Rudy Giuliani has been cooking up other drug deals, besides the one in Ukraine, around the globe. He always wanted to be the Secretary of State and it looks like he’s gotten his way, as a shadow government SoS, working in direct contravention of official U.S. foreign policy on any given matter. It has now come to light that Giuliani and then-Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) had a strategic telephone call in September, 2018 with Venezualan president Nicholas Maduro. Washington Post: Both were part of a shadow diplomatic effort, backed in part by private interests, aimed at engineering a negotiated exit to ease President Nicolás Maduro from power and reopen resource-rich Venezuela to business, according to people familiar with the endeavor. Sessions had served as emissary in the back-channel effort, visiting Maduro in Caracas that spring. The phone call, which Giuliani joined, was a follow-up to that visit, Sessions’s spokesman Matt Mackowiak told The Washington Post. This is the same MO that was followed in Ukraine, where Giuliani pressured officials to go after Joe Biden. Biden has called Giuliani a “thug” and this pattern of behavior certainly qualifies as mafia-esque. Giuliani claims to work for Trump pro bono, then he goes around the globe, ostensibly doing consulting work, but actually intervening and frequently undercutting U.S. foreign policy. He is a shadow secretary of state, there is no question. Giuliani’s willingness to talk with Maduro in late 2018 flew in the face of the official policy of the White House, which, under national security adviser John Bolton, was then ratcheting up sanctions and taking a harder line against the Venezuelan government. Around the time of the phone call, Giuliani met with Bolton to discuss the off-the-books plan to ease Maduro from office — a plan Bolton vehemently rejected, two people familiar with the meeting said. Giuliani did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A lawyer for Bolton declined to comment. The White House did not respond to requests for comment. In January 2019, the United States formally recognized Maduro’s rival Juan Guaidó as president, a policy move backed by Bolton. Later in the year, Giuliani would pick up a client in the region: a Venezuelan tycoon under investigation by the Justice Department for possible money laundering. A couple of things are noteworthy here. Pete Sessions was part of the group that pushed for the ouster of Marie Yovanovich, whom Giuliani disparagingly calls “Santa Maria” and John Bolton got the sack, but Rudy Giuliani is still riding high in the saddle, despite the fact that his colossal blunderings in Ukraine resulted in Donald Trump being impeached. So who’s running the State Department? Because it seems like Rudy Giuliani and Pete Sessions are dealing with some pretty wild characters. Mackowiak [aide to Sessions] said Sessions used his own funds to pay for the two-day trip. Two people with knowledge of the visit said he was hosted by Raúl Gorrín Belisario, the owner of a major television network in Venezuela who was viewed with distrust by some U.S. officials and months later would be indicted in Florida on charges of money laundering and bribery. Belisario appears to be cut from the same bolt of cloth as the gold dust twins, Fruman and Parnas, except on a more plush scale. And bonus points if you can guess this one: […]
A little over a year ago, someone naming themselves “Anonymous” penned an op-ed to the New York Times, in which he/she related that the Trump administration was in fact every bit as ape shit and unstable on the inside as it appeared on the outside. The author went on to reassure the country at large that all was not lost, because “The Resistance” was on the clock. No, not The Resistance that was busy trying to restore a Democratic majority, but a loose group of senior Trump appointees that were quietly and under the radar doing everything in their power to short circuit Trump’s more dangerous and destructive impulses. You probably recall that missive. And you also probably recall that it set off a near hysterical grand inquisition within the White House, with His Lowness raging against both the author as well as the concept of a group of his own appointees and employees actively working to subvert his authority. In its hysteria, it almost began to appear as a parody of Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I, with Trump stomping around in a long, hooded red silk robe, brandishing a pair of thumb screws. The search went on for weeks with no result. That was then, and this is now. A year later, and the same person has penned an entire book titled Warning by Anonymous. It is ready to hit the stands within a couple of weeks, and who else but Rachel Maddow obtained a series of lengthy excerpts from the book. The general tone of the excerpts is decidedly darker than the original op-ed, which tried to offer confidence to the American people that the matter was well in hand, and The Resistance had control. The new book implies that this may no longer be the case, and rues the departures of people like Rex Tillerson, John Kelly, and James Mattis. But it’s the actual content and graphic descriptions of real situations and events in the White House that is going to make Trump, as I put it in the title, lose his shit. The book doesn’t present the President of the United States as childish, it presents him as infantile. A long excerpt goes into the difficulty of briefing the new President, with aides being advised that 50 pages was far too long, make it no more than 10 pages. Then, to make sure that there were plenty of pictures and graphics. Then to make sure there were no more than 3 topics. Then to revert to nothing more than power point slides, since Trump won’t read. Then to limit the number of power points to a bare minimum. Finally, the consensus was reached that the solution was to take in one issue and point, then to hammer that home, regardless of the number of times his feeble mind wandered, until the point got driven home. Trump’s obsession with graphics presented its own problems. Trump would latch on to a graphic he absolutely adored, often without necessarily even comprehending the issue that the graphic represented, and then excitedly show it to visitors for hours or even days, without providing any context as to what it was supposed to be, leaving people wondering what the hell he was yammering on about. During tensions with Iran, somebody came up with […]
Donald Trump is learning a lot of things the hard way these days, and one of them is that you don’t send Mick Mulvaney to conduct a press briefing. Now why he would do so to begin with, when he’s got Stephanie Grisham, whose job title is White House Press Secretary, and to whom taxpayers pay six figures to do said job, is a mystery still yet to be solved. Grisham has never done press conference number one, and maybe on these facts, she never will. In the Trump White House, the job of press secretary is analogous to being a Flying Wallenga, working without a net, except that the ground below is not only hard, it’s contaminated with flesh eating bacteria, as well, so there is zero chance of survival if you fall. Ask Mulvaney, who just like the Titanic, crashed on his maiden outing as press briefing holder, and now he and Trump are in the same lifeboat. The Atlantic: The president has polled confidants about whether Mulvaney is up to the job, blaming him for leaks and negative news coverage, and considering whether he should find someone else to run the West Wing. It might stand to reason, then, that with Trump’s growing frustrations with Mulvaney—coupled with a performance yesterday that could put Trump in greater legal jeopardy than ever before—Mulvaney’s days as acting chief of staff are numbered. […] Trump was not happy—and neither were his most prominent allies. The shock of Mulvaney’s admission [of withholding aid, pending a Ukraine investigation of CT regarding a DNC server] was only compounded by the flippancy with which he delivered it: For those troubled by it, he told reporters, “get over it.” Mulvaney later walked the claim back, but even in the eyes of the president’s closest confidants, the damage was done. For a White House staffer, there is perhaps no worse place to be than in Sean Hannity’s crosshairs, and that’s where Mulvaney found himself yesterday, after undercutting the administration’s talking points on impeachment in a way that not even a Trump-loving Fox News host could spin. Shortly after the press conference, Hannity excoriated the acting chief on his radio show: “What is Mulvaney even talking about?” Hannity scoffed. “I just think he’s dumb, I really do. I don’t even think he knows what he’s talking about. That’s my take on it.” Normally, with a benediction like that from Sean Hannity, the party in question would be on the way out the West Wing revolving door at warp speed. However, Trump has thrown out so many former allies at this point, and had some of them turn on him, ala Michael Cohen, that he no longer has the luxury of invoking his signature “You’re fired!” against any of the people who are left in his circle, because today’s terminated employee may well be tomorrow’s star witness, with the House committees building an impeachment case. Exhibit “A” to this premise is John Bolton, who’s coiled in the corner. He has not struck — yet, but he’s shaken his rattles and made his intent clear. Bolton called Rudy Giuliani a “hand grenade” and with what Bolton probably knows about Ukraine, he could probably be a howitzer shell or bigger. Trump may be furious with Mulvaney, but he may be forced to […]
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 […]