s words out of circumspection and good taste. However, I am going to quote a few pertinent portions of Trump’s travesty of a Minneapolis speech here, for two reasons: 1. It gives us a snapshot of what the 2020 election is going to look like, irregardless of who the Democratic nominee is: it’s going to make 2016 look sane and civil by comparison; and 2. it buttresses Paul Krugman’s argument, about how while we’re appalled on the one hand with Trump’s vulgar excess and unbelievable dialogue and rhetoric, on the other hand, we should be grateful for it, because Trump being Trump is in fact what is going to stop Trump — and that’s the only thing that matters, is that this madness stop. Full transcript of Trump’s Minneapolis speech, October 10, 2019 Donald Trump: (36:13) Two months after president Obama put Joe in charge of Ukraine policy, they put Joe Biden in charge of Ukraine policy. Listen to this. And the press will not write it. They say, “In totally unsubstantiated charges …” every time they talk about him. President Trump has said that his son walked away with a fortune. Now you know that’s a totally unsubstantiated charge. Really? It’s not an unsubstantiated, it’s fact. Joe’s son Hunter got thrown out of the Navy and then he became a genius on Wall Street in about two days. Donald Trump: (36:49) By the way, whatever happened to Hunter. Where the hell is he? Where’s Hunter? Hey fellows, I have an idea for a new t-shirt. I love the cops, but let’s do another t-shirt. Where’s Hunter? Where is he? Here’s Hunter, being examined by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd or some of these people. Hunter, it’s so great that you’re here, sir. Hunter, I know they’re giving you approximately $168,000 a month. I hear they paid you a big check of $3 million. I just want to speak on behalf of NBC who’s absolutely one of the worst. I just want to tell you … Hunter, Hunter I just want to tell you I couldn’t be happier for you and your family and I know you don’t know anything about energy and I know it’s an energy company, but I think they made a great deal, Hunter. And then they fly to China, and I’m dealing with people right now. They’re tough as hell, those Chinese negotiators, and Hunter, who’s not too smart, Hunter. He goes in, he has a meeting, he […]
You know, we may all die of ulcers, anxiety, or heart failure, but as long as Donald Trump is in office, by God, we are not going to die of boredom. I cannot even remember the no-drama Obama years, when I was lulled into my liberal stupor and all was right with the world. Then, a presidential scandal was a tan suit, a coffee cup and a jar of mustard. Perhaps I just dreamt it. In all events, along with 1. The damning testimony of the former Ambassador to Ukraine about how she was systematically forced out by Trump; 2. the ongoing impeachment inquiry, 3. the massacre going on in Syria, 4. the eroding economic factors, 5. the elimination of Enemy of the People, Shepard Smith, 6. the criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani and his cohorts, and 7. Whatever else I didn’t mention because my head is spinning trying to keep up; Donald Trump gives us yet another presidential present: he just tweeted that his acting Homeland Security Chief is leaving. Forget the cabinet posts, now even the acting department heads are bailing. Look out below. The West Wing is unleashing personnel like it was a hail storm. ….Congratulations Kevin, on a job well done! I will be announcing the new Acting Secretary next week. Many wonderful candidates! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2019 This is the new Republican boilerplate: Paul Ryan had to spend time with his family, Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to spend time with hers, and now McAleenan needs to return home to the hearth as well. This was the guy that was going to take us in a “tougher” direction, you remember that? What? You don’t remember anything because you’re going into a coma from sensory overload? Well, save a place for the rest of us, because we’re right behind you! For those whose heads haven’t exploded yet, here’s the recent history of the clearly dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security, a ship that keeps losing it’s captain and is listing about without a keel. NPR: During his tenure, McAleenan, a career civil servant, managed to decrease the number of people entering the United States illegally across the southern border. But in an interview with The Washington Post last week, he complained about the “tone, the message, the public face and approach” of the nation’s immigration policy. The departure continues a purge of leadership at the Department of Homeland Security at Trump’s behest and raises more uncertainty over management at the massive agency created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since April, former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles and acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald Vitiello have resigned. In June, Trump also accepted the resignation of acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders. Trump elevated McAleenan to serve as acting replacement for Nielsen just days after he said he wanted the administration to go in a “tougher direction” as illegal border crossings had increased. Ah yes, the border and The Wall was Trump’s signature issue. Doesn’t seem like that’s working out any more than the trade wars that are good and easy to win. Well, maybe impeachment will guarantee him re-election, as he keeps insisting. Or, maybe a flying saucer will land on the White House lawn. I rule out nothing.