It’s getting down and dirty in Washington over the Ukraine issue. In a nutshell, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the EU was blocked from testifying before Congress by the Trump administration, at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, mere hours before he was to appear on Capitol Hill. This is not normal. So now, the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees have announced their intention to subpoena Sondland — and the State Department’s move will be considered evidence of obstruction of justice. This is getting fierce. Axios: The big picture: The chairs said in a statement that the State Department’s decision to stop Sondland from testifying will be considered evidence of obstruction in their impeachment inquiry. They added that the State Department is withholding relevant messages from Sondland’s personal device about the Trump administration’s interactions with the Ukrainian government. “These actions appear to be part of the White House’s effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry and to cover up President Trump’s misconduct from Congress and the American people. Ambassador Sondland’s testimony and documents are vital, and that is precisely why the Administration is now blocking his testimony and withholding his documents.” — Chairmen Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel and Elijah Cummings Background: According to the committees, “Sondland was at the center of the effort to orchestrate a Ukrainian statement confirming the initiation” of investigations into Joe Biden and alleged Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election in exchange for a White House visit. “The pressure on Ukraine took place as the White House also withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in vital military assistance to counter Russian aggression.” “Sondland and other State Department officials discussed whether military security assistance was being withheld from Ukraine as leverage to force the initiation of the political investigations.” This is another milestone in American politics. In Nazi Germany, knocks on the door in the middle of the night were common. The State Department of the United States typically has not worked that way. What is additionally ironic, is that Mike Pompeo used to cry out “obstruction” back when the Benghazi farce was going on. Trump is committed to see Ambassador Sondland not testify. This is one of the hot spots, probably the hottest spot in Washington right now, and that’s saying something with foreign affairs becoming unglued over the Syrian troop withdrawal and Trump’s withdrawing the U.S. from the Open Skies Treaty. What a town, with Trump running it.
I’m not going to tell you to get out your tinfoil hats, because, truth be known, this is not the craziest proposition I’ve ever heard. This is plausible. Conservative columnist Johnathan Last opines that Lindsey Graham has been sucking up to Trump all this time, because he figured that the best way that he could have influence over the lunatic (my words, not Last’s) in a time of crisis, would be by being an insider. So. Graham got inside the Trump cabal, onto the links with Trump, onto the Trump sycophant circuit on TV, etc. — waiting for the right moment to exercise his influence and that moment happened this week, with the Syrian debacle. Lindsey Graham is a double agent, so to speak, and he’s here to save the day. The Bulwark: Graham rushed out onto Twitter. He ginned up the beginnings of sanctions legislation to try to protect the Kurds if (when) Turkey slaughters them. He even called in to Fox & Friends. I know it sounds like I’m goofing on him, but I’m not. If you want to get this president’s attention immediately, showing up on Fox & Friends is better than being part of the delegation for his morning briefing. My point is this: Lindsey Graham is doing everything he can to try to influence a specific, deeply important, piece of policy. Because of Trump’s decision, American allies will die. The region will destabilize. Our adversaries will benefit. Lindsey Graham has spent three years abasing himself in front of Donald J. Trump. Three years in which he has had to publicly repudiate just about everything he’s ever said. And he did it all with an eye toward a moment like this: When Trump might do something impulsive and dangerous to American foreign policy. And Graham’s theory was: When the moment of peril comes, I can do more good for American interests by being on the inside. That way, I’ll be able to influence Trump’s decision-making. I have to admit, this never occurred to me. My theories have ranged from alien mind control to extortion, but Lindsey Graham, agent provocateur, undercover? Posturing as a Trump toadie so that when the moment of truth came, he could turn into Captain America and save the republic? Well, it’s a novel twist, you must admit. And friends, let’s face it: nothing, and I mean no thing, is impossible in this administration. If the past three years have taught us anything, surely it has taught us that.
Another horrendously bad idea from the Trump administration. American foreign policy is being shredded before our eyes, like hapless witnesses by a shark lawyer. The Trump administration is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allows the United States and our allies and partners in Europe to monitor Russian military deployments. Withdrawal risks dividing the transatlantic alliance. #Russia https://t.co/Zqst365U4J pic.twitter.com/UmbPR7cuRO — Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) October 7, 2019 Trump is considering pulling out of the open skies treaty. Definitely a birthday weekend for Putin At this point trump is acting like a kamikaze pilot destroying America in any way he can and in a hurry. At home and especially abroad. We will pay for a long time from his damage pic.twitter.com/92ts8tzDbm — Olga Lautman (@olgaNYC1211) October 7, 2019 Expand the text on this tweet with Ctrl +. It will give you a synopsis of why this is a terrible idea. I've been very critical of Russia's cheating on the Open Skies Treaty and I do believe we need a serious discussion of its pros and cons. But a precipitous unilateral withdrawal is the wrong way to address those concerns and will damage the unity of the NATO alliance. — Michael Carpenter (@mikercarpenter) October 7, 2019 Carpenter was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of defense, with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, the Balkans and Conventional Arms Control, so he’s not an amateur on foreign policy. Donald Trump is the amateur. And, unfortunately, he’s a puppet dancing on the strings of the most evil and powerful man in the world, also the richest, Vladimir Putin. Happy Birthday, Vlad. I don’t even think it’s black humor, anymore. I think this just might be a birthday present to Putin, as insane as life as we know it has gotten.
Donald Trump seems to be following the classic profile of a narcissist in an impending psychological breakdown. Narcissists who find themselves losing control become enraged, and the rage leads to even greater loss of control and inability to manage emotion, and that leads in turn to enhanced delusions and declarations of even greater power, and so the downward spiral continues. At least, that’s what the text books say. Here is Donald Trump’s latest grandiose delusion, expressed on Twitter, where else? ….down, watching over a quagmire, & spending big dollars to do so. When I took over, our Military was totally depleted. Now it is stronger than ever before. The endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING! We will be focused on the big picture, knowing we can always go back & BLAST! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019 And who will decide to “go back & BLAST!” Why, King Donald, of course, he who possesses “great and unmatched wisdom.” ….the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019 Now, this is not exactly normal dialogue for an American president, these declarations of omniscience, but then “normal” was a dimension that we passed out of quite some time back. We’re still trapped in a Twilight Zone episode, here. This is what a Harvard psychologist said. Am I the only psychologist who finds this claim and this threat truly alarming? Wouldn’t these normally trigger a mental health hold? Right and Left must set aside politics and agree that there is a serious problem here. https://t.co/1JJvznG1oU — Daniel Gilbert (@DanTGilbert) October 7, 2019 I’m a doctor and I find it chart worthy. — Curtis Merritt (@Curtis_Merritt) October 7, 2019 Great & unmatched wisdom ? This guy failed in the casino business…a business where people literally give you their money 🤔😂 . — Mike Cooper (@eddiejillete) October 7, 2019 Genmed RN here, I heard someone say exactly this the other day at work….in restraints thank goodness. — Katherine Brown (@oldnewnurse) October 7, 2019 It's no more insane than when he proclaimed to be "The Chosen One" and retweeted that he was God the King of Israel. — Trond Zaphirax (@zaphirax) October 7, 2019 In all seriousness, if this is not what the 25th Amendment was designed for, then I’m not sure I even want to know what the threshold is to have that remedy invoked. If one of the yous and mes started talking this way, we’d be in a hospital under a 5150. What does Trump have to do before Congress decides he’s over the edge? Nuke New Zealand? I hope somebody is ready to tackle him and take the nuclear football. Is the fate of the republic, perhaps the world, in the hands of Ivanka? Word has it that she’s the only one he listens to. Here’s a sensible bottom line from Dan Rather. The record shows over his business and political career, President Trump will abandon anyone to serve his own self interest. Now it’s the Kurds who fought valiantly for us […]
There is no one knowledgeable about foreign affairs, in Washington, or the press, who is endorsing Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria. Even the likes of Lindsey Graham and Fox & Friends are opposing Trump’s decision. Graham has promised to introduce a resolution in the Senate to reverse the decision, and even Brian Kilmeade, said on Fox & Friends Monday morning, “I hope that the president will rethink this.” So, in the face of all this push back, even from Trump’s staunchest allies, what oh what was in his mind that made him make this decision? So did Trump just betray the Kurds because(a) He has business interests in Turkey(b) Erdogan, being a brutal autocrat, is his kind of guy(c) His boss Vladimir Putin told him to Remarkable that all three stories are perfectly plausible. — Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) October 7, 2019 This is probably not the time to interject black humor, but this next one is true. Today is indeed Vladimir Putin’s birthday. Option (D) : Today is Vladimir Putin's birthday, and you know how hard he is to shop for. https://t.co/pxsRTGj4DX — Ray [REDACTED] (@RayRedacted) October 7, 2019 Other possibilities: Erdogan is probably threatening to turn on Kushner and spill the beans about Kashoggi's death. — J Sauter 🌎☮️🌊 (@windblaster62) October 7, 2019 The reason you can be certain that Trump has a corrupt motive for this Syria withdrawal: There is no person, no constituency, no advisor in the United States that supports this or even suggested it to him. This only benefits Turkey and Russia. — awwHALEnaww (@awwHALEnaww) October 7, 2019 Two Trump Towers in Turkey. So ya I think Trumps made a deal for political help from both Turkey and Russia — AmericanStar (@Starring2111) October 7, 2019 I would add #4. He is so incompetent and unfit, he actually believes the threat of not stopping Turkey will force Europe to immediately take back the ISIS fighters. His pea brain sees no issue with using the deaths of thousands of Kurds as leverage. Even if it won't work. — Mitchell " Mick " Moore (@Mitchel85494817) October 7, 2019 I have a theory of my own I’m going to kick in here. Nothing is real in the world of Donald Trump. It’s all about publicity and image. I think that he did this to A) sway the news cycle away from impeachment and B) have another “victory” to proclaim. You know how he loves to stroll out of the White House and tell reporters statistics, usually false, about how wonderful the economy is, and it’s all his doing? This is another “I should get a Nobel Peace Prize” ploy. I think he’s that clueless. All he knows is television and showmanship, and this is another skit to him. He has no idea about the real life and death dimension of this action. He doesn’t follow world affairs, never has. He only knows about celebrity and the role he’s play acting as POTUS, and this strikes him as good publicity. I think it’s that simple. But we’ll see where this goes. This is melting down faster than Three Mile Island.
Not a good morning for Donald Trump, as a New York federal judge ruled on Monday that the Manhattan District Attorney could subpoena eight years worth of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns. This is the third time that this issue has been adjudicated by a court. Axios: Why it matters: The case involved an untested legal argument from Trump’s lawyers, which posited that the Constitution protects presidents from criminal investigations while in office. The president’s legal team is expected to appeal the decision. The big picture, via Axios’ Zach Basu: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office subpoenaed Trump’s tax returns last month as part of its investigation into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. A federal investigation into the payments resulted in Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, and it “effectively concluded” in July with no further charges. Vance’s office opened a new investigation last month into whether the Trump Organization falsely listed its reimbursement of Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels as a legal expense, which would be illegal under New York law. Wonder what Trump is going to do now to block release of his tax returns information? And isn’t the timing of this interesting, with another Ukraine whistle blower showing up on the scene, possibly multiple whistle blowers, and the furor over Trump’s announcement that he’s withdrawing troops from Syria? I don’t know how Trump does it. Granted, he lives in an alternate reality from the rest of us, but even so, he’s got to recognize that things are totally out of control at some point.
In this roller coaster in Wonderland thrill-ride that we call American politics, 2019, here’s yet another unexpected and stomach-knotting plunge. Donald Trump has decided to withdraw troops in Syria. Already the reaction is fiercely negative, but guess who has joined that chorus? Can you believe — Lindsey Graham? * Ensures ISIS comeback.* Forces Kurds to align with Assad and Iran.* Destroys Turkey’s relationship with U.S. Congress.* Will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds. — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019 Also, if this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support. — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019 Graham is going to introduce a Senate resolution and oppose Trump. Oh, my ears and whiskers, I can barely parse this. This is almost not believable. Not at 6:30 a.m. on the West Coast, which is where I’m reading about this and writing this piece. The sun is barely up here, and Washington is plunged into chaos, once more and again. Is the old Lindsey Graham back? The side kick of the Maverick? Perhaps he is, but he’s taking heat for what he’s been saying and doing the past three years. Don't worry. It's partially your fault and you fucked us all. (Especially our allies.) — Jeremy Newberger (@jeremynewberger) October 7, 2019 Oh look, he's pretending to have a spine! Of course he knows Trump has complete power to make the move and his resolution is worthless shit intended to distance himself from the imminent slaughter of Kurds who fought ISIS. Lindsey Graham is human garbage. https://t.co/51kLzRy37L — Michael (@Schmutzie_) October 7, 2019 Military leaders are reacting against this ploy of Trump’s and they are not pleased, to put it mildly. Raw Story: On Monday, retired Gen. Mark Hertling laid into President Donald Trump on CNN for his sudden order to pull the military out of Syria and transfer U.S. responsibilities to Turkey. “This is devastating across the board in so many ways,” said Hertling. “It’s devastating for anyone who has an alliance with us in the past and looks to work for us in the future. It’s devastating for the military planners that are on the ground and the soldiers working with the Kurdish allies. It gives the NATO allies the opportunity to do some things that will significantly affect not only the Middle East but also the European footprint. I think it will certainly provide an impetus for the war against ISIS to be renewed in a much bigger way than it already was being renewed. So there are so many things you could talk about that are complicated by this action, this spur of the moment action, if you will, by the White House. It’s just incredibly jaw-dropping from my perspective. It’s going to be a wild week.
Maybe somebody dropped acid in the water cooler at the White House, because Mick Mulvaney is not only echoing Trump’s sentiment that impeachment proceedings will give the Republicans back the House of Representatives in 2020, he’s ratcheting it up several notches higher: Mulvaney sees a post-impeachment world wherein Trump wins back the White House, with an epic 45 state landslide. Say whut? Axios: Between the lines: People who’ve heard Mulvaney make this remark say he wasn’t joking or even exaggerating. He appears to genuinely believe that impeachment will have a profoundly positive effect on Trump’s political fortunes, according to 3 sources who have heard Mulvaney make the 45-state prediction. Mulvaney also believes that the longer the impeachment process drags on, the better it is, politically, for Trump, these sources added. Mulvaney did not stipulate which 5 states he thought Trump would still lose when he made these comments, a source who heard them said. His view appears to be based more on instinct than polling data. I have seen no polling that supports his prediction, and at this early stage, responsible polling analysts are extremely wary of predicting which party will benefit more from impeachment in 2020. But it’s possible Mulvaney is echoing the ebullience emanating from the Trump campaign. They are raising breathtaking sums online by telling supporters to give money to help Trump fight the Democrats trying to impeach him. There is no question but that the culture war is heating up. You won’t find anybody to dispute that fact. Apparently, Mulvaney’s take on it is that the fact that the Trumpites are opening their pocketbooks, presages a landslide victory for Trump. And that’s not a bad line of reasoning. But disillusioned farmers and coal workers are most likely not amongst those kicking into the kitty. Nor people laid off in the manufacturing sector, which Trump was also going to save. As I said in an earlier piece, Trump seems convinced that he can once again defy the laws of political physics and win — plus he believes he’ll hang onto the Senate and regain the House, because impeachment is going to work wonders for him. What is surprising about that is that, of any political figure, ever, Trump is the one who knows television. That’s all he knows. So he should realize that televised impeachment hearings, filled with day after day of damning evidence, may not bode well for him. The fact that he couldn’t even get enough sycophants to show up on the Sunday shows this week, to defend him against the whistle blower issue, should give him a clue about how many Trump attorney/gladiators he’s going to have willing to go into the impeachment arena — especially with Jared coordinating the defense? Once thing Mulvaney shares in common with Trump, and with Wilbur Ross and the vast majority of characters in Trumpworld, is that he thinks money is everything. If the rubes will shell out, then that means Trump will win again. And it is logical that in the initial moments of hysteria, with impeachment morphing from a threat, into a reality, that the Trump/Pence money machine let everybody know, “this is it, folks. The Forces of Evil are coming to get Saint Donald. Help us protect him now!” and they reacted in the heat of the moment and […]
Donald Trump is always credited with joking. Each one of his outre comments, most recently the comment about how China should investigate the Bidens, is frequently explained away by nervous Republicans as merely being a joke. Be that as it may, Trump just made an incredible understatement when it comes to impeachment. Axios: In a phone call with House Republicans on Friday, Trump articulated why he really doesn’t want this. Impeachment, Trump said, is a “bad thing to have on your resume,” according to a source on the call. Two other sources on the call confirmed the substance of the comment, but one said they recalled Trump phrasing it as “you don’t want it [impeachment] on your resume.” After making the resume remark, Trump added, “But it’s going to make Kevin speaker,” these sources said, a reference to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s upside. This is an interesting logic going on here, if you can call anything Trump thinks or says as logical: He’s not looking forward to the “stain” on his legacy — majestic as that it — but he thinks it’s going to be a big winning issue and give Republicans back the House? Why it matters: These two Trump quotes might seem like throwaways on what was a lengthy and discursive call with allies. But sources who have discussed impeachment candidly with the president say these comments perfectly encapsulate how Trump feels about it: He believes it could help him get re-elected and win back the House. But he doesn’t want the history books recording Donald Trump as an impeached president. Behind the scenes: Many of Trump’s advisers, both inside and out of the White House, have given him their unpleasant prediction that he will almost certainly be impeached by the House of Representatives. But they have also told him they believe there is almost no chance the Senate convicts him. One person who spoke to Trump in the past 10 days said he seemed resistant to that prediction and said he thought he could stop Nancy Pelosi from getting the votes to impeach. The source said Trump seemed confident that he could pile enough pressure onto House Democrats in “Trump districts” (where he won in 2016 but Democrats took back in 2018) that those incumbents would cave on Pelosi. But a second person who spoke to Trump in the last few days said the president “was not in denial” and understood that the House is probably going to impeach him. It’s very interesting, this flip flop of Trump’s: On the one hand, he doesn’t like impeachment — but it will bring a GOP windfall, so it’s a good thing. On the other hand, he’s lashing out at any Republicans who oppose him, notably Mitt Romney — but that’s good for party unity and people will go out and elect even more Republicans, because he’s doing that. This is interesting. It’s a shame Sigmund Freud isn’t still alive, to help us get a handle on this. This topic must come under the purview of psychology, because it sure as hell doesn’t fit any kind of political analysis that I personally am familiar with. Oh well, it wouldn’t be Trump if it made any sense, now would it? My best take on this is that Trump figures that no matter what happens, he […]
Dan Rather called the shot right, when he said this story was “moving faster than a hummingbird’s wings.” Nobody can keep up with this. Here’s the latest from New York Times: A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress, according to two people briefed on the matter. The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said. The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, briefed lawmakers privately on Friday about how he substantiated the whistle-blower’s account. It was not clear whether he told lawmakers that the second official is considering filing a complaint. A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point. He said that he relied on information from more than half a dozen American officials to compile his allegations about Mr. Trump’s campaign to solicit foreign election interference that could benefit him politically. Trump has made two strategic errors since he’s been president: One, he believes he’s above the law and two) apparently he believes that the intelligence community is just going to sit still and do nothing, while he breaks the law. Maybe that’s the sense of calm he was lulled into after the Mueller report didn’t have much of an effect. Things are different now. Or, at least we can devoutly wish.