Sunday, December 8, 2019
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Rand Paul Blocks Senate Resolution Protecting Whistle Blowers

Put Rand Paul’s name up on the board, if it’s not there already, in the Soul Sold To Trump category. He will not let up on his crusade to out and harass the Ukraine whistle blower, and his latest gambit was to block a resolution in the Senate Wednesday granting protections to whistle blowers. The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) had asked for unanimous consent to pass the resolution, which “acknowledges the contributions of whistleblowers,” and throws the chamber’s support behind protecting whistleblowers from retaliation. “The threats we have seen over the last few days are so egregious they demand bipartisan outrage from one end of this chamber to the other, whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent, liberal, moderate or conservative,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “What’s happening here is another erosion of the values of this republic for political expediency.” He added that they should “send a message today that the Senate reaffirms our long standing tradition about defending whistleblowers.” Not on Rand Paul’s watch. He discourages the practice. Paul objected to passing the resolution after Democrats refused to drop their resolution and instead pass whistleblower legislation that he introduced earlier that day. “I support whistleblowers and I do think they have a role to play in keeping government accountable … but what we have seen over the last few years is that we have a system that we should continue to refine,” Paul said. He argued that his legislation would “make clear” that President Trump should be able to face his accuser. The measure also would expand current whistleblower protections for contractors. Another one on Putin’s payroll, evidently, along with Moscow Mitch, Lindsey Graham, and God knows who else. This is a very alarming development. If government employees, or anybody in a position of trust knows about something that Congress should be made aware of, it’s essential that the person not feel deterred or intimidated from sharing. Rand Paul wants to take us one giant leap closer to autocracy — and to protect Donald Trump? He is working for Putin. This is appalling.

Rand Paul Tweeted Article Outing Whistle Blower, Russian Media Got Right On It

John McCain was right about Rand Paul when he said he was working for Vladimir Putin, back when Paul opposed letting Montenegro into NATO. Monday, Paul recklessly demanded at a Trump rally, that the media print the name of the whistle blower, then he tweeted out an article that he found on Real Clear Investigations, a site which is described as right-center. The article went on at length to describe the name, CIA job title, political history and photograph of the purported whistle blower. The American media didn’t pick up on it for re-broadcast, but the Russians sure did. Daily Beast: As if on cue, the Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information. But unlike Rand Paul, one of the Russian state media outlets didn’t seem to find the source—Real Clear Investigations—to be particularly impressive, and claimed falsely that the material was published originally by The Washington Post. This was the most egregious, but certainly not the only example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading for Trump’s fight against impeachment as proceedings against him unfold with growing speed. As a chorus of talking heads on Fox News have picked up on Trump’s talking points, which is predictable—they’ve also been echoed across the pond, albeit with a tinge of irony. The Russians love this chaos, they love the likes of Rand Paul contributing to it, and most of all, they love Donald Trump and all that he has done for them. “Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?” asked Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the television show Evening with Vladimir Soloviev. […] But all the reasons they believe Trump “isn’t a very good president” for America are precisely their reasons for thinking he is so great for Russia. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian client whose regime teetered on the brink of collapse only to be saved definitively by Trump’s chaotic approach to the Middle East, recently said that “President Trump is the best type of president for a foe.” The Russians heartily agree. The Trump presidency has been wildly successful for Russia, which is eagerly stepping into every vacuum created by the retreat of the United States on the world stage. “They say Trump is making Russia great. That’s basically accurate,” pointed out Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a prominent fixture on Russian state television. “The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States. America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa… So when they say that Trump is weakening the United States—yes, he is. And that’s why we love him… The more problems they have, the better it is for us.” It’s been said before, and it will be said again, ad infinitum, the United States cannot afford another four years of Trump. We are losing face in the eyes of the world and key relationships and alliances have been eroded the past three years. We have to get the White House under sane and stable leadership or we will end up a third world nation, and a satellite of Russia, which has been Putin’s plan all along — it really is as simple as that.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Rand Paul...

Rand Paul Trashes Rule of Law Demanding Whistle Blower’s Identity, Schumer Lashes Back

It’s no new insight that this particular iteration of the GOP is the most lawless and corrupt in the history of the party, nonetheless each new outrage still brings a certain level of amazement, as disregard for basic principles of law and freedom are displayed once again, as though these things were inconsequential. Rand Paul outrageously demanded the media reveal the name of the Ukraine whistle blower, in contravention of federal law, not to mention basic decency, and Chuck Schumer wasn’t having it. The Hill: Paul, speaking in his home state at a Trump campaign rally on Monday evening, referenced unconfirmed reports in conservative media that the whistleblower worked for former Vice President Joe Biden, questioning the person’s credibility. “We also now know the name of the whistleblower. The whistleblower needs to come forward as a material witness because he worked for Joe Biden at the same time Hunter Biden was getting money from corrupt oligarchs,” Paul said at the rally after President Trump invited him onstage. “I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name,” Paul told the crowd to loud cheers. Schumer made his views known Tuesday, “I cannot stress just how wrong this is. We have federal whistleblower laws designed to protect the identity and safety of patriotic Americans who come forward to stand up for the Constitution,” Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor. “There should be bipartisan outrage at the public attempts by the president and a member of this body to expose the identity of a federal whistleblower,” Schumer argued. Paul, and his compatriots in the alternate political reality of Donald Trump, care nothing for the constitution and the rule of law. They make that evident every time they open their mouths and advocate actions which are nothing but destructive to our way of life. John McCain accused Rand Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin” in Spring of 2017, when Paul opposed allowing Montenegro into NATO. McCain may not have fully appreciated just how right he was.
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Did You Know Sean Hannity Was Running The State Department? Read Yovanovich’s Transcript. UPDATE

If you doubt for one minute that up is down and black is white since Donald Trump took office, perhaps the fact that West Point graduate Mike Pompeo felt the need to ask high school graduate and conspiracy theorist Sean Hannity why Ambassador Marie Yovanovich lost her job will convince you. Omg… Yovanovitch says she was told that as she was being recalled, Pompeo would try to find out what was going on by…. calling Sean Hannity pic.twitter.com/ISFbFp0oBc — Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) November 4, 2019 !!!The follow-up to that exchange– Schiff [incredulous]: "So some top administration official was going to [Hannity] to find out what the basis of [Hannity] was attacking you for?" Yovanovitch: "Uh-huh." pic.twitter.com/KpG5fJmlkQ — Aaron Fritschner (@Fritschner) November 4, 2019 Fox News is running the country. Other than that, everything is just swell. Nice temperature outside, birds chirping, Thanksgiving in a few weeks — JFC, how have we sunk to this? UPDATE: 12:05 p.m. PST Here is a link to Yovanovich’s and McKinley’s testimony. JUST IN: Yovanovitch and McKinley impeachment transcripts have been released: https://t.co/9AhVaNDz8thttps://t.co/Ka0bu4pVqn — Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 4, 2019

Trump’s ‘Perfect Phone Call’ To Zelensky Was Anything But, According to Vindman Testimony

Tuesday’s testimony by Ukraine expert and Army officer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman shed light into a few small mysteries, most pointedly what both the note takers and the voice recognition software missed, but which the human ear caught, when Donald Trump had his inappropriate call with Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. Both references to Joe Biden on tape and the Burisma company were omitted, and the transcript of the call which Trump characterized as “perfect” contained ellipses. Now we know what belonged there instead of dots. The omissions are incriminating as hell. New York Times: The phrases do not fundamentally change lawmakers’ understanding of the call, which was first reported by the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint set off the impeachment inquiry. There are plenty of other examples of Mr. Trump referring to Ukraine-related conspiracy theories and asking for investigations of the Biden family. But Colonel Vindman’s account offered a hint to solving a mystery surrounding the conversation: what Mr. Trump’s aides left out of the transcript in places where ellipses indicated dropped words. In hours of questioning on Tuesday by Democrats and Republicans, Colonel Vindman recounted his alarm at the July 25 call, saying he “did not think it was proper” for Mr. Trump to have asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate a political rival, and how White House officials struggled to deal with the fallout from a conversation he and others considered problematic. His testimony about the reconstructed transcript, the aftermath of the call and a shadow foreign policy being run outside the National Security Council came as Democrats unveiled plans for a more public phase of the impeachment process. They plan to vote on Thursday to direct the Intelligence Committee to conduct public hearings and produce a report for the Judiciary Committee to guide its consideration of impeachment articles. The measure will also provide a mechanism for Republicans to request subpoenas for witnesses and give Mr. Trump’s lawyers a substantive role in the Judiciary Committee’s proceedings to mount a defense. Some lawmakers indicated Colonel Vindman would make a good candidate to appear again at a public hearing next month. It is not clear why some of Colonel Vindman’s changes were not made, while others he recommended were, but the decision by a White House lawyer to quickly lock down the reconstructed transcript subverted the normal process of handling such documents. Once more, the Trump White House plays by it’s own rules and subverts the rule of law, plain and simple. It would appear at this point that our way of life and our government is only being saved and preserved due to the courage and honor of individual men and women in career government and/or civil service positions. The sitting *resident has no honor and he’s in it for number one, solely. Our systems are there for him to exploit not to steward, and our coffers are there for him to pillage, not protect. Not saying that other American presidents have been saintly or blameless, but nobody comes close to this regime for corruption and base conduct. It makes you wonder if Trump or his cabal have ever drawn an honest breath or done a straightforward deed, without some self-serving purpose behind it. And after three years, i believe we can say, “No.” At least, from what we have seen. It will […]

Read Opening Statement From Ukraine Expert On Trump/Zelensky Call, Who Testifies Tuesday

The statement of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a military foreign area officer, who will testify before the House committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight, is lengthy and produced in PDF format here by Politico. It starts out with Lt. Col. Vindeman qualifying himself as an expert on Ukraine and giving his background and history. All of that is valuable and interesting reading. Here’s where it gets really interesting. May 21, 2019: Inauguration Delegation Goes to Ukraine On May 21, 2019, I was directed by Ambassador Bolton and Dr. Hill to join the delegation attending President Zelenkskyy’s inauguration. When the delegation returned, they provided a debriefing to President Trump and explained their positive assessment of President Zelenskyy and his team. I did not participate in the debriefing. Oleksandr Danylyuk Visit – July 10, 2019 On July 10, 2019, Oleksandr Danylyuk, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council for Ukraine, visited Washington, D.C. for a meeting with National Security Advisor Bolton. Ambassadors Volker and Sondland also attended, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The meeting proceeded well until the Ukrainians broached the subject of a meeting between the two presidents. The Ukrainians saw this meeting as critically important in order to solidify the support of their most important international partner. Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short. Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate. Following the debriefing meeting, I reported my concerns to the NSC’s leadcounsel. Dr. Hill also reported the incident to the NSC’s lead counsel. Election Call – July 25, 2019 On July 21, 2019, President Zelenskyy’s party won Parliamentary elections in a landslide victory. The NSC proposed that President Trump call President Zelenskyy to congratulate him. On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said. I was concerned by the call. 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. 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. This would all undermine U.S. national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel. Conclusion The United States and Ukraine are and must remain strategic partners, working together to realize the shared vision of a stable, prosperous, and democratic Ukraine that is integrated into the Euro-Atlantic […]
gregwest98 / Flickr Pentagon...

Pentagon Attempted To Block Their Own Official, Laura Cooper’s Testimony — NYT Publishes Letter

It was apparent from the day that Donald Trump was elected and he and his idiot son-in-law, Jared Kushner, didn’t even know that it was their responsibility to hire all new White House staff, that the civil servants, who did know procedures, were the only ones who were going to keep the wheels of government turning. Now, it is equally apparent that the career officials are the ones who are going to save our bacon. Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine policy, testified voluntarily before the House impeachment inquiry committee Wednesday, and Adam Schiff also signed a subpoena requiring her appearance, apparently out of an abundance of caution — although that particular term of art is inapplicable nowadays. Nothing can get done in Washington these days unless it is tight as a drum and nailed shut, in this political atmosphere. Any possible loophole will be explored and exploited. That’s the case here, where David L. Norquist, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, attempted to challenge Cooper’s right to testify on the theory that department lawyers needed to be present. Below is the entire letter, and annotations to it are available at the New York Times: DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 1010 DEFENSE PENTAGON WASHINGTON, DC 20301-1010 OCT 22 2019 Daniel  Levin [Cooper’s attorney] White & Case LLP 701 Thirteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20005-3807 Dear Mr. Levin: I understand that you have been retained by Ms. Laura Cooper, the Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, as her private counsel for a deposition to be conducted jointly by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, “[p]ursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.” The Department’s October 15, 2019 letter to the Chairs of the three House Committees [Tab A] expressed its belief that the customary process of oversight and accommodation has historically served the interests of congressional oversight committees and the Department well. The Committees’ purported “impeachment inquiry,” however, presents at least two issues of great importance. The first issue is the Committees’ continued, blanket refusal to allow Department Counsel to be present at depositions of Department employees. Department Counsel’s participation protects against the improper release of privileged or classified information, particularly material covered by the executive privilege which is the President’s alone to assert and to waive. Excluding Department Counsel places the witness in the untenable position of having to decide whether to answer the Committees’ questions or to assert Executive Branch confidentiality interests without an attorney from the Executive Branch present to advise on those interests. It violates settled practice and may jeopardize future accommodation. Furthermore, the Department of Justice has concluded that “congressional subpoenas that purport to require agency employees to appear without agency counsel are legally invalid and are not subject to civil or criminal enforcement.” See Attempted Exclusion of Agency Counsel from Congressional Depositions of Agency Employees, 43 Op. O.L.C. (May 23, 2019) [Tab B]. The second issue is the absence of authority for the Committees to conduct an impeachment inquiry. In its October 15, 2019 letter, the Department conveyed concerns about the Committees’ lack of authority to initiate an impeachment inquiry given the absence of a delegation of such authority by House Rule or Resolution. This correspondence echoed […]

Giuliani’s Henchmen Plead ‘Not Guilty’ Claim ‘Executive Privilege Concerns’

This is an interesting legal question: Do the henchmen of Rudy Giuliani, who is not on the White House payroll, have standing to invoke executive privilege to protect themselves? Whut? That’s what I said. Check it out. To be clear, Parnas’ attorney recognized he personally couldn’t assert executive privilege but claimed that it might be implicated. — Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) October 23, 2019 Executive privilege is “implicated” because these two guys indicted for conspiracy and campaign violations consort with Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump’s pro bono personal attorney and television lawyer? Seriously? Executive privilege is defined as “a privilege claimed by the president for the executive branch of the US government, of withholding information in the public interest.” So it might be in the public interest to withhold information concerning a couple of gangsters in concert with a pro bono lawyer working for a president? So, are these two criminal grifters now presidential advisers, or how does this work, exactly? Somebody jump in, please, and pick up the conversation, because I need to get an ice pack. Aye aye aye.  

Quid Pro Get Over It — The Mulvaney Doctrine

Donald Trump promised he would hire “only the best” people. Well, now we know how Trump defines “best” and that is, “in the f–k over their heads as much as I am.” The GOP had been messaging for weeks now that there was no relationship between aid to Ukraine being withheld and the requested “corruption investigation” (allegedly of the DNC server,  but really “gimme dirt on Biden”) and Mick Mulvaney went in and blew that notion to smithereens. “Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, that’s why we held up the money.” That was inflammatory, but his next comment was pyrotechnic: “I have news for everybody: get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Wowser! So, now we have an acting Chief of Staff formally codifying the policy of this administration, which is in a nutshell, that Trump breaking the law at will is the new normal and we’re supposed to live with it. Rule of law? Nah, that’s for losers. The rest of the day was more wondrous still, as Democrat Eric Swalwell intoned, “We have a confession,” and Mulvaney tried to walk back his screw up with the default defense of this administration: witch hunt. New York Times: “Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump,” Mr. Mulvaney wrote. “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.” Reversal much? “Mick Mulvaney was either lying then, or he’s lying now,” said Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat involved in the inquiry. “I think he’s lying now.” At the White House, staff members recognized that Mr. Mulvaney had created an entirely new controversy with his remarks. Jay Sekulow, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, said Thursday, “The president’s legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.” Mr. Mulvaney’s performance was only part of another extraordinary day in Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. Mulvaney made his remarks after he stepped before the cameras to announce that the leaders of the Group of 7 nations would meet in June at Mr. Trump’s golf resort in South Florida, even as he acknowledged the choice could be seen as self-enrichment. In Texas, Mr. Trump hailed a Middle East cease-fire that would cement Turkey’s goal of pushing Kurds from Northern Syria as “a great day for civilization.” And the GOP soldiers on, as you totally expect that they would. They spin, and they spin, yet another fabulist web of denials and lies. John Cornyn says, “Do I think it amounts to a quid pro quo? Absolutely not.” Chuck Grassley says, “There was no quid pro quo. You’d have to have that if there was going to be anything wrong,” And Rick Scott is actually somewhat endearing: “What I saw, he asked him to look into something, but I ― I’m new,”  Yes, Scotty just got there in January.That’s all right. He’ll learn how to lie with the best of them, we have faith.

GOTCHA! Trump Tries To Distance Himself From Indicted Ukrainian, 2014 Photo Shows Them Together

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.”

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