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.
A criminal referral from the CIA to the Department of Justice is as serious as it gets and that is what the CIA’s top lawyer made to the DOJ regarding the Trump/Zelensky phone call — and the DOJ apparently decided to protect Trump and downplay it all. And this was in addition to the complaint on the part of the Director of National Intelligence over the same call. NBC News: Weeks before the whistleblower’s complaint became public, the CIA’s top lawyer made what she considered to be a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower’s allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News. The move by the CIA’s general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, meant she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later closed the case without conducting an investigation. […] But a timeline provided by U.S. officials familiar with the matter shows that multiple senior government officials appointed by Trump found the whistleblower’s complaints credible, troubling, and worthy of further inquiry starting soon after the president’s July phone call. While that timeline and the CIA general counsel’s contact with the DOJ has been previously disclosed, it has not been reported that the CIA’s top lawyer intended the call to be a criminal referral about the president’s conduct, acting under rules set forth in a memo governing how intelligence agencies should report allegations of federal crimes. The fact that she and other top Trump administration political appointees saw potential misconduct in the whistleblower’s early account of alleged presidential abuses puts a new spotlight on the Justice Department’s later decision to decline to open a criminal investigation — a decision that the Justice Department said publicly was based purely on an analysis of whether the president committed a campaign finance law violation. “They didn’t do any of the sort of bread-and-butter type investigatory steps that would flush out what potential crimes may have been committed,” said Berit Berger, a former federal prosecutor who heads the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School. “I don’t understand the rationale for that and it’s just so contrary to how normal prosecutors work. We have started investigations on far less.” The Justice Department is now saying that the initial contact with them was a telephone call and they didn’t consider it a formal complaint because it wasn’t in written form.
It’s no secret that Donald Trump had a lot of assistance from Russia in winning the 2016 election. What has just recently come to light, however, as UkraineGate heats up, is that a star witness for the U.S. government, with respect to the Russia investigation, was thrown out/fell out of a fifth-story window after he dealt with the now-famous Trump Tower lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Daily Beast: A cache of emails obtained by the Dossier Center, which is a Russian opposition organization based in London, exposes the depth of foreign asset entanglement in Trump’s America at the precise moment that the president’s dealings with Ukrainian officials threaten to pull the Department of Justice and State Department into an unseemly impeachment fight. […] The identity of the U.S. government’s star witness in a high-profile trial—who subsequently fell out of a fifth-story Moscow window—was compromised in the course of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign run by Natalia Veselnitskaya, according to leaked emails. […] The leaked emails offer an unprecedented look into the cynical world of Russia’s remorseless influence campaign within the U.S. Veselnitskaya was representing a company called Prevezon, which was facing an American trial over a $230 million fraud that began in Russia and implicated the Russian authorities. An American law firm that had been working for Prevezon at the direction of Veselnitskaya was barred from the case by an extremely rare writ of mandamus handed down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals because of conflict of interest with a former client. Emails suggest BakerHostetler, a major U.S. law firm that has also worked for The Daily Beast and its parent company, IAC, continued to operate as a kind of shadow counsel in what would have been a clear breach of the court order. This is no small thing. Other emails in the cache support a theory that testimony given by another witness was leaked, which endangered his life, and then the U.S. star witness referred to herein, Nikolai Gorokhov, who survived his five story fall with a fractured skull said his fall was no accident. This is banana republic level influence buying, and victimization of people who don’t play along, plain and simple. And Donald Trump is the perfect guy for that. He has no concept of any larger game plan or higher set of values other than money and greed. That’s always been a horrifying concept. What is truly horrifying however, is that he’s got the GOP right there behind him, backing him up. And you can expect it to get worse. A lot of moral-sounding Republican legislators have already walked away from Trump and the Republican party, so who does that leave running the show? That’s what should cause you to lose sleep at night, if it hasn’t already.
Donald Trump inherited a thriving economy from Obama, the way he inherited a big bank account from Daddy. In both cases, he claimed that he, in fact, had created the largesse in question. Trump’s signature issue going into 2020 was supposed to have been how terrific the economy is — and pundits were saying that he could win on that sole issue. Unfortunately, real world indicators are saying that Trump’s life preserving economy may not hold him afloat after all. Bloomberg: The S&P 500 suffered its first back-to-back drops of more than 1% this year, pushing its two-day slump to the most in two months, as private payrolls fell short of estimates a day after a manufacturing gauge slumped to the lowest in a decade. The index plunged below 2,900 and took out its average price for the past 100 days, levels it hadn’t breached in a month. Carmakers sank after quarterly sales reports from Ford and General Motors added to concern over thinning profit margins in the industry. All S&P 500 sectors but one sank more than 1%, with industries most sensitive to economic growth dropping the most. Tech and industrials plunged 2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled nearly 500 points. The hiring numbers pushed the 10-year Treasury yield lower for a fifth straight day as it pushed below 1.6%. The yen rose versus the dollar and gold spiked above $1,500. The equity rout spread to Europe, where the Stoxx 600 saw its biggest slide in 10 months and the FTSE 100 dropped the most since 2016. Oil fell below $53 a barrel after a report showed U.S. crude inventories increased. “In addition to ISM yesterday, you had auto sales data. You had Honda, Toyota, Nissan with double-digit declines. Much worse than expected,” Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird, said by phone. “It raises enough questions about how resilient is the consumer at this point. We haven’t seen enough to say ‘Yeah, the consumer is folding,’ but questions are starting to intensify.” There’s substantially more consumer debt right now than there was in 2008, the last time the yield curve was inverted and we started to go through this kind of economic assessment. For that reason, some economists have been saying that a recession now could in fact be worse than the 2008 crisis. Plus, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, told the United Nations Friday that Trump’s trade war could create a global recession. Raw Story: “The lessons of the Great Depression should not be forgotten,” Wang Yi told the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “Tariffs and provocation of trade disputes, which upset global industrial and supply chains, serve to undermine the multilateral trading regime and global economic and trade order,” he said. “They may even plunge the world into recession,” the foreign minister added. “Let me make it very clear: China is a country with a 5,000-year civilization, 1.4 billion hardworking and courageous people, and a vast land of 9.6 million square kilometers. China will not ever be (cowed) by threats, or subdued by pressure,” he said. So much for Trump’s threats to de-list Chinese companies from the stock market, or stop Chinese investment in the United States. China is well known for playing the long game and one way or another, they’re going to wait Trump out.
Oh, just forget about the You Can’t Make This Shit Up file. It started out as a thing apart from us, a glitch in the matrix perhaps, then it grew to the size of an island and then it fit into a small, hollow moon. But all that’s changed now. Today and for some time, we live inside of that file. We are all the You Can’t Make This Shit Up players. Therefore, the latest in mundane reality, which, if this happened during the Obama years would be huge screaming red chyrons, is that a rodent, let’s call him Ben, fell out of the ceiling during a White House press briefer and right into NBC correspondent’s Peter Alexander’s lap. In other news: A mouse literally fell out of the ceiling in our White House booth and landed on my lap. — Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 1, 2019 Maybe it’s another whistle blower and is seeking asylum at NBC. Ya spose? Or, maybe it’s leery of Mike Pounce. We know how it feels. The most excitement in the White House briefing room in months. Reporters attempt to capture a baby mouse that fell on @PeterAlexander lap moments ago pic.twitter.com/6zWRZfTAaq — Shannon Pettypiece (@spettypi) October 1, 2019 It’s a good thing that Sean Spicer wasn’t in the room. I can see him now, climbing on the podium and screaming to get away from Mischka Mouse (I’m figuring the mouse is Russian, because what in Trumpworld isn’t?) If Huckabee Sanders was there when Comrade Mouse showed up, she would have fired a shotgun at it and thrown it in the pot along with corn pone. The current press secretary will probably marinate it in a lot of booze, even as she herself is marinated, and add it to Roadkill Stew. I can see the recipe now, “Add whiskey until hiccupping — you, not the mouse — and leave in fridge until the electricity gets turned off. Then saute over a low Sterno flame. Serve to all your pals, with a stolen loaf of bread, squatting around a romantic, garbage can fire.” Well, now we know. Trump is running the White House like he runs his hotels. Seriously, though, I think I’ll start up the Benito Mouse-alini fan club. If you didn’t catch my Trump-Ben movie parody, (done shortly after Trump disrespected Elijah Cummings and the entire City of Baltimore) hit this link. Enjoy.
Rudy Giuliani plays an intriguing rule in Trumpworld, and perhaps a unique one in the history of statecraft. If antiquity records a Number One who is both gagster and gangster, harlequin and hitman, trickster and torpedo, it is not leaping to mind. But then we’ve never had an entertainer-autocrat squatting in the Oval Office, masquerading as a legitimate holder of the most powerful job in the world, either. To understand UkraineGate, you need to realize that it didn’t happen overnight. The now-famous phone call with Zelensky was just another plot development in an ongoing drama. Briefly, Rudy Giuliani plus two goons, by the names of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, had a hand in manipulating both the 2016 election and the press attendant thereto. They were part of a group of people pushing the conspiracy theory that Paul Manafort’s infamous “black ledger” had been faked, in order to deflect attention onto Donald Trump and away from Hillary Clinton, whom, in this CT tale, was in fact the one receiving foreign assistance from both Ukraine and Mother Russia in swinging the 2016 election to a victory. More recently, Giuliani had Parnas and Fruman on board to find dirt on Trump’s 2020 rivals and deliver yet another election to him. BuzzFeed: In their role as unofficial US envoys, Parnas and Fruman had met at least four times with top Ukrainian prosecutors — two of whom are steeped in corruption allegations of their own — as they pushed for investigations into Trump’s rivals. And they had jetted to Israel to meet with a powerful Ukrainian oligarch accused of stealing billions from one of the country’s largest banks. In one of a series of interviews with BuzzFeed News, near his home in Boca Raton, Florida, Parnas said the behind-the-scenes efforts started in late 2018 when Fruman received a call from “an acquaintance” in Ukraine who wanted to set up a meeting with the country’s most controversial prosecutor. Viktor Shokin had been fired two years earlier, but he now wanted to unload on the man he held directly responsible for his fall from power: former vice president Biden. Parnas saw that the information about Biden, who was then eyeing a bid for the presidency, could eventually benefit the Trump campaign. He immediately turned to Giuliani, who had become a friend as Parnas rose to prominence as a GOP supporter. The relationship between Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman continued. In February, Giuliani and Parnas met privately again with [Yuriy] Lutsenko,[Former prosecutor who cleared the bidens of any wrongdoing.] this time in Warsaw, on the sidelines of the US-led Middle East conference that included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The following month, the Ukrainian prosecutor general announced to the US-based news site the Hill that the allegations he had divulged in the meetings with Giuliani in New York were under investigation. “As Russia Collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges,” Trump tweeted in response to the news, citing the headline in the Hill. Giuliani urged his own Twitter followers to “keep your eye on Ukraine.” Keep your eye on Ukraine indeed. Good idea, even if it’s coming from Giuliani. There, Parnas and Fruman began working on a direct channel to Zelensky, in order to effect a back channel between Giuliani, Trump, and Zelensky. […]
Lindsey Graham hit the links Saturday morning with his BFF Donald Trump and pro golfers Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam, in South Carolina. But first Graham discharged his duty as Chief Sycophant to Donald Trump and tweeted, “In America you can’t even get a parking ticket based on hearsay testimony. But you can impeach a president? I certainly hope not.” The legal definition of hearsay is “an out of court statement, made in court, to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” More simply, it’s a report of another person’s words, by a witness, which usually is not allowed in evidence in court. Lindsey Graham was alleging that the whistle blower complaint was merely heresay, and aghast legal experts lost no time in setting him straight. Did Graham forget, incredibly, that facts in the whistle blower complaint have been confirmed so there’s zero issue of hearsay? Or what was he doing? Some desperate ploy to mollify and placate Trump momentarily? Maybe it worked with Trump, but it certainly backfired within the legal community. In fact, right after Lindsey Graham made the statement, just like Jericho, the walls of jurisprudence came a tumblin’ down — right on his head. Law and Crime: Joyce White Vance, a former federal prosecutor responded to Graham by highlighting the fact that most investigations into wrongdoing begin with hearsay evidence. “Lindsey was a prosecutor, so he knows how investigation’s work,” she wrote. “Often you start with hearsay, which helps you identify witnesses, just like what’s in the whistleblower complaint. This is where public corruption investigations often start.” Georgetown University Law Center professor Marty Lederman also wrote directly to Senator Graham, informing him that his hearsay defense is too late to still be relevant. “Dear Senator Graham: Perhaps you missed the memos. That was last week’s defense,” he tweeted. “No one now is denying any of the facts in the Complaint.” Is the phone call between Trump and Zelensky hearsay? (Hint: NO). Your desperation is showing @LindseyGrahamSC. — Elie Honig (@eliehonig) September 28, 2019 The transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President was non-hearsay and would be admissible against him. Any lawyer, like yourself, should know that. https://t.co/0IX0TBsYzR — Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 28, 2019 Dear Senator Graham:Senate rules call for the use of hearsay in impeachment, in that committees hear the testimony and report back to the full Senate. It even went to the Supreme Court!https://t.co/fr65EJ3i9d — SavageHat (@Popehat) September 28, 2019 Personally, I like George Conway’s analysis, so I share that thread here. Open and shut, cut and dried, bang bang, Conway hammers the nails in Graham’s unforgivably stupid argument. … under Rule 804(b)(3)‘ s exception to the hearsay rule for statements against penal or other interest; * To the extent Trump was involved in a criminal conspiracy with… @RudyGiuliani, Giuliani’s statements are also admissible against Trump and … — George Conway (@gtconway3d) September 28, 2019 … regularly conducted activity), and 803(8) (record of a public office). * In any event, you can be indicted in this country on the basis of hearsay. It happens all the time. And an impeachment is the consitutional equivalent of an indictment. So it follows that the … — George Conway (@gtconway3d) September 28, 2019 So your argument, Senator, is pure garbage, even assuming that the rules of evidence apply in the […]