Discuss: Political Madness All the Time

Lynna is your curator. How are you all holding up, America? Not well, I guess, since this is the hardest working thread ever. The frenzy is growing!

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  1. says

    Former Trump adviser tried to warn him about the debunked Ukraine conspiracy theory.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, what the president is referring to there is a debunked conspiracy theory that somehow Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic e-mails in 2016 and that Ukraine might have the DNC server or Hillary’s emails. The details are both convoluted and false. And during your time in the White House, you explained that to the president, right?

    BOSSERT: I did. It’s not only a conspiracy, it is completely debunked…. At this point I am deeply frustrated with what [Rudy Giuliani] and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity. The United States government reached its conclusion on attributing to Russia the DNC hack in 2016 before it even communicated it to the FBI, long before the FBI ever knocked on the door at the DNC.

    So a server inside the DNC was not relevant to our determination to the attribution. It was made up front and beforehand. And so while servers can be important in some of the investigations that followed, it has nothing to do with the U.S. government’s attribution of Russia of the DNC hack.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet the president keeps on repeating it.

  2. says

    Followup to comment 1.

    More details, from Steve Benen:

    […] In the same interview, Bossert added, “The DNC server and that conspiracy theory has got to go, they have to stop with that, it cannot continue to be repeated in discourse…. If [the president] continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down. Enough.”

    […] It was, as best as I can tell, the first example of a former administration official publicly rebuking Trump for his behavior related to the Ukraine scandal.

    […] GIULIANI: November of 2016, [Ukrainian officials] first came to me. And they said, we have shocking evidence that the collusion that they claim happened in Russia, which didn’t happen, happened in the Ukraine, and it happened with Hillary Clinton. George Soros was behind it. George Soros’ company was funding it.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: But you accept now that that’s not true?

    GIULIANI: I accept that it is true. I can prove it.

    No, Rudy, you can’t. As Bossert put it, “Enough.”

    Postscript: In the same interview, Giuliani said he’d consider cooperating with a congressional investigation, but only if House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is “removed.”

    As a rule, those caught up in scandals and accused of criminal wrongdoing don’t get to make demands as to who asks the questions.


  3. says

    Trump seems to approve not just of violence, but of civil war to protect himself:

    […] Trump took to Twitter on Monday to attack the whistleblower at the center of the growing Ukraine scandal and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff after promoting comments from a supportive pastor who told Fox News that the president’s impeachment would lead to a “Civil War-like fracture in this nation.” […]

    Trump’s attacks came after he promoted remarks Sunday night from Dallas-based evangelical pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress — one of Trump’s most prominent backers — during a Sunday interview on “Fox & Friends.”

    NBC News link

    More details:

    […] After Trump published a multi-tweet thread, quoting the right-wing pastor at length, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois and an Iraq war veteran, published a tweet that read, “I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. [Donald Trump] I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant.”



  4. says

    Yay, new thread! Thanks!

    In Republican news:

    New York Rep. Chris Collins is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to federal charges in an insider trading case in which he was originally charged in August 2018, according to court documents filed Monday and a person familiar with the matter.

    His co-defendants – his son and another man – are set to change their pleas Thursday, according to court filings.”

    A sixth Texas representative – Mac Thornberry – has announced his retirement.

    Expect the number of GOP House retirements to skyrocket between now and Thanksgiving. Many reasons for it, but the main one is that the faint hope the GOP had of retaking the House next year is basically gone in the eyes of Members.”

    Kevin McCarthy appeared on 60 Minutes last night. It didn’t go well for him or Trump.

    Reminder: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) has spent more than $245,000 at Trump properties since @realDonaldTrump was elected. Before Trump was elected: $743.93.”

  5. says

    Trump pressed for a “treason” probe targeting House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff:

    I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason. […]

    Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?

    Background and context:

    […] During a hearing last week, Schiff used some paraphrases of Trump during some public remarks, some of which were obviously intended to deride the scandal-plagued president, which apparently made the president a little hysterical.

    At no point has the Intelligence Committee chairman committed fraud or treason – two words Trump uses quite a bit without knowing what they mean.

    […] Presidents are not supposed to casually throw around treason accusations whenever he’s in a bad mood.

    Before he raised the prospect of arresting the House Intelligence Committee chairman for treason, Trump last week accused White House officials who spoke to the intelligence community whistleblower – possible witnesses to presidential wrongdoing – of treason.

    […] Last year, the New York Times published a rather extraordinary op-ed, written by “a senior official in the Trump administration,” describing a White House in which “many” officials work diligently behind the scenes to subvert Donald Trump. The president suggested the newspaper may have committed “treason” by agreeing to run it.

    A few months before that, the president was so bothered by media coverage of his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un that he described the reports as “really almost treasonous.” […]

    For many conservatives, “judicial activism” has become a shorthand for “court rulings the right doesn’t like,” just as “socialism” became synonymous with “proposals Republicans oppose.” But when Trump decides “treason” means “things that make the president look bad,” it’s not a healthy development for our political system.


  6. says

    In Russia news:

    Pompeo announces new sanctions on Russian election meddlers; implicit rebuke to Trump’s skepticism.”

    Specifically focusing on Prigozhin. I’d say it’s more likely to be others at State using the moment as an opportunity to get the sanctions through, which is smart.

    MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that Washington would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of phone calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.”

    This is, needless to say, not the case.

  7. says

    From SC in comment 4:

    Kevin McCarthy appeared on 60 Minutes last night. It didn’t go well for him or Trump.

    Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

    PELLEY: What do you make of this exchange? President Zelensky says, “We are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” And President Trump replies, “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

    MCCARTHY: You just added another word.

    PELLEY: No, it’s in the transcript.

    MCCARTHY: He said- “I’d like you to do a favor though”?

    PELLEY: Yes, it’s in the White House transcript.

  8. says

    Followup to comment 7.

    Cogent comments:

    […] McCarthy knew he was going on 60 Minutes. He knew the topic. He and his staff had time to prepare for basic questions about obvious details – such as the single most controversial phrase in the rough transcript that created a political earthquake the moment it was released. It’s only 10 words; it stands to reason McCarthy would’ve familiarized himself with it before his national television appearance.

    But House Republicans don’t appear to be sending us their best.

    Too often, GOP officials rely exclusively on conservative media, which filters out accurate information Republicans really ought to know. Then, when the cocoon is punctured, and folks like McCarthy are exposed to details the rest of us already know, they’re incredulous.

    “Wait a second,” the House Minority Leader seemed to say last night, “you mean there’s evidence of the American president telling his Ukrainian counterpart, ‘I would like you to do us a favor, though’ in the context of a conversation about military aid?”

    Well, yes. It’s in the document McCarthy probably should’ve read before going on 60 Minutes. Maybe after learning a bit more about reality, the House Republican leader will reconsider the scandal through fresh eyes?

    Well, one would hope, but, no, I don’t think either Lindsey Graham or Kevin McCarthy will reconsider their blinkered and cult-like submission to Trump.

  9. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Brexit liveblog.

    A flavor:

    BBC News has just broadcast a clip of Boris Johnson responding to a question about whether he squeezed Charlotte Edwardes’ thigh at a Spectator lunch 20 years ago with a long and rambling reply about his plans to improve bus services.

    Javid says international investors fears Labour more than they fear Brexit.

    If they had their way,

    whole sectors of the economy would be renationalised.

    The return of trade union militancy would once again hold the government to ransom …

    The British Chambers of Commerce said last week that Labour’s plans will:

    “send an icy chill up the spines of business-owners and investors”.


  10. says

    Senators in both parties were left in the dark when it came to the Trump administrations delay of aid to Ukraine.

    Before a whistleblower’s complaint exposed […] Trump’s pressure campaign against the Ukrainian president, senators on both sides of the aisle were scratching their heads for months wondering why the congressionally-approved funds for Ukraine weren’t being provided.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last Tuesday that he had “no idea what precipitated the delay” and that he “was was not given an explanation” from the Trump administration.

    Several of his Senate colleagues in the Foreign Relations Committee were equally confused about Trump’s decision for months.

    CNN reported on Monday that Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) had asked Trump about the delay.

    Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blasted Trump’s slow-walking of the military aid at the end of August as an attempt to “circumvent” Congress, though Menendez apparently believed at the time that the delay was connected to Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. […]

    Sen. Chris Murphy told CNN that he didn’t understand why the military aid was withheld, only that it was because of Trump.

    “Everything I had heard was that this was a decision made by the President,” he said. “It was his decision and it was his decision alone.”


  11. says

    In Fox news:

    Fox News has learned that the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council were ‘unanimous’ in supporting the aid to Ukraine, and that Trump acted alone in withholding the aid over the summer.”

    Fox: Joe DiGenova & Victoria Toensing worked alongside Giuliani. Acc. to a top US official, the 3 attorneys were working ‘off the books’ & only the president knows the details of their work.
    In tweet Sunday, Toensing denied. Wallace responded, ‘We stand by our story’.”

    Significant news, and signals which should be worrying to Trump.

  12. says

    About the upcoming testimony from the whistleblower:

    The House Intelligence Committee will get “unfiltered testimony” from the whistleblower on the Donald Trump Ukraine call “very soon,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s chair, told ABC News on Sunday. “We are taking all the precautions we can to make sure that we do so — we allow that testimony to go forward in a way to protect the whistleblower’s identity,” Schiff pledged. “Because as you can imagine with the president issuing threats like we ought to treat these people who expose my wrongdoing as we used to treat traitors and spies and we used to execute traitors and spies, you can imagine the security concerns here.”

    Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s attorneys, issued a statement confirming that they are negotiating an appearance and highlighting that “protecting the whistleblower’s identity is paramount.”

    The Intelligence Committee, along with the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, are due to hear from some other witnesses this week. All three are due to get depositions from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch […]

    Intelligence will also have a closed-door hearing with the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, on Friday. Atkinson investigated the whistleblower complaint and found it credible and of urgent concern. […]


  13. PaulBC says

    I haven’t seen a Ted Rall comic in years, but this doesn’t seem nearly edgy enough for him. You could place this scene as a conversation between Mr. Burns and Smithers. I’m not saying Rall is losing his touch. I just wonder what that says about the Trump era. There is very little room left for satire at this point.

  14. says

    Trump’s behavior is as erratic as ever, and perhaps more so of late:

    […] while it’s only several days into the impeachment inquiry, Trump is already losing his shit. Almost out of the gate, he began blaming others for his predicament. “What Trump and other aides are frustrated with, according to the sources, is that Mulvaney did not have a strategy for defending and explaining the contents of those documents as soon as they were publicly released.”

    So hilarious, because, first of all, Trump has never followed anyone else’s strategy on anything, always believing himself to be the superior thinker, strategizer, and plotter. And it’s not just Trump—no Republican wants Rudy Giuliani on the airwaves admitting to further crimes and dragging new people into the conspiracy, yet there he is.

    […] Trump has surrounded himself with the nutbags from the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, telling him how smart he is for releasing that call readout that will prove to the libtards how stupid they all are!

    We should take a moment to savor that idiocy—Trump’s dwindling band of defenders spent the weekend trying to discredit the whistleblower, which, to their credit, none of the Sunday news show hosts left unchallenged. And of the handful of on-air defenders (Rep. Jim Jordan, Stephen Miller), none were as dumb as Lindsey Graham:

    LINDSEY GRAHAM: The whistleblower complaint is just hearsay.

    MARGARET BRENNAN: But the whistleblower complaint is matched by the call record in numerous ways.

    GRAHAM: Well, you’ve got an opinion, I’ve got an opinion.

    […] His [Trump’s] conduct may be indefensible, but Republicans will be hiding and feigning illiteracy this week, safely hiding back home during the congressional recess, pretending that they still haven’t read the whistleblower report. […]

    The true danger to Trump is what started happening over the weekend: As his hold on sanity frayed, and the neverending Twitter screaming reached fevered levels, he began doing what we all expected him to do—make it increasingly difficult for his supporters to stick by him. And while demanding that Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, be arrested for treason was bad enough, it was his call for civil war in case he was ousted that showed the first crack. […]


    See comment 3 for more on Trump’s call for civil war.

  15. says

    Putin reasserted his authority over Trump.

    If there was any question at this point that Russian President Vladimir Putin owns Donald Trump, this puts it to rest.

    MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that Washington would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of phone calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

    That’s not a statement of fact from the Kremlin. The U.S. remains a sovereign nation, Trump’s efforts notwithstanding. No, that’s a direct warning to Trump. It’s an assertion that Putin made him, and that he can break him.


  16. johnson catman says

    Question: I have not been able to see anything past comment #330 on the previous thread. I tried reloading, signing in and out, and using a different browser, but no success. Was there a problem with the thread?

  17. says

    Great thread from Ryan Lizza:

    It seems like a crisis right now in American politics is disimformation and how press, voters and Congress deal with it. Worth remembering that this isn’t the first time that our politics has been seized with a political actor and his allies spreading falsehoods with a [firehose].

    I was doing some reading on Joe McCarthy and noticed that his reign of demagoguery and disinformation lasted exactly 4 years, 4 months—from 1950 speech about communists at State to “have you no sense of decency?” It‘s been 4 years, 3 1/2 months since Trump’s announcement speech.

    Everyone has a pet historical analogue to Trump but McCarthy holds up well. This is a 1982 review of a book on McCarthy & media: “levelled accusations of treason at people he knew nothing about,” “lied with such boldness that he distracted a nation and shot it full of distrust.”

    McCarthy seemed invincible for 4 years and then suddenly support for him collapsed. Former cheerleaders acted like they barely knew him. The media was especially apologetic, because it realized he took advantage of a newish mid-century norm about covering both sides objectively.

    The dynamic here is that at a certain point the cost of defending a demagogue spreading constant lies becomes greater than admitting that the opposition you despise may be right about the nature of your party leader. We are not at that point yet but it can come fast.

    Here are two related comments from me in April about the book Many Are the Crimes.

    Also, an interesting thread from historian Kevin Kruse about the response to Nixon diehards.

  18. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Interesting that the more Darth Cheeto tries to defend himself against accusations that he is unfit to be President, the more he demonstrates his unfitness for the job. And yet, the most we can hope for from Rethugs is an expression that they are “privately horrified” by his behavior, while in public they maintain their full-throated defense of him.

    Every lackey who says they don’t see anything wrong with the Trumpster fire’s Ukraine call and subsequent coverup should be whacked on the nose with a copy of the Washington Post (the Times is too lightweight for the purpose) and then have their nose rubbed in the transcript. Really, if they cannot see the problem with soliciting political dirt from a foreign leader, they have no business in government.

  19. says

    Oh, JFC. “But her emails.”

    The State Department has been “investigating” more than a hundred current and former employees who sent emails that ended up on Hillary Clinton’s private server […] According to some of the people who’ve been informed that their completely ordinary emails have been retroactively marked as “classified,” even the investigators think the whole thing is stupid, and have apologized for having to ask questions about old emails. The Post reports that “as many as 130 officials” have been targeted in the probe, including many who didn’t send anything to Clinton directly, but whose emails were then forwarded by higher level officials to Clinton. This is a very good use of government time!

    We’re especially impressed that one anonymous State Department official managed to keep a straight face while insisting the renewed urgency in the investigation had nothing to do with politics, no, no, no […]

    The report is careful to point out several times that the staffers being investigated don’t appear to have been handling anything classified at all, just routine diplomatic communications going back as far as 2009. In fact, the story notes that at the time, Foreign Service officers were using BlackBerrys that were just plain incapable of sending classified emails. […]

    There is no indication in any of the materials reviewed by The Post that the emails under scrutiny contained sensitive information about classified U.S. initiatives or programs […] The messages came in through “regular email” and then were forwarded through official — though unclassified — State Department channels.

    In other instances officials were relaying email summaries of time-sensitive conversations with foreign leaders conducted over unclassified cellphones.

    But now, say “several officials involved in the investigation,” those ordinary boring messages have been “upclassified” or “reclassified,” even though the State Department staffers weren’t even trying to get foreign leaders to gather dirt on political opponents. […]

    The whole mess looks like an effort to wreck the careers of people who committed the offense of serving under Hillary Clinton. While it doesn’t look like anyone faces criminal prosecution, just being investigated could cause career trouble […]

    One former “senior U.S. official familiar with the email investigation” said the investigation was nothing more than a way for TrumpWorld “to keep the Clinton email issue alive” and to “tarnish a whole bunch of Democratic foreign policy people,” preventing them from working in government or advancing their careers.


  20. says

    Question: I have not been able to see anything past comment #330 on the previous thread. I tried reloading, signing in and out, and using a different browser, but no success. Was there a problem with the thread?

    The Political Madness thread rolls along, racking up 500 comments per “chapter,” and then starting the next chapter at comment 1.

    However, the freethoughtblogs system will automatically kill any thread that exists beyond a certain time limit. The Political Madness thread frequently exceeds that time limit. It takes several “chapters” to do so, but it hits the hard time limit and dies. If PZ doesn’t notice right away, I send him an email to alert him. PZ then resurrects the thread, giving it a new lease on life.

    There were only 330 comments in the previous chapter when the Political Madness thread hit the wall.

  21. johnson catman says

    Lynna, OM @24: Thank you for the explanation. I had gotten used to checking in daily for the latest outrageousness, and I was Jonesing for a fix. ;-P

  22. says

    Dahlia Lithwick discusses the wisdom of John Oliver:

    Way back in 2017, John Oliver started calling the early Trump-era scandals “Stupid Watergates” […] “a scandal with all the potential ramifications of Watergate, but where everyone involved is stupid and bad at everything.” […] “What did the president know and when did he know it,” [or] “Is the president physically capable of knowing things at all?”

    […] As a general matter, jokes are funny because they are at least partially true. Here, we have crossed a line where the joke is so true, it’s hardly funny. Donald Trump is not competent and many of the people with whom he surrounds himself—until he fires them—are not competent either. The primary work of his highest officials appears to have been hiding evidence of his malfeasance and ineptitude from us and pretending that work was heroic. […]

    Welcome to Stupid Watergate, Part 1,000, in which the joke is finally not on you. Welcome to Stupid Watergate, in which somehow, after nearly three years of pinging around inside the “nothing matters” shruggy emoji, within the span of one week, something is finally, possibly, maybe going to stick. Donald Trump may actually be brought down—by an entirely unforced error involving his obsession with an insane Fox News talking point about Ukrainian “corruption,” Joe Biden, and, of course—because it’s Stupid Watergate—Hillary’s emails. The spectacular flameout of Rudy Giuliani, the implosion at the State Department, and the president’s mounting incoherence also swirled together to propel the meltdown along. […]

    And because it’s Stupid Watergate, it’s not just the cover-up, or even just the crime, but also the scorching ineptitude. Don’t for a moment forget about the myriad people who were alarmed by Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to find dirt on his political opponent and yet did nothing, as well as the deeply stupid people who were alarmed by Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to find dirt on his political opponent and tried to bury it. […]

    Trump has one fatal flaw, one that Richard Nixon did not quite share. As a lifelong narcissist, Donald Trump genuinely believes he can do nothing wrong. He perhaps even genuinely believes that anything he has ever done that has been wrong is not, in fact, wrong. He further believes that the presidency is the perfect gig for him because presidents can do nothing illegal. And, somewhat pathetically, he apparently seems to think that if he could just explain his rightness about all things to everyone, we would finally give him the love he so desperately craves. […]

    He wants us to understand and accept that his threatening calls to foreign leaders are “very legal and very good,” and also “perfect,” and that a whistleblower and those who spoke to the whistleblower are in fact “close to” spies who should be executed for treason. […]

    It seems perfectly possible that the more Trump tries to cajole and browbeat us into accepting his awesomeness, the worse it will become for him. […] Welcome to Stupid Watergate. Admitting the problem is the first step.


  23. says

    AJ – “Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah rearrested amid crackdown”:

    Prominent pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, who served five years in prison in Egypt, has been rearrested, according to his family and rights groups.

    The blogger and software engineer was a leading voice among the young Egyptians who initially led the 2011 uprising that ended the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

    Government critics say his arrest is part of a wave of crackdowns, the largest since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in 2014.

    Nearly 2,000 people have been arrested, according to rights groups, since anti-government protests began in Cairo and other Egyptian cities earlier this month.

    The protests were spurred by exiled former military contractor Mohamed Ali.

    Egypt’s public prosecutor’s office has denied those numbers, saying on Thursday that no more than 1,000 suspects had been questioned since the protests began.

    Abdel Fattah was initially arrested in November 2013 and charged with protesting without permission and assaulting a police officer.

    After his release in March from the notorious Tora prison, Abdel Fattah was ordered to spend his nights at a police station for the next five years as part of his parole.

    His family said he was preparing to leave that station when he was arrested on Sunday morning.

    “I arrived at the police station and I found the place where he spends the probation empty, I asked them where Alaa was … The chief detective came out and told me that Alaa is at the national security prosecution,” his sister Mona Seif said, according to Reuters news agency.

    On Twitter, Seif, who is also an activist, said the family did not know what charges Abdel Fattah faced as of Sunday night.

    “Fed up doesn’t begin to describe how Im [sic] feeling,” she said in another post that included a picture of her brother. “He was really trying to rebuild a life that was completely crushed Had to restart everything: work, personal life & his role as a father.”

    A security source told Reuters news agency an arrest warrant had been issued against the activist over accusations of publishing false news and inciting people to protest. The Interior Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment by several news agencies.

    Mohamed al-Baqer, a lawyer representing Abdel Fattah, was also arrested on Sunday at the national security prosecutor’s office, another lawyer who witnessed the incident, told Reuters.

    Al-Baqer had been waiting for an interrogation of Abdel Fattah to begin.

    “This is a blatant violation against lawyers. Lawyers are immune while working, just like judges and prosecutors. As a lawyer, I am afraid about getting arrested right now,” he said.

    El-Sisi has downplayed the protests, calling them “no reasons for concern”, even as the police and army have tightened security in major cities across the country in recent days.

    Rights groups say those arrested include writers, activists and opposition figures.

    Their defence lawyers say many have been investigated on allegations of using social media to spread false news, joining a banned “terrorist” group or protesting without a permit….

  24. tomh says

    Here’s a shocker, Giuliani gets it all wrong.

    Giuliani Cannot Rely on Attorney-Client Privilege to Avoid Congressional Testimony

    As the House of Representatives launches its impeachment inquiry with a focus on President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine, the question has been raised whether the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, will testify before Congress. According to CNN, Giuliani has said that he would need to consult with Trump before testifying before Congress because of the attorney-client privilege. This reflects a fundamental misapprehension of how the attorney-client privilege might apply in these circumstances—and, indeed, whether it could provide a bulwark against compelled congressional testimony at all.

    At the outset, it is unclear that much of the information of interest to Congress regarding Giuliani’s conduct would even potentially be subject to the attorney-client privilege. The privilege exists to protect the confidential communication between a client and an attorney made for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. It does not protect, for instance, communications your attorney may have had with, say, foreign government officials—or, for that matter, with U.S. government officials.

    And, of course, the privilege wouldn’t reach communications where Giuliani was not acting in his capacity as a lawyer providing legal advice. Yet Giuliani himself just told The Atlantic regarding his work in Ukraine, “I’m not acting as a lawyer. I’m acting as someone who has devoted most of his life to straightening out government.” And the conduct at issue—pushing arguments about potential corruption to foreign officials—does not appear to involve providing confidential legal advice. It is not even clear that Giuliani’s conduct constitutes legal work performed in his capacity as Trump’s attorney, even if it were charitably viewed as something other than political campaign work.

    Much more at the link. Suffice it to say, Giuliani has no clue.

  25. says

    Trump freely admits that he has never done anything for which he would need forgiveness. You’d think that Evangelical Christians might notice this discrepancy between their deepest held beliefs about unworthiness, and their beliefs about their anointed one’s assumed holiness.That they are able to live in such complete denial about his Orangiosity is just mind-boggling.

  26. says

    CNBC – “McConnell: ‘I would have no choice but to take it up’ if House votes to impeach Trump”:

    The Senate would have to take up impeachment of President Donald Trump if the House effectively votes to charge the president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday.

    “I would have no choice but to take it up,” the Kentucky Republican told CNBC. “How long you are on it is a different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”

    If the House impeaches, the Republican-held Senate would then hold a trial on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. Despite the current lack of support for the inquiry among Senate Republicans, McConnell said the chamber by rule would have no choice but to follow through with the process….

  27. PaulBC says

    Jonathan Norburg@37

    You’d think that Evangelical Christians might notice this discrepancy between their deepest held beliefs about unworthiness, and their beliefs…

    Really? Hahahahahaha. No I would not think that. I am trying to recall if I ever would have.

  28. Akira MacKenzie says

    Jonathan Norburg @ 23

    The Evangelicals and Trump have an understanding: He advances their policy goals, they’ll vote for him. Trump has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this arrangement since none of the Christian’s Right’s designs affect Trump negatively. Meanwhile, the Bible-beaters either claim that Trump is a “changed man” who has privately accepted Jesus so his past transgressions are forgiven, or that his a flawed-but-divinely-sent leader, like David or Cyrus, to do their god’s work despite his personal shortcomings. The only thing they care about is banning abortion, oppressing LGBTQs, and otherwise making the country into a theocracy. If they need the power of a “sinner” to do it… well, it was their god’s will.

  29. says

    Robert Maguire, CREW:

    1st congressman to endorse Trump is reportedly going to plead guilty to insider trading tomorrow

    2nd congressman to endorse Trump is fighting a 60-count corruption indictment

    Trump’s campaign manager is in jail

    Trump’s deputy campaign manager will be sentenced in a few weeks

    Trump’s first National Security Advisor will be sentenced in December

    His longtime personal lawyer is serving a three-year prison sentence

    At least one former Trump cabinet official is the subject of a possible criminal investigation for actions taken in office

    Oh, and there’s this guy [Roger Stone – SC]

    Then, of course, there’s Trump himself—he of scandals too numerous to name—who had to pay a $25m Trump University fraud settlement just weeks after becoming president, dissolve a “charity” he was using as personal checkbook, who got caught paying hush money to a porn star….

    His international pals are also facing indictments, investigations, and anti-graft popular uprisings.

    Trump’s telling the truth: he’s very focused on corruption.

  30. says

    ‘We’re trying to find out’ who the whistleblower is, Trump told reporters just now.

    The whistleblower is entitled to federal protections under the law.”

    Andrew Bakaj, the whistleblower’s lawyer: “IC WB UPDATE: The Intel Community Whistleblower is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.”

    (I like that Bakaj prefaces his tweets with “UPDATE” and “BREAKING.” I also like his signature.)

  31. says

    Good news – Guardian – “Naga Munchetty: BBC reverses decision to censure presenter “:

    The BBC has reversed its decision to sanction BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty for breaking impartiality guidelines with her comments about Donald Trump, following a staff uprising against the ruling and enormous political pressure.

    Tony Hall, the BBC director general, emailed all staff on Monday to say he had reviewed the decision following internal and external protests. He said that, on reflection, the BBC’s complaints unit had made the wrong call when they ruled against Munchetty, one of the BBC’s most prominent minority ethnic journalists, for expressing a personal response to the US president’s statement in July that four American congresswomen of colour should “go home”.

    Asked about Trump’s comments on BBC Breakfast, Munchetty said: “Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism.”

    The U-turn over censuring her came after the Guardian obtained leaked internal correspondence casting doubts on public claims about the complaints process made by a senior BBC executive, as he attempted to explain why Munchetty’s co-host Dan Walker had escaped punishment, despite taking part in the same discussion….

  32. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Lynna, OM

    At this point I am deeply frustrated with what [Rudy Giuliani] and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again

    Oh dear this is just what you didn’t want to hear about the president of the United States. It is not reassuring about Trump’s mental capacities at the moment.

    @18 Lynna, OM

    The Kremlin said on Monday that Washington would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of phone calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin..

    When the Daily Kos or some other news source actually points me to the Kremlin source then maybe I’ll believe this. I wonder if this is some garbled report of the comments of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova who pointed out that with the leaking of th

    e Ukrainian – US transcript that other world leaders, who presumably thought that they were speaking in confidence no longer will want to talk or meet with the U.S. head of state. https://tass.com/politics/1080408.

    To be honest, I have almost no faith in US reporting just about any foreign political news, and especially anything related to Russia, Iran, China, or Venezuela.

  33. blf says

    jrkrideau@49, The Grauniad, Release of Trump-Putin transcripts needs Russian approval, Kremlin says, quotes Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov as saying “that the release of summaries or transcripts […] is only possible with the mutual agreement of both sides.”

    I find it ironic you’re referencing Tass, which is completely owned by the Russian government. As Media Bias / Fact Check puts it, “TASS has a very strong pro-Russian bias, especially as it relates to news regarding the Ukraine.”

  34. blf says

    The Onion, Trump Aides Investigating Whistleblower Struggling To Identify Single Person In CIA With Moral Principles (the Onion’s “edits” in {curly braces}):

    Explaining that they faced a serious roadblock in their effort to unmask the source of a leaked complaint about the president’s conversations with Ukraine, aides to Donald Trump investigating a whistleblower reported to be a CIA agent were struggling Monday to identify a single person in the agency with moral principles. “After we learned that the whistleblower is CIA, we figured it would be pretty quick to narrow down his identity among the few people there with a moral compass, but the more we looked into it, we realized we can’t think of anybody who has one,” said Stephen Miller, adding that aides had cleared everyone with links to the intelligence community they knew had knowledge of Trump’s Ukraine conversations due to the fact that they were all too unethical and black-hearted to care about any presidential misconduct. “Naturally, we started at the top, but obviously {CIA director Gina} Haspel is cleared because of the whole torture thing [… T]his whole situation is completely antithetical to everything the CIA stands for.” Several Trump aides confirmed they were hoping to enter the whistleblower’s mindset by developing any shred of moral principle themselves.

  35. says

    Akira MacKenzie #42 Sadly, I must agree with you. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. No president up until now has been “Christian” enough for them. What they really meant was that no president up until now had ever given them exactly what they wanted. The antiabortion issue prior to Trump was an issue to be used to rally the voters, not to actually fulfill. I currently see no way of peeling any of these voters away as they reject reason and logic out of hand. If Trump is impeached and convicted, we will get Pence in his place, who, while no personally corrupt, is just as noxious on the issues as the cheeto. I worry also about the significant minority who want a rat bastard for president. Many of them voted for Trump simply to see progressives get angry, and nothing he does matters to them so long as it angers the Liberals.

  36. says

    blf @ #50:

    jrkrideau@49, The Grauniad, Release of Trump-Putin transcripts needs Russian approval, Kremlin says, quotes Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov as saying “that the release of summaries or transcripts […] is “only possible with the mutual agreement of both sides”.”

    LOL, guess you can believe it now, jrkrideau!

    I find it ironic you’re referencing Tass, which is completely owned by the Russian government. As Media Bias / Fact Check puts it, “TASS has a very strong pro-Russian bias, especially as it relates to news regarding the Ukraine.”

    jrkrideau is also known to have a pro-Kremlin bias.

  37. says

    Jesus, I go out for a bit and all hell breaks loose.

    News from the past 30 mins:

    Rudy Giuliani subpoenaed.
    WSJ: Mike Pompeo was on Trump’s Ukraine call.
    NYT: Trump pushed Australian prime minister to help with probe he wants to undermine the Russia investigation.

    Happy Monday!”

    Here’s the NYT: “Breaking News: President Trump pushed Australia’s prime minister to help Attorney General William Barr in an investigation intended to rebut the Mueller inquiry.”

    Also, “WP: AG Barr ‘has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help’ in a DOJ inquiry ‘that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election’.” This includes Barr’s mystery trip to Italy this past week.

    Links at the links.

  38. says

    More re Giuliani subpoena – TPM – “House Dems Subpoena Giuliani For Ukraine Docs”:

    House Democrats subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, on Monday, seeking documents related to his recent endeavors in Ukraine seeking dirt on a Trump political rival.

    The subpoena was the latest step taken in the House’s quick-moving impeachment inquiry into efforts by Trump and his allies to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.

    The subpoena, issued by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees, seeks documents related to a number of key figures in Giuliani’s efforts, as well as materials related to the withholding of U.S. assistance to Ukraine and records related to Trump’s calls with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

    The committee is also looking at Giuliani’s efforts to attack investigations of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and to push the prosecution of Ukrainians who provided evidence against Manafort.

    The lawmakers are demanding the documents by Oct. 15.

    Additionally, the committees wrote to three Giuliani associates seeking documents and requesting they sit for depositions with the committee next month.

    The committees are hoping to depose Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — who have both been described as Giuliani’s fixers in his Ukrainian effort — on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11, respectively.

    They’ve scheduled an Oct 14 deposition for Semyon Kislin, whose ties to Giuliani stretch back into the 1990s.

    All three men have until Tuesday to tell the committee whether they’ll be complying voluntarily with the committee’s requests….

    Links to the subpoena and list of requested docs atl.

  39. says

    News: IC IG has posted a statement regarding its handling of whistleblower complaints.

    ‘The Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the Complainant submitted on August 12, 2019 is the same form the ICIG has had in place since May 24, 2018 …'”


  40. DanDare says

    Unfortunately our PM in OZ is a Trump fan. Trump will not have had to coerce him so its not a strong point. Here in Australia it will piss a lot of us off but won’t be shocking.

  41. says

    [Bear in mind this was given at the end of the 19th century:]

    From William James, “Exercises at the dedication of the monument to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry, May 31, 1897”:

    …It is hard to end a discourse like this without one word of moralizing ; and two things must be distinguished in all events like those we are commemorating, — the moral service of them on the one hand, and on the other the physical fortitude which they display. War has been much praised and celebrated among us of late as a school of manly virtue ; but it is easy to exaggerate upon this point….

    What we really need the poet’s and orator’s help to keep alive in us is not, then, the common and gregarious courage which Robert Shaw showed when he marched with you, men of the Seventh Regiment. It is that more lonely courage which he showed when he dropped his oration by warm commission in the glorious Second to head your dubious fortunes, negroes of the 54th. That lonely kind of valor (civic courage as we call it in peace times) is the kind of valor to which the monuments of nations should most of all be reared, for the survival of the fittest has not bred it into the bone of human beings as it has bred military valor ; and of five hundred of us who could storm a battery side by side with others, perhaps not one would be found ready to risk his worldly fortunes all alone in resisting an enthroned abuse. The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness ; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably ; by smiting corruption swiftly ; by good temper between parties ; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. Such nations have no need of wars to save them. Their accounts with righteousness are always even ; and God’s judgments do not have to overtake them fitfully in bloody spasms and convulsions of the race.

    The lesson that our war ought most of all to teach us is the lesson that evils must be checked in time, before they grow so great. The Almighty cannot love such long-postponed accounts, or such tremendous settlements. And surely He hates all settlements that do such quantities of incidental devils’ work. Our present situation, with its rancors and delusions, what is it but the direct outcome of the added powers of government, the corruptions and inflations of the war ? Every war leaves such miserable legacies, fatal seeds of future war and revolution, unless the civic virtues of the people save the State in time.

    Shaw had both kinds of virtue. As he then led his regiment against Fort Wagner, so surely would he now be leading us against all lesser powers of darkness, had his sweet young life been spared. You think of many as I speak of one. For, North and South, how many lives as sweet, unmonumented for the most part, commemorated solely in the hearts of mourning mothers, wido’wed brides, or friends, did the inexorable war mow down ! Instead of the full years of natural service from so many of her children, our country counts but their poor memories, ” the tender grace of a day that is dead,” lingering like echoes of past music on the vacant air.

    But so and so only was it written that she should grow sound again. From that fatal earlier unsoundness those lives have bought for North and South together permanent release. The warfare is accomplished ; the iniquity is pardoned. No future problem can be like that problem. No task laid on our children can compare in difficulty with the task with which their fathers have to deal. Yet as we face the future, tasks enough await us. The republic to which Robert Shaw and a quarter of a million like him were faithful unto death is no republic that can live at ease hereafter on the interest of what they won. Democracy is still upon its trial. The civic genius of our people is its only bulwark, and neither laws nor monuments, neither battleships nor public libraries, nor great newspapers nor booming stocks ; neither mechanical invention nor political adroitness, nor churches nor universities nor civil-service examinations can save us from degeneration if the inner mystery be lost. That mystery…consists in nothing but two common habits, two inveterate habits carried into public life, — habits so homely that they lend themselves to no rhetorical exoration by pression, yet habits more precious, perhaps, than any that the human race has gained. They can never be too often pointed out or praised. One of them is the habit of trained and disciplined good temper towards the opposite party when it fairly wins its innings ; and the other, that of fierce and merciless resentment towards every man or set of men who overstep the lawful bounds of fairness or break the public peace.

    O my countrymen, Southern and Northern, brothers hereafter, masters, slaves, and enemies no more, let us see to it that both of those heirlooms are preserved. So may our ransomed country, like the city of the promise, lie forever foursquare under Heaven, and the ways of all the nations be lit up by its light.

  42. says

    Katharine Murphy, GuardianAU:

    Short thread. So a timeline is emerging now of the contacts between the Australian and US governments concerning this Trump/Morrison call about Mueller. The FM Marise Payne said publicly in May Australia would assist the investigation if asked.

    After Trump went nuts about Australia’s role on May 25 [Guardian link] Ambassador Joe Hockey wrote to Barr, copying in Mick Mulvaney, and said: “The Australian government will use its best endeavours to support your efforts in this matter”.

    Hockey, continuing: ““While Australia’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, the Hon Alexander Downer, is no longer employed by the government, we stand ready to provide you with all the relevant information to support your inquiries.”

  43. says

    Just in: Sebastian Gorka is traveling with @SecPompeo to Europe, @Abs_NBC reports. He was seen getting into a State Department van headed to Joint Base Andrews for departure.”

    Reminder – from the previous iteration: State Dept.: “From October 1-6, @SecPompeo will travel to Italy, the Holy See, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Greece to meet with senior leaders and deliver keynote remarks at the U.S. – Holy See Symposium on Partnering with Faith-Based Organizations.”

  44. says

    Flashback: Pompeo was asked last week by ABC whether he knew about the conversation between Trump and Zelensky. He demurred, saying he just got the report. We now know he took part in the call itself.”

    Video at the link.

  45. John Morales says

    Unlike NZ, when the US says “jump!”, Oz says “how high?”.

    (And ScoMo is a Pentecostal, BTW)

  46. says

    Guardian – “Austrian elections offer latest sign far right’s rise is faltering in Europe”:

    The slump in support for the nationalist Freedom party (FPÖ) in Austria’s elections on Sunday is the latest indication that if the tide has not turned against Europe’s far-right populists [sic], it does seem – for the time being, at least – to have stopped rising.

    Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s party (ÖVP) won 37.1% of the vote, its best score since 2002, while the share held by FPÖ, until May his junior coalition partner in government, collapsed to 16.1%, down a full 10 percentage points.

    Voters deserted the FPÖ after its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, was filmed offering lucrative public contracts in exchange for campaign support to a woman claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch. But the result fits into a wider continental pattern of far-right, nationalist [sic] and populist parties facing increasingly stiff political or institutional resistance and failing to capitalise on their advances in the polls to the extent that many observers had predicted.

    While the social and economic discontent and the dissatisfaction with Europe’s mainstream parties that fuelled their recent surge have far from vanished, the populists seem no more able than anyone else in Europe’s fragmenting political landscape to secure clear majorities for their cause.

    In Italy, the former interior minister Matteo Salvini, of the far-right League party, is out in the cold after collapsing the government in the mistaken belief that his soaring poll ratings meant the country wanted a hard turn to the right.

    Instead his coalition partners, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, formed a government with the centre-left Democratic party, and while Salvini will doubtless be back, for the moment the nationalists are nursing a self-inflicted bloody nose.

    In elections in two crucial German regions this month, the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party made big gains and posted record scores, but it did not win in either and was shut out of power in both.

    In France, Emmanuel Macron seemed under serious threat earlier this year, shaken by the violent Saturday demonstrations of the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement and the advance of the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen. But the centrist president is now ahead in the polls, his approval rating at its highest since July 2018. With Le Pen failing to land a knockout blow in May’s European elections – she won by a whisker, and with a smaller share of the vote than in 2014 – and the French economy faring better than many, Macron will be quietly optimistic.

    In Spain, the far-right Vox party has managed to lose ground in the polls despite the failure of the Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, to form a government; and support for Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy (FvD) in the Netherlands has plummeted following infighting and divisions.

    Far-right and illiberal populism continues to prosper in Poland and Hungary. But elsewhere in central Europe, the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, is facing some of the biggest protests since the fall of communism, and the new president of Slovakia is a progressive liberal.

    The underlying causes of far-right populism – rising inequality, austerity, fear of immigration, globalisation, automation – remain, and the parties they sustain are fixtures in Europe’s political landscape. In several countries, far-right policies, particularly on immigration, have been adopted and normalised by both the centre right and centre left.

    But as the Austrian results confirm, the nationalists are not having things all their own way.

    I feel like this story wouldn’t be compete without this from Friday:

    The main argument against a fresh pact between the ÖVP and the FPÖ, wrote the liberal newspaper Der Standard, was less “moral qualms” on Kurz’s part than fear of reputation damage. It said: “In spite of the proliferation of rightwing populist trends, the party of [ex-leaders Jörg] Haider and Strache is a global symbol of democratic misfits – after Ibiza more than ever.”

    Many commentators believe a link-up with the nationalist right remains Kurz’s personal preference, however. “The Freedom party is much more dangerous in opposition, and Kurz knows he can work with them without much of a hit to his popularity ratings,” said Reinhard Heinisch, a political scientist at Salzburg University.

    A political scientist argued that a ruthlessly corrupt and power-mad far-Right party was “much more dangerous in opposition” and that the center-Right could work with them. In Austria. In 2019.

  47. says

    Guardian – “Bolsonaro tells students to read book by dictatorship-era torturer”:

    Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been accused of “drinking from the sewer of history” after urging teenage students to read a book by a notorious dictatorship-era torturer accused of directing interrogation sessions where victims were were whipped, given electric shocks and pounded with vine wood canes.

    Bolsonaro, an outspoken fan of the 1964-1985 military regime during which hundreds of political opponents were murdered and thousands more tortured, met with students at the gates of the presidential palace in the capital, Brasília, on Monday.

    Video of the encounter shows one of the students saying, “Send a hug to my teacher.”

    “You teacher is a leftist?” the president replies, as the crowd erupts with laughter.

    “Tell her to read the book The Suffocated Truth. Just read it,” Bolsonaro says. “There are facts, not the blah blah blah of the left.”

    The book he recommended was written by Col Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who in 2008 became Brazil’s first military man convicted for kidnap and torture during the dictatorship.

    The Suffocated Truth – The Story the Left Doesn’t Want Brazil to Know, was published a year before Ustra’s death in 2015 and – according to the summary – “seek(s) to dispel myths, deceptions, and lies”.

    In a recent interview with the Brazilian media, one Ustra victim, Gilberto Natalini, described sadistic torture sessions that had played out under the watch of the man Bolsonaro considers a role model.

    “It was a house of horrors,” Natalini said of the torture centre where he was held by Ustra’s men. “Once I saw them hang a man upside down by his feet and leave him there for almost 48 hours.”

    “We were terrified of Ustra because he was in charge of it all,” Natalini added. “How could you ever forget a face like his? It was the face of depravity itself.”

    “It’s very sad that the president continues to defend the most cowardly crime that man can practice; the crime of torture,” said Antônio Funari, president of the Justice and Peace Commission, a Catholic Church advocacy organization.

    Sâmia Bomfim, a São Paulo congresswoman with the leftwing Socialism and Liberty party tweeted: “Those who encourage this monstrosity are accomplices to the suffering that plagued countless families during the dictatorship. Bolsonaro drinks from the sewers of our history.”

    But with the rise of Brazil’s far right, Ustra has become a cult hero for some, with T-shirts bearing his face and chants of “Ustra lives” sometimes seen at rallies and events.

    In 2016, Bolsonaro, then a congress back bencher, praised Ustra in a speech during the impeachment of the president, Dilma Rousseff, who was herself a torture victim during the dictatorship.


  48. says

    Middle East Eye – “EXCLUSIVE: Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier”:

    The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established.

    Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company’s UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war.

    The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

    Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level”; to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences.

    What exactly MacMillan is doing with the unit is difficult to determine, however: he has declined to answer any questions about his role, as has Twitter and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).

    Twitter would say only that “we actively encourage all our employees to pursue external interests”, while the MoD said that the 77th Brigade had no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication.

    The 77th Brigade’s headquarters is located west of London. It brought together a number of existing military units such as the Media Operations Group and the 15 Psychological Operations Group.

    At its launch, the UK media was told that the new unit of “Facebook warriors” would be around 1,500 strong, and made up of both regular soldiers and reservists. In recent months, the army has been approaching British journalists and asking them to join the unit as reservists.

    While clearly engaged in propaganda, the MoD is reluctant to use that word to describe the unit’s operations.

    Instead, the British army’s website describes the 77th Brigade as “an agent of change” which aims to “challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries”.

    MacMillan, whose editorial responsibilities at Twitter also cover Europe and Africa, was a captain in the unit at the end of 2016, according to one British army publication. The MoD will not disclose his current rank….

  49. says

    AOC: “It’s wild to me how people crawled over my 60 mins interview with a fine-toothed comb to find any word or reason to claim I’m unfit for the job, yet here Kevin McCarthy (the GOP Leader!) is a bumbling, sloppy, dishonest mess & his mediocrity is accepted as a matter of course.”

  50. says

    Mother Jones – “Australia to Trump: Sure, We’ll Help You Pursue Your Political Vendetta”:

    Australia rarely makes the US news unless there’s a killer shark attack or a killer leadership coup. But like so many others in the Trump era, this week is not normal.

    The New York Times reported Monday afternoon that President Donald Trump pushed Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison “during a recent telephone call” to help prosecute his political vendetta against the people he thinks started the Trump-Russia investigation. That’s a big deal. Trump and other US officials, including Attorney General William Barr, appear to be trying to recruit all sorts of governments (Italy, the UK, and, of course, Ukraine) to do the same—and in some cases, they are covering their tracks by stashing unsavory conversations in a super-classified White House server.

    Watchers of the far-right conspiracy machine know Australia plays a special role in sparking Trump’s anger. You might recall it was an Australian official, Alexander Downer, who sort of put this whole thing in motion. During a “night of heavy drinking” with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in a London bar in May 2016, Downer, Australia’s top diplomat in Britain at the time, learned some juicy gossip that the Aussies eventually passed onto the US: Papadopoulos had been told that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of her emails. That bar-chatter, when it reached Washington in July 2016, sparked the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia, which the following year morphed into the Mueller inquiry.

    For some time now, Trump-defending conspiracy-mongers have assailed Downer as some kind of Clinton stooge, doing the bidding of dark, anti-Trump forces. That is, Downer, in cahoots with the Deep State, passed along this information to orchestrate the Russia probe in order prevent Trump from becoming president.

    For Australians, this is hilarious: Downer is a lifelong soldier of conservative Australia, and happily so. He’s a former foreign minister in Australia’s conservative party, confusingly called the Liberal Party, and once led the party when it was in opposition. The thought of Downer in league with some kind of liberal, global deep state is fantastical enough to be instantly discounted. Nonetheless, in one example of how this disinformation was concocted and spread, The Hill ran a story in March 2018—co-bylined by John Solomon of whistleblower-complaint fame—highlighting Downer’s work to help end the scourge of HIV in the region. This effort, it reported, included awarding taxpayer money to the Clinton Foundation in 2006, and was painted as nefarious. Fox News picked it up. Papadopoulos himself has waged a long Twitter war against Downer:

    [link to a Papadopoulos tweet from yesterday in which he claims Downer is a “Clinton errand boy” who’s about to be exposed]

    Now, Trump has come knocking.

    Could it be possible that the Australian government will throw its stalwart party veteran and ally, Alexander Downer, under the bus to please Trump? It’s difficult to imagine. But no doubt we’ll learn more about what this US-Australian cooperation actually entails as the House Democrats’ push to impeach gathers speed.

    In the meantime, Australia’s dedicated political press gang is busy piecing this timeline together in real time, while extracting information from a likely very stunned prime minister’s office….

  51. John Morales says

    Could it be possible that the Australian government will throw its stalwart party veteran and ally, Alexander Downer, under the bus to please Trump?

    Nah. Downer was fully integrated into the right wing Govt, so he has the dirt on the others. Can’o’worms and all that. Bad precedent.

    (Heh. He was also the member for my current electorate (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_of_Mayo), back in the day. His daughter ran twice, lost twice, which I liked because back when, it was a Liberal (read Repub Lite) stronghold.)

  52. says

    New Yorker – “Mark Meadows and the Undisclosed Dinosaur Property”:

    Three years ago, the North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows sold a hundred-and-thirty-four-acre property in Dinosaur, Colorado. The buyer was Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit based in Kentucky, which was founded by the Australian creationist Ken Ham. Answers in Genesis is dedicated to promoting young-Earth creationism, which holds that the Earth was created in six days, several thousand years ago. According to documents related to the sale, Meadows was to be paid about two hundred thousand dollars for the property, in monthly installments, the last of which was paid last year.

    Neither the sale nor any such payments are noted on Meadows’s congressional financial disclosures, which he is required by law to file annually. Meadows is a founding member of the very conservative House Freedom Caucus and is one of the more prominent members of Congress; last year, Donald Trump reportedly considered making him the White House chief of staff. Why didn’t Meadows disclose the property or the sale? The congressman declined to comment for this story. In August, the Charlotte Observer reported that Meadows—who, before becoming a congressman, was a successful real-estate developer—owned land in northeastern North Carolina that he had also failed to list on his disclosure reports. It’s possible that these nondisclosures reflect a pattern of ignoring congressional reporting rules.

    It’s also possible that Meadows wanted to avoid drawing attention to the Colorado property and the complicated and perhaps unflattering story behind it. The property is not an ordinary piece of land but a rich site for finding dinosaur bones, and this appears to be the primary reason that Meadows bought it. Those bones then became the subject of a long-running fight among young-Earth creationists—and they are likely the reason that Meadows sold the land, ultimately, to Answers in Genesis. Meadows’s involvement with the land may have been, in part, a moneymaking venture, but it seems chiefly to reflect his commitment to, and entanglement with, the contentious and controversial world of creationist paleontology….

    Wild. You really have to read the whole story. “Among the handful of countries where the vast majority of dinosaur fossils have been discovered, the United States is the only one where such bones, when found on private property, belong to the landowner, rather than to the government. ‘It is this legal structure that allows creationists to dig dinosaurs and pretend to be paleontologists’, Kirk Johnson explained. By keeping the land in the hands of young-Earth creationists, Meadows would insure that they could tell the story of any fossils found there.”

  53. birgerjohansson says

    If you want some variety, I recommend keeping up with the Brexit/ Boris Johnson craziness.
    I know Mercuns have more at stake in the impeachment/Trump soap opera, but Britain provides a kind of parallel evolution, like the thylacine.

  54. says

    birgerjohansson @ #92, I link to the Guardian’s Brexit liveblog almost every day (see #9 above) and we comment frequently about it, as you can see on the previous iteration, where I often point to the parallels you mention. In the iteration before that, you’ll find this request from me: “For the sake of my blood pressure, please just post the things you think of interest or concern without implying that others aren’t concerned about them. Thanks.”

    Like, seriously, it’s an open fuckin’ thread. If you think something’s interesting, just post it.

  55. blf says

    Possibly emphasizing SC@94’s point — “[i]f you think something’s interesting, just post it” (to which I’d add credible sources are preferred†)  — in Morocco, Moroccan journalist jailed for abortion that she says never happened:

    A Moroccan journalist has been sentenced to a year in prison on charges of having an illegal abortion and premarital sex, in a trial observers say was concocted to crack down on criticism of the government.

    A Rabat court sentenced journalist Hajar Raissouni to one year in prison, on charges of having an illegal abortion and sexual relations outside marriage. Her fiancee, Prof Rifaat al-Amin was given a one-year sentence for alleged complicity.

    Dr Mohammed Jamal Belkeziz, accused of performing the abortion, was sentenced to two years in prison.

    Raissouni previously described the charges as “fabricated”, in a letter from prison. The defendants maintain that the abortion never took place, and that Raissouni was targeted by the Moroccan authorities for her work with the independent Moroccan outlet Akhbar al Yaoum, where she won praise for her coverage of unrest in the country’s north.

    Raissouni’s lawyer, Muhammad Sadkou, branded the verdict “regressive”. He added that the judge’s decision meant that the Moroccan state’s claims to respect international conventions guaranteeing rights and freedoms were “lies that have nothing to do with reality.”

    Raissouni was arrested outside a clinic in Rabat along with her fiance on 31 August. Plainclothes police interrogated the 28-year-old, before detaining Belkeziz and two medical staff who said they had performed an emergency procedure on Raissouni to remove a blood clot. The journalist was then forced to submit to a gynaecological examination.

    Her supporters and observers say that her arrest, interrogation and trial represent a state-led effort to publicly shame Raissouni and dissuade others from similar criticism. The lawyer for Belkeziz later provided medical evidence to the court to demonstrate that Raissouni never underwent an abortion.


    Campaigners report that up to 800 abortions are performed daily in the north African country, where abortion is illegal except when the woman’s life is threatened due to pregnancy and with a husband’s permission. Prosecutions are rare, but charges involving a person’s personal life are sometimes used by the Moroccan authorities to push back on individuals seen as too critical, including journalists and members of the political opposition.

    Morocco ranks 135 out of 180 countries for press freedom on Reporters Sans Frontières World Press Freedom Index, which says the Moroccan authorities frequently use the courts to harass reporters — including those who covered unrest in the country’s north Rif region.

    “This is a blow to women’s rights in Morocco,” said Raouia Briki, Amnesty International’s campaigner on Morocco. “It’s a sign that reforms to the regressive abortion law and the law which criminalises sex outside marriage are urgent.”


      † I myself have tend to alter the typesetting of excerpts to use eejit quotes for quotations of obvious or probable lies / stoopidity / distractions — regardless of who is being quoted — but am perhaps one of the few commenters to do so. Others (sometimes including myself) will place what they consider significant in boldface, which does not mean the commentator necessarily agrees with the boldfaced text / quote, only that they think it is significant (e.g., the main point or especially interesting). For that matter, simply excerpting an source does not mean the commentator agrees with any or all of the source or excerpted text, only that (paraphrasing SC) “it is something interesting”.

  56. birgerjohansson says

    Re. SC (salty current)
    -I considered including links, but there are so many head-on train collisions in European politics right now- especially in Britain- that I found it difficult to choose.
    Boris grabbing a female employee?
    Boris cheerfully lying again and again?
    Having no remorse after a court found his prorougement of parliament illegal? It is like one of those buffe’s where you do not know where to start.

  57. birgerjohansson says

    Oh, shit, I just read the article SC linked to.
    This is what I mean, the calamities get stacked on top of each other like aircraft circling a major airport, there is barely time to process them.

  58. blf says

    Five fantasies Trump is pushing about the Ukraine scandal — and the truth :

    Donald Trump’s fondness for conspiracy theories stretches back years, to his claim to have seen thousands and thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11, his denial of the climate crisis and many other falsehoods.

    Indeed, you can date Trump’s entry into presidential politics to his 2011 birther fixation, when he claimed Barack Obama was born outside the US. The 44th president was born in Hawaii and his birth certificate proves it.

    Now, Trump’s taste for scurrilous and malicious untruths has come back to bite him. The US president [sic] is facing an impeachment inquiry that could remove him from office, precisely because of his relentless pursuit of conspiracy theories.

    Here are the five [conspiracy] theories that lie at the heart of the Ukraine scandal:

    1. Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor, to shield his son Hunter […]
    2. Hunter Biden was up to his neck in corruption […]
    3. The whistleblower is biased […]
    4. ‘CrowdStrike’
    This is the most bizarre of all Trump’s Ukraine fantasies. To put it briefly: Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity company hired by the Democratic National Committee to look into a massive hack of emails during the 2016 election, was in cahoots with key Democrats and collectively framed Russia as the source of the theft.

    In fact, the theory [sic] goes, the DNC server was not hacked by Russia but was hidden in Ukraine. The whole Russia line was a ruse to besmirch Trump and help Clinton.

    There are so many fallacies in the theory [sic] it is hard to know where to begin. There is no one DNC server and it is not hidden in Ukraine. Russia was confirmed as the source of the hacked emails by US intelligence agencies, the justice department and the FBI.

    On Sunday, Trump’s first homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert — no deep state Democrat he — told ABC the idea Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in 2016 was “completely debunked” and “has no validity”.

    5. George Soros is behind it all […]

  59. says

    birgerjohansson @ #99, I know – there’s a lot! One day last week there were so many reports of lying, criminality, and corruption in the US that I think I missed the entire day of Brexit shenanigans. But the fact that there’s so much happening makes it even more necessary for as many people as possible to share things!

  60. says

    From the G liveblog (linked @ #96), reporting on the Tory conference: “Priti Patel, the home secretary, is speaking now….”

    Excerpts at the link. Patel is actually terrifying.

  61. tomh says

    No surprise here. Stonewalling is the order of the day.

    Pompeo says State Dept. officials won’t show up for scheduled impeachment depositions this week

    Oct. 1, 2019 at 8:27 a.m. PDT

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired a broadside at House Democrats on Tuesday, saying State Department officials scheduled to appear this week before committees conducting the impeachment inquiry would not be made available until “we obtain further clarity on these matters.”

    The refusal, in a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), described the demand for depositions by five officials who played a role in U.S. relations with Ukraine as “an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly, the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”

    The statements came as Pompeo’s role in the Ukraine investigation broadened with reports that he was a participant in the July 25 call by President Trump to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which led to the impeachment investigation.

    Before that report, first published by The Wall Street Journal, Pompeo had brushed off questions about the incident, saying last week that he had not yet read the transcript of the telephone call released by the White House, or the whistleblower complaint that it sparked.

    The committee, along with the House Intelligence and Oversight panels, had requested the five officials to appear for depositions this week and next, to begin Wednesday with Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled by Pompeo as ambassador to Ukraine in May, prior to the end of her tour.

    Other State Department officials scheduled for depositions include Kurt Volker, the administration’s special envoy to Ukraine, who resigned last week; Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; and State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl.

    On Friday, the committees also subpoenaed Pompeo over what they said was his failure to respond to previous requests related to the inquiry. Pompeo left the country late Monday on a week-long trip to Europe.

    His Tuesday letter chastising the committees said that he would “not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State.”

    Saying that no subpoenas had been issued for the five depositions, he said “we are not aware of any other authority by which the committee could compel appearance at a depositions,” and that the scheduled depositions thus “could only be read as a request for a voluntary appearance of the five Department officials.”

    The committees, Pompeo said, had provided insufficient time for the officials to prepare and to consult both private and State Department lawyers, as well as consultations “regarding the Department’s legitimate interests in safeguarding potentially privileged and classified information.”

  62. says

    It’s remarkable to contrast Patel’s vision with the one Corbyn offered at the Labour conference last week (described beginning here).

    This is one of the reasons I tend to disbelieve arguments that the Right is ascendant. They have nothing to offer anyone except lies and propaganda, corruption, appeals to fear, austerity, authoritarianism, scapegoating, inequality, gross incivility,… Their ideas aren’t new like they ostensibly were in the 1930s and 1980s. They’re tired and shopworn and their results have been demonstrated.

  63. blf says

    Snort! Quoted in full, Revenge of the Maybot: an extract from the former PM’s Alpine murder mystery:

    Theresa May has said she would prefer to write a whodunnit than a political memoir. How might it read?

    As I entered Theresa May’s London study, what I saw shocked me. May was in a terrible way, one moment almost catatonic, the next in a state of extreme agitation. “These are dark, dark, times, Grayling,” she said gravely. “The whole of Europe stands on the brink. Unless Prof Johnson can be stopped there will be a chaos the like of which has never before been imagined. Come, Grayling, there is no time to lose. The game is afoot.”

    We hastily packed our bags and took a train to Brussels. There we narrowly avoided an attempt on our lives by Robert Oxley, one of the professor’s more dangerous agents, before moving on to Strasbourg. As we zigzagged across the capitals of Europe, still Johnson contrived to keep one step ahead of us.

    After more than a month, we eventually arrived in the Swiss town of Meiringen and it was only then that May appeared to relax. “We have him now, Grayling,” she said, her mouth stretching into a thin smile. “Johnson is trapped in our backstop. Let us go for a walk up to the Reichenbach Falls.”

    It was a pleasant late afternoon and although the pale watery sun provided little warmth, I had no need of a cagoule such was the pace at which May walked. I must admit that I was somewhat relieved when we were accosted by a rather rude, dishevelled man in a grey tracksuit with a bulldog clip attached to his collar, insisting we come to the assistance of a woman further down the mountain who had lost her laptop and was in need of a £100,000 grant.

    “You go, Grayling,” May demanded of me. “I will proceed to the top of the falls.”

    For a long while that was the last I saw of May. I know now that she had identified the crumpled man as Cummings, the professor’s right-hand, self-styled genius, and had allowed me to fall for his trap of separating us so that she could confront Johnson alone. Their bodies were never found. I could only assume she sacrificed her own life in pushing Johnson to his death over the no-deal cliff edge.

    A great peace settled over Europe – a transition period marked with joy and celebrations. And yet I was consumed with grief for the loss of the bravest, most noble woman I had ever known. But one day there was a knock on my door.

    “Good heavens!” I exclaimed. “Is that you, May?”

    “Indeed it is, Grayling,” she replied. “So clamorous were the demands of UK citizens that I have made an unlikely reappearance. Although everyone feared me dead, I actually hung on to a branch as Johnson toppled on to the rocks many hundreds of feet below.”

    “By heavens, that’s wonderful. So where have you been since?”

    “Waiting for a Seaborne Freight ferry.”

    Robert Oxley was Vote Leave’s media director, and is now a special advisor to the toxic (see, e.g., @104) minister Priti Patel (Vote Leave media head Robert Oxley joins Department for International Development).

    Seaborne Freight was the cross-channel ferry fraud given a contract by failing grayling (a minster in maybot’s NKofE “government”) which had no ferries, whose terms & conditions were those of an on-line pizza catering firm, whose continental port (Ostend) said it could not possibly be ready, and so on…

    Some readers’s comments:

    ● “Less of a three pipe problem, more of a well sized plantation.”

    ● “We hastily packed our bags and took a train to Brussels.
    I’m sorry, there’s no way if Grayling was involved that they could be able to do that without suffering time table chaos, having to miss three consecutive trains before they could finally get on one and then be further delayed by unscheduled works on the line, I can only suspend my disbelief so much!”
    (In reply) “We can take it as read that they will at some stage have had to pay a £260 surcharge each for having the wrong type of ticket.” (That would have been, perhaps, even better if it was a 260 surcharge…)

    ● “‘Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’
    ‘To the curious incident of the Brexit deal negotiations with the EU.’
    ‘There are no Brexit deal negotiations with the EU.’
    ‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Theresa May.”

    ● “The Downing Street Irregulars.”
    (In reply) “They do resemble bowel movements”.

    ● “The Adventure of the Deadly Backstop” (I LOLed at this –blf)

  64. blf says

    Here in France, Sarkoführer is possibly(? probably?) going to face trial, Appeals court orders former French president Sarkozy to stand trial for illegal campaign financing:

    France’s highest appeals court on Tuesday rejected a bid by former President Nicolas Sarkozy to avoid facing trial over the alleged illegal financing of his failed re-election campaign in 2012.

    The decision by the French “Cour de Cassation” means the case will now return to prosecutors who will decide whether Sarkozy should be tried. He denies any wrongdoing.

    The so-called “Bygmalion” case against Sarkozy centres on accusations that the former president’s political party, then known as the UMP, worked with a public relations firm to hide the true cost of his re-election bid.

    France sets strict limits on campaign spending. Prosecutors say the PR firm, Bygmalion, invoiced the UMP rather than the campaign, allowing Sarkozy to spend almost double the permitted amount.


    If the trial goes ahead, Sarkozy would be the first French president in the dock since the late Jacques Chirac, who preceded him at the helm of the country from 1995 to 2007.

    Chirac, who died last week, was convicted of misusing public funds and given a suspended jail term in 2011.

  65. says

    Andrew Sparrow at the G had a similar reaction to Patel’s speech:

    …Patel’s speech was probably the most rightwing by a Tory home secretary at least since Michael Howard’s “prion works” one in 1993.

    In policy terms, it was relatively light. There were three main announcements, but they all have so little money attached they are virtually cost free: a fund to allow up to 60% of officers to be equipped with tasers (£10m); more activity to tackle country line drugs gangs (£20m); and a safer streets fund (£10m).

    But what it lacked in policy heft, it made up for in rhetorical overkill. It may not seem necessary to say that the Tories are against “gang leaders, drug barons, thugs and terrorists”, but Boris Johnson reportedly decided to make Patel home secretary because her no-nonsense authoritarianism makes her very popular with party members. It remains to be seen if the public at large will react in the same way. More interesting were he constant references to the need to obey the will of the people. (See 4.01pm.) She sounded like someone who would be happy to see parliamentary democracy replaced with a more direct form of democracy, bypassing the need for parliamentarians exercising their judgement. If the Brexit party ever takes power, their ministers will give speeches like this….

  66. blf says

    Not much detail (yet?), Iran sentences man to death for spying for US:

    Iranian courts have sentenced one person to death for spying for the United States and handed 10-year jail sentence to two others for the same crime, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday.

    A fourth person was imprisoned for 10 years for spying for the United Kingdom, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted as saying by the judiciary’s news website Mizan.

    One person has been sentenced to death for spying for America … but the ruling has been appealed,[] Esmaili said.

    The other two men received final 10-year sentences for spying for the US, he added.


    Nearly two years ago, Iran indicted three dual citizens and a foreigner held in the country on unknown charges.

    One of those charged is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British woman, who has been jailed for more than two years had gone on a hunger strike in protest of her treatment.

      † Gholamhossein Esmaili’s statement put in eejit quotes because I presume the charges are either exaggerated or invented in a (misguided?) attempt to put pressure on certain other nations.

  67. blf says

    CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] calls for release of jailed Egyptian journalists:

    At least 6 journalists have been arrested for covering anti-government protests that erupted on September 19.

    A media watchdog has called on Egyptian authorities to immediately release journalists Alaa Abdelfattah, Nasser Abdelhafez, Engi Abdel Wahab and three others arrested for reporting on the recent protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.


    “Egyptian authorities must stop arresting journalists on charges of spreading false news or joining a banned group; those charges have become nothing more than thin excuses to arrest journalists for their coverage,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour.

    “Taking even more vindictive measures against journalists will not help Egypt with its already stained record against the media.”


    Police have not disclosed the whereabouts of the journalists, according to reports.


    CPJ wrote that during the protests, Egyptians reported difficulty accessing Facebook Messenger and news websites such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, US-funded Al-Hurra and the independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr, according to reports by NetBlocks, an organisation that tracks internet shutdowns and news reports.

    Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation [Orwellian! –blf] told government-owned outlet Ahram Online that the BBC and other news websites may [sic] have been blocked because of their inaccurate coverage of the protests, CPJ wrote.

  68. says

    Also from the G:

    Opposition parties might have won their battle to keep the Commons in session while the Conservative conference is taking place, but they can’t as yet agree on everything – particularly on the idea of a possible government of national unity.

    All the parties believe that if Boris Johnson tried to force a no-deal Brexit then their tactic of last resort would be a no-confidence vote, replacing him with an interim PM. However, while the Liberal Democrats insist it cannot be Corbyn, Labour say he is the only choice.

    Speaking to reporters at parliament, Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said he hoped Jo Swinson could change her mind:

    I was brought up a Catholic and I am a great believer in the powers of conversion.

    But the Lib Dem leader argues that the Corbyn option is simply impossible, as he would not win the support of rebel former Conservative MPs and others whose votes would be needed.

    A spokesman for Swinson said:

    Jo is a great believer in the power of mathematics. Jeremy Corbyn does not have the numbers and needs to make clear who he would support if we need an emergency government.

    There is wider disagreement – while the Lib Dems are seeking a cross-party temporary government led by a backbench grandee such as Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman, Corbyn’s office have called for a “strictly time-limited caretaker administration” – a Labour only government in office for a matter of days, purely to extend the Brexit deadline and call an election.

    The assumption is that if the alternative was no deal, one side would blink, but it remains to be seen who, and when.

  69. says

    G liveblog: “In an interview with Sky News, Boris Johnson has refused three times to deny having an affair with Jennifer Arcuri, the businesswoman whose company received sponsorship from a mayoral fund when Johnson was in City Hall.”

  70. blf says

    Khashoggi’s son defends Saudi against critics exploiting murder:

    Salah Khashoggi says he has full confidence in Saudi Arabia’s judicial system and its ability to deliver justice.

    The son of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has denied a financial settlement with the government, has spoken out in defence of the kingdom ahead of the first anniversary of his father’s killing.

    Khashoggi, a royal family insider-turned-critic, was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, in an operation that reportedly involved 15 agents sent from Riyadh. His body was never found.

    Eleven unidentified suspects have been on trial in Riyadh, five of them facing the death penalty.

    Salah Khashoggi said he had full confidence in the Saudi judicial system, and hit out at opponents he said were seeking to exploit the case.


    The Washington Post reported on April 1 that Khashoggi’s children, including Salah, had received multimillion-dollar homes and were being paid thousands of dollars a month by the Saudi authorities.

    Last year, a photo of Salah shaking hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) a month after the elder Khashoggi was murdered went viral.

    The photo was taken after Salah was invited to receive condolences, but many pundits pointed to his pained expression and decried the photo-op as ruthless.

    A friend of the Khashoggi family told the Associated Press last year that Salah has been under a travel ban since his father began writing critically about MBS in columns for The Washington Post.

    The individual spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.

    Both the CIA and a UN special envoy have directly linked MBS to the murder, a charge the kingdom denies.


  71. says

    From text quoted by blf in comment 116:

    The Washington Post reported on April 1 that Khashoggi’s children, including Salah, had received multimillion-dollar homes and were being paid thousands of dollars a month by the Saudi authorities.

    JFC. Talk about evidence of guilt, evidence of guilty conscience, and evidence of mafia-like behavior.

  72. says

    Tierney Sneed, TPM:

    Per a new DOJ filing, a Senate GOP aide [Barbara Ledeen, Grassley staffer – SC] (apparently writing on behalf of a House GOP aide [Derek Harvery, fired as Trump ME advisor by McMaster, now Nunes staffer – SC]) was trying to feed Flynn’s old attorneys ideas, based on the House Russia probe, on what should happen next in his case

    Flynn’s old attorney [Robert Kelner – SC] forwarded the email along to the prosecutors, pursuant to his cooperation agreement

    The DOJ including the email exchange — part of a filing in a dispute over whether it met its discovery obligations — to suggest that Flynn is now just is just trying to get his hands on stuff that will play well on Fox News

    Screenshots and link atl. Harvey and Ledeen should not be anywhere near government.

  73. says

    From SC @109:

    Correct: “Under guise of accusing House Democrats of bullying, Pompeo pressures State Dept employees he let WH bully and intimidate not to testify.”

    Exactly. That’s what I thought.

    Pompeo is on his high horse now, saying that he will protect the hard working employees of the State Department, no matter what. Sheesh. The sheer gall. The utter hypocrisy.

  74. says

    A federal judge yesterday chastised the DC US Attorney’s Office for dragging its feet on whether to charge McCabe, saying ‘while the matter hangs in limbo it does undermine the credibility’ of DOJ & the court.”

    According to the WaPo headline, the judge gave them until November 15th to make a charging decision, which seems extremely generous.

  75. tomh says

    Pompeo’s letter is here. Near the end he says, “The Department also acknowledges receipt of the subpoena communicated by separate letter dated September 27, 2019 and intends to respond to that subpoena by the noticed return date of October 4, 2019.” I guarantee that right now he’s frantically digging up reasons he doesn’t have to comply with that subpoena.

  76. says

    Fundraising news from Democratic presidential candidates:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign needed some good news, and a $25.3 million fundraising haul in the third quarter definitely counts as good news for the senator. […]

    * Pete Buttigieg also announced third-quarter fundraising totals, and it looks like the mayor raised more than $19.1 million between June and August. That’s down from $24.8 million in the second quarter, but it nevertheless leaves Buttigieg in a strong financial position for the next phase in the race.

    * Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also announced his third-quarter tally: more than $6 million. That’s his best quarter to date, and it’s enough to keep him in the race.

    * Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-Calif.) presidential campaign isn’t where she wants it to be, so the senator is “shaking up the top ranks” of her operation. The change includes moving two top aides from Harris’ Senate staff to her campaign staff.


  77. says

    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that new voters in Georgia “have registered in droves” since last year’s elections, and “many of the new voters are racial minorities or under age 30, both groups that are more likely to support Democrats than Republicans.”

  78. says

    Guardian – “Revealed: Jennifer Arcuri got visa from scheme run by former Johnson official”:

    A Whitehall official who ran the scheme that granted Jennifer Arcuri a coveted entrepreneur visa had worked for Boris Johnson when he was mayor, the Guardian has learned.

    The US businesswoman, who is at the centre of a conflict of interest row over her friendship with the prime minister, beat nearly 2,000 applicants to gain one of 200 sought-after tier 1 entrepreneur visas on the government’s Sirius programme after Johnson helped promote her firm, Innotech, by giving keynote speeches at her events.

    The Guardian has learned that Paola Cuneo, the then director of the Sirius programme, previously spent two-and-a-half years working in a senior post at London & Partners (L&P), the official mayoral promotional agency which Johnson had responsibility for while he was in City Hall.

    Cuneo, Arcuri and Johnson attended the same Innotech event in October 2013, two months before the company joined the Sirius scheme.

    A whistleblower told the Guardian: “Innotech stood out compared to other startups in the programme, which had a much higher potential to scale up … I could not understand why we were giving so much attention and extra funds to Innotech.”

    Ten days after the news of Johnson’s relationship with Arcuri first broke, the new disclosures will intensify speculation over a possible conflict of interest and raise fresh questions for the prime minister over whether he played an improper role in securing government support for his friend. Johnson has insisted that “everything was done with full propriety” but repeatedly refused to go into detail on what help, if any, he gave to Arcuri.

    On Tuesday Johnson refused three times to deny outright that he had an affair with Arcuri in an interview with Sky News. When pressed on whether he was denying an affair, he said: “The crucial thing is that in terms of promoting London, everything was done with complete propriety.”

    According to evidence provided to the Guardian by a whistleblower, staff working on the Sirius programme warned Cuneo and other senior civil servants of a conflict of interest in June 2014 after Innotech was given £10,000 by the scheme to run a launch event for the programme the month before before without any tendering process.

    Staff were concerned that the programme team failed to follow procurement rules and warned there was a conflict of interest with the Sirius scheme paying the startup because it was already a recipient of the visa scheme.

    Speaking this week, the whistleblower accused Cuneo of showing favouritism towards Innotech and questioned the company’s suitability for a place on the programme given it was simply an events firm rather than developing a product.

    The whistleblower, who worked on the Sirius scheme at the time, told the Guardian: “I regarded the two decisions about Innotech [on the visa and the subsequent launch event contract] as examples of favouritism.”

    Innotech was the only company admitted in the first wave of Sirius startups that did not have a tech product, the whistleblower said.

    “It was fundamentally an event company. In that sense, Innotech stood out compared to other startups in the programme, which had a much higher potential to scale up. Potential to scale was one of the criteria we adopted to evaluate applicants.

    “This is significant because admission to the Sirius programme involved a tier 1 entrepreneur visa, plus a grant of £12,000, plus additional support resources.”

    The whistleblower said that after Innotech was admitted, Cuneo decided to give the firm an extra £10,000 to organise a launch event for the Sirius programme.

    “Several members of the team raised concerns about that decision, because it seemed not to follow standard procurement rules and because there was a clear conflict of interest (as we had already funded this startup). There were concerns because those services were procured without opening up the tender to competition and because the invoicing seemed to be irregular. On top of that, we already had a supplier for event management, so this seemed like a duplication.”…

    So “scheme” over there apparently doesn’t have the negative connotations it does here, I guess.

  79. says

    Trump and his lackeys are pushing a false story about whistleblower rules. They claim the rules were changed just before the whistleblower’s report was submitted. That’s false.

    From the Washington Post:

    The original report in the Federalist focused on a change in the form, suggesting it was somehow related to the recent whistleblower case. There is no evidence that is correct.

    In any case, the IG’s process for handling whistleblower allegations is determined not by a form but by the law and related policy documents. The key document, ICD 120, has been virtually unchanged since 2014. Contrary to the speculation, the whistleblower used the 2018 form, not the new online form. The IG then investigated and found that his allegations were credible and that Congress should be notified.

    The president seized on reports on the form to falsely claim the rules for whistleblowers were changed just before the whistleblower’s report was submitted in August. That’s false and worthy of Four Pinocchios.

    Additional detail from Steve Benen:

    […] The GOP senator [Lindsey Graham] told a national television audience two days ago that “they” changed whistleblower rules “just weeks before the complaint” – which is not at all what actually happened? Did Graham genuinely believe the falsehood? Did someone encourage him to lie? Is he prepared to acknowledge his misstep?

    Doesn’t the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee have a responsibility to do at least some due diligence before making bogus allegations against intelligence professionals in his own country?

  80. says

    How the Trump campaign is responding to the impeachment inquiry:

    […] The campaign had a video ready and waiting in case of the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry and spent $1 million on Facebook ads in 72 hours last week. The fundraising haul included $8.5 million in two days, and 50,000 new donors to whom Team Trump will go back again and again and again for more money. That’s helping the campaign put $8 million into a national TV ad attacking former Vice President Joe Biden and warning that Democrats are trying to “steal” the 2020 election.

    Those messages are being endlessly amplified in right-wing media, where, for instance, Sean Hannity has said that this is “an all hands-on deck moment … This is about our way of life” and has ridiculed the very idea of taking seriously Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rivals, saying, “You have to suspend every bit of God-given intelligence and common sense that you [have] to believe that there is anything to this.”

    But most frighteningly, Trump’s allies are aggressively spreading the idea that an impeachment inquiry is a coup. Rush Limbaugh called it a “coordinated coup attempt.” […] That message is coming directly from the Trump campaign, too. It’s a terrifying message, another effort by Team Trump to undermine our democracy by painting a cautious, legal approach to impeachment as an illegitimate overthrow of government—while Trump flirts with the language of civil war. These people would rather endanger American democracy and the rule of law than accept any limits on Trump’s whims. […]


  81. says

    Protect Democracy:

    Today, we sued the South Carolina GOP on behalf of Republican voters, including @bobinglis, for illegally cancelling the party’s presidential primary. Read the complaint here:…

    South Carolina election law makes it illegal for party leaders to break their own rules to cancel an election just because they believe one candidate is more likely to win or because they prefer that candidate.

    So it violated party rules *and* state law for a small group of South Carolina Republican Party insiders to cancel the Republican primary.

    Note: This is different from past primary cancellations. In 2007 & 2013, GOP-led SC legislature changed state law to make it harder to cancel a primary. So the cancellations in 1984 & 2004, when Reagan & Bush were running, happened under entirely different laws. Current rule:…

    A small group of SC GOP insiders has chosen a nominee by fiat, effectively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Republican voters—and denying them their voice in shaping the Republican Party and what it represents.

    Don’t take our word for why this is bad. In 2014, SC GOP unanimously resolved that “spirited & competitive primaries are a healthy way to grow the Republican Party” & any perception of unfairness could “irrevocably damage the integrity of our primary[.]”

    And in 2015, SC GOP said that failure to hold a primary would cause “irreparable harm” because “the citizens of South Carolina deserve an opportunity to vote on the Republican nominee for President of the United States.” So true!…

    So today, Plaintiffs are asking the Court to protect their core democratic rights. Voters must have a voice in shaping their own political party. Voters must be able to vote for the presidential nominee of their choice. We’ll keep you posted.

  82. says

    From Wonkette:

    Faced with an incredibly damning whistleblower report that was corroborated by the Ukraine shakedown transcript and Donald Trump’s own admission that he tried to lock the incriminating call in the Bin Laden Vault so no one would ever see it, the GOP attack machine lurched into gear to discredit the whistleblower and the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG).

    Naturally, The Federalist was first to man the ramparts, laundering a bullshit Twitter thread from some climate-denying loon into a full-blown conspiracy theory that was then broadcast through the president’s Twitter megaphone. […]

    Normally we do our best to ignore the Federalist dumpster fire, other than to occasionally ask, “Who funds that rag anyway?” But in this case we’re going to have make an exception. So, here is your Anatomy of a Lie, a play in four acts.

    Act I: The Nutter

    The Republicans have A PLAN to deal with the upcoming impeachment investigation. They’re going to jump up and down shouting HEARSAY!!1! while simultaneously launching eleventy million investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and hope the whole thing goes away. Or maybe we’ll invade Iran!

    Sure the whistleblower complaint has been almost entirely corroborated, but what if it doesn’t count because all that true information, which the president admitted to, was first reported secondhand? Enter Stephen McIntyre, a climate-hating loon with a website that will make your eyes bleed. On Friday, McIntyre tweeted a thread suggesting that the ICIG had CHANGED THE RULES to allow the whistleblower to submit a complaint based on secondhand information. Whoa if true! (Spoiler alert: Not true.) […]

    The ICIG must be IN ON IT if they changed the rules to accommodate the whistleblower. And thus all the true information he provided is magically untrue. […]

    See comment 131 for debunking of the “changed rules” lie.

    Act II: The Hustler

    Here on Planet Earth, Inspector General Michael Atkinson, a Trump appointee, doesn’t “make the rules” — Congress wrote the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act in 1998, and 50 U.S.C. § 3033 sets the “rules” for complaints. There’s never been a statutory requirement that the whistleblower report be based on firsthand knowledge, and the ICIG couldn’t change that if he wanted to.

    But that didn’t matter to the hacks over at The Federalist, who packaged up McIntyre’s derpings into a breathless article claiming, “Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings.” […]

    But wait, there’s more! Davis went on to conflate the standard for the ICIG to find the complaint credible with the standard for filing a complaint in the first place. The instructions for the old form stated, “The IC IG cannot transmit information via the ICWPA based on an employee’s second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing. This includes information received from another person, such as when a fellow employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing.” In other words, the whistleblower can make a complaint based on second-hand information, after which the ICIG is empowered to investigate and will only sustain the complaint based on other corroborating information. Which appears to be exactly what happened here. […]

    Act IV: The Debunkening

    By Monday, ICIG Atkinson had had enough. He released a Statement on Processing of Whistleblower Complaints to rebut the torrent of bullshit that was flooding conservative media. Here are the main points:

    1. The whistleblower used a hard copy of the old form, complete with the language about firsthand knowledge, not the new form which was posted online six weeks later. So STFU about the ICIG changing the language for this particular whistleblower.

    2. The whistleblower did indeed have firsthand knowledge of some aspects of the complaint, so he checked both the firsthand knowledge box and the secondhand knowledge one.

    3. The ICIG personally investigated the secondhand allegations and turned up other substantiating evidence, in accordance with the statute.

    Changing the form cannot change the law, you mendacious, jelly-brained, partisan hacks!

    After which The Federalist claimed a flawless victory, and went on to publish two more articles crowing Intel IG Admits It Secretly Erased ‘First-Hand Information’ Requirement In August and Left Tries To Wave Away IG Changes Allowing Whistleblowers To Weaponize Hearsay. Hacks gonna hack!

    And they all lived stupidly ever after. THE END.


    More at the link.

  83. says

    Kate Irby, McClatchy:

    @DevinNunes files his fifth lawsuit this year, this time against @RyanLizza for a story on Nunes’ family moving their farm to Iowa, a farming area that relies heavily on undocumented labor:…

    This *might* be the last one, but there could be one more. After Nunes filed his second suit against McClatchy in April, he went on conservative shows to say he planned to file 3-4 more lawsuits. We’re at five now. This is all assuming he sticks to his 3-4 estimate.

    This one follows a similar formula to the others, ex: Nunes is filing against another media company and is alleging conspiracies against him again based mostly on tweets, as well as getting pretty personal against the defendant(s).

    Status of other lawsuits:
    Twitter: Request for dismissal being reviewed by judge
    McClatchy: McClatchy filed to dismiss, no hearing scheduled yet
    Buxman et al: Suit withdrawn by Nunes’ campaign (only suit filed in California)
    Fusion GPS: No word they’ve been served yet

  84. says

    From Wonkette: “Yay, It’s Bill Barr’s Super Cool Global Carmen-Sandiego-On-Bath-Salts Tour For Trump!”

    All these fuckers are fucked. Trump, the big man, is fucked. Rudy Giuliani is fucked. Mike Pompeo is fucked. And in this post, we’d like to talk about how Attorney General Bill Barr is fucked, and how.

    The main thing you need to know is that Barr has been collecting so many frequent flyer points in his service to Trump, traveling the globe to ask nicely/demand all kinds of countries help him “investigate the investigators” in order to rewrite the history of the 2016 election so it doesn’t look like a hostile foreign power (Russia) stole an election and installed its chosen candidate (Trump).

    But why? Well, for one thing, his world travels seem to be an effort to create a new anti-Mueller Report to take the place of the real Mueller Report, which is weird since Barr said the Mueller Report totally exonerated Trump. [Barr lied.]

    Monday night, during the evening onslaught of breaking news, the Washington Post reported that Barr has just been everywhere and leaned on everyone inappropriately, in order that Dear Leader’s wishes might be fulfilled:

    Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Bill Barr … is asking other countries … to help Trump’s Department of Justice … take a living, breathing shit on the American intelligence community and its unanimous determination that Russia ratfucked the election for Trump […]

    Remember when we were all like “WTF?” when Barr said back in April that he believes “spying did occur” in the 2016 election, because he believed (or pretended to) the conspiracy theories that Obama People had secretly and illegally spied on the Trump campaign? At the time, it was pretty clear that Barr wanted to do his own counter-investigation to the real investigation […]

    Barr’s reached out to the Brits, he went to Italy with Durham last week and hit them up for help, not the first time apparently, and oh yeah, they’ve been up Australia’s ass too. All three countries have a thing in common, besides their lovely sea views, and it is that they all feature prominently in Underpants Gnome right-wing conspiracy theories about how ACTUALLY Hillary Clinton conspired with Russia and the Deep State to steal the election from herself so that they could … (???) … one day impeach Donald Trump for shits and LOLs? Or something! […]


    More at the link.

  85. says

    From the conclusion in the article reference in comment 137:

    […] there’s probably another reason for this international Carmen Sandiego on Bath Salts escapade Barr is leading, which is Trump’s ultimate effort to remove sanctions from Russia imposed by the Obama administration in retaliation for stealing the election and handing it to Trump on a little bitty silver platter small enough for Trump to hold in his mini-paws. Why? Because it is always all about sanctions, it will always all be about sanctions, and Donald Trump’s tombstone may literally end up reading, “Still working on those sanctions, Daddy Vladdy, I promise!”

  86. tomh says

    RNC solicited money for Trump’s reelection with forms that look a lot like the official census
    Oct. 1, 2019 at 6:25 a.m. PDT

    Officials in Montana are warning residents for the second time this year about surveys sent by the Republican National Committee that mimic the look of federal census forms, with the goal of soliciting money for President Trump’s reelection campaign.

    The mailers are labeled “2019 Congressional District Census” and inform recipients that they’ve been “selected to represent Voters” in Bozeman, Mont. The accompanying literature makes repeated requests for donations, urging recipients to send at least $15 to “help pay for the costs of processing [the] Census Document” if they are unable to afford an amount in the requested range of $25 to $1,000.

    The potentially misleading mailings come as the U.S. Census Bureau is preparing for what’s expected to be one of the most challenging federal counts in decades. The bureau is grappling with factors like a switch to digital and the fallout from the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the survey.

    After the documents landed in mailboxes across four Montana counties, state officials put out a warning about the “imitation Census survey.” In a Friday news release, the Montana Department of Commerce reminded residents that legitimate census survey documents are postmarked from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, rather than political groups, and never ask for money.

    “Montanans need accurate information about the Census to make sure we have a complete count of the folks who live here,” Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, a Democratic candidate for governor, said in the release, which was first reported by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “A complete count means the state will get its fair share of federal funding. The official Census is easy to complete, secure, and does not cost money. An accurate and complete Census count for Montana is too important to take lightly.”

    In an email, a Republican National Committee official said: “Mailers are clearly marked that they are from the Republican National Committee. The mailers receive an overwhelming positive response and we continue to send each year because it performs so well.”

    Emilie Ritter Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Commerce, said the forms first popped up this spring, prompting her office’s first response of the year. Some residents reached out to ensure that the department was aware of the impostor surveys, while others were confused as to what they were receiving.

    “We want to immediately squash any confusion. Our job is to make sure Montanans have accurate info about the census,” Ritter Saunders said.

    The “imitation surveys” are cause for concern among state officials tasked with ensuring a complete count: Montana has roughly $2 billion in federal funds on the line for expenditures from highway construction to food programs, Ritter Saunders said.

    “That funding is critical for a state like Montana that has a relatively small population,” she said. “Estimates show that Montana is also on the cusp of receiving another congressional representative.”

    Seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are reapportioned every 10 years based on a state’s growing or declining population.

    Ritter Saunders said the RNC has sent out look-alike census forms in at least one prior census. In 2010, some people — including the Democratic governor of Montana and a Democratic representative in Georgia — reported getting such a survey, according to ProPublica.

    Phony census mailers are enough of a concern that Congress in 2010 passed the Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act.

    The Montana mailers include a letter signed by RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, which says Trump has requested a “Census of every congressional district be completed immediately to help ensure reelection.” It says the information is needed to create voter profiles and “target audiences with the truth concerning President Trump’s agenda.”

    “If the Democrats win this battle,” the letter says, “it will prove disastrous for America’s future.”

    The survey itself includes questions such as “Do you support President Trump in his determination to appoint judges who will adhere to strict constitutional principles and not use the court to advance their personal ideologies?” and “The Democrats’ fixation on ‘climate change’ has led to costly regulations that are negatively affecting our nation’s economy across-the-board. Do you think climate change is a major threat to our nation?”

  87. says

    “Three Chairs Statement on Secretary Pompeo Stonewalling House Impeachment Inquiry”:

    Today, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement:

    “Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry. He should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President.

    “Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress—including State Department employees—is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint.

    “The Committees are operating pursuant to our long-established authorities as well as the impeachment inquiry. We’re committed to protecting witnesses from harassment and intimidation, and we expect their full compliance and that of the Department of State.”

  88. says

    Marc Elias: “BREAKING: Judge strikes down key parts of 2017 Iowa voting reform law that disenfranchised voters (including signature match law). Big victory for @prioritiesUSA and the @PerkinsCoieLLP team.”

  89. says

    Politico – “White House ordered top-secret system upgraded to prevent leaks”:

    The Trump White House upgraded the security of the National Security Council’s top-secret codeword system in the spring of 2018, according to two former Trump White House officials familiar with the matter, as part of an effort to ferret out and deter leaks.

    The changes included a new log of who accessed specific documents in the NSC’s system —known as NICE or “NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment”—and was designed in part to prevent leaks of records of the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders and to find out the suspected leaker if transcripts did get disclosed, one of the former officials said. Prior to the upgrade, officials could only see who had uploaded or downloaded material to the system but usually not who accessed which documents.

    That highly classified system is being newly scrutinized in light of a whistleblower complaint alleging that national security officials used the system—meant for storing information classified at the highest level—to conceal politically embarrassing conversations, including a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 in which President Donald Trump urged Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

    If hiding political embarrassing material, rather than protecting national security secrets, was the motivation, experts and former officials said, it would be an abuse of the codeword system. While not necessarily an illegal act, it does run counter to an executive order signed by President Obama in 2009 that says information can’t be classified to “conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error” or “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency,” they said.

    As part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, lawmakers are interested in learning who was involved in uploading the call records to that system—a stark departure from how the system is typically used and how memos of the president’s exchanges have traditionally been handled, former officials and experts said.

    Officials in the NSC’s intelligence directorate had to take the matter up to the principals level because “it was a pretty fundamental change to the system.” John Kelly and H.R. McMaster, the respective chief of staff and national security adviser at the time, signed off on the change….

    Story contains quite a bit of useless WH spin.

  90. blf says

    Transphobes are Arseholes, Part <something in the millions>, Virginia teacher sues after being fired for refusing to call trans student ‘he’ (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Peter Vlaming lost his job after claiming his religion prohibited him from using male pronouns for a student who transitioned

    A Virginia high school teacher who was fired for refusing to use a transgender student’s new pronouns has filed a lawsuit.

    The Washington Post reported that Peter Vlaming filed suit on Monday against West Point Public Schools, a system outside Richmond.

    The French teacher was fired in December 2018, having told superiors at West Point high school his religion prevented him from using male pronouns for a student who had informed the school of his transition during the previous summer.

    An aside (not really relevant), I assume the Grauniad means a “French language teacher” rather then a “teacher from France”. (I happen to live in France, but that is a coincidence; the Grauniad’s description is ambiguous.)

    According to Vlaming’s suit, in October 2018 the student approached the teacher and said: “Mr Vlaming, you may have your religion but you need to respect who I am.”

    Vlaming, the suit says, replied: I’m sorry, this is difficult.

    The suit says he reported the exchange to the principal, who told him: “You know what you do to diffuse a situation like that? You say, ‘I’m sorry, I meant to say him.’”

    Principal Jonathan Hochman later told a school board meeting considering whether to fire Vlaming he could not “think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening”.

    After Vlaming was fired, the West Point schools superintendent, Laura Abel, said: “Discrimination … leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that. They felt disrespected.”

    It sounds like both the Principal, and the Superintendent, have their heads screwed on fairly sensibly. And, for that matter, the school board — who fired the transphobe — is, at least in the (presumed) majority, also tending towards sensible.

    In his lawsuit, Vlaming says his rights to speak freely and exercise his religion were violated. The suit states that Vlaming sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie.

    Among remedies sought by Vlaming are $1m damages, reinstatement in his job and a declaration that his rights were violated [snort! –blf].

    He is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based group which the Southern Poverty Law Center watchdog has called “one of the most influential groups informing the {Trump} administration’s attack on LGBTQ rights”.

  91. johnson catman says

    Among remedies sought by Vlaming are $1m damages, reinstatement in his job and a declaration that his rights were violated.

    Sorry asshole. Your rights ended where the student’s rights began.

  92. blf says

    SC@146, excerpts “Prior to the upgrade, officials could only see who had uploaded or downloaded material to the system but usually not who accessed which documents.”

    That seems odd. Up to now I’d had the impression the system was “compartmented”, which is(? was? (my knowledge here is decades old)) spook-speak for (simplifying) a system where authorized users can only access data for which that have both the appropriate security clearance and a need-to-know. One requirement is(? was?) that all access attempts be robustly logged in a so-called “audit trail”. As such, it is (in principle) possible to determine who “saw” (or “modified”) each data-file. (“Saw” and “modified” are in scare quotes because the audit trail does not (and cannot) prove the individual read, understood, or actually changed the data. And on some systems, the audit trail is(? was?) quite had to process (use / analyze), albeit I presume that over the years that’s gotten better / easier.)

    It’s not impossible it was a fairly bog-standard system to which physical (and logical) access was highly restricted — it’s known to have not been networked — but back when I was involved with this sort of system, we would have nonetheless insisted on having a (permanent) audit trail (and other precautions to try and ensure the validity of that audit trail). There are weaker variants of “compartmented”; however, as far as I can recall from back then, all but the weakest must have an audit trail. (On some of the weaker variants, the audit trail could be disabled or compromised.)

    Anyways, I would have expected a “bin Laden” system to, its isolation not withstanding, be one of the stronger variants of “compartmented”, i.e., with a robust audit trail recording (among many things) who accessed what when and how. It’s a high-value target, and hence should be both protected from unauthorized access (and other risks) with forensic capabilities for when things do go “wrong”.

  93. blf says

    Republicans flail as they seek coherent strategy against impeachment (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Republicans have “decided on a new strategy” to address a whistleblower complaint against Donald Trump, joked Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a frequent critic of the president [sic].

    Steele tweeted a slapstick video of a woman trying to sweep sand into the ocean as the tide rolled in. [SC linked to this previously… –blf]

    He was lampooning something noted by veterans of the last impeachment fight, targeting Bill Clinton, and others. One week after the Democrats opened their official inquiry, the president [sic] and his party are still improvising a defense and have yet to hit on a coherent response.

    “It’s as if the Trump campaign has read the Clinton playbook and at every turn opted for the opposite,” said David Frum, a conservative columnist in the 1990s who was later a speechwriter for George W Bush, writing in the Atlantic.

    Where Clinton tried to appeal to voters in the middle and stay focused on policy, counting on impeachment to blow over, Frum wrote, Trump is “wholly obsessed with impeachment … raving nonstop against the whistleblower, the House, and all his political foes — seen and unseen.”

    In the week since the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced impeachment proceedings, Trump has vowed to unveil the whistleblower, in defiance of federal protections; accused a Democratic committee chair of treason; quoted a prediction that impeachment would touch off civil war; elevated a false story about a supposed change to whistleblower laws; and generally asked people to believe him instead of their own eyes.

    [… T]he whistleblower’s description of the call […] matches a summary of the call released by the White House […] and those accounts both match Trump’s own summary of his communications with Ukraine.

    If there is a point on which Trump and Republicans contend that the whistleblower complaint is wrong on the facts, they have yet to identify it.


    Defenses of the president floated by Republicans have been no less scattered than those floated by Trump himself. After a disastrous 60 Minutes appearance in which he exposed his ignorance of the White House call summary, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy unveiled a wan numbered list of the most important facts we have.

    Among them: The president did nothing that would be impeachable.

    The minority whip, Steve Scalise, took a different tack, arguing that the impeachment inquiry was based on false rumors {and} leftwing rage stoked by radicals {and} socialists who have taken over the Democrat {sic} Party.

    But that line of messaging — that, in short, the Democrats have lost their minds — was undercut by other Republican voices who acknowledged the validity of the whistleblower complaint.

    Chuck Grassley, the most senior Republican in the Senate, released a statement on Tuesday defending the whistleblower.

    “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected,” the Iowan said. “No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.”

    [… Newt] Gingrich said on Fox News on Tuesday it was outrageous for Democrats to investigate Trump for allegedly abusing the power of his office and undermining national security and election integrity by soliciting a foreign country for help in the upcoming election.

    This is, in constitutional terms, a coup d’etat, Gingrich said. It is an effort by one branch of the government to destroy the incumbent president of the United States without any regard for the facts.

  94. says

    blf @ #149, yeah, I find the whole article a bit confusing and have more questions after reading it. (For example, wouldn’t it be the same small handful of people who have access both before and after documents are entered in the system, making engagement with the documents once they’re in the system less informative?) I don’t have your knowledge, but I, too, would be surprised if the system didn’t previously have such an audit trail.

  95. blf says

    SC@153, I think it was you… I looked for your(?) link, but could not find it (hence the vague reference), but perhaps I was mistaken… I definitely saw the video / tweeting some time prior to that article being published. (In any case, there is a link at the source.) Apologies if I erred here, both to you and to whoever did provide the link I followed. Sorry!

  96. blf says

    SC@152, “For example, wouldn’t it be the same small handful of people who have access both before and after documents are entered in the system, making engagement with the documents once they’re in the system less informative?” Not necessarily (if I am understanding this question correctly).

    Prior to whatever being put into the system, the people with knowledge would be those who sat / listened in on the call (call them grpA), and then the people they informed (verbally or via notes / memos), grpB. Probably someone in grpB, e.g., a security-cleared clerk, entered what they were given into the system. Whilst both grpA and grpB presumably have the clearance and need-to-know, not all of them would necessarily have access to the system (the hypothetical clerk obviously does). The people who do have clearance, need-to-know, and access are grpC, which (presumably) overlaps with grpA and grpB, but which (also presumably) contains additional “new” individuals. (Actually, the hypothetical clerk is also in grpC.)

    Upshot in this (simplified) model is you have three overlapping groups of people with the information, but only one of the groups has (access to) the information via the system.

    Now, who, in which group(s), is the whistleblower (recalling they have some first-hand knowledge)? This, of course, presumes no-one else obtained the information, i.e., that it was successfully “confined” to just the people in grpA, grpB, and grpC. In a well-run operation, that should true (it was so confined), but we are talking about the Wacko House dalekocrazy here… further people obtaining some or all of the information — possibly without appropriate clearance or with any reason to know — seems (to me) fairly likely with this hive of eejits (presumably heavily infiltrated by genuine foreign spies).

  97. says

    blf @ #154, I took note because I initially thought of posting a link but I still connect Steele with this scandal and decided I didn’t want to share his gif of a woman in a bikini. I thought maybe I had later posted it without thinking or later remembering, but didn’t think I had. It’s possible that it was in one of the threads of a tweet I did post, though, since I definitely did see it. No problem.

  98. says

    IMPEACHMENT LATEST: After @SecPompeo told Ds his officials won’t comply w/their requests, State employees appear to be DEFYING Pompeo.

    1st: Volker says he will testify. Yovanovitch too.

    & now @karoun @John_Hudson report the State IG is coming 2 Hill tomorrow to turn over docs.”

  99. tomh says

    Lock ’em all up until they talk.

    What can Congress do if Mike Pompeo won’t cooperate with its impeachment inquiry?
    By Amber Phillips
    Oct. 1, 2019 at 1:43 p.m. PDT

    A major early step of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is to talk to the top administration officials who would have had knowledge about President Trump’s work with Ukraine.

    But like a number of other high-profile Trump administration officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is resisting. He said Tuesday in a letter that State Department officials won’t appear this week as the heads of Congress’s investigation requested. It’s possible some of these people might not speak to Congress at all.

    And Congress may not have a lot of options left to force potentially key players in its impeachment inquiry to speak to it. The rule book for how to be a check on the executive branch doesn’t include an executive branch unwilling to cooperate.

    Pompeo is staking his argument on both procedural and political grounds. Procedurally, he accuses Democrats of not providing a technical document, called a Notice of Deposition, to have his staff testify. He says they were not given enough time, and he is demanding that State Department lawyers be present during testimony to assert executive privilege.

    Democrats responded by saying they did everything by the book. “The committees are operating pursuant to our long-established authorities as well as the impeachment inquiry,” read a statement from the chairmen of three key committees who originally requested State Department staff to talk and who have subpoenaed Pompeo for documents. They added: “Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the president pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry.”

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Pompeo listened in on the call between Trump and Ukraine’s president that is at the center of the whistleblower allegation that Trump abused his power.

    Pompeo’s political reasoning for resisting State Department testimony is perhaps more troubling for Congress’s impeachment inquiry. He is casting Democrats’ request to talk to the people with potential knowledge of the Ukraine allegations as bullying. That fits neatly with Trump’s assessment that the entire impeachment inquiry is designed to target him. It also fits in Trump’s broader plan to blow off Congress at every opportunity. The U.S. attorney general, Trump’s former White House counsel and now the secretary of state are among the top officials who have refused to talk to Congress, even when subpoenaed.

    This isn’t normal, and that’s to Congress’s detriment.

    As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz wrote recently, the checks and balances are set up to work if both sides respect the governing norms. The founders just didn’t put tools in the Constitution for this. “America’s democratic system, the world’s oldest, is said to be resilient, with institutions strong enough to defend against runaway actors and with checks and balances designed to prevent too much power from building up in any one place or with any one person,” Balz wrote. “Earlier in Trump’s presidency, that appeared to be the case. Right now, however, that is in question.”

    We know of one tool Congress still has, and it’s pretty blunt: inherent contempt. Some top Democrats have been talking about using this for weeks. It is a long-dormant power for Congress to fine or jail officials who don’t comply. It hasn’t been used in over a century, but when it has, Congress has detained administration officials for not complying with it. Congress doesn’t have its own jail, so lawmakers could try to use the D.C. jail. As you can see, this idea gets pretty extreme pretty quickly.

    The idea of inherent contempt isn’t just on the table for the most liberal Democrats. A group of seven freshman Democrats with military records and/or national security backgrounds wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post last week saying Trump’s actions, if true, are impeachable, and they brought up this idea.

    “We call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security,” they wrote.

    As I wrote in September, inherent contempt could overshadow the actual impeachment inquiry. It is arguably more drastic than impeachment because of how rare and dramatic it would be. That’s a problem for Democrats in Congress who are worried that impeachment would give Trump a boost in public sentiment or cost some vulnerable Democrats their seats.

    As I also wrote, “the fact that a centuries-old, somewhat crude enforcement tool is even being considered at the highest levels of Congress in 2019 underscores just how much the Trump administration’s disregard for the democratic process has kneecapped Congress’s ability to do anything to oversee the executive branch. They’re out of options except to create their own jail of sorts.”

    And it’s safe to say Pompeo knows it.

  100. birgerjohansson says

    A brief comment to the ongoing Tory Party conference.
    There was an actual fistfight between two politicians, and one of them, a tory member of parliament, had to be thrown out. Classy.

  101. says

    NYT oped by Will Wilkinson – “Trump Has Disqualified Himself From Running in 2020”:

    “I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020,” Beto O’Rourke said in March, neatly expressing prevailing Democratic opinion on the question of impeaching President Trump, “and perhaps that’s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.”

    This is no longer a tenable position. The president’s bungled bid to coerce Ukraine’s leader into helping the Trump 2020 re-election campaign smear a rival struck “decide it at the ballot box” off the menu of reasonable opinion forever. Mr. Trump’s brazen attempt to cheat his way into a second term stands so scandalously exposed that there can be no assurance of a fair election if he’s allowed to stay in office. Resolving the question of the president’s fitness at the ballot box isn’t really an option, much less the best option, when the question boils down to whether the ballot box will be stuffed.

    Impeachment is therefore imperative, not only to protect the integrity of next year’s elections but to secure America’s continued democratic existence. If the House does its job, it will fall to Senate Republicans to reveal, in their decision to convict (or not), their preferred flavor of republic: constitutional or banana.

    Mike Murphy, a Republican election consultant, recently remarked that “one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.” Everyone understands that Mr. Trump is wildly popular with conservative voters, and that Senate Republicans would rather not invite primary challengers by alienating them. But when the legitimacy and preservation of our democracy are at stake, striving to keep a Senate seat safe through craven betrayal of the American people could come at a catastrophic price to the country.

    It is now impossible to deny that Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to dig up dirt on Joe Biden while holding up congressionally appropriated military assistance intended to help Ukraine stave off Russian aggression. Mr. Trump loudly admitted it, and the summary of his July phone conversation with Mr. Zelensky and the whistle-blower report cast it in the worst possible light. If Mr. Trump’s willing to cop to this, all while promoting an Infowars-level conspiracy theory to justify it, the American public can reasonably suspect that he’s abusing the powers of his office in other ways to fix the election in his favor.

    Mr. Trump has supplied American voters with overwhelming reason to doubt that any election he participates in can be fair. That’s why he can’t be allowed to run for any public office, much less the presidency, ever again.

    The president’s infamous call with Mr. Zelensky took place the day after the special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about his inquiry into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and Russian interference in the 2016 election. If Mr. Trump was elated that the testimony failed to unleash immediate impeachment hearings, he was also unnerved by the prospect of facing an indictment at the end of his time in office. The president knows he’s beyond the reach of criminal prosecution only so long as he commands the awesome powers of the executive branch.

    The content of the “favors” Mr. Trump asked of the Ukrainian president underscore his feral resolve to barricade himself inside the Oval Office for at least five more years….

    This is the lunacy behind Mr. Trump’s willingness to casually endanger Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russia. Worse, by ordering the attorney general, the secretary of state and his personal fixer to lend counterfeit substance to this ridiculous effort, he has untethered American diplomacy and law enforcement from reality.

    If the House goes through with impeachment but the Senate acquits, Mr. Trump’s lawlessness will have been lavishly rewarded. He will take it as a signal that absolutely anything goes — especially given the Senate’s failure to act in any meaningful way on election security. Should he win, a sizable majority of the public will see it as an electoral coup and deny the validity of his claim to power. It’s easy to imagine enormous mass protests that bring Washington to a halt, dangerous indeterminacy in the continuity of government, and worse.

    If Senate Republicans hold their majority through an election that stinks of corruption, they’ll be dogged by the same crisis of legitimacy. If they nevertheless go on to use their dubious authority to continue stacking the courts and shielding the president from accountability, Americans won’t be wrong to conclude that our democracy has crumbled and that the United States has devolved into one of the world’s many soft-authoritarian kleptocracies claiming popular legitimacy from behind a cheap veneer of rigged elections. It can definitely happen here.

    Senate Republicans who would vote in secret to remove Mr. Trump need to finally come to the defense of their country and do it in public. The odds of Republicans holding the Senate in a clean race are strong. But senators who choose to ignore the duties of their office in order to protect Mr. Trump will communicate with ringing clarity that they don’t care about having a fair election; that they don’t care whether the American people have really granted them the authority to govern; and that they think their own voters don’t care about any of this, either.

    But the American people, Democrats and Republicans alike, do care. The fainthearted lions of the Senate ought to bear in mind that a defiant citizenry inflamed by indignation and jealous of its rights can overwhelm a corrupt regime’s dirty electoral plans. An election with an impeached Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket is an invitation to an electoral uprising that should haunt Mitch McConnell’s dreams.

    Senate Republicans owe us the courage of their private convictions. If they can’t find it, they should at least be wary of assuming that cultlike devotion to the president will allow them to weather the coming storm, or that, in the end, they will be rewarded for a faithless calculation to regard their constituents with contempt.

    I completely agree with this. Trump is a cheat. Cheats at golf, cheats on his taxes, cheats customers and contractors, cheats the government, cheats the public, cheats at elections. He has no qualms about it at all, and will continue until he’s stopped. There’s no bigger threat to the republic. And it will only get worse for his enablers, requiring more and more self-abasement and dishonesty in exchange for less and less power and independence, and he’ll turn on them in a heartbeat.

  102. tomh says

    @ #158
    Do either of them still work for the State Dept? According to this “Volker quit the unpaid position with the State Department.” And I thought Yovanovitch was fired, but I can’t quite figure it out.

  103. says

    CNN: State Dept inspector general has requested an urgent Hill briefing with relevant committees tomorrow related to Ukraine. The email that went to staff suggested it was urgent. A Congressional aid[e] described the State IG’s request as ‘highly unusual and cryptically worded’.”

  104. says

    tomh @ #162, as far as I know, Yovanovitch was fired as ambassador but still works for the State Department (and is a fellow of some sort at Georgetown). It sounds like Volker probably chose to resign in order not to be restricted by Pompeo in what he could say. Maybe Yovanovitch will resign as well; maybe she’ll dare them to fire her…. I don’t know what’s going on, but it does seem as though some at the State Department might be rebelling in Pompeo’s absence.

  105. tomh says

    Each glimpse inside the White House is worse than the last.

    Shoot Them in the Legs, Trump Suggested: Inside His Border War
    By Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis
    Oct. 1, 2019 Updated 6:33 p.m. ET

    This article is adapted from “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” to be published by Simon & Schuster on Oct. 8.

    WASHINGTON — The Oval Office meeting this past March began, as so many had, with President Trump fuming about migrants. But this time he had a solution. As White House advisers listened astonished, he ordered them to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico — by noon the next day.

    The advisers feared the president’s edict would trap American tourists in Mexico, strand children at schools on both sides of the border and create an economic meltdown in two countries. Yet they also knew how much the president’s zeal to stop immigration had sent him lurching for solutions, one more extreme than the next.

    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.

    Mr. Trump’s order to close the border was a decision point that touched off a frenzied week of presidential rages, around-the-clock staff panic and far more White House turmoil than was known at the time. By the end of the week, the seat-of-the-pants president had backed off his threat but had retaliated with the beginning of a purge of the aides who had tried to contain him.

    This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House and administration officials directly involved in the events of that week in March. They were granted anonymity to describe sensitive conversations with the president and top officials in the government.

    In the Oval Office that March afternoon, a 30-minute meeting extended to more than two hours as Mr. Trump’s team tried desperately to placate him.

    “You are making me look like an idiot!” Mr. Trump shouted, adding in a profanity, as multiple officials in the room described it. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”

    Much more at the link.

  106. says

    NBC – “More than 50 former female ambassadors call on administration to protect Yovanovitch”:

    More than 50 former female U.S. ambassadors are calling on President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter to protect foreign service officers from political retaliation in the wake of the ousting of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

    The signatories of the letter are members of an organization of current and former ambassadors, Women Ambassadors Serving America. They point specifically to Trump’s comments about Yovanovitch to Ukrainian President Zelenskiy during a July 25 phone call, saying they “demean and threaten” the former ambassador and “raise serious concerns.”

    “This appears to be a threat of retaliation for political reasons, which is both shocking and inappropriate,” they write. “For U.S. diplomacy to be an effective instrument of statecraft, it is vital that the non-partisan, non-political work of the dedicated public servants of the U.S. Department of State be respected and honored — just as we honor the contributions of U.S. military service members and other government colleagues.”

    Among those who signed the letter are former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power and Dana Shell Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Qatar.

    No current U.S. ambassadors signed the letter. Signing a public letter that is critical of the Trump administration would likely put current ambassadors at professional risk….

  107. says

    Trump just tweeted:

    “As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the….

    ….People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”

  108. says

    For context, former senior US intelligence officials tell @nbcnews while at the CIA, Pompeo was a bully to subordinates, driving some to quit or seek new assignments. ‘Throwing binders was a popular sport’, said one.”

  109. says

    Zeynep Tufekci is reporting from Hong Kong.

    This morning in Hong Kong, students are reported to have gathered outside the school of the high-school student shot yesterday in the chest by the police. Sending out the police to solve a political demand is, predictably, leading to a cycle of escalation.”

  110. says

    Did the “Symposium on Partnering with Faith-Based Organizations” that Pompeo and Seb “My Mom Was David Irving’s Translator” Gorka are attending (see #66 above) even exist prior to five days ago? I can’t find earlier references to it, and the events seem ad hoc.

  111. says

    Apropos of nothing, revisiting The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (pp.1102-4):

    With the Americans across the Rhine by the third week of March and a mighty Allied army of British, Canadians and Americans under Montgomery poised to cross the Lower Rhine and head both into the North German plain and into the Ruhr – which they did, beginning on the night of March 23 – Hitler’s vengeance turned from the advancing enemy to his own people. They had sustained him through the greatest victories in German history. Now in the winter of defeat he thought them no longer worthy of his greatness.

    “If the German people were to be defeated in the struggle,” Hitler had told the gauleiters in a speech in August 1944, “it must have been too weak : it had failed to prove its mettle before history and was destined only to destruction.”

    …More and more, as the news from the fronts in 1945 grew worse, he gave way to hysterical rage….

    It was in this state of mind and health that the German Fuehrer made one of the last momentous decisions of his life. On March 19 he issued a general order that all military, industrial, transportation and communications installations as well as all stores in Germany must be destroyed in order to prevent them from falling intact into the hands of the enemy….

    …Hitler, his own personal fate sealed, was not interested in the continued existence of the German people, for whom he had always professed such boundless love. He told Speer:

    If the war is lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue a most primitive existence. On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation [Russia]. Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have been killed.

    And had all the other orders of Hitler and Bormann – there were a number of supplementary directives – been carried out, millions of Germans who had escaped with their lives up to then might well have died.

  112. says

    France24 – “Australian opposition call for release of Trump transcript”:

    Australia’s opposition demanded the transcript of a call between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Donald Trump be released Wednesday, as controversy mounted over a politically fraught offer to help the US president.

    Amid concern that Australia may be co-opted into helping Trump tarnish his domestic political rivals, opposition leader Anthony Albanese demanded to know what information Canberra had turned over to Washington.

    Morrison’s office admitted Tuesday that the prime minister personally offered to “assist and cooperate” with an investigation that the US president hopes will discredit findings that Russia helped his 2016 election campaign.

    “The prime minister needs to explain exactly what went on here. He needs to release any transcript and information which is out there,” Albanese said.

    “This is quite extraordinary,” he added. “The prime minister needs to make a full statement.”

    Australia’s current foreign minister Marise Payne on Wednesday refused to say what “material and information”, if any, was exchanged with Trump.

    “It’s not my practice to comment on the use of intelligence to secure material,” she told ABC radio.

    But she also sought to quell concerns that her government acted inappropriately — saying it would cooperate with Trump only “as far as we can and as far as is appropriate”.

  113. John Morales says

    … only “as far as we can and as far as is appropriate”.

    Easy enough to translate that polly-speak, ain’t it? ;)

  114. blf says

    SC@157, That seems likely. And speaking of confusion…
    Seven days of Fox News impeachment coverage proves divisive — for its hosts (minor edits to the formatting (unmarked)):

    The channel’s unified front appears to be crumbling as its personalities squabble on air about Trump’s predicament

    The strength of Fox News, and much of its appeal to its viewers, is in its monolithic presentation of the news, particularly when it is favorable to Donald Trump.

    But as the president faces the looming shadow of an impeachment inquiry, the channel’s unified front appears to be crumbling.

    Some of the news anchors are reporting that there does appear to be something to the Ukraine scandal, while Fox News’ more colorful personalities have been squabbling back and forth on air. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that management may be considering the possibilities of a post-Trump future.

    Here’s a look at how things have progressed over the last week.

    ● Tuesday: impeachment inquiry splits Fox News […]
    ● Wednesday: Tucker Carlson’s colleague calls him ‘repugnant’ […]
    ● Thursday: threatening to take people off the air […]
    ● Friday: Chris Wallace calls his colleagues ‘deeply misleading’ […]
    ● Saturday: What’s the crime? […]
    ● Sunday: and now we’re talking about civil war […]
    ● Monday: coup […]
    ● Tuesday: it’s all getting a bit too much: If all the back and forth sounds a bit hard to follow, that may be part of the point.

    On Tuesday morning the Fox & Friends hosts introduced another series of bizarre conspiracies, including one featuring Australian ambassadors, Maltese professors, and an Italian spy school. Ultimately, they concluded, there was no “there there”, and even if there were, who could even follow it all?

    I think it gets too much in the weeds. First they’re going after the president with impeachment, Ainsley Earhardt said. Then it’s Rudy Giuliani. Now it’s Bill Barr. America is saying, What? How are they all connected. Connect the dots for us. It’s just so much information.

    Connecting the dots:
    │    ^         │
    │    │         │
    │ Putin───>Giuliani
    │    │     ^      ^
    │    │     │      │
    │    v     v      V
    └───hair furor───>Barr

  115. John Morales says

    [very nice, blf!

    Not much more effort to use HTML entities, such as right arrow (&rarr; yields → ) or mdash (&mdash; —), given the amount you already put in.

    e.g. hair furor———→Barr]

  116. blf says

    (me@195, Yuck, that Ascii Art “connect the dots” didn’t work very well…)

    Ukraine investigates prosecutor who gave Giuliani information on Biden:

    Investigation into Yuriy Lutsenko opened at the request of a lawmaker in the Ukrainian president’s party

    Ukraine has opened an investigation into Yuriy Lutsenko, a former prosecutor who fed information about the Biden family to Rudy Giuliani […].

    It was not immediately clear if the investigation launched on Tuesday is a form of political retribution for Lutsenko’s role in an international scandal that has led Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump.

    Lutsenko is one of several prosecutors who shared information with Giuliani that claimed to show that Joe Biden scuttled an investigation into his son’s business dealings with a Ukrainian company, Burisma.


    Lutsenko has since said that the investigation did not show that the Biden family had broken any laws in Ukraine.


    The investigation into Lutsenko was opened at the request of a lawmaker in the president’s party, who said he suspected the former prosecutor of ties to underground gambling in the capital, Kyiv.

    A spokesperson for the State Bureau of Investigations confirmed the investigation to local media, saying that it was an inquiry into “abuse of office for facilitating illegal gambling”.


    Could be a local matter, could be retaliation, could be a fabrication — or any combination thereof…

  117. blf says

    Red Cross alarm over polio outbreak in Philippines after 19 years [of being polio-free]:

    The International Red Cross and its Philippine affiliate have warned of an “alarming comeback” of the polio virus in the country, prompting the government to declare a national outbreak.


    In mid-September, the Philippines health department reported that a three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy tested positive for polio — the first confirmed case since 2000.

    A single case of polio requires the government to automatically declare an outbreak.

    The polio virus was also detected in capital Manila’s sewage, and the waterways in the city of Davao, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.

    Following the report, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the country risks more cases of polio unless it sharply steps up its vaccination of children under the age of five.


    Low immunisation rates have contributed to the outbreak, according to the Red Cross.

    Immunisation coverage in the Philippines for oral polio vaccines is 66 percent, but needs to be at 95 percent, WHO’s Philippines representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.

    So far, only 40 percent of children under the age of five have received a polio vaccine by injection. That means three out of five children under five have not been vaccinated.


    The Duterte administration has been criticised for its botched response to the dengue vaccine controversy in 2017, which observers said discouraged many parents to get their children vaccinated of dengue, among other viruses.


    No discussion of analysis of why the vaccination rate is so low, other than the comment about the current authoritarian regime botching its handling of the dengue disaster. (I have not looked for further information on vaccination in the Philippines…)

  118. johnson catman says

    re blf @195: I was picturing it more like a human centipede with Putin in the prime spot, the Orange Toddler-Tyrant firmly attached to him, and then Giuliani and Barr. YMMV.

  119. says

    “DOJ fails to assure judge that Trump call records will be saved”: “Rachel Maddow reports on an awkward moment in court when Justice Department lawyers would not commit to assuring a judge that the Donald Trump administration will not destroy any records of Trump phone calls with foreign leaders, risking an emergency order from the judge.”

    Video atl. Judge Amy Berman Jackson (because of course) gave them until this afternoon to provide such assurances or she’ll issue an emergency order they “won’t like.” Possible they know some records have already been destroyed?

  120. says

    Guardian – “Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu faces pre-trial corruption hearing”:

    Defence lawyers representing Benjamin Netanyahu are due to begin their arguments against looming bribery, fraud and breach of trust indictments as a long-awaited pre-trial hearing begins.

    Wednesday’s closed-door hearing, the culmination of three years of investigations, arrives at an especially fraught time for Israel’s longest-serving leader. Netanyahu is also fighting for his political life after failing to secure a clear win in two elections this year.

    Clinching the premiership for a historic fifth term is seen as a way to protect himself if indicted, as Israeli prime ministers are not required under law to step down unless they are ultimately convicted. That process could take months or even years.

    Political survival for Netanyahu is also potentially tied to his personal freedom as some of his parliamentary allies have suggested they would back laws to grant him immunity if he remains prime minister.

    Netanyahu has denied all allegations as a politically orchestrated “witch-hunt” to oust him from office.

    However, both the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, and the police have already suggested indictments are likely in three cases, including multiple fraud and breach of trust charges, and a bribery charge.

    He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.

    The first case, known as Case 1,000, involves allegations of receiving gifts, including cigars, champagne and jewellery, from billionaires, among them the Australian casino operator James Packer, allegedly in exchange for favours. In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is accused of colluding with the country’s top-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage.

    In the third and most damning, Case 4,000, Netanyahu is accused of offering incentives to the Israeli telecoms provider Bezeq in exchange for positive stories on an online news website it owns.

    The pre-trial hearing is not a court appearance, and Netanyahu is not expected to be present. Instead, it grants his legal team a last-ditch chance to convince the attorney general to either scrap or reduce the charges.

    Hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday, but Mandelblit could delay his decision until December or even later. Even then, it could take months before his trial begins….

  121. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Brexit liveblog.

    Johnson is just concluding a thoroughly idiotic speech:

    …This country has long been a pioneer. We inaugurated the steam age, the atomic age, the age of the genome. We led the way in parliamentary democracy, in female emancipation. And when the whole world had succumbed to a different fashion, this country and this party pioneered ideas of free markets and privatisation that spread across the planet.

    Every one of them was controversial, every one of them was difficult, but we have always had the courage to be original, to do things differently, and now we are about to take another giant step to do something no one thought we could do.

    To reboot our politics, to relaunch ourselves into the world, and to dedicate ourselves again to that simple proposition that we are here to serve the democratic will of the British people.

    And if we do that with optimism and confidence then I tell you we will not go wrong. Let’s get on with sensible moderate one nation but tax-cutting Tory government, and figuratively if not literally, let us send Jeremy Corbyn into orbit where he belongs.

    Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s bring our country together.

  122. says

    This morning: the State Department IG will be urgently briefing congressional committees about something related to Ukraine, and Pelosi and Schiff will be holding a press conference about something at 10:45 AM ET.

  123. says

    Hi, @GOPLeader. This is the thanks you get for your slavering subservience to Trump and his lawlessness.

    Trump privately says you botched your defense of him, the AP reports. You failed his greatness, and his people are letting the world know it:…”

    Ahem. Quote at the link.

  124. says

    Daniel Dale:

    Trump told US diplomats at the UN that CNN built a beautiful studio, costing maybe $2 million, for the NC 9th election, and it was going to “stay up for weeks” if the Democrat had won, but instead CNN hastily took it down that night.

    CNN did not build any set there at all.

    CNN sent journalists to both the Democratic and Republican election-night events as usual, built no studio. Trump’s entirely fictional story was quite detailed, per Bloomberg’s transcript of the leaked audio.

    Transcript at the link.

  125. blf says

    In India, Judge orders removal of #MeToo posts accusing Indian artist:

    Google and Facebook told to take down sexual harassment claims against Subodh Gupta

    The high court in Delhi has ordered Google and Facebook to remove all anonymous social media posts accusing the artist Subodh Gupta of sexual harassment and ordered Facebook, which owns Instagram, to reveal the identity of the person behind the account that first made the allegations.

    Last year, many well-known Indian men, mostly in the film and media industries, had their names mentioned at the height of the #MeToo movement including Gupta, one of India’s leading artists.

    The Instagram post, which appeared to be from a former female associate, accused Gupta of sexual misconduct including repeated requests for an assistant to pose nude.

    Gupta strongly denied the allegations. He told the Mint newspaper last December: “I have never behaved in an inappropriate manner with any individual who worked with me and several of my former assistants can attest to this. These allegations are entirely false and fabricated.”

    Gupta filed a defamation suit against what he called “unfounded, baseless sexual harassment allegations” published by the anonymous Instagram account.

    On hearing that none of the alleged victims had revealed their identity or pressed charges, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw ruled last month that by 19 November, the date of the next hearing, Facebook had to provide details about the person behind the Instagram account.

    Though based in Delhi, Gupta is internationally famous for making huge sculptures and installations out of everyday items such as stainless steel tiffin boxes, kitchen utensils, buckets, and milk pails that are found all over India. His work has been shown at festivals and biennales across the world.


    I’ve opted not to put Gupta’s statements in eejit quotes as I’ve no idea who is lying. The excerpted article is, in my opinion, interesting / relevant because of the judge’s orders, specifically, that the originator of the #MeToo claims be named (apparently mostly because Gupta says the claims are lies, rather than any actual evidence the claims are fabricated). I’m unfamiliar with this case and with Gupta, nor have I looked for further details.

  126. blf says

    SC@209, That reminded me of this (which was vaguely alluded-to in tht twittering), Make America Rake Again: Finland baffled by Trump’s forest fire raking claim (November 2018):

    The people of Finland have reacted with bemusement on social media at Donald Trump’s assertions that the country rakes its forests to help prevent forest fires.

    Speaking on Saturday in Paradise, California, about the role of forest management in stemming wildfires, Trump said: I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have, much different, we are a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.

    Finnish social media users immediately posted a range of jokes about Trump’s comments, which do not reflect the reality of how forests are managed in the country.


    There were also people on hand to point out that the factors affecting whether there are forest fires are very different in California and Finland:

    I grew up in Finland. a) it rains all year round. b) we have a lengthy and cold winter. c) Finland is a sparsely populated country with just over 5mil ppl, with land size ~3/4 of CA and most of it forests and lakes. d) no friggin body is raking the forests.


    In an interview reported by Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, [Finnish President Sauli Niinistö] said he met Trump briefly in Paris earlier in November, and on the topic of the California wildfires told him: “Finland is a country covered by forests,” and that to avoid forest fires “we have a good surveillance system and network”.

    [… lots of jokes…]

    Trump’s comments about Finland’s forest management come after a summer where forest fires did rage in the Arctic Circle, with Finland’s neighbour Sweden most affected.


  127. says

    MSNBC chyron right now: “Putin says he didn’t see evidence of pressure in Trump Ukraine call.”

    So now they’re not only transcribing Trump’s lies into their chyrons and tweets, they’re doing it for Putin. That bodes well.

  128. blf says

    132,000 descendants of expelled Jews apply for Spanish citizenship:

    More than 132,000 descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in the late 15th century have applied for Spanish citizenship under a law intended to make amends for the mass exile.

    The law, introduced four years ago, was designed to atone for the “historical wrong” that saw the country’s Jewish community expelled, forced to convert to Catholicism or burned at the stake.

    After being extended for a year, the law lapsed on 1 October. According to the justice ministry, 132,226 people of Sephardic descent applied for Spanish citizenship before the deadline […]

    Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities (FCJE), which certifies applications, said it had received more than 30,000 from Mexico, 26,000 from Colombia, 14,000 from Venezuela, 7,000 from Argentina, 5,400 from the US and 4,900 from Israel [and applications from other countries].


    Isaac Querub, the president of the FCJE, said the law had finally achieved its aims.

    “Thousands of Sephardic Jews from all over the world have recovered their Spanish nationality and thousands more are in the process of doing so,” he said.

    “Spain has used a long-lasting legal act to close a historical wound. Sephardic Jews are no longer ‘the Jews without a homeland’. Spain came to miss them and the Sephardic Jews never forgot Spain.”

    A similar law was approved in Portugal in 2015 to atone for the expulsions from that part of the Iberian peninsula.

    “There is no possibility to amend what was done,” the Portuguese government said at the time, adding that the law represented “an attribution of a right”.

    Brexit has fuelled a huge increase in the number of applications for Portuguese citizenship.

    The Jewish Community of Oporto — which, along with the Lisbon Jewish community, certifies applicants — said it had received just five applications before the Brexit referendum compared with 400 in the two months following the vote.

    The Jewish Federation of New Mexico also recorded a spike in applications following the election of Donald Trump as president.


  129. blf says

    Trump has nearly destroyed US refugee program, experts say:

    Trump administration changes to US refugee policy are “tantamount to destroying the program”, according to experts, as the amount of people displaced worldwide continues to grow.

    On Thursday, the administration announced it would set a refugee cap of 18,000 people for the fiscal year, which begins 1 October. It also issued an executive order allowing states or “local governments” to ban refugee resettlement.

    In practice, experts warned, not only will fewer people be able to enter the US than ever before, but these decisions will pull apart the infrastructure that supports refugees when they arrive in the US. Families will therefore struggle to stay together.


    Advocates are especially concerned about 8,000 refugees who have been approved for travel to the US and may now have their journeys delayed or cancelled.

    “This is actually the United States becoming a bad actor when it comes to refugee protection,” [director of policy and advocacy at Church World Services Jen] Smyers said. “This is the United States saying — during a time when the world is facing the largest displacement crisis in history — the US is going to roll up its mat and go home. It’s really astounding”[.]

    Senior US officials said on a call with reporters the cap was set so low because the administration is struggling to respond to the number of people seeking asylum at the southern border. In fact, the asylum program is distinct from the refugee program.


    Smyers said the White House claim was a “bold-face lie”.

  130. lumipuna says

    Re #209, Finnish president Sauli Niinistö continues his strong approach to international PR work, dragging Finland into Trump’s attention at every opportunity. Of course, this meeting was scheduled long before the impeachment procedures began. Translating bits from a preliminary analysis at the Finnish public broadcaster’s news site:

    “President Sauli Niinistö will visit on Wednesday at the White House, now turned into a hellish pit…The press conference may have a tense atmosphere [because of impeachment investigation]…Niinistö will have to watch his words carefully at the White House, both during the lunch and the presser…”


    The presidents are supposed to mainly discuss security and military cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. Honestly, I suspect Niinistö won’t so much have to watch his words as to work hard to get any genuine attention from Trump. (Maybe also dodge some flying peaches.)

    The piece also interviews Atlantic Council researcher Hans Binnedijk on this:


  131. says

    lumipuna @ #216, when I read

    Translating bits from a preliminary analysis at the Finnish public broadcaster’s news site:

    I wasn’t expecting

    “President Sauli Niinistö will visit on Wednesday at the White House, now turned into a hellish pit…”

    I’d just taken a sip of water, and it took effort not to spit it out.

  132. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live States blog (quoted in full):

    Some more context on Secretary Pompeo’s admission that he took part in the July phone call between Donald Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.

    Pompeo’s involvement in the call (he listened in to the conversation and does not appear to have actively participated) was first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week. Pompeo’s admission, made earlier today on an official trip to the Vatican, confirms this reporting.

    Although Pompeo has sought to downplay the relevance of his participation, describing it as part of normal state department business, that explanation only takes you so far.

    Aside from the substance of the call, which involved Trump pushing Zelensky to commence a domestic investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden with the assistance of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Pompeo has also pleaded ignorance over the existence of the conversation in previous interviews.

    When reports of the whistleblower complaint first emerged in last month, Pompeo was asked by ABC News about his knowledge of the conversation between Trump and Zelensky. His response, which I will publish in full below, was particularly evasive, and implied he was not aware of the nature of the conversation, which we now know he was participating in.

    ABC: “And I want to turn to this whistleblower complaint, Mr. Secretary. The complaint involving the President and a phone call with a foreign leader to the director of national intelligence inspector general. That’s where the complaint was launched by the whistle-blower. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that President Trump pressed the president of Ukraine eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden’s son. What do you know about those conversations?”

    POMPEO: So, you just gave me a report about a IC whistle-blower complaint, none of which I’ve seen. I can tell you about this administration’s policies with Ukraine. I remember the previous administration was begged — begged by the Ukrainian people to deliver defensive arms, so that they could protect themselves from Vladimir Putin and Russia. And they gave them blankets. This administration took seriously the responsibility of the Ukrainian people. We’ve provided now on multiple occasions resources, so that the — the Ukrainians can defend themselves. We’ve worked on that. We — we’re working — we’ll see President Zelensky this week. We want a good relationship with the Ukrainian people.

    From CCN, Fact-checking Trump’s claim that Obama gave Ukraine ‘pillows and sheets’:

    Trump is being hyperbolic here. While the Obama administration was criticized for its refusal to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine, it did provide more than $100 million in security assistance, as well as a significant amount of defense and military equipment.

    By March 2015, the US had committed more than $120 million in security assistance for Ukraine and had pledged an additional $75 million worth of equipment including UAVs, counter-mortar radars, night vision devices and medical supplies, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

    That assistance also included some 230 armored Humvee vehicles.
    Trump appears to be echoing a critique leveled at the Obama administration by the late Republican Sen. John McCain. The Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we’re sending blankets and meals, McCain said in 2015. Blankets don’t do well against Russian tanks.

    While it never provided lethal aid, many of the items that the Obama administration did provide were seen as critical to Ukraine’s military. Part of the $250 million assistance package that the Trump administration announced (then froze and later unfroze) included many of the same items that were provided under Obama, including medical equipment, night vision gear and counter-artillery radar.

    And some tidbits from a much longer DefenseNews article, Here’s what you need to know about the US aid package to Ukraine that Trump delayed (DefenseNews edits in {curly braces}):

    Battlefield benefits aside, the military assistance sends a powerful signal of American support, particularly when the US is not obligated to defend it, as it would a NATO ally, said Mark Simakovsky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Simakovsky served as chief of staff in the Defense Department’s office focused on Europe and NATO during the Obama administration.

    “As a political signal, there is no more important ally to Ukraine than the United States, and the United States’ aid dwarfs aid from other countries,” Simakovsky said.

    Though aid from the U.S., Poland and NATO allies spiked after the invasion, the Obama administration worried in part that providing Ukraine with lethal aid would provoke Moscow into escalating an already volatile situation. The training and institutional reform efforts aimed to continue stamping out corruption and helping Ukraine become interoperable with NATO. (Ukraine is not a member of NATO.)


    Some of the early nonlethal aid was useful. After Ukraine received 20 Lockheed Martin AN/TPQ-53 radar systems that track incoming mortar and short-range artillery fire in 2015, the casualty rate for units equipped with those system went from 47 percent to about 18 percent, [Ukraine’s military attache in Washington Col Andrii] Ordynovych said.

    “That was some of the most useful equipment that we ever provided them because it provided them early warning,” [former US Army Europe commander retired Lt Gen Ben] Hodges said. “The Ukrainians used {the radar} so much, they were under so much rocket and mortar fire, that they became extremely proficient. So we learned from them.”

  133. says

    The Times – “Donald Trump impeachment: President called Boris Johnson for help to discredit Mueller inquiry”:

    President Trump personally contacted Boris Johnson to ask for help as he tried to discredit the Mueller investigation into possible connections between Russia and his 2016 election campaign, The Times understands.

    Mr Trump also contacted the leaders of countries including Australia and Ukraine to ask them to help William Barr, his attorney-general, to gather evidence to undermine the investigation into his campaign’s links to Russia.

    Robert Mueller, the special counsel, refused to exonerate Mr Trump of wrongdoing when he released his findings in April, prompting the president to set up his own investigation in an effort to prove that the inquiry was politically motivated….

    That’s all I have access to.

  134. says

    Bloomberg – “Giuliani’s Ukraine Work Tied to Firm Whose Website Has Vanished”:

    The website of the consulting firm that forged business contacts for Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine and Russia for more than a decade has suddenly vanished.

    Giuliani was dubbed “America’s Mayor” because of his New York City perch in the days after 9/11, but later he built a lucrative career in the private sector as a foreign security consultant.

    The genesis of many of those foreign connections was TriGlobal Strategic Ventures. The firm was set up in the U.S. in 2003 by a group of Russians and emigres from the former Soviet Union. Using the group’s network, Giuliani amassed security contracts around the globe, which continued even after he became the U.S. president’s unpaid lawyer last year.

    Those contracts, and who paid for them, are now coming under heavy scrutiny by Congress as it tries to trace his shadow diplomatic work for President Donald Trump in Ukraine.

    On Tuesday, the company’s website reverted to “TGSV – Coming Soon.”

    House Democrats are pressing ahead with an impeachment inquiry of Trump over his request that Ukraine investigate a political rival. They have demanded documents and communications among Giuliani, TriGlobal and its co-founder and president, Vitaly Pruss, going back to the beginning of the Trump presidency. Pruss has played a pivotal role in connecting Giuliani to the Ukrainians who make up the backbone of the House’s subpoena request.

    Another TriGlobal connection emerged on Tuesday. A member of the firm’s advisory board said in an interview with Bloomberg News that he was the one who invited Giuliani to a conference in Armenia where President Vladimir Putin of Russia spoke, along with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Giuliani had planned to speak but withdrew from the event after the public disclosure of his plans and those of the Russian president.

    TriGlobal’s website once provided more information about that board member, Ara Abramyan. A biography in June 2016 listed him as a “very close adviser to the Russian government’s inner circle including the President and the Prime Minister.” The description disappeared from the site the next year.

    Reached by phone and asked about the TriGlobal connection, Giuliani continued to direct attention elsewhere, namely on Trump’s political rival. “This is a diversion,” he told Bloomberg News. “TriGlobal is totally insignificant.”

    Giuliani’s work with TriGlobal dates to at least 2005, when the firm arranged for him to meet in New York with representatives of Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works PJSC, the Russian steel producer. TriGlobal has offices in New York, London, Moscow, Kyiv, Zurich and Vienna. No one answered any of the phone numbers listed on Tuesday, and most weren’t working….

    More at the link.

  135. blf says

    Re @216/@218, Just for fun, I ran that Finnish article, “Suomi kiinnostaa Yhdysvalloissa enemmän kuin koskaan” — Trumpin hallinnon asiantuntija odottaa Niinistön vierailun tiivistävän turvallisuusyhteistyötä (“Finland is more interested in the United States than ever” — Trump administration expert expects Niinistö’s visit to intensify security cooperation) through Generalisimo Google Translate. This is how it translated that first paragraph (and a bit more):

    President Sauli Niinistö will visit the White House, which has become a horn boiler, on Wednesday. Niinistö’s working visit program will include lunch with President Donald Trump followed by a press conference in the White House Garden.

    The press conference may become intense for reasons beyond Niinistö’s control. […] Niinistö will have to have a tongue-in-cheek speech at the White House, both at lunch and at a news conference.


    I think I prefer the “hellish pit” translation to “horn boiler”, albeit the later has some amusing possibilities…

    There actually is such a thing called a “horn boiler”, or more accurately, an “acoustic cleaning horn”, which is apparently basically an air horn used to shake free built-up particles (e.g., soot). Application of horn boilers to Wacko House might possibly be faster and more thorough than impeachment…

  136. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live States blog:

    Kamala Harris writes to Jack Dorsey requesting Trump Twitter account be suspended

    Lets [sic] return to some of the president’s [sic] inflammatory tweeting last night, in which he described the House impeachment inquiry as a COUP.

    We won’t embed the tweets here or reprint the contents due to their inflammatory and misleading nature […]

    As you’d expect the comments are drawing serious criticism from a number of high profile Democrat. Probably the most newsworthy of all these is from California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who issued a press release this morning saying she has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, requesting Trump’s account be suspended.

    The letter cites a number of recent inflammatory messages, including Trump’s suggestion that House Intelligence Committee Chairman should be arrested for treason.

    Here’s an extract from the letter her campaign attached to the press release.

    […] I write to call your attention to activity that President Trump has been engaged in on his Twitter account, which appears to violate the terms of the user agreement that your company requires all users on the platform adhere to.

    Twitter’s user agreement specifically states that users “may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so,” which includes “violence against an individual or a group of people.” Furthermore, the agreement states that the platform considers abusive behavior as “an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice,” and that it prohibits “the glorification of violence.”

    In recent days, President [sic] Trump published the following tweets from his Twitter account to target, harass, and attempt to out the whistleblower who set forth credible allegations that the President has abused his power by urging a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival.


    No user, regardless of their job, wealth, or stature should be exempt from abiding by Twitter’s user agreement, not even the President of the United States.

  137. blf says

    US attorney general ‘met Italian officials to discuss Russiagate’ :

    The US attorney general, William Barr, held at least two meetings with Italian intelligence officials in Rome on Friday as he seeks to trace the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s alleged collusion in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, Italian newspapers reported.

    Barr and US attorney John Durham met the officials after getting authorisation from the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, the Corriere della Sera reported.

    The scope of Barr’s investigation in Rome was to find out whether Italy had played a role in the so-called Russiagate affair, whether secret documents had been obtained and, in particular, to collate information on Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who allegedly told Trump’s former campaign aide George Papadopoulos in 2016 that the Kremlin was in possession of thousands of emails that revealed dirt about Hillary Clinton that could help Trump’s campaign.

    Papadopoulos later served a jail sentence for lying to the FBI about the claims that Mifsud, who has been missing since October 2017, was the source of his information on Russia. Papadopoulos also said, without evidence, that Mifsud was an agent of the Italian secret service who had sought to entrap him. Barr was reportedly also trying to find out whether Italian secret service agents had helped Mifsud to find a safe hiding place. The Mueller report said Mifsud had “connections to Russia” and former FBI chief James Comey has called him a “Russian agent”.

    Barr’s latest trip to Rome comes two months after he met UK intelligence agencies in London to discuss Britain potentially cooperating with Trump’s administration on the inquiry examining the FBI’s investigation into the alleged collusion with Russia, sources told the Guardian. Corriere reported that Barr first came to Rome in mid-August, when he met Gennaro Vecchione, the director general of the security intelligence department (DIS).


    The news of Barr’s latest visit emerged as the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, began a three-day visit to Italy on Tuesday. Pompeo has met Conte and the president, Sergio Mattarella, and will also be visiting his ancestral home in the Abruzzo region.

    Barr is reportedly pressing a range of foreign powers to cooperate with his effort to piece together the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia.

    Barr’s critics claim he is seeking to discredit the FBI investigation by constructing a vast conspiracy theory that foreign powers were working to secure Hillary Clinton’s election in 2016.

    The inquiry by the special counsel Robert Mueller showed that Russia was attempting to swing the presidential election in favour of Trump.

    Barr’s counter-attack has been given an added urgency as Trump seeks to find a way to block potential impeachment hearings. […]


    Italian newspapers reported earlier this year that for seven months after his disappearance, Mifsud had been staying in an apartment in Rome that was allegedly rented out by Link Campus University, where Mifsud had taught. At the time, the university denied any knowledge of Mifsud’s whereabouts. Link Campus University is where the Five Star Movement, currently ruling in coalition with the centre-left Democratic party, introduced its manifesto and recruited two of its ministers.

  138. tomh says

    Giuliani never disappoints.

    ‘Worse than McCarthy’: Rudy Giuliani suggests suing Democrats over Ukraine probe

    On Tuesday night, Rudolph W. Giuliani proposed an unusual legal strategy in response to the ongoing investigation into President Trump’s dealings in Ukraine: suing Democratic members of Congress.

    Speaking on the Fox News show “The Ingraham Angle,” Trump’s personal attorney said that he “had a couple of talks” with attorneys amid the accelerating impeachment probe and a House subpoena for his personal records concerning Ukraine. Their recommendation, Giuliani said, was “that we should bring a lawsuit on behalf of the president and several people in the administration, maybe even myself as a lawyer, against the members of Congress individually for violating constitutional rights, violating civil rights.”

    Host Laura Ingraham noted that Giuliani’s suggestion was “novel” and that congressional immunity prevents House members from being sued for anything they say on the floor. But outside those parameters, Giuliani argued, they could be held liable for forming a “conspiracy” to deprive the president of his constitutional rights.

    “This is worse than McCarthy!” he declared, an apparent reference to Joseph McCarthy, the former Republican senator from Wisconsin.


    When Ingraham tried to steer the conversation elsewhere, Giuliani offered up yet another hypothetical civil action, bringing up the anonymous whistleblower.

    “He might be telling the truth, but he might be lying,” Giuliani said. “Suppose there was a conspiracy to develop that with members of Congress. That wouldn’t be immune. That would be a conspiracy to violate civil rights.”

    Pressed on whether he had any evidence of such a conspiracy, Trump’s personal attorney replied, “I’m saying, suppose there could be.”

  139. blf says

    Also in Italy, but not obviously political, Faces for fallen trees: the man behind Rome’s tree stump sculptures:

    Andrea Gandini is breathing new life into the ancient city’s many decapitated tree trunks

    You may not know his face or name, but if you’ve visited Rome recently, chances are you may have seen his work.

    Sculptor Andrea Gandini […] is transforming tree stumps around the city by carving faces into them. In the last four years he has made 65 such sculptures in the capital as part of his Troncomorto (“dead trunk”) project, documenting his creations on his Instagram account.

    Gandini chose to carve faces because he believes they help elicit empathy and respect from passersby towards the tree stumps. “They respect the tree is also an individual,” he says. He tries to imagine what kind of face the tree would have if it was a person: “I try to find a face that’s right for that particular tree.”

    A lack of upkeep means the city’s streets have many diseased trees. “There was a big gap of five to 10 years where the trees were not taken care of properly,” says Gandini. “So there are a lot of ill trees that have to be cut down because no one took care of them. The city now has a lot of tree stumps.”


    Gandini has created a map on his website with the locations of the sculptures. Tour guides have started to include them on street art tours.

    There’s a selection of images at the Grauniad’s article, and some of them are really neat. But be sure to check the gentleman’s account (see embedded link) for some really amazing works (albeit I suspect not all of them are in Rome nor part of the Troncomorto project).

  140. lumipuna says

    blf #222, Just to nitpick on Generalissimo Google Translate, the title of that piece actually begins “Finland interests United States more than ever…”

    Also, the idiom used is “tongue in the middle of mouth”, which means more or less the opposite of tongue-in-cheek. (The latter idiom also exists in Finnish.)

  141. militantagnostic says

    SC @228

    PZ abruptly switches from Zebra Fish to Spiders and then Lady Hale wears a Spider Brooch while telling Boris Johnson that parliament has to be recalled. Coincidence? – I think not.

  142. blf says

    lumipuna@231, Thanks. The translated title didn’t quite seem to match the ghist of the translated article, so I was wondering. I couldn’t decide if the “tongue-in-cheek” was correct-ish or not, since it seemed plausible albeit unusual (not exactly according to protocol); e.g., the recent rant by the Luxembourg PM about brexit.

  143. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s live States blog (quoted in full):

    Clearly President [sic] Trump was watching that House Democratic press conference. He has taken to Twitter posting a typically furious, factually inaccurate and, this time, expletive ridden diatribe.

    The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306. Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!

    Adam Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honor and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. For a lowlife like Schiff, who completely fabricated my words and read them to Congress as though they were said by me, to demean a First in Class at West Point, is SAD!

    Also from the live blog, a tidbit from the press conference which was enraged hair furor:

    @RepAdamSchiff to the White House: “We’re not fooling around here.”
    He repeats that any attempt to stonewall Congress will be considered “further evidence” toward obstruction of justice

    @SpeakerPelosi on Trump’s attacks on the whistleblower: “The president probably doesn’t realize how dangerous his statements are.”

    @RepAdamSchiff taking it way back to make the case for the impeachment inquiry. He says it’s “hard to imagine a set of circumstances that would have alarmed the Founders more” than what Trump said on his call with the Ukrainian president

  144. blf says

    Echoes of the Nixon tapes? The transcripts that could doom Trump:

    Experts say the Ukraine call could be the tip of the iceberg — how many more compromising conversations have there been?

    What did the president say and when did he say it?

    Donald Trump’s politically catastrophic phone call with the leader of Ukraine, sufficient to prompt an impeachment inquiry, might just be the tip of an iceberg that could doom his presidency.

    On Monday it emerged that Trump urged Australia’s prime minister during a recent phone call to help the US attorney general gather information that he hopes will undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia.

    The White House restricted access to the call’s transcript to a small group of presidential aides, the New York Times reported, noting this was an unusual decision similar to the handling of the July call in which he pressed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig for dirt on a political rival.

    It raised questions: how many more compromising conversations have there been? Will the transcripts inevitably leak out with the help of more whistleblowers? And could their combined effect be enough to persuade Senate Republicans it is time to dump Trump, just as an incriminating tape led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon?

    “I think the conversations between Trump and world leaders stored in the White House server are critical, and could very well seal his fate,” said Chris Whipple, author The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.

    “A single conversation, recorded in black and white by a notetaker, has already been a game-changer. Trump’s mafia-style shakedown of the president of Ukraine has moved the needle dramatically. If there are other, similarly damning conversations to be found in the White House server, impeachment could gain critical mass in a hurry. And even this Senate might convict when confronted with that kind of evidence: Facts are stubborn things.”

    Whipple added: “The House must move quickly to preserve the notes of those conversations.”

    Unlike Nixon, or indeed any other US president in history, Trump had no prior political or military experience. His shallow knowledge, short attention span and tendency to wing it have been brutally exposed on the world stage. The public comments at a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, siding with the Russian president against his own intelligence agencies, were bad enough.

    But what he has said on the line from the Oval Office, White House residence or Air Force One, with officials typically producing a rough transcript straight away, may be worse.

    According to CNN, the president’s phone calls with Putin and the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman so alarmed White House officials that aides took “remarkable steps to keep from becoming public”. This included storing reconstructed transcripts of the calls on “a highly classified computer system” normally intended for closely guarded government secrets.

    [… T]he transcripts appeared to have been concealed to avoid embarrassment rather than security reasons. Democrats pursuing impeachment would give much to get their hands on this material, not least the content of the president’s dialogues with Putin, to whom his continued deference remains one of the great mysteries of the age.

    Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday: “If those conversations with Putin or with other world leaders are sequestered in that same electronic file that is meant for covert action, not meant for this, if there’s an effort to hide those and cover those up, yes, we’re determined to find out.”

    [… S]ecrets find a way, and the political momentum could become irresistible. Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in the governance studies programme at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, told an audience there on Monday: “It is very interesting how this issue may begin with Ukraine but end with Russia or Saudi Arabia or another country because it has now come out that there are hidden communications.

    “It reminds me of the revelation of the White House taping system during Watergate. Again, it was a throwaway: to was something that nobody ever even knew about, nobody knew it was going to happen. Once it was out there everybody said, ‘Oh, my god! This can do it.’”


    Kamarck added: “Now, I would assume that at some point in this process a subgroup of Democrats and Republicans with the properly high security clearances are going to have a look at that server and they’re going to have to say, ‘What’s in here? Is it all covert operations and military movements, or is it something else?’

    “What makes you suspicious is that server began to be used the day after the famous meeting between Trump and the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador, where they threw out the Americans and let the Russians stay. So there’s just a lot more to happen here.”

    As a practical matter, it’s important to secure — not just as a legal but as a practical matter — that server / system, its duplicates and backups. Nixon’s cronies managed to erase 18 minutes; hair furor’s cronies & dalekocrazy may be able to destroy everything.

  145. says

    Wild. MSNBC, naturally, is just airing Trump’s insane, dishonest rant (as he sits next to Niinistö) in full, with an insert in the corner of the screen showing the Dow dropping like a stone. Down almost 600 points now.

  146. blf says

    John Crace in the Grauniad on teh NKofE’s† PM’s blithering at the nasty part conference, More vacuity than vision in Johnson’s after-dinner chat to the faithful:

    The disconnect was almost total. A national crisis turned first into a North Korea tribute act then to a second-rate turn on the comedy circuit. Minutes before the Supreme Leader’s speech the cabinet filed into the hall like Stepford Wives and took their seats. Never before have so many mediocrities received such a long standing ovation. Moments later Stanley Johnson and Carrie Symonds got an even more enthusiastic reception. All hail the man whose sperm had created Boris! All hail the lucky woman who shared Boris’s bed! The audience was not worthy.

    […] Cries of BO-RIS, BO-RIS echoed round the hall as the Incredible Sulk slowly made his way to the front.


    On reaching the podium the Sulk had his first moment of self doubt. He’d really meant to write a proper speech. A serious, grown-up, speech for serious grown-up times. A manifesto for government. But what with one thing and another — his natural laziness, mostly — he’d never got round to it and it was only after breakfast that he had finally made a start. And then his mind had gone totally blank. So he’d done what he always did under these circumstances. Recycle a few of the gags from his old Telegraph columns and hope no one noticed […] before moving on to his central theme that parliament was essentially a total waste of time. Just a bunch of interfering nobodies who were stopping him from doing exactly as he pleased.

    That a UK prime minister should portray MPs as enemies of the people was extraordinary in itself. That a UK prime minister who had been elected by just 150,000 members of his own party should do so was breathtaking. But then hypocrisy has never bothered Johnson. Morals are for lesser mortals.

    As for Brexit, it was basically a breeze. Something that could be reduced to a couple of glib sentences. Whatever the EU might say to the contrary, the customs union and the Good Friday agreement were basically just trivial technicalities of little consequence. One way or another he’d get Brexit done. Or maybe he wouldn’t. He didn’t say how exactly, because he didn’t know. And didn’t much care. If it didn’t work out, he could always blame the EU. Or parliament. Anyone but himself.

    Ten minutes in, the Sulk realised that he’d basically said all he wanted to say and was tempted to wind things up. But then he remembered he was meant to keep going for at least 35 minutes, so he began to ad lib.

    “You’re entitled to ask about my core principles,” he said. Whoops. Not such a good line, as he didn’t really have any. Other than entitlement. This wasn’t the time to talk about his treatment of women and disregard for public money. Besides he couldn’t remember exactly what had happened — but if he could he would be certain it hadn’t happened.

    Then he just slipped into auto-pilot and moved to his favourite subject. Himself. Me, me, me. Punctuated by gags that hadn’t been particularly funny when he’d first told them years ago. […]

    There were lies. He lied about London being the most productive region of the EU. He lied about extending our membership of the EU, costing the country £1bn a month. But he didn’t care. […]

    Finally he was relaxed and enjoying himself. Lost in his own narcissistic world where he was totally killing it. Where everyone loved him. Which is all he had ever really wanted.

    What he missed was that the thing he was killing was himself. He was actually dying on his feet. Tory party members had come in search of a vision. A reason to believe after the despair of May. Salvation. Something prime ministerial. And what he’d given them was a vacuous after-dinner speech. They had heard better from a totally pissed father of the bride. The Sulk had shown he was a man for the small occasion.

    He got an ovation. Of course. The audience need him every bit as much as he needs them. They feel their world closing in and are desperate for a way out. A chink of light. But the applause and cries of Bo-ris, Bo-ris were notably less enthusiastic than when he’d arrived in the hall. Their emperor had no clothes.

    Some readers’s comments:

    ● “Thirty five minutes [of] having to endure the Great Waffle Machine.. Harpo Marx was more articulate than Boris Johnson.. and he just used an old brass horn and whistled..”

    ● “Somebody should tell him that he is supposed to be PM for the whole country, not a second rate stand-up for the 150k Tory members.”

    ● “Devoid of content, policy, principles and any sign of giving a flying one about the people of this country giving what he obviously plans to inflict on us”.

    ● “The highlight was watching the gradual realisation by the conference attendees that not only have they inflicted Johnson on the country, they’ve inflicted him on themselves too. The energy just leaked out of the room as he droned on.”

      † NKofE — N.Korea of Europe. Both teh N.Korea in Asia and teh “U”K are nuclear-armed states operated by a paranoid entitled clique with no concern for others.

  147. blf says

    This is an odd one in Al Jazeera’s so-called live blog (nothing like the Grauniad’s), Trump impeachment inquiry: All the latest updates (quoted in full, apparently dated today):

    Putin says he doesn’t mind if his calls with Trump are disclosed

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he would not object to his phone calls with Trump being published and that he always assumed his words could potentially be published whenever he speaks.

    US Congress is determined to get access to Trump’s calls with Putin and other world leaders, the US House Intelligence Committee’s chairman said on Sunday, citing concerns that the Republican president may have jeopardised national security.

    It’s not sourced, and my Generalissimo Google™-fu isn’t fu-ing, I cannot find either the source nor any confirmation. Loads on Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the opposite (see @50), including the original(?) Reuters report, Kremlin says disclosure of Trump-Putin phone calls would need Russian consent.

  148. blf says

    Doesn’t mention Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö, but I presume this is that press event, from the Grauniad’s live States blog (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Trump has used a brief press appearance at the Oval Office to lay into House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff again.

    Trump’s comments were riddled with misrepresentations and inflammatory language leveled at Democrats and members of the press pool.

    He says that Schiff should be investigated for treason over his questioning of the acting DNI Joseph Maguire in Congress last week.

    He {Schiff} made up my conversation. He actually made it up. It should be treasonous. He made it up. Every word of it. Made it up. And read to Congress as though I said it. I’ll tell you what, he should be forced to resign. Adam Schiff, he’s a low life. He should be forced to resign. He took a perfect conversation, realized he couldn’t read it to congress because it was a very nice conversation, Trump says.

    The comments Trump appears to be referring to are remarks Schiff made at the hearing, which he clearly signposted beforehand as a paraphrase that did not include direct quotation. […]

  149. says

    From the G: “No 10 Downing Street has just confirmed that the government will seek another prorogation of parliament next Tuesday ahead of a new Queen’s Speech on October 14.”

  150. says

    A snippet:

    FINNISH REPORTER: “Finland is the happiest country in the world.”
    TRUMP: “Finland is a happy country.”
    FINNISH REPORTER: “What can you learn from Finland?”
    TRUMP: “Well, [if? – SC] you got rid of Pelosi and you got rid of shifty Schiff. Finland is a happy country. He’s a happy leader, too.”

    Video, I hesitate to say, atl.

  151. blf says

    Heh. Stoopidity fixed before I got around to mentioning it here, in teh NKofE, Home Office in U-turn over NHS doctor facing deportation:

    The Home Office has abandoned its plan to deport an NHS doctor who has lived in the UK for 18 years, after its decision to throw her out sparked a furious backlash.

    Dr Mu-Chun Chiang will now be able to stay in the country and undertake the three years of training she began in August to become an NHS GP.

    “I’m happy and relieved but also frustrated that I have been put through this,” said Chiang, who last Friday was told she had to leave the UK within 14 days or face arrest and detention.

    “The fact that the Home Office are backtracking now surely shows that there was a flaw in their processes. I’ve been angry, but overall it’s a positive outcome.”

    Chiang, 27, was born in Taiwan but has lived, studied and worked in Britain for 18 years. She had to immediately stop working at a hospital in Liverpool — the first part of her GP training — as soon as she became aware that she was being thrown out of the country.

    The Home Office’s decision to deport her for a minor breach of the visa application rules sparked outrage among medical groups. They warned that such a harsh and “ludicrous” application of the immigration regulations would deter overseas doctors from coming to Britain to work in the understaffed NHS.

    The Home Office rejected Chiang’s application for a tier two work visa to cover the three years of her GP training from now until 2022, which is being paid for by Health Education England, the NHS’s staff training agency.

    Those seeking a tier two visa must be able to prove they have held at least £945 in their bank account for 90 consecutive days up until a month before they submit their application.

    But while Chiang had enough money in her savings account, she submitted statements relating to her current account, the balance of which dipped below £945 for some of the 90-day period.

    The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) fears that Chiang’s case may be “the tip of the iceberg” of foreign-born doctors who encounter problems obtaining either a visa or a visa renewal, often because of small errors in their application.

    The Home Office performed its U-turn soon after Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the RCGP’s chair, wrote to Priti Patel, the home secretary, asking her to intervene in Chiang’s case.


    The earlier article, NHS doctor faces deportation over visa application error, points out “The Home Office initially refused to consider the evidence about her savings account when she later submitted statements and explained her mistake, because she had not included them in her original application.”

  152. blf says

    Some confirmation on that odd Al Jazeera note (see @244), from Reuters, Putin backs Trump in US domestic row, jokes about election meddling:

    The US House Intelligence Committee’s chairman said on Sunday that Congress was determined to get access to Trump’s calls with Putin and other world leaders and cited concerns that Trump may have jeopardized national security.

    Putin said he would not mind if his phone calls with Trump were published and that, because of his intelligence background, he always assumed that his words could potentially be published whenever he speaks.

    “I haven’t done the work I do now my entire life and my previous experience taught me that any conversation can be published,” Putin, who once worked for the KGB, said.

    There are also confirming articles (possibly based on this Reuters report) from WSJ, CNN, and others.

  153. blf says

    Trump Reaches His Impeachment Breaking Point In Front Of Finnish Prez:

    Trump lobbed schoolyard-level insults at House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), arguing he wasn’t fit to carry Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s blank strap, an apparent allusion to a “jockstrap.” Trump then suggested that Schiff’s behavior was treasonous […]

    Trump claimed that the whistleblower was inaccurate and later suggested that the identity of the individual who filed the complaint should be disclosed, calling the complaint about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president dishonest. He then launched into a rant about Pelosi spending too much time on impeachment instead of all the needles and drugs all over the street in her district.

    That diatribe wormed it’s way into a tirade about the governor of California, the corrupt media and Trump’s Fourth of July military parade. He then returned to the whistleblower, arguing a whistleblower should only be protected if they’re legitimate. He also berated the Washington Post and the contents of a new book by New York Times’ reporters that disclosed his absurd requests for the border wall.

    Trump also mocked Democrats for thinking he would never in a million years release the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president, which is now the center of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

    Here’s where I fooled them, he said, claiming that Pelosi went crazy after she read the memo on the record of the call because, he argued, it didn’t outline the quid pro quo element discussed in the whistleblower complaint.

    The president of Finland said nothing, except to acknowledge that Finland is a happy country.


    I assume President Niinistö said that tongue-in-cheek (he writes tongue-in-cheek).

  154. johnson catman says

    JFC, the Orange Toddler-Tyrant may just have a stroke. What would he do if Pounce et.al. invoked the 25th amendment?

  155. blf says

    Whilst I don;t recognise all the Ozland(-specific?) references here, it’s nonetheless fairly self-explainatory — and perhaps not at all limited to Ozland — First Dog on the Moon in the Grauniad, Stay relaxed and comfortable, the government knows exactly where you are at all times always (cartoon), “The world can be a scary place”. First panel, transcribed one of the readers: “The world can be a scary place, that’s why this government is doing everything it can to protect decent, well frightened Australians from terror, baddies, vegans and fake news.”

  156. blf says

    “Please beam me up now, Scotty!” (albeit perhaps in Finnish, “Suojaa minut nyt, Scotty!” (according to Generalissimo Google™ Translate)): “The president of Finland as Trump rails against San Francisco, Los Angeles and the governor of California.”

    And, Finland’s president seemed very unhappy to be sitting next to Trump:

    Finnish President Sauli Niinistö just gave off some big Get Me Out Of Here Energy during a meeting with President Trump, and it looks like everyone noticed.

    The two leaders met in the Oval Office on Wednesday for a joint press appearance, during which Niinistö said a total of like one sentence and then stared in horror the rest of the time while Trump self-censored the word “jockstrap” and addressed questions about his impeachment inquiry, his July phone call with the Ukrainian president, and the House Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff.

    At one point Trump even attempted to pat Niinistö’s leg and Niinistö responded with a gesture and eye roll that screamed, “NO THANKS, DUDE!”


    Images at the links. I do hope the discussions between President Sauli Niinistö and the Wacko House occupant did not consist entirely of hair furor ranting.

  157. tomh says

    The Republican war on science continues.

    USDA relocation has delayed key studies and millions in funding, employees say
    Oct. 2, 2019 at 4:00 a.m. PDT

    The relocation of two Agriculture Department agencies out of the District of Columbia has delayed the publication of dozens of research reports, squelched early-stage studies and halted the release of millions of dollars in funding, USDA employees say.

    At the direction of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, two scientific agencies — the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service — moved to Kansas City this summer. Employees at NIFA manage a $1.7 billion portfolio of science funding. ERS is a federal statistical agency whose experts study agricultural trade, farming and rural America.

    Staff numbers at both agencies have plummeted by about 75 percent since the relocation. At NIFA, the employees who approve the grant paperwork and release funds are gone. The publishing staff at ERS did not accept the reassignment to Kansas City. The flow of research and grants from these agencies has slowed, employees said, piled up behind the logjam of empty desks.

    An internal ERS memo obtained by The Washington Post and first reported by Politico describes dozens of delayed ERS reports. Two USDA employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the document, confirmed the existence of this list, which was circulated among ERS managers in mid-September.

    According to a statement that USDA’s press office provided Tuesday, “ERS has taken important action to ensure mission continuity and delivery of mission-critical work throughout the transition, and as a result, the agency is on track to complete its mandated and calendared projects.”

    The nearly 40 delayed reports include studies into veterans’ diets, honeybee health and the opioid epidemic. Other reports address obesity, international markets and organic foods. These studies are completed but unpublished. Other ERS projects, in earlier stages, have been abandoned.

    Laura Dodson, an economist and acting vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3403, the union chapter that represents ERS employees, had been working on what was to be a two-year-long report on the herbicide dicamba. Soybean farmers use dicamba where weeds have developed resistance to another herbicide, glyphosate. But dicamba “has serious negative effects to neighboring farms who don’t plant dicamba-resistant seeds,” Dodson said. “It can essentially wipe out their whole crop.”

    ERS is “one of the few places, if not the only place right now, that has field-level data on dicamba drift issues,” Dodson said. The scientists who would have been her co-authors left ERS. Dodson will be unable to complete the study alone.

    At NIFA, program directors and grant reviewers ensured that unspent funds in danger of returning to the Treasury Department at the end of the fiscal year were successfully obligated (meaning the money has been designated for specific projects). But no staff remain at the agency who are able to approve the grant paperwork or authorize the funds’ release.

    As a result, tens of millions of dollars in approved grants are in limbo, set aside for recipients but unreleased. Funds for projects supported by NIFA’s competitive grant program, the $400 million Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, also have been delayed.

    USDA science agencies’ relocation may have violated law, inspector general report says

    In this link Mick Mulvaney (acting Chief of Staff) applauded the result, saying, “It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” Mulvaney said. “I know that because a lot of them work for me, and I’ve tried . By simply saying to people, ‘You know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out in the real part of the country,’ and they quit — what a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

  158. says

    Schiff spokesman Boland says whistleblower contacted Intel Cmte in advance of complaint. Says ‘This is a regular occurrence, given the Cmte’s unique oversight role..Committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General’

    ‘Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community’.”

    Evidently this was reported in the NYT and so of course Trump, Fox, and the trollbot army are treating it like the scandal of the century.

  159. says

    President Trump says he believes Rep. Adam Schiff may have helped write the whistleblower’s compliant because of reports that the whistleblower may have met with Rep Schiff before filing the complaint. ‘It’s all a scam’, Trump says.

    To be clear, this is the NYT story: [NYT link]

    And, there is nothing to suggest as of now that Rep Schiff helped write the whistleblower complaint.”

  160. says

    Matthew Rosenberg, NYT:

    NEW: Days before filing his complaint, the CIA whistleblower alerted a House Intel Committee staffer about the allegations of presidential wrongdoing, setting the stage for Adam Schiff’s showdown with the Trump admin

    The whistleblower first had a colleage share the allegations with the CIA’s top lawyer. But then, concenred with what was unfloding inside the CIA, the whistlebower turned to the Intel committee. In both cases, the accusations leveled were vague

    An Intel committee staffer, following the committee’s procedures, suggested the officer file a whistle-blower complaint. The aide shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff — but did not share whistle-blower’s identity with Mr. Schiff

  161. says

    I’ll just point out that during his various orange-red-faced rants today, Trump reminded us that he is a “stable genius,” and that he did this without irony and without any indication of self-awareness.

    At one point, the Finnish president had to interrupt Trump, saying, “I believe that question was for me.” That shut Trump up for about 30 seconds.

  162. blf says

    Whilst searching for on hair furor’s ChinaFinland Syndrome meltdown, I stumbled across this, Trump’s PR Meltdown:

    Hi Republicans.

    Long time, no talk. You and I used to do a fair amount of work together. But since the party took a collective hit off of a crack pipe and nominated a morally bankrupt reality show host to be president [sic], I haven’t been around much.

    Because if there’s one thing you guys don’t need, it’s help on the PR front. Trump is a communications genius! He’s his own press secretary! Look at all those Twitter followers, amirite?

    And yet, I can’t help but think the old comms strategy could use a tune up. So I thought I’d send along a few thoughts:

    ● Stop putting Rudy Giuliani on television. He’s drunk. Or maybe just addled? I don’t know — but it doesn’t matter because he’s going to get you all sent to prison by reading text messages from State Department officials out loud on Laura Ingraham’s show. Go to the zoo. Find an adorable penguin. [how about a mild one, well, a mildly deranged one? –blf] Put that little guy on instead.

    ● I see you have talking points. Great! Now all you have to do is not send them directly to Nancy Pelosi’s office. Oops. But let’s turn this negative into a positive by using it as an opportunity to come up with talking points that don’t insult the intelligence of wax fruit. Why don’t you try, “What the president did was unquestionably wrong and we apologize for abusing the power of the presidency for his personal political gain. It won’t happen again.” That’s not hard, is it?

    ● It’s great that you’re going on offense against Joe and Hunter Biden, that’s the right move. Republicans are the anti-corruption party, right? We cannot have an elected official occupying one of the highest offices in the land while simultaneously having his children profit from his office. So maybe — just spitballing here — you should have Ivanka, Jared, Eric, and Don Jr shut down their White House money-printing machine for a couple of months so people forget that this president [sic] is the least credible person in the world to make that argument about the Bidens.


    ● Someone tell Lindsey Graham that his hearsay talking point is a bad hill to die on. The argument that the whistleblower didn’t hear things first hand isn’t exculpatory. It’s actually just another good reason to investigate the whistleblower’s claims and talk to the primary sources.

    ● Evergreen advice: Take Trump’s phone, smash it with a hammer, and then hit any pieces leftover with BleachBit. Whatever it takes to make him to STOP. TWEETING.


    Now, I know what you’re thinking: Hey, this playbook worked for us the first time around with that whole Russia thing. A deft combination of whataboutism, obfuscation, preemptive framing, and misdirection is all we need to pull this off.

    Here’s the problem: Unlike the two-volume, 430-page Mueller report, the whistleblower report is 9 pages long. The central allegation is clear-cut and easy to understand. And it has already been proven true with the release of the call summary between Trump and Ukraine’s president.

    You can try to spin the facts and fall back on process-arguments — but the battlespace is much smaller and the tempo is much faster than the Mueller wars. Most people will be able to read the report and anyone who doesn’t can clearly understand what happened: The president [sic] was acting like a mafia don by talking about the kind of help he could give Ukraine and then asking for favors. I mean, even Chris Christie understands that this is a problem: In an attempt to pre-spin all of this before the call summary was released, Christie insisted that it would only be bad for Trump if he said something blatantly extortive. Like, do me a favor.

    Oops. Again.


    When it comes to crisis communications there’s a strategy that most professional comms people live by: Tell the truth. Tell it all. Tell it fast.

    It’s good advice for most people. But some clients are constitutionally incapable of it. Trump is one of them. Obviously. For him, telling the whole truth, quickly, was never really going to be an option.


  163. says

    NEW: The Justice Department told White House personnel on Wednesday that they must preserve all presidential records, including any notes regarding President Donald Trump’s meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders.

    —@kpolantz reports”

    Pretty sure this was the policy before. Were they just waiting for the necessary items to be destroyed?

  164. says

    Yahoo – “Nine dead as thousands protest across Iraq”:

    Popular protests multiplied across Iraq on Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators braved live fire and tear gas in rallies that have left nine dead in 24 hours.

    The demonstrations led authorities to seal off the Green Zone in central Baghdad and have posed the first major challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who formed his government a year ago this month and who controversially blamed the violence on “aggressors” among the protesters.

    Since erupting in Baghdad on Tuesday, the protests have spread to other cities in the country’s south, with crowds railing against state corruption, failing public services and unemployment.

    On Wednesday, five protesters and a police officer were shot dead in the southern city of Nasiriyah, a provincial health official told AFP.

    They brought the death toll in the protests to nine, including one protester who died in Nasiriyah on Tuesday and two others in a large demonstration in Baghdad that degenerated into violence.

    Later on Wednesday, military vehicles and security forces also deployed around the Green Zone, which hosts government buildings and embassies.

    Access to the area would be completely denied “until further notice,” a government source told AFP.

    The Green Zone had been inaccessible for most Iraqis since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but had reopened to the public in June.

    In the southern neighbourhood of Zaafaraniya, protesters burnt tyres on streets lined with police vehicles.

    “We want jobs and better public services. We’ve been demanding them for years and the government has never responded,” said Abdallah Walid, 27.

    Journalists covering protests in central Baghdad said security forces had assaulted them and detained one of their colleagues.

    “No state would attack its own people like this. We’re being peaceful, but they fired,” said unemployed graduate Mohammad Jubury in the nearby Al-Shaab district.

    Some 60 people were wounded across Baghdad on Wednesday, including nine from bullet wounds and the rest from tear gas inhalation, medical sources said.

    In addition to Baghdad and Nasiriyah, crowds also gathered in the holy city of Najaf and the flashpoint southern city of Basra, which was rocked by protests last year.

    Security forces have used live rounds to break up the Baghdad, Nasiriyah and Najaf protests.

    Tuesday’s bloodshed drew condemnation from President Barham Saleh, who urged “restraint and respect for the law”.

    “Peaceful protest is a constitutional right granted to citizens,” he said.

    The UN’s top official in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed “grave concern” on Wednesday, saying she “deeply regrets the casualties”.

    She urged authorities to “exercise restraint in their handling of the protests”.

    Unusually for Iraq, no political faction had explicitly called for Tuesday’s protest, which appeared to be largely spontaneous.

    The liberal newspaper Al-Bayina Al-Jadida said the protests were, “for the first time without flag, without poster or party slogan”.

    They follow months of simmering frustration with Abdel Mahdi over a perceived lack of progress on corruption, unemployment or services.

    Routine power cuts leave consumers without mains electricity for up to 20 hours a day and, according to the World Bank, youth unemployment runs at around 25 percent, or double the adult rate.

    Protests over the same issues engulfed Basra last summer and effectively ended Abdel Mahdi’s predecessor Haider al-Abadi’s chances of a second term.

    Abdel Mahdi now faces a similar challenge.

    He convened his national security council for an emergency meeting on Wednesday, after paying tribute to the security forces and blaming the violence on “aggressors who… deliberately created casualties”.

    Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told state media on Tuesday that “infiltrators were behind the violent acts in the protests”.

    Their statements drew widespread online criticism, as some other politicians had thrown their weight behind the protesters.

    Parliament has ordered a probe into the violence and its human rights committee criticised security forces for their “suppression” of the demonstrations.

  165. blf says

    Iran women married to foreigners can pass citizenship to children:

    Iran’s legislative vetting body has ratified a bill that allows children born to Iranian women and foreign men to obtain Iranian nationality, according to state media.


    Activists welcomed the move as long overdue.

    “Finally the Guardian Council approved the long awaited nationality draft law,” Tara Sepehri Far, researcher at Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.


    According to the New York-based rights group, it is not clear how many children in Iran are sons of a foreign father, but the issue has gained prominence in recent years due to a large number of marriages between Iranian women and Afghan men whose children were unable to obtain the citizenship on an equal basis.

    “Iran’s Parliament finally addressed a discriminatory law that prevented women from rightfully passing their nationality to their children,” Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in May when the bill was first introduced.

    “This law could improve the lives of thousands of children, including those with Iranian mothers married to undocumented migrants,” he added.

    According to the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, the Middle East is one of the areas with the highest concentration of gender discriminatory citizenship laws.

  166. says

    I am told by spokespeople for both
    @SenatorBurr and @MarkWarner that it would be standard practice for intel committee to tell a potential whistleblower to hire counsel and file a complaint with an agency IG or the IC IG.

    Bipartisan. Both parties say this.

    Susan Hennessey: “This person followed the rules every step of the way. Schiff has followed the rules every step of the way. People are trying to pretend as if following the rules is proof of wrongdoing.”

  167. blf says

    SC@271, Not just a policy, but mandated by law, Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978 (40 years ago).

    According to the cited Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge article:

    In May 2019, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Security Archive, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging that President Donald Trump and senior advisers such as Jared Kushner were failing to meeting their legal obligations under the Presidential Records Act to create and to preserve records of top-level meetings with foreign leaders.

    That’s based on this May 2019 UPI report, which seems relevant, CREW: Trump’s meetings with Putin, Kim broke the law:

    President [sic] Donald Trump and his son-in-law, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, allegedly broke the law by “intentionally” failing to keep records of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other foreign government officials, according to court documents.

    Filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the suit claims Trump and the Executive Office of the President violated the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act by not keeping records of meetings with foreign officials.


    The suit, citing news reports, states numerous instances where Trump allegedly held meetings with no note taker present or where no official US record of the meetings exists, while highlighting five meetings held between the president [sic] and Putin.

    The suit also states that following one meeting between the pair in Germany, Trump allegedly confiscated the notes created by a State Department interpreter and ordered him to not disclose what he had heard.

    “More recently, President [sic] Trump had a one-on-one meeting in Vietnam with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un with only two interpreters present, apparently leaving no US record of this interaction,” the court document states, referencing the recent second summit between the two leaders in Hanoi.

    The suit, also filed by National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, states that “these record-keeping failures” extend to Kushner who allegedly excluded State Department personnel from a recent meeting with top Saudi officials, preventing the creation of official records.

    “It is clear that President Trump and White House officials have gone to great lengths to hold high-level meetings with foreign governments and carry out foreign policy objectives while blatantly ignoring record-keeping laws and preventing national security officials and the American people from understanding what they are doing,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “The absence of records in these circumstances causes real, incalculable harm to our national security and poses a direct threat to transparency for the American public.”

    Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations President Barbara Keys said her organization has sued every president, Democratic and Republican, since President Ronald Regan to ensure the White House obeys record-keeping laws, but that this presidency “goes beyond improperly shredding records to the deliberate failure to create records in the first place.”


    I’m now wondering if some of the missing or (allegedly) never-made records are on the so-called “bin Laden” secure codeword system.

    It may also be worthwhile for the impeachment investigation to talk to the interpreter who, allegedly, had his notes confiscated and threatened to keep quite by hair furor.

    The Ye Pffft! article on the PRA also notes:

    In July 2018, CNN reported that The White House had suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Donald Trump’s phone calls with world leaders, two sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN, bringing an end to a common exercise from the Republican and Democratic administrations.

    That would seem to further squish the lie that releasing a summary of the meetings with Putin would need Russia’s approval. Hair furor’s daleocrazy isn’t releasing such summaries (perhaps not even always making them?), but releasing them was common and expected practice.

  168. says

    Raskin says ‘This is an irrelevant distraction from the matter at hand’

    He says what the State Dept. IG brought to him doesn’t relate to Trump’s conduct re: Ukraine.

    The IG turned over documents that contained mostly conspiracy theories, Raskin said.”

  169. says

    Bernie Sanders with the most Bernie Sanders tweet:

    Thanks for all the well wishes. I’m feeling good. I’m fortunate to have good health care and great doctors and nurses helping me to recover.

    None of us know when a medical emergency might affect us. And no one should fear going bankrupt if it occurs. Medicare for All!

  170. says

    More re the packet the IG delivered to the committees. Very strange.

    I don’t understand why anyone would have considered it urgent. Were the clues to reporters that this was about pressure and retaliation at State (see #251) part of a bait & switch/distraction from Pompeo revelations, a parallel story that just hasn’t come out yet, or evidence that someone got to the IG before the briefing?

  171. says

    I’ve got to say, all this desperate flailing around in search of some kind of procedural faux pas by the whistleblower is pretty damn comical. IF HE DIDN’T CHECK BOX 28A ON FORM C19 NONE OF IT COUNTS! THOSE ARE THE RULES, PROBABLY!!!

    (Checking the clock now to see how long it takes for some semi-literate who watched half an episode of Law & Order once to attempt to ‘educate’ me about their misunderstanding of the exclusionary rule.)”

  172. says

    Hmmmm: “Dem source says the WH ‘sent an envelope to Sec. Pompeo … The envelope contained a bunch of TRUMP HOTEL folders. Those folders contained notes from interviews that took place at Rudy Giuliani’s NYC office with various Ukrainians about debunked conspiracies related to Ukraine’.”

  173. blf says

    SC@280/@278, Or Raskin is confused, deluded, or a Putin / hair furor shrill?

    At the present time, the Grauniad’s live States blog expects the briefing is as reported by Reuters (Congress to get briefing on alleged retaliation against U.S. diplomats), about “‘potential political retaliation’ by department leadership against career officials over Ukraine”:

    Reports indicate that the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick has briefed a number of House and Senate Committees about recent instances of “political retaliation” by department leaders against career staff over Ukraine.
    Linick left Congress moments ago and we’re expecting further details on the briefing shortly.

    There are, of course, other possibilities.

  174. says

    A year ago today I posted:

    Concerning reports surrounding the apparent disappearance of #MBS critic [Jamal Khashoggi] shortly after a visit to the #Saudi consulate in #Istanbul.

    #Riyadh says he left the facility; Khashoggi’s wife says he never came out.

    Already, disparaging hashtags are spreading online…”

    I had forgotten that last part. They were ready to go with the public smears when they murdered and dismembered him while his fiancée waited outside. Chilling.

  175. blf says

    The Onion (the Onion’s “edits” in {curly braces}):

    ● ‘Are You The Whistleblower?’ Trump Boys Ask White House Janitor After Giving Him Serum Of All The Sodas Mixed Together: “Strapping the suspect to a chair and demanding to know if “he was the whistleblower, or else,” the Trump boys reportedly spent hours interrogating a White House janitor Wednesday after giving him a serum of all the sodas mixed together. “Well, well, well, Mr. Janitor, good luck keeping secrets from our awesome dad now that you’ve taken a sip of our super-powerful CIA brain juice,” said Eric Trump, prompting Don Jr to give the White House employee some more of the “truth sermon {sic},” which included a mixture of Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Powerade, Minute Maid, and Mr Pibb, after the custodian refused to talk. […] At press time, Eric had reportedly begun to hyperventilate after accidentally taking a sip of the 30-ounce soda cup, letting out a huge burp, and realizing that he might have been the whistleblower the whole time.”

    ● Pompeo Clarifies Anyone In Country Can Listen In On Trump Administration Calls By Picking Up Phone, Dialing 9: “Explaining that his presence on a phone call where President Donald Trump reportedly asked the president of Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden was completely above board, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo clarified Wednesday that anyone in the country can listen in on Trump administration phone calls by picking up their phones and dialing 9. ‘I’m not sure why the left-wing media and Democrats are so obsessed with the fact that I was on the Ukraine call when anyone in America can join simply by dialing 9 — just remember to hit the pound key afterward and it should take you right in,’ said Pompeo, further clarifying that while service was a little bit spotty in Alaska and some remote areas in the western states, any US resident with a phone could otherwise access every Trump administration call at any time. […] ‘We just ask that you stay on mute unless you have something meaningful to add, since it can get kind of chaotic in there. Heck, I was listening in on Trump’s calls with foreign leaders from day one of his administration, way before I was secretary of state. You can learn all kinds of things.’ […]”

  176. says

    blf @ #284, no, the briefing has been over for a while now. Raskin is a Dem on one of the committees. The Reuters and PBS reports about the IG urgently briefing them on retaliation were prior to the meeting. The people who were in the meeting all seem pretty perplexed.

  177. says

    OK, this is a possibility:

    Sen. Menendez: ‘We are just beginning to examine the documents provided by the State Department Inspector General, but they appear to contain long-debunked theories and false statements about the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and one of President Trump’s political opponent’

    ‘documents provide further evidence of a concerted, external effort to conduct a disinformation campaign against a career U.S ambassador … need to understand Secretary Pompeo’s role, given that it appears that he discussed these documents with at least one of his top aides’.”

    The documents allegedly reached the State counsel in May. So could be this, especially if this garbage played a role in the firing of Yovanovitch. Or could be some weird distraction/bullshit cooked up by the Trump crowd (which could also prove a problem for them). I’m curious about the sources for the earlier reports that this was going to be about “retaliation against State Department officials who are trying to cooperate with House Democrats.”

  178. blf says

    Donald Trump’s bizarre logic damages US allies’ trust in intelligence sharing:

    It really is a poke in the eye — the “Five Eyes”, that is. Donald Trump’s telephone call to [Ozland PM] Scott Morrison, revealed on Tuesday in the New York Times, where he pressed for help in investigating the origins of the Mueller inquiry, will doubtless put a further strain on what is otherwise a very close intelligence-sharing partnership between the United States and Australia.

    Why? Because aside from the unwanted political distraction of putting Australia at the centre of another Trump tirade […], the twisted logic of Trump’s allegation is truly extraordinary.

    Stripped bare of the thorns of conspiracy, what the man sitting in the Oval Office appears to believe is that Australian spies, part of a deep state in cahoots with American counterparts, aided by Britain, with ties to Ukraine, took it upon themselves in 2016 to devise a plan to subvert the will of the American people to elect one Donald J Trump.


    It must raise serious questions about trusting the most sensitive of national secrets to the US president [sic], when it cannot be clear what he might do with them. And just as importantly, the whole saga once again raises the danger of politicising intelligence material.


    This is nothing like ordinary and cannot be excused as another of Trump’s strange twittering tendencies. [… I]n Trump’s imagined takedown, that’s three of the five intelligence-sharing partners all implicated. By the US president [sic], no less.

    Think about that. This is not a mole or massive leak of the kind which has tested the intelligence-sharing partnership before, but a fundamental questioning of trust. […]


    There are a lot of misplaced assumptions about the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-controlling ability of spy agencies, and that’s where Trump appears to have suffered. Despite the Hollywood hype or the great Le Carré-esque fiction, the truth is that so much intelligence work is a matter of adding a fine focus rather than producing some great previously unknown revelation, fomenting a coup or causing some astonishing change in behaviour.

    Yet because spy agencies work in the shadows, never to confirm or deny their actions, nothing is ever proven. […]

    What doubtlessly fuels this plot is that it was Alexander Downer who as Australia’s high commissioner in London dobbed in then-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in 2016 for a drunken brag about Russia offering a trove of Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails. Downer, when he previously served as Australia’s foreign affairs minister, had oversight of Australia’s secret intelligence service.

    For Australians who have observed Downer’s political career over decades, the idea he would be embedded in an elaborate scheme to ruin the prospect of a Republican candidate, even one as oafish as Trump, simply does not pass the pub test. But again, some people will never be convinced by the absence of evidence. The US president [sic] appears to be one of them.

    [… Ozland should not] assume that Trump will keep secret any aspect of information obtained from Australia that either he or his officials believe will be helpful to Trump’s cause — no matter how tangential it might appear.


  179. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live States blog (quoted in full):

    Trump admin expands plan to collect DNA from migrants in detention

    The administration is moving forward with plans to collect DNA from hundreds of thousands of immigrants in federal custody and enter into a national criminal database, according to multiple reports.

    The Justice Department is developing regulations that would allow immigration officers to collect genetic information from most migrants detained at the border and at federal facilities. This would expand a pilot program that uses rapid DNA technology to collect data from families suspected of child trafficking.

    Once DNA is collected, it would be transferred to an FBI’s database currently used to store information about people accused or convicted of serious crimes.

  180. tomh says

    Apparently, his aides feel Pence was too dense to know what was going on.

    Trump involved Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, though aides say vice president was unaware of pursuit of dirt on Bidens
    Oct. 2, 2019 at 2:51 p.m. PDT

    President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.

    Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — at a time when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said.

    Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

    Officials close to Pence insist that he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to press Zelensky for damaging information about Biden and his son, who had served on the board of an obscure Ukrainian gas company, when his father was overseeing U.S. policy on Ukraine.

    Pence’s activities occurred amid several indications of the president’s hidden agenda. Among them were the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Kiev; the visible efforts by the president’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to insert himself in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship; as well as alarms being raised inside the White House even before the emergence of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint about Trump’s conduct.

    Perhaps most significantly, one of Pence’s top advisers was on the July 25 call and the vice president should have had access to the transcript within hours, officials said.

    Trump’s deployment of Pence is part of a broader pattern of using both executive authority and high-ranking officials in his administration to advance his personal or political interests — even in cases when those subordinates appear not to know that another agenda is in play.

    Officials close to Pence contend that he traveled to Warsaw for a meeting with Zelensky on Sept. 1 probably without having read — or at least fully registered — the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine.

    White House officials said that Pence likely would have received the detailed notes of the president’s call in his briefing book on July 26.The five-page document also should have been part of the briefing materials he took with him to Warsaw to prepare for the meeting, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

    But officials said Pence and his staff weren’t aware that the call had provoked alarm inside the White House — even though his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, had been monitoring it. It’s also not clear whether Pence failed to read the White House account of the call in his briefing book or read it and found it unremarkable.

    A Pence aide disputed the notion that the vice president was poorly prepared for his meeting with Zelensky, and pointed to the eventual outcome — that the Trump administration ultimately released the aid — as a sign of a productive meeting. The White House Counsel’s Office did not alert the vice president’s office to the existence of the whistleblower complaint until the day before it became public, the aide added.

    In his meeting with Zelensky, Pence conveyed the news that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine was not going to be released amid concerns about the country’s lagging efforts to combat corruption. He also emphasized Trump’s frustration that he thought the European Union was not doing a sufficient job in helping to provide aid. A participant in the meeting said Zelensky was “crestfallen” by the news, though a second participant described the meeting as “cordial” and Zelensky as understanding of U.S. concerns.

    At that point, Ukraine’s president had already spoken to Trump and was familiar with the president’s demands. Pence did not mention Biden or the dormant probe of Burisma, the company for which his son had served as a board member. But former officials said that Pence’s emphasis on corruption probably would have been interpreted by Zelensky as “code” for that issue, whether the vice president intended it or not.

    A top Pence staffer rejected the charge that the vice president was conveying an inappropriate — or coded — message from the president.

    “The president consistently raised concerns about corruption and the lack of burden sharing by European partners, so having run on an anti-corruption campaign, Zelensky was receptive to those messages,” said Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff. “The vice president, as your reporting says, reported back to the president after the meeting and the aid was released.”

    Pence often seems to be the last to be aware of major problems or scandals — a phenomenon that depicts the vice president as out of the loop at times. But it also helps insulate him from controversy within the White House.

    Pence’s staff was weighing whether to lead a delegation to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May, an important vote of confidence for the new Ukrainian president whose nation has come to view the United States as a bulwark against Russian aggression. Russia has annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine, and continues to foment a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

    The date of the inauguration had been in flux, the White House still had not dispatched advance staff and Secret Service to Ukraine, and no visit had been officially confirmed when the president instructed Pence not to attend, according to officials. A current and former official confirmed Trump’s instructions, which were also mentioned in the whistleblower report.

    “We do not comment on conversations between the president and the vice president,” Short said.

    Instead of traveling to Kiev for the May 20 inauguration, Pence attended a Trump campaign event in Jacksonville, Fla., and made an official trip to Canada later that month, officials said.

    A senior administration official said Pence was not among the handful of officials at the White House and the State Department who listened in on Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, which is a key element of the whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry.

    In the call, Trump asked for a “favor” and urged Zelensky to cooperate with Attorney General William P. Barr to look for compromising information about Hunter Biden. Without evidence, Trump alleged that Joe Biden used his influence as vice president in 2016 to kill an investigation into the gas company and his son.

    A few weeks before the call, Trump had ordered the suspension of all military security assistance to Ukraine.

    Kellogg, Pence’s top national security adviser, listened in on the call from the Situation Room, which was the standard practice, but did not see it as unusual or flag any concerns about it to the vice president, officials said.

    White House lawyers, alarmed by the call, quickly moved detailed notes of it from a widely shared internal computer network to one reserved for “codeword-level” records about CIA covert action programs and other highly classified material.

    The whistleblower, a CIA officer who learned about the call from dismayed White House officials, moved swiftly behind the scenes to assemble material from multiple sources and prepare a complaint.

    In early September, with a hurricane bearing down on Florida, Trump canceled a trip to Poland, where he was scheduled to attend a World War II commemoration and meet with Zelensky to discuss the frozen U.S. aid.

    Instead he sent Pence, with instructions to “take the measure” of the Ukrainian leader and inform him that the administration wasn’t going to release the aid until it had assurances that Zelensky was committed to fighting corruption, U.S. officials said.

    Just before the Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky in Warsaw, Pence declined to respond to a question from a reporter about whether the Trump administration would still allocate the security aid to Ukraine.

    “We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine on your security, on territorial integrity,” he replied.

    Zelensky replied that his administration was poised to “defeat corruption.”

    Once the meeting began, Pence faulted the E.U. for not providing more security aid to Ukraine, just as Trump did on the July 25 call, and also reiterated the administration’s position that Zelensky needed to do more to fight corruption.

    When Zelensky asked about the aid, Pence replied that the administration was “still looking at it,” a U.S. official said.

    At a news briefing the next day, Pence reiterated the administration’s “great concerns about issues of corruption” and expressed confidence that Zelensky was moving to address the problem.

    Upon his return to Washington, Pence told Trump that Zelensky seemed to have a “good heart” and “was good on anti-corruption and pushing back on the oligarchs,” said a U.S. official. The vice president expressed confidence that Zelensky seemed to be surrounding himself with “good people,” two officials said, and encouraged Trump to release the aid.

    A few weeks later — under pressure from Democrats and Republicans in Congress who saw the aid to Ukraine as critical to standing up to Russia and with Pence’s assessment that he should provide Ukraine with the support — Trump relented and released the aid to Ukraine. Pence and Zelensky spoke again on Sept. 18 in a call that U.S. officials described as somewhat perfunctory.

    Zelensky expressed gratitude for the aid and Pence wished him well on his upcoming meeting with Trump at the United Nations. Later that evening, The Post first reported that the whistleblower complaint, which was being withheld from Congress, involved Trump and a conversation with a foreign leader.

  181. says

    Ah, the old The Vice President Is a Dimwitted Hayseed defense.

    I sense a certain…tone in the piece (Ashley Parker was involved, right?):

    …Pence’s activities occurred amid several indications of the president’s hidden agenda. Among them were the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Kiev; the visible efforts by the president’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to insert himself in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship; as well as alarms being raised inside the White House even before the emergence of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint about Trump’s conduct.

    Perhaps most significantly, one of Pence’s top advisers was on the July 25 call and the vice president should have had access to the transcript within hours, officials said….

  182. blf says

    As one of the commentators note in @299, “That presser Raskin gave was pathetic then”. Which is, broadly speaking, an option mentioned in @284. As other commentators note, “so the White House is peddling conspiracy theories within other agencies in an attempt to target his political opponents”, and “the importance is not its content, but rather its provenance.” However, to be fair to Raskin, the Grauniad notes, at the end of ‘We’re not fooling around’: Pelosi and Schiff stand firm as Trump fumes: “[… Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin] said ‘there may be misconduct’ by the Pompeo and state department officials in distributing unsourced material.” The ghist I’m getting here is the IG was alarmed Wacko House and the dalekocrazy were — and still are — using obvious nonsensical & debunked conspiracy theories as the basis for action / inaction, as the reason for threats, and to guide foreign / diplomatic relations.

  183. says

    Sen. Schatz: “He did it. He said so. Don’t get it twisted waiting for another document, another piece of testimony and forgetting the plot. And the question is ‘what will congress, especially republicans, do about it?’ This isn’t about discovering a new ‘file’. We have everything we need.”

  184. blf says

    Ukraine’s nationalists rally against president over peace accord:

    Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists have demonstrated in Kiev against the signing of accords with separatists from the country’s east, Russia and European monitors in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

    Hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to allow a local election in Donbas that could lead to granting of a special status to the region, the protesters gathered outside his office on Tuesday night with banners reading slogans such as, “No to capitulation”.

    “The war is ongoing in the Ukraine’s east for almost five years,” Rodion Kudryashov, a leader of the nationalist National Corps party, said.

    “Ukrainian soldiers die there, shed their blood, volunteers provide aid. All of the community cares about a Ukrainian independent and sovereign state and then, in one day, all these efforts are being broken by such a capitulation statement.”

    Petro Poroshenko,Ukraine’s former president, was not at the rally in Ukraine’s capital but on Wednesday he also referred to the agreement as “a capitulation to Russia”.


    Zelensky said on Tuesday at a briefing in Kiev that the country agreed to a snap local election in the east, which has been controlled by Russia-backed separatists since April 2014.

    He sought to dispel fears about excessive concessions to the separatists, saying the election would be held only when Ukraine regains control of all its borders with Russia.

    “There won’t be any elections under the barrel of a gun,” Zelensky said in response to criticism that his administration bowed to Russia’s demands. “There won’t be any elections there if the troops are still there.”

    Separatist leaders and the Ukrainian government also pledged to pull back troops from two locations in the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions early next week.

    Zelensky insisted the local election would be held according to Ukrainian law, meaning all candidates and political parties should be allowed to run.

    Separatist leaders have rejected that idea in the past, saying they would not allow Ukrainian parties that included nationalist politicians to run.

    Both the separatists and Ukraine agreed the election will be considered valid as long as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe determine they are free and fair, Zelensky said.

  185. says

    Erin Burnett on CNN just I think reported that Giuliani has said he supplied some of the documents that appeared in the State IG briefing. Possibly Raskin, along with many of us, thought it was so ridiculous and over the top (there are Trump Hotel envelopes in the packet and some labeled “The White House”) that it couldn’t possibly have been a real thing. So maybe Raskin just spoke prematurely? The whole thing is still weird.

    Also, ewTrump apparently has a crush on her.

  186. says

    “Ukraine’s nationalists rally against president over peace accord.”

    I’m bothered by this headline. I wouldn’t want my country to be invaded and occupied by an expansionist regime, and I wouldn’t consider myself a “nationalist.” Also, “peace accord” gives it a positive spin.

  187. blf says

    Scotch whisky and French wine hit by $7.5bn US tariffs:

    The US is set to impose $7.5bn (£6.1bn) of tariffs on exports from the EU including scotch whisky, French wine and cheese and aircraft in retaliation for subsidies given to the aerospace group Airbus after a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling.

    The mildly deranged penguin is hooping and hollering, this means there’ll be more cheese and whisk(e)y and cheese and vin and cheese available. Locally, that is…

    The tariffs announced on Wednesday could come into effect as early as 18 October and represent a significant widening of the Trump administration’s trade dispute with the EU, adding to growing tensions in the world economy.


    The US has also imposed a 10% levy on EU-made airplanes that could hurt US airlines that have ordered billions of dollars of Airbus aircraft.

    Food importers in the US were dismayed by the move and said the levies would hurt the upcoming crucial Christmas sales period.

    “It looks pretty bad. They hit cheese hard,” said Ralph Hoffman, a vice president of the Cheese Importers Association of America.


    The EU said on Wednesday it would retaliate if the US imposed tariffs. Cecilia Malmström, the EU commissioner for trade, issued a statement saying the EU had shared proposals on settling the dispute in July.

    She said: “Our readiness to find a fair settlement remains unchanged. But if the US decides to impose WTO-authorised countermeasures, it will be pushing the EU into a situation where we will have no other option than to do the same.”

    The WTO ruling is the latest blow in a 15-year battle between the European manufacturer and its US rival, Boeing over state aid given to the companies. Next year, the WTO is preparing to rule on what tariffs the EU can impose in retaliation to US state aid given to Boeing.

    The case, first brought in 2004, involved aid given to Airbus by EU nations for the development of its A380 superjumbo jet and the smaller A350. The US alleged that Airbus illegally received loans on preferential terms and billions of euros in grants. The WTO, which is tasked with settling trade disputes, gave a mixed verdict in 2010, which was followed by years of appeals.


  188. consciousness razor says

    for SC, re: #309
    I was worried for a moment that it wasn’t sarcasm. It’s surprising how far that can go nowadays, before it becomes apparent.

    “There are different ways to bake the cake, depending on what sort of cake you want. Different flavoring, different temperatures, different ingredients yield different types of cake, and the president as the master baker is testing recipes and deciding what type of cake he wants.”
    — a senior official, explaining President Trump’s approach to impeachment to The Post on Monday.

    For the last time, this is all part of the plan. Getting himself impeached is actually a strategic triumph for President Trump, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just not playing chess in enough dimensions. Consider what is the greater mark of strategic genius: to mire yourself and your administration in an endless series of idiotic and pointless controversies, often rife with misspellings, damaging your standing at home and abroad, or to NOT do that? If you say the second, you are a fool. This is all part of the plan. Actually, this is good. Actually, this is great.
    I repeat, every move that Trump makes, has made or is making, currently, with the president of Finland sitting helplessly by his side, wearing an expression of alarm, is planned. It is a genius plan. It might look like the random, haphazard flailing of a cat that has gotten its head stuck in a bucket. But actually he is in total control.

    A brief musical interlude

    He is like a master baker, preparing everything just exactly the way he would like it. You can’t make a cake without breaking eggs! That is why he has broken all the eggs and will not stop breaking eggs until there are no eggs anymore. He is baking the chess pieces into a cake, and it is brilliant, and that is why no one has thought to do it before. If it looks messy, if it looks like he is covered in batter and surrounded by trolls and incompetents and family members (but I repeat myself) — well, that is not correct. I’m embarrassed that you would think that maybe he did not know what he was doing, just because he looked and sounded and acted like he did not know what he was doing. Really, the fool here is you.
    Ah, the genius of this man! Moriarty wept, and also the Borgias, and also Jesus, although that may have been for unrelated reasons. His is the shrewdness of Alexander the Great, cutting through the Gordian knot. He has the vision to cut through things, even if the things he is cutting through say “THIS IS LOAD-BEARING, DON’T CUT.” He dares to push the buttons labeled “DO NOT PUSH: WON’T DO ANYTHING GOOD, AND WILL RELEASE OPOSSUM.” There is no puzzle, norm or rule of whatever degree of complexity he cannot immediately dismantle with a single movement.
    Don’t embarrass yourself by saying, “This is embarrassing!” or “That is not how you spell ‘little’ ” or “That isn’t a hyphen” or “A *MOAT* with ALLIGATORS? Oh, for blank’s sake.” Don’t you see? You are playing into his hands. He wants you to get caught up in this!

    Admittedly, he does…. Well, whether or not he literally wants that, it doesn’t hurt him for us to be caught up in this, and in fact he only cares about himself, not this country or other human beings or decency or anything else.

    Only to someone with a small, sad brain like yours would these seem like the movements of a lost, perplexed, damaged person who did not understand what a hyphen was and was too embarrassed to ask, who thought “jock strap” was a dirty word, who genuinely has a temper tantrum when told a moat full of alligators around the country would neither be good nor feasible. This man is astronomical units beyond our frail capacity to understand. The kind of chess he is playing has not even been invented yet. If he appears to be chewing on the pieces and crying, that is its strategy.
    It has to be! It cannot be that he is exactly as he appears, that I am doing all this on my own, that I have poured all my intellect into a bottomless void around which time itself seems to warp. It cannot be that he is exactly as he appears. Or why else would he be defeating me?

  189. says

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the extent to which Pence is aided by epistemic injustice. He’s the quintessential straight cis white well-off Christian man, and as such is afforded extreme benefit of the doubt. Which he exploits.

  190. consciousness razor says

    If you’re trying to give me Bible camp flashbacks, you’ve succeeded.

    I was in Christian schools from preschool (evangelicals) through high school (Catholic, like my family) until I finally escaped to college. I had to spend several summers with the preschool Bible-thumpers too, since they had such a program for kids up to 8 or 10 — I didn’t like sports, and my parents needed to do something with me each summer. In some ways and as far as I know, they were better than the child molesters the RCC sent to my diocese….
    I feel your pain.
    Trump’s … aficionados might have a different favorite sing-along for all I know, and I don’t honestly understand them. I suppose they must be stable geniuses as well, if they can even purport to imagine the magnitude of his greatness. Or a bunch of petulant, childish assholes? Maybe both? Or perhaps “(d) Pat Buchanan”?

  191. tomh says

    @ SC #309
    I can still access WaPo in private mode (incognito on Chrome, which I use) though I have to log in with my free account each time (easy enough to automate). After 2 articles I have to close the window and open another but I’m surprised you’re having trouble.

  192. blf says

    Two different nutters in Ozland, both deluded loons, one an actual nazi. Only one has been dealt with:

    ● Naturopath who said bicarbonate soda cures cancer banned for life by health watchdog:

    A naturopath who told vulnerable clients that their cancer was a fungus that could be cured with bicarbonate soda rather than through conventional medical treatment has been barred from practising for life […]

    The commission’s investigation found [Barbara] O’Neill never held any membership with any accredited professional health organisation and had failed to obtain any relevant health-related degrees or diplomas. According to the investigation she also failed to keep records of consultations with clients, falsely claimed to be able to cure cancer, did not treat clients in a safe or ethical manner and posed a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.

    She has been permanently barred from providing any health services either voluntarily or in a paid capacity, including giving lectures. It comes after the commission received numerous complaints about O’Neill between October 2018 and January.

    These included complaints about dietary advice for babies that O’Neill published on her personal website which, if followed, would lead to the child’s death or injury. According to the HCCC’s [New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission] decision, O’Neill told the commission the dietary advice was based on her own experiences and she had never read the National Health and Medical Research Council’s infant feeding guidelines for health workers, which provide evidence-based recommendations.

    A complaint was also received by the commission after O’Neill allegedly gave a lecture promoting the discredited theory that cancer is a fungus. The investigation found she encouraged clients to remove essential food groups from their diet such as fruits and carbohydrates, and to instead use probiotics and bicarbonate wraps to treat their cancer. According to the investigation, O’Neill falsely claimed in one lecture that a doctor had a 90% success rate curing cancer with sodium bicarbonate injections. She produced no evidence to support the statistic.

    [… and on and on — life-threateningly dangerous woo-woo…]

    The commission found that O’Neill is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and usually delivered health lectures to congregants at church-organised events, and also lectured overseas and performed telephone consultations for a fee. […]

    Woo-woo loons for magic sky faeries!

    ● Peter Dutton accused of sounding ‘like a dictator’ after urging welfare cuts for protesters:

    Home affairs minister also recommended mandatory jail sentences and public shaming of climate change activists

    Protesters who disrupt traffic should have their welfare payments cut and be subject to mandatory jail sentences, Peter Dutton has declared, as conservative MPs continue to lash out against climate change protests.


    Community expectation is these people are heavily fined or jailed and they should be jailed until their behaviour changes because they are putting lives at risk, he told Sydney radio 2GB.

    They’re diverting police and emergency service resources from tasks that they should be undertaking otherwise and they keep turning up week after week because they know a slap on the wrist is just not working.

    Dutton called for protesters to be publicly shamed.

    People should take these names and the photos of these people and distribute them as far and wide as they can so that we shame these people.

    Let their families know what you think of their behaviour.

    The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said legislation was already in place to deal with protesters who broke the law, but the government was going too far in suggesting peaceful protesters have their income stripped.

    “Peter Dutton doesn’t know what living in a democracy means,” he told the ABC. […]

    Which is one reason I refer to the dolt as teh nazi-in-government. He’s also responsible for the worsening conditions in Ozland’s concentration camps in Manus and Nauru. He also promotes the discredited conspiracy theory white farmers in S.Africa are being “ethnically cleansed”, and on and on. And on… (He’s extremely probably a global heating catastrophe denier, albeit at the moment, I have no specific recollection one way or the other…)

  193. John Morales says

    blf, true enough.

    But then, in the USA, they’d comparatively be bleeding heart socialists.

    (Give us a bit to catch up!)

  194. says

    By the end of the day yesterday, my brain was fried. But the Rudy Dossier story is also bizarre. I didn’t see Raskin’s original press round, but I saw him on both Chris Hayes’s and Lawrence O’Donnell’s shows, and he made perfect sense – it was the events he was describing that are bizarre.

    It appears this is what happened: Giuliani compiled this propaganda packet in the spring, sorted in Trump Hotel folders and packaged in an envelope addressed to Pompeo in elaborate calligraphy and made to look like it’s coming from the White House. (Why the calligraphy? Why? Who thought to do that? Who actually did it? Why did they try to make the envelope look kind of like an official WH one? Why? It’s so bizarre.)

    The packet was delivered to Pompeo in late April or early May. It contained John Solomon hit pieces, notes from Giuliani’s discussions with some characters from Ukraine, and other rubbish. It was all about conspiracy-theory attacks on Yovanovitch, Joe and Hunter Biden, and the Russia investigation.

    It’s unclear what Pompeo made of it or to whom at State he distributed it or with what message. The State Dept. counsel’s office gave it to the State IG, Steve Linick. From the Schiff/Engel/Cummings statement:

    The Inspector General stated that his office interviewed Secretary Pompeo’s Counselor, Thomas Ulrich Brechbuhl, who informed the Inspector General that Secretary Pompeo told him the packet ‘came over,’ and that Brechbuhl presumed it was from the White House.

    Linick turned it over to the FBI, and it’s not clear what they made of it. The State Department issued a statement in support of Yovanovitch, but she was recalled on May 20th.

    Needless to say, this is all ridiculously shady on Trump’s and Giuliani’s part, and not at all something that should be happening at the State Department.

    Yovanovitch and Brechbuhl, who are State Dept. employees, were scheduled to be deposed by congress yesterday and next week, respectively, and Pompeo has been interfering. Yovanovitch’s deposition is now rescheduled for next week (the 11th), but I’m not sure about the status of Brechbuhl’s, which is supposed to be on Tuesday (the 8th). (Or that of EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, scheduled for the 10th.) Seems like Pompeo knows he can’t stop Yovanovitch or Volker from talking to congress, but really wants to block congressional investigators from getting Sondland or Brechbuhl under oath.

    Volker’s deposition is today!

  195. says

    Ha – hours after I posted #269 – WaPo (obtained indirectly – I’ll have to work on my access issues when I’m not so distracted with other matters) – “Odd markings, ellipses fuel doubts about the ‘rough transcript’ of Trump’s Ukraine call”:

    President Trump said Wednesday that his controversial July call with his Ukrainian counterpart was transcribed “word-for-word, comma-for-comma,” an assertion that fueled growing questions about the nature and completeness of an official memorandum about the call released by the White House last week.

    “This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, taken by very talented stenographers,” Trump said.

    White House officials previously had portrayed the document as not a verbatim transcription but rather a summary that closely tracked the words the president used in his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. They said it was being released in a bid to bring transparency and clarity to a call at the heart of a consuming political scandal that has sparked a House impeachment investigation.

    But the whistleblower complaint that spurred the investigation described an “official word-for-word transcript” of the call — words closely matching the ones used by Trump on Wednesday — creating uncertainty about what was included in the document the White House released last week and what may have been left out.

    Current and former U.S. officials studying the document pointed to several elements that, they say, indicate that the document may have been handled in an unusual way.

    Those include the use of ellipses — punctuation indicating that information has been deleted for clarity or other reasons — that traditionally have not appeared in summaries of presidential calls with foreign leaders, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the elaborate, non-public process.

    Others have noted the brevity of a document purporting to represent a call that lasted 30 minutes….

    The memorandum of Trump’s call with Zelensky appears remarkably different in speed and content from the full transcripts of calls between President Trump and foreign leaders The Washington Post obtained in 2017.

    The record of the presidential call with Zelensky, which is labeled “MEMORANDUM OF TELEPHONE CONVERSATION,” was marked as having been produced by note-takers in the White House Situation Room, as is standard for calls with foreign leaders. The record, however, is unusual for lacking a tracking number that would normally indicate it had been circulated to senior subject experts and the national security adviser’s office for review and edits. Instead of a “package” number, the memo released by the White House carries a stamp saying: “PkgNumberShort.”

    The document additionally carries classification markings that Situation Room staffers do not normally add when they create a word-for-word transcript, current and former officials said.

    “I thought to myself, ‘This didn’t go through the normal process,’ ” said one former government official who was among several who handled these records and found the document released by the White House curious.

    The whistleblower said in his complaint that multiple U.S. officials had alerted him that “senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.“

    Such phone calls also typically create at least two types of documents: a verbatim transcript made by note-takers in the White House Situation Room and an edited summary that is more widely circulated.

    “The one that was released is not the one the Situation Room created,” said one person familiar with the creation of records of calls with foreign leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secretive process. “That’s just not possible.”

    southpaw: “I’ll admit that I’m not prepared for the day, if it ever comes, when it’s revealed that the call summary clearly outlining an impeachable offense was a cleaned up version of something worse.”

  196. says

    Australia’s Ambassador to the US, the honorable and amazingly-aptly-named Joe Hockey, responds to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):

    ‘In your letter you made mention of the role of an Australian diplomat. We reject your characterization of his role’.

    [link to Hockey’s tweet]

    Sen. Graham had written to Australia yesterday outlining the conspiracy theory the Trump admin has been pursuing, including that the Australian diplomat ‘was… directed’ (Sen. Graham doesn’t say by whom) to contact George Papadopoulos and pass his info to the US’s FBI.

    Does Graham know how crazy it is to write to a close US ally on Senate letterhead and off-handedly tell them that their former foreign minister was directed by parties unknown to sabotage a US presidential campaign? Here’s a link to the letter:…”

    Sorry, Australia.

  197. John Morales says


    Sorry, Australia.

    Heh. You do recognise diplomatic language when you see it, no?

    (In case you were not aware, Downer was pretty high up. Party leader and foreign minister, with oversight over Australian intelligence and security services. Got a nice cushy job these days)

  198. KG says


    The demos in Ukraine may well be by the Ukrainian nationalist extreme right, which is a very real phenomenon. See for example these reports in The Guardian, and The Daily Beast. Whether Zelensky is right or wrong to accept the “Steinmeier Formula”, I don’t have the knowledge to judge, but with Ukraine highly dependent on Trump’s whims, he’s clearly in a very difficult situation.

  199. says

    John Morales @ #329, not sure what you’re getting at. Yes, “We reject your characterization of his role” is a polite, diplomatic way of dismissing Graham’s loony and insulting conspiracy theorizing.

  200. John Morales says

    Sorry, SC. Kinda like I wanted someone to correct me for a good reason for a change.


  201. says

    KG @ #330, I’m aware of the far-Right in Ukraine, and have no doubt the nationalist Right actively opposes the move. But what I’ve seen, which admittedly isn’t that much, suggests that it’s a misleading generalization. These look like rightwing nationalists. This and #301 above don’t to me.

    Whether Zelensky is right or wrong to accept the “Steinmeier Formula”, I don’t have the knowledge to judge, but with Ukraine highly dependent on Trump’s whims, he’s clearly in a very difficult situation.

    Absolutely. And so are the Ukrainian people.

  202. KG says

    In the first of your links@301, toward the left, you can see a red-and-black flag (horizontally divided, red above, black below). This is the flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a WWII military formation which was led by members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Bandera Faction, which fought mostly against the Red Army, and indulged in extensive ethnic cleansing of Poles. So even if they don’t make up most of the crowd, the extreme right nationalists are certainly there, and able to wave their banner without opposition.

  203. says

    KG @ #338,

    I don’t doubt that they’re there. The BBC image seems to show that pretty clearly. But that does look like one person pulled out a flag for a few seconds in a large crowd. Like I said, I don’t know the situation well but don’t think “Ukrainian nationalists” captures the entirety of the demonstrations. Which seem relatively small so far, but Zelenskyy appears to be working to quiet people’s fears, nothing has really happened yet, and I’m sure people want to give him a chance and don’t want to create an image of instability. But I think people have good reason to be extremely apprehensive at best about the move under the circumstances.

  204. says

    Julia Davis in the Daily Beast – “Russians Praise Trump, Taunt Zelensky, as Ukraine Signs On to Peace-Plan Proposal”:

    Existential dread washed over the face of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, as he sat next to the American president during their joint press conference on the sidelines of the UN. Donald Trump, as the face of Ukraine’s most powerful ally in its struggle against Russian aggression, was telling him: “I really hope you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.”

    Having lost more than 13,000 people in an ongoing conflict with its belligerent neighbor, Ukraine was now being told to make a deal with the aggressor, because—according to President Trump—“President Putin would like to do something.”

    During the same conference, Zelensky pleaded with Trump for help with returning the territories occupied and annexed by Russia, and, egged on by Trump—and contrary to the facts—complained that Europe wasn’t doing as much as the United States to help Ukraine….

    While that disclosure infuriated Ukraine’s European allies, Trump in the now infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky blamed Ukraine’s troubles on the Obama administration, dismissively concluding “it’s just one of those things” and directing Zelensky to ask for more help from Europe. Since the call’s release, Ukrainians have nicknamed their president “Monica Zelensky,” as a jab referring to his part in the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump.

    Backed into the corner and seeming to stand alone there, Zelensky made a step toward a deal with Putin by officially signing up Ukraine to the Steinmeier Formula….

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the signing of the Steinmeier Formula agreement as a “positive” development. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee, who is under U.S. sanctions for “worldwide malign activity,” said the signing represents “without a doubt, a victory for common sense and an overall success.” In stark contrast to Russia’s jubilation, hundreds of Ukrainians in Kyiv have protested, demanding “no capitulation” to the Kremlin and its proxies.

    The most controversial aspect of the Steinmeier Formula is that it provides for local elections to take place in the occupied parts of Ukraine before Kyiv has control of the border and prior to the withdrawal of the Russian-backed forces.

    This condition doesn’t seem to match up with Zelensky’s understanding of the agreement. After signing on to the Steinmeier Formula, the Ukrainian president declared during a news conference that the elections would not be held “under the barrel of a gun” and would take place only when no troops remain in the separatist-held areas.

    “What Ukraine was so afraid of has happened… Zelensky doesn’t understand what he signed,” concluded Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the nightly The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev on Russian state television.

    The heads of Russia-backed separatist pseudo-republics in eastern Ukraine openly proclaimed in a public statement that “the Kyiv authorities won’t get any control over the border” and vowed that LPR and DPR will make decisions “about integration with Russia” of their own accord. “Forget about controlling the border, once and for all,” exclaimed political scientist Sergey Kurginyan, appearing on The Evening.

    During a panel discussion at the Russian Energy Week forum, Putin said that Zelensky “will have to decide how the relations between Ukraine and Donbas will develop,” pointedly referring to Ukraine’s own region as a separate geopolitical entity. Putin opined that Ukraine “did much better when it was a part of the Soviet Union, along with Russia.”

    Appearing on Russia’s state television program 60 Minutes, Oleg Nilov, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, asserted that Ukraine was “forced to sign” the Steinmeier Formula—and proceeded to threaten the country with “the Israeli formula” of taking all the land Russia wants, if Kyiv reneges on the deal.

    “Trump let Zelensky down. Three times he told him: ‘Go meet with Putin,’” said Olga Skabeeva, the host of 60 Minutes. During the same program, Nikolai Platoshkin, head of the International Relations Department at Moscow University for the Humanities, predicted that once all the “formulas” have been exhausted, LPR and DPR will ultimately become a part of the Russian Federation. Skabeeva concurred: “The sooner the better.”

    She surmised: “After his ‘triumphant’ meeting with the American president, Zelensky had no choice but to lie back and enjoy it… We know what happened in the United States. You have nowhere left to go.”

  205. says

    Guardian – “EU parliament: Boris Johnson Brexit plan not remotely acceptable”:

    The European parliament has told Boris Johnson that his proposals for the Irish border do not “even remotely” amount to an acceptable deal for the EU, in comments echoed by Ireland’s deputy prime minister.

    The committee of MEPs representing the parliament’s views on Brexit said the prime minister’s proposals could not form the basis for an agreement, describing them as a “last-minute” effort. The European parliament will have a veto on any withdrawal agreement.

    “Safeguarding peace and stability on the island of Ireland, protection of citizens and EU’s legal order has to be the main focus of any deal,” it said in a statement. “The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop.”

    Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister and deputy to the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, reiterated those concerns.

    He said: “My judgment is that Boris Johnson does want a deal, and the paper published yesterday was an effort to move us in the direction of a deal … but I agree that if that is the final proposal, there would be no deal.”

    Guy Verhofstadt, the former prime minister of Belgium, who coordinates the European parliament’s Brexit steering group said it was “nearly impossible” to see how a deal could be secured on the basis of the proposals.

    He pointed to a leaked script handed to Conservative MPs by the party, which instructed them to attack the EU as “crazy” if it rejected proposals as an indication of Johnson’s insincerity about wanting a deal.

    “If there is a Tory document saying that they have to blame the European Union then it’s obvious that that is the purpose,” he said.

    The prime minister had said in his letter to the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, accompanying the legal text of the UK’s proposals for replacing the Irish backstop that his ideas amounted to a “broad landing zone” for a deal.

    He will now be tested by the EU on how far he will compromise on the key areas of contention, in particular on the imposition of a customs border on the island of Ireland, a seeming red line for the new government….

  206. says

    From my #342 above:

    Since the call’s release, Ukrainians have nicknamed their president “Monica Zelensky,” as a jab referring to his part in the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump.

    I’m sure Monica Lewinsky is thrilled about this.

  207. says

    From the G liveblog earlier:

    Jeremy Corbyn is responding to Johnson.

    He says this is a rehashed version of plans that have already been rejected.

    These plans are worse than Theresa May’s.

    When will the full legal text be published?

    He asks why Johnson signed up to the backstop when he says it is now unacceptable.

    He says every union and business organisation wants the UK to stay in the customs union.

    He says Johnson’s plan would lead to rights being weakened. It would lead to a Trump Brexit.

    Having said it wanted no border in Northern Ireland, now it is proposing two borders.

    Corbyn says the reaction from businesses in Northern Ireland has been “very stark”.

    Here is a Guardian story about the business reaction to the plan in Northern Ireland. (Corbyn’s assessment is correct.)

    Corbyn asks if Johnson will comply with the law saying he must request a Brexit extension.

    He says Johnson’s plans are not serious or workable.

    They would damage the economy of Northern Ireland, undermine the Good Friday agreement, and lead to a “race to the bottom” on workers’ rights.

    He says Johnson knows these plans are not acceptable to the EU.

    The only people who won’t suffer are the PM’s hedge fund donors who are betting against the pound, and undermining the economy.

    He says the plans will be rejected in this house, rejected in Brussels and rejected across the country.

    Johnson is replying to Corbyn.

    He says he was disappointed by Corbyn’s tone.

    On standards, he says he thinks MPs would want to keep UK standards the highest in the world.

    Being outside the EU will allow the UK to go further, he claims. He cites animal welfare as an example. The UK will be able to ban the export of live animals.

    I’m left momentarily speechless by the utter dishonesty of Johnson’s last remarks here.

  208. says

    CNN – “Republican senators echoed Biden in urging Ukrainian president to reform prosecutor general’s office”:

    A newly unearthed letter from 2016 shows that Republican senators pushed for reforms to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office and judiciary, echoing calls then-Vice President Joe Biden made at the time.

    CNN’s KFile found a February 2016 bipartisan letter signed by several Republican senators that urged then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to “press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and judiciary.”

    The letter shows that addressing corruption in Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office had bipartisan support in the US and further undercuts a baseless attack made by President Donald Trump and his allies that Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to stop investigations into a Ukrainian natural gas company that his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of….

    The 2016 letter, sent by members of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, was signed by Republican Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson, as well as Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Murphy, Sherrod Brown, and Richard Blumenthal and focused on longstanding issues of corruption in Ukraine and urged reforms of the government.

    “Succeeding in these reforms will show Russian President Vladimir Putin that an independent, transparent and democratic Ukraine can and will succeed,” the letter reads. “It also offers a stark alternative to the authoritarianism and oligarchic cronyism prevalent in Russia. As such, we respectfully ask that you address the serious concerns raised by Minister Abromavičius. We similarly urge you to press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s Office and judiciary. The unanimous adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Basic Principles and Action Plan is a good step.”

    Kirk is no longer in Congress. But Johnson signed onto a letter with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley last week to Attorney General Bill Barr asking him to investigate, in part, allegations surrounding Biden and Ukraine. Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Portman’s office did not comment.

    The letter was posted on the website of Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who in a tweet the same day expressed US support for anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.

    “Ukraine’s US friends stand w/#Ukraine in fight against corruption,” Portman wrote. “Impt to continue progress progress made since #EuroMaidan.”…

  209. says

    i just want to note that they attacked obama with racism, smeared his wife and kids, demanded his birth certificate, questioned his faith, and not once did obama stoop to the level of screaming expletives and accusing the opposition of treason. not once. not a single day in 8 yrs

    similarly they have accused hillary of literal serial murder, questioned her faith, said she committed multiple crimes — and never, ever this kind of public meltdown. ever.”

  210. says

    MSNBC, happy to air Trump’s helicopter-shouting routine live and in full. So he gets like 20 minutes to scream his lies basically uninterrupted, and they help him out by adding the lies to the chyrons.

    Great job.

  211. says

    TPM – “Prison Bars Haven’t Kept Manafort And Giuliani Apart”:

    Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has kept up a steady flow of communication with the imprisoned Paul Manafort through the former Trump campaign chairman’s lawyer, seeking to further the rightwing talking point that Ukrainians interfered in 2016 to help Hillary Clinton.

    A happy byproduct of this narrative would be muddying the charges against Manafort.

    Giuliani is trying to reshape investigations into Manafort as a feature of a Ukrainian attempt to derail the Trump campaign in favor for Clinton’s. This has long been a convenient digression for Trump allies trying to shift attention off of Russia’s meddling in the election on his behalf.

    According to a New York Review of Books report, this is how the whole smear campaign against Joe and Hunter Biden started in the first place: with President Donald Trump and Giuliani molding a pretense for a Manafort pardon.

  212. says

    David Rothkopf:

    It is now the official foreign policy of the U.S. that we call upon foreign governments that wish to remain in our good favor to investigate the Bidens. It is also official policy that we call upon our allies to investigate the Mueller investigation.

    Failure to do so will undermine good relations. It is also the established policy of the United States that countries that wish to be in good favor with the U.S. should flatter the president obsequiously and, if possible, patronize one of his hotels or resorts.

    It is also the official position of the POTUS and thus, by extension the U.S. government, that we support in whatever ways possible President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government and are committed to the weakening of the NATO Alliance and all multilateral institutions.

    It is also established that the U.S. government rejects science and history and values relations with governments that serve the above policy objectives above secondary considerations like democracy or human rights. This is not a joke. This is not an overstatement.

    This is our foreign policy today. It is at core nothing more than a marketing strategy for Donald Trump, the Trump Organization and his perceived personal interests. All his senior advisors and the GOP leadership have bought into this strategy and seek to advance it.

    It is the greatest corruption of US foreign policy in our history & precisely what the Founders feared most. And every single day the facts outlined here are further corroborated. It is all happening in plain sight & it is doing grave damage to the US and our interests worldwide.

  213. tomh says

    Oh yeah, this should work.

    White House officials weigh appeal to Democrats in GOP districts to stop impeachment of Trump
    By Rachael Bade andJosh Dawsey
    October 3 at 9:00 AM

    White House officials intent on stopping the House from impeaching President Trump are considering appealing to moderate Democrats in Republican districts to stand with the president, a pursuit at odds with fresh political attacks from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

    The nascent outreach campaign would target some of the 31 Democrats from congressional districts Trump won in 2016, many of whom ran on rebuilding infrastructure, improving trade deals and lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to multiple officials familiar with the strategy.

    The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said the appeal would be based on these Democrats’ 2018 election promises to work with the president — accompanied with a warning that impeachment would hamper possible legislative victories.

    Because legislative victories are just around the corner.

  214. blf says

    Hair furor is now (indirectly?) attacking Greta Thunberg: What an actress! “I should be in school.” She’s getting the best education socialism can steal. I won’t be held hostage by someone who just got a learner’s permit. Sorry kiddo! Tell Al to try again.

    This is a bit confusing. It’s from Grauniad’s current live States blog, which seems to claim it’s hair furor, but the link provided (see previous paragraph) is to someone called “Kellie”:

    So what’s Donald Trump up to this morning?

    WELL, he’s been attacking Adam Schiff — a lowlife and a lying disaster — and also having a go at 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. Lovely. […]

    This mysterious (to me) “Kellie” seems to be full-on dalekocrazed, judging by her short bio; Trump will win 2020-PERIOD. They can’t take the idea of America away from me without my consent. Judging by her other comments, she’s a full-on global climate catastrophe denier, and completely deluded: The whistleblower is NOT going to come forward now. Trump busted #LyinSchiff’s plan by releasing the transcript. The whistleblower can’t make anything up at Schiff’s direction. They’ve got squat! Whoever this wingnut is, she’s getting a lot of pushback. As one example, “The transcript [sic], that was edited, still shows exactly what the Whistleblower said. If you knew ANYTHING about foreign policy or election law, you’d know that what he said is detrimental.”

  215. blf says

    I cannot say I’d ever heard of this before, but it seems very sensible, Pissoirs and public votes: how Paris embraced the participatory budget:

    Residents of France’s capital can propose ideas for and vote on what 5% of the city’s budget will be spent on every year — and their suggestions range from the quixotic to the ambitious


    As usual, while the quixotic propositions tend to garner attention during the voting stage, it is the serious improvements to the city that tend to get funded, such as the €1.5m plan to upgrade cleaning facilities that won more than 37,000 votes last year, or the decision to send funds to a temporary migrant camp built on the outskirts of the city at the height of refugee arrivals to Europe.

    Paris’s deputy mayor for local democracy, Pauline Véron, says the vast majority of projects “aren’t bizarre or complicated — they’re serious. They can be original, a bit new or innovative, but they’re not harebrained.”

    The scheme was launched when [mayor Anne] Hidalgo came to power in 2014. At €45 per inhabitant, Véron says Paris runs the largest per capita participatory budget in the world. Overall, more than 1,800 individual city improvements have been realised thanks to the public vote, Véron says.

    Thousands of proposals are submitted each year and must pass a feasibility study before qualifying for the vote. […]

    The programme was inspired by the city of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, which successfully introduced a participatory budget in 1989 to tackle its rampant inequality. It is with the redistributive spirit of Porto Alegre in mind that Paris specifically allocates €30m of its participatory budget to working-class areas, Véron says.

    [… T]he Paris scheme and one launched in Lisbon in 2008 have helped kick off a wave of imitators across Europe — similar projects are under way in Milan, Glasgow and Madrid. In France, the number of participatory budgets has doubled each year since 2014.


  216. says

    The US embassy in Ukraine sent out a “demonstration alert”:

    Over the last 24 hours, protestors in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, and other cities have held peaceful demonstrations regarding recent government discussions on the war in eastern Ukraine. In Kyiv, the protests have been concentrated at Independence Square (also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti), the Presidential Administration building located at Bankova 11, and at the Parliament building (Rada). Participation in these events are [sic] expected to grow through the weekend.

  217. blf says

    ‘He tried to have his cake and eat it’: how Trump’s Ukraine envoy lost his big gamble (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}, some Grauniad typos corrected without being marked):

    Before abruptly resigning Kurt Volker gambled that acting as a go-between for Rudy Giuliani could secure military aid for Kyiv

    When Kurt Volker agreed to work for the Trump administration in 2017, he told colleagues he hoped to navigate the president’s mercurial nature and his evident attachment to Vladimir Putin, and still pursue a traditional US policy of upholding Ukrainian independence and pushing back against Moscow.

    Many were sceptical and predicted a clash between the two approaches, but even they did not expect the spectacular collision of the past few weeks.

    In the end Volker, as special envoy on Ukraine, did not collide with Donald Trump ideologically, but found himself at the wrong end of the president’s personal agenda.

    Volker resigned last week and now finds himself giving testimony to Congress as the first witness in the rapidly evolving impeachment scandal. By agreeing to set up a meeting between Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and an Ukrainian presidential aide, he thought he could stop Trump cutting off ties with the new government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy and keep US military aid flowing.

    It was a calculated gambit, but it did not come off. Volker is now fighting to defend his reputation against the impression — enthusiastically conveyed by Giuliani — that Volker was an integral part of Trump’s parallel policy, which centered on digging for compromising material on former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

    “He really tried to have his cake and eat it, thinking he could operate inside the administration with one foot outside, that would give him some flexibility. But those two things were incompatible,” a former official said.


    “You had Kurt Volker going everywhere saying we have to be tough on Russia and help the Ukrainians, and the president saying we should have nothing to do with the Ukrainians {because} they are so corrupt,” a European diplomat in Washington said. “This is a bigger issue. There are traditional diplomats who are considering the role of their country in a traditional way, and the higher levels of the administration that are not really engaged.”

    The ghist I get from this is Volker is a not-dishonest eejit. He tried to do the more-or-less proper / legal / ethical thing, and somehow convinced himself teh dalekocrazy and hair furor would either not notice, accept / approve of that, or he that could fool them. Whilst I can almost understand the later (hair furor and much of the dalekocrazy are stunningly stoooopid), even back in 2017 people were apparently telling him he was naïve.

  218. says

    Adam Schiff: “The President cannot use the power of his office to pressure foreign leaders to investigate his political opponents.

    His rant this morning reinforces the urgency of our work.

    America is a Republic, if we can keep it.”

  219. blf says

    SC@391, The States embassy / consulates here in France routinely post such alerts. There’s nothing apriori sinister about them, albeit here they seem to be mostly redundant, bordering on the absurd. There don’t seem to be any current alerts for France, the last seems have been in August 2019:

    French media is reporting that an attack by two men has resulted in one dead and eight injured near the Laurent Bonnevay metro station in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon. The police have suspects in custody and continue to search for others.

    Actions to Take:
    ● Avoid the area
    ● Seek secure shelter, if in the area
    ● Monitor local media for updates
    ● Be aware of your surroundings
    ● Notify friends and family of your safety

    Yeah, sure…

    Sometimes they can be flat-out bizarre (this example, reported by the BBC, is from Ireland, July 2019), Longitude festival: Mystery over US embassy warning:

    There are questions over why the US embassy in the Republic of Ireland told American citizens to avoid a music festival due to a risk of violence.

    The Longitude festival is taking place over three days this weekend at Marlay Park in south Dublin.

    Gardaí (Irish police) said there was a “great atmosphere” at the event on Friday and “no incidents of note”.

    The festival promoter said the US embassy’s warning was “beyond ridiculous”, reports the Irish Times.

    “There are more questions than answers, to quote that old blues song,” said Denis Desmond of MCD Productions.

    The US embassy in Dublin issued the warning on its website on Friday.

    It headlined the message as a security alert and advised US citizens to avoid Marlay Park and the areas surrounding the park.


    For feck’s sake…

    Obvious stoopidity aside, these sort of alerts are potentially useful. I myself tend to consult multiple country’s services when traveling. The best alert I can recall — albeit a parody — was from Amnesty International (image).

  220. says

    blf @ #364, huh? I know they’re a regular thing, and didn’t think there was anything sinister in this case. I thought it of note because it mentions demonstrations in several cities and suggests they’re expected to grow over the weekend. It’s been hard to get information about what’s happening there.

  221. says

    Kaitlan Collins, CNN:

    Moments ago, Vice President Mike Pence defended President Trump pressing Ukraine’s Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. “The American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States, or his family, profited from his position.”

    Pence: “When you hold the second highest office in the land, it comes with unique responsibilities, not just to be above impropriety, but to be above the appearance of impropriety.”

  222. says

    The Sanders campaign is saying he’s recovering in a Las Vegas hospital, doing well, and in good spirits. Hasn’t needed any additional procedures. They expect him to be discharged and headed to Vermont by the weekend.

  223. says

    SC @342, It is so infuriating to read how, (to see how), Trump has weakened the Ukrainian president so much that Putin will now have his way. Russia will end up with big chunks of Ukraine. There will be “agreements” signed that pretend this land grab by Russia is okay.

  224. johnson catman says

    re SC @367: OMFG!! I don’t know if anyone can be that lacking in self-awareness. He must be just doing the bidding of the Orange Toddler-Tyrant.

  225. says

    ABC – “‘Crazy to withhold security assistance’ to Ukraine for political campaign: Top US diplomat”:

    In newly disclosed text messages shared with Congress, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine at the time writes to a group of other American diplomats that “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

    The exchange, provided by former U.S Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker as part of his closed-door deposition before multiple House committees Thursday, shows what appears to be encrypted text messages he exchanged with two other American diplomats in September regarding aid money President Donald Trump ordered to be held back from Ukraine.

    In the exchange, obtained by ABC News, the concerns are expressed by Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, responds to Taylor, saying, “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

    Sondland then suggests to the group take the conversations off line, typing “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.” It’s unclear if the conversation continues, based on the material obtained by ABC News.

    Sondland, a hotelier and Republican megadonor, contributed over $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee before eventually being nominated and confirmed to the top role as the United States representative to the European Union.

    Taylor is a career foreign service officer who has served as the top diplomat in Kyiv since May, when Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was recalled by the administration. Yovanovitch had been smeared by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani for months as blocking Ukrainian investigations into corruption — an allegation the State Department at the time called an “outright fabrication” that “does not correspond to reality.”

    The texts came just days before the White House released the military assistance to Ukraine — almost $400 million from the State Department and Pentagon meant to boost Ukraine as a U.S. partner against Russian aggression.

    Sondland has been the U.S. envoy to the European Union since July 2018. He has assisted Giuliani’s effort to contact Ukrainian officials about an investigation, according to Giuliani, who says he briefed Sondland and Volker after his meetings….

    Yeah, Sondland is a Trumper. I assume they’ll be deposing Taylor.

  226. says

    Lynna @ #369, I felt sick reading it.

    johnson catman @ #370, I thought nothing could top Johnson claiming “Being outside the EU will allow the UK to go further” on standards (@ #345), but Pence just lapped him.

  227. says

    WaPo is reporting that Volker told congress that Giuliani was warned that the Ukrainian claims about Biden he was hearing weren’t credible. I saw a clip earlier today in which Giuliani is talking about how Ukrainians just dropped the information in his lap. Because that’s not suspicious at all.

  228. says

    Julia Davis’ summary of the new WaPo piece:

    Kurt Volker told House investigators that he warned President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Giuliani was receiving untrustworthy information from Ukrainian political figures about former vice president Joe Biden and his son.

    Volker also said that he and other State Department officials cautioned the Ukrainians to steer clear of U.S. politics, to avoid opening the nation up to allegations that they were interfering in an election, which would be detrimental to Ukraine long-term

    In advance of his appearance, Volker had turned over a number of documents to congressional staffers including a chain of text messages with Giuliani, physical documents, white papers and correspondence with other officials.

    WaPo latl.

  229. says

    BREAKING: Congress members Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice just sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking him to investigate whether the @NRA’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, attempted to bribe Donald Trump to oppose gun safety measures.”

  230. says

    Breaking via WaPo: An IRS official has filed a whistleblower complaint reporting that he was told at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the president or vice president’s tax returns.”


  231. says

    HuffPo – “‘Domestic Terrorist’ Christopher Hasson Pleads Guilty On Gun, Drug Charges”:

    A Coast Guard lieutenant with white supremacist views pleaded guilty to Thursday to four gun and drug charges in a case that tested the federal government’s ability to charge heavily armed domestic extremists plotting terrorist attacks.

    Christopher Hasson, a 50-year-old who resided in a Maryland suburb of D.C., was arrested back in February on gun and drug charges. But federal prosecutors said those charges were just the “tip of the iceberg,” and that Hasson had been planning to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.” Hasson, federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing, “is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct.”

    Hasson pleaded guilty to four counts, according to federal court records: unlawful possession of unregistered firearm silencers, unlawful possession of firearm silencers unidentified by serial number, possession of firearms by unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance. The addict-in-possession charge was also used against a neo-Nazi in D.C., who was released last month after spending about 10 months in jail.

    The United States does not have a federal law that broadly outlaws acts of domestic terrorism, and federal prosecutors have generally been hesitant to call domestic terrorists what they are.

    Federal prosecutors said that Hasson had planned to kill Democrats and prominent journalists, and had done extensive research on a number of potential targets….

  232. johnson catman says

    and had done extensive research on a number of potential targets….

    So, he had watched a lot of Fox Spews?

  233. blf says

    SC@366, US consular / embassy alerts range from being paranoid jokes to useful advice. Broadly, unless confirmed by independent sources, they should be considered “routine advice” only eejits (read: too many tourists from the States) would not already be aware of and prepared for.

  234. says

    From the G liveblog:

    The People’s Vote campaign has released some polling that it says shows growing support for the idea that the final decision on Brexit should be taken by the public in a referendum, and not by MPs in parliament. It has sent out this quote from Peter Kellner, the former YouGov president and a People’s Vote supporter, explaining the figures.

    It is clear that the public mood is hardening in favour of a People’s Vote to decide whether Brexit should go ahead.

    For the past year, most poll questions relating to Brexit have produced modest leads for giving the final say to voters in a referendum. Now, following the supreme court judgement, and as the prime minister prepared to put his revised proposals to Brussels, there are big leads for the public rather than MPs settling the issue.

    If Boris Johnson does secure a deal, voters divide 47-29% in favour of a People’s Vote. If Johnson returns empty-handed, the margin widens to more than two-to-one, with 52% wanting a referendum and just 23% saying MPs should take the final decision.

    Not surprisingly, remain voters are keen on a referendum; but so are large number of leave voters. They are evenly divided on what to do if there is a deal (38% parliament, 33%). But by a clear 41-27% margin, leave voters want a referendum, rather than MPs, to settle the matter if there is no deal.

    As far as the general public is concerned, democracy is no longer served by simply enacting the result of the 2016 referendum. Today there is a far stronger sentiment that the best way forward is to ask the people again, once it is clear what specific form of Brexit is on offer – deal or no deal.

  235. says

    blf @ #384, I’m finding this exchange fairly annoying and slightly insulting. I’m not sure what you think I’m suggesting, but whatever it is I’m not suggesting it. You can have the last word.

  236. says

    johnson catman @ #383, from Wikipedia:

    Hasson was accused in February 2019 of plotting the targeted assassinations of high-profile American politicians and media figures, and indiscriminate terror attacks using biological weapons. He was arrested for weapons and drug possession in February 2019.

    According to the federal prosecutor, Hasson, who identifies himself as a white nationalist, drew inspiration from Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. Hasson had been amassing guns and ammunition since 2017. His goals included the assassination of high-profile Democratic and left-leaning politicians and media figures.

    Hasson attempted to discover where Democratic politicians and media figures lived. This was substantiated by his recent Google searches according to the pending trial motion against him. These included: “what if trump illegally impeached”, “civil war if trump impeached”, “best place in dc”, “where in dc to congress live”, “social democrats usa”, “most liberal senators”, “where do most senators live in dc”, “where in dc to see congress people”, “do senators have ss protection”, and “are supreme court justices protected”. Hasson searched and found out the address of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Hasson had expressed belief in the white genocide conspiracy theory.

    Hasson created a spreadsheet with a list of journalists, Democratic politicians, and socialist figures and organizations, including:

    Richard Blumenthal
    Cory Booker
    Chris Cuomo
    Kirsten Gillibrand
    Kamala Harris
    Chris Hayes
    Van Jones
    Tim Kaine
    Sheila Jackson Lee
    Don Lemon
    Ari Melber
    Ilhan Omar
    Beto O’Rourke
    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
    Nancy Pelosi
    John Podesta
    Joe Scarborough
    Chuck Schumer
    Elizabeth Warren
    Maxine Waters
    Democratic Socialists of America
    Angela Davis
    Social Democrats, USA

    Hasson also used computers at his workplace to plan the attack during his job as a Coast Guard Lieutenant and study the manifestos of various mass shooters

    Could people maybe dial down the glib a bit?

  237. says

    Guardian – “Jair Bolsonaro pictured with second accused in Marielle Franco murder case”:

    Brazilian opposition figures and human rights observers are seething after a photo emerged of the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, grinning and giving the thumbs up alongside a man arrested in connection with the murder of the Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco.

    It was the second time the president has been photographed alongside a suspect in Brazil’s most high-profile political murder in a decade.

    In March, a photo of Bolsonaro with Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, a former policeman accused of driving the car used in Franco’s killing, circulated on social media.

    Queiroz’s arrest appeared to support suspicion that Franco had been targeted by the paramilitary gangs known as “militias” that control large swaths of Rio and are usually made up of or commanded by active or retired police officers.

    Franco, a popular socialist councillor and rising star in Rio politics who fought against police brutality in the city’s favelas, was killed last year with her driver Anderson Gomes when a gunman sprayed the car they were driving in.

    Josinaldo Lucas Freitas, a martial arts instructor, was arrested on Thursday. He is accused of disposing of the guns used in the murder by throwing them in the sea.

    Soon after his arrest, two photos of him posing with Bolsonaro and one with the president’s Rio councillor son Carlos were published by the conservative-leaning weekly magazine Veja.

    “This demands an answer,” said Antônio Carlos Costa, founder of the Rio NGO Rio de Paz (Rio of Peace). “The president must explain to the public what kind of relationship he had with this guy.”

    Three others were also arrested on Thursday morning, including the wife of Ronnie Lessa; a former special forces police captain and alleged leader of a gang of contract killers.

    Lessa is accused of firing the fatal shots and is awaiting trial in a federal prison.

    But it remains unclear who ordered the assassination.

    “We continue to follow the development of the investigations and, still, with great concern about the delay in discovering the intellectual authors of the crime,” Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, wrote in a press note.

  238. says

    Great news! – Guardian – “Scotland becomes first country in UK to ban smacking of children”:

    Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban outright the physical punishment of children, making it a criminal offence for parents to smack their offspring.

    The member’s bill, which was lodged by the Scottish Green party MSP John Finnie and supported by the Scottish National party government, was passed overwhelmingly on Thursday evening, with 84 MSPs voting in favour and 29 against. It is designed to give children equal protection from violence by removing the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law.

    Parents in England and Northern Ireland are currently allowed to use “reasonable chastisement”, while similar legislation to Scotland was introduced by the Welsh government in March.

    Children’s campaigners welcomed the move as evidence of a wholesale shift in attitudes to child rearing and children’s rights over the past few decades. Mary Glasgow, the chief executive of Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity, condemned what she described as “scaremongering” during the debating of the bill: “Listening to the evidence from police, social workers and others working directly with families, it has been clear that there is no intent to criminalise parents, but to bring the law in line with the international evidence and modern parenting practice.”

    Others warned against complacency. Bruce Adamson, the children and young people’s commissioner for Scotland, said: “The world is watching, and people hope this will inspire other parts of the UK, but we cannot be complacent as there’s much more we can do to put rights-respecting laws in place, like incorporation of the UN convention on the rights of the child [UNCRC] into Scots law.”

    In May, the Scottish parliament voted to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12, but the reform was criticised by some for not raising the age to 14, in line with recommendations from the UN’s committee on the rights of the child.

    Likewise, campaigners welcomed Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law within the next two years, which the first minister made in her keynote speech to the SNP conference in April. However, they have since raised concerns that the legislation is not moving fast enough to be completed before the next Holyrood elections in the the spring of 2021.

  239. tomh says

    CNN Rejects Two Trump Campaign Ads, Citing Inaccuracies

    By Michael M. Grynbaum and Tiffany Hsu
    Oct. 3, 2019
    Updated 5:18 p.m. ET

    CNN rejected a pair of provocative ads from President Trump’s re-election campaign on Thursday, saying that the 30-second spots deriding the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry — one of which deemed the effort “nothing short of a coup” — contained inaccuracies and unfairly attacked the network’s journalists.

    It is unusual but not unprecedented for television networks to reject a political advertisement from a presidential campaign. On the eve of last year’s midterm elections, major channels, including Fox News, removed an inflammatory commercial from Mr. Trump’s political team that portrayed immigrants as a violent threat.

    The move by CNN is likely to inflame longstanding tensions between the news network and the president, who denounced CNN staff members as “corrupt people” during a White House news conference on Wednesday and criticized the network again on Thursday.

    The Trump ads were posted online in recent days as part of what the president’s campaign said was a multimillion dollar advertising buy on national cable stations and digital platforms.

    One ad, “Biden Corruption,” targets former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden, amid a widening impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. It repeats unsubstantiated allegations about the Bidens’ financial dealings in Ukraine and derides journalists, labeling them “media lap dogs” for the Democrats as footage plays of several CNN stars.

    Over grainy footage of Joe Biden, a narrator intones that the leading Democratic presidential candidate “promised Ukraine $1 billion if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company.” As video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plays, the narrator continues: “But when President Trump asks Ukraine to investigate corruption, the Democrats want to impeach him.”

    The narrator adds, “and their media lap dogs fall in line,” over footage of the CNN anchors Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo and the network’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. The MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is featured as well.

    No evidence has surfaced that Mr. Biden intentionally tried to help his son by pushing for the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, to be dismissed. Members of the Obama administration, as well as other Western governments and international leaders, had sought Mr. Shokin’s removal amid accusations that he ignored corruption claims. Mr. Shokin was voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2016.

    CNN said in a statement on Thursday that the Biden-focused campaign commercial failed to meet the network’s advertising standards. “In addition to disparaging CNN and its journalists, the ad makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets, including CNN,” a network spokesman said.

    Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, responded on Thursday that the ad was “entirely accurate and was reviewed by counsel.”

    “CNN spends all day protecting Joe Biden in their programming,” Mr. Murtaugh wrote. “So it’s not surprising that they’re shielding him from truthful advertising, too.”

    Later, CNN said it had rejected another Trump ad, “Coup.” It presents the impeachment inquiry as an effort “to undo the election, regardless of facts” and accuses House Democrats of “fabricating evidence.”

    “The ad contains assertions of fact about the whistleblower complaint that have been refuted by the Intelligence Inspector General,” CNN said in a statement. “In addition, it is inaccurate to use the word ‘coup’ to describe a constitutionally prescribed legal process.”

    Mr. Trump has said his request for help digging into the Bidens was legitimate and part of a “perfect” phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. On Thursday, Mr. Trump publicly asked China to investigate the former vice president.

    The impeachment inquiry has spurred a surge in campaign spending since it was announced on Sept. 24. Need to Impeach, a group founded and mostly funded by the billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, said this week that it plans to spend $3.1 million on television and digital ads urging Republican senators to remove Mr. Trump.

    The Trump campaign has spent more than $1.6 million advertising on Mr. Trump’s Facebook page in the past seven days, including as much as $21,000 on the “Biden Corruption” ad, according to the platform’s ad library.

    Facebook does not fact-check speech from politicians, generally allowing it on the platform “even when it would otherwise break our normal content rules,” Nick Clegg, a Facebook executive and Britain’s former deputy prime minister, said in Washington last week.

    But Daniel Wessel, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said on Thursday that Facebook should monitor and remove all false ads, including “Biden Corruption.”

    “Facebook owes that to its readers,” Mr. Wessel said on Thursday. “We all have a role to play in combating these lies, and that includes Facebook.”

    Mr. Biden’s team weighed in, as well, urging Fox News to reject the Trump campaign’s ad. In a formal letter to the network, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, said the ad contained “false, definitively debunked conspiracy theories.”

  240. says

    CNN – “Trump raised Biden with Xi in June call housed in highly secure server”:

    When President Donald Trump suggested — without prompting — that China should investigate Joe Biden and his son, he thrust another political grudge into what was already the world’s most complicated and consequential relationship.

    The move startled Chinese officials, who say they have little interest in becoming embroiled in a US political controversy. And it amounted to the latest extraordinary effort by Trump to openly request political assistance from foreign governments.

    Thursday’s comments weren’t the first time Trump has injected Biden into his relationship with China, though he said Thursday he has never pushed Xi to investigate the former vice president. Nor is it the first time he has sought to trade favors with Xi, who this week celebrated the 70th birthday of his ruling communist party with a note of congratulations from Trump.

    During a phone call with Xi on June 18, Trump raised Biden’s political prospects as well as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who by then had started rising in the polls, according to two people familiar with the discussion. In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.

    The White House record of that call was later stored in the highly secured electronic system used to house a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine’s President and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint that’s led Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

    Trump’s reluctance over the summer to speak out against a crackdown against pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong has frustrated officials at the National Security Council and State Department, who had been advocating a firmer US stance.

    While Trump eventually did tweet out a call for Xi to find a “humane” resolution to the Hong Kong unrest, he did not issue a forceful call to uphold human rights in the former British colony. And as protests again erupted this week as massive celebrations were underway in Beijing for the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Trump offered Xi his congratulations.

    “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!” Trump wrote, adopted a drastically different tone than his Republican allies, who used words like “ghoulish,” “authoritarian” and “horrors” to mark the occasion.

    Trump’s remarks Thursday have caused consternation among some of his aides, who have privately pined for an end to a trade war that is starting to take a toll on the US economy….

    Everything he emphasizes publicly is a clue to something private he fears will be revealed. He’s been talking a lot about how he’s now calling the media “corrupt.” I don’t now if that’s just a new catchphrase or an attempt to deflect from Solomon’s involvement, but there could well be some revelation to come about his relations with rightwing media in the US or elsewhere.

  241. says

    Via CNN, the NYT is reporting that Volker and other diplomats drafted a statement with Giuliani for the Ukrainian president committing the Ukrainian government to investigate the bullshit conspiracy theories about the Bidens and the Russia investigation (which of course the Kremlin wants).

  242. tomh says

    An interesting piece on Lawfare, concerning possibly Trump’s most impeachable offense–bribery.

    The Constitution Says ‘Bribery’ Is Impeachable. What Does That Mean?

    By Ben Berwick, Justin Florence, John Langford Thursday
    October 3, 2019, 8:00 AM

    Now that Congress has launched an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s effort to use the Ukrainian government to target a political rival, much ink has been spilled on the question of whether Trump’s actions amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which he may be impeached. In analyzing the president’s conduct, some commentators have pointed to one of the two specific grounds for impeachment enumerated in the Constitution: bribery. Yet, by and large, those who have examined Trump’s efforts to put pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as potential bribery have done so through the narrow lens of modern federal statutory criminal law.

    But that is the wrong place to look when considering impeachment. In fact, the Founders had a broader conception of bribery than what’s in the criminal code. Their understanding was derived from English law, under which bribery was understood as an officeholder’s abuse of the power of an office to obtain a private benefit rather than for the public interest. This definition not only encompasses Trump’s conduct—it practically defines it.

    Article II, Section 4, says the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

    There follows a detailed dissection of why Trump’s conduct meets, not just the Founders concept of bribery (at a time when no federal criminal code existed) but the modern statutory standard for bribery. Bottom line? “Trump’s attempts to use his immense foreign policy power for personal and political gain rather than the public good is a realization of the Framers’ worst fears and the very definition of impeachable bribery.”

  243. tomh says

    WaPo Live Updates

    7:20 p.m.: Volker concludes more than nine hours of testimony on Capitol Hill, Democrats say he provided evidence Trump used Biden investigation as contingency for meeting with Ukraine president.

    The former special envoy for Ukraine spoke to congressional investigators all day, offering them insights into the White House’s efforts to get Ukraine to dig up information about Joe and Hunter Biden.

    Leaving the meeting, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Volker had provided evidence that a meeting Trump promised Ukraine President Zelensky was contingent on the country investigating Biden.

    “We will be providing evidence very shortly… that characterizes that for Zelensky to get a meeting with Trump, that Zelensky had to one, investigate the 2016 election, essentially go back and exonerate Russia’s role, and two, that Zelensky would have to investigate Biden. That was an understood predicate for the meeting,” Swalwell said.

    Swalwell said there is also evidence that a State Department official was concerned that “security assistance [to Ukraine] is being held back because of a domestic political campaign.”

  244. says

    NYT reporter Michael Schmidt was just on Chris Hayes. He said the State Dept.. pushed by Trump and Giuliani, wanted Zelenskyy to publicly commit to the investigations so they’d be bound to actually do them. I think Trump didn’t actually care about any real investigations (aside from the possibility that they can toss up assorted random dirt); the announcement of the investigation is itself a huge political prize, and even if an investigation turns up nothing, its dragging on for months or years does the work of smearing (“raising questions,” “providing fodder,” etc.). We saw this with Hillary Clinton.

    (Obviously now any such investigation of a Democratic candidate or perceived adversary – McCabe, for example – is discredited from the start.)

  245. says

    “…Perry has drawn scrutiny because he led the US delegation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration in May, instead of Pence.

    Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J) earlier this week sent a letter to Perry requesting information about his activities and interactions in #Ukraine.”

    Evidently, according to Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC, he said he would be cooperating yesterday.

  246. says

    From earlier: “BREAKING: Manhattan D.A. Vance comes out swinging against @TheJusticeDept for having ‘elected to insert itself’ in this litigation, calling the bid ‘audacious’ in a 3-page letter.”

    Screenshot and link atl.

  247. says

    I’ve mentioned this before, but as reports of Republican silence roll in it should be said again. The US is (still) a democracy. The worst fate that would befall Republican senators or representatives who stood up for the country against Trump (setting aside those being blackmailed, and they’re not exempt, either) is losing a primary, losing an election, and probably some shunning and hostility from the cult (though far less than Democrats, journalists, and groups targeted by Trump have endured).

    They’re not risking their lives, their security, prison. It’s the worst sort of moral depravity. And it increasingly leads to a situation in which speaking out would be genuinely dangerous for them and others. They’re willfully turning over everything in exchange for more fear and powerlessness. And they hate Trump’s guts. It’s truly perverse.

  248. KG says


    Bernie Sanders should withdraw his candidacy. In his own interests, but also because no 78-year-old with a serious health problem (and anything requiring urgent emplacement of cardiac stents is a serious health problem, as your link shows) should not be running for a top-level governmental or political post, if there’s any viable alternative. In this case, there clearly is: Elizabeth Warren. Warren’s far from perfect, particularly on Israel/Palestine, but anyone claiming she’d be no better than Trump, or any similar nonsense, is either a fool, or a Trump supporter pretending to oppose him. And she’s already ahead of Sanders in most polls, and well within reach of Biden.

  249. says

    The House committees last night released text messages among Volker, Taylor, Sondland, Giuliani, Yermak, and others. They were turned over by Volker at the time of his deposition. They show Taylor being honorable and concerned about Ukraine and the US, and Trump’s gang (including Sondland and a reluctant Volker) acting like a crime syndicate. They’re extremely damning, and Volker’s only the first witness.

    A link to the messages, along with a strong letter from the three chairs, is at the link.

    Atkinson, the ICIG, will testify today.

  250. johnson catman says

    re SC @387: At the risk of getting on your last nerve . . .

    Richard Blumenthal
    Cory Booker
    Chris Cuomo
    Kirsten Gillibrand
    Kamala Harris
    Chris Hayes
    Van Jones
    Tim Kaine
    Sheila Jackson Lee
    Don Lemon
    Ari Melber
    Ilhan Omar
    Beto O’Rourke
    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
    Nancy Pelosi
    John Podesta
    Joe Scarborough
    Chuck Schumer
    Elizabeth Warren
    Maxine Waters
    Democratic Socialists of America
    Angela Davis
    Social Democrats, USA

    How many on this list have NOT been mercilessly disparaged by Fox “personalities”? The point I was so glibly, but not so succinctly, trying to make was that Hasson was steered toward the people on his list by the constant lies and misrepresentations that Fox has perpetrated on the US.
    I DO appreciate the time and effort you put into your posts here. I do not subscribe to a newspaper, I rarely watch the nightly news, and I don’t participate in social media such as Facebook and Twitter. I would not hear about some of this stuff without reading it here. Everything that is happening now in the US and the world is truly political madness. Everyone should be outraged at the abuses of our governments and the attempts to keep people from doing anything about it. It is enough to drive us insane. Sometimes, all I have to keep me from blowing a gasket is a smartass remark. My comment was not meant to make light of your post or the seriousness of the charges against Hasson.

  251. says

    Josh Marshall at TPM – “Big Trump/Ukraine Document Dump, Annotated”:

    Chairs Schiff, Engel and Cummings did a major document dump tonight based on texts exchanged between various Trump Department officials, Rudy Giuliani and a top advisor to President Zelensky. The upshot is documentation of months of efforts by the Trump officials to get Ukraine to publicly announce investigations of the Bidens and 2016 election collusion between Ukraine and the DNC in exchange for a White House meeting with President Trump and military aide to ward off Russian-backed separatists in the east.

    What is important to note here is that the Ukraine-DNC collusion conspiracy theory, in addition to being crazy in itself, is in fact an exoneration of Russia. The idea is that Russia didn’t really interfere in the election. They were framed by Ukraine and the DNC. We’ve heard lots of talk about these ‘investigations’. But what seems more clear here is that the big “deliverable”, as Trump megadonor Gordon Sondland puts it in one text, is a public statement from Zelensky announcing these investigations. That in itself validates the key Trump/Giuliani conspiracy theories for domestic consumption in the United States and quite likely is the predicate for Bill Barr for announcing his own probes into the same.

    It’s late. So I went through the document dump and tweeted out the key passages. I’ve assembled them together here….

    Note: the whole document dump is only 6 pages.

  252. says

    johnson catman @ #416:

    How many on this list have NOT been mercilessly disparaged by Fox “personalities”? The point I was so glibly, but not so succinctly, trying to make was that Hasson was steered toward the people on his list by the constant lies and misrepresentations that Fox has perpetrated on the US.

    I wasn’t saying his target list wasn’t originally derived from Fox propaganda, but that watching Fox wasn’t the research referred to. He’d compiled the names in a spreadsheet, and was researching their locations and security arrangements. I believe that was just the information made available at the time of his indictment, and suspect he had much more, but even that includes that he had Joe Scarborough’s and Mika Brzezinski’s home address. He’s a terrorist and was well along the road of planning his attacks.

    I DO appreciate the time and effort you put into your posts here. I do not subscribe to a newspaper, I rarely watch the nightly news, and I don’t participate in social media such as Facebook and Twitter. I would not hear about some of this stuff without reading it here. Everything that is happening now in the US and the world is truly political madness. Everyone should be outraged at the abuses of our governments and the attempts to keep people from doing anything about it. It is enough to drive us insane. Sometimes, all I have to keep me from blowing a gasket is a smartass remark. My comment was not meant to make light of your post or the seriousness of the charges against Hasson.

    Thank you for saying this. I get that for many people it’s a sort of defense mechanism, but it does get on my nerves. I think it was Yashar Ali a while back on Twitter announced that he’d block people responding to his tweets with variants of “Are you surprised?” Whole response threads would be that. I fear that it does tend to normalize what shouldn’t be normalized. Anyway, no hard feelings.

  253. says

    This sounds good. Chairman Adam Schiff has adopted GOP rules of procedure where staff conducts staff interviews, and obstructionists like Gym Jordan and Madman Meadows can’t screw up the deposition with their latest conspiracy theory, and witness harassment.”

    And the staff tend to be better questioners.

  254. says

    God how pissed must Sondland have been when he got that ‘as I said on the phone’ text.”

    Taylor’s no slouch.

    Sondland taking 5 hours to respond, talking to Trump, and then replying ‘no quid pro quo’ shows 1) they knew what they were doing 2) knew it was wrong 3) settled on the ‘no quid pro quo’ defense before it ever became public.”

    That last text from Sondland is straight up knowing your mom picked up the other line and saying, ‘Why, Reginald, I would never smoke “marijuana” and I bristle at the insinuation. Please refrain from calling me at this number again’.”

  255. says

    The 2016 FBI investigation was purposefully kept quiet to avoid interfering with the election. But Republicans are now advertising a DOJ investigation into Biden, one year out from the 2020 election….”

    As I said above, any “investigations” announced under these circumstances have zero credibility. They’re also disgraceful and more items for the impeachment file.

    Some names for the US Legislative Hall of Shame: Cornyn, Graham, McCarthy, Meadows, Jordan, Johnson, Zeldin.

  256. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Brexit liveblog.

    “Johnson will write to EU requesting article 50 extension, court told”:

    The UK government has promised a court that Boris Johnson will send a letter to the EU seeking an extension to article 50 as required by the Benn act.

    The undertaking appears to contradict the prime minister’s statements the UK will leave the EU on 31 October regardless and unattributed claims from Downing Street that he will find a way to sidestep the act.

    The pledge has been given in legal papers submitted to the court of session in Edinburgh after anti-Brexit campaigners began legal action to force Johnson to uphold the act’s requirements.

    The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act states that if Westminster does not agree to a Brexit deal by 19 October, the prime minister has to write to the EU seeking an extension to article 50 until 31 January.

    The UK government has refused to release copies of its submissions in this case to the media despite repeated requests by the Guardian, the BBC and other news organisation.

    Key excerpts of its pledge were read out instead by Aidan O’Neill QC, the lawyer for Dale Vince, the green energy millionaire, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, and the lawyer and anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC.

    Maugham then tweeted extracts of the document.

    It states the prime minister accepts “he is subject to the public law principle that he cannot frustrate its purpose or the purpose of its provisions. Thus he cannot act so as to prevent the letter requesting the specified extension in the act from being sent.”

    O’Neill told Lord Pentland, the judge hearing the case, that Johnson had repeatedly contradicted that position, including in the Commons on Wednesday, by insisting the UK would leave on 31 October come what may.

    As a result, O’Neill said, the court still needed to issue legally binding orders to force Johnson to comply with the Benn act in an interdict, or injunction. If the prime minister refused to do so, O’Neill could return to court to ask for Johnson to be fined or jailed, he added. No 10 declined to comment.

    Johnson has insisted repeatedly that he will “get Brexit done” by 31 October….

  257. says

    TPM – “White House Will Refuse To Cooperate With Impeachment Probe”:

    The White House plans to formally tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as early as Friday that it will not cooperate with the House’s impeachment probe, the Associated Press reported.

    The White House Counsel’s Office is preparing a letter to send Pelosi arguing that because the impeachment inquiry was not opened with a full House vote, Democrats are merely conducting congressional oversight, a person familiar with the matter told the AP Thursday. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed to the AP that the letter would be coming soon.

    Trump allies, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have been saying as much for days. In response to McCarthy’s request to shut down the inquiry on Thursday, Pelosi argued there was “no requirement under the Constitution, under House rules or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry.”…

    This is so ridiculous. It’s not like Pelosi’s avoiding a vote so her members can stay quiet. We know the House would vote for the inquiry because they’ve publicly said they support it. It would just be a waste of time, and as she says there’s no such requirement.

    Oh, FFS, I think MSNBC is going to show the Trump South Lawn rant.

  258. says

    Update to #426: “Cornyn’s team says he was referring to the ongoing Durham investigation, per @StevenTDennis. That investigation is not known to involve Biden at all, it’s unclear if that has changed.”

    Absurd and despicable.

    Also, turns out MSNBC is just waiting for the rant footage, so no improvement there. I rescind my praise.

  259. tomh says

    I don’t know if Pelosi was worried it wouldn’t pass or what, but I thought they should have begun with a vote when she made her announcement, like all other impeachments, required or not. It could make a difference to judges when issues go to court, also.

    It’s possible she didn’t want to make members in Trump-leaning districts go on record, which is a poor reason, IMO.

  260. says


    It’s possible she didn’t want to make members in Trump-leaning districts go on record, which is a poor reason, IMO.

    But they’ve gone on record in public. They’re going on TV and doing town halls and writing opeds. There’s no question they’d vote for it. I don’t see why it should matter to any judge when it would just be a pro forma exercise.

  261. tomh says

    Supreme Court to review ruling on Louisiana abortion law
    Oct. 4, 2019 at 6:40 a.m. PDT

    The court said Friday it would consider whether the 2014 law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals unduly burdens women’s access to abortion. Clinic owners said the effect of the law would be to close most of the state’s abortion clinics and leave the state with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure.

    The law is almost identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. But in that case, now retired justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals to form a majority. Since then, President Trump has added two new justices who were enthusiastically supported by antiabortion groups.

    The court could uphold or overturn that 2016 precedent or distinguish it in a way that a restriction deemed unconstitutional in one state is allowed in another.

  262. says

    Mitt Romney:

    When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.

    By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.

    And so your next steps will be…?

  263. Saad says

    And so your next steps will be…?

    To smile embarrassingly at the camera while having dinner with him shortly before endorsing him.

  264. johnson catman says

    Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Garner Push for Bob Iger Presidential Run
    Bob Iger may not be running for president, but the Disney boss appears to have major support in Hollywood should he decide to join the race.

    “Mr. Iger is everything you could want in a leader,” Jennifer Garner told Variety Wednesday at the Save the Children Centennial Celebration: Once in a Lifetime gala in Los Angeles. “I dare to say he is presidential. He’s dignified, he’s a risk-taker, he is down to earth, he is wise, and he has integrity. I would hand him any job I possibly could.”

    When asked if she would hand Iger the Democratic presidential nomination, Garner, a Save the Children trustee and host of the celebration, responded with a laugh, “Is it too late?”

    Iger was honored at the gala with the Centennial Award, presented by Oprah Winfrey.

    “I’ll tell you the truth, this is not really where I intended to be tonight,” Winfrey said. “I was hoping that by this time in early fall, I would be knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an ‘Iger 2020’ t-shirt. Because I really do believe that Bob Iger’s guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now.”

    JFC, just what we need. Another billionaire businessman running for president.

  265. says

    Trump and corruption: a few thoughts on that from Steve Benen:

    […] Trump has been at the center of so many corruption scandals, he’s generally seen as among the most corrupt presidents in American history. It’s therefore a bit ironic to hear the Republican make a spirited case that his efforts to coerce foreign governments to help his re-election campaign are really just an extension of sincere anti-corruption crusade.

    Not just “a bit ironic”! Laughable. Trump is beclowning himself again.

    It’s clear Trump has settled on this as his principal talking point, as evidenced by this morning’s tweet.

    “As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries. It is done all the time. This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!”

    […] comical repetition, as if he’d been led to believe the words are a magical elixir that will make his scandals go away.

    Yep. That’s exactly what I thought. Trump is now deep into his repeat-it-until-it-becomes-reality phase. That will work for some of his cult followers. But a lot of people will see right through that. Can’t wait to see Rachel Maddow’s coverage of this Trump strategy.

    The pitch is so fanciful, it’s almost insulting. Americans are genuinely supposed to believe that Trump and his GOP cohorts, indifferent to Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine for several years, suddenly decided the former vice president is guilty of serious wrongdoing, evidence be damned. Trump and his allies came to this realization quite suddenly, and it occurred to them — coincidentally, of course — right around the time polls showed Biden leading the president in national polling by double digits.

    […] If members of Team Trump believe such a laughable story is going to derail the impeachment process, they’re likely to be disappointed.

    In fact, the house of cards seemed to collapse quite suddenly this morning, when a White House reporter had the good sense to ask a question the president didn’t see coming.

    Has Trump sought a corruption investigation from foreign leaders targeting someone who isn’t one of his political opponents? Are there are other cases?

    “You know, we would have to look,” the president said, apparently unable to think of a comparable example.

    Let me save the White House staff some trouble: international corruption has never been a subject of interest to Trump. As the Washington Post reported on Monday, “A search through Trump’s past comments on corruption shows he has rarely raised concerns about corruption in foreign countries – except when it suited his political purposes.”

    Imagine that.


  266. says

    Watch what he does, not just what he says. Trump’s 2020 campaign launched a multi-million-dollar ad buy that targets Joe Biden, and that pushes the discredited conspiracy theory involving Biden and Ukraine.

    They really think they have a winning hand that relies on pushing Rudy Giuliani’s debunked, half-baked, fucked up conspiracy theories.

    The first ads will air in all of the early presidential primary states.

  267. johnson catman says

    Trump has been at the center of so many corruption scandals, he’s generally seen as among the most corrupt presidents in American history.

    I am not well-versed in history, but I think that “among” is totally unneeded in that sentence and drop the “s” from “presidents”.

  268. says

    More ridiculous blather from Hair Furor:

    […] After boasting that he and his team are “taking on the pharmaceutical companies,” Trump added:

    “You think that’s easy? It’s not easy. It’s not easy. They come at you from all different sides. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hoax didn’t come a little bit from some of the people that we’re taking on. They’re very powerful. They spend a lot of money — spend, I think, more money than any other group in the world actually, in terms of lobbying and lobbying abilities.

    “And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the nonsense that we all have to go through, but that I go through — wouldn’t be surprised if it was from these — some of these industries like pharmaceuticals that we take on.”

    Uh … say what now? The pharmaceutical companies are trying to impeach Trump for soliciting election-year help from foreign governments? I can’t.

    Steve Benen can’t either:

    This struck me as amazing for three reasons, so let’s take a minute to unpack the multilayered nonsense.

    Ah, the perfect descriptive phrase: “multilayered nonsense.”

    First, Donald Trump isn’t taking on the pharmaceutical industry. On the contrary, he tapped someone who oversaw a drug company’s lobbying efforts to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, which came after he backed off his 2016 campaign promises related to drug pricing. […]

    Trump also tapped Joe Grogan, a former drug industry lobbyist, to help shape the administration’s drug-pricing plan. […]

    Second, the scandal that’s likely to lead to his impeachment obviously isn’t a “hoax.” Trump has effectively already confessed. It’s also why there’s no reason to think nefarious corporate giants are trying to pull strings behind the scenes: there’s simply no need.

    Asked for a response to the president’s nonsense, a spokesperson for PhRMA said yesterday, “Not to be so frank, but that is a ridiculous question.” […]

    it was the president’s love of ridiculous conspiracy theories that helped get him into trouble in the first place, pushing him to the brink of impeachment. […]

    And yet, there he was yesterday, concocting an entirely new conspiracy theory involving drug companies and his scheme to get foreign assistance for his re-election campaign. Trump just can’t seem to help himself.


  269. says

    Followup to johnson cayman @449.

    From Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who has worked for Democratic and Republican administrations:

    This is a first in American history dating to 1789. An American President has asked our strongest adversary, a communist dictatorship, to investigate his major opponent. Let that sink in. It is corruption — morally and legally wrong.

    From four historians — Texas A&M’s Elizabeth A. Cobbs, Arizona State’s Kyle Longley, Colorado School of Mines’ Kenneth Osgood, and the University of Texas at Austin’s Jeremi Suri:

    In our numerous books on presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama, we have examined how American leaders conduct US foreign policy — the good, bad, and ugly. Nothing really surprises us anymore.

    Until now.

    Trump’s documentary record differs dramatically from his predecessors. A worrisome thread runs through each conversation. Trump appears laser-focused on his own fortunes to the exclusion of the national security of the United States. Unfortunately, this is part of a larger and startling pattern of Trump promoting his personal agenda ahead of the nation’s interest