Sunday, February 23, 2020

Macron and Pompeo Cross Swords In Munich Over How the U.S. Has Abandoned...

Mike Pompeo is not exactly knockin’ ’em dead in Munich at the Security Conference this week. He had already given the usual Trump economy sound bite, where unemployment is non existent, a lobster in every pot and a Mercedes in every driveway — to hear him tell it — and that was met by stone silence. Then it went downhill from there. Agence France-Presse via Raw Story: Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Pompeo sought to assuage European anxiety over the transatlantic bond under an unpredictable President Donald Trump, saying: “The West is winning and we’re winning together.” But he was immediately contradicted by French President Emmanuel Macron, who warned of “a weakening of the West”. Other countries are not run by compete fools — ours is. And the speeches at the conference were grounded in the new reality of international relations and world order since Donald Trump has disgraced the world stage. In his opening speech a day earlier, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested that the United States rejected “even the idea of an international community” and was acting “at the expense of neighbours and partners”. “Those statements don’t reflect reality,” Pompeo retorted. “I’m happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly over-exaggerated,” he added, paraphrasing a famous Mark Twain quote. Pompeo went on to say that the U.S. is keeping Europe safe by reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank bordering with Russia, which is an interesting perspective, considering that Trump selling out our Syrian allies had the net effect of not only adding to the destabilization of the region but resulted in giving Vladimir Putin another warm water port to play with. And  President Macron had a few more words. The US was undergoing “a rethink of its relationship with Europe”, Macron said, strengthening his belief that the continent had to take charge of its own destiny. “We need a European strategy that renews us and turn us into a strategic political power,” he said. The thought process in Europe is that it’s time to make contingency plans because our allies can no longer rely on the United States. And if Donald Trump gets reelected, that concept will end up cemented in stone and decades of work, if not the past two and a half centuries of international diplomacy, will be undone. This is how corrosive an effect the incompetent Trump regime has had in the world. It takes a long time to build something, but to destroy the same thing takes very little time.  

Bill Barr To Testify Before House Judiciary Committee March 31

Beware the ends of March, a soothsayer might say to William Barr. Barr has finally agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, after being asked to do so a year ago, in the wake of the Mueller Investigation. Jerry Nadler sent a letter to Barr yesterday, saying “In your tenure as Attorney General, you have engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the President that raises significant concerns for this Committee. In the past week alone, you have taken steps that raise grave questions about your leadership of the Department of Justice.” The letter then goes on to cite Rudy Giuliani’s “process” of providing the DOJ information about Trump’s political rivals, the kerfuffle over the Roger Stone sentencing, and the removal of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu who oversaw the prosecution of Stone, Rick Gates and Michael Flynn. The letter states, “There are not the only issues that our Committee intends to discuss with you when you appear but they are enough to require our immediate attention.” Politico: In addition to Stone and Liu, Democrats have a long list of issues they’re likely to press Barr on, including his involvement in decisions surrounding Trump’s decision to withhold military funds from Ukraine last year, and his handling of a whistleblower complaint about the episode that DOJ determined should be withheld from Congress, overruling an intelligence community inspector general. Those episodes helped spark House Democrats’ push to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of their investigations. Trump mentioned Barr on his July 25, 2019 call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, when he urged the country’s government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. DOJ has indicated that Trump did not convey this request to Barr, but he has yet to testify publicly on the matter. Barr’s March 31 testimony may also come after the release of a book by former national security adviser John Bolton, slated for a mid-March publication. Bolton is expected to reveal details about his conversations with senior administration officials about concerns related to Trump’s handling of Ukraine. Barr denied a New York Times account of Bolton’s book suggesting that Bolton raised concerns directly to Barr that Trump might be doing personal favors for foreign autocrats. The timing of this is exquisite. Bolton’s book is going to produce lots of juicy tidbits and watching Barr address them should be illuminating — as well as entertaining. If I had to predict one upcoming episode in politics that stands to be a real game changer, at this point, and on these facts, I would say this March 31 appearance of Barr is it.
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Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden tries to expand Ukraine investigation into an actual Ukraine investigation

In 2016, Sen. Ron Johnson was one of a number of Republicans who signed a letter encouraging the president of Ukraine to fire the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. Naturally, that fact has not...

In Wake of Trump-Netanyahu Proposal, Palestinian Authority Cuts Ties With US

The Palestinian Authority, which governs the occupied West Bank, announced on Saturday that it would act immediately to cut ties with the U.S. after President Donald Trump unveiled a so-called peace plan that effectively...
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Netanyahu to Join Trump Next Week to Announce ‘Deal of the Century’ Peace Plan...

President Donald Trump is expected to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Netanyahu's political rival Benny Gantz at the White House on January 28 to unveil the president's "Deal of the Century" peace...

Charlie Pierce: ‘It’s a Damn Miracle We Aren’t All Dead By Now’

You may remember how George W. Bush was challenged frequently as not being knowledgeable enough about foreign affairs to be president. Malapropisms were Dubya’s forte and he had us holding our sides when he called the Greeks “Grecians” or referred to  the East Timorese as Timorians. That level of ignorance was glossed over at the time with the observation that, “the relevant question isn’t how many names of foreign leaders a candidate knows, but whether he has the strategic vision for America’s role in the world,” according to Charlie Pierce’s column in Esquire today. In other words, who needs facts or knowledge, as long as you have a “vision?” It was a ridiculous notion then and under Donald Trump it has gone beyond ridiculous to horrifying. This is an excerpt from “A Very Stable Genius” the latest Trump book to drop. Esquire: By that point, six months into his administration, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump’s knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike. Trump organized his unorthodox worldview under the simplistic banner of “America First,” but Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America’s superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump’s impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located. To have a useful discussion with him, the trio agreed, they had to create a basic knowledge, a shared language. Trump’s first complaint was to repeat what he had vented about to his national security adviser months earlier: South Korea should pay for a $10 billion missile defense system that the United States built for it. The system was designed to shoot down any short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from North Korea to protect South Korea and American troops stationed there. But Trump argued that the South Koreans should pay for it, proposing that the administration pull U.S. troops out of the region or bill the South Koreans for their protection. “We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.” “We should make money off of everything.” This is what you get when you have a rank amateur, with no background in public service or government, who has spent his entire life grifting. This is what the man knows. This is his level of development. He also went on to say that NATO was “in arrears” thereby demonstrating that he knows nothing about how that body works, and that collection efforts should be made. This is vintage Trump on foreign policy. You recall after the Suleimani assassination how he crowed that the Obama administration “gave billions of dollars to Iran.” He made it sound as if Obama wrote Iran a check. No. What happened is that sanctions were lifted, so Iran got billions of dollars of it’s own money. And we hardly need mention the tariff delusion, that China is pumping cash into the U.S. […]
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Australian PM Morrison: “we are working to – outlaw these indulgent and selfish” Climate...

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal. Australia's Leader Called For A Crackdown On Environmentalists Before Fires Broke Out Governments are increasingly casting environmental activism as a new kind of extremism, punishing and marginalizing protesters. By J....
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FBI pays a visit to man who bragged about creepy, scary surveillance of Marie...

Robert Hyde, the Connecticut congressional candidate who repeatedly texted Lev Parnas that he had then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch under surveillance, got a visit from the FBI Thursday morning, CNN reports. Investigators went to both Hyde’s home and...
The National Guard / Flickr Puerto Rico National Guard...

Trump team finally releases billions in hurricane relief for Puerto Rico—with major strings attached

Donald Trump and his team have continued to withhold disaster relief funds from Puerto Rico for the hurricanes that hit the island in 2017, and a series of recent earthquakes that have further damaged homes and...

Bombs Away, Gov’t Accountability Office Says OBM Broke Law By Withholding Ukraine Aid

Another day, another bombshell. The Office of Budget Management, run by none other than Mick Mulvaney, broke the law by withholding aid to Ukraine, based upon a policy decision of Donald Trump. This bombshell legal opinion from the independent @USGAO demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump Administration illegally withheld assistance from Ukraine and the public evidence shows that the president himself ordered this illegal act. pic.twitter.com/bkwyQ4Vk3K — Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) January 16, 2020 It says right there in black and white that federal law does not permit the president to substitute his own policies over that which Congress has enacted into law. So, Mulvaney’s ravings at the time about this “is just how it’s done” were absurd then and in the light of day, they’re stupid now. This is not just how it’s done. Following the rule of law is how it’s done.  

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