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.
The Trump White House has got to be a madhouse to work in. Memos have gone out with typos in them, confidential inter-office correspondence has gone out on the wrong printer and been seen by people not authorized, and in it’s latest display of uber-efficiency, this White House has sent Republican talking points to the Democrats regarding Trump’s July 25 call to Ukraine and the removal of it’s ambassador — twice. Not once, twice. In corporate America, the whole lot of these clowns would have already been sacked. I guess this is good enough for government work, at least in this administration. The Hill: “We are not concerned with any information Yovanovitch might share, because the President did nothing wrong,” the White House email meant for Republicans said. “But we are concerned that Schiff is putting her a precarious position by having her testify in secret without State Department lawyers be present.” “It raises serious questions about why Schiff is willing to put career officials in such risky situations while bullying them with legally unfounded threats of obstruction charges,” the email added. The email marks the second time the White House has unintentionally sent talking points to Democrats in recent weeks, after an administration official inadvertently emailed them suggested rhetoric defending the July 25 phone call. For her own part, former Ambassador Yovanovitch told House lawmakers that she was removed after “a concerted campaign against” her from Trump and his associates, and that the campaign to remove her had been going on since the summer of 2018. Kinda makes you wonder if maybe the plan to put people favorable to Trump’s interests in Ukraine and to extort information from Ukraine was planned quite a while back, don’t you think?
Lindsey Graham displayed shockingly strong independence this morning when he tore into Trump about an evolving decision to abandon our Middle East allies, the Kurds, in their fight against ISIS and Turkish forces. Trump has ordered our troops in Northern Syria to stand down and allow Turkish troops to pour into the area, with the Kurds fearing they are about to become victims of the next regional genocide. You will recall that Trump ordered a withdrawal from Syria over a year ago, prompting Defense Sec. Jim Mattis’s resignation, stating that Trump will need to lose to ISIS with someone else as secretary of defense. Trump quickly reversed himself at the time, but not soon enough to keep Mattis. This time, however, the minders are gone, the betrayal seems imminent, and the implications horrific. According to former U.S. Special Envoy to the Islamic State Brett McGurk: “This appears to be another decision without any consultation, deliberation or process,” one that “will significantly increase the risk for our personnel who depend on the SDF for sustainment.” An International Crisis Group analyst said, ”For the U.S.’s regional allies, the lesson should be clear: This is a president and an administration that, in the breach, is not interested in fighting their battles for them.” If you recall the last time that Trump attempted to abandon the Kurds, we heard the same accusations, no one was consulted, no one knew it was coming, there was no plan for implementation. As always when we hear that Trump jumped to a secretive, unpopular decision – and Trump knew this would be controversial and unpopular – we look to alternative Trump motives, things beyond actual U.S. foreign policy. Turkish and/or Russian explanations will be examined in later columns, but for today’s purposes, know only that an appropriately massive pushback is coming Trump’s way. But Trump might not have anticipated the blowback coming from his most needed domestic allies. Lindsey Graham is heated enough to call out Trump’s rational, “ISIS is not defeated. This is the biggest lie being told by this administration.” Yes, Graham just referenced the administration as telling its “biggest lie,” and we’ll revisit the importance below. Graham wasn’t done: Lindsey Graham calls in to Fox & Friends & calls Trump's decision to abandon the Kurds "impulsive." "I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted & irresponsible this decision is in my view," he says. "This to me is just unnerving to its core." pic.twitter.com/URH0DVA1bo — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 7, 2019 And on his own: * 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 Graham’s response might be the only glimmer of hope if you are a Kurd right now. As we noted, Trump has reversed himself on this decision once before, and Trump simply cannot go forward as president without Graham solidly behind him in every way. There can be no dividing line between “foreign policy” and “impeachment” over which the two determine the scope of their alliance. Even if it were politically possible (dubious), it certainly isn’t possible with Trump, one is either “loyal,” or not. Graham’s characterization of the ISIS assurance as one of the “biggest lies” leaves only […]
Trump’s defenses are all too predictable, and now threatened with the most massive scandal to ever rock the presidency, Trump has resorted to the “usual,” with ruthlessness. Defense one: Always have a fall guy, one big enough to make news, and shield Trump. Amazingly, this time, he may be the first president to ever bring a Vice President along with him in impeachment: Breaking news from the Washington Post, Trump “used” Vice President Mike Pence to convey the threat to Ukraine, i.e., both directly and indirectly: In one instance, Trump ordered Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration — despite the fact that other White House officials had lobbied hard for the event to be included on his calendar. This may have had the purpose of reinforcing to Zelensky that he had to work to earn allyship from Washington. In another instance, Pence was tasked with delivering the message to Zelensky that hundreds of millions in military aid to the country was being suspended — and that he needed to do more to fight “corruption.” Defense, the second: Attack whomever needed, use whomever needed. Not one single “good person” has ever said anything cross about Trump. Every single person who has ever uttered anything remotely critical of Trump is a “loser” – if they’re lucky, because others are called much worse. He has used this “defense strategy” from the beginning, but it is getting “tired” according to Washington insiders, from Rawstory, quoting Dana Bash on CNN: “He puts it right out there, and today, unfortunately for Republicans on the Hill and those in his staff, he had two events where he could let it all out and, boy, did he let it all out. Those were the personal attacks which are, even for him, pretty egregious …” “.. .That is just one example of how exhausting it is frankly to fact-check him, and how exhausted some of his fellow Republicans are getting on Capitol Hill, and probably why we haven’t heard from a lot of them,” added Bash. Defense three: Know your allies, and use them. Every single person who has ever flattered Trump is a “good person,” a “smart guy,” “beautiful,” “perfect,” you know the drill. This extends to known torturing murderers: Vladimir Putin, “Count Doo Ku” Kim, and Bonesaw-MBS, all great guys, because they love Trump, or at least “say” they do. The only “character trait” Trump admires is whether that person’s character submits to Trump. Witness the utter perfection of Mike Pompeo – in Trump’s eyes, the “First in Class at West Point,” who directly lied to the press earlier in the week. But, Pompeo is impeccable in his defense of Trump – “good guy.” Defense Four: Normalize lawbreaking, accuse others of doing what he himself did. Trump committed the quintessential political crime, extorting a foreign country to bring down a political rival. Trump refers to it as the “perfect call.” Meanwhile, Trump accuses the person leading the investigation of treason, a crime punishable by death, for daring to paraphrase Trump’s message. Schiff is getting death threats. Congressman Adam Schiff should resign for the Crime of, after reading a transcript of my conversation with the President of Ukraine (it was perfect), fraudulently fabricating a statement of the President of the United States and reading it to Congress, as though mine! […]
On those occasions when you imagined what meetings within Trump’s White House must entail, and all the disjointed hell, the panic, the cringe-worthy insanity, all of it, whatever awfulness you conjured up? You fell short. Or, at least I did. Honestly, there is nothing that could have prepared me to read the latest New York Times article, excerpting portions of a new book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” by Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. Zoomers, we engage in just the right amount of hyperbole around here, and sometimes we laugh because the alternative is to cry or scream in rage. But right now I want to say something with clinical clarity, and understate it. Our president, is mentally ill. Not only is he mentally ill, he is exhibiting symptoms that ought to be apparent to the steward in the room serving coffee. Our president is so mentally ill, that the head of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, having just accompanied Trump while Trump spoke to a room full of agents, having just heard Trump tell the agents to turn away every asylum seeker at the border, all of them, McAleenan – a patriot – made clear that the agents could not do what the president just ordered. After the president left the room, Mr. McAleenan told the agents to ignore the president. You absolutely do not have the authority to stop processing migrants altogether, he warned. That is chilling, because it was the exact right thing to do, and it was the right thing to do precisely because the nation doesn’t have a sane leader right now. Let us be perfectly clear on this, no one knows who is actually in charge. We only know that the man who thinks he is in charge is not mentally competent to execute the duties of the office. As is a recurring theme, the people within the White House not only ignore the law, but openly hate the idea of being under laws: Mr. Miller, meanwhile, saw an opportunity. It was his view that the president needed to completely overhaul the Homeland Security Department and get rid of senior officials who he believed were thwarting efforts to block immigrants. Although many were the president’s handpicked aides, Mr. Miller told him they had become part of the problem by constantly citing legal hurdles. “Constantly citing legal hurdles” translates as “people who repeatedly note that something cannot be done because it is illegal.” Miller and Trump don’t seek to change the law, they wonder why they can’t do what they want without regard to the “law.” When you merge reckless hatred for the idea of “laws” with abject insanity, you get meetings in which our “leader” advocates the unthinkable. Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him. No more of my smug […]
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.
Lindsey Graham used to have a clear and unabashedly candid appraisal of Donald Trump, which he openly shared with any and all who would listen. In 2015 he called Trump a “race baiting xenophobic bigot” whom the GOP “should tell to go to hell.” He also cautioned this in 2016: If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it. — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) May 3, 2016 As everyone knows, that Lindsey Graham has vanished to the bewilderment of all. Pundits have quipped that Graham is the victim of everything from alien mind control to extortion, such is the profound one eighty reversal of his mind set. Last Sunday, in a classic display of both siderism, Graham smeared Biden and demanded an investigation of “Biden/Ukraine, just as there has been one of Trump/Russia.” “They’ve [Democrats] done everything but turn the Trump world upside down. There are no rules. When it comes to this president there are no rules, including a phone call. There are no privileges. So what I’m asking for is to take a look at what the Ukraine did in the 2016 election, what role, if any, did the Bidens have anything to do with it, what it proper, was it not? I promise you the American media is not going to look at it. I’m hoping that the Department of Justice will do for the Biden/Ukraine connection what we did for the Trump/Russia connection.” Then of course, the Fox News host chimed in with how the “media is trying to take what was a Biden scandal and turn it into a Trump scandal.” Graham went on to accuse Biden of malfeasance and malign the media, the top Trumpian talking points these days. Graham said, “Did the Ukraine dump information into the American political system, legal system, regarding Manafort and others…I sure as hell don”t trust the media to get to the bottom of it.” Here’s the Fox News clip. Now, here is a clip from the History Channel in 2016. Graham starts out saying, “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you”ve got a problem — you got to do some self-evaluation….he came to my ceremony. He said some of the most incredibly heart felt things that anybody can say to me. He’s the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics.” Then, with a catch in his throat and tearing up, Graham says, “He is as good a man as God ever created.” He continues, “His heart’s been ripped out, but he’s going to make sure that the other members of his family are taken care of and he started talking about his grand kids.” What a testimonial about Joe Biden’s character. Even in the face of insurmountable loss, Biden’s first instinct was to take care of others. I cannot think of any quality that I would rather have in a leader, a president, certainly, and Graham says Biden has just that. Listen to this 1:33 tribute. This is moving. I have to believe that this is the real Lindsey Graham, because it comports not only with what Graham said and thought in 2015, but also with Joe Biden’s relationship with John McCain, Graham’s dearest friend and mentor, and a dear friend to Biden as well. You may recall Joe Biden’s […]
Perhaps the biggest surprise springing from this morning’s memo was Trump’s ongoing references to “upcoming” phone calls from Attorney General Barr to the Ukrainian president This comes out of left field, leaving many to wonder what the hell was really going on. Moreover, the fact that the “transcript” is now called a “memo-summary” leaves some believing that critical context, the part explaining why Barr might be involved, had been left out. Regardless, the DOJ was very quick to deny that Attorney General Barr did anything with respect to Ukraine, including make any calls. Moreover, the DOJ stated that Barr didn’t even know that his name had come up in Trump’s phone call. Odd. From Politico: In a statement Wednesday, the Justice Department said Barr was unaware of Trump invoking the attorney general in the matter until “several weeks after the call took place,” when it learned of the whistleblower complaint. DOJ said the intelligence community’s internal watchdog referred the matter to the department as a potential campaign finance violation. “The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine – on this or any other matter,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine – on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.” As Fletch would quip: “So what you’re trying to say is that Barr wasn’t involved?” Left unexplained is how Barr can be referenced so many times and yet have no idea why, or what Trump might have wanted at the time. The most sensible explanation that I have run across relates to the fact that Trump referenced Mueller, the “Crowdstrike” thing, Hillary, the last election, and Barr’s promise to “investigate the investigators.” “They say a lot of it started with Ukraine,” Trump said, alluding to a theory often pushed by Giuliani. He added: “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.” Barr has appointed a DOJ prosecutor to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, which Trump and his supporters have repeatedly claim stemmed from political bias. DOJ said Wednesday that team is looking into the role Ukraine played in any counterintelligence activities against Trump’s 2016 campaign, and that Barr had not reached out to Ukraine as part of that investigation but that “certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information” to the head of that probe. It appears to me that not only did Trump make aid contingent upon investigating Biden – whether he expressly made the “promise” or not, it was inferred – but, perhaps also made the aid contingent upon help in “investigating the investigators,” which Trump referenced as “many believing it started in the Ukraine.” Add it all up and Barr is uncomfortable today, because he has absolutely no business making any decision now having anything to do with the materials in this investigation, specifically, the Whistleblower complaint. This is a no-brainer in every other world. Obviously, “this” world, Trump-World, bears little relation to the real one, and we will see whether Barr feels any compulsion to recuse himself. We […]
While the Ukrainian matter dominated the news cycle over the last 48 hours, Trump edged the country closer to conflict in the Middle East, sending troops and arms to Saudi Arabia. From the Financial Times: The Pentagon is preparing to send weapons and hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia to help the nation boost its military defences following the alleged Iranian attack last weekend that knocked out half of the kingdom’s crude oil production. General Joe Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Mark Esper, defence secretary, said Donald Trump ordered the deployments after requests from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Maybe I am getting a little paranoid, but I find it highly odd that both the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs would note that Trump granted an order “requested by” Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Trump congratulated himself for granting Saudi Arabia’s request so perfectly: “The thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint,” Mr Trump said, before adding: “Iran knows that if they misbehave, they are on borrowed time.” Speaking alongside Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, the US president rejected criticisms that he was being weak: “Going into Iran would be a very easy decision . . . most people thought I would go in within two seconds . . . I’m showing great restraint.” Yes, “great restraint.” You did exactly as Saudi Arabia asked, and by that you showed “great restraint”? Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi was not interested in answering requests from the Saudis, and let Trump know that he was in violation of yet another American law. “President Trump’s plan to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and UAE, and to deploy additional U.S. forces to the region is the latest outrageous attempt by the Trump Administration to circumvent the bipartisan, bicameral will of Congress. These unacceptable actions are cause for alarm. … “Once again, President Trump is turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s continued violence against innocent Yemenis, as well as its horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its gross abuses of human rights, which represent a moral and humanitarian crisis. The United States cannot enable more brutality and bloodshed.” I do not mean to sound defeatist, because I certainly am not admitting defeat. Nor am I stating that Pelosi is wrong in her strongly-worded statement. It all just seems “quaint” to be discussing “laws” and “restraint” when we suspect that Trump is following Saudi Arabia’s “requests” to the letter. Because that is what Trump does. He puts U.S. foreign policy up for sale to the highest bidder and few can beat Saudi purchasing power. This coming week will be the most consequential yet in Trump’s presidency. We are on the edge of war, and the edge of fascism. We need our leaders to show leadership, and move resolutely. I do not know the “best” plan, I only know that they best have a plan. Because if this coming week shrinks back into accepting Trump’s actions from last week, the Ukrainian matter and ignoring the law to edge the U.S. closer to war, if it sounds like this last week was “just another scandal,” then it will be “just another scandal,” and we will have learned nothing with respect to controlling or checking Trump’s abuse of power. “Following […]
Yesterday, we covered the snowballing and serious scandal to suppress a whistleblower complaint originating within the intelligence community. Whistleblower complaints go directly to the inspector general of the agency in question, in this case, the office of the Director of National Intelligence. If the inspector general’s office finds the complaint to be credible, it is referred directly to congress. In this case, the inspector general determined that the complaint was both “credible” and “urgent.” The law could not possibly be clearer. The Director of National Intelligence must pass the complaint to congress. The law may be silent upon what else might be done with it, but the law mandates one thing only. It must be passed to congress. Today on Face the Nation, Rep. Adam Schiff said that Acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire told Rep. Schiff that he had been told by a “higher authority” to not turn the complaint over. This is almost hard to believe, except with this administration. The fact that someone sitting in such a position, the acting Director of National Intelligence, believes there exists a “higher authority” than the clear law, is an issue with national security ramifications. The entire reason we have “whistleblower” statutes is precisely because higher authorities may damn well want the complaint suppressed! The law specifically contemplates situations where even a president orders someone within the executive branch to do something that helps the president, but hurts the nation. Situations like this, where we protected the person from the president, allowed us to believe we were a “nation of laws, not men.” Have absolutely no doubt that this man, Joseph Maguire, has attorneys working for his office that would tell him; “The law says you must pass this along. If you pass it along, and it angers the president, the president may fire you, rightly or wrongly. If you do not pass it along, and it comes out that you wrongly suppressed it, you could be imprisoned. Those are your choices.” Something caused this director, Joseph Maguire to choose option “A.” At this point in time in our nation, someone at this level of government, believes it is best for him to take his chances on breaking the law, rather than simply passing on a complaint to Congress. He is doing this, even though it certainly is not his problem (presumably) if someone “higher-up” broke the law. Something has made it “his problem” if he turns over documents implicating some “higher authority.” We know that Trump demands total loyalty from anyone who works “for him.” (The people in government do not work for Trump, but for the American people, but you know what Trump believes. They all work “for him.”) Unless you are fairly steeped in government and law, it is truly difficult to relate the seriousness of this suppression, and that’s before we even know what’s in the complaint! For all we know, the complaint contains proof that “President” Trump sold U.S. secrets for cold cash, costing American lives. It probably isn’t that blatant, but the point is, we don’t even know what might be within the “urgent” complaint. Here is someone “fairly steeped” in government and law, professor Lawrence Tribe, perhaps the most respect constitutional law scholar, ever. A “higher authority” than the Supreme Law of the Land?! The Acting DNI must think he has divine permission to defy […]