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

    Guardian – “Thatcher sent Pinochet finest scotch during former dictator’s UK house arrest”:

    While he was under house arrest in Surrey in 1999, the former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet received a fine malt from an old friend.

    “Scotch is one British institution that will never let you down,” read the accompanying note from its sender: the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

    The detail, revealed this week in the third volume of Charles Moore’s biography of Baroness Thatcher, adds further colour to the close relationship between Thatcher and the man responsible for the death of more than 2,000 people and the torture of many more.

    Thatcher was appalled that the Labour government had allowed the arrest of Pinochet while he was in London for medical treatment, overriding his diplomatic immunity.

    “I don’t know when or how this tragedy will end,” Thatcher told the 1999 Conservative party conference to warm applause, “but we will fight on for as long as it takes to see Senator Pinochet returned safely to his own country. The British people still believe in loyalty to their friends.”

    Although they never met in power, Thatcher was impressed by the success of Chile’s neoliberal economic program and Pinochet’s bloody stance against communism in Latin America.

    Above all she felt a “great debt for [Pinochet’s] secret actions during the Falklands war”, according to Moore.

    But for survivors of Chile’s dictatorship, the relationship between the two leaders is still cause for anger.

    “For a British authority figure to publicly support the most bloody dictator in Latin America violated the memory of the thousands of Chileans who were killed, imprisoned and tortured under the dictatorship” said Alicia Lira, the president of the Association for Relatives of the Executed.

    “Her words were an offense to the Chilean people.”

    According to Chile’s truth and reconciliation commission, 2,279 people were murdered by Pinochet’s military regime, and a further 27,255 were tortured between 1973 and 1990.

    Thanks to public pressure from figures such as Lira, whose husband was killed by the military in 1982, former members of the regime continue to stand trial. On Wednesday, Chilean courts sentenced one of Pinochet’s former bodyguards, Cristián Labbé, to three years in prison for the 1973 torture of a political prisoner….

    Priti Patel’s hero.

  2. says

    Guardian – “Hong Kong emergency law ‘marks start of authoritarian rule'”:

    The invocation of a draconian law to quell a four-month unrest in Hong Kong has signalled the start of an authoritarian era that will plunge the city in a worse crisis, analysts and Hong Kongers have said.

    The Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, announced on Friday that the government had invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to pass a regulation forbidding the use of face masks. The decision bypassed the legislature, which resumes sessions in mid-October.

    Lam said the move was designed to stop violence and restore calm, but the government was prepared for immediate protests and a weekend of escalating violence: government employees were sent home early, schools were closed early on Friday and all school activities were cancelled on Saturday. Many shopping malls, banks and businesses were also closed.

    Thousands thronged on to the streets after Lam made the announcement on Friday afternoon. After dark, crowds lit fires at two metro stations and vandalised shops and businesses regarded as being pro-China. Police threw teargas and an off-duty officer reportedly fired a live round, hitting a 14-year-old boy in the thigh, after protesters attacked him.

    Political analysts said the use of the emergency law signalled the start of authoritarian rule in the semi-autonomous city.

    Hong Kong has had civil freedoms under China’s one country, two system policy since 1997. Although many have been eroded over the years, the emergency regulations were expected quickly eradicate many fundamental rights.

    “This symbolises very much the beginning of authoritarianism,” said Joseph Cheng, a retired political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong. “The Pandora’s box is opened. This law gives the government widespread power to do anything it likes. There is no more check and balance.

    “Suppression has begun, and there are no more considerations for reconciliation,” he said.

    The ordinance, created by the colonial British government to break up port strikes in 1922, was last used in 1967 to quell pro-communist riots. It grants the city’s leader sweeping powers to “make any regulations” he or she may consider to be in the public interest in situations considered “an occasion of emergency or public danger”.

    The regulations empower the government to impose a series of draconian measures, including censorship, control and suppression of publications and other means of communications, arrest, detention and deportation as well as the freezing of assets, the authorisation of the entry and search of premises, and the taking of possession or control of any property.

    “Now the government has set the precedent of legislating by decree, more could come and it is a slippery slope,” said Ho-fung Hung, a professor of political economy at the Johns Hopkins University in the US.

    Lam threatened to implement harsher measures if the protests continued. Police groups have called for a citywide curfew, and there have been talks about delaying district elections planned for November.

    Many Hongkongers fear the government could use the emergency provisions to force through unpopular proposed laws and policies, such as a subversion law that was suspended in 2003 after a mass protest, a national anthem law and the criminalisation of insults against the police.

    Analysts said the emergency measure risked fuelling an even more violent and widespread resistance.

    “It is an attempt to extinguish a fire with gasoline,” Ho said. “It will only make protesters more determined and militant.”…

  3. says

    BBC – “Iraq protests: Death toll nears 100 as unrest enters fifth day”:

    The death toll from ongoing anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to almost 100, according to the country’s parliamentary human rights commission.

    It also said more than 3,000 people had been injured.

    The authorities have tried to control the demonstrations – which began five days ago – with curfews and a near-total internet blackout.

    On Saturday, riot police blocked major meeting points in Baghdad.

    The protests are seen as the first major challenge to Mr Mahdi’s fragile government, nearly a year since he came to power.

    An emergency session of parliament was scheduled for Saturday, but there are doubts as to whether this will go ahead.

    Demonstrators say they are taking a stand against unemployment, poor public services and corruption….

    AJ – “‘Biggest crackdown’ under Sisi condemned after thousands arrested”:

    Egyptian authorities have launched the “biggest crackdown” under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s rule, according to Amnesty International, rounding up more than 2,300 people following a series of anti-government protests in late September.

    Those arrested include 111 minors, aged between 11 and 17 years, the rights group said in a statement on Wednesday.

    At least 69 detainees face charges including “membership in a terrorist group”.

    In addition to sweeping arrests of peaceful protesters, Egyptian authorities also carried out targeted arrests of journalists, activists and politicians, Amnesty said. Several lawyers representing detainees have also been arrested while carrying out their work.

    “President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government has orchestrated this crackdown to crush the slightest sign of dissent and silence every government critic,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa campaign director.

    “The wave of unprecedented mass arrests, which included many who were not even involved in the protests, sends a clear message – anyone perceived to pose a threat to Sisi’s government will be crushed.”

    El-Sisi took power following a military coup that toppled democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 after weeks of protests. He was elected the following year with 97 percent of the vote and re-elected in a 2018 vote in which the only other candidate was an el-Sisi supporter.

    Analysts say the 64-year-old leader’s popularity has gone down in recent years because of austerity measures and soaring poverty rates.

    Official statistics released in July show that 33 percent of Egyptians were living in poverty, up from 28 percent in 2015 and 17 percent in 2000. Other estimates put the figure higher.

    CNN – “A new wave of Arab protesters say, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!'”:

    Protests and clashes paralyze much of Iraq. Demonstrators in Lebanon block roads with burning tires and tear down posters of politicians.

    Egyptians brave the wrath of the security forces to resurrect the battle cry of the ill-fated 2011 revolution: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

    This isn’t about regional rivalries, the Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism or even a yearning for greater freedom. [FFS – SC]

    This time it’s about the economy, corruption and the failure of elites and politicians (usually one and the same) to provide basic public services, and at least a glimmer of hope that the lives of ordinary people in these countries will improve.

    The Lebanese government recently declared a “state of economic emergency” and passed what is described as an “austerity budget.”

    It all contributes to a growing sense among ordinary Lebanese that the economy is unwell, and that the poor, not the rich and powerful, will foot the bill.

    There have been similar rumblings in countries across North Africa and the Middle East.

    Rami Khouri, a senior fellow at the American University in Beirut, says that behind the unrest is “a politically disenfranchised Arab citizenry that has been humiliated by the disdain shown to them by their ruling elites, whose ineptitude and corruption can no longer be tolerated.”

  4. KG says

    The ordinance, created by the colonial British government to break up port strikes in 1922, was last used in 1967 to quell pro-communist riots.

    How disgraceful that the stooges of the Chinese Communist Party are now using this ordinance for other than its intended purposes of breaking strikes and suppressing communists! How very dare they!!??!

  5. says

    AP – “Turkey threatens solo army operation into northeast Syria”:

    Turkey’s president, in his strongest warning yet, threatened Saturday to launch a military operation into northeastern Syria, where U.S. troops are deployed and have been trying to defuse tensions between Washington’s two allies — Turkey and the Syrian Kurds.

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats were a warning that a U.S.-Turkish deal to secure Syria’s troubled border with Turkey was faltering. He said a Turkish military operation against the U.S-backed Kurdish forces could begin “maybe today, maybe tomorrow.”

    The Turkish military has been dispatching units and defense equipment to southeastern Sanliurfa province in the past month. Erdogan had expressed frustration, threatening a unilateral operation, but this was his most specific threat amid concerns from the Syrian Kurdish forces of a limited military operation.

    “We have given all kinds of warning regarding the (area) east of the Euphrates to the relevant parties. We have acted with enough patience,” Erdogan said.

    A Turkish military operation, however limited, would put major pressure on the more 1,000 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria and who operate closely with the Kurdish-led forces, whether to implement the security mechanism or in fighting IS.

    The Turkish leader has repeatedly expressed frustration with Washington’s support for Kurdish groups in Syria. His threats continued despite a deal reached with Washington in August to carry out joint patrols and move Syrian Kurdish fighters away from the border.

    The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said it is committed to the agreement between Turkey and the U.S. to preserve stability in the region.

    “However, we will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to DEFEND ourselves and our people,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted Saturday….

  6. blf says

    Moral leader, standup comic: Trump summons alternative reality at black youth summit:

    Through the looking glass, and a wormhole, in the farthest reaches of a parallel universe, Donald Trump is not facing impeachment. Instead he is truth-teller, a healer of divisions and such a moral champion of African Americans they wonder if that Obama chap was a bit overrated.

    To be in the East Room of the White House on Friday afternoon was to step into this alternative reality. More than 200 African American students and young professionals roared with delight and adulation, chanting USA! USA! and pointing camera phones, as Trump walked in and gave a typically jarring speech that veered off teleprompter.

    In this reality, Trump can do no wrong. He is a standup comic whose lines always land. Millennials praise him for saving America and demand four more years! His pal Kanye West is a seer. The agent provocateurs of social media are venerated for their contrariness. The enemies are the liberals, the Democrats and their deep state cronies and the fake news media, all of which are to blame for everything from inner city crime to colluding to impeach.

    And in this reality, even American history is different. This is a place, Trump said of the White House, 1799 it was built. 1799. It started off with number six. John Adams, president.

    In fact the sixth president was John Quincy Adams. His father, John Adams, president No 2, was the first occupant of the White House, from 1800. Oddly, Trump made the same mistake at the same event last year.

    [… background on the group’s leader, Candace Owens, “a young African American woman and social media dynamo who denounces Democrats and the media as racist”…]

    It’s true. Under the #MeToo generation we’re not allowed to say it. So all of you young brilliant guys, never, ever call a woman beautiful, please.

    You’re not allowed to do it and I’ve kept doing it and I’ve never been told by that woman never to do it.

    [… she blathers and eventually asserts] And listen, let me say this. The media. The audacity of them to think that they are going to impeach our president.


    Trump — whose approval rating among black voters stands at 10% — praised himself for the lowest African American unemployment and poverty rates in history and for shepherding criminal justice reform. But that brought up a sore point and now the president went into full grievance mode.

    Whereas Owens had kissed the ring with peerless sycophancy, the activist and broadcaster Van Jones had betrayed him, he recalled, after pleading for his help. On his TV show about two weeks ago, Van Jones thanked everyone but Trump for criminal justice reform.

    He even, Trump recalled, thanked the Rev Al Sharpton! (He used to love me. We used to go to fights together with Don King. Don King’s a friend of mine, Don King endorsed me.”)

    So it was the president of the United States, keeper of the world’s biggest economy and deadliest nuclear arsenal, had been glued to cable news waiting for a host to give him a shout out. I kept waiting for my name … I was a little embarrassed in front of my wife. I said, ‘He didn’t name me! I’m the one that did it!’ I called up Jared, I said, ‘What the hell is this?’

    To add insult to injury, Trump said, Van Jones told viewers: “We have to work 24 hours a day to defeat Donald Trump.”

    The president claimed that Van Jones later called his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to apologise. But I don’t accept those apologies, he said. Such slights to the Trump ego are neither forgotten nor forgiven.

    Trump looked around the room. Shall we get back on to script? he asked.

    The crowd shouted back: No!

    There seems little chance of it happening.

    As a reminder, hair furor could not possibly have been coherent. Lunatic deludged liar, yes, coherent, extremely unlikely.

  7. says

    Excerpts from the Washington Post article to which SC linked in comment 495 of the previous chapter of this thread.

    In one of his first calls with a head of state, […] Trump fawned over Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling the man who ordered interference in America’s 2016 election that he was a great leader and apologizing profusely for not calling him sooner.

    He pledged to Saudi officials in another call that he would help the monarchy enter the elite Group of Seven, an alliance of the world’s leading democratic economies.

    He promised the president of Peru that he would deliver to his country a C-130 military cargo plane overnight, a logistical nightmare that set off a herculean scramble in the West Wing and Pentagon.

    And in a later call with Putin, Trump asked the former KGB officer for his guidance in forging a friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — a fellow authoritarian hostile to the United States. […]

    Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders were an anxiety-ridden set of events for his aides and members of the administration, according to former and current officials. They worried that Trump would make promises he shouldn’t keep, endorse policies the United States long opposed, commit a diplomatic blunder that jeopardized a critical alliance, or simply pressure a counterpart for a personal favor.

    “There was a constant undercurrent in the Trump administration of [senior staff] who were genuinely horrified by the things they saw that were happening on these calls,” said one former White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations. “Phone calls that were embarrassing, huge mistakes he made, months and months of work that were upended by one impulsive tweet.”

    But Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky went beyond whether the leader of the free world had committed a faux pas, and into grave concerns he had engaged in a possible crime or impeachable offense. The release last week of a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals as well as the release of a rough transcript of the July call led to House Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump. […]

    Washington Post link

  8. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Secretary Pompeo threatened a dogged fight against any attempt to depose State Department officials or get documents for the House inquiry. Volker, Yovanovitch, Sondland and others could have used that shield Pompeo threw up around them to refuse or at least delay or negotiate over testifying. That was clearly the intention. But they haven’t. Volker resigned his appointment and quickly testified. Now Sondland, much more of a Trump partisan and apparently much more of a driving force in the extortion scheme, is doing the same.

    Take it as a given that everyone here will act in their own interests. If the President’s position was strong and he had the ability to protect or threaten these secondary players they’d almost certainly be following his lead. But they’re not. They’re moving quickly, if not to make deals with the Congress then at least to share what they know and hand over documents in their possession. In other words, they’re protecting themselves. We don’t know for certain Sondland is doing this yet. But if he weren’t it would be folly to submit to a deposition without a government lawyer present and without trying to negotiate protective ground rules.

    One of the things we learned over the last nine months is that a posture of total defiance can be quite effective. If no one talks or produces any records it’s almost impossible for an investigation to get traction or build momentum. By cooperating they are significantly undermining the administration’s strategy and creating incentives and pressures for others to come forward as well. For a White House where law means little and loyalty means everything that is total betrayal. But that does not appear to be stopping them.

    Again, everyone will act in their own interests. The White House is telegraphing a cavalier defiance meant to tell everyone they still hold all the cards. But these underlings’ actions speak louder than words. They know much more than we do and they have much more on the line. So we should listen closely to what their actions are telling us.


  9. says

    Yeah, this sounds like a typical trumpian reaction:

    Trump reportedly plans to slash his National Security Council in wake of a bombshell whistleblower complaint about his call with the president of Ukraine.

    […] National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney informed the council’s senior staff this week of Trump’s decision to heavily reduce the number of employees. […]

    the decision comes amid Trump’s threats to find out the identity of the whistleblower, whose complaint also revealed that White House officials had used the National Security Council’s electronic system to conceal records of Trump’s calls with Ukraine and other foreign leaders to protect the President from political backlash.


  10. says

    Trump Still Hasn’t Forced Ukraine To Fabricate Dirt On Biden

    No, […] Trump has not won his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainian government to manufacture dirt on his opponents.

    Nonetheless, some headlines this morning are suggesting that Ukraine will review the investigation of a Ukrainian natural gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board.

    The reality is subtler, and more complicated, than these stories make it seem.

    The backstory here begins with President Volodymyr Zelensky’s appointment of Ruslan Ryaboshapka as the country’s general prosecutor. That position has surreally become a political football in Washington, after Ryaboshapka’s two predecessors — Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko — wound up as main characters in Rudy Giuliani’s bid to smear Hunter Biden and discredit the Mueller investigation.

    Zelensky referenced Ryaboshapka on his now-infamous July 25 phone call with President Trump, telling him that “the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person.”

    “He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue,” Zelensky replied. “The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”

    But Ryaboshapka’s comments in Kyiv on Friday don’t really suggest that the Ukrainian government has decided to fulfill Trump’s request to, in the President’s memorable phrasing, do him a “favor.” […]

    Ukraine’s 2014 revolution created huge internal pressure to investigate the massive corruption that took place under the overthrown Viktor Yanukovych government. One such case was the natural gas company where Hunter Biden would later join the board, Burisma. The company’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, had used his official position as a minister in Yanukovych’s government to dole out gas drilling permits to himself.

    But the new government that came into power after the revolution failed to keep corruption out of its own ranks, and struck a series of deals with corrupt officials who got rich during the Yanukovych government to allow them to escape prosecution.

    One of the most notable of these deals related to Burisma, on whose board Hunter Biden gained a seat in 2014. Some Ukrainians who worked as prosecutors at the time — and secretly recorded conversations — suggest that the investigation into Burisma was not closed because of pressure from Joe Biden, as Giuliani has suggested, but rather because the company agreed to sell gas at below-market rates to firms owned by then-President Petro Poroshenko. […]

    In his press conference on Friday in Kyiv, Ryaboshapka announced his priorities as general prosecutor — a position he entered in late August.

    […] he would conduct an audit of the “many high-profile cases that were either closed” or transferred. […]

    So while it’s true that the Ukrainian government is reviewing its handling of the Burisma case, it’s something of a stretch to suggest that Kyiv has caved in to pressure from the Trump Administration on this score.

    Rather, it seems more like the government is taking a likely inconsequential step to improve its own domestic political standing and send vague signals to Washington that it’s playing ball without actually doing anything significant.

  11. says

    Yikes. The Trump administration is flushing worker safety down the drain.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to increase line speeds in chicken processing plants during the Obama administration, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration objected, because of dangers to workers in an already dangerous industry—the industry with the highest rate of finger amputations and higher rates of injury than coal mines or construction. But under Donald Trump, things are about to get much worse,[…] Rather than trying to pass a new regulation increasing line speeds in poultry processing plants, the USDA is just going to grant waivers to any company that asks for it, no matter how bad its safety record.

    In fact, the USDA won’t even look at safety in granting waivers, because “The agency has neither the authority nor the expertise to regulate issues related to establishment worker safety.” Who does? “OSHA is the federal agency with statutory and regulatory authority to promote workplace safety and health.” But OSHA has no control over what the USDA is doing here—if Trump’s OSHA would even give a damn.

    One Georgia plant that’s already received a waiver was the site of a 2014 accident that led to a worker’s leg being amputated. Workers had been asking for a fix and not gotten one; a supervisor then lied about the broken equipment that caused the accident. In 2015, at the same plant, a worker was killed when he was electrocuted by uninsulated wiring. […]

    Another plant owned by the same company, Fieldale Farms, also got a waiver despite a worker losing several fingers. An Ohio plant owned by another company got its waiver signed the same day as a worker sustained injuries requiring multiple surgeries in an accident for which the company was fined $11,086 by OSHA. […]


  12. tomh says

    How long before Romney folds under the pressure and says Trump did nothing wrong.

    Trump unleashes on Romney as Ukraine crisis deepens
    Updated: 10/05/2019 05:10 PM EDT

    “Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him). He is so bad for R’s!” Trump wrote in a pair of morning tweets.

    Hours later, Trump turned his fire on Romney again, tweeting that he had heard that Utah voters regretted electing Romney to the Senate.

    “He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY” Trump wrote.

    More (mostly well-known background) at the link.

  13. says

    Individually, GOP Senators are at Trump’s mercy; collectively, he is at theirs. They can turn the table even if only a few act together to change the threat equation.”

    I mean, honestly. These assholes claims to speak for rural America. Did they not see “The Bully Boys” ep of Little House on the Prairie?

    …At school, Mary and Laura again see Bubba asserting himself on the smaller girls and confront him, and again are sent away with yet more punches to the face. This time, the other girls – and yes, even little Willie(!), who as it turns out didn’t like Bubba either – run en masse onto Bubba, and this time, he’s unable to fight any of them off. Bubba eventually flees and never comes back to school.

    Then, at church the next Sunday, Alden does just that. He begins his sermon by explaining that sometimes, you don’t always recognize when trouble sits among you but once you do, you have to deal with it immediately. George realizes Alden is talking about him and his brothers, and Alden says, “Why, yes!” George tries to defend himself but when Alden tells him he realizes who they are and they are nothing but hooligans and thugs, George tries to storm the pulpit, but Alden is too fast for him. With the other men in the front row ready to take on George and Sam if they try to hurt Alden, the normally even-tempered pastor tells them it’s time for them to leave … and that they better never return, ever! “We are a congregation, and we stick together!” he shouts at them, meaning that they are “brothers” and will stick up for each other and stand up for what’s right when others are bullied and pushed around.

    As the defeated Galendars are escorted out of town – indeed, they never do return – the congregation sings, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

  14. says

    Axios – “Scoop: Trump pins Ukraine call on Energy Secretary Rick Perry”:

    President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

    Behind the scenes: Trump made these comments during a conference call with House members on Friday, according to 3 sources on the call.

    Per the sources, Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly — that his call with Zelensky was “perfect”and he did nothing wrong.

    But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: “Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant,” one source said, recalling the president’s comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source’s recollection.

    Why it matters: The president’s remarks suggest he may be seeking to distance himself from responsibility or recast the pretext for the call. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.

    Another source on the call said Trump added that “more of this will be coming out in the next few days” — referring to Perry….

  15. says

    Maggie Haberman: “When the president says these things (XYZ told me to do it) it’s usually because another staffer has said them to him more recently, blaming the person in question.”

    Is there any circumstance in which Haberman and the NYT crew will, examining the entirety of the evidence, conclude that Trump’s purposefully lying or engaging in propaganda? That this and his being an addle-brained credulous Fox sponge aren’t mutually exclusive?

  16. says

    Politico – “Judge orders White House to preserve records of Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders”:

    A federal judge has ordered the White House to preserve a wide range of evidence about President Donald Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders, including his interactions related to Ukraine that have fueled an impeachment investigation in the House.

    U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the order Thursday, directing that White House officials not destroy records of “meetings, phone calls, and other communications with foreign leaders.”

    The judge’s order also appears to specifically address reports that the Trump White House set up a special system to limit access to certain records of presidential conversations with foreign leaders.

    Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, instructed the White House to preserve “all records of efforts by White House or other executive branch officials to return, ‘claw back,’ ’lock down’ or recall White House records” about dealings with foreign officials.

    The order came in a lawsuit filed in May by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, as well as two history-focused organizations: the National Security Archive and the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations. The suit alleged that the White House was failing to maintain and putting at risk records of presidential actions required to be documented by the Presidential Records Act.

    While the suit predated the Ukraine controversy, lawyers pressing the case asked Jackson on Tuesday for a temporary restraining order, citing reports that records of Trump’s phone calls with the president of Ukraine and some other leaders had been removed from the usual database at the White House and moved to another one not typically used for those calls.

    Jackson’s decision to issue an order despite the pledge to the court to maintain the records is rather unusual. In most instances, judges simply note such a pledge and say they assume that the parties involved will abide by it. The order means anyone destroying White House records it covers could be subject to sanction or even criminal charge for contempt of court.

    Another unusual aspect of the judge’s order is that it appears to cover Trump directly….

    Spokespeople for the White House and the Justice Department declined to comment on the order. In a court filing this week, government lawyers said they believe the suit lacks legal merit. They filed a motion to dismiss the suit back in August, but Jackson has yet to act on it.

  17. says

    MSNBC is reporting that the lawyer (I assume they’re referring to Andrew Bakaj) representing Deep Whistle (name thanks to Josh Marshall) will also represent Deeper Whistle.

  18. says

    +972 Magazine – “Over 100 Jewish scholars condemn Trump admin for exploiting anti-Semitism”:

    Jewish academics are fighting back against the Trump administration’s attempts to silence criticism of Israel on college campuses. More than 100 Jewish scholars have signed an open letter to the U.S. Department of Education in response to its demand that the Duke-University of North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies modify its curricular programming or face defunding.

    The open letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose signatories include renowned scholar Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, and artist Molly Crabapple, condemns the Education Department’s recent investigation of the consortium and subsequent ultimatum as “an unfounded and anti-democratic campaign of intimidation” and charges the Education Department with “exploiting fears of anti-Semitism” and “using Jews and our concerns over anti-Semitism to try and justify repressive policies.”

    The letter also denounces the “shocking Islamophobia running throughout” the Education Department’s letter announcing the investigation’s findings.

    DeVos ordered the investigation into the Duke-UNC Consortium following a complaint that a conference it hosted last March on the politics of the Gaza Strip — which featured several well-respected American, Israeli, and Palestinian experts — demonstrated “severe anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

    The Education Department has, under Trump, adopted an aggressive posture toward criticism of Israel and particularly the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement — a change perhaps best embodied by the appointment of the department’s civil rights chief, Ken Marcus. A longtime professional pro-Israel operative, Marcus has pushed the government to define the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and to designate anti-occupation and Palestine solidarity activism as violations of Jewish students’ civil rights.

    But while the initial complaint of anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism was the ostensible catalyst for the Education Department’s investigation, the letter announcing its findings made no mention of either anti-Semitism or Israel. Instead, the Education Department claimed the Duke-UNC consortium was failing to meet its requirements for federal funding by focusing too much on cultural studies courses and topics like “Love and Desire in Modern Iran” and not enough on “advancing the security and economic stability of the United States.” Thus, what began with the pretext of investigating an already spurious accusation of anti-Semitism turned into a rare federal intervention in the curricular programming of an academic institution.

    The Education Department’s investigation into the Duke-UNC consortium is part of the pro-Israel right’s ongoing anti-BDS offensive. Aided by the Trump administration, that offensive includes Assistant Secretary Marcus’s efforts to change the government’s definition of anti-Semitism, attempts to stifle campus criticism of Israel and Palestine solidarity activism, and anti-boycott bills — which the ACLU considers unconstitutional — that have passed in at least 27 states. American Jewish establishment organizations, from the Anti-Defamation League to the American Jewish Committee, have largely supported these measures….

    More at the link.

  19. says

    Elizabeth Warren: “The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values. I’m concerned about recent events in Kashmir, including a continued communications blackout and other restrictions. The rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected.”

  20. says

    Laura Rozen:

    A senior Foreign Service Officer tells me on Pompeo: “The schtick has worn off. Nobody believes the ‘swagger’ or other bullshit…”

    “Professional ethos is a sham. He has no cred among the troops. No matter how smoothly he does any town halls or whatever.”

    On Pompeo claim he won’t let staff be bullied by Congressional inquiries, the FSO said Pompeo had acted “essentially never” to protect the State Department from White House political pressures.

  21. says

    Mark Zaid: “NEWS UPDATE: I can confirm this report of a second #whistleblower being represented by our legal team. They also made a protected disclosure under the law and cannot be retaliated against. This WBer has first hand knowledge.”

    It’s still unclear whether Bakaj’s “multiple” means more than these two.

  22. says

    I asked @MarkSZaidEsq if his team had been approached by only one additional potential whistleblower or others as well.

    Mr. Zaid replied: ‘There are definitely multiple whistleblowers’. He offered no further comment.”

    I don’t know why they’re being so cryptic about it but it’s making me giggle for some reason.

  23. says

    Jed Shugerman:

    If you assume Trump is stewing over the 2016 election (pushing Crowdstrike and Ukraine conspiracy theory) only because of ego and a need to feel he won legitimately…

    You’re missing the role it plays in pardoning Manafort, keeping him quiet, and serving Putin’s interests.

  24. says

    Molly McKew in Politico – “What Putin Got From the Trump-Zelensky Phone Call”:

    …By embroiling Ukraine in scandal, by politicizing support of Ukraine among the American audience, by linking Ukraine to the conspiracy nexus that underlies all thinking in Trumpworld — and by minimizing the existential threat that Ukraine and Ukrainians face every day from the Russian assault on their nation — Trump is advancing core Kremlin objectives. He has made the president of Ukraine an accomplice in that effort, or maybe just a companion in the same trap.

    Every time Trump guts an institution, diverts money to his personality projects, labels an internal enemy, violates a norm, secures a job for a corrupt and unqualified appointee, ignores the law, asks a foreign leader to “do him a favor” — every time he breaks a rule and pays no price, he provides illustration for Putin’s expanding primer on “the hoax” of democracy and “the people.”…

  25. tomh says

    WaPo Editorial:

    Watch Out, America — The Supreme Court Is Back in Session
    And conservatives could be the big winners.

    By The Editorial Board
    The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

    On Monday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing cases in its first complete term since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, gave the court a newly emboldened right-wing majority.

    The current five-member bloc has already started overturning decades-old precedents and remaking the law in ways that align remarkably well with conservative policy preferences.

    The new term offers no shortage of opportunities for the conservative justices to block or roll back rights for certain groups — for example, women, L.G.B.T. people and undocumented immigrants brought to America as children — while bolstering rights for others, like gun owners and those who would knock down the crumbling wall between church and state.

    In one of the most hotly anticipated cases, to be argued Tuesday, the justices will consider whether employers may fire employees for being gay or transgender.

    The arguments will cover three separate cases — two involving gay men who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation and one involving a transgender woman who was fired after telling her employer that she was transitioning from male to female.

    Such discrimination is a daily fact of life for gay, lesbian and transgender people across the country. Some states have laws barring it, but most don’t. For people in states without their own legal protections, the only hope is federal law — specifically, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars employers from firing, harassing or discriminating against an employee “because of” that person’s “sex.” The plaintiffs in these three cases argue that the plain language of Title VII applies to them, because they would not have been fired but for their sex — after all, if the gay men had been women, their attraction to men would not have been an issue for their employers.

    The transgender woman before the court, Aimee Stephens, also argues that she was fired because she did not fit the stereotype of how a person assigned male at birth is expected to dress and act. This violates a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that Title VII bars discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes.

    The employers in these cases, with the backing of the Trump administration, say the civil rights law provides no protection to the plaintiffs, because when it was passed in the 1960s, no one imagined that it would apply to sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s true — many L.G.B.T. Americans were closeted at the time, and they faced severe consequences for standing up for their equality in public. But what lawmakers might have thought more than 50 years ago is irrelevant to the matter at hand, which is what the law they passed actually says.

    Cases like this are why the makeup of the Supreme Court matters so much. If Justice Kennedy were still in his seat, it’s a fair bet that the plaintiffs would come out on top. Justice Kennedy wrote all of the major gay-rights opinions of the court, including Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which upheld a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

    Still, this should be an easy case for the conservatives, who regularly profess their allegiance to the plain language of laws. If they are nevertheless inclined to read that language narrowly, they might heed the words of their hero, Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the opinion for a unanimous court in 1998 that Title VII applies to cases involving harassment between members of the same sex. While Congress may not have been picturing such incidents in 1964, Justice Scalia wrote, “statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed.”

    This term, the court also will hear a challenge to President Trump’s decision in 2017 to reverse President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order protecting undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — the roughly 700,000 young men and women known as Dreamers.

    Mr. Obama implemented the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, as a way to protect some of the most vulnerable undocumented immigrants in the nation, and he did it only after Congress repeatedly failed to pass any meaningful immigration reform. Mr. Obama claimed that he was using well-established presidential discretion to decide how to enforce immigration laws and to prioritize the deportation of certain people and not others, like the Dreamers.

    This put the Trump administration in a bind. On the one hand, Mr. Trump rose to power on an anti-immigrant platform, and his supporters are hungry to see him carry that out. (He’s also eager to erase every accomplishment of Mr. Obama’s.) On the other hand, the Dreamers are a sympathetic group of young people, as Mr. Trump has acknowledged, and Americans broadly support their being able to stay in the only country that many of them have ever really known.

    Had Mr. Trump simply said that he was rescinding DACA because he did not think it was a wise policy, he would have been on firmer legal ground. But because he was afraid of taking responsibility for destroying the Dreamers’ lives, Mr. Trump is trying to pass the job off to the Supreme Court by arguing that DACA was an illegal exercise of authority from the start.

    That’s simply wrong — not to mention suspicious coming from an administration that claims to have broad authority in other immigration contexts. It also makes the case harder for Mr. Trump at the Supreme Court because he did not adequately explain his reasoning, as is required when reversing a previous administration’s position. When the justices hear this case in November, they ought to tell the president that if he wants to kill off a popular program, he’ll need to look the American people in the eye and own it.

    The way the justices handle two other high-profile cases — on guns and abortion — could reveal just how far and fast the court’s new conservative majority is willing to go to implement its vision for America.

    In January, the justices agreed to hear a gun-rights case for the first time in a decade. The lawsuit is a challenge to a New York City law limiting gun owners’ ability to transport guns outside their home. With five justices who are solidly in favor of gun owners’ rights, the outcome would seem nearly preordained.

    It might not be, however. After the court agreed to hear the case, New York City threw out the challenged law. Normally, this means that the case is, in legal jargon, moot: The plaintiffs got what they were asking for, so there’s no longer any dispute for a court to resolve.

    But once again, court personnel matters. If Justice Kennedy were still on the bench, there’s a good chance that the court would not have taken this case at all. It’s a different story with Justice Kavanaugh, whose work as a federal appeals court judge suggests he is even more protective of the Second Amendment than was Justice Scalia, who wrote the landmark 2008 ruling that guaranteed an individual right to keep and bear arms.

    Last but not least is abortion rights — in the form of the first case involving the perennial hot-button issue to reach the Supreme Court since President Trump’s two nominees were confirmed. On Friday, the justices agreed to hear a case out of Louisiana, which enacted a law in 2014 requiring that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the terminations are performed.

    Wait, you might be thinking: Isn’t this the same issue the court decided just three years ago, when it struck down parts of a nearly identical law in Texas as a sham policy intended to make it much more difficult for a woman to exercise her constitutional right to choose? Yes, it is. In that 2016 case, Justice Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals to strike down parts of the Texas law. This should have been enough to keep the Louisiana case from getting anywhere near the Supreme Court. But the notoriously conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the Louisiana law anyway, and for a simple reason: With Justice Kennedy gone, the anti-abortion crusaders and their sympathizers on the federal bench feel that their moment has finally arrived.

    They are right. Even if the court reverses the Fifth Circuit and prevents the Louisiana law from taking effect, as it clearly should, there are now five Supreme Court justices who are hostile to women’s reproductive rights. And even though an enduring majority of Americans support keeping abortion legal, the path to overturning Roe v. Wade — the conservative movement’s single biggest target over the past half century — is clearer than ever.

  26. tomh says

    Oops, that’s a New York Times editorial, not WaPo. The link is correct, though. Need more coffee.

  27. says

    This is the Guardian article the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is tweeting out – “Trump told Theresa May he doubted Russia was behind Skripal poisoning”:

    Donald Trump disputed that Russia was behind the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in a tense call with Theresa May, it has emerged.

    Despite the widespread conclusion that Vladimir Putin’s regime was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last year, the US president is said to have spent 10 minutes expressing his doubts about Russian involvement.

    According to the Washington Post, Trump “harangued” May about Britain’s contribution to Nato in a phone call with Britain’s then prime minister in the summer of last year, before disputing Russian involvement in the Skripal case.

    “Trump totally bought into the idea there was credible doubt about the poisoning,” said a figure briefed on the call. “A solid 10 minutes of the conversation is spent with May saying it’s highly likely and him saying he’s not sure.”…

    It was the conclusion of all of the relevant intelligence organizations, supported by a great deal of public evidence, and led to more than one round of sanctions against Russia, including from the US.

    This is from the time of the most recent US sanctions, this August:

    Under sustained pressure from Congress, President Donald Trump has imposed long-overdue, legally mandated sanctions on Russia for its poisoning of an ex-spy in the United Kingdom.

    Russian agents were accused of using a banned nerve agent to carry out a failed March 2018 attack on British soil against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

    The attack left the Skripals in a coma and killed another woman.

    Trump signed the executive order on sanctions Thursday, more than six months after they were due and a day after a call with President Vladimir Putin.

    The White House said the call was focused on Trump’s offer to help Russia with “vast wildfires afflicting Siberia” and trade between the two countries. “We had a good talk, a short talk, but a good talk,” Trump told reporters Thursday.

    Moscow, which issued a statement about the call hours before the White House did, said Trump had initiated it. Neither the American nor the Russian statement mentioned any discussion of the sanctions, but Putin praised Trump’s offer of firefighting help “as a guarantee that in the future it will be possible to restore full-fledged relations between the two countries.”

    The Russian statement went on to say the two leaders had “agreed to continue contacts in a telephone format, as well as in face-to-face meetings.”

    Trump has been reluctant to impose sanctions on Russia amid his efforts to improve relations between Washington and Moscow, and as recently as this week he continued his attempts to cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Last year, the Trump administration was slow to enact sanctions punishing Russia for that interference.

    A Senate aide said it was widely known among Democrats and Republicans working on sanctions that Trump was angry when the Treasury and State departments made the determination last fall that Russia was failing to prove it was no longer using chemical weapons, triggering a second round of sanctions under US law.

    Though Treasury and the State Department had done all the legwork to prepare the mandatory sanctions, the White House failed to act on them.

    With the sanctions more than six months overdue, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle moved this week to apply pressure.

    The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Democrat and Republican sent a letter to Trump on Monday demanding that the administration meet its congressionally mandated obligations….

    The article notes that in the first round of sanctions, the US expelled 60 Russian diplomats. It doesn’t note that Trump was reportedly furious about that as well. The House has to get the transcript of that August 1st phone call with Putin.

  28. says

    This is a developing story:

    Nine people were shot in a mass shooting early Sunday morning in Kansas City, Kansas, leaving five killed and four wounded.

    The shooting occurred in a small bar called Tequila KC at around 1:30 AM. According to NBC News, local authorities believe two suspects were involved.

    Kansas City police spokespokeman Thomas Tomasic told NBC News that all four of the victims who were killed were Hispanic men, but that authorities do not suspect the shooting was racially motivated.

    “We do not believe it is random, we do believe this was an isolated incident,” he said.

    The suspects are still at large.


    In other news:

  29. says

    Pelosi visits BETO country, triggers Trump Civil War Tweet by TX bigot, Trump rally in Dallas

    Background: “This is it,” Pelosi said. “Texas is our hope for the future. And I’m not just talking about Democrats. I am talking about the country and the world. When Texas goes blue, that’s going to be very wholesome for our nation. It is a beautifully diverse state in every way.” Source: The Hill

    From Pastor Robert Jeffress (on Fox News):

    ….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”

    From Beto O’Rourke:

    Our president is threatening a Civil War. This is a constitutional crisis, but it’s more than that: It’s a threat of violence. In El Paso, we saw the consequences of the president’s words. I call on Republicans to hold him accountable before more are harmed in his name.

    Reaction from team Trump:

    Trump to hold campaign rally Oct. 17 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

  30. says

    The foreign press doing a good job … the U.S. media, not so much:

    […] In Finland, Trump’s deranged press conference last week was dubbed a “Trump circus” by one leading newspaper, while a headline in the UK’s Independent accurately called Trump’s presser “rambling” and “furious.” It seems journalists who view the Trump insanity from a different perspective aren’t so circumspect about accurately describing the insanity that’s unfolding in front of them. […]

    When Australia’s prime minister visited the White House last month and took part in yet another bizarre press event with Trump, one stunned Australian journalist covering the event turned to a Wall Street Journal reporter and asked, “Is it always like this?”

    Also traveling to the U.S. from Australia recently, Guardian journalist Lenore Taylor wrote about how amazed she was to watch Trump speak in person for extended monologues, how utterly incoherent his comments were, and how often reporters clean up those comments in order to make them seem sensible and normal within the context of news articles. “Watching just one press conference helped me understand how the process of reporting about this president can mask and normalize his full and alarming incoherence,” she wrote in a piece headlined, “As a foreign reporter visiting the US I was stunned by Trump’s press conference.”

    Speaking of normalizing the incoherence, the Times described Trump’s manic Wednesday meltdowns this way: “President Trump used two events at the White House with the president of Finland on Wednesday to challenge Democrats as they pressed ahead with their investigation into whether Mr. Trump had abused the power of his office in seeking political dirt from Ukraine.” Pretty pedestrian, right?

    Why the larger hesitation among the American press? Why the lack of necessary truth-telling? It’s likely the same reason lots of large news organizations, to this day, won’t call Trump a liar, even though he’s on pace to tell more than 16,000 lies while in office. News outlets don’t want to take heat from conservatives and from the administration for calling Trump a liar. […]

    The same is true with regard to Trump’s increasingly unhinged behavior. I doubt there are many members of the Washington press corps who watch Trump’s unsettling public screeds and think, “He seems stable, and I have no questions about his mental capacity.” They all know it’s a pressing issue. But newsrooms don’t want to suffer the backlash—the shouts of “Liberal media bias!”—that would target any journalists who tackle the story, even though it’s so obviously newsworthy.

    So instead of telling the truth regarding Trump’s dangerously erratic behavior, we get watered-down “stormy” and “fiery”-type coverage from the Beltway media. Thankfully, outsider journalists often provide a fresh perspective. As impeachment heats up (along with Trump’s madness), we’re going to need that clear-eyed viewpoint.


  31. says

    From Wonkette:

    Despite the fact that she has absolutely no chance of winning, Marianne Williamson is still running for President. Also, she is very upset with the media and the Left in general for making her out to be some kind of “crystal woo woo” lady when she has in fact never even done the whole crystal thing and is an altogether different variety of “woo-woo lady.”

    […] “This idea that I’m a crystal woo woo lady … the crystal woo woo lady image, to some extent amusing, has no relation to reality […] I’ve never had a crystal, I’ve never written about crystals. I’ve never talked about crystals. I’ve never had a crystal onstage with me.”

    Is this just a misreading of Williamson based on the fact that she is very New Agey and believes a whole lot of other ridiculous things, like for instance that excess body fat is made up of “negative thoughts? Or because she based her whole self-help empire on a book by a lady who thought she was channelling Jesus when she wrote it? Not according to Williamson. According to Williamson, this whole thing is actually a “well-designated strategy,” an orchestrated plot to take her down. Orchestrated by whom? She does not know. But probably the Illuminati.

    “The words were all the same,” said Williamson. “‘Anti-science,’ ‘anti-medicine,’ ‘dangerous,’ ‘crazy’ and ‘grifter.’ I mean, you couldn’t be clearer. Those were the words repeated in all of the articles, all of the stories. They were meant to create suspicion in people’s minds. They were meant to create doubt, lest anybody even think of taking me seriously as a candidate. But I think at this point, just as that smear campaign cast doubt on my credibility, the fact that I’ve been out there, that people have heard me more themselves, people have seen my clips, enough has begun to cast doubt on the credibility of those who have projected onto me such mischaracterization.”

    Sure! You could say that the reason writers went for words like “anti-science” and “anti-medicine” and “crazy” was because of crap like this: “God is BIG, swine flu SMALL. See every cell of your body filled with divine light. Pour God’s love on our immune systems. Truth protects.” […]

    See also:
    https://twitter.com/gbrockell/status/1142978817000165376 where excerpts from Williamson’s book are presented. For example: “cancer and AIDS and other serious illnesses are physical manifestations of a psychic scream, and their message is not “Hate me,” but “Love me.”

    More from Wonkette:

    […] It could be any of those things! But probably it is a nefarious plot to make people not take her seriously as a candidate for President of the United States, a thing that people would definitely do otherwise. I mean, if I hadn’t been sent that memo from an unknown email address instructing me to say that Marianne Williamson is a kook, this article would probably be about how super normal it is that she thinks AIDS can be cured with prayers. […]

  32. says

    MSNBC has a calendar up, which is confusingly designed and only left up for seconds at a time, but I paused to get it down. This is the schedule for this week:

    Monday the 7th: George Kent deposition
    Tuesday the 8th: Gordon Sondland and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl depositions
    Friday the 11th: Marie Yovanovitch deposition

  33. says

    Now he is in real trouble. Tucker Carlson is dissing Trump on Fox news.

    “Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden,” Carlson said in a column he co-authored with fellow Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel. “Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea.”

    The president’s actions were characteristic of the president, they said. “Like a lot of things Trump does, it was pretty over-the-top,” Carlson and Patel wrote. “Once those in control of our government use it to advance their political goals, we become just another of the world’s many corrupt countries. America is better than that.” […]

    Slate link

  34. blf says

    Follow-up to @51, two examples from today(-ish), both in the Grauniad, Erratic Trump struggles to control message as impeachment threat grows; and ‘Peculiar, irrational, self-destructive’: Trump’s week of impeachment rage (“As the walls of an impeachment inquiry closed in, Trump’s incoherent statements renewed fears about his fitness for office”). These headlines are actually both quite mild by Grauniad standards. The second one is a fairly pedestrian summary. The first one, whilst also a summary, is not so pedestrian, and contains tidbits that escaped my attention; e.g. (my emboldening, but the emphasis is in the original):

    On Wednesday, things got really crazy. Trump sat in the Oval Office with the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö, and lambasted shifty Schiff, saying: You know, there’s an expression: he couldn’t carry his ‘blank’ strap. Mysteriously, he congratulated Finland for getting rid of Pelosi and Schiff. He also appeared to confess ignorance of the word “moat” as he railed against the Washington Post for a story published by the New York Times.

  35. says

    From The New Yorker:

    For nearly two years, conservative operatives have been trying to weaponize the Ukraine-based story that has led Trump to the brink of impeachment. A look back over the coverage of the story—a repeatedly discredited conspiracy theory involving Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine—suggests that America’s news organizations continue to be just as susceptible to manipulation by political partisans pushing complicated and hard-to-check foreign narratives as they were in 2016. […]

    Anyone trying to track the Ukrainian conspiracy stories that were eventually embraced by […] Trump is likely to get mired in the same echo chamber of right-wing news purveyors that misinformed voters in 2016. A pivotal source of the allegations against the Bidens, for instance, is the Government Accountability Institute, a Florida-based opposition-research operation that was founded by the former Trump political adviser Stephen Bannon—the same conservative nonprofit that ginned up questionable stories about the Clintons during the last Presidential campaign. In both instances, much of the coverage of the scandal was kicked off by Peter Schweizer, a longtime conservative political writer who is an editor-at-large at Breitbart News and the president of the Government Accountability Institute. […] funded with millions of dollars in tax-exempt donations from the family foundation of the New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Mercer […] Mercer’s daughter Rebekah is listed as the board chairman.

    The Mercer family! SC will recognize their tendency to fund bad actors like Cambridge Analytica.

    […] Bannon designed the organization as a means of transmitting partisan dirt-digging to the mainstream media. He realized that, though mainstream reporters were suspicious of partisan opinion, they were open to damning facts about public figures, regardless of the sourcing. He set out, with Schweizer, to produce material that would generate mainstream coverage, and right-wing outrage.

    […] Schweizer published the best-selling book “Clinton Cash.” In a novel arrangement, he doled out negative scoops about the Clintons from it in advance to a variety of mainstream news outlets, including the Times. […] when it ran a front-page story derived from the book on April 24, 2015, the Times stirred controversy and criticism […]

    The story insinuated that, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had risked national security by facilitating the sale of American uranium mines to Russia in exchange for more than two million dollars in contributions to the Clinton Foundation from the businessmen behind the deal, who worked for a company called Uranium One. The story enabled Clinton’s opponents to frame her as greedy and corrupt. Even a year after she had lost the race, the Fox News host Sean Hannity was still invoking it on air, calling it “the biggest scandal ever involving Russia.”

    Yet later reporting poked holes in the story’s insinuation of corruption, revealing that multiple government agencies—not just Clinton’s State Department—had approved the deal, and that the amount of uranium involved was negligible. [clipped details showing Schweizer is also plagiarized large portions of his book from other sources.

    […] the baseless tales claiming that Biden corruptly intervened on behalf of his son’s Ukrainian business interests feel a lot like the movie “Groundhog Day.” In March of 2018, Schweizer and the Government Accountability Institute once again produced a book that was perfectly timed for the Presidential campaign. “Secret Empires” devoted a chapter to the subject of “Bidens in Ukraine,” which laid out the conflicts of interest posed by the wheeling and dealing of Biden’s son Hunter. (An additional chapter laid out Hunter Biden’s business deals in China.) As the book recounted, in 2014, Hunter Biden, a Washington lobbyist, took a profitable post on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company run by a shady oligarch, while his father, who was then the Vice-President, handled a drive to rid Ukraine of corruption. Other news organizations, including the Times and the Wall Street Journal, had already run stories on the same unethical-seeming morass. […]

    But Schweizer went a step further. His chapter implied not just that Burisma was a crooked company but that the end of a Ukrainian criminal investigation into it on January 12, 2017, was in some unstated way connected to Joe Biden’s visit to the country four days later. In this way, Schweizer floated the possibility that, as Vice-President, Biden had abused his power to protect the company or his son from prosecution. Yet Schweizer provided no proof of causation nor evidence of illegality.

    […] former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, got involved. That winter, Giuliani began speaking to current and former Ukrainian officials about the Biden conspiracy theory, and meeting with them repeatedly in New York and Europe. Among those officials was Viktor Shokin, a former top Ukrainian prosecutor who was sacked in March, 2016, after European and U.S. officials, including Joe Biden, complained that he was lax in curbing corruption. Shokin claimed that he had lost his powerful post not because of his poor performance but rather because Biden wanted to stop his investigation of Burisma, in order to protect his son. The facts didn’t back this up. The Burisma investigation had been dormant under Shokin. […]

    As an anonymous whistle-blower’s complaint to Congress revealed, and as the Washington Post has reported, no journalist played a bigger part in fuelling the Biden corruption narrative than John Solomon, who until last week was an opinion columnist and executive vice-president of The Hill, in Washington. Solomon had been a respected investigative reporter for the Washington Post, but in recent years he worked for overtly conservative outlets, including a stint as the editor of the Washington Times. As Giuliani conspired this past spring with questionable Ukrainian sources, Solomon pumped out a string of eye-catching stories echoing those sources’ claims about the Bidens. This appears to have been no coincidence. According to NBC, the Giuliani documents show that Solomon’s columns were part of the Trump team’s strategy. […]

    This spring, Solomon wrote a series of columns, based on an interview with Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko. On March 26th, Solomon wrote a column about Lutsenko’s claim that the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, an Obama holdover named Marie Yovanovitch, had given him a list of politically protected figures that he was forbidden from prosecuting—a charge the State Department dismissed as “an outright fabrication.” That same day, Solomon wrote another column suggesting a new investigation into Clinton, which he shared in a tweet, writing, “Did Ukraine try to secretly help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election? Chief prosecutor says there’s enough evidence to start investigating.” […]

    Yikes! Solomon is really a bad actor here. SC will recognize the perfidy that is fleshed out here with details.

    [clipped more details of Solomon’s perfidy and obsequiousness to Giuliani and Trump}
    Soon, both Schweizer and Solomon were appearing repeatedly on Fox News, spreading the anti-Biden narrative further. […]

    On April 7th, Giuliani appeared on Fox and demanded that the Justice Department investigate the Democrats’ Ukraine dealings. On April 25th, the same day that Joe Biden officially declared that he was running for President, Trump himself called in to Hannity’s show on Fox, saying that he wanted the Attorney General, Bill Barr, to be involved. […] As Barrett, of N.Y.U., explained it, “The consequence is that we begin to inch our way towards the mire that Russians are in where ordinary people lose their ability to tell truth from untruth, and even cease caring about it.”

    […] By mid-summer, the Times and other mainstream outlets, most notably Bloomberg News, had more or less knocked down the conspiracy theories. By then, Trump was so invested in the counterfactual narrative that he was demanding that Ukraine’s new President provide confirmation of it, as the whistle-blower’s complaint relates. Or, as documents released by Congress earlier this week revealing discussions between his emissaries to Ukraine put it, “Potus really wants the deliverable.” With Trump facing the prospect of impeachment in the House of Representatives, it appears that he is a casualty of his side’s own disinformation. “Whether Trump and Giuliani are dupes of their own propaganda I can’t say. But the timeline is completely consistent with that,” Benkler said. “Either way, it proves that running an Administration based on Hannity is dangerous.”

    Long, but well worth reading. The article show how disinformation works, and how Trump is part of the disinformation loop.

  36. says

    From Ian Reifowitz:

    […] Here’s CNN’s headline: “Ukraine will review probe into gas company linked to Biden’s son.”

    As these and other articles explained, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Ruslan Riaboshapka, announced that his office will be conducting an “audit” of 15 cases “which were closed or investigated by the previous leadership.“ The cases relate to an energy company, Burisma, on whose board Hunter Biden served. However, as the prosecutor noted, Hunter Biden is not being investigated. Furthermore, when Riaboshapka was queried about any evidence of wrongdoing by any Biden, this was his reply: “I have no such information.”

    In the reality-based world, this announcement should mean absolutely nothing. However, we know that won’t stop it from being blasted out across Trumpworld—especially on social media—as evidence that there really might be some smoke there, that the Bidens might really be corrupt. And that, above all, is how Trump tries to defend his indefensible actions, namely by claiming he’s trying to uncover corruption: “As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!”

    Never mind that there’s much more evidence of Trump’s baldness than there is that either Hunter or Joe Biden did anything illegal or corrupt. The announcement of this “audit” or whatever it is will give an opening to Trump and his defenders to say “See, we told you so.”

    One question of vital importance I want to explore in depth is the degree to which the mainstream media will, in its Pavlovian desire to show that it is ‘even-handed,’ help Trump by not telling the full story in an accurate way. So far, at least in the first few hours, the media is off to a decent start.

    I say decent, rather than good, because even the headlines themselves are problematic. If one doesn’t read the article and get the full context, it will be far too easy to just read the headline and say, “Holy shit, Biden’s under investigation.” And of course, it’s even easier for those who want to destroy American democracy, i.e., Trump partisans, to simply share such a headline on Facebook and/or pump it up with Twitterbots in order to have it go viral.

    The articles themselves, and I read a bunch, are overall pretty good as long as one reads them from beginning to end. […]


  37. says

    From Senator Amy Klobuchar:

    I just keep thinking about Watergate, because you had a president who was paranoid, who was facing an election, who wanted to get dirt on his political opponents.

    Sounds exactly the same. In Nixon’s case, they did it with a crowbar, or whatever. They broke into the DNC headquarters and got the information out of a file cabinet. Well, this time you’ve got a president who’s looking at all corners of the world to dig up dirt through foreign powers.”

    There’s an argument it is even worse because he’s messing around with national security. Then you had a cover-up with the Nixon administration, and you have the beginnings of a cover-up here where they’re trying to hide the calls on this server. That’s what this is about.

  38. blf says

    In Iraq, religious pleasure marriages are a front for child prostitution (the Grauniad’s edits in {curly braces}):

    Trigger Warning: Whilst I’ve tried to redact extremely distressing details, this is nonetheless child rape.



    BBC investigation exposes Shia clerics in Baghdad advising men on how to abuse girls


    As I walk around the market stalls surrounding the shrine [Kadhimiyah (one of Shia Islam’s holiest sites)], I notice the many “marriage offices” dotted around the mosque, which are licensed to perform Sharia marriages. I’d received tips that some clerics here were performing short-term mutaa {pleasure} marriages, a practice — illegal under Iraqi law — whereby a men can pay for a temporary wife, with the officiating cleric receiving a cut.

    I was told that behind closed doors many of these clerics were using and abusing Sharia marriage laws to exploit women for profit. These men were grooming vulnerable girls and young women, trapping them into prostitution and pimping them out, all with seemingly total impunity.

    For such a story, we needed to secure evidence on camera. We recruited a male undercover reporter who, over the course of our year-long investigation, met and secretly filmed several of the clerics running the Sharia marriage offices in the vicinity of the shrines. Meanwhile, I met and interviewed the clerics’ female victims, as well as some of the male clients who routinely used pleasure marriages.


    First, our undercover reporter approached a number of clerics with marriage offices near the shrine of Kadamiya in Baghdad to gauge how many were willing to perform mutaa ceremonies. Out of 10 clerics that were approached, eight agreed to arrange a pleasure marriage for our reporter. You can marry a girl for half an hour and as soon as it’s over, you can marry another, one of the clerics, Sayyed Raad, told our reporter on camera, even after half an hour, you can marry another, he repeats.

    We also caught on camera evidence supporting some of the victims’ claims that clerics often conspired with their male clients to deceive women. […]


    The investigation took me to Karbala, Shia Islam’s holiest site. An important part of our investigation was to establish the role of the holy city’s religious authorities in all this — particularly whether they condoned the practice of pleasure marriages. At the main marriage office, I spoke to Sheikh Emad Alassady, who insisted the practice was illegal.

    But around the corner from the office, we found another cleric who was willing to officiate a pleasure marriage to a child, including giving explicit instructions on how to sexually abuse children without getting caught.

    This cleric was clearly not the only one taking part in such abuses. Another of the women I spoke to, “Reem”, accused prominent clerics of being involved in pimping and pleasure marriages. After Reem’s husband was killed by an Isis bomb in 2016, she and her two children became homeless.

    Reem said that when she approached a well-known cleric for alms, he had sex with her and pimped her out to his friends. Reem doesn’t name the cleric, but describes him as powerful and well-known in her community.


    [… H]ow are clerics able to get away with breaking the law so blatantly? The strength of the Shia religious establishment, backed by the intimidatory weight of armed Shia militias, appears to have given Shia clerics a sense of total impunity. Our investigation has found many of the clerics enjoy powerful political connections. One of them, Karbala-based Sayyed Salawi, boasted to our reporter that he was attached to a Shia militia, a claim which is given credence by photographic evidence we found on social media.

    The BBC later approached the clerics for their response. Sayyed Raad denied he performed mutaa marriages. The others did not respond. Sayyed Raad had said he was a follower of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric.

    The BBC approached Ayatollah Sistani’s office in the holy city of Najaf with the reporter’s evidence, and asked him to clarify his stance on mutaa marriages.

    If these practices are happening in the way you are saying then we condemn them unreservedly, his office said. […]


    Like some other Shia leaders in Iraq, the 89-year-old Ayatollah Sistani has previously — in a book published 25 years ago titled The Path of the Righteous — written that if a child under nine were promised in marriage or temporary marriage, sexual touching was religiously permitted.

    The ayatollah’s office told the BBC times had changed and it had been erased from his current books.

    This investigation showed how the hardships of post-conflict Iraq, and the rise of the Shia religious conservative establishment, have turned the clock back on women’s rights. Secular laws designed to protect women and children have been part of the Iraqi legal system for decades, but they have been rendered meaningless in the face of continuous flouting by powerful men backed by the country’s religious and political establishment. Meanwhile, a whole generation of young girls and women are paying a devastating price. As Reem put it, describing the clerics who abused her, “They eat the flesh, then throw away the bones.”

  39. says

    In election news,

    Reuters – “Exit poll shows Islamist Ennahda party first in Tunisia election”:

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist [? – SC] Ennahda party gained most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary election, an exit poll by Sigma Conseil broadcast by state television showed.

    The poll showed Ennahda with 17.5% of the vote and its main rival, the Heart of Tunisia party of detained media mogul Nabil Karoui with 15.6% of the vote.

    Guardian – “Socialists on course for victory but no majority in Portugal election”:

    Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa’s Socialists are on course to win a second term after the country held general elections but are unlikely to secure an outright majority, according to exit polls.

    Four polls put the Socialist party on between 33% and 40% of the vote – more than in the previous election in 2015 and bucking a wider European trend of declining centre-left fortunes.

    That would give the Socialists between 100 to 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament, up from 86, compared with 68 to 82 seats for the opposition centre-right Social Democrats (PSD), which has been riddled by internal divisions. A party needs at least 116 seats to have an absolute majority.

    The polls put the PSD on between 24% and 31%, with the two far-left parties which propped up the prime minister’s previous minority government, the radical Left Bloc and the Communists, at 9-12% and 5-7% respectively.

    Negotiations to form a government will start on Monday and could last days or weeks depending on the final result. In 2015, Costa – who had finished second behind the PSD – took less than two months to seal an unexpected alliance with the Left Bloc and Communists known as the geringonça , or improvised solution.

    Four years later, however, the hard-left is pushing for increases in public spending and has accused Costa of veering to the right. The prime minister has already ruled out a formal coalition, but may try to renew his governing pact with one or both parties.

    He may also have another potential governing partner in the upstart People-Animals-Nature party (PAN), which was on course to capture two to six seats, up from just one when it first entered parliament in the last election. The party has said it is ready to support Costa if he commits to its environmentalist proposals.

    Costa, 58, has reversed some of the more unpopular austerity measures, including cuts to public sector wages and pensions, introduced by the previous PSD-led government in the wake of the eurozone debt crisis, while still managing to bring the country’s budget deficit down to nearly zero….

  40. KG says

    Never mind that there’s much more evidence of Trump’s baldness than there is that either Hunter or Joe Biden did anything illegal or corrupt. – Ian Reifowitz quoted by Lynna, OM@59

    There’s no evidence either did anything illegal. But it is clearly morally corrupt for Hunter Biden to accept a lucrative position for which, apparently, he had no qualifications other than his father’s name. Joe Biden is not responsible for his adult son’s actions, but should he not have discouraged him from accepting the position? (We don’t know whether he did.) Joe Biden, quite apart from his gaffes, incoherence and inappropriate touching of women, would clearly be a severe reputational risk for the Democrats. He should withdraw his candidacy.

  41. says


    BREAKING: In an extraordinary Sunday night statement, the White House announces that the US “will no longer be in the immediate area” of Northern Syria, allow Turkey to launch an invasion in the region and give Turkey responsibility for captured ISIS fighters in the area.

    In the statement, the White House calls out its allies in “France, Germany, and other European nations” for not taking back captured ISIS fighters from those nations, and declares that the US will no longer hold them at “great cost to the United States taxpayer.”

    On Saturday, Turkey signaled intention to begin operations, saying an incursion was “imminent” in the region, where US troops have been seeking to broker an agreement between Turkey and Syrian Kurds.

    The US statement makes clear the US won’t interfere.

    Frida Ghitis:

    Trump is giving the go-ahead for Turkey to invade Northern Syria, where the Syrian Kurds, loyal US allies, fought bravely, turned the tide against ISIS, and believed the United States and Trump’s promise to have their back. Many will die. America’s betrayal won’t be forgotten.

    Remember when Jim Mattis resigned? It was because Trump said he wanted to do this. Mattis was so horrified that he decided that was the last straw.

    Yaroslav Trofimov:

    Basically the US persuaded the SDF Kurds to dismantle defensive positions that deterred Turkey, promising security guarantees in exchange. Then once the SDF Kurds became defenseless, Trump gave Erdogan the green light to invade. Hard to imagine a more sinister sequence of events.

    This is one of the worst things a US government has ever done.

    (Here’s a relevant post from my blog in 2016.)

  42. says

    The WH statement refers to the “defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States.” They’re not just going to abandon the Kurds to be slaughtered, but are trying to erase them from history.

  43. says

    The US and coalition forces reportedly weren’t given advance warning but learned of the withdrawal from the WH statement.

    Trump may actually be on the cusp of creating on the worst national security crises of our time by – albeit inadvertently – fuelling the very circumstances in which all these ISIS prisoners escape. It’s absolutely astonishing.”

  44. says


    Based on our confidence in the #US efforts in the Security Mechanism agreement, we implemented all our commitments to remove military fortifications between Tal Abyad & SereKaniye, withdraw combat forces with heavy weapons, risking a security vacum as a result of the agreement.

    But Erdogan’s threats are aimed to change the security mechanism into a mechanism of death, displace our people & change the stable & secure region into a zone of conflict and permanent war.

    Any #Turkish attack will result in:
    1. Reverse the successful effort to defeat #ISIS, where #SDF sacrificed 11K martyrs of our sons & daughters over 5 years of war, which led to destroy the caliphate & created stability & security for the people of NE #Syria.

    2. A long-term war in the region making #Syria a permanent conflict area. While the international community look for Syria political solution, the Syrian people suffer years of war and migration.
    @UN @DOTArabic @mutludc

    3. The return of leaders of #ISIS who are hidden in the desert & Euphrates Shield areas to in of NE #Syria. #ISIS cells will break their terrorist out of prisons (12K terrorists) & camps ( 70K #Daesh families) which is a threat to local & international security.

    4. Force the #Syrian people to subject to the extremist #terrorist organizations as #Nosra & #Daesh, that still retain more than 50K extremist terrorists, & also they are able to extend their reach all Syria.
    @rabrowne75 @gaylelemmon @LindseyGrahamSC @CENTCOM @brett_mcgurk

  45. says

    The @USArmy surrenders northern #Syria this morning as its very stable Commander-in-Chief is not willing to support those who #defeatedISIS on the ground with it until 6 months ago.

    The US abandoned its base near Tal Abyad at the Syrian-Turkish border.
    Some SDF guys are roaming the area. Last obstacle for Turkish offensive removes.”

  46. says

    May 2018: Kurds were peacefully protesting in front of Turkey’s Embassy in DC—the day Erdogan visited Trump at the WH. Erdogan’s thugs beat them on US soil. And now, Turkey is invading Syria…with Trump’s consent, a day after they announced his 2nd visit.”

  47. F.O. says

    @SC #74 Of course they are.
    The Kurds, at least in Rojava, organized around democratic confederalism which is a much better democratic system than that of western democracies.
    Their very existence is a challenge to the assumption that our kind of representative democracy is the apex of human civilization and that There Is No Alternative.
    The fact that everyone is pissed at politics but NO FUCKING ONE talks about the alternatives says a lot on how actually free our society is.

  48. says

    Lindsey Graham, December 2018 (when Trump was first threatening withdrawal):

    America’s worst nightmare is to have reliable allies — like the Kurds who have fought so bravely against ISIS — abandoned and destroyed.

    Mr. President, we will never have partners in the future.

    Our nation is better than this.

    Please reevaluate the Syrian withdrawal strategy.

    We will hold Turkey accountable for any actions to destroy America’s Kurdish allies who have fought so bravely against ISIS.

    If this happens we will, in my view, put Erdogan in the same category as MBS of Saudi Arabia.

  49. says

    Brett McGurk, former Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL:

    Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.

    The WH statement tonight on Syria after Trump spoke with Erdogan demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground. The “United States” is not holding any ISIS detainees. They are all being held by the SDF, which Trump just served up to Turkey.

    Turkey has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity to manage 60k detainees in al Hol camp, which State and DoD IGs warn is the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS. Believing otherwise is a reckless gamble with our national security. Background here…

    The Turkish proposed “safe zone” would effectively extend Turkey’s border 30km into Syria, including areas of Christians, Kurds, and other vulnerable minorities. Our diplomats were working on a plan to forestall such a debacle. Where’s Pompeo?

    Indeed, US officials signed the SDF up to a “security mechanism” plan by which it removed all defensive barriers on the Syrian side of the border to forestall a Turkish incursion. EUCOM issued this just yesterday. Was Trump ever even briefed on this plan?

    Trump made a similarly impulsive decision when I was managing the policy. I resigned over it and stand by every word in this op-ed [link at the link]. Tonight is a sad replay but seems even worse as US officials had since convinced the SDF that we planned to stay.

    There’s a similar defect at the core of US foreign policies across the board: maximalist objectives for a minimalist president combined with no process to assess facts, develop options, or prepare contingencies. Our personnel are left exposed at the slightest moment of friction.

    Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS. FWIW, I warned of this here in @ForeignAffairs [link at the link] — and recommended alternatives given the hard realities on the ground and in this White House.

  50. johnson catman says

    re SC @84: Why should he resign? Moscow Mitch won’t let it even come up for a vote, so he will not be punished. He is, essentially, being rewarded for his disgusting behavior.

  51. johnson catman says

    re me @85: Of course, I meant that Moscow Mitch would not let an impeachment trial come up, not a vote about resigning. The way I wrote that was unclear.

  52. johnson catman says

    re SC @87: EVERYTHING the Orange Toddler-Tyrant has done is damaging to the US and its relationships around the world. He has pissed off every ally and cozied up to the worst dictators. I cannot think of a single positive thing he has done.

  53. says

    Lindsey Graham, who’s done as much as anyone to bring things to this:

    I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary Pompeo.

    If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.

    * Ensures ISIS comeback.
    * Forces Kurds to align with Assad and Iran.
    * Destroys Turkey’s relationship with U.S. Congress.
    * Will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.

    Also, if this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support.

    The plan is already going forward, FFS.

  54. blf says

    ‘It’s like a death sentence’: retired Britons in EU face loss of healthcare . I’ve added some emboldening to one point I’ve been told is not widely known or understood in the NKofE, where, apparently (others can confirm / correct), ex-pat “U”K citizens living on the continent are “all” seen as retired with substantial savings, dodging taxes, and “sponging” off the NKofE or “double-dipping” (getting benefits from both their country of residence / EU and teh NKofE).

    Britons with serious, sometimes terminal, illnesses who live in the EU say they have no certainty about how or even whether their healthcare costs will be covered after a no-deal Brexit and are suffering a “living nightmare” of anxiety and despair.

    “It’s like a death sentence,” said Denise Abel, who moved to Italy in 2012. “It’s all you think about. I feel abandoned, betrayed and furious. There are no words for the rage I feel. We’re the collateral damage in the government’s war with the EU.”

    The UK government announced last month that if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal the estimated 180,000 retired British nationals in the bloc whose healthcare costs it funds would continue to be covered for six months.

    Most of the 1 million Britons in the EU are earners, so pay into the health systems of the EU member states they live in. Their healthcare arrangements should be unaffected by a no-deal Brexit.

    But pensioners, who paid social security when they lived in the UK, are part of a reciprocal healthcare scheme, S1, under which the NHS reimburses the cost of their treatment — and which will cease to exist after a no-deal Brexit.

    “They feel like they’ve been kicked in the gut,” said Kalba Meadows of the campaign group British in Europe. “A lot of them are pretty vulnerable; it really wouldn’t take much to guarantee their rights until bilateral reciprocal arrangements are in place.”

    The government was urging pensioners to sign up for their local health system but this was often not possible or too expensive on a basic UK pension, which is worth 20% less in euros because of the collapse of the pound since the EU referendum in 2016, Meadows said. Private health insurance was also beyond the means of many retired people, who are likely to have pre-existing conditions.

    “They are left with the very real prospect of having no healthcare,” she said. “And in many countries, without healthcare you are no longer legally resident. There’s really a lot of fear. We’ve had hundreds of people contact us. Many are elderly, some have terminal illnesses — they are genuinely petrified.”


    Monthly contributions to the Spanish healthcare system covering just “the basics” would cost the couple €165 (£147) each, said [a 68 year old recently diagnosed breast cancer patient who has lived in Spain for about 20 years], a former nurse. “My treatment would be €425 a month. We live on €1,600. What I dread most is something happening to my husband — I’d be down to about €600 a month.”

    I cannot speak for this couple or for Spain, but where I am in S.France, €1,600 is a liveable amount per month, but it just a few hundred euros more than the French minimum wage. Apparently, Spain’s minimum wage is a bit more than €1,000 per month, but I have no idea if that is a livable amount.

    “I’m a planner, I like to mitigate, and now I simply can’t do that,” [an individual in France] said. “My husband’s S1 — and mine, eventually, when I reached retirement age — was one of the reasons we felt able to move here. Now we don’t know what the arrangements will be, what it will cost, how we’ll be able to pay … No one can tell me.

    “What happens if the pound tanks again? The strain is really unrelenting. You lose sleep over it. You just want it to go away — and then every once in a while, it just ratchets up a notch. And the worst is, they [NKofE’s PM & teh nasty party, et al.] don’t care. They just want to deliver their mantra. We’re just collateral damage.”

    As a reminder, the demonstrators teh NKofE’s PM ran away from in Luxemburg were ex-pact “U”K citizens living on the continent.

  55. Akira MacKenzie says

    SC @ 95

    I wonder if Erdoğan promised to investigate Hunter Biden and claimed Hillary’s server was located somewhere in Kurdistan?

  56. blf says

    me@94, comment at the end: ex-pact “U”K citizens → ex-pat “U”K citizens
    (probably obvious, but could be construed in other ways, hence this correction)

  57. says

    Nikki Haley: “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend”

    A few days ago, she was talking about how we should be proud of Trump’s “foreign policy.” (Also, it’s their successful fight.)

  58. blf says

    Akira MacKenzie@98, Ha! Yeah…
    Maybe. Perhaps more likely, Erdoğan just knows how to “run” hair furor: Flatter him, tell him he’s correct, tell him he’s bigly liked in Turkey, tell him he’d be even biggerly liked in Turkey if he could do a simple thing… and that doing that simple thing would make him eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Withdrawing troops must lead to peace, right?) And, of course, moan about Fake NEWS! and the lies the NYT, CNN, et al., tell about them both, that he was completely right in digging up dirt on Bribeon, and so on and on…

    (This doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of “deal” or “quid pro quo” as well. There could be, albeit with hair furor’s famous inability to negotiate, plus his constant lying and severe delusions, I doubt he’ll get whatever he agreed to… or even understands what he “thinks” he agreed to…)

  59. says

    IMPORTANT: The New York judge who dismissed Trump’s tax return suit also took a huge swing at the DOJ memos that say a sitting president can’t be indicted. He says the legal weigh given to these OLC opinions is ‘not warranted’.”

    Screenshot atl.

  60. blf says

    Teh NKofE’s “PM” is currently trying to claim the EU hasn’t told him what’s wrong with his rubbish proposal for a brexit deal. (It has.) So… (from the Grauniad’s current live NKofE blog):

    This is from Neale Richmond, an Irish senator and Fine Gael Europe spokesperson, explaining for the benefit of Boris Johnson […]what the EU thinks the problems are with the UK’s Brexit plan:

    1) Creates a Customs Border
    2) Only partial regulatory alignment
    3) Stormont veto (maj only needed in one community)
    4) No legal guarantees
    5) Technology isn’t in existence
    6) Contrary to Dec’17 declaration
    7) Far removed from backstop

    There are all important points, but it’s perhaps useful to expand on 3 (Stormont): That’s shorthand for the (currently non-functional) N.Ireland “government”. Teh NKofE’s proposal is widely seen as handing to the “D”UP the ability to abrogate the deal after it’s been agreed. Which is alarming, not only because they are nazis, but because any agreed deal is an international treaty, and the idea of giving a small, unrepresentative, authoritarian political party the ability to abrogate a treaty is silly and absurd.

  61. says

    Reuters – “EU warns against Turkish military operation in Syria”:

    The European Union warned on Monday against any Turkish operation against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, after a surprise U.S. decision to pull its troops out of the region.

    “In light of the statement made by Turkey and the U.S regarding the evolution of the situation, we can affirm that, while recognizing Turkey’s legitimate concerns, the EU has from the very beginning said that any sustainable situation will not be reached by military means,” a spokeswoman told a news briefing.

  62. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s live States blog:

    The US has given diplomatic immunity to the wife of a US diplomat after she was treated as suspect in relation to a fatal car crash.

    UK prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged the US to reconsider its decision to grant immunity to Anne Sacoolas, who left the UK despite telling officers she intended to remain in the UK.


    For background, US diplomat’s wife leaves UK after becoming suspect in fatal road crash:

    The wife of a US diplomat has left the UK after becoming a suspect in an investigation into the death of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal road collision, police said.

    Harry Dunn, 19, died after his motorbike and a car collided near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August.

    Northamptonshire police said a 42-year-old American woman who was being treated as a suspect in their investigation had left the UK.


    Supt Sarah Johnson said the suspect had previously told the force she did not intend to “leave the country in the near future”.


    The US embassy in London said […] officials were in close contact with the appropriate British officials. Due to security and privacy considerations, we cannot confirm the identity of the individuals involved, but we can confirm the family has left the UK.

    Some reports, which are largely unsourced, claim Ms Sacoolas had only been in teh NKofE for about three weeks, was driving on the wrong side of the road, and, at first, admitted responsibility (at the scene), only claiming immunity and fleeing a day or so later after police informed her Mr Dunn had subsequently died. (There is a GoFundMe page for Mr Dunn’s family, Justice 4 Harry.)

  63. says

    #Breaking US defense official to VOA – ‘The US does not endorse Turkish military action in northern #Syria & any reporting that says otherwise is inaccurate. The Secretary will be reaching out to affected allies today..There is still work to be done in the fight against #ISIS’.”

    This is…inconsistent with what the WH is saying and with what is happening.

  64. blf says

    And teh wingnutters break cover, from the Grauniad’s live States blog:

    Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, is the first prominent Republican in Congress to come out in support of Trump’s decision to abandon US allies in northern Syria, the Kurds, and instead support a Turkish offensive in the area: I stand with @realDonaldTrump today as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.


  65. tomh says

    NYT Opinion:

    Don’t Be Fooled. Chief Justice John Roberts Is as Partisan as They Come.
    By Aaron Belkin and Sean McElwee
    Aaron Belkin is director of Take Back the Court and a professor of political science at San Francisco State University. Sean McElwee is director of research and polling at Take Back the Court and co-founder of Data for Progress.
    Oct. 7, 2019

    The Supreme Court’s new term that begins on Monday could prove momentous, with cases involving gun control, abortion, L.G.B.T. rights and immigration. The term is likely to signal how far the court’s conservative majority will go to block the agenda of the next Democratic president and Congress.

    With the court on the precipice of a dangerous lurch rightward, polling data indicate that Democrats have a positive view of Chief Justice John Roberts, who has expressed regard for precedent and concern for the court’s legitimacy, encouraging a view that he will step in to prevent partisan excess. Yet history suggests that Democrats have much to fear. The chief justice is neither a swing vote among his four liberal and four conservative justices, nor a moderate. Expect him to land time and again with the conservatives.

    During his 2005 confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts affirmed his “respect for precedent, even-handedness, predictability, stability.” But once on the bench, he compiled a voting record that is among the most partisan of any justice in the modern era when it comes to cases overturning precedent, according to our analysis. He has presided in 21 such cases and voted to overturn precedent in 17, or 81 percent, making him the second behind only Justice Clarence Thomas as the most frequent member of a precedent-overturning majority over the last 14 years. In 15 such cases with partisan implications, the chief justice voted for conservative outcomes 14 times, or 93 percent of the time.

    In determining whether a decision was liberal or conservative, our organization, Take Back the Court, relied on the methodology used by the Supreme Court Database, maintained by the law school at Washington University in St. Louis. To determine whether an outcome was partisan, we assumed that if at least four liberal justices voted for a decision in a split ruling, then the outcome was consistent with Democratic Party values and goals. And if at least four conservative justices voted similarly, then the outcome was considered consistent with Republican Party values and goals.

    Our analysis shows that the chief justice’s voting record is as conservative as those of his most extreme current and former colleagues — Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Antonin Scalia. In all 42 split-decision cases that the chief justice has presided over involving racial minorities, immigrants, workers and abortion, he voted for conservative outcomes 100 percent of the time.

    The chief justice may seem above the partisan fray. He has argued, after all, that the court is not partisan and has maintained that he simply calls balls and strikes. Last fall, he rebuked President Trump for calling a judge who ruled against his administration’s asylum policy “an Obama judge.” In a statement, the chief justice said pointedly: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”

    And last month, in an appearance in New York, the chief justice said: “When you live in a politically polarized environment, people tend to see everything in those terms. That’s not how we at the court function. And the results in our cases do not suggest otherwise.”

    Our study suggests otherwise. But the chief justice’s strong public defense of the court’s integrity has had the effect of camouflaging a subtle, long-game strategy to tilt the court’s jurisprudence decidedly to the right. That “thousand cut” strategy can be seen most clearly in the past generation of reproductive-rights decisions, whose cumulative effect has been to restrict abortion in most states. Although Roe v. Wade is effectively dead in much of the country, few Americans could name the rulings that have undermined it. Other areas that have been targeted by the court’s conservatives include laws supporting organized labor and regulating campaign finance.

    As a master tactician, Chief Justice Roberts occasionally delivers narrow, partial wins to progressives when an overtly partisan ruling might undermine the court’s legitimacy. He preserved part of the Affordable Care Act in a case that never should have been a close call, along the way doing great damage by allowing states to opt out of its Medicaid expansion provision. Rather than castigating the chief justice for a partisan and inappropriate decision that effectively denied health insurance to millions of poor Americans, most observers praised his centrism.

    Democratic voters and leaders are starting to take the dangers of the chief justice and his court more seriously. Five Democratic senators who recently filed an amicus brief in a gun control dispute raised the prospect of restructuring the court to reduce the influence of politics on its decision making. And seven presidential candidates have said that they are open to expanding the court. This is a remarkably high number given that the topic has been taboo since President Franklin Roosevelt sought to pack the court in 1937, and reflects the reality that Republicans undermined the norm of a nine-member court when they held open the vacancy created by Justice Scalia’s death.

    But none of this will matter unless Democrats acknowledge that the chief justice is the extreme, right-wing leader of an extreme, right-wing majority, which is rapidly turning the court into little more than a partisan extension of the Republican Party.

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  66. blf says

    In Ozland, Indigenous site ‘older than pyramids’ in Perth freeway’s path taken off heritage register:

    Archaeological survey by state’s Department of Aboriginal Affairs identified no Aboriginal material at Bibra lake north site in Perth, despite 1970s study that uncovered more than 2,000 artefacts


    An archaeological survey conducted in the 1970s found the Bibra lake north site contained more than 2,000 artefacts, including some made of clay, quartz, glass and a fossil-containing type of sedimentary rock called chert. It is the last material that is of particular significance, according to WA [Western Ozland] Greens MP, Lynn MacLaren.

    MacLaren said the fossiliferous chert could only have been obtained during the last ice age, at least 6,000 years ago, from land that has since become the seabed — which means the site itself is at least 5,000 years old.

    “Allowing 1,000 years for those chert artefacts being in reuse, it is a clear indication that the site has been in use at least 5,000 years and, given the glass artefacts, made since European arrival, the site clearly has been in continuous use by Aboriginal people for at least 5,000 years,” she said.

    “This site is older than the pyramids and has been around longer than western civilisation.”


    The site assessment by two department-employed archaeologists in March 2014 [dug a (single?) pit] to a depth of 20cm [and] found no Aboriginal cultural material, the report said.


    MacLaren described the inspection as “cursory” and “gobsmackingly inadequate”, and said that it should have involved a more complete archaeological survey and input from traditional owners.

    “From speaking to archaeologists, I understand at least 20 shovel pits, each to a depth of a metre, should have been done,” she said.


    The article also mentions some mysterious shenanigans with the original assessment saying the project should not go ahead being approved as saying the project can go ahead.

  67. says

    Rand Paul, quoted in blf’s #112:

    I stand with @realDonaldTrump today as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.

    Because waving in a Turkish invasion and creating the conditions for a resurgence of ISIS is totally war-stopping.

  68. says

    Trump just tweeted:

    As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…

    ….the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!

    This cannot continue.

  69. johnson catman says

    . . . in my great and unmatched wisdom . . .

    What mentally competent person would say this seriously? He obviously thinks of himself as infallible. He is totally deranged.

  70. blf says

    Voters know the value of peace, even if politicians don’t:

    Everyone wants peace, but we don’t always vote for it. What might make us more inclined to do so? That’s the question asked in fascinating research focusing on Israeli voters […]. Academics in California and Israel dug deep into how participating in financial markets (owning and trading shares) would affect individuals’ attitudes and votes.

    Before the 2015 elections, researchers randomly assigned financial assets to likely voters, with incentives to trade, before measuring their attitudes and voting behaviour. The results? Getting involved in the stock market shifted voters towards parties more supportive of the peace process, increasing those parties’ vote share by 5 percentage points.

    The results weren’t driven by what you might expect: it wasn’t about those holding investments having a financial incentive to favour peace — even those who had sold their assets before polling day were more likely to vote for pro-peace parties. Instead, engaging with financial markets seems to lead to voters taking a broader view of the costs of conflict, placing more emphasis on economic costs over others.

    Given that some estimates point to a $123bn 10-year economic dividend to Israelis, and $50bn to Palestinians from ending the conflict, it’s worth learning any lessons we can on how to make peace more likely.

    Abstract of the paper, Valuing Peace: The Effects of Financial Market Exposure on Votes and Political Attitudes (PDF, full paper at the link):

    Can participation in financial markets lead individuals to reevaluate the costs of conflict, change their political attitudes, and even their votes? Prior to the 2015 Israeli elections, we randomly assigned Palestinian and Israeli financial assets to likely voters and incentivized them to actively trade for up to 7 weeks. No political messages or nonfinancial information were included. The treatment systematically shifted vote choices toward parties more supportive of the peace process. This effect is not due to a direct material incentive to vote a particular way. Rather, the treatment reduces opposition to concessions for peace and changes awareness of the broader economic risks of conflict. While participants who were assigned Palestinian assets are more likely to associate their assets’ performance with peace, they are less engaged in the experiment. Combined with the superior performance of Israeli stocks during the study period, the ultimate effects of Israeli and Palestinian assets are similar.

  71. says

    In a briefing with reporters just now, a senior State Dept official said the number of troops being withdrawn in NE Syria was less than the number of people in the briefing room (26), and from only two outposts.

    Senior State Dept official also said withdrawal doesn’t reflect change in US position — Trump opposes Turkish incursion. Said it was done for 2 reasons: get troops out of harm’s way if Turkey attacks, and to make sure US didn’t tacitly support Turkish move with troop presence.

    The senior State Dept official also said the US priority is unchanged from what @secpompeo said in January: “the importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds.” But didn’t say how the US would enforce that.”

    As I said, this is unsustainable.

  72. says

    From SC’s link to Richard Engel’s Twitter feed in comment 73:

    The Syrian Kurds are being abandoned after they fought, and lost 10k men and women, to battle ISIS for the world. Now, they could be- and many expect will be- wiped out in a campaign of ethnic violence/displacement.

    Engel is a trusted journalist. He has been on the ground, reporting from war zones and conflict areas for a couple of decades. He has also produced hour-long analysis pieces for MSBC, as well as many shorter bits of cogent analysis. He knows Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, etc. He knows whereof he speaks.

    I am disgusted with Trump’s latest move, which abandons the Syrian Kurds. I’m also sure that many American and coalition military personnel who fought alongside the Kurds are equally disgusted.

  73. blf says

    Seized hoard of Nazi artefacts to go on display at Argentina Holocaust museum:

    Busts of Adolf Hitler, a Ouija board inscribed with Nazi symbols and other relics from a hoard found in a collector’s secret hiding place will go on display at the Holocaust Museum in Argentina […].

    The artefacts, which will go on display in December, include a statue of a Germanic eagle standing on a base bearing a swastika, an hourglass that belonged to a member of Hitler’s feared SS, and games to indoctrinate children in Nazism. “These elements will show part of that terrible story that was the Nazi genocide,” Marcelo Mindlin, president of the museum in Buenos Aires, said in an interview at a news conference where the objects were on display.

    Argentina is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish population. The museum, which opened in 2001, is the only Holocaust museum in Latin America, according to museum officials. It will have a grand reopening at the beginning of December after a renovation to add exhibits to its original collection of photos and other Nazi propaganda.

    “The great surprise of these objects was that they could not have belonged to anyone but someone in the Nazi hierarchy,” Mindlin added. The artefacts were examined by Argentinian and German experts, who confirmed they came from the Nazi regime.

    The stash was found in 2017 in the home of Carlos Olivares, a collector and seller of antiques residing in a wealthy suburb of Buenos Aires. The home was raided after allegations he trafficked in illegal objects from China.

    But a surprise awaited police: a secret room with more than 80 Nazi-era relics […].

    Police seized the objects, which were later examined by a team of German experts who travelled to Argentina. The experts confirmed the relics’ authenticity, and Argentinian officials donated them to the museum.

    Olivares is being prosecuted […].

    The collection also included cranial measurement instruments, and a Ouija board inscribed with Nazi symbols, a relic of the occult elements associated with Nazism.


  74. says

    House committees – “Subpoenas Demand Documents on President’s Decision to Withhold Critical Military Assistance Provided by Congress to Help Ukraine Counter Russian Aggression”:

    Today, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Mark Esper and a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell Vought conveying subpoenas for key documents as part of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

    “Pursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 15, 2019,” the Chairmen wrote….

  75. F.O. says

    “Rome, this morning. A puppet hanged with a message dedicated to Greta.”
    (picture of a puppet, hanged, representing Greta Thunberg)

    What the fuck is wrong with these people?
    Greta is just repeating what the scientific consensus is, there is not much to argue, so i guess they are left with threatening violence?

    @SC thanks for the links to your blog, will read up.

  76. blf says

    In teh NKofE , Far right swooping on towns to exploit tensions:

    Far-right activists are exploiting community tensions by swooping into towns and cities and distorting the truth in an effort to turn residents against minorities, particularly Muslims, the government’s chief adviser on extremism has found.

    Extremists were stirring up white populations who would not normally support the far right and deepening social division, Sara Khan, who leads the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), said in her first major report [PDF].

    Figures such as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon [Tommy Robinson], Anne Marie Waters, the leader of the For Britain party, and Jayda Fransen, a former deputy leader of the fascist group Britain First, were singled out in the report for spreading anti-minority and anti-Muslim agendas.


    Among the cities [Khan visited] was Sunderland, where Khan found far-right supporters were exploiting tensions over high concentrations of asylum seekers. Problems erupted in September 2016 when a woman alleged she had been gang-raped by a group of Middle Eastern men, reporting the claim on social media as well as to police.

    Following an extensive police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service, lacking evidence to substantiate the claim, did not authorise the police to charge any suspects. Prominent far-right figures, including Yaxley-Lennon, Waters and Fransen, took up the woman’s cause, organising 13 marches in 13 months.

    The report said: “However, a democratic process like protesting can turn into hateful extremism when protesters deliberately distort the truth to persuade their audience to adopt discriminatory and hateful attitudes.”

    “The marchers said they aimed to improve the safety of women and children locally. However, their rhetoric targeted ethnic minorities, despite nearly 85% of people convicted of sexual offences in 2018 in the Northumbria police force area being white.”

    A Sunderland-based group, Justice for Women and Children, was formed in May 2018 after four more alleged rapes were reported. But its campaign wrongly claimed that Asian men, Muslims and refugees were responsible for 90% of the rapes in Sunderland.

    Mistrust of the state was another consequence, the report said, as Justice for Women and Children claimed to provide support services for victims of sexual abuse, though they did not have any expertise in this area. This could lead to victims not accessing existing qualified support.


    Councillors told the commission that, rather than draw attention to injustice, from the outset the protests whipped up anti-minority feeling.

    The protesters also intimidated those who opposed them. One Muslim resident had his personal details publicised as punishment for organising a counterprotest. Photographs of him at the march and his personal information appeared on social media alongside unfounded allegations that he was a paedo and a rape enabler. He received numerous threats and his business was boycotted.

    [… The report says] “We were told that sections of the local white community which would not normally support the far right were ‘stirred up by activists’.”

    “By co-opting people in this way and promoting their narrative, those activists aggravated social division.”

    In her report, Khan said victims needed to be better protected, and those working to tackle extremism needed more support. […]


    Last month in an interview with the Guardian, Khan called language used by Boris Johnson to describe Muslim women demeaning and dehumanising and warned that politicians and the media risked provoking violence through their rhetoric.

    She criticised the use of inflammatory phrases and terms such as enemies of the people and saboteurs — both of which featured in Daily Mail headlines — in political discourse.

    The debate over the use of inflammatory language in public erupted when the House of Commons returned after the unlawful prorogation of parliament and Johnson refused to acknowledge his words had consequences as he was confronted by MPs.

  77. blf says

    Follow-up to @105, where I cryptically noted the EU has given its objections to teh NKofE’s recent brexit proposal (teh NKoeE’s PM claims it hasn’t), The EU’s point-by-point rejection of Johnson’s Brexit plan:

    Leaked documents lay bare the scale of the multiple faults highlighted to David Frost, the prime minister’s chief negotiator, during the recent talks.

    The disclosure follows the prime minister’s claim on Monday that he had not yet heard the EU’s thoughts on the legal text tabled by Downing Street, under which a customs border would be reimposed on the island of Ireland.

    Under the draft text, which the UK has not published in full, Northern Ireland would stay in the EU’s single market for goods and electricity if Stormont consents, giving the DUP a veto before the arrangement comes into force and then every four years.

    The confidential report chronicling the latest negotiations reveals:

    ● The British have been warned that the proposed Stormont veto provides the DUP with an opportunity to block the all-Ireland regulatory zone from ever materialising.

    ● The proposals for a customs border were said to risk a major disruption of the all-Ireland economy. EU negotiators have pointed out that it has been rejected by groups representing Northern Irish business.

    ● The UK is seeking a fallback of no controls, checks and border infrastructure, even if the DUP vetoes Northern Ireland’s alignment with the single market. The bloc’s internal market would be left wide open for abuse, the European commission has said in its rejection of the proposal.

    ● The UK’s proposal leaves it up to a joint EU-UK committee to work out how to avoid customs checks and infrastructure near the Irish border once there are two customs territories and sets of rules on the island of Ireland, without offering a plan B if no such solution is agreed.


    ● The text affords what is seen as an unacceptable wholesale exemption for small and medium-sized businesses from customs duties and processes, but it fails to provide details on how to then combat smuggling.

    ● On VAT, the British negotiators were told that the proposals fail to offer any solutions as to how to avoid payments and checks at the border.


    The message had been passed on to [NKofE PM] Johnson in a series of phone calls with EU leaders over the weekend, during which Downing Street was left clear that the legal text did not form the basis for serious negotiation.


    EU sources scoffed at claims coming out of Downing Street that a counter-offer could be expected from Brussels in the coming days. “It is the UK that wants to replace the backstop — and that is our solution,” said one senior EU diplomat.


    An EU commission spokeswoman said the EU27 remained of the opinion that the UK had failed to offer an alternative to the Irish backstop […].

    She said: “We all agree that we need a workable solution now and not something based on untried and revokable arrangements that would be left to negotiation during the transition period.

    “The UK’s proposals do not meet at present the objectives of the protocol on Northern Ireland/Ireland and this is the shared view of the EU parliament but also all member states.”

    At the present time, there does not seem to be a link to the leaked documents (this could, of course, be a condition of the leaker).

  78. says

    Bernie Sanders had a heart attack and his campaign hid that fact from the public for three days. His age does factor into the conversation that we should be having about this—but he could be younger than Buttigieg and this would still be improper behavior.”

    It’s bizarre to me that he hasn’t withdrawn and his campaign and supporters are continuing as usual. He’s a 78-year-old man who just had a heart attack. I can’t imagine any doctor recommending that he continue campaigning for president, and he shouldn’t. Even if he remains in decent health, he won’t have the energy and focus that will be necessary for this presidency. His supporters always talk abut how this is about a mass movement, and it’s true. That movement can respect and appreciate Sanders without insisting that everything hangs on his candidacy, even at the expense of his health and of the movement itself. It feels silly even to have to point this out, but there are a number of people – apparently including Sanders – who seem to be in denial about the situation.

  79. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin speculates this is a deranged reply to the much more deranged hair furor’s recent tariffs on whisk(e)ys, Neat idea? Why serving whisky in a capsule is a novelty too far:

    The Glenlivet claims it is ‘redefining how whisky can be enjoyed’ with its edible pods, which are wrapped in seaweed. True whisky lovers will scotch the notion

    Never mind whisky fumes — here is a notion to truly addle your mind: edible cocktail capsules, bearing a remarkable resemblance to those quick-dissolve pods you bung in the dishwasher. Tempted? Nor am I.

    This genius invention comes to us courtesy of the Glenlivet. Its tagline, Original by Tradition, is nearly as puzzling as its decision to enclose its whisky in a transparent casing (made of seaweed, apparently), to avoid the need for glasses.

    I wasn’t aware that glasses were so hard to come by; in fact, lots of whisky brands actually supply them. […]

    No ice. No stirrer. No glass. We’re redefining how whisky can be enjoyed, the brand tweeted as it launched its Capsule Collection. I’m not convinced it is enjoyment that they are redefining. Warm whisky squirted straight into your mouth, with no time to swirl or sniff, to enjoy colours, aromas and flavours, has as much to do with enjoyment as Willy Wonka’s chewing gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — or possibly less, since the gum that turned spoilt Violet violet was supposed to contain a three-course meal. Perhaps the Glenlivet’s next set of capsules could incorporate a salty snack and an aspirin in each handy pod.

    And who is to say that they will be consumed as intended? “Guys, I don’t know how to tell you this,” tweeted one user: “Teens are going to put these in their butts.” It quickly became a running joke on the site. Perhaps the wild-eyed Dr Frankenstein behind these monsters will point out that teens, in the country that says “butts” (the US is the Glenlivet’s primary market), are forbidden to drink alcohol. To which it is reasonable to respond: who said anything about drinking?

    […] If we want people to drink responsibly, it isn’t enough to put anodyne health warnings on websites and bottles. What is needed is an education in appreciation, and that doesn’t come in a consumable capsule.

    Celebrating the sheer stooopidity of this idea, I’m now sipping and appreciating a glass of Islay Port Askaig. The mildly deranged penguin is, meanwhile, trying to think of an similarly stooooopid way to serve cheese as a protest against the tariffs. So far, her goofiest idea is a substance not-at-all-like cheese served from a spray can. She points out that besides, possibly, eating or drinking it, one could snort it (apologies to people with substance abuse problems), or have an enema. I point out this idea has long been in existence…

  80. Akira MacKenzie says

    SC @ 127

    His supporters always talk abut how this is about a mass movement, and it’s true.

    If there is a mass movement, and I agree that’s probably the case, then it should be able to go on without him. Younger, more dynamic voices should be able to take the torch from Sanders and carry his vision to the next generation of activists and politicians. However, if they think that they can’t survive without their precious Bernie, then it’s not a movement. Then it’s a personality cult.

  81. says

    From Steve Benen:

    [Trump] told GOP lawmakers, “Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to.” Another source said Trump added, in reference to Perry, “[M]ore of this will be coming out in the next few days.”

    At a certain level, this is pretty amusing: Trump believes his call with Zelensky was perfect, appropriate, innocent, above board in every way, and should definitely be blamed on his Energy secretary.

    […] It’s likely that Perry was among the administration officials who encouraged the president to reach out to his Ukrainian counterpart, but there’s nothing to suggest the Texas Republican told Trump to use the phone meeting to coerce Zelensky into helping Trump’s re-election campaign.

    Even if Perry wrote the script for Trump – a bizarre idea, to be sure – it’s not as if the president can credibly argue, “I only committed impeachable acts because my subordinate recommended it.”

    […] We know from the call summary released by the White House that Perry’s name did not come up during the Trump/Zelensky discussion, and [Trump] made no effort to bring up energy-related issues. Trump’s effort to leverage campaign aid from Ukraine wasn’t Perry’s idea; it was Trump’s.

    But I was also interested in the idea that more information related to Perry and the scandal will be “coming out in the next few days.” Is that so.

    The day after Trump’s comments to House Republicans, Politico published this report:

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry urged Ukraine’s president to root out corruption and pushed the new government for changes at its state-run oil and gas company, people familiar with his work said Friday – indications that he was more deeply involved than previously known in President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure officials in Kiev.

    The people said they have no indication that Perry explicitly called on Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, the issue that has spawned a House impeachment inquiry into Trump. But at the very least, they said, Perry played an active role in the Trump administration’s efforts to shape decisions by the newly elected government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. […]

  82. blf says

    Lavish gala hosted by anti-Muslim group canceled at Mar-a-Lago:

    A rightwing national security organization with a history of anti-Muslim extremism has scrapped plans for a lavish $1,500-a-head gala dinner at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, after a backlash from civil rights groups.

    ACT for America, whose founder Brigitte Gabriel has boasted of weekly meetings at the White House, booked Trump’s Palm Beach retreat for its annual dinner on 7 November, with the conservative author Michelle Malkin as keynote speaker.

    But after accusations from civil rights advocacy groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR) that the president was “profiting from bigotry”, the Trump Organization abruptly pulled the plug on the event at the weekend.

    [… I]n a statement to the Guardian Malkin attacked a chilling ‘cancer culture’ campaign being waged against patriotic journalists and activists — and apparently not even Mar-a-Lago is a safe space.

    The SPLC and CAIR seek to silence and eliminate political opponents by redefining criticism of their agenda and tactics as ‘hate’, she said.

    [… T]he SPLC has branded ACT “the largest anti-Muslim group in America,” which organized a controversial and often violent nationwide series of Marches against Sharia in 2017 that attracted neo-Nazi and other extremist sympathizers.

    Trump made more than $22m from Mar-a-Lago in 2018, federal disclosures showed, raising ethics concerns. It represented a $3m drop in revenue from the previous year, but was still a healthy personal profit from a property the president likes to call his southern White House.

  83. says

    Reminder: Trump Has a Massive Conflict of Interest in Turkey

    Why a Trump real estate deal is relevant to his decision to abandon the Kurds.

    […] Trump’s policy toward Turkey is also a significant conflict of interest, as Trump himself has admitted. In 2015, while running for president, Trump gave an interview to Stephen Bannon, not yet his campaign manager, in which he talked about Turkey. Right away, he admitted that his business interests in the country would make it difficult for him to deal with Turkey with a clear mind.

    “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump told Bannon during a Breitbart radio show. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”

    Those Trump Towers are a pair of glass buildings in Istanbul that have borne Trump’s name since 2012. Trump doesn’t own the buildings—the situation might be less complicated if he did. Instead, Trump licenses his brand to the building’s actual owner, Turkish business magnate Aydin Dogan, who has been described as the single largest payer of taxes in Turkey. He’s a one-time antagonist of Erdogan who is now in step with the strongman.

    […] In June 2016, after Trump said he supported a ban on immigration by people from countries he said were associated with Islamic terrorism—he called them “terror countries”—Erdogan objected, and so did Dogan, and both threatened to remove Trump’s name from the buildings.

    That’s no small threat—according to personal financial disclosures filed by Trump, since he launched his bid for the presidency, he has earned somewhere between $3.2 million and $17 million in royalties from the deal. (The amounts are given in ranges; the precise figures are unclear.)

    Less than a month after the threat to remove his name was made, Trump very publicly voiced support for Erdogan when the Turkish leader faced a coup attempt. […]

    Erdogan attended the opening of the Trump Towers in 2012.

    When he ran for office, Trump said he would handle conflicts of interest like this by turning over his businesses to his children. He didn’t. Instead, he simply stepped away from the daily operations of his business empire, but he retains full ownership of almost all of the assets, including the licensing company that collects royalties from Dogan.

  84. blf says

    Lynna@130 quoted, “We know from the call summary released by the White House that Perry’s name did not come up during the Trump / Zelensky discussion […]”. Pedantic point: no, we do not know that. The summary is known(? widely suspected?) to be incomplete, and more to the point, is not a verbatim transcript. It even says so on the first page! The summary is consistent with Perry not being mentioned and energy not being discussed, but (again, pedantically), asserting no mention nor discussion is just that — asserting without any(?) evidence one way or another.

  85. says

    From Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    The President’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria is a deeply disturbing development that betrays our Kurdish allies who have been instrumental partners in our mission to eradicate ISIS.

    Despite what the President might say, ISIS remains a serious threat. This reckless, misguided decision undermines the efforts by our brave servicemembers and our allies to end ISIS’s tyranny.

    “President Trump has abandoned our Kurdish partners.

    This decision poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner.

    Trump has never been a trusted partner.

  86. says

    Minutes apart, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell call on Trump to reverse on Syria

    Pelosi: ‘Decision… sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia’

    McConnell: ‘A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime’

    McConnell’s statement also includes veiled threat to president:

    ‘a supermajority of the U.S. Senate voted for an amendment that expressed… support for a continued military presence in northeastern Syria. The conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today’.”

  87. blf says

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

    The Trump campaign just held a call with reporters about 2020.

    The call centered on a rule change to Republican state party structures that will effectively make it so Trump won’t face his in-party challengers at the Republican national convention.

    [Various reporter’s twitterings:]

    Trump campaign officials just announced rule changes to Republican state party structures that will essentially make it easier for President Trump to not face any challengers at the GOP convention. But officials stressed the changes were not done from a position of weakness.

    Responding to a question from @tamarakeithNPR on the Trump campaign call, the official slammed Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh.

    We don’t pay any mind to the guys trying to run in the primary, the person said.

    Official argued, The pathway has already been closed.

    Trump campaign officials seem intent on heading off any worries about their worries.

    Chasing new delegate rules in 37 states is totally not about avoiding any kind of disaster on the convention floor in Charlotte next year, one says.

  88. says

    Akira MacKenzie @ #129:

    If there is a mass movement, and I agree that’s probably the case, then it should be able to go on without him….

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying! No one does the movement or Sanders any favors by acting like it’s just a cult of personality.

  89. says

    blf @133, good point. I think Rick Perry, William Barr, Rudy Giuliani, Gordon Sondland, Mike Pompeo, Trump, and others will soon be in even more hot water.

    […] it turns out that Trump’s allies were also trying to get rich from a Ukrainian gas company this year, according to a new story from the Associated Press’s Desmond Butler, Michael Biesecker, and Richard Lardner.

    “[A] circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company [Naftogaz],” the AP team writes. “Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.”

    Perry reportedly played a role in this — during his trip to Kyiv to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May, he met privately with Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials, and urged them to fire Naftogaz advisory board members. Per the AP, Perry implied that two Texas businessmen would be good choices for for the new board. He also suggested that a current American representative, a former Obama official, be replaced by someone “reputable in Republican circles.”

    Meanwhile, allies of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had similar ideas. As is now well known, Giuliani has been fixated on Ukraine for the past year, and has tried to get the government to launch investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election. And he’s had two questionable characters with him every step of the way: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

    Parnas and Fruman are both Soviet-born but have since become US citizens. The two entrepreneurs have a history of legal trouble (they’ve been sued by investors), and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a pro-Trump group in 2018. They have lately acted as “fixers” of sorts for Giuliani in Ukraine. They may even be paying Giuliani — the former New York City mayor described Parnas and Fruman as his “clients” in May.

    But what was in it for the fixers? According to this AP report, they were fixated on Naftogaz as well — in March, they were trying to push out the company’s CEO, and they had hatched a plan to export US liquified natural gas to Ukraine as well. Giuliani claims he was never involved in their Ukraine dealings (though he says he was involved in potential Uzbekistan deals). But Parnas and Fruman did eventually manage to make their pitch to Perry.

    The full story remains murky, but it’s looking more and more like, in addition to an abuse of office scandal, there’s an old-fashioned corruption scandal too — there was money to be made in Ukraine, and Trump’s allies wanted to make it.


  90. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Mitch McConnell has a personal connection to the Trump administration: His wife, Elaine Chao, is the secretary of Transportation. During his campaign, Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but he wound up staffing his administration with the debris found at the bottom. […]

    It’s not like Chao wasn’t qualified. She was secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration and her experience was supposed to help Trump with his big, bad infrastructure plans. Trump is a builder, according to his ghostwritten biography. […] Meanwhile Chao has pumped up the grift on her husband’s behalf.

    Politico reports that during Chao’s first 14 months as Transportation secretary, 25 percent of her scheduled meetings were with officials from Kentucky. That’s the state McConnell represents in the Senate. It’s also 1.3 percent of the population. Indiana and Georgia tied for second place. They each received six percent of her time. Chao is presumably Transportation secretary for the entire nation […]

    McConnell’s own staffers requested at least five of the Kentucky meetings. They clued Chao’s staff in on which officials were “friends” or “loyal supporters.”

    It was revealed in June that the Transportation Department “paved the way” for $78 million in grants for some of McConnell’s favorite projects. He’s even bragged about having the hook-up while running for re-election.

    MCCONNELL: How about that $11 million BUILD grant? It’s done a lot to transform Owensboro, and I was really happy to have played a role in that.

    The grant involved upgrading road connections to a commercial riverport in Owensboro, Kentucky, and changing a local parkway to a spur route, which could bring more business to the small town. This is high-class infrastructure — the same kind McConnell otherwise blocks in the Senate for the pathetic slobs who aren’t married to his wife. […]

    Beth Osbourne is executive director of Transportation for America, and Chao treats her like she’s trying to unload Amway products.

    OSBOURNE: Ever since she came in, it’s been very hard to figure out how to get time with her. At the beginning of the administration we got a lot of questions about what it takes to meet with the secretary. People don’t ask anymore. It’s like they’ve given up. […]

    Rep. Mikie Sherrill from New Jersey has blasted Chao’s obvious favoritism:

    “[R]ather than working on behalf of all Americans, this administration is making partisan decisions with respect to our tax dollars. This is yet another blow to the taxpayers of New Jersey, who already subsidize states like Kentucky – a state that gets nearly three times the return on their federal tax dollars as compared to New Jersey. […]

    There are so many scandals going on in the Trump administration, it’s easy to lose track of the lower tier ones, but this is just shameful. Steering federal money to their home states became harder for senators when earmarks (or “pork”) were banned in 2011, but Mitch McConnell has found an effective marital loophole. We think it’s important for couples to have common interests, but blatant corruption shouldn’t be one of them.

  91. blf says

    Mysterious attacks on Baghdad news bureaus spark fears of press intimidation (video):

    Attacks by unidentified masked gunmen on news outlets in Baghdad over the weekend have sparked alarm across Iraq, with the UN and press freedom groups on Monday calling on the government to protect journalists.


    The attack took just 20 minutes, said [Mohammed Abd Al] Khaleq, an editor at Dijla [TV in Baghdad] who was one of a dozen staffers in the office Saturday night when the raid occurred. The destruction was massive. The entire building was ransacked, equipment was smashed or seized and then the newsroom was set on fire.

    Khaleq presumes Dijla was targeted for its coverage of the deadly anti-government protests across Iraq. But like most journalists, he has no idea who carried out or planned the attacks.

    “Seventeen cars arrived, in each car there were five people wearing black clothes. The vehicles had no license plates. They wore helmets and body armor. They were carrying light weapons with full military devices,” Khaleq explained to a FRANCE 24 team. “There’s no indication it was a government force, not the cars, not the insignia that any force is supposed to wear. This is a force without insignia, without an address, without number plates.”


    Throughout the week, bloggers and activists across the south also reported receiving text messages and phone calls threatening them and their families over their coverage.

    Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

    The [UN’s(?)] media watchdog accused security forces of “disproportionate and unwarranted restriction of the right to inform”.


    Iraq’s judiciary on Monday discussed legal action against those who attacked media stations as well as protesters.

    Ziad al-Ajili, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, said it was the first time he had witnessed such an attempt to “terrorise” media outlets.

    “This is an organised, pre-planned operation to silence media. This is the fundamental way to oppress protesters,” he told AFP.

    “We expect more attacks,” he warned.


    [Last Wednesday(?)], authorities began restricting access to social media sites including Facebook and Instagram before completely shutting off the internet in all of Iraq, except the north.

    Protesters say the aim was to block them from spreading footage of the violence by security forces dealing with demonstrations.

    “The disruption comes at a critical time when Iraqis most need a voice,” said cyber-security NGO NetBlocks, which has been tracking the blackout.

    Al Jazeera has a live blog (of sorts, nothing like the Grauniad), Iraq protests: All the latest updates (“Iraqi security forces acted disproportionately during deadly protests which have killed more than 100, military admits”). It broadly confirms France24’s report (quoted in full):

    Saturday, October 5 — Gunmen attack TV stations in Baghdad

    Unknown assailants attacked the offices of several television stations in Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.

    The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said masked gunmen, who arrived in black cars wearing black clothes, stormed the offices of the television station, attacked some employees and smashed equipment before fleeing the scene.

    Majed Hamid, the channel’s correspondent in Baghdad, said several colleagues were injured. He added that the station had been receiving threats for several days.

    Gunmen also attacked the offices of Iraq’s Dajla and NRT news channels in Baghdad, according to employees at the stations. Both of those stations are privately owned.

  92. blf says

    China slams criminal EU response to Hong Kong clampdown:

    China’s embassy in Paris criticises French and European reaction to protests in Hong Kong calling it hypocritical.

    China’s embassy in Paris has slammed the European Union for what it called its criminal support of Hong Kong protesters and its criticism of the police clampdown.

    Accusing the EU of having publicly glorified the abuses of rioters, the embassy on Monday labelled the EU’s call for de-escalation criminal and very dangerous, affirming police’s right to self-determination [sic — Al Jazeera probably means self-defence –blf].


    When asked on Thursday to react after Hong Kong police fired live rounds against demonstrators, France’s foreign ministry referred to a statement from the European Union.

    That statement called on authorities to show restraint, to employ a proportionate response to the protests, and to focus on political dialogue to defuse tensions.


    The European Union has publicly glorified the rioters’ abuses and has flouted the Hong Kong police’s self-defence measures to defend their lives against their aggressors, the embassy said.

    It said France should show solidarity given its police force also experienced violent protests and was under constant criticism and insults from a malicious fringe of people.

    In these circumstances, we showed empathy for France. We would like it to show today the same spirit towards us, the Chinese embassy said.


    Also, Hong Kong: Thousands protest as bid to block face mask ban fails (“Clashes erupt as High Court dismisses legal challenge by pro-democracy legislators to suspend ban on face masks”).

  93. blf says

    UN racism expert slams Dutch burqa ban:

    UN Special Rapporteur on racism says the ban reflects a wider ‘consolidation of Islamophobia’ in the Netherlands.

    A UN racism expert on Monday criticised a Dutch ban on the wearing of face-covering garments such as the burqa in public, saying the law had “no place” in a tolerant society.

    Tendayi Achiume, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, said the ban reflected a wider “consolidation of Islamophobia” in the Netherlands.

    The Dutch ban took effect in August, after being passed by parliament in 2018, and makes it illegal to wear face coverings in public buildings and on transport.

    “This law has no place in a society that prides itself in promoting gender equality,” Achiume said in a report after a week-long fact-finding trip to the Netherlands.


    Under the ban people must be recognisable in public spaces, so it also applies to face-covering helmets or hoods, and is punishable by a fine of 150 euros ($165).

    Far-right and anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders had proposed the face-covering veil ban — which can be enforced by private citizens’ arrests — back in 2005.

    The UN expert said Islam more generally was “repeatedly represented — including in the national parliament — as inherently opposed to Dutch national identity”.

    Achiume also highlighted what she called the “Dutch paradox” — which is that the Netherlands’ perception of itself as tolerant stops it making any further improvements.


    In 2018 Achiume described Britain as hostile for all racial minorities.

  94. says

    Naftali Bennett tweeted:

    At this time we, Israelis, pray for the Kurd People who are under a brutal Turkish attack.

    The lesson for Israel is simple:

    Israel will ALWAYS defend itself by itself.

    The Jewish State will never put its fate in the hands of others, including our great friend, the USA.


    Since 1985, the United States has provided nearly US$3 billion in grants annually to Israel, with Israel being the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004 and the largest cumulative recipient of aid ($121 billion, not inflation-adjusted) since World War II.[1][2] Seventy-four percent of these funds must be spent purchasing US goods and services.[3] More recently, in fiscal year 2014, the US provided $3.1 billion in foreign military aid to Israel.[2] Israel also benefits from about $8 billion of loan guarantees.[2] Almost all US aid to Israel is now in the form of military assistance, while in the past it also received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to other countries.[2]

    In addition to financial and military aid, the United States also provides political support to Israel, having used its United Nations Security Council veto power 42 times with respect to resolutions relating to Israel, out of a total 83 times in which its veto has ever been used. Between 1991 and 2011, 15 vetos were used to protect Israel out of 24 in total.[4][5]

  95. blf says

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

    For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data analyzed by the New York Times:

    That’s a sharp change from the 1950s and 1960s, when the wealthy paid vastly higher tax rates than the middle class or poor.

    Since then, taxes that hit the wealthiest the hardest — like the estate tax and corporate tax — have plummeted, while tax avoidance has become more common.

    President [sic] Trump’s 2017 tax cut, which was largely a handout to the rich, plays a role, too. It helped push the tax rate on the 400 wealthiest households below the rates for almost everyone else.

  96. Akira MacKenzie says

    Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. Evidently, Erdogan wasn’t impressed by the trade war threats of the great and unmatchedly wise Trump. I wonder why…

  97. says

    Here’s the letter John Dowd sent to House Intelligence Committee claiming they are harassing his clients with their ‘overly broad and unduly burdensome’ request for Ukraine docs. Dowd reps Giuliani associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.”

    It’s in Comic Sans.

  98. blf says

    Follow-up to @105 and @126, Martin Rowson in the Grauniad on Boris Johnson’s Brexit dance with the EU (cartoon). I’m uncertain “who” it is teh NKofE’s PM is “pole dancing” around… Donald Tusk? Michel Barnier? The EU in general (judging by the colour)? Not that it really matters… Macron is off to the side, looking very very annoyed, Macron gives Johnson until end of week to overhaul Brexit plan:

    The French president has given Boris Johnson until the end of the week to fundamentally revise his Brexit plan […].

    The UK proposals tabled last week are not regarded in Brussels as being a basis for a deal and Emmanuel Macron emphasised it was up to the UK to think again before an upcoming EU summit.

    After declining to meet with the prime minister in person, Macron further insisted during a phone call on Sunday that the talks would only be advanced through Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.


    With just a few days remaining for the UK to backtrack on key aspects of its proposals, officials in Brussels described the talks as a “farce”.


    Under the Benn act, Johnson will have to request an extension to the UK’s EU membership by 19 October if a deal has not been agreed.

    In response to claims in the Sunday Telegraph that Johnson would seek to provoke the EU to veto an extension by threatening to be an obstructive member state, one EU official described the government as “beyond pathetic”.

    Claims that the government could veto the EU’s budget or impose Nigel Farage as the British commissioner were said to be “nonsense”.

    The budget is unlikely to be finalised and put to a vote until June next year. The commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, or the European parliament can reject a member state’s nomination for a commissioner portfolio.

  99. blf says

    I think most of the works pictured are mostly “meh” — except for the political title picture piece, Elizabeth Cane’s “The Greatest Sculpture in the History of Sculptures” — The Other Art Fair 2019 (pictures).

  100. says

    The caption from a New Yorker cartoon that shows Trump apparently applying for a job: “You’d be a very strong candidate for being in charge of bankrupting our casinos—oh, what’s this? Says you were impeached?”

  101. says

    Really Kevin McCarthy. Further away from the truth now, eh?

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made a befuddling claim on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning, arguing that President Trump actually didn’t tell China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden on live-television. […]

    During an interview on “Fox and Friends” McCarthy was asked about the emerging talking point among Republicans — that Trump was clearly just joking or trolling China when he asked the country to probe his political opponent. McCarthy not only didn’t respond to whether the move was just a joke, he argued that Trump’s “not saying China should investigate.”

    “You watch what the President said, he’s not saying China should investigate,” McCarthy said.

    Quoted text is from a TPM article.

    What Trump actually said:

    China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

    McCarthy is one of Trump’s “best people.”

  102. says

    Elizabeth Warren has another anti-corruption plan. This one applies to the judiciary.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren has announced her plan to restore “trust in an impartial and ethical judiciary,” one year after the shameful confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “It’s time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules,” she wrote in a Medium post announcing the plan.

    She cites numerous instances of judges acting badly: Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who resigned after more than a dozen female law clerks detailed sexual misconduct allegations against him, and who gets his full taxpayer funded pension for life; Maryanne Trump Barry (yes, sister of that Trump) who resigned to end an investigation into the Trump family’s potential tax fraud; Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas who did not recuse themselves from the Citizens United case despite their coziness—and all-expense paid retreats—with dark money masters the Kochs; Clarence Thomas’s failure—over 13 years—to list the $690,000 in payments his wife has received from the Heritage Foundation in his financial disclosures. Then there’s Kavanaugh, who demonstrably lied to Congress during his appellate and Supreme Court hearings and who had a whopping 83 ethics complaints lodged against him—all dismissed once he was confirmed.

    Warrens’ plan involves changing the law to extend the Code of Conduct of United State Judges which other federal judges are bound by to the Supreme Court, where there is currently no procedure to file complaints—there’s no recourse when justices refuse to recuse themselves from cases where they have conflicts. She would also strengthen the code to prevent judges from accepting all-expense-paid-trips and exorbitant speaking fees, but establishing “a modest fund to help cover reasonable expenses” to “ensure that judges continue to interact with the public without the appearance of impropriety.”

    Warren would also have investigations into judicial misconduct continue even after a judge is either promoted to the Supreme Court or resigns—cases are automatically dismissed now in either case. She would also allow the Judicial Conference and Judicial Councils, the ethics watchdog, the ability to strip taxpayer funded non-vested pensions from sitting or retired judges for serious misconduct. […]


  103. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Oh sure they’re saying ISIS is gone, but it sounds like Turkey just really wants to massacre some Kurds (AKA our closest allies in this conflict), and Trump wants to let that happen. […]

    Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.

    Its murdering of Kurds, they mean.

    The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.

    Except for the whole “defeated” part, that statement is true!

    And so forth and so on.

    This is fucked up and appalling and it is also Donald Trump saying SQUIRREL!, because we guess he thinks maybe we will forget to impeach the motherfucker now. […]

    In short, we are pulling out of Northern Syria, which will allow Turkey to come in and set up a “LOL safe zone LOLOLOL” (that is the official military term) along the Turkey-Syria border. Our Turkish allies just want to create a nice place to resettle a million Syrian refugees, but there also just so happen to be WHOLE LOTTA KURDS up there in that neighborhood. Shame if anything were to happen to ’em.

    As we explained last time Trump ended the war in Syria, all of this is highly complex, but basically the Kurds have been consistently on our side fighting against ISIS. Unfortunately, Turkey considers the Kurds, who aspire to have their own country in part of Turkey’s territory, its mortal enemy and labels it a terrorist group.

    The Americans abandoning the Kurds — without even pretending we’re not doing that this time! — is not only a gift to Turkey, it is also a gift to Russia and Iran, and to the dictator Bashar al Assad and his vice president Tulsi Gabbard, who now get to pick up the pieces and expand their influence in our absence. Or, you know, just let a lot of people get massacred and forget to pick up the pieces entirely. One of the two!

    How bad? Well, not that “Even Lindsey Graham!” is a valuable metric for anything these days, but it is notable when he turtle-heads his way out of the president’s ass and says, “Sir? This maybe might be kind of a bad idea.” […]

  104. johnson catman says

    from the livetweet from SC @158:

    Trump says the hardest thing he has to do in the job is write letters to the families of slain soldiers. He says he makes each letter different because all of the individuals are different.

    I would wager that he has not written one fucking letter to anyone. The only comment I have is that the Orange Toddler-Tyrant is a sick motherfucking asshole.

  105. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live States blog:

    US authorities have taken security measures to protect a US intelligence official who filed a whistleblower complaint which spark the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, according to Reuters:

    An anonymous source told Reuters that lawyers for the whistleblower expressed concern in a Sept 28 letter to the acting director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, that their client’s safety could be at risk after Trump suggested he was a spy who had committed treason.

    They said certain individuals had offered a $50,000 “bounty” for any information on the whistleblower’s identity after the official complained to a government watchdog.

    And the Washington Post has details on the lengths Democrats are going to to protect the whistleblower:

    House Democrats eager to protect a whistleblower who raised alarms over President Trump pressuring a foreign leader to investigate a political rival are considering testimony at a remote location and possibly obscuring the individual’s appearance and voice — extraordinary moves to prevent Trump’s congressional allies from revealing the identity, according to three officials familiar with the discussions.

    Democratic investigators are concerned that without such rare precautions, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee could learn and then leak the identity of the whistleblower, who has agreed to answer questions before the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate.

    On that last Washington Post paragraph, myself and others have previously expressed the same(-ish) concern: “there will be thugs present, and despite whatever noises they are bleating about it being ‘bipartisan’ or ‘protecting privacy’, a thug or thug staffer seems likely to leak the whistleblower’s name or identifying detail, either to someone like breitbart or to hair furor or his dalekocrazy.”

  106. blf says

    John Crace snarking in the Grauniad, It was pure method Grayling […]:

    A star is born. For a couple of months now, the government has been sending emails to casting agents, begging them to find a replacement for Chris Grayling. A minister so useless, so hapless that every appearance in the Commons is guaranteed to be a box office disaster. Many have been called, yet no one has quite come up to scratch. Not even […] James Cleverly with his definitive decisiveness graph. AKA My Graph by J Cleverly (aged 11 ¾). Stupidly on the x-axis and Cleverly on the y-axis — with next to nothing registering on the y.

    Some background on Cleverly’s absurdity, Tory party chairman mocked for drawing graphs to explain Brexit strategy (including an image of the meaningless “graph”, which purportedly “explains” why brexit “must” be done by October 31).

    Continuing with Crace’s snarking…

    But James Duddridge, a junior minister in the Brexit department, looks as if he might be the real deal. In this, his second audition standing in for Steve Barclay inside a week, he revealed his true potential. A man for whom practice makes progressively less perfect.

    The incompetence could be taken as a given — that’s standard government issue. But what Duddridge brought to his role this time was pure method Grayling. The sense of peevishness that only comes from someone too stupid to realise just how out of their depth they are. The sweaty shiftiness of a man who is dimly aware he is crashing and burning but can’t put his finger on why. […]

    Quite what Duddridge has done to have been thrown under a bus twice in such quick succession is as yet unclear. The chief whip must have some devastating kompromat on him. But at least he’s providing some entertainment at a time of national crisis. He was in the Commons to answer an urgent question from Keir Starmer, requesting the government allow parliament to see the full 44-page legal text of the new withdrawal agreement the EU was in the process of rejecting, rather than just the seven-page summary it had so far been shown. The shadow Brexit secretary was understandably suspicious that there might be something of a mismatch between the two. Not least on provisions for a hard border and the erosion of workers’ rights.

    Don’t tell him, Duddridge, yelled a handful of Tory MPs, who had been briefed to spread the word that only a fool would show their hand by making public a document that had already been seen by the EU27. Just in case the EU leaders hadn’t actually got round to examining it that closely. Besides, only traitors and close family wouldn’t trust the prime minister. The patriotic thing to do was to back the deal without reading it.

    It quickly became clear that not even Duddridge — especially Duddridge — had been considered senior enough in government to be allowed to see the legal text. Which made him the ideal man to answer the question as he couldn’t inadvertently reveal anything incriminating. Except he was peculiarly inept in failing to give any even halfway credible reasons for not releasing the text. There would be no infrastructure at the border apart from the infrastructure at the border. Workers’ rights would actually be improved by deregulation. He was following in the footsteps of the Master. The One True Grayling.


  107. tomh says


    New York gun case to move forward
    Amy Howe
    Posted Mon, October 7th, 2019 12:17 pm

    The Kavanaugh effect.

    This morning the Supreme Court issued more orders from last week’s private conference – the first regularly scheduled conference since the end of June. As expected, the justices did not add any more cases to their merits docket for the term, but they did deny review in over 1,000 cases.

    One of the most closely watched orders today was the justices’ denial of New York City’s bid to dismiss the challenge to a now-repealed restriction on transporting guns outside city limits. The justices agreed to review the case in January, setting the stage for the Supreme Court’s first ruling on the scope of the Second Amendment in nearly a decade. But in July the city urged the justices to remove the case from their docket, arguing that changes to the city’s rule and to state law rendered the case moot – that is, no longer a live controversy. However, the court went ahead and scheduled the case for oral argument in December, deferring consideration of the city’s motion until last week.

    Today the justices made clear that the case will move forward: They rejected the city’s request to dismiss the case as moot immediately, instead announcing that the “question of mootness will be subject to further consideration, and the parties should be prepared to discuss it.”

  108. says

    Sorry, ‘middle ground’? The man running Homeland Security for Donald fricking Trump supposedly represents the ‘middle ground’ on immigration enforcement? And this is a Washington Post reporter’s take? Are you kidding me? #normalization”

    And all these takes present him like he’s an academic or oped columnist or something. McAleenan heads the agency enforcing the evil policies, for the love of fuck. He’s willing to do a Q&A at a Georgetown event – three cheers for democracy.

  109. says

    NBC – “Top Kurdish general: Watching over ISIS prisoners now a ‘second priority'”:

    Syrian opposition fighters assigned to guard thousands of ISIS captives are rushing to the border ahead of an expected attack by Turkish forces, a top Kurdish general told NBC News Monday.

    General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, said watching over the ISIS prisoners locked up in Syria is a “second priority” now that the U.S. has cleared the way for a Turkish assault likely targeting the mostly Kurdish forces along the border.

    “This is a very big problem,” Mazloum told NBC News. “Nobody has helped in this regard.”

    The detention centers hold 12,000 suspected terrorists swept up during the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS fighters in the region, according to Mazloum and U.S. officials. Of the 12,000, 2,000 are foreign fighters, and Iraqis and Syrians make up the remaining 10,000, Pentagon officials say.

    Mazloum said fighters who were previously tasked with securing the detention facilities are now streaming toward the border in preparation for battle with the Turkish army.

    “All their families are located in the border area,” said Mazloum, speaking through a translator. “So they are forced to defend their families.”

    Mazloum said [Trump’s] decision will surely cost the lives of fighters who had battled alongside American soldiers in vanquishing ISIS.

    The Kurdish commander said he’s now considering what would have been unthinkable a few years ago: partnering with Syrian leader Bashar Assad to fight the Turkish forces.

    “This is one of the options that we have on the table,” Mazloum said.

    Mazloum said he is worried about the possible Turkish military action, and called on the American people to pressure President Trump to help.

    “The people who fought with you against international terrorism, against ISIS, are under risk right now and they are facing a big battle alone,” he said.

  110. says

    Fintan O’Toole in the Guardian – “The Irish border is a matter of life and death, not technology”:

    …That is how Johnson sought to define the problem in his speech to the Tory party conference last week: “Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.” Previously, of course, he suggested that crossing the Irish border was similar to going from one borough of London to another, and that any problem it creates could be solved with the same technology used to operate the city’s congestion charge.

    This is a way of minimising and dismissing an inconvenient truth. But it also goes to the heart of the complete failure of Johnson’s proposals for a replacement of the backstop designed to keep the border invisible. Everybody in Ireland, north and south, knows that there are many technical questions thrown up by Brexit. But nobody – not even Johnson’s DUP allies – really believes that what Brexit does to John Bull’s Other Island is a matter for a “technical discussion”. In Ireland, it’s about lives – and deaths.

    Writing about music is said to be like dancing about architecture. Using the language of technology to address the questions of history and belonging on the island of Ireland is geeking about memory – like trying to make an algorithm for grief. It’s a category error that shunts the problem not just into “alternative arrangements” but into a parallel universe.

    The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, gets this. When she visited Ireland last April and spent time talking to people who live and work on both sides of the border, she said simply that she understood what they were saying because: “For 34 years I lived behind the iron curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.” She grasps the truth that what is at stake is not “the exact nature of future customs checks” – it is that customs checks (which the British government pledged never to reinstitute but now proposes to make necessary) are the outward bureaucratic signs of an inner anguish: the rebuilding of spiritual and psychological walls that have been demolished since 1998.

    Two particular ironies attach to Johnson’s privileging of a technocratic discourse over real human experience. One is that the Brexit project is in every other respect famously contemptuous of “geeks”….

    The other irony is that Brexit itself is predicated on the idea that a technocratic discourse is entirely inadequate to the task of understanding how people feel about who they are and where they belong. Its bogeymen are faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who can never appreciate the importance of identity and history to the English. Yet the Irish are invited by the very same people to forget history and identity, to just lie back and think of “maximum facilitation”.

    This creates a dialogue of the deaf. Brexiters’ technofreak obsessions cannot even begin to engage with the memories and anxieties and aspirations that are at the heart of Irish concerns about the collateral damage of the English nationalist project. The disjunction goes so deep that it even involves two different conceptions of time.

    While Irish people are painfully aware of the past – the deep history that led to the creation of the border and the living memory of the Troubles – the Brexiters act like dedicated futurists….

  111. says

    NEW: Ambassador Gordon Sondland has been told by State to not appear this morning before the House – so he won’t.

    His attorney Robert Luskin said Tuesday morning he has no choice. ‘He is a sitting Ambassador and employee of State and is required to follow their direction’.

    This is a surprise since the members had returned to town and staff anticipated to question today. Dems have said that such moves be used as evidence of obstruction of Congress in an article of impeachment.”

    They do this every time.

    He’s a rich amateur who bought his post with a stealth $1 million donation and was acting as a private agent for Trump. He could easily resign at any moment and tell the truth.

  112. says


    It happens that I’m reading Lynne Olson’s Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War. From the introduction (p. xv):

    …Poland was hardly the only occupied European country to have helped the Allied cause. Indeed, most of the captive nations whose governments escaped to London provided aid as well – support that, in the dark years of 1940 and 1941, arguably saved Britain from defeat and, in the latter part of the war, proved of immense benefit to the overall Allied victory.

    So why have their contributions been so neglected by historians, who generally portray the victory as an unalloyed American-British-Soviet triumph? Churchill, as it happens, bears much of the responsibility for the omission. Early in the war, he created the image of plucky little England standing alone against the greatest military behemoth in world history. He ceaselessly promoted that idea throughout the conflict and afterward, broadcasting to the British people on V-E Day: “After gallant France had been struck down, we, from this island and from our united Empire [LOL- SC], maintained the struggle single-handed until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia and later by the overwhelming powers and resources of the United States.” Churchill’s claim overlooks the fact that the occupied countries, from their base in London, were still at war, too. Without their help, the British might well have lost the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic and might never have conquered the Germans’ fiendishly complex Enigma code – all essential factors in Britain’s survival.

  113. says

    For the record, the Leave.EU tweet @ #184 shows a picture of Angela Merkel (see today’s liveblog @ #178 above) with the caption: “WE DIDN’T WIN TWO WORLD WARS TO BE PUSHED AROUND BY A KRAUT.” She’s also waving in the picture, which they undoubtedly chose to suggest a subliminal connection to the Nazi salute.

  114. says

    Schiff says ‘there was no indication’ Sondland would be ‘a no-show’, and says the committee is aware ‘that he has text messages and they are holding those as well’.

    The State Department is apparently holding the texts and emails, which are on Sondland’s personal device, per Schiff.”

  115. says

    From the G Brexit liveblog:

    Chris Leslie, the Independent Group for Change MP, asks Gove to condemn the No 10 briefing against Angela Merkel this morning. He says it has provoked “racist” attacks against Germany from Leave.EU (eg, here) and others.

    Gove says he did not hear Boris Johnson’s call with Merkel. But he says the Germans are “good friends of this country”. And he disassociates himself from any racist language about them.

    But he does not comment on the substance of the No 10 briefings.

  116. says

    Jen Palmieri re #174: “This is what it felt like – agents w/ a vendetta. They didn’t prosecute her, but actions Comey took to appease the agents w/ visceral hatred of her probably cost her the election.”

    From last night – “New Book Debunks President Donald Trump’s Deep State Conspiracy”: “The president has dispatched the attorney general half way around the world to investigate conspiracies about the origins of the Mueller investigation. But a new book lays out exactly how that investigation came to be. James B. Stewart joins Lawrence O’Donnell to talk about his new book ‘Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law’.”

  117. says

    Update to Lynna’s #140 above – Tucker Doherty, Politico:

    We reported yesterday that DOT Sec. Elaine Chao gave extra attention and access to constituents from Kentucky, the state her husband Mitch McConnell represents in the Senate.

    The official McConnell campaign has responded by… promoting our story as an example of his influence.

  118. says

    G liveblog:

    Detlef Seif, the Brexit spokesman for Angela Merkel’s CDU parliamentary group, tells me that the account of the Merkel/Boris Johnson conversation being given by unattributable No 10 sources (see 11.18am) does not ring true. He explains:

    In my mind it is completely improbable that the phone call between Merkel and Johnson took place in the way it has been reported in the British media. It would run counter to all the principles the German government has followed for the last three years, namely that the negotiations are led by the European commission. For the German chancellor to insist on Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union would completely breach these guidelines.

    There has been a lot of scepticism about Johnson’s proposal in Berlin, but Merkel’s attitude has always been a positive one, to find out if there is room for a compromise. The only explanation I can see for these reports is that Johnson is trying to build a story where he blames Germany for a no-deal Brexit. To brief out a confidential phone call in such a manner is utterly unprofessional and infuriating to anyone who has been working on a deal.

  119. says

    ‘We will be issuing subpoena to Ambassador Sondland for both his testimony and documents’, Schiff, Engel, and Cummings say in a statement.

    They also note that the State Dept. called Sondland’s lawyer to forbid his testimony and left a voicemail at half past midnight.”

    Again, they can’t forbid his testimony. He’s a rich dilettante who can resign at any time (of course, he could do so even if he weren’t, but career diplomats have real concerns he doesn’t have), or just testify and turn over the documents and let them respond.

  120. says

    Geoff Bennett, NBC:

    10/10: Lev Parnas
    10/11: Igor Fruman
    10/11: Marie Yovanovitch
    10/14: Semyon Kislin
    10/15: Request deadline for VP
    10/15: Subpoena deadlines for Giuliani, Defense Sec. & WH Budget Chief
    10/18: Subpoena deadline for WH Acting Chief of Staff

    *Parnas and Fruman not expected to appear for their scheduled depositions.

  121. says

    SC @197, yeah. I was surprised to see that MSNBC gave Ibrahim Kalin a platform from which to spew lies.

    In other news, and as a followup to SC’s comment 180, I was disappointed, but not surprised to see that Gordon Sondland has been ordered not to testify by the Trump administration.

    Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has been directed by the State Department not to appear Tuesday for a scheduled interview with House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. […]

    “Ambassador Sondland had previously agreed to appear voluntarily today, without the need for a subpoena, in order to answer the Committee’s questions on an expedited basis,” Robert Luskin, Sondland’s attorney, said in a statement. “As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department’s direction,” Luskin continued, adding that Sondland “is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today.”

    Quoted text is from NBC News.

  122. says

    Julián Castro Just Saw Donald Trump’s Border Crisis Firsthand: “His Agenda Is Killing People”

    Mother Jones link

    […] The saddest thing that I saw today was a mother with her young child on her lap and the child looked thin, probably from lack of eating much. He seemed weak and very fatigued, probably because of the heat, or perhaps because they don’t have clean drinking water. There are many children who are sick, who are not getting any kind of education, and who are desperate. […]

    The scale of the squalor. They’re up to more than 1,000 people there in tents right on the other side of the border. […]

  123. says

    Spencer Hsu, WaPo:

    DEVELOPING Trump Justice Dept. asks U.S. judge to reject House Judiciary Committee request for Mueller grand jury materials, argues courts in 1974 wrongly gave Congress the Watergate grand jury ‘roadmap’ that led to President Nixon’s impeachment.

    “Wow, O.K.,” responded U.S. Chief District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington, D.C., sounding unpersuaded. “As I said, the department is taking an extraordinary position in this case.”

  124. says

    Sleazy, unethical tactics are being employed by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security:

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has alleged that some immigration officers are detaining migrant spouses after successful marriage interviews.

    The group’s Maryland chapter filed a lawsuit in August claiming the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “is using the process by which a non-citizen married to a U.S. citizen can acquire legal status as a lure to arrest, detain, and remove immigrants from this country.”

    The suit alleges that DHS is ignoring regulations meant to protect families and “has cruelly twisted those regulations, using them as an unlawful bait-and-switch to deceive the very people the regulations were designed to protect.”

    The ACLU told The Associated Press that similar occurrences have happened in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Florida, Illinois and California. ACLU of Maryland attorney Nick Steiner told the AP in an email that such episodes have happened since 2017.

    “Previous practice would allow immigration lawyers to bring their clients to their interviews without fear of arrest because there was an understanding that they were trying to receive Green Cards, notwithstanding the removal orders, and there’s also longstanding guidance that USCIS should be following, that prohibits arrests at interviews,” he said, referring to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. […]


  125. says

    Lynna @ #201, and they never seem to have an SDF or YPG/J representative to present their side. There are plenty available, but they have to beg people on social media to share their statements while Erdoğan’s thugs get multiple cable news interviews. Kalin at one point lied for like two straight minutes, and Ayman Moyheldin responded with “OK, fair enough” before moving to the next question.

  126. says

    From Wonkette: “​White House Sends Its Regrets, EU Ambassador Will Not Testify Today On Trump’s Ukraine Shakedown Scheme”

    […] Comic Sans, Attorney at Law, [John Dowd] is BACK, baby. In an October 3 letter Dowd — Donald Trump’s former lawyer — says his clients will not be complying with HPSCI’s — the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — request for documents and testimony, describing it as “overly broad and unduly burdensome” and saying that clearly “the Democratic Committee members’ intent is to harass, intimidate, and embarrass my clients.” Whiiiiiiiine!

    He also seems intent upon muddying up any claim of attorney-client privilege, saying that Rudy Giuliani represented the chucklefucks in their natural gas ventures, and also the chucklefucks had a sideline where they “assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump” at the same time they “assisted Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice.” They’re soldiers of fortune AND paralegals! So, sadly, everything they ever worked on is covered by attorney-client privilege. It’s been a while since we sat for the professional ethics exam, but might could be some conflicts of interest here!

    Dowd closes with an admonition to HPSCI that “your charter should be amended to exhibit some semblance of due process, fairness, justice and common decency.” Which is BIG TALK for a guy writing in Comic Sans who misspelled his own client’s name twice — and not even in the same way! — in the space of a two-page letter.

    […] Rudy has already received a subpoena from the House, and he’s still mulling over whether he’ll be complying.

    “I have a real question about whether I should recognize their legitimacy,” he told the Daily Beast. “I think they are totally illegitimate … I’m going to go in front of a committee with a chairman who is a liar.” Yep, that’s exactly how subpoenas work. You decide if you like the tribunal issuing it, and then you decide whether to comply. […]

    Hey, remember when the “Security Dems” penned that op-ed announcing their support for an impeachment inquiry and calling for Congress to use its inherent contempt powers to start levying fines against people who defy lawful subpoenas? […]


  127. says

    SC @205, good points!

    In other news from Wonkette: Sounds Like Trump’s Call With Turkey Was Not Very ‘Perfect’ :(

    There is a surprise twist in the saga of why Donald Trump got on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday night and decided […] to pull troops out of northern Syria so Turkey could massacre some Kurds. Are you ready for the twist? It is a good twist you didn’t see coming.

    The twist is that Donald Trump is a spineless moron who’s bad at deals. […]

    According to somebody Newsweek spoke to, who has “direct” knowledge of the phone call, Trump simply got “rolled” by Erdoğan. Hey, remember last time Trump tried to end US involvement in Syria all of a sudden? It was after a phone call with Erdoğan, where he clearly got rolled. That time, Trump was met with universal condemnation, including from members of his own party, and he quickly caved and changed his mind. We will not be surprised if that happens on this one too, considering how Republicans are acting.

    Anyway, Turkey said it was going to invade, and once Trump got on the call, he was like “OK”: “President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw[al] to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council source told Newsweek. “The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.”

    No spine and we got nothing out of the deal? Yep, sounds like our American president!

    […] At issue has been a buffer zone the United States and the Syrian Defense Forces (AKA the Kurds) had been establishing along the Syria-Turkey border, the whole point of which has been to keep Turkey from invading. But we guess after this call, Turkey is invited to do whatever it wants there! (Oh, and Turkey has plans. They involve getting the Kurds out of that place, which happens to be where many Kurds live.) […]

    And because Trump is a fact-free idiot who does foreign leader phone calls with bad information, he’s apparently been obsessed with who’s in charge of holding the 2,000 ISIS prisoners in northern Syria. Trump seems to think America has been doing that up to now, when actually that’s been handled by the Syrian Defense Forces, albeit with American financial support. […]

    Last night, Brett McGurk, who was the Trump administration’s special envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS until he resigned last time Trump pulled this shit, appeared on the Rachel Maddow program and confirmed that one of the things about Trump in these situations is that he has a lot of “bluster,” but very little follow-through. […]

    Point is, if Trump is getting rolled this hard, then it’s entirely possible THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT is literally taking orders from the president of Turkey in matters of war, because Turkey’s got something on him.

    But yeah, it’s also possible Trump is just really that stupid. […]


  128. says

    From yesterday – “Syrian Kurds condemn US decision to allow Turkish invasion”:

    The Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) condemned the decision by the Trump administration to allow Turkish forces to invade northeastern Syria.

    The denouncement follows a White House statement made late Sunday explaining that US forces would withdraw from areas in northern Syria where Turkey is moving ahead with a long-threatened military operation.

    “We call upon Congress, the US military, and the international community to oppose this decision, and we call upon President Trump to reverse this decision,” said the SDC in a statement released on Monday.

    “Our brave men and women with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have just won a historic victory over the ISIS ‘caliphate,’ a victory announced by President Trump and celebrated across the world.”

    “To abandon us now would be tragic,” it continued. “To disregard our partnership would also send a clear signal to all would-be partner forces of the United States that a US alliance may not be trustworthy.”

    Washington SDC representative Sinam Mohammed wrote in a tweet that it would be a “disaster to allow Turkey [to] invade Northeast Syria, threatening its 5 million inhabitants.”

    “We will be facing a grave humanitarian disaster if the Senate does not make a resolution to stop it. Don’t allow a repeat of the Turkish invasion of Afrin.”

    The Turkish military and its local Syrian rebel allies have been occupying the predominantly-Kurdish city of Afrin since early 2018, resulting in the displacement of some 170,000 residents.

    “Their military and militias have committed grave atrocities and human rights abuses there. We do not want a repeat of the invasion and occupation of Afrin,” said the SDC.

    The council says it is now afraid thousands could be displaced from northeastern Syria as a result of a new Turkish invasion that would, most likely, cause large numbers to flee across the Iraqi border to seek refuge in the Kurdistan Region.

    “We assure that any Turkish attack will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe and a large wave of displacement,” the SDC continued.

    The council argued that the SDF has been a committed local partner to the United States in the battle against the Islamic State, stating, “We have very actively participated in good faith with the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.”

    The SDC also added that security agreement made in August between them, the US, and Turkey, “involved the withdrawal of our military forces from the Turkey-Syria border. Within the past two months, we withdrew our forces and complied with this agreement.”

    “We made this agreement to avoid war, a war that will lead to suffering and human rights abuses for all Syrian people. We now call upon the United States government to support its allies.”

    Following the White House statement, the General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Monday vowed to defend their land “at all costs.”…

    Sinam Mohammed is evidently in Washington, but I guess MSNBC and CNN can’t be bothered to pick up a phone.

  129. says

    Kyle Cheney, Politico:

    JUST IN: Senate Intel Committee report on Russian social media activity in 2016 election affirms IC conclusion that Russian online campaign overwhelmingly opposed Clinton and boosted Trump.

    That effort also included denigrating Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush — considered to be hostile to the Kremlin.

    NOTABLE: The #1 recommendation from the committee to the Executive Branch: “Reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election.”

    Link to the report atl.

  130. says

    Laura Litvan, Bloomberg:

    Chief findings of new Senate Intel report on Russia’s use of social media in 2016:

    *Russia worked to hurt Clinton and aid Trump at Kremlin’s direction

    *Black Americans were targeted more than any other group

    *Russia’s disruptive work on social media increased AFTER election

  131. says

    Shimon Prokupecz:

    CNN:Aides to Trump scrambled in the aftermath of his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s leader both to alert lawyers of their concerns and to contain the damage.

    Unsettled aides also immediately began quizzing each other about whether they should alert senior officials.

    Then there’s this!!!

    White House lawyers, aware of the tumult, initially believed it could be contained within the walls of the White House.

  132. says

    Here’s the CNN report – “Inside the White House’s effort to contain Ukraine call fallout”:

    By the time President Donald Trump’s line with Volodymyr Zelensky went quiet, the scramble began.

    In the hours and days after the Ukrainian President signed-off — “Thank you Mr. President, bye-bye” — nervous word spread among national security aides about the contents of the July 25 call, an early show of worry that Trump’s request for an investigation into Joe Biden was far from the “perfect” conversation he now insists transpired.

    The scramble and fallout from the call, described by six people familiar with it, parallels and expands upon details described in the whistleblower complaint. The anxiety and internal concern reflect a phone conversation that deeply troubled national security professionals, even as Trump now insists there was nothing wrong with how he conducted himself. And it shows an ultimately unsuccessful effort to contain the tumult by the administration’s lawyers.

    At least one National Security Council official alerted the White House’s national security lawyers about the concerns, three sources familiar with the matter said, a detail that had not been previously disclosed. Those same lawyers would later order the transcript of the call moved to a highly classified server typically reserved for code-word classified material.

    Those concerns were raised independently of the complaint brought forward by an intelligence community whistleblower. They reflect new evidence of the unease mounting within the administration at the President’s actions.

    Unsettled aides also immediately began quizzing each other about whether they should alert senior officials who were not on the call — mainly those at the Justice Department, since Trump had invoked the agency’s boss, Attorney General Bill Barr, multiple times during the 30-minute talk.

    White House lawyers, aware of the tumult, initially believed it could be contained within the walls of the White House. As more people became aware of the conversation — and began raising their internal concerns about it — a rough transcript of the call was stored away in a highly classified server that few could access.

    The order to move the transcript came from the White House’s national security lawyers to prevent more people from seeing it, according to people familiar with the situation. It also came after recognition the document would need to be preserved for legal reasons.

    Sitting in his private quarters, Trump wasn’t surrounded by the usual clutch of aides who would accompany him in person during a call with a foreign leader made from the Oval Office. Instead, a number of aides were listening in the Situation Room or on their own lines.

    Those who listened included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who insisted to reporters last week that Trump’s conversation was consistent with US policy toward Ukraine.

    Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia, was on the line. So was Rob Blair, a national security aide to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Keith Kellogg, the national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. Officials said standard operating procedure suggests Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s Ukraine expert, would also have been listening in.

    Bolton was not on the line. By late July, the relationship between Trump and Bolton was deeply strained. But typically, a national security adviser accompanies the president on phone calls with foreign leaders

    Elsewhere, a State Department interpreter fluent in Ukrainian was providing real-time translation. And a duty officer from the Situation Room took notes that would later be paired with a log of the call using voice recognition software to put together a rough transcript.

    Almost as soon as Trump had hung up, word of what he said on the call began to circulate among National Security Council staffers — in particular, his request that Zelensky investigate Biden. The entreaty caused concern among some of his national security officials, who discussed among themselves whether Trump had crossed a line.

    Eventually, the internal consternation escalated. Within roughly a week, the top lawyer at an intelligence agency had contacted John Eisenberg, the top lawyer on the National Security Council, to discuss concerns raised by an intelligence officer through a colleague about a phone call Trump had held with a foreign leader, though didn’t specify the country in question.

    Eisenberg said he had a vague understanding of the concerns surrounding the Zelensky call and would do some more digging on it, according to person familiar with the matter.

    Around the same time, a transcript of the call was being finalized by staffers at the National Security Council. Initially, the process of transcribing and archiving the call followed the standard procedure for dozens of previous presidential calls with foreign leaders: The raw transcript of the call was circulated to a small group of officials, including the national security adviser, deputy national security adviser, members of the National Security Council’s executive secretariat and NSC lawyers.

    From there, the National Security Council director responsible for Ukraine — Vindman — reviewed the document for accuracy before the document made its way to Bolton and his deputy Charlie Kupperman. At that point, the document would ordinarily have been marked “limited access” and shared on a need-to-know basis.

    But within a few days, a National Security Council lawyer — acting on orders from Eisenberg, his boss — directed council officials to move the transcript to the code-word classified system, a former White House official said, even though there was no code-word classified material discussed during the call.

    One person familiar with the matter said it was possible Eisenberg ordered the call transcript placed into the codeword system after his initial call with the CIA’s top lawyer to “preserve” the record since he realized it could become a matter of a legal issue. But others familiar with the matter said the move came after officials became aware of the internal concerns and wanted to prevent additional people from reading the document.

    White House lawyers initially believed the contents of the complaint would remain within the executive branch and not reach Congress or the public. Several sources said the White House counsel’s office kept a very close hold on the initial general counsel disclosure and the ultimate whistleblower complaint until just a few days before the complaint’s public release, when it became clear it would reach lawmakers….

  133. says

    Jason Leopold: “@BuzzFeedNews/me and CNN will be getting the first production of 302s (500 pages) from the hundreds of witnesses interviewed by Mueller’s team, which amounts to 44K pages, on November 1.

    These 500 page monthly productions of FBI 302s will continue every month through the 2020 election and beyond.”

  134. says

    Peter Walker, Guardian:

    European Parliament president David Sassoli is briefing reporters after meeting Boris Johnson. He says talks were so frank he “felt like I was in a TV talk show”. Don’t think that’s entirely good.

    Sassoli says Johnson told him the UK will leave on 31 Oct and will not seek an extension. Sassoli says Johnson’s plans as they stand “are not an actual proposal”. Nothing is definite, “everything is left to the future”.

    Sassoli says Johnson does not seem to want a deal. “This is extremely painful for us.” Says his course carries great risks, especially for island of Ireland. This is all UK’s responsibility, he says.

    This is an utterly brutal briefing.

    Sassoli not sounding very impressed with Boris Johnson. Says the PM was unable to discuss a coherent proposal, and at one point told him “I should not be sad”. Sassoli says he is “terribly worried”.

    Sassoli is asked if he really believes Johnson wants a deal. He says Johnson repeatedly said UK was leaving on 31 October and had nothing concrete to say on new ideas for a deal. “I think each and every one of us can reach our own conclusions,” he says. That sounds like a “No”.

    G liveblog:

    Boris Johnson’s missed the London Assembly oversight committee’s 6pm deadline to explain his links to Jennifer Arcuri. A spokesperson for the prime minister has said he would respond on Tuesday evening.

    As we revealed earlier, the prime minister failed to publicly disclose the full extent of his links with Arcuri in his official diary of appointments and activities as mayor of London.

  135. says

    From Rachel Maddow:

    What we have already started living through here is an effort … to turn the behavior for which the president has now been caught, not just into some amorphous and unnecessarily complicated thing that doesn’t really have any inherent meaning, but also to try to make his sins our sins. To try to absolve himself of his own crimes by putting what he did and – what he and his sort of henchmen in Ukraine have been doing – to try to put those crimes on everybody else’s rap sheet.

    And I know it is hard to follow the twists and turns of the story as it continues to develop right now, but just heads up on this part of it. We are in the middle of them trying to redefine this whole thing, to try to make this simple case as messy as possible, and to try to make it seem like whatever the president did must have been done by his accusers first and worse. We’ve seen them do this before with language and with the “no puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet” argument. If it works against this impeachment thing, there’s no grounds on which factually based accusations can ever be brought against this president.

    If it doesn’t work in this impeachment thing, we will have taken giant steps forward as a country part toward not being manipulated this way again the way we have so badly for the last three years.

  136. says

    From the Senate Intel report (p. 4):

    The Committee found, that the IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.

    The Committee found that the IRA’ s information warfare campaign was broad in scope and entailed objectives beyond the result of the 2016 presidential election. Further, the Committee’s analysis of the IRA’s activities on social media supports the key judgments of the January 6, 2017[,] Intelligence Community Assessment, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” that “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”5 However, where the Intelligence Community assessed that the Russian government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” the Committee found that IRA social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump, and to the detriment .of Secretary Clinton’s campaign.

    I don’t get the contrast they’re making here. Are they saying the Kremlin was even more pro-Trump than the IC assessment found? That they were more openly supporting him directly and not only via denigrating her?

  137. says


    The Committee found that Russia’s targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society. Moreover, the IRA conducted a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood. The IRA’s actions in 2016 represent only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.

    The writing is not great.

  138. says

    Yep, as we suspected, Sondland called Trump for advice before he replied to a text from Bill Taylor, before Sondland put it in very careful writing that Trump did not want any quid pro quo’s of any kind. In other words, Trump told Sondland to lie to Bill Taylor, so Sondland lied.

    […] Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, called […] Trump last month after a career US official in Kyiv rang the alarm about Trump allegedly leveraging military aid for political favors from Ukraine.

    Sondland’s call to the President occurred within a roughly five-hour gap between a text from Bill Taylor, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy, and Sondland’s text response, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported.

    Taylor had said that it “crazy” the aid was being withheld for “help with a political campaign.” When Sondland responded, he denied the allegation, claiming: “President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”

    Sondland then instructed Taylor to stop putting his concerns in writing and to call Secretary of State Pompeo or a Pompeo aide if he wanted to discuss the matter further.

    Yep, Pompeo is also deeply involved.

    […] The call also came weeks after the White House became aware that a whistleblower had raised concerns to the CIA of improper Trump behavior towards Ukraine, and while officials in the administration were scrambling to contain the fallout of those allegations. […]

    Democrats warned that White House’s refusal to allow Sondland to sit for a voluntary interview Tuesday, which Sondland had agreed to, would support the obstruction case against the President as the House advances its impeachment inquiry

    […] Sondland was in direct and frequent contact with the President.

    It was the President himself who had instructed Sondland to get heavily involved in U.S.-Ukraine relations; former US diplomats have noted how atypical Sondland’s Ukraine dealings were given, his role as the European Union envoy.

    Sondland also spoke to President Trump right before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pushed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election meddling investigation. Sondland met with Zelensky in Ukraine the day after the call. […]

    Even as Sondland had appeared to tamp down Taylor’s frustrations about a Trump-ordered quid pro quo, he himself expressed his own concerns about a week earlier to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

    According to Johnson’s account to the Wall Street Journal, Sondland told Johnson that Trump would release the assistance if he was “confident” the country was going to “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. Johnson, alarmed by Sondland’s remark, called President Trump the next day, on Aug. 31, and Trump vigorously denied the allegation, the senator told the Journal. […]

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) referenced those conversations specifically on Tuesday morning, when condemning the move by the administration to block Sondland’s appearance before his committee. He also revealed that there were “deeply relevant” messages Sondland sent from a personal device that the State Department was refusing to turn over to the House. […]


  139. says

    Graham, Giuliani Team Up To Use Senate In Bid To Scramble Ukraine Story

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to “inquire” into long-debunked and never remotely substantiated allegations that formed the basis of political dirt that President Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into manufacturing.

    Graham invited Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggesting that the senator may be embarking on a quest to use the Senate’s relative prestige to launch a Benghazi-style inquiry that would give a megaphone to the debunked claims the President and his personal lawyer are making about Ukraine, and provide a counter narrative to the impeachment investigation underway in the House. […]

    From Graham:

    Have heard on numerous occasions disturbing allegations by @RudyGiuliani about corruption in Ukraine and the many improprieties surrounding the firing of former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

    Given the House of Representatives’ behavior, it is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine.

    Therefore I will offer to Mr. Giuliani the opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to inform the committee of his concerns.

    Unlike the House of Representatives, I’m tired of only hearing one side of the story.

    It’s now time to give voice to everything Ukraine.

    Let the chips fall where they may!

    Translation: Hey, Rudy, would like to use the U.S. Senate as a platform to spew your lies and conspiracy theories?

  140. tomh says

    WaPo Live Updates:
    3 p.m.: Former State Dept. attorney says White House can’t legally block Yovanovitch from testifying.

    Harold Koh, a former State Department legal adviser and current Yale Law School professor, said he sees “no basis to legally block” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from testifying Friday.

    But Trump, through Pompeo, could say “you’ll never work for the U.S. government again,” in which case she could potentially suffer other consequences. He noted how FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was fired just hours before he was set to retire with full benefits.

    If she receives some kind of letter asking her not to testify, but does so anyway, she could be further instructed by that letter not to answer questions that would violate executive privilege or that require recitation of classified material, Koh said in an email to The Post. A claim of violation of classification laws could expose her to prosecution under the Espionage Act and other laws, he said.

    “Presumably Ambassador Yovanovitch would just say, ‘I don’t want to testify about privileged and classified matters’ and then go on to testify truthfully and at length about other conversations” — particularly, he said, text chains with other officials similar to the text disclosed to Congress by former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker last week.

  141. says

    The CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods says the company melted $5 million worth of assault rifles after halting sales of those types of guns.

    They turned the guns into scrap metal.


  142. says

    From coverage of opening remarks made at the Supreme Court today:

    […] Pamela Karlan, the co-director for Stanford University’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and the counsel representing two gay men, left the court speechless with her opening argument.

    “The attempt to carve out discrimination against men for being gay from Title VII cannot be administered with either consistency or integrity,” Karlan said. “In the words of the en banc Second Circuit, it forces judges to…resort to lexical bean counting where they count up the frequency of epithets, such as “fag,” “gay,” “queer,” “real man,” and “fem,” to determine whether or not discrimination is based on sex or sexual orientation.” […]


  143. says

    ABC – “White House official told whistleblower Trump Ukraine call was ‘frightening'”:

    A White House official listening to President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president described the call as “crazy” and “frightening” and was “visibly shaken,” according to notes taken by the intelligence official who filed a formal whistleblower complaint after speaking with the official, and others.

    ABC News has learned that the two-page memo, written by the whistleblower a day after Trump’s call, suggests that at least one aide to the president feared that Trump’s own words in the call were damning….

    The notes were based on a brief conversation between the whistleblower and the White House official and described “highlights” from the president’s call. The document was later provided to the intelligence community’s inspector general, who reviewed the whistleblower’s complaint. The IG has determined the complaint “appeared credible” and of “urgent concern.”

    “The official, who listened to the entirety of the phone call, was visibly shaken by what had transpired and seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the U.S. national security apparatus about the call,” the whistleblower writes in the memo.

    The memo states the official “described the call as “crazy,” “frightening,” and completely lacking in substance related to national security.”

    After the call, the whistleblower says “I … returned to my office, and wrote up my best recollection of what I had heard.” The person notes that they did not review the call transcript or written notes, “but the official informed me they exist.”

    The official recalled to the whistleblower that the president also asked the Ukranian leader about “Crowdstrike server” a reference to a debunked theory that Ukraine is holding Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and that it was the Ukraine, not Russia, that was behind the interference in the 2016 election.

    The White House official also correctly recalled that the president raised the issue of Burisma holdings, a company that employed Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

    Importantly, the whistleblower also documented suspicions from the White House official that notes or transcripts from the call were being protected in an unusual manner….

  144. Akira MacKenzie says

    The official recalled to the whistleblower that the president also asked the Ukranian leader about “Crowdstrike server” a reference to a debunked theory that Ukraine is holding Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and that it was the Ukraine, not Russia, that was behind the interference in the 2016 election.

    That’s one thing about this story that is often over looked by the press, focusing instead about Trump’s desire for Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens. If that is true, then it proves that not only is Trump crooked, but certifiably insane.

  145. says

    G liveblog:

    The London Assembly has now received a response on behalf of Boris Johnson to its request for him to explain his links to Jennifer Arcuri. A spokeswoman for the assembly said correspondence had been received shortly after 7pm on Tuesday – just after the 6pm deadline the institution said it had set No 10.

    She said the London Assembly was unable to publish the response and declined to confirm whether or not it fully addressed the issue at hand.

  146. says

    Rep. Cicilline:

    @realDonaldTrump is again making it clear that Congress needs to invoke our inherent contempt powers.

    Real, punitive consequences will stop this obstruction.

    Almost every response is a variant of “THEN DO IT!!!” Brings a tear to my eye.

  147. says

    Pompeo tweeted:

    China has forcibly detained over one million Muslims in a brutal, systematic campaign to erase religion and culture in Xinjiang. China must end its draconian surveillance and repression, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease its coercion of Chinese Muslims abroad.

    Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

  148. says

    White House just sent eight-page scorching letter to Pelosi and Democrats saying they will not be cooperating with impeachment inquiry, attacking Schiff & calling inquiry a bid to overturn 2016 election, per copy seen by Post. Signed by chief White House counsel Pat Cipollone.”

    Renato Mariotti: “It is signed by an attorney but it is no sense a legal document. It’s a political document and the arguments in it are not legal reasons that would excuse failure to comply with the inquiry.”

    Link to the letter here.

    It is truly Stupid Watergate.

  149. says

    Politico – “Dems raise fresh quid-pro-quo questions about Ukraine missile sale”:

    Democrats pursuing an impeachment inquiry of President Trump want to take a fresh look at whether the sale of anti-tank missiles to Kiev last year was in any way connected to Ukraine’s decision to halt investigations into Trump’s campaign chairman.

    The renewed interest in the circumstances surrounding the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles—long coveted by Ukraine as a way to fend off Russian aggression in the east—has been spurred by revelations about the Trump administration’s dealings with the newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky. It raises the prospect that the president, or his aides, may have been pressuring the Ukrainian government in exchange for political favors far earlier than previously known.

    The U.S. completed its shipment of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine in May 2018, finalizing a sale that was pushed by lawmakers in both parties and reluctantly approved by Trump in November 2017. In April 2018, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered Ukraine’s top anti-corruption prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko—who’d been tasked with investigating corruption that occurred under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych—to stop cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Mueller, at that point, was investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s work for Yanokovych in Ukraine and his ties to Russia.

    Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez and Patrick Leahy sent a letter to Lutsenko on May 4, 2018, expressing their “great concern” about reports that the investigation had been impeded—and asking directly whether “any individual from the Trump administration, or anyone acting on its behalf” encouraged Ukrainian government or law enforcement officials not to cooperate with the Mueller probe. They never received a response, according to a spokesman for Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Lutsenko has not replied to multiple requests for comment in recent days. The White House did not reply to questions about the Javelin sale….

  150. says

    NEWS: Schiff/Engel/Cummings have now issued the subpoena to Gordon Sondland. It compels him to appear for testimony on October 16th with a document submission deadline of October 14.”

  151. tomh says

    This should get him off the hook.

    Gowdy expected to join Trump’s legal team

    Former congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is expected to join Trump’s legal team as an outside counsel, according to a senior White House official who said Gowdy met with White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney earlier Tuesday.

    Trump has blessed the move, the official added.

    Gowdy is a former chairman of the House Oversight Committee; he also led the two-year House investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

    Like many in Trump’s inner circle, he has been a regular fixture on Fox News Channel, both before and after his departure from the House in January.

  152. says

    #Breaking: local sources in #Raqqa say a group of #ISIS cells are currently surrounding a security headquarters in the city amid clashes with local police officers. Explosions are also heard from the nearby al-Basel square. Updates to follow… #Syria”

    There are reports of multiple ISIS attacks.

  153. says

    Marty Lederman:

    1/ Instead of telling the POTUS his unconstitutional conduct w/r/t Ukraine must cease, the WH Counsel–a previously respected member of the Bar–insists that what Trump did was “perfectly appropriate.”

    2/ Such attempted normalization of such a patent abuse of office, by those whose job it is to ensure the President complies w/his constitutional duties, is perhaps as troubling and as corrosive as the abuse itself, as @benjaminwittes and I recently wrote.

  154. says

    Turkey spox:

    ‘During a phone call w/ [Erdogan] on Sunday, Pres. Trump agreed to transfer the leadership of the counter-ISIS campaign to Turkey.

    The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly’.”

    From a WaPo oped?! “The world must support Turkey’s plan for northeastern Syria”? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?

  155. says

    Re #203 above – Chris Hayes is interviewing Neal Katyal:

    Hayes: Neal, did you have the ‘OK, Wow’ response to the DOJ’s argument?

    Katyal: I think it was way past that. I mean honestly, Chris, when I teach Constitutional law, we use this Nixon oral argument back in 1974 as an example of a preposterous argument. Like, it’s up there with like Korematsu and stuff like that….

  156. says

    David Ignatius, WaPo:

    A bad situation in Northeast Syria is about to get much worse. Sources tell me that US officials have just informed the Syrian Kurds that Turkey is likely to attack on air and ground in next 24 hours. The US will do nothing. Targets are Tal Abyad and Ras al Ayn….

    …Ironically Tal Abyad was the main supply route for ISIS in 2014-15 through an open border from Turkey. Turkey refused repeated requests from US to shut border. That’s a big reason why US decided to partner with SDF, which took the town in the summer of 2015.

    …I’m also told that Turkish attack appears coordinated with the Russians. Russian-backed forces are mobilizing to invade the Kurdish area from the south — towards Tabqa and other spots. Meanwhile, ISIS is mobilizing sleeper cells in Raqqa and attacks have taken place tonight.

    …And finally there is the scary issue of the thousands of ISIS detainees and families, who may be breaking out of camps and prisons after Turkish attack–with NO American back-up plan. This is a major disaster coming at us because of Trump’s decisions. Hours left to stop it…

  157. says

    The Onion – “GOP Lawmakers Watch Silently As Trump Strangles Each Of Their Loved Ones In Turn”:

    Opting to take more of a wait-and-see approach instead of rushing to pass judgment, Republican lawmakers reportedly looked on in silence Tuesday as President Trump worked his way through each of their families and, one by one, strangled all their loved ones to death. “After I watched the president slowly and methodically squeeze the life out of my wife’s body as she gasped, futilely, for breath, he gave me his personal assurance that he was not responsible for her death, so I continue to stand by this administration,” said Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who along with every Republican in both the House and Senate stated that while killing off their families in cold blood might not be entirely proper, it was certainly not an impeachable offense, no matter how the media tried to spin it. “Now, this is not an action I would have taken myself. I personally would not have wrapped my hands around my 5-year-old son’s neck and crushed his windpipe. But if Donald Trump’s approach to governing is sometimes a bit outside the ordinary, that’s because Donald Trump is no ordinary president. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.” Later, with his beloved sister’s face turning purple as the commander-in-chief asphyxiated her with a length of barbed wire, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appeared on several television news networks and said impeaching the president for her imminent death would be “insane.”

  158. says

    Followup to 235, 240, 243, 245, 252 and other comments related to the we-will-not-cooperate letter the White House sent.

    Nancy Pelosi’s comments, and more details about that letter:

    […] For a while, the President has tried to normalize lawlessness. Now, he is trying to make lawlessness a virtue,” she [Pelosi] said in a statement. “The White House letter is only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy, and to insist that the President is above the law.”

    The statement came in response to a letter from the White House accusing House Democrats of working to “overturn the results of the 2016 election” and violating the Constitution with “legally unsupported demands” for testimony and documents from several administration officials and Trump affiliates.

    “Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote.

    “Because participating in this inquiry under the current unconstitutional posture would inflict lasting institutional harm on the Executive Branch and lasting damage to the separation of powers, you have left the President no choice,” he added. […]

    “This letter is manifestly wrong, and is simply another unlawful attempt to hide the facts of the Trump Administration’s brazen efforts to pressure foreign powers to intervene in the 2020 elections. Despite the White House’s stonewalling, we see a growing body of evidence that shows that President Trump abused his office and violated his oath to ‘protect, preserve and defend the Constitution,’” said Pelosi. […]


  159. says

    Followup to comment 256.

    More from Pelosi:

    “The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the President’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

    More analysis of the whacko, non-legal nature of the White House letter, from the Washington Post:

    […] The White House letter, which lacked substantive legal arguments and echoed Trump’s political broadsides, capped a day of defiance and challenges as House Democrats have tried to force recalcitrant administration officials to divulge potentially incriminating information over Republican objections. […]

    Cipollone dismissed the notion that Trump did anything wrong when he spoke to Zelensky on that July 25 call, the details of which were revealed in a rough transcript released by the White House last month.
    “The record clearly established that the call was completely appropriate and that there is no basis for your inquiry,” the counsel wrote. […]

    The White House letter suggests that the administration will take similar steps to block the testimony of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who is expected for a deposition with the panels on Friday. Attempts to reach a lawyer for Yovanovitch were unsuccessful.

    Giuliani also pledged on Tuesday to disregard a House subpoena for documents related to his efforts in Ukraine.

    “Let them hold me in contempt. We’ll go to court. We’ll challenge the contempt,” Giuliani said in an interview. He added that he would be “very interested” in speaking instead to the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee, where chairman and Trump ally Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) promised to launch a Ukraine probe, centered on Giuliani’s testimony, to rival House Democrats’ impeachment-focused investigation. […]

    Pelosi has said a vote on the House floor is an option but is not required for the inquiry to proceed.

    “There’s nothing anyplace that says that we should. However, the people who are most afraid of a vote on the floor are the Republicans,” she said in an interview last week. “That’s why they’re beating their tom-toms like they want it, but they don’t. They have the most to be concerned about because for some of their members, to say that we shouldn’t go forward with this is a bad vote.” […]


  160. says

    Jim Newell’s take on the White House letter:

    In a performatively outraged eight-page letter to the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that it would not cooperate with the body’s impeachment inquiry under the circumstances in which it’s being conducted. Or, well, ever.

    The tone of the letter, attributable to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, is shouty, reading as a lightly lawyered digest of the president’s tweets. It accuses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic chairmen of three investigating committees of violating “the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent” in the way they’ve conducted the inquiry.

    “Never before in our history has the House of Representatives—under the control of either political party—taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue,” the letter reads. It also notes, three times, that President Donald Trump’s call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “completely appropriate,” and portrays the entire effort as a means of both overturning the 2016 election and corrupting the 2020 election.

    Among the central issues the letter raises is one that House Republicans have been pressing incessantly: Democratic leaders’ refusal, thus far, to vote to establish a formal impeachment inquiry, as was done during the impeachment proceedings of Nixon and Clinton. Democrats have argued that such a vote is not necessary, as the investigating committees already have the full subpoena powers they didn’t have during previous impeachment inquiries.

    “In the history of our Nation, the House of Representatives has never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the President without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step,” the White House letter reads. “Here, House leadership claims to have initiated the gravest inter-branch conflict contemplated under our Constitution by means of nothing more than a press conference at which the Speaker of the House simply announced an ‘official impeachment inquiry.’” […]

    Another reason Republicans want the vote is to establish parameters within the inquiry favorable to them, such as subpoena power for Republican ranking members of the investigative committees—a power they do not otherwise have.

    “The right of the minority to issue subpoenas—subject to the same rules as the majority—has been the standard, bipartisan practice in all recent resolutions authorizing presidential impeachment inquiries,” the letter reads.

    The risk of giving House Republicans subpoena power is that then you would be giving Republicans subpoena power, which they have no intention of using to investigate the president’s misconduct and would instead use to establish parallel investigations.

    What the letter does not say, though, is that if Democrats leaders acquiesced to its many procedural demands, the White House would happily cooperate with the inquiry. Instead, it only urged them to “abandon the current invalid efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry and join the President in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people.” […]

    The White House’s plan is to mark the impeachment process as an illegitimate sham, and granting Republican ranking members subpoena power and high-end massage chairs in committee rooms would just lead to new complaints about the rigged nature of the process. A letter like this is not sent as an opening offer in negotiations.


  161. says

    More re #238 – Polly Sigh:

    A classified State Dept assessment concluded that then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Lutsenko [at the center of the impeachment inquiry] allowed vital Russia probe witness Konstantin Kilimnik to flee Ukraine for Russia, beyond Mueller’s reach.

    Mar 2018: Trump approves missile deal with Ukraine
    Apr 2018: Prosecutor General Lutsenko kills 4 Manafort investigations
    Jun 2018: Lutsenko allows Mueller probe witness, Russian operative Kilimnik, to flee Ukraine for Russia, out of Mueller’s reach

  162. says

    Guardian – “Donald Trump has handed over Isis fight in Syria, Turkey says, as offensive looms”:

    The Turkish government has claimed that Donald Trump has handed it the leadership of the military campaign against Isis, and warned its forces would be crossing into Syria “shortly”.

    Kurdish military leaders inside Syria said they were braced for the invasion and claimed there had been an Isis attack on its former stronghold of Raqqa. But reports from the city suggested the attack had been small scale. [? – SC]

    However, it deepened Kurdish fears they would soon find themselves fighting on several fronts, against Turkey, Isis and possibly Iranian or Russian-backed units aligned with Damascus, all without US support.

    A spokesman for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, justified the impending invasion by saying that Trump, in a telephone conversation with Erdoğan on Sunday, had handed Turkey the mantle of the counter-Isis battle that the US has been waging alongside Kurdish forces since late 2014.

    Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s communications director and one of his closest aides, suggested Trump had given the Turkish leader the green light for an invasion, contradicting denials from White House officials.

    “During a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday, President Trump agreed to transfer the leadership of the counter-Islamic State campaign to Turkey,” Altun wrote in a commentary in the Washington Post published on Tuesday evening. “The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly.”

    Altun also suggested that the Turkish operation could be far more extensive than the 32km-deep border safe zone that US and Turkish officials had been working together to establish before Erdogan announced the planned assault.

    The southern border of the safe zone could reach as far as Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces, he said, effectively signalling Turkey could seek to take over the entire area currently controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

    In his address to the UN General Assembly last month Erdoğan had floated an expanded zone as means to resettle Syrian refugees in Turkey, saying it could hold as 3 million people.

    Altun portrayed the invasion as a counter-terrorism operation, and described Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria, the YPG, as “armed thugs” who should not resist the Turkish takeover of the area.

    The Syrian Democratic Forces said late on Tuesday night that Turkish forces were already attacking near the border. “The Turkish military is shelling one of our points on SereKaniye Border with Turkey,” it said in a tweet, referencing the key border town of Ras al-Ayn.

    It was one of the places from which US troops withdrew on Monday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    “There were no injuries to our forces. We didn’t respond to this unprovoked attack,” the SDF said.

    Early on Monday, US special forces near the Syrian-Turkish border were ordered to withdraw from their posts, to the surprise of Americans and Kurdish commanders. The Pentagon said on Tuesday the redeployment was necessary to avoid US troops being caught in the crossfire.

    “Unfortunately, Turkey has chosen to act unilaterally,” Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesman, said. “As a result we have moved the US forces in northern Syria out of the path of potential Turkish incursion to ensure their safety. We have made no changes to our force presence in Syria at this time.”

    There are also British and French special forces in the region and in the event of a major Turkish-Kurdish conflict the Guardian understands they would be tasked with the bolstering the security of camps where captured Isis fighters are being guarded by the Kurds.

    “We are nervous, and very much against this Turkish offensive,” a European official said on Tuesday. The official expressed hoped that the offensive could be limited in scope and not trigger a full-scale conflict with the YPG (and its broader coalition, the SDF), that could lead to the scattering of Isis prisoners and the movement’s resurgence.

    “If it is an unmitigated Turkish offensive, we are going to suffer serious consequences,” the official said.

    Military analysts warn of the possibility of a multi-pronged attack on Kurdish-held areas, with Turkey advancing from the north, and militias aligned with the Damascus regime, supported by Iran and Russia striking from the south….

  163. says


    Update to #s 184, 185, 190 and others above – “Arron Banks apologises for xenophobic tweet targeting Merkel”:

    Arron Banks has apologised after Leave.EU tweeted a xenophobic meme of Angela Merkel that invoked Britain’s world war victories to target the German chancellor.

    The image was condemned by cross-party MPs and later deleted by the pro-Brexit campaign group, but the businessman and Leave.EU co-founder initially defended it. The meme, which was reminiscent of wartime propaganda posters, said: “We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut,” alongside a photo of Merkel stood with her arm aloft.

    It was accompanied by a comment saying: “Angela Merkel’s demand that Britain leaves Northern Ireland to rot inside the customs union is reprehensible and shows the true colours of our supposed ‘European allies’.”

    The furore came after a No 10 source said Merkel’s demands for Northern Ireland after Brexit had made a deal “essentially impossible”, leading to accusations that Boris Johnson was trying to play a “stupid blame game”.

    The Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “Dear Germany and the EU, please accept our apologies and do not be fooled into thinking Leave.EU’s xenophobic bile is representative of the UK. A clear majority of Brits now oppose Brexit in all its forms. A vast, young and vibrant pro-EU movement in Britain stands with you.”

    Banks tweeted an apology on Wednesday morning, saying: “The Leave.EU team went too far yesterday but the real outrage is the German suggestion that Northern Ireland be separated from the UK. As a result we will delete the post and apologise accordingly … on reflection the point could have been made better.”

    Leave.EU retweeted the post as it said: “We’re sorry.”

    Not much of an apology!

    Update to #217 – “Brexit talks in Brussels between EU and the UK come to a halt”:

    Brexit talks have come to an abrupt halt in Brussels days after the British government demanded intensive negotiations on Boris Johnson’s proposals.

    Sources on both sides confirmed that no meetings between the negotiating teams were scheduled. There are 22 days to go before the UK is due to leave the EU.

    Discussions between EU and UK officials had been held almost daily since the prime minister and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, met for lunch in Luxembourg in mid-September.

    The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, had earlier this week called for the talks to intensify to try to secure a deal for leaders to sign off at an EU summit on 17 October.

    But after a tumultuous Tuesday, during which unnamed Downing Street sources accused the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, of wielding a veto on the UK leaving the EU’s custom’s union, the talks appear to have hit a wall.

    The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and Juncker will address the European parliament later on Wednesday to report on the state of play.

    Much of the focus is now on Johnson’s expected meeting with the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, on Thursday, with Barclay expected to meet Barnier for a working lunch in Brussels on the same day.

    On Tuesday, Varadkar had told the Irish broadcaster RTE that he believed it would be “very difficult to secure an agreement by next week”.

    Ministers are preparing to summon MPs for a special Saturday sitting of parliament after next week’s crucial EU summit.

    MPs are expected to be called back to Westminster on Saturday 19 October regardless of whether Johnson has been able to secure agreement on a Brexit deal.

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

  164. says

    From the G liveblog:

    The People’s Vote campaign, which wants a second referendum, says an emergency Saturday sitting on 19 October would give supporters even more of a reason to attend is march in London on the same day. It is put out this statement from the Labour MP Jess Phillips, who backs the campaign. She said:

    The 19th of October was already set to be a historic day, with hundreds of thousands of people coming to London to demand that the final decision on Brexit is not made by Boris Johnson but by all of us.

    With the news that Boris Johnson is planning an emergency session of parliament on the same day, there could not be a more important moment for everyone who cares about our country and our future to march, and to insist that we are all given the final say.

  165. says

    Intercept – “Fearful of Lula’s Exoneration, His Once-Fanatical Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. But Lula Refuses.”: “So weakened is the Car Wash prosecution that, in a surreal spectacle, the prosecutors who worked for years and broke numerous rules to ensure Lula’s imprisonment are now demanding that he leave prison (albeit on their terms), while Lula categorically refuses to do so absent full acquittal of the crimes of which they accused him.”

  166. says

    More from Lederman re Cipollone letter:

    1/ The most important & distressing point about the Cipollone letter is what I tweeted earlier, viz., that the WH Counsel, whose job is to ensure that the POTUS complies with the law and Constitution, is defending the “appropriateness” of Trump’s breach of constitutional duty …

    2/ … rather than insisting it cease immediately. But another basic, inexplicable problem with the letter is largely being overlooked, too. Regardless of one’s views about the “merits” of the arguments in the letter–re: “due process”; legislative motive; …

    3/ … whether Trump’s conduct was “completely appropriate” or not; whether the House’s actions are “unprecedented,” etc.–the proper, standard response to such alleged defects is to challenge them pursuant to ordinary process, e.g., in court, …

    4/ … rather than to assert an authority to simply ignore legal process (e.g., congressional subpoenas) altogether. It’s noteworthy, but hardly surprising, that the letter offers *no* authority for the proposition that the POTUS has the authority …

    5/ … to simply “refuse to participate” in the process–a euphemism for acting in contempt of Congress. All the letter says in that regard is that the House has “left the President no choice.” And that’s obviously nonsense:

    6/ This President and his Executive branch officials have exactly the same “choices” that every other witness or recipient of subpoenas, including previous Presidents, have always had to challenge the legality of congressional or executive or judicial processes.

    7/ That a White House Counsel would assert otherwise–and do so without bothering to cite even a shred of legal authority (because there is none)–is an utter embarrassment.

    8/ An important “footnote” point of sorts: I’m a big believer that oversight disputes between the two political branches ought to be resolved in the first instance through the traditional give & take of the “accommodation” practice, w/courts a matter of last resort.

    9/ Here, however, the POTUS/WHC are asserting that the congressional process itself is *fundamentally* illegitimate and therefore that the Executive can and should refuse to cooperate (respond to ordinary process) *altogether.* That is to say: Trump is saying at the start …

    10/ … that the accommodation process will be futile because they won’t give an inch. In *that* instance, the proper resort is to do what all other witnesses/targets/defendants have always done, rather than to assert the power to ignore legal process entirely.

  167. says

    SDF: “Intensive bombardment by Turkish jets on military positions and civilians villages in #Tal_Abyad, #Serê_Kanye, #Qamishlo and #Ain_Issa.
    According to initial reports there are casualties among civilian people.”

  168. says


    Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS.

    Will lead effort in Congress to make Erdogan pay a heavy price.

    I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working.

  169. says

    NEW: State Department aides were directed to play it down when the Trump administration finally unfroze military aid to Ukraine. ‘Nothing to see here’, one wrote.”

    NYT link at the link. They evidently have State Dept. emails in which officials express their frustration with the freezing of the aid.

  170. says

    SC @260, I’m sure Russia will take advantage of the situation. Russia will support the invasion by the Turks, and then Russia will take control of a lot of land and resources in Syria.

  171. says

    Trump’s case against whistleblower descends deeper into incoherence.

    The Whistleblower’s facts have been so incorrect about my “no pressure” conversation with the Ukrainian President, and now the conflict of interest and involvement with a Democrat Candidate, that he or she should be exposed and questioned properly. This is no Whistleblower. The Whistleblower’s lawyer is a big Democrat. The Whistleblower has ties to one of my DEMOCRAT OPPONENTS. Why does the ICIG allow this scam to continue?

    The so-called Whistleblower, before knowing I was going to release the exact Transcript, stated that my call with the Ukrainian President was ‘crazy, frightening, and completely lacking in substance related to national security.’ This is a very big Lie. Read the Transcript!

    Trump’s series of incoherent tweets are from this morning.

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] The president is clearly confused about basic details. Trump believes the whistleblower’s account has been discredited, but that’s not true. He also falsely attributed quotes to the whistleblower that actually came from a White House official. He also falsely suggested the intelligence community’s inspector general can derail a congressional impeachment inquiry.

    But what mattered most to me is the president’s idea that he can tear down the whistleblower by alleging that he or she has “ties” to a Democrat, is “involved” with a Democrat, and has a lawyer who’s a Democrat.

    I have no idea who the whistleblower is and whether he or she has political “ties” to one party or another. I also have no idea why it would matter.

    What we’re dealing with is someone who learned of presidential wrongdoing and, in effect, pulled the fire alarm. It set in motion a series of developments that made clear that the fire was (and is) real: Trump tried to privately coerce a foreign government into helping his re-election campaign; he publicly urged another country to help his re-election campaign; there are texts documenting the scope of the scheme; and the White House tried to cover it all up.

    Trump has effectively been reduced to arguing, “The person who pulled the fire alarm may have had suspect motives.” […]

    Trump’s misdeeds have been exposed. The whistleblower’s politics, or lack thereof, are completely irrelevant.


  172. says

    Sen. Van Hollen: “Turkey must pay a heavy price for attacking our Syrian Kurdish partners. Senators on both sides of the aisle won’t support abandoning the one regional group most responsible for putting ISIS on its heels. Our bipartisan sanctions bill is being finalized now.”

  173. says

    Carne Ross in the Nation yesterday – “Trump’s Syria Pullout Will Destroy the Middle East’s Only Woman-Led Democracy”:

    …It’s not just the fight against ISIS that will be imperiled by an American withdrawal. Since the Syrian revolution began, there has been a democratic revolution in northeast Syria. Inspired by the writings of Murray Bookchin, an American political philosopher highly influential in anarchist and municipalist movements, citizens of Rojava have turned top-down government on its head. Local councils at the village level, which include non-Kurds and Kurds alike, make all the decisions. It’s a remarkable and rare model of inclusive self-government.

    Moreover, this is a revolution led by women. Women cochair local meetings, administer regions (following the decisions made locally), and lead the female People’s Protection Units, known as the YPJ. Together with male YPG and Arab units, they form the Syrian Democratic Forces. It was a female military commander, Rojda Filat, who led the SDF’s final battle in Raqqa.

    Because both groups are led by Kurds and share certain political ideologies, Turkey regards the SDF as associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting with the Turkish state for decades. On the basis of this association, Turkey considers the SDF a threat it is committed to destroy and has openly declared its intention to attack Rojava. A Turkish assault will destroy the democratic revolution that has taken place there.

    That is not just a tragedy in itself, because it would remove a viable model for the governance of all of Syria. It is for Syrians themselves—all of them—to decide how the country should be governed.

    A country deeply fractured by sectarianism and conflict, the confederal model of Rojava—of maximum local autonomy without breaking up the country—is a plausible proposal. Unfortunately, the United Nations has failed to invite representatives of the self-governing areas to participate in its newly formed constitutional committee to discuss the future of government in Syria. This failure is the UN’s for bowing to to Turkish pressure, but the United States and the United Kingdom also bear responsibility. These countries have benefited from the bravery and bloodshed of the Kurds, yet failed repeatedly to stand up for democracy against Turkish hostility….

    More at the links @ #81 above.

  174. says

    Our reporter:
    Thousands of local civilians have fled the city of #Tal_Abyad towards the southern areas to Ein Issa and to western areas to Kobani, for the fears of their lives under the indiscriminate Turkish artillery shelling”

  175. says

    Guardian – “Johnson could be summoned by London assembly over Arcuri”:

    Boris Johnson could be summoned by the London assembly after failing to provide details of his contact with a US businesswoman and explain how any potential conflict of interest was addressed.

    The assembly’s oversight committee gave Johnson 14 days to explain how grants and privileged access to trade trips were awarded to Jennifer Arcuri during his time as mayor. Johnson’s confidential response was sent to the watchdog on Tuesday night an hour after the initial deadline.

    The letter was marked “confidential and not for publication” but a spokeswoman for the committee said: “It doesn’t answer any of our questions”.

    The committee chair, Labour’s Len Duvall, has asked for legal advice about whether the watchdog can discuss the letter at an open meeting next Wednesday.

    The meeting is also expected to decide whether the committee should use its powers to summon the former mayor to answer questions in person as it did over his failed garden bridge project.

    And it could even decide to force Johnson to hand over private text messages and emails he sent to Arcuri. Duvall said the committee planned to take the matter further.

    Meanwhile, the Independent Office for Police Conduct is expected to make a decision before the end of the month on whether to launch an investigation into allegations of misconduct in public office.

    An official at the Greater London authority formally referred the allegations to the police watchdog, because Johnson headed the mayor’s office for policing and crime as part of his role.

    Separately, the current London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has launched an independent review of how Arcuri was given sponsorship and access to trade trips.

    And the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is withholding more than half of a £100,000 grant awarded this year to Arcuri’s company Hacker House, pending a review into how the money was allocated.

  176. says

    SDF (I don’t have time to link to individual tweets – the SDF Twitter link is @ #274): “Today on 4 o’clock the First Turkish air strike was conducted against our Counter-Terrorisim Forces camp (YAT). #YAT was operates alongside with international @coalition forces against #Deash”

    They’re desperately @ing journalists, US politicians, and US/coalition military organizations in their tweets.

  177. says

    Heavy clashes on all Northern Syria border-line, as the Turkish military is launching large scale attack amid SDF defensive positions
    Extends from Derik, Qamishli, Derbasiya, Ras al-Ain, Tal-Abyad & Jarablus”

  178. says

    Gregg Nunziata speaks out:

    Wow. this letter is bananas. A barely-lawyered temper tantrum. A middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities.

    No Member of Congress should accept it, no matter his or her view on the behavior of Pelosi, Schiff, or Trump.

    Things are bad, Things will get worse.

    From TPM:

    […] Gregg Nunziata, former George W. Bush Justice Department official and former General Counsel to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), told CNN Wednesday morning that the White House’s letter “reads like a very political document” and that it “doesn’t read like it even came from a lawyer.”

    “We should be concerned with a White House that is attempting to delegitimize Congress’ oversight powers,” Nunziata said. “If you’re a fan of President Trump, we’re not always going to have a President Trump in the White House. Someday we’ll have a president you might not like. And we’re going to want Congress to have the ability to enforce its oversight responsibilities that are really inherent in its constitutional role.” […]


  179. says

    All the best people are defending Trump with all the best arguments:

    Former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova, who was once reported to be joining President Donald Trump’s legal team before his Ukrainian ties created “conflicts,” went on Fox News Tuesday night to call impeachment “regicide.”

    “What you’re seeing is regicide,” he told host Laura Ingraham. “This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment. The Democrats in the House want to destroy the President.”

    He also called the whistleblowers “suicide bombers.” […]

    DiGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, have long been Trump stalwarts on Fox News, performances which prompted Trump to desire their presence on his legal team in March 2018.

    News broke last week that the pair represented Dmitry Firtash, former business partner of Paul Manafort, who is fighting extradition to the United States on bribery charges. This was likely the “conflict” White House Counsel Jay Sekulow cited back then, when the two were being floated to join Trump’s team during the Mueller probe.

    Bringing their involvement full circle, Firtash’s case was recently bolstered by an affidavit signed by Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor at the heart of the fake Biden scandal that Trump tried to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to whip up.


    From the readers comments:

    REGICIDE: noun
    the action of killing a king.
    a person who kills or takes part in killing a king.
    In the words of Monty Python: “Oooooh What a giveaway!”
    He says, in a country based on rebellion against George III. Morons just ain’t what they used to be.
    DiGenova is simply elucidating a new legal doctrine for the US: The Divine Right of Presidents.
    LOOK at that guy. He just oozes slimeball. This looks like scraping the bottom of the barrel for Trump defenders.
    “He also called the whistleblowers “suicide bombers.””

    Thereby communicating a threat and committing the felonies of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

  180. says

    Experts comment on the constitutional crisis we are now in:

    Lisa Kern Griffin, law professor, Duke University
    The letter from the White House is a political stunt that misinterprets the Constitution, ignores relevant precedents, and defies common sense. The Constitution does not say much about impeachment, but what it does state is clear, simple, and right there in Article I. The House “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

    No particular process is specified or required. In other words, the House determines the procedures it will use […] Even were this a criminal rather than a political mechanism, bringing an indictment does not require open proceedings and the cross-examination of witnesses. There is zero legal support for the White House’s demands, and the president has also made it clear that there is no procedure at all with which he will cooperate. […]

    The House subpoenas are of course legally valid, but seeking redress in the courts will cause delay, and the passage of time brings the 2020 election closer.

    Jessica Levinson, law professor, Loyola Law School
    What do you get when you mix a valid congressional impeachment inquiry with a recalcitrant president? A constitutional crisis. We have bandied about the term “constitutional crisis” for almost three years now. […]

    An impeachment inquiry is not a dinner invitation. It is not something one can decide whether or not to accept. The president, like other American citizens, is subject to Congress’ subpoena power. Let’s not confuse the president’s refusal to comply with a right to refusal.

    The president’s recalcitrance will likely leave Congress adding one more thing to the impeachment inquiry: obstruction of justice. […]

    Michael Kang, law professor, Northwestern University
    It is hard for the White House to convincingly maintain that its complete refusal to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry is “legal” in the usual sense, but the White House is operating with politics, rather than law, in mind.

    Obviously the president isn’t authorized to judge for himself the legitimacy of the House’s impeachment inquiry over himself and then refuse to cooperate on that basis. […]

    Courts are likely to side with the House on its subpoenas and access to grand jury evidence, at least over the arguments the White House has offered so far. If the White House continues its refusals in flat defiance of court rulings, then calling it a constitutional crisis starts to make sense. […]

    Aziz Huq, law professor, University of Chicago
    Under no theory of the Constitution does the White House have authority to block any and all (or even most) impeachment-related inquiries. I anticipate that the president’s defenders will generate ‘theories’ purporting to justify his move anon. Those theories (and the confusion they intentionally generate) merely constitute the collateral damage of this presidency on constitutional norms. […]


  181. says

    From Wonkette: “Well Of Course A Science Denier Is (Acting At) Running The Bureau Of Land Management”

    We suppose it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising anymore to learn that the Trump administration’s pick to be the (acting) director of the Bureau of Land Management turns out to be a standard-issue rightwing wackaloon with a long history of statements claiming science is fake, that immigrants are a “cancer” on America, and that all Muslims are at war with US America. […] let’s get to know (acting) BLM Director William Perry Pendley, appointed in June by (actual) Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. No, don’t get too close, he’s frothing at the mouth, and that can’t be good.

    Notably, Pendley meets the number one job requirement for most Trump administration appointees: He’s fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agency he heads. Pendley is the former president and chief legal officer of the rightwing, anti-environmentalist Mountain States Legal Foundation, which was founded by Ronald Reagan’s former Interior Secretary, James Watt, who wasn’t too worried about protecting the environment because Jesus will be coming back and the world will end anyway. The foundation actively opposes the very existence of public lands, and Pendley wrote in 2016 that “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.” Until that glorious day, the MSLF has shepherded along lawsuits aimed at helping oil, coal, and other extractive industries.

    He also argued that ever since the Louisiana Purchase, the Constitution has been interpreted wrongly, and that any land held by the federal government by rights should be sold or given to the states. It’s a slightly more sophisticated argument than the crazy Bundy Family argument that the Constitution only allows the government to own the District of Columbia and military bases, but the claims are related.

    […] Pendley has long rejected environmental science of all sorts, because “environmental extremists … don’t believe in human beings,” and are probably all communists, too. No, we are not exaggerating. In a 1992 lecture to the Heritage Foundation, Pendley explained the fall of the USSR meant that since the Left couldn’t import Soviet communism to the US anymore, they had to find a new way to control everyone’s lives and destroy freedom:

    Environmentalism’ is indeed the last refuge of the left, the last safe haven for those who trust, not the people, but big government, those who seek to place the power in the hands of federal bureaucrats […] It should not surprise us that they have embraced environmentalism with the same self-righteous fervor as they once embraced socialism and communism.


    Despite the total absence of credible scientific evidence, the media is convinced and is attempting to convince us that we have global warming, an Ozone hole and acid rain and that it is all man’s fault



  182. says

    From the Washington Post:

    […] Sabah, a Turkish newspaper close to Erdogan’s government, published a report Tuesday describing how the battle might unfold. It said Turkish armed forces would wait for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops before commencing any operation. Warplanes and howitzers would pound enemy positions, then Turkish troops would enter Syria from several points along the border, east of the Euphrates River. […]

    That sounds like an invasion.

    More from the Washington Post article:

    […] On the other side of the Turkish border on Wednesday, many residents were steeling themselves for the worst. Mikael Mohammed, a Kurdish father of three who owns a clothing store in Tal Abyad, a quarter-mile from the Turkish frontier, said he had not had any customers since Tuesday. U.S. troops based in the town withdrew early Monday after the White House announcement. […]

    People who are out there in the streets look as if they are going to someone’s funeral. […]

    “People are scared. When we used to see U.S. troops in the streets of Tal Abyad, we would feel safe; they were here to protect us. Yesterday, we saw U.S. troops, but this time they were on their way out of the area, and that terrified people,” he said. […]

    Sounds like hell … or maybe purgatory that will soon become hell.

  183. says

    A new video from Qamishlo where homes in residential neighborhood of Bashiria was hit. This is where Kurds and Syriac Christians live together

    I have a video of a dead individual in the same neighborhood but can’t share due to graphic nature of it

    Sources in the Bishiria neighborhood say the individual killed is a Syriac Christan. His children also injured”

  184. says

    From Walter Shaub:

    Its [the White House letter’s] underlining assumption, that the executive must consent to an impeachment inquiry, mistakes Trump for a king.

  185. says

    Of course.

    “US delinquent on payments as UN faces ‘worst cash crisis’ in a decade”

    The Trump administration owes the United Nations about $1 billion in payments at a time when the multilateral organization said it is facing its “worst cash crisis” in a decade […]

    The U.S. owes $381 million in back payments and $674 million for 2019. Of the $1.3 billion owed to the U.N. by member states, the U.S. is responsible for more than $1 billion.

    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a letter to member states on Tuesday calling the current situation the “worst cash crisis facing the United Nations in nearly a decade.”

    Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Guterres, said the U.N. “runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors.” […]


  186. says

    @realDonaldTrump knew in advance precisely what the scope of Turkey’s operation against the Kurds in Syria would be, a top Erdogan adviser told @CNN’s @camanpour in an exclusive interview.

    ‘President Trump and President Erdogan have reached an understanding over precisely what this operation is’, Gulnur Aybet, Senior Adviser to the President of Turkey, told @camanpour from Ankara on Wednesday. Trump ‘knows what the scope of the scope of this operation is’.”

    The magnitude of the abandonment of the SDF in northern Syria is unprecedented. Can’t think of any previous case when a country backed a non-state armed actor to fight a global threat, convinced it to remove fortifications & heavy weapons from its border & then let it be attacked”

    You have to see the SDF tweet from September 21st that this is commenting on to grasp the betrayal. As I said when I first posted about this @ #71, this is one of the worst things a US government has ever done.

  187. says

    SDF: “In all these areas of NE #Syria fights and clashes going on, in addition to shellings and air strikes by Turkey. There are alot of casualties between civilians and a large waves of immigration.”

  188. says

    Sen. Schatz: “Credible reporting indicates that there is no plan to make sure the ISIS detainees in Northern Syria remain incarcerated. If these ISIS fighters get free, it will be directly traceable to the decision of the President of the United States.”

  189. Akira MacKenzie says

    I don’t suppose we can add Trump’s handling of Syria to the impeachment inquiry?

  190. says

    Barham Salih, President of Iraq:

    The Turkish military incursion into Syria is a dangerous escalation; it will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, strengthen the ability of terrorists to reorganize their remnants, and pose a threat to regional and international security. The international community must unite to avert disaster and support a political solution to the suffering of the Syrians, and the Kurds, to enjoy their rights to peace, security and dignity

    (Translated by Google)

  191. says

    Mitt Romney: “Reports indicate Turkey is predictably attacking the Kurdish allies we abandoned. It’s a tragic loss of life among friends shamefully betrayed. We can only hope the President’s decision does not lead to even greater loss of life and a resurgence of ISIS.”

    It certainly will, and you can do a lot more than hope.

  192. johnson catman says

    Well, they’re going to be escaping to Europe.

    He continued (probably) So they don’t affect me personally. It’s not like they will be coming to Mar a Lago.

  193. says

    Syrian #Christian_leader Bassam Ishak: Christians of #Qamishli in North East Syria are witnessing the most systematic ethnic cleansing since the #Armenian & Syriacs #genocides in 1915 by the #Ottomans”

  194. says

    BREAKING : Framework to Congress for Sanctions on #Turkey submitted by Graham (R) & Van Hollen (D) in response to #Syria incursion.

    Calls for targeting Erdogan assets & prohibition of US assistance:…”

    Document at the link.

  195. says

    Jennifer Griffin, Fox:

    I just spoke to a distraught US Special Forces soldier who is among the 1000 or so US troops in Syria tonight who is serving alongside the SDF Kurdish forces. It was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever taken.

    “I am ashamed for the first time in my career.”

    This veteran US Special forces soldier has trained indigenous forces on multiple continents. He is on the frontlines tonight and said they are witnessing Turkish atrocities.

    “Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It’s horrible,” this military source on the ground told me.

    “We met every single security agreement. The Kurds met every single agreement. There was NO threat to the Turks – NONE – from this side of the border.” “This is insanity,” the concerned US service member told me. “”I don’t know what they call atrocities but they are happening.”

    This American soldier told me the Kurds have not left their positions guarding the ISIS prisoners. In fact “they prevented a prison break last night without us.”
    “They are not abandoning our side (yet).”
    The Kurds are “pleading for our support.” We are doing “nothing.”

    Troops on the ground in Syria and their commanders were “surprised” by the decision Sunday night.
    Of the President’s decision: “He doesn’t understand the problem. He doesn’t understand the repercussions of this. Erdogan is an Islamist, not a level headed actor.”

    Acc to this US soldier on the ground tonight in Syria: “The Kurds are as close to Western thinking in the Middle East as anyone. “It’s a shame. It’s horrible.” “This is not helping the ISIS fight.” Re: ISIS prisoners: “Many of them will be free in the coming days and weeks.”

    This US Special Forces soldier wanted me to know: “The Kurds are sticking by us. No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us.”
    Disappointed in the decisions coming from their senior leaders.

  196. tomh says

    @ #327
    Democrats will scrutinize Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds
    By Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman
    Oct. 9, 2019 at 1:12 p.m. PDT

    With Turkey launching an invasion into Syria, as expected, President Trump just clarified his position on the matter: He’s basically letting it happen.

    Trump’s stance has been murky since Sunday, when the White House abruptly announced that the United States would clear the way for a Turkish incursion into Syria, without supporting it. During a conversation by phone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey told Trump he was finally sending in troops against Kurdish forces allied with the United States. In response, Trump reportedly told Erdogan he didn’t support the move, but then got off the phone and startled some in his administration by issuing a statement essentially letting it proceed.

    Now, with Turkey launching its expected offensive against the Kurds, Trump has basically confirmed that this is the U.S. stance.

    In a new statement, Trump said that the United States “does not endorse” the operation and has “made it clear” that it’s a “bad idea.” The president’s statement added that Turkey had promised to avoid a humanitarian crisis and would be held “responsible” for ensuring that all Islamic State fighters remain in prison.

    That’s a reference to fears that this decision could revive the Islamic State, because the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are holding thousands of ISIS fighters — and no one knows what will happen to those prisoners if the SDF is overrun by the Turkish military.

    “We continue to monitor the situation closely,” Trump concluded. Translation: Go ahead, but don’t make us look bad in the process.

    There are all kinds of questions about how this decision was made. And House Democrats will hopefully try to answer them.

    Democrats will examine the decision

    During an interview with this blog, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the committee would be examining Trump’s decision, which Schiff described as “impulsive and dangerous.”

    Schiff noted that the Intelligence Committee has regularly focused on the region, on the threat posed by ISIS, on the position there of U.S. troops and that of our Kurdish allies, and tensions involving Turkey.

    “We are briefed and receive reports on these subjects constantly, and we will be looking into what this latest decision by the president means, in terms of our national security and the likely consequences on the ground,” Schiff told us, as well as whether it would mean “further destabilization of the region.”

    “We will be poring over the intelligence to determine what steps Congress might need to take to protect American interests in light of this reckless action by the president,” Schiff continued, adding that this would be pursued “as part of our oversight responsibility.”

    We now know that Turkey has begun a major offensive into northern Syria aimed at crushing the SDF, the Kurdish-led force that has been fighting ISIS in cooperation with the United States. While Turkey considers the Kurdish groups to be terrorists, the Kurds are long-standing allies who appear once again to have been sold out by a U.S. administration.

    We also know this move came about in an unusual way. Typically a decision such as this — with potentially catastrophic consequences for a U.S. ally and unpredictable results throughout the region — would be extensively discussed within the national security and foreign policy apparatus first.

    But this time, The Post reports, senior Pentagon officials were “blindsided.” One administration administration official said: “To say the military is very angry about this is an understatement.”

    What’s more, the outraged response to it was unusually bipartisan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) declared that the move would “abandon” the Kurds to “slaughter” by the Turks and “taints our reputation all over the world.” And Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a stanch Trump ally, warned that ISIS would reemerge.

    What might oversight into this decision look like?

    Joshua Geltzer, a counterterrorism official at the National Security Council from 2015 to 2017, told us that congressional scrutiny could establish what, precisely, the intelligence told Trump the potential consequences of it might be (before he went ahead and did it anyway).

    “It would be useful to try to show that the U.S. government was witting that if allowed, Turkey was going to do exactly what it’s doing today,” Geltzer said. He added that the intelligence would likely show that ISIS “is trying to reemerge, and that we need Syrian Kurds to remain our partners if we’re going to prevent those gains from being made.”

    Of course, recent events have suggested that the White House isn’t going to make congressional oversight easy. But here’s an area in which Republicans might also throw their weight behind such oversight.

    “I have to think that the vehemence of the Republican reaction against this rash decision by the president reflects a growing level of anxiety among Republicans that the president’s decision-making is becoming even more dangerously erratic,” Schiff told us.

    Trump has tried to cast the move as the fulfillment of a campaign promise to end our “forever wars” in the Middle East. But what really drove his decision is cloudy indeed, and calls out for more explication.

    And even if Trump doesn’t want to start a new war in the Middle East, that doesn’t mean he isn’t perfectly capable of creating a new catastrophe there.

  197. says

    Colin Kahl:

    At the end of the Obama admin, Erdogan pushed us hard on the Zarrab case. Erdogan feared revelations about corruption would come out in court. We told him it wasn’t appropriate for the WH to interfere in such cases.

    Trump wasn’t just helping Rudy here.

  198. John Morales says

    [SC @332, I did look at that article, but copypasting it here is, technically, stealing content.
    So I didn’t]

  199. tomh says

    @ #337
    If the Post wants to reach me for posting their content they can find me at SoSueMe.com.

  200. says

    Update to #270 (I thought it looked too red): “As many of you noticed the map I used is not using the proper vote results from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I have been mislead by the map posted by Lara Trump which shows more red than it should be. Here is an updated version of the GIF:…”

  201. John Morales says

    [Heh. Mislead, misled. Tricky for some.

    (Not as bad as diffuse, defuse, but still)]

  202. says

    The House committees investigating Trump and Ukraine have requested that his former Russia advisor Fiona Hill appear for a deposition on Oct. 14, as well as turn over several documents dating back to January of 2017.”

    An official working on the impeachment inquiry says Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, is expected to appear for a deposition on Monday. Hill is no longer in the administration.”

  203. says

    Anyone covering Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize in Literature who doesn’t mention the fact that he went to the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic — after being asked to testify in his trial at the tribunal for the fmr Yugoslavia — is an offense to journalism.

    Went to the funeral and held a speech, and led the chorus of Yugoslav war crime apologists for years.

    Handke is the most emblematic representation of the particular brand of Western intellectuals who saw a bloody war as an opportunity to play the dialectic and argue about “universal values” — ie be the top contrarian.

    I find it disgraceful that he and Tokarczuk will be mentioned in the same breath today as the news spreads. An offense to the appreciation for the written word that this prize purports to promote.”

  204. says

    Don’t forget that Handke’s (a die hard misogynist) Nobel prize comes a year after they couldn’t award a prize because of a rape scandal…

  205. says

    NEWS: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who helped Giuliani pursue an investigation into the Bidens in Ukraine, were arrested late Wednesday on criminal charges of violating campaign finance rules.”

    WSJ link atl.

  206. says

    Parnas was supposed to be headed to Capitol Hill right now for a deposition with House impeachment investigators. Fruman was to be tomorrow.

    They helped Giuliani on the ground in Ukraine as he tried to gin up inquiries into the Bidens and a conspiracy about the 2016 election.”

    I don’t think they were going to show up, but they would have been subpoenaed. They were investigated by SDNY. Barr went to New York yesterday to visit the SDNY and EDNY.

  207. says

    Tom Winter is reading the Parnas and Fruman indictment. They worked to move donations from foreign people to Trump/Republicans. It discusses a “Congressman 1” who received campaign contributions in exchange for efforts to get ambassador Yovanovitch recalled.

  208. says

    @WSJ scoop: Career budget staffers at OMB questioned the legality of delaying aid to Ukraine.

    The White House then gave a political appointee at OMB—a former executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party—the authority to keep the aid on hold.”

  209. says

    “Congressman-1” confirmed: “UPDATED: The indictment references a congressman—Pete Sessions—whose assistance Parnas sought to remove the ambassador to Ukraine. The indictment says those efforts were made ‘at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian gov’t officials’.”

  210. says

    Matthew Miller: “DOJ’s decision not to open a full criminal investigation into the Trump-Zelensky call when they already had an open probe into related matters looks even more suspicious today.”

    SDNY will hold a press conference on the indictments at 2 PM ET.

  211. says

    As I was saying – Joyce Vance: “There is now reporting that they were arrested as they attempted to take a flight out of the country. This really changes things. Sounds like SDNY may have had an indictment in the works & had to make a fast arrest when they learned they were fleeing.”

  212. tomh says

    I approve of this opinion.

    The House Can Play Hardball, Too. It Can Arrest Giuliani.
    By Josh Chafetz
    Josh Chafetz is the author of “Congress’s Constitution.”
    Oct. 10, 2019

    In his letter to House leadership, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, drew a line in the sand: The administration will not “participate in” the impeachment proceedings in any way. The odd language of “participate in” — presidential impeachment is not meant to be a collaboration between Congress and the president — obscures the central thrust of the letter: The White House is refusing to respond to any subpoenas or other demands for information from the House.

    Of course, other administrations have fought with Congress over access to information, but those fights have centered around clearly articulated objections, supported by legal reasoning, to turning over specific documents or allowing specific officials to testify. The Trump administration’s wholesale refusal to treat congressional information demands as legitimate is so different in degree as to become different in kind.

    It might seem like the White House has the House of Representatives over a barrel. If the president simply refuses to engage, what can the House do? How does a chamber of Congress go about wringing information from an unwilling executive branch?

    Let’s get one thing out of the way at the outset: The answer is unlikely to be found in a courtroom. That’s not to say that the House probably wouldn’t win on the merits. Most of the administration’s arguments are risible, and even many Republican judges will have trouble swallowing them. Indeed, when the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations raised significantly more plausible objections to congressional subpoenas, the courts sided with the House, ordering the executive to turn over the vast majority of the subpoenaed material.

    But those court battles took years. Courts could expedite proceedings to an extent, but thus far they have shown themselves in no hurry to render final judgments in these disputes. And a court “victory” coming in 2021 or 2022 is no victory at all for the House — even assuming that the Trump administration would comply with a court order when it refuses to comply with a congressional one.

    So what should the House do instead? Let me suggest two ways that it can play some constitutional hardball of its own, matching the White House’s aggressive tactics.

    Refusal to comply with a duly authorized subpoena from Congress constitutes contempt of Congress. Contempt of Congress is a crime, and there is a mechanism for referring such cases to federal prosecutors. The problem, of course, is that federal prosecutors answer to the attorney general and, through him, to the White House, and they refuse to prosecute contempts committed by executive officials. In recent decades, congressional houses have sought a court order requiring executive officials to comply with their subpoenas, but that has all the problems described above.

    The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors — as the person in violation of the order is called — especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official. Neither house of Congress has arrested anyone since 1935, but it was not uncommon before that point (and was blessed by the Supreme Court in 1927). Indeed, on at least two occasions, the second in 1916, a house of Congress had its sergeant arrest an executive branch official. (In that case, the Supreme Court eventually ruled against the House, not because it did not have the power to arrest for contempt, but rather because the offense — writing a nasty public letter to a House subcommittee — could not properly be understood as contempt of Congress.)

    Facilities in the Capitol or one of the House office buildings can be made into a makeshift holding cell if necessary. Of course, arrestees will ask the courts to set them free, but the case should be relatively open-and-shut against them: They will have committed a contempt in refusing to turn over subpoenaed materials, and the House has the power to hold contemnors. Moreover, time would work in the House’s favor here: The unpleasantness of being in custody while the issue was being litigated might make some contemnors decide to cooperate.

    The House arresting someone would be explosive and clearly should not be undertaken lightly. But the very explosiveness of it would be a way for the House to signal the seriousness of White House obstructionism to the public. Moreover, having arrest as an option of last resort might also make less extreme options more palatable.

    One of those less extreme options would be using the power of the purse. The government is currently funded through Nov. 21. There is nothing stopping the House from putting a provision in the next funding bill that zeros out funding for the White House Counsel’s Office. House leadership could announce that, so long as the counsel’s office is producing bad legal argumentation designed for no purpose other than protecting the president from constitutional checks, the American people should not have to pay for it.

    Of course, the Senate could try to strip that rider, or President Trump could veto the bill, but if the House held firm, their choice would be to mollify the House by turning over subpoenaed information, accept the defunding of the counsel’s office, or accept the partial government shutdown that would come with failure to pass the appropriations bill.

    In the end, whether the House wins that fight, like whether it wins a fight over arresting a contemnor, would be a function of which side best convinces the public. But President Trump is deeply unpopular, and the public supports impeachment. If necessary, the House should be willing to have these fights.

  213. says

    Two men who have represented to Congress that they are members of the President’s legal team were arrested last night while apparently trying to flee the country and charged in an alleged conspiracy to use foreign money to influence US politics.”

    Press conference confirmed Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles while trying to leave the country; Correia still not in custody. Being handled by the Public Corruption unit. Investigation is ongoing.

  214. tomh says

    1 p.m.: Trump adviser questions Chinese officials about Biden’s son

    Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser who regularly consults with the president, recently asked Chinese officials questions about Hunter Biden and his business dealings, the conservative scholar said Thursday.

    “Most everything I learned was already public or well-known,” he said. Pillsbury claimed he was told that money from the bank of China went to Hunter Biden’s firm, but that it was difficult to determine exactly how much. He said the Chinese were largely reticent to speak about Biden. “They really, really didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.

    Pillsbury, who works at the conservative Hudson Institute, said he recently returned from a 10-day trip, during which he also visited Hong Kong. Pillsbury first made comments about his activities to the Financial Times.

    Pillsbury said he spoke with Trump just before he went on his trip to China last month, but he said the president didn’t ask him to raise Biden to Chinese officials. “I haven’t reported back to him, no,” he said.

    The China expert said he’d never spoken with Trump about Hunter Biden but was aware of the president calling for the Chinese to investigate from the South Lawn of the White House last week.

    “What a wonderful, hypothetical question,” he said, when asked if he plans to report back to Trump. Pillsbury declined to say more, saying that White House officials had asked him not to disclose his conversations with the president.

    Chinese officials, Pillsbury said, also told him that Trump was more likely to win because of impeachment — and were deeply interested in the 2020 election.

    Pillsbury regularly speaks with Trump, who calls him “Mr. Pillsbury” and tells others he is the world’s leading expert on China.

  215. says

    @ICRC: ‘In the last 24 hours it’s reported that more than 64,000 people fled their homes in northeast Syria. If the offensive continues it’s possible a total of 300,000 people could be displaced to already overstretched camps and towns’ still recovering from fight v ISIS.”

  216. says

    May 2018 Parnas allegedly uses the straw company to make a $325,000 payment to Committee #1 — America First Action which is closely aligned with Trump.

    In 2017 & 2018, America First Action spent $452,245.15 at Trump Hotels much for ‘administrative’ services. This is a huge amount and is in addition to what Trump’s own campaign pays to Trump businesses. First Action paid Don Jr. $7430.46 for “materials” on 9/25/18.”

    I just read (and now can’t find where) that America First Action is headed by Trump friend and former head of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon.

  217. says

    The two Giuliani associates detained yesterday at Dulles were en route to Frankfurt to connect to another flight, according to a law enforcement source, per @ShimonPro.
    Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman purchased their one-way tickets recently, the source said.”

    Don’t know if Frankfurt or Vienna is correct.

  218. KG says

    So, Johnson and Varadkar have said after their meeting that they “see a pathway to a possible deal”. I don’t believe a word of it – it’s just part of the blame-shifting game. Johnson wants to keep alive the fiction that he’s seeking a deal as long as possilbe, to dissuade the “Tory rebels” from joining the opposition parties in any attempt to fence him in further or seize the initiative. Varadkar really does want a deal, but I doubt he’s fool enough to think Johnson does – he just does not want to be the one to say none is possible.

  219. says

    TPM – “READ: Rick Perry Subpoenaed In House Impeachment Probe”:

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been subpoenaed as part of the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry, the committees pursuing the inquiry announced Thursday.

    In a letter to Perry, the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight outlined documents the secretary is required to turn over. Failure to do so, the committees warned, would constitute evidence of obstruction of the inquiry.

    The extensive document list demanded is partially based on new reporting on Perry’s interactions in Ukraine, and especially recent reporting about his alleged effort to change the composition of the board of the Ukrainian state-run natural gas firm Naftogaz.

    Also mentioned was Trump’s reported effort to blame the July 25 call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Perry. On that call, a memorandum of which the White House later released, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to pursue investigations that would be helpful to Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.

    The request also focuses on Perry’s interactions with other key witnesses to Trump’s Ukraine outreach, especially in an Oval Office meeting with Trump, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, and then-U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker after Zelensky’s inauguration.

    Read the impeachment inquiry’s letter to Perry here, and the list of documents demanded here.

  220. says

    BREAKING: The FBI and federal prosecutors in NYC are scrutinizing Rudy Giuliani’s financial dealings with the two men charged today. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are charged with pumping Russian money into US political campaigns.”

  221. says

    Guardian – “Three charged over assault on Guardian journalist Owen Jones”:

    Three men have been charged over a late-night assault on Guardian journalist Owen Jones outside a pub in Islington, north London.

    The Met police said James Healy, 39, from Portsmouth; Liam Tracey, 34, from Camden, London; and Charlie Ambrose, 29, from Brighton, had been charged with actual bodily harm and affray.

    Jones, 35, said he had been celebrating his birthday with friends when he was attacked at around 2am outside the Lexington public house on 17 August.

    The three men will appear at Highbury Corner magistrates court on 6 November.

    I had to look up “affray.”

  222. says

    “President Trump said he hopes Rudy Giuliani doesn’t get indicted but repeated he doesn’t know the two men or their connection to his personal attorney.

    ‘Again, I don’t know how he knows these people…I haven’t spoken to Rudy about it…They said we have nothing to do with it’.”

    “Rudy went rogue” signs flashing ahead. Michael Schmidt from the NYT, who always seems to want to be helpful, was promoting a similar line on MSNBC this afternoon: Rudy was super effective in limiting the damage in the Mueller investigation, but then continued down the path of trying to “clear Trump’s name” and got himself mixed up in some things. It’s the first time I’ve heard this framing and I’m sure it’s not coming out of nowhere.

  223. says

    Deutsche Welle – “Divided UN fails to agree on Turkey’s Syria offensive”:

    A split UN Security Council on Thursday failed to agree on Turkey’s offensive in northeast Syria, with European members urging a halt to military action.

    But Syria’s ally Russia urged “restraint” and “direct dialogue” between the two countries. Russian officials said Moscow was not prepared to sign off on the statement presented by the Europeans.

    The meeting was called at the request of the body’s European members – Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and Poland, all of which had expressed alarm at Turkey’s move. However, the 15-member Security Council was unable to agree on a joint statement condemning the attack.

    Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said any Security Council statement would have to take into account other aspects of the Syrian crisis. He said it should demand an immediate termination of “the illegal military presence” in the country.

    The five European countries later urged Turkey to “cease the unilateral military action.”

    Meanwhile, the US warned Turkey of “consequences” as Ankara’s troops push on their assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria on Thursday.

    “Failure to play by the rules, to protect vulnerable populations, failure to guarantee that (the Islamic State) cannot exploit these actions to reconstitute will have consequences,” the US envoy to the UN, Kelly Craft, told reporters in New York.

    The US President Donald Trump “has made abundantly clear” that the US “has not in any way” endorsed Turkey’s offensive in Syria, Craft added after a closed door meeting of the UN Security Council.

    That dipshit Craft joined with Russia in rejecting a statement of condemnation. Everything about this is so disgraceful.

  224. says

    Elaina Plott in the Atlantic – “The Mystery of Rudy Giuliani’s Vienna Trip”:

    Last night, when Rudy Giuliani told me he couldn’t get together for an interview, his reason made sense: As with many nights of late, he was due to appear on Hannity. When I suggested this evening instead, his response was a bit more curious. We would have to aim for lunch, Giuliani told me, because he was planning to fly to Vienna, Austria, at night. He didn’t offer any details beyond that.

    Giuliani called me at 6:22 p.m. last night—around the same time that two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested at Dulles Airport while waiting to board an international flight with one-way tickets. As The Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon, the two men were bound for Vienna. The Florida businessmen, who are reported to have assisted Giuliani in his alleged efforts to investigate Joe Biden and his family ahead of the 2020 election, were charged with campaign-finance violations, with prosecutors alleging that they had conspired to funnel money from a Russian donor into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

    But Giuliani, when confirming today that Parnas and Fruman were heading to Vienna on matters “related to their business,” told the Journal that he himself only had plans to meet with them when they returned to Washington. By this logic, Giuliani was also planning to fly to Vienna within roughly 24 hours of his business associates, but do no business with them while all three were there.

    This morning, Giuliani told me he’d have to reschedule our lunch. I’ve tried to reach him since then, to discuss Parnas’s and Fruman’s arrests, among other things, to no avail. When I called at 3 p.m. ET to ask about his Vienna trip, a woman claiming to be his communications director answered the phone. I have called him more than 100 times over the past year, and this is the first time that has ever happened. She said she’d have to get back to me. As we spoke, I could hear a voice that resembled Giuliani’s shout “asshole” in the background. “Oh, sorry,” the woman told me. “He was talking to the TV.”

    Why were Parnas and Fruman bound for Vienna? Why was Giuliani—if what he told me was true—planning to be in the same city a day later?

    Giuliani finally sent me a text message at 4:18 p.m. ET: “I can’t comment on it at this time.”

    Trump is already seeking to distance himself from the controversy. “I don’t know those gentlemen,” the president told reporters before departing for a rally in Minnesota. “Now, it’s possible I have a picture with them, because I have a picture with everybody.” (He does, in fact, have a picture with Parnas.)

    “Maybe they were clients of Rudy,” Trump added. “You’d have to ask Rudy.”

    From last year:

    Trump replied “no” when asked if he had had knowledge about the payment to Daniels. A reporter then asked if he knew why Cohen made the payment.

    “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is my attorney,” Trump said, according to the pool report. “You’ll have to ask Michael.”

  225. says

    The Guardian on the two Nobel winners:

    “‘A troubling choice’: authors criticise Peter Handke’s controversial Nobel win”:

    Twenty years before Peter Handke would become a Nobel laureate, he won another title. In 1999, Salman Rushdie named him the runner-up for “International moron of the year” in the Guardian, for his “series of impassioned apologias for the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milošević”. (The winner was actor Charlton Heston, for being a gun lobbyist.)

    The Austrian playwright, whose Slovenian heritage had inspired in him a fervent nationalism during the Balkans war, had publicly suggested that Sarajevo’s Muslims had massacred themselves and blamed the Serbs, and denied the Srebrenica genocide. Seven years after Rushdie’s scorching condemnation, in 2006, he would also attend war criminal Milošević’s funeral.

    On Thursday, after the announcement of Handke’s win of the 9m Swedish krona prize (£786,000), Rushdie told the Guardian: “I have nothing to add today, but I stand by what I wrote then.”

    The decision to award Handke the 2019 laureateship – alongside Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk for the 2018 medal – was widely criticised by observers as a broken promise on two fronts.

    First, the Swedish Academy’s apparent commitment to be less “male-oriented” and “Eurocentric” just days before had been quickly proven false, with two European winners and only the 15th female laureate in 120 years. Secondly, having declared that the prize would take a fallow year to reassess its direction after a now infamous sexual harassment scandal, the academy had left observers hopeful that the Nobel would stop eliding controversy with intellectual rigour, and choose authors that could be praised for both their work and their politics.

    “Handke is a troubling choice for a Nobel committee that is trying to put the prize on track after recent scandals,” said author Hari Kunzru, who has taught the laureate’s work to his students. “He is a fine writer, who combines great insight with shocking ethical blindness.”

    Kunzru said he believed that Handke would have won the Nobel earlier, “had he not decided to act as a propagandist for the genocidal Milošević regime”. He added: “More than ever we need public intellectuals who are able to make a robust defence of human rights in the face of the indifference and cynicism of our political leaders. Handke is not such a person.”

    Slovenian author Miha Mazzini said: “Some artists sold their human souls for ideologies (Hamsun and Nazism), some for hate (Celine and his rabid antisemitism), some for money and power (Kusturica) but the one that offended me the most was Handke with his naivety for the Milošević regime. And it’s personal. I will never forget the cold winter when Yugoslavia was falling apart and there was nothing on the shelves of the stores. We were a young family and my daughter was a toddler and it was bitterly cold. I’d spent the whole day in the queue for the heating oil and in the evening, almost frozen, I started reading Handke’s essay about Yugoslavia. He wrote of how he envied me: while those Austrians and Germans, those westerners, had fallen for consumerism, we, Yugoslavs, had to queue and fight for everything. Oh, how close to the nature we were! How less materialistic and more spiritualised we were! Even at the time, I found him cruel and totally self-absorbed in his naivety.”

    Handke’s politics have long been derided by former friends and authors….

    Some were pleased by Handke’s win, however: Serbian media lined up to praise the decision, calling Handke a “great friend”, while Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen called Handke’s voice “unfussy and unique … We have a lot to thank Peter Handke for. I hope he knows that.”

    “Olga Tokarczuk: the dreadlocked feminist winner the Nobel needed”:

    The Swedish Academy has made many mistakes in recent years and, in the light of all its hand-wringing rhetoric about diversifying its remit, this week’s award of two Nobel prizes in literature to European writers might seem like another. But in the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, it has found not only a fine winner but a culturally important one.

    …Whereas Flights was one of the glittering historical and geographical collages that Tokarczuk calls her “constellation novels”, Drive Your Plow is very different: a William Blake-infused eco-thriller which significantly extended her reputation, not least because it is much easier to read.

    Drive Your Plow was also 10 years old by the time it reached English. This tale of an elderly female eccentric investigating the murders of humans and animals in a remote forest community pursues the alliance of power, money and patriarchy to its grisly conclusion, sounding a klaxon that seems entirely in tune with our current political and environmental crisis. When Agnieszka Holland’s expressionistic film of the novel, Pokot (Spoor), was premiered at the Berlin film festival last year, it was denounced by a Polish news agency as “a deeply anti-Christian [work] that promoted eco-terrorism”.

    Tokarczuk is no stranger to such run-ins with self-styled Polish patriots. A flamboyantly dreadlocked vegetarian feminist, she lives with her translator partner and their dogs in a rural area of Lower Silesia that only became part of Poland after the second world war. Her most recent novel, The Books of Jacob, tells the story of an 18th-century religious leader Jakub Frank, who led the forcible conversion of his Jewish followers to both Islam and Catholicism at various points. When it was published in 2014, she was denounced as a traitor for daring to suggest in an interview that Poland wasn’t just a brave survivor of centuries of oppression but had been a pretty appalling oppressor itself at times in its history. For a while her publisher had to hire bodyguards for her – though the pill was considerably sweetened by the success of what many consider her masterpiece. It sold 170,000 copies in hardback and won its author the country’s biggest literary prize, the Nike, for the second time.

    Tokarczuk has since made a playful detour into speculative fiction with a short story collection, Bizarre Stories, as well as finding time to administer the boutique literary festival she has run for years near her home. Meanwhile, her American translator Jennifer Croft is working round the clock to deliver the 1,000-page Books of Jacob in time for publication in English in March 2021. “It’s such a big book that I am not sure we will be able to bring it forward,” said her publisher.

  226. says

    Heavy Turkish bombardment on civilian neighborhoods of Qamishli neighborhoods, after previous shelling on parts of the city.
    Internal Security Forces telling civilians to take shelter in the cellars of the neighborhoods.”

  227. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I had intended to show the photo of the clenched tentacle salute in support of @402. Finally tracked down photo, and it seems that linking to the photo isn’t “fair use”, as it is copyrighted and for sale. oops. it is available with some Googfoo for observation.

  228. tomh says

    7:40 p.m.: White House political appointees overrode career staffers before freezing Ukraine aid

    Political appointees in the White House budget office intervened to freeze aid to Ukraine despite some career staffers raising concerns that the move was improper, people briefed on the matter said.

    Acknowledging some of the concerns, White House budget aides eventually disclosed to other government officials that the money was being frozen outside of the normal “apportionment” process. But they didn’t give officials at the State Department or other agencies a reason why the money was being withheld, or who had initially made the decision to freeze it, after substantive discussions about whether the move was legal.

    The un­or­tho­dox steps were carried out in connection with Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at OMB. Duffey was involved in approving orders to hold back nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine, according to people familiar with what transpired.

  229. says

    Peter Maass in the Intercept – “Congratulations, Nobel Committee, You Just Gave the Literature Prize to a Genocide Apologist”:

    …We live in perplexing times in which the U.S. president saw “very fine people” among neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, and we have a television network that traffics in racism and conspiracy theories. Our world is being described in fraudulent ways and history is being rewritten to suit these distorted narratives. The last thing we need, and the last thing I’d expect to happen, is for an intellectual honor as paramount as the Nobel to go to a writer who embodies the prime intellectual diseases of our era. And let’s remember that the Nobel selection comes at a moment when violent white supremacists are singling out the 1990s Serbs as heroic avatars of what needs to be done in our world — it’s dumbfounding that the Nobel Committee would seize this moment to honor an Austrian writer who defends these war criminals and dissembles on their behalf.

    What were they thinking?

    There are lots of award-winning writers who have dumb ideas about politics and politicians, and who write bad books from time to time. That’s not disqualifying for a Nobel prize or a three-martini lunch with their editor. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about denying a genocide — turning history on its head, making perpetrators into heroes and victims into villains. And this particular history, of Christians killing Muslims for the supposed sake of defending their culture, is an important one to get right at a time of heightened discrimination of Muslims and other minorities in America and Western Europe.

    The Swedish Academy’s response to the controversy is below pitiful. Confronted with the first wave of objections to its choice, the academy’s permanent secretary, Mats Malm, told the New York Times that Handke was chosen on literary and aesthetic grounds. “It is not in the Academy’s mandate to balance literary quality against political considerations,” Malm said.

    This isn’t so far, in the excuse-making sweepstakes, from Ellen Degeneres talking about what a nice man George W. Bush is (never mind the hundreds of thousands who were killed as a result of his decision to invade Iraq). Our world is a political world, as I hope Ellen and the Swedish Academy would appreciate. People with power and influence have a particular responsibility to connect their words and their hugs to the real world.

    While Stockholm is a long distance from Bosnia, it is not so far away from Norway, where in 2011 the terrorist Anders Breivik killed 77 people, many of them children at a summer camp. Breivik was obsessed with the Balkans and wrote a 1,500-page manifesto that frequently evoked and praised the Serb ultra-nationalists who were Milosevic’s puppets. Rising to the defense of Serbs who rampaged through Bosnia is not, in our culture today, a harmless act of ignorance that a prize-giving committee has no responsibility to wrestle with. These genocide-friendly sentiments feed into a wave of violence that afflicts us.

    Peter Handke is entitled to believe what he wants to believe. He can lie and dissemble as much as he wishes. That is his right. But I simply can’t believe that the Swedish Academy has done what it has done. Their irresponsible decision evokes the idea of capitalists selling the rope that will be used to hang them. The aesthetes on the Nobel Committee have made a selection that will destroy their prize, as it should.

  230. says

    CNN – “Nobel peace prize awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed”:

    The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister who helped end his country’s 20-year war with Eritrea.

    Announcing the prize in Oslo, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said Abiy’s “efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.”

    The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea over disputed border territory came at a huge financial and humanitarian cost for both countries.

    Abiy, 43, also recently won plaudits for his role in helping to broker a power-sharing deal in neighboring Sudan after a political crisis that led to the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, the country’s ruler for almost three decades.

    Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said Abiy — who has received both praise and criticism for his reforms in Ethiopia — has not been recognized too soon, but acknowledged that progress still needs to be made in the country.

  231. says

    Sen. Whitehouse: “Soon, we will be voting on whether extreme @realDonaldTrump judicial nominee Steven Menashi deserves a lifetime seat on the federal bench.

    The problem is… he refused to answer ANY of our questions, Republicans and Democrats alike.”

    (Very well done) video at the link.

  232. says

    Yahoo – “Pentagon officials deemed withholding of aid to Ukraine was illegal”:

    The Pentagon was confused. Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine had been appropriated in late 2018 by Congress, intended to help fend off aggression by neighboring Russia. But well into 2019, as summer was edging toward autumn, the funds had still not moved.

    Department of Defense officials began to worry that the funds would never make it to Ukraine, since the appropriations would expire with the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. They even began to prepare a legal challenge to the freezing of the funds, leading to an unprecedented fight within the Trump administration.

    Since then, the Ukraine affair has turned into an impeachment inquiry that could see President Trump removed from office. But it is also an example of yet another federal agency — this time, the Pentagon — caught off-guard by the president’s political imperatives.

    Before impeachment was ever an issue, the military funding for Ukraine seemed a settled matter. In late May, John Rood, an undersecretary of defense for policy, sent a letter to Congress outlining at great length the kinds of weapons, defense systems and other forms of aid Ukraine could expect. Theses included everything from radars to demining vehicles to rifle sights to training for that country’s military.

    “Implementation of this further support will begin no sooner than 15 days following this notification,” Rood wrote. He added, a little later in the document, that the U.S. “remains committed” to helping Ukraine “defend its territorial integrity.”

    But that commitment would waver drastically in the months to come, causing anxiety and puzzlement both in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and putting military officials into a confrontation with other members of the Trump administration, who were seemingly more intent on carrying out the president’s political goals than in helping a foreign ally.

    The Pentagon would not comment on the record for this story. But several congressional aides — all of whom would speak only on the condition of anonymity— provided Yahoo News with details of how, over the summer, officials in the Office of Management and Budget repeatedly stonewalled both Congress and Pentagon officials who wanted to know why funds allocated to Ukraine had not been disbursed.

    The State Department was making similar efforts — and encountering similar frustration, suggesting that career diplomats and senior military officers were being challenged by administration officials whose main objection was apparently to satisfy Trump politically.

    Nobody yet knew that Trump was planning to use the aid package to pressure Ukrainian authorities to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden….

    By mid-July, the Pentagon started “pushing back quietly,” according to one of the two congressional aides who spoke to Yahoo News for this story, only to have OMB start asking questions of its own, such as, “How is this money going to be used?”

    In fact, Rood’s letter from May had outlined meticulously the military portion of the aid package. But OMB seemed unsatisfied. Officials from the budget office were “almost fishing for reasons” to keep the money from making its way to Kiev, according to the congressional aides familiar with the matter.

    In mid-July, the Pentagon and other concerned parties began a series of interagency meetings about how to free up the money for security assistance to Ukraine. Everyone who attended the meetings was, according to congressional staffers, “united in wanting to provide the Ukrainians this funding.”

    The Pentagon went so far as to conduct its own legal analysis of the holds, determining that they were illegal. A government official confirmed that such an analysis took place. So did several Capitol Hill staffers. They all described the conclusion of that analysis in similar terms.

    “This is part of the basis for our investigation and overall impeachment inquiry,” acknowledged one congressional staffer who was unauthorized to speak to the press.

    At that point, the budget office revealed that the holds were authorized at the direction of the president, which, in effect, made them legal.

    But sources familiar with the matter say that defense officials were busy figuring out how to get the aid package to Ukraine, even with the fiscal year coming to an end and the White House resistant to the release.

    According to congressional aides, Defense Secretary Mark Esper “kept on pushing the issue” with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, who would soon be forced out of his position. The Pentagon began to worry that if the money were not disbursed by the end of the fiscal year, the appropriation would expire. That would leave Ukraine weakened in the face of a determined, bellicose foe.

    Confusion spread across Capitol Hill — and beyond. One staffer to a Democratic congressman described how, in late August, the member of Congress she worked for was approached by defense contractors to send a letter to the Trump administration urging a release of the aid money. The congressman was made aware that the hold was being directed by the president.

    Another staffer says that when his colleagues visited the U.S. Embassy in Kiev in mid-August, they heard similar complaints. Those complaints were conveyed to the Pentagon, which made its own position clear.

    “We don’t support this,” defense officials told the Washington-based staffer.

    For his part, Esper has tried to downplay the Pentagon’s frustration over the funding holdup. In late September, he said that “at no time or at any time has any delay in this money, this funding, affected U.S. national security.” But that statement belies the urgency with which he pressed for the funding to be released throughout the summer….

  233. says

    BREAKING: Appeals Court has REJECTED Trump’s appeal of the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for his financial records.

    Big win for House Democrats.

    D.C. Circuit opinion UPHOLDS the lower court decision by Judge Amit Mehta, who said the subpoena was valid. Decision was 2-1, with Trump-appointed judge Neomi Rao dissenting.

    The case could theoretically head to the Supreme Court, but House Democrats have won decisively in both the district and appeals courts.

    Mazars will now likely be forced to turn over Trump’s financial records to House Democrats.”

  234. says

    Spencer Ackerman in the Daily Beast – “Trump Says U.S. Troops Have Quit Syria, It’s Not True”:

    To listen to President Donald Trump and his defenders, he’s ended a foolish and previously indefinite war in Syria. “We have no soldiers in the area, you know. We’re getting out of the endless wars. We have to do it,” Trump said Wednesday in the Oval Office. “We are out of there. We’ve been out of there for a while. No soldiers whatsoever.” He added on Thursday, “We have no soldiers in Syria.”

    That is untrue.

    Two knowledgeable U.S. officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that after a shocking week that has upended U.S. planning, the U.S. military has only pulled back from northern Syria, not pulled out. It’s abandoned two small observation posts in the area Turkey has now invaded. Around 50 service members have moved to a larger base, something both officials described as a force protection measure—protection amid the already bloody Turkish incursion, protection that no longer exists for the Kurdish force that the U.S. relied upon to assault the so-called Islamic State. None of the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops have actually left Syria since Trump’s fateful Sunday phone call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Instead, the U.S. military is currently in a holding pattern in Syria, one that many with experience in the endless wars that have ravaged a generation of Americans, Iraqis, Syrians and others consider a wrenching position. While actual withdrawal orders may yet come, for the beginning phase of Turkey’s attack on the Syrian Kurds, the Americans have ended no war, nor even their involvement in one. Instead, they’ve stood aside so their NATO ally can kill their anti-ISIS partner.

    “I don’t know the tactical rationale for this,” said a former Pentagon official. “We’ve just exposed our partners. It’s a struggle for people of a ‘globalist,’ institutionalist [bent] – people who fought and bled with our partners – to understand.”

    …It fits the pattern that Trump has set throughout his presidency: talking about ending the wars but falling short of actually ending any. More typically, he’s instead escalated the endless wars he inherited, in terms of both money and violence. In Syria, Trump has upended plans from the summer that appeared to forestall a Turkish invasion against the Kurds by jointly establishing and patrolling a “safe zone” from which Kurdish forces pulled back.

    Now, according to a U.S. official, the military is observing the carnage with its drones and other surveillance aircraft overhead. Ostensibly, service members are watching to see if and how ISIS will exploit Turkey’s invasion. What they will do in the event of an ISIS offensive is anything but clear.

    Aside from that, the U.S. in Syria is in the process of taking custody of ISIS detainees that the Syrian Democratic Forces have held and, with Turkey pursuing them, no longer prioritize. But out of 11,000 held, the U.S. is moving only 50 so-called high value detainees to its facilities in Iraq. Doing so creates a legal complication. The longer they are held without charge, the greater the likelihood they can challenge the basis for their detention in U.S. federal court, and potentially prompt a judge’s ruling that the congressionally-undeclared war is illegal. Trump, in his Oval Office remarks, shrugged at the idea of a mass ISIS prisoner release, on the notion that “they’re going to be escaping to Europe. That’s where they want to go.”

    Top State Department officials briefing reporters on Thursday opted to insist that both the troop pullback and a White House invitation to Erdogan next month – one Trump announced on Twitter with the hashtag “#endendlesswars” – was a “very clear red light” for the Turkish invasion. One senior official claimed the troop pullback occurred because the observation posts did not comprise a “defens[ive] force,” rather than a signal to Erdogan that he could do as he pleased.

    The goal of the U.S. is now, the senior State Department official said, finding a path to a negotiated settlement out of the war. “We have very important work to do with the SDF,” the official said. Whether the SDF believes it still has important work to do with the United States that stood back as the Turks attacked them remains to be seen.

  235. says

    More re #429 – Reuters – “Need to de-escalate situation in northeast Syria before it becomes ‘irreparable’: Pentagon”:

    U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told his Turkish counterpart they need to find a way to deescalate the situation in northeastern Syria before it becomes “irreparable” and said Turkey’s incursion risks serious consequences for Ankara, the Pentagon said on Friday.

    “While the Secretary reaffirmed (that) we value our strategic bilateral relationship, this incursion risks serious consequences for Turkey,” Esper told Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, according to a Pentagon statement, adding that Turkey’s actions could harm U.S. personnel in Syria.

    “As part of the call, Secretary Esper strongly encouraged Turkey to discontinue actions in northeastern Syria in order to increase the possibility that the United States, Turkey and our partners could find a common way to de-escalate the situation before it becomes irreparable,” Esper said.

    The call took place on Thursday, the Pentagon statement added.

  236. says

    New: Senior Advisor to @SecPompeo resigned out of concern over silence in the top ranks at the State Department, who were not defending Amb Yovanovitch. The source said Michael McKinley had been considering resigning for a few weeks.”

  237. says

    TPM – “Bill Taylor Asked To Testify, Request Likely To Be Met With WH Opposition”:

    Bill Taylor, the veteran State Department official who called freezing Ukrainian aid “crazy,” has been asked to give a deposition before House committees.

    According to CNN, an interview has not yet been scheduled and will likely draw opposition from the White House and State Department, who have tried to block testimony from other players in the Ukrainian scandal….

  238. says

    Nunes on Yovanovitch: She’s using some legal maneuver so that she can come and testify because believe me, she wants to come and testify. She wants to be out there in front. She wants to be part of the show trial.”

    She’s a career diplomat. She was smeared for months by people working for Trump’s henchman and paid by Russians, suddenly recalled by State which then lied about it, and threatened by Trump in a phone call with the Ukrainian president, after doing nothing wrong. She hasn’t said a public word, and has continued to work at the State Department. She’s now agreed to be deposed by Congressional committees as part of an impeachment inquiry. What an attention hound.

  239. says

    BREAKING: Ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch tells Congress Trump pressured State Dept. to remove her

    Said she was ‘incredulous that the US gov chose to remove an Ambassador based…on unfounded & false claims by people w/clearly questionable motives’.”

    WaPo link atl. She gave a prepared written statement but I’ve only seen reports from NYT and WaPo so haven’t read the whole thing.

  240. Akira MacKenzie says

    SC @ 451

    Indeed, in future, we should examine why it took so long.

    There’s not much to really examine:
    1) The Impeachment process was designed by the Framers to be difficult to implement. It needs to go and needs to be replaced by something that easier to start and independent of partisan politics. (If such a thing is possible.)

    The Republican have become a party that puts it own interests before the law. They rather stay in power even when one of their own is undeniably corrupt.

  241. says

    ABC (confirming CNN) – “Rudy Giuliani’s relationship with arrested men is subject of criminal investigation: Sources”:

    The business relationship between President Donald Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the men charged Thursday in a campaign finance scheme is a subject of the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities in New York, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    The investigation became public after the FBI had to quickly move to arrest Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman before they boarded a flight out of the country from Washington Dulles Airport with one-way tickets. They have been named as witnesses in the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

    The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s New York field office and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, the same U.S. Attorney’s office Giuliani ran before he became mayor of New York….

  242. says

    Capitol South Metro Station next to the US Capitol is closed off with paramedics and police everywhere. USCP officer just told me ‘multiple stabbings’.

    Officers are not in a hurry so scene is secure I assume. Saw someone come out on a stretcher with lots of people around them, iv drip, looked bad. Big police presence including plainclothes detectives. USCP sealed off the block and the entrance, redirecting people to Fed Ctr.

    Non-police emergency vehicles have left. I see a young man who had been standing inside police line, female officer was been giving him a long hug for several minutes. Detective I believe interviewing him so I assume he was a witness. Lots of law enforcement from various agencies.”

  243. says

    NEW … Police confirm: One person was found stabbed at the Capitol South Metro — just blocks away from the Capitol.

    This is the Metro station that most House employees use.

    More info coming at POLITICO shortly”

  244. says

    Doesn’t appear to be related to Congress:

    “Police: Juvenile has been stabbed near Capitol South Metro station”:

    Metro has confirmed a stabbing has occurred near the Capitol South Metro station. Authorities say the victim is a juvenile male who is unconscious and not breathing. He is the only known victim at this time.

    The station is currently closed while authorities investigate the incident that happened in the 300 block of 1st St. SE. Metro trains are bypassing.

    Police are on the lookout for a black, 14-year-old female who is 100 pounds and has short dreadlocks. She was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and khaki pants….

  245. says

    Daily Beast – “More Potential Whistleblowers Are Contacting Congress”:

    New potential whistleblowers are coming forward to the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, two congressional sources tell The Daily Beast.

    They seem to be emboldened by the actions of the whistleblower whose explosive account of President Donald Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky about investigating Trump’s domestic political rivals ignited the impeachment inquiry. Another whistleblower is known to have come forward.

    Congressional investigators are currently vetting the new accounts they’ve received for credibility. Accordingly, knowledgeable sources would not discuss where in the government these new would-be whistleblowers come from, nor what they purport to have to say.

    It’s also unknown if their accounts are as significant as that of the intelligence whistleblower whose alarm over President Trump’s July 25 phone call sparked the impeachment probe. Investigators often encounter cranks as well as those with genuine knowledge of wrongdoing. Nor is it clear if these new ostensible whistleblowers have contacted any inspectors general, as the original two whistleblowers did.

    “There are clearly numerous whistleblowers out there and many people who possess firsthand relevant information who could come forward, and I expect some will,” said attorney Mark Zaid, who represents those two whistleblowers (and also represents The Daily Beast in freedom-of-information lawsuits).

    One knowledgeable source said that the daily accumulation of revelations about Trump’s willingness to use U.S. foreign relations for his personal political benefit has prompted more people to approach Congress….

    Investigators are using the soon-to-expire congressional recess to vet the accounts they’re getting….

  246. says

    Followup to tomh @448.

    An excerpt from Yovanovitch’s opening statement:

    For the last 33 years, it has been my great honor to serve the American people as a Foreign Service Officer, over six Administrations—four Republican, and two Democratic. I have served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts, and was appointed to serve as an ambassador three times—twice by a Republican President, and once by a Democrat. Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the oath that Foreign Service Officers take and observe every day: “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Like all foreign service officers with whom I have been privileged to serve, I have understood that oath as a commitment to serve on a strictly nonpartisan basis, to advance the foreign policy determined by the incumbent President, and to work at all times to strengthen our national security and promote our national interests. […]

    That’s who she is. That’s the woman Trump smeared, and that’s the woman Giuliani and Trump worked to oust, using false claims to do so.

  247. says

    Followup to comment 462.

    More excerpts from Yovanovitch’s opening statement:

    […] From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Our policy, fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, was to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy integrated into Europe. […]

    Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea, its invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and its de facto control over the Sea of Azov, make clear Russia’s malign intentions towards Ukraine. If we allow Russia’s actions to stand, we will set a precedent that the United States will regret for decades to come.

    Supporting Ukraine’s integration into Europe and combatting Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine have anchored US policy since the Ukrainian people protested on the Maidan in 2014 and demanded to be a part of Europe and live according to the rule of law. That was US policy when I was appointed Ambassador in August 2016, and it was reaffirmed as the policy of the current administration in early 2017. […]

    I want to categorically state that I have never myself or through others, directly or indirectly, ever directed, suggested, or in any other way asked for any government or government official in Ukraine (or elsewhere) to refrain from investigating or prosecuting actual corruption. As Mr. Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General has recently acknowledged, the notion that I created or disseminated a “do not prosecute” list is completely false—a story that Mr. Lutsenko, himself, has since retracted. […]

    • Equally fictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump. I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the Embassy team to ignore the President’s orders “since he was going to be impeached.” That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing, to my Embassy colleagues or to anyone else.

    • Next, the Obama administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, nor would I have taken any such steps if they had.

    • I have never met Hunter Biden, nor have I had any direct or indirect conversations with him. And although I have met former Vice President Biden several times over the course of our many years in government, neither he nor the previous Administration ever, directly or indirectly, raised the issue of either Burisma or Hunter Biden with me.

    • With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal contacts with him—a total of three that I recall. None related to the events at issue. I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr.Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.

    • Finally, after being asked by the Department in early March to extend my tour until 2020, I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine “on the next plane.” You will understandably want to ask why my posting ended so suddenly. I wanted to learn that too, and I tried to find out. I met with the Deputy Secretary of State, who informed me of the curtailment of my term. He said that the President had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause. I departed Ukraine for good this past May.

    • Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the President, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an Ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives. To make matters worse, all of this occurred during an especially challenging time in bilateral relations with a newly elected Ukrainian president. This was precisely the time when continuity in the Embassy in Ukraine was most needed. […]

  248. says

    Rudy Giuliani is totally reliant on Bill Barr’s crooked Department of Justice.

    One of the things we’ve learned, or perhaps have had confirmed, over the last 36 hours is just how dependent Rudy Giuliani is on Bill Barr’s rules at the Justice Department in order to evade investigative scrutiny and possible indictment.

    […] Giuliani’s business dealings with the two Ukrainian-American henchman arrested yesterday are also being investigated out of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan. […] this is the President’s personal lawyer and international emissary. The two arrestees were actually working for Giuliani as part of his legal defense of the President. It goes without saying that the President’s attorney general cannot credibly oversee an investigation into such a person.

    […] There are already a couple probable crimes under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that appear to involve Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman, among others. Giuliani is also at the center of the extortion plot that will almost certainly lead to the impeachment, if not removal from office, of President Trump.

    There appear to be a lot of probable felonies Giuliani is implicated in, a lot more than most press observers are really grappling with. Are any of these, outside of this one campaign finance investigation, being investigated? They should be. And if they are, again the Trump-appointed DOJ leadership cannot possibly oversee them credibly. The icing on the cake is that Bill Barr himself is implicated in that extortion plot.

    Now, to be clear, we don’t know that Barr actually committed a crime. He has claimed, not very credibly, that he didn’t know the President was saying he was involved. That seems dubious since Barr was actually leading up a parallel effort to prove the same things Giuliani was and is trying to prove — a 2016 plot against President Trump and a conspiracy to frame Trump and Russia. But again, even if we set that part of this saga aside, the central evidence in the extortion plot is the rough transcript of the phone call with President Zelensky. In that call, the President repeatedly says Barr is working with Giuliani! That makes it pretty obvious that Barr can’t credibly oversee or make decisions about such an investigation (something he has already done). At a minimum he should recuse himself from any such decisions.

    […] Barr was nominated as a non-recuser. That was his mission: Whatever happens, don’t recuse yourself and focus on protecting the President.

    And now protecting the President’s lawyer.

    […] This investigation appears to have been underway when Barr arrived at the Justice Department early this year. […] Perhaps even for Barr there are limits on his ability or willingness to shut down investigations of straightforward crimes, at least ones not committed by the President himself.

    We’ll know more soon.

    More comes to light by the hour. But again, the situation is so far gone that we’re not taking full cognizance of how Giuliani being at liberty at all right now is really only possible with the rules or lack of rules Bill Barr uses at the DOJ.

    Link to article by Josh Marshall

  249. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 441.

    There’s always a tweet.

    From Trump in August of 2014:

    Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won’t, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth-$ trillion!


    […] That, of course, was years before Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman had journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered and dismembered his body with a bone saw.

    At a press conference Friday morning, however, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper let the prince, who is also the Saudi minister of defense, know that additional U.S. troops and military matériel would be deployed to the kingdom. […]

    The U.S. is sending two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Batteries, and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to Saudi Arabia. The air expeditionary wing can be comprised of tankers, fighters, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) […]

    With the addition of these troops, the Trump regime will have added about 14,000 troops in the Middle East since May. The latest deployment is ostensibly meant to bolster Saudi defenses against attacks from Iran. Esper again pointed the finger at Iran over the drone attacks on the Saudi oil works at Abqaiq a month ago, saying that the evidence collected so far makes it clear Iran did the deed. Tehran’s leaders have denied this. […]


    Actually, the Saudi’s only need to stay at Trump hotels (and buy Trump condos) and bale Jared Kushner out when he needs cash. That’s enough for Trump to send troops to the Bone Saw Kingdom.

  250. says


    Donald Trump held another damn campaign rally, this time in Minneapolis, Minnesota. […] Trump was in full victim mode, ranting about the insane double standard where Democrats want crossing the border without documents to be decriminalized, but also want to criminalize a president just doing his job and having a perfect, casual, beautiful conversation extorting a foreign leader to get dirt on a political opponent.

    How does that make any sense? Along the way, Trump trashed Minnesota’s Somali refugee population, repeated rightwing conspiracy bullshit about Rep. Ilhan Omar — the rally was held in her district — and explained that the only reason anyone thinks Joe Biden was a good vice president is that Biden was a boot-licking flunky:”Biden “was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he figured out how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

    […] The real measure of a good vice president is how profusely he praises Donald Trump during Cabinet meetings for having been sent by God to save America. […] [See link for video of Trump’s Cabinet members praising Hair Furor.]

    In one of several fuckbonkers parts of the speech — at 1 hour, 40 minutes, Trump’s longest rally rant yet if anyone’s counting and Daniel Dale is — Trump offered this soft-focus porn fantasy about the orgiastic canoodling of enemies of America Peter Strzok and Lisa Page: “”I’m telling you, Peter, she’s going to win, Peter. Oh, I love you so much. I love you, Peter. I love you too, Lisa. Lisa, I love you. Lisa! Lisa! Oh God, I love you Lisa… Lisa, I love you”

    […] he warns that America would be flooded with dirty awful criminal immigrants “if Democrats were ever to seize power,” which pretty much sums up everything you need to know about what Donald Trump thinks of elections.

    Also, the guy who said Adam Schiff did TREASON PARAPHRASES when he made fun of Trump’s call to the president of Ukraine explained once again how that was probably criminal, and then Trump immediately turned around and made up even bigger TREASON PARAPHRASES about Nancy Pelosi. “[Schiff] hadda make up a fake conversation that never happened, and he delivered it to the United States Congress and the American people! [boos] It was a total fraud, and then Nancy Pelosi said, ‘I think the president said that.’ These people are sick!”

    Fact check: Nancy Pelosi did not say that. Trump went on to insist that if only Pelosi had waited for the notes on the call to be released, she never would have called for impeachment, because we all know the call notes show he’s a perfectly innocent guy just being innocent.

    According to Trump, here’s what really happened: You see, the Dems “never thought in a million years I was going to release a transcript of the call,” so they felt free to lie about it! Pelosi called for impeachment based on mere rumor and speculation about the content of the call, because “Shifty Schiff” told her that. […]

    Ah, but then, when Pelosi saw the actual “transcript,” she was amazed and ashamed of herself! […]

    So you see, Nancy Pelosi secretly believes the call notes exonerate Trump, but now she’s stuck running an impeachment […]

    Now, since Trump is making all of that up, we guess Trump just did TREASON, didn’t he? Add another count to the impeachment, Nan!