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 – “Lebanon’s mass revolt against corruption and poverty continues”:

    The largest protests in Lebanon in 14 years are set to shut down the country for a fifth day on Monday, as a revolt against a weak government, ailing services and a looming economic collapse continues to gain momentum.

    Demonstrators took to the streets of most urban centres on Sunday to rail against officials who they say are preventing badly needed reforms that would cut into the pockets of the ruling class, and are instead trying to recoup state revenues by taxing the poor.

    Dissent erupted on Thursday after new taxes were announced including a $6 per month levy on the messaging application WhatsApp, which was instrumental in sending protesters on to the streets. Anger boiled over on Friday, leading to the ransacking of high-end shops in Beirut and the death of one man in the northern city of Tripoli.

    Since then, the protests have settled into large peaceful gatherings that have crossed sectarian and social lines and continued to grow in size and energy as Lebanese leaders struggled to formulate a response….

  2. KG says

    I went down to London on Saturday for the anti-Brexit demo, which was huge – I can’t say if it was a million as claimed, but for once the police have not contradicted the organisers’ figure. There was great rejoicing when the result of the Letwin amendment was announced. However, I’m not optimistic that Johnson’s deal can be stopped, even if the Speaker prevents it being voted on today, as seems likely. The ERG are backing it, ditching the “D”UP because the deal gives them what they really wanted – the chance to smash the social and environmental protections which the EU, with all its faults, guarantees. They will also keep pressing for the government to renege on the deal at the end of 2020 and of the transition period if, as expected, Johnson wins the almost-certainly-coming election. All or almost all the “Tory rebels” seem to be in favour of the deal – they backed the amendment to prevent Johnson arranging a no-deal crash-out by getting his deal accepted in principle, then withdrawing the (insincere) request for an extension, then failing to get the necessary legislation passed. (Why might Johnson do that? Because any deal leaves him vulnerable to being outflanked by Farage in the election.) There seem to be enough Labour traitors to just get the deal approved, despite “D”UP opposition. And Corbyn won’t make clear that they would lose the Labour whip and so be unable to stand as party candidates – he’ll be getting what many suspect he’s wanted all along – Brexit, without the repsponsibility for it.

  3. says

    Here’s a link to today’s Guardian Brexit liveblog. (KG’s analyses help keep my optimism in check.)

    Also today in the Guardian, “‘The EU is running scared from fascism’ – Kosovo’s likely new PM”:

    The leftwinger set to become Kosovo’s surprise new prime minister has condemned the EU’s decision to halt further Balkans enlargement, saying it showed western leaders had forgotten the lessons of two world wars and instead were in retreat in the face of fascism and populism [sic].

    Albin Kurti said the stance could damage the chances of Kovoso reaching a deal with Serbia, which has refused to recognise it as independent since the end of the 1998-99 war, as Belgrade has less incentive to act without the prospect of EU membership.

    France caused dismay in the region at an EU summit last week by blocking Northern Macedonia and Albania from starting accession talks, so destroying Serbia’s chances of reaching the EU in the foreseeable future. French president Emmanuel Macron insisted that Europe needed to focus on its internal reforms.

    “The EU was formed as a response to fascism, but is now running scared in the face of populists and fascism,” Kurti told the Guardian.

    Criticising Macron, he said: “You cannot say first we need internal reform in the EU and then external enlargement – they go hand in hand. Europe is such an important historical project that no one man can be its author, directing or leading it. We have always seen that when [the outgoing EU Commission president] Jean-Claude Juncker said there would be no further expansion in the next five years, the situation in the Balkans got much worse.

    “Yes, the EU is important for the Balkans, but the Balkans is very important for the EU. Berlin and Paris should know this well, and it is really sad, for all of us, that they forget this. In a couple of decades, historians will write there were not two world wars, but just one world war with two episodes, and it all started in Sarajevo.”

    Kurti’s leftist Albanian nationalist movement Vetëvendosje (Self-determination) emerged as the strongest party following snap elections last month. Imprisoned for 18 months by Serbian police during the height of its military conflict with Kosovo in 1999, Kurti, 44, finds himself on the verge of power, promising to end Kosovo’s two decades of neoliberalism.

    He is currently in talks with the centre-right party LDK, which came second, on forming an administration, in which a minimum of 30% will be women. Kurti predicted an agreement within a month and says his priority is jobs and justice, not reaching a deal with Serbia.

    After years of failed prosecutions against corruption, he promised to end what he considered the judiciary’s capture by the state….

  4. says

    Newsweek article on the videos @ #s 3, 4, and 6 above – “Syrian Protesters Picket Retreating U.S. Troops: ‘Tell Your Children That the Children of the Kurds Were Killed by the Turks'”:

    Syrian protesters have been picketing U.S. soldiers leaving their positions in the northeast of the country, warning that their departure is leaving the Kurdish population there at the mercy of the invading Turkish military and their proxies.

    Multiple videos and images have emerged showing local residents lining the roads as American military vehicles passed south away from the Turkish border region, where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been fighting a defensive action since October 9.

    A video shared on Twitter by regional analyst Mutlu Civiroglu on Sunday showed a small protesters at an undisclosed location in Syria, accusing passing Americans of abandoning residents there.

    At least three people held up large signs as the Americans passed, briefly standing in front of each vehicle to deliver their messages before stepping aside and allowing the convoy to continue.

    One man’s sign read, “To the U.S. Army who are leaving northeast Syria now. Tell your children that the children of the Kurds were killed by the Turks and we did nothing to protect them.”

    Civiroglu called the video “heartbreaking” and noted that the U.S. forces had been ordered “to leave N. Syria leaving behind defenseless Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Yezidis.”

    There have been numerous protests against the U.S. withdrawal in the northeastern Syria since President Donald Trump abruptly announced the decision earlier this month. Several took place in and near border towns that have now been occupied by Turkey and its Islamist Syrian proxies, such as Ras al-Ayn….

  5. says

    Julia Davis: “Russia’s state TV program hosted by notorious propagandist Vladimir Soloviev—who is close to Putin and has special access to the Kremlin—spends 30 minutes extolling Tulsi Gabbard, arguing she should be ‘the face of the Democratic party’ and obsessively bashing Hillary Clinton.”

  6. says

    FT – “Russian cyberattack unit ‘masqueraded’ as Iranian hackers, UK says”:

    A Russian cyber espionage unit has hacked Iranian hackers to lead attacks in more than 35 countries, a joint UK and US investigation has revealed.

    The so-called Turla group, which has been linked with Russian intelligence, allegedly hijacked the tools of Oilrig, a group widely linked to the Iranian government, according to a two-year probe by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre in collaboration with the US’ National Security Agency. The NCSC is part of GCHQ, the digital intelligence agency.

    The Iranian group is most likely unaware that its hacking methods have been hacked and deployed by another cyber espionage team, security officials involved in the investigation said. Victims include military establishments, government departments, scientific organisations and universities across the world, mainly in the Middle East.

    Paul Chichester, NCSC director of operations, said Turla’s activity represented “a real change in the modus operandi of cyber actors” which he said “added to the sense of confusion” over which state-backed cyber groups had been responsible for successful attacks.

    Mr Chichester described how Turla began “piggybacking” on Oilrig’s attacks by monitoring an Iranian hack closely enough to use the same backdoor route into an organisation or to gain access to the resulting intelligence. Turla is also known as Waterbug or Venomous Bear.

    But the Russian group then progressed to initiating their own attacks using Oilrig’s command-and-control infrastructure and software. Organisations in approximately 20 countries were successfully hacked in this way….

  7. says

    CNN – “Justice Department distances itself from Giuliani”:

    Weeks before Rudy Giuliani publicly became a figure to avoid in Washington, he managed to get a meeting with the top official in the Justice Department’s criminal division on behalf of a client.

    The Justice Department now says that official, Brian Benczkowski, and other fraud prosecutors at Justice headquarters wouldn’t have taken that meeting with Giuliani earlier this summer had they known about a Manhattan US attorney probe of two Giuliani associates who were indicted this month. It is striking that the Justice Department is having to distance itself from the President’s own personal attorney.

    A Justice spokesman issued an unusual statement seeking to remove the department further from Giuliani, who has drawn scrutiny recently for his business activities in Ukraine and elsewhere seeming to bank on his close ties to President Donald Trump.

    “When Mr. Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they know,” Peter Carr, a department spokesman, told The New York Times on Sunday, which first reported the meeting….

  8. says

    Ian Dunt:

    Simply incredible to hear Tory MPs say they should speed up the legislation because they have to ‘make a decision’. It’s precisely so MPs can make informed decisions that the bill should be done to a sensible timetable.

    [Stewart Wood]: “The #Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay just confirmed to me in his @LordsEUCom evidence that, under the Govt’s proposals, Northern Irish businesses sending goods to Great Britain will have to complete export declaration forms.”

    Just a little hint of the details which MPs might concievably want to be aware of before making a decision.

    This things is like a masterclass on how not to do things. System-level changes to the way a country operates, rushed through to suit the political needs of a self-interested prime minister, with emotions high, and a sustained effort to prevent parliamentarians seeing the detail.

  9. says

    NEW: The private Instagram account of Lev Parnas reveals new clues about his access to the Trump family and his close relationship with Rudy Giuliani….”

    Thread with images and more and WSJ link atl.

  10. says

    Chuck Schumer:

    Senator McConnell:

    Put the bipartisan resolution to rebuke Pres. Trump’s actions in Syria on the Senate floor.

    An identical resolution passed the House 354-60.

    It’s the best way pressure Trump to seriously address the threats his actions in Syria unleashed & keep America safe.

  11. says

    Rafael Behr:

    I understand why Lab MPs want to satisfy their constituents’ demands that a Brexit deal be ‘done’ [highly questionable – SC], but surprised any would think there is some consolation victory later available in the small print.

    Lending votes to Johnson gives his deal momentum; deposits political capital with anti-EU hardliners. There is no reward in policy or political respite available for an opposition MP enabling this project.

    Don’t need to go far back in history to see how much a Johnson promise is worth, and to see what happens to other parties who lend Tories support and think they have some kind of deal. Ask the DUP.

    Doesn’t even need to be a deal with Tories to do damage. Ask Labour moderates (non-Corbynite) how just *abstaining* in vote on Tory bill worked out for them in the months that followed.

    Could ask Lib Dems how supporting Tories 2010-15 worked out for them; whether Cameron kept his promises to Clegg in coalition agreement, eg in AV referendum.

    Could even ask SNP how supporting Thatcher in no confidence vote against Callaghan govt in 1979 worked out for them in ensuing election, and for Scotland in the 1980s.

    On balance, lesson of history for non-Tory parties is not to lend votes to Tory governments. Or if you do, to expect (1) that you will get *nothing* but political pain in return and (2) voters will remember it and hold it against you for ages.

  12. says

    More re #18 from Eleni Courea, Politico:

    Initially [Brexit Minister Stephen] Barclay said he didn’t think customs declarations would be required but that he would write to the committee clarifying.

    A few minutes later he read out a correction saying: “The exit summary declarations will be required in terms of NI to GB.”

    To clarify: Exit summary declarations are separate from customs declarations. According to @EU_Commission, they are req when goods leave the EU customs territory: “where a customs declaration or a reexport declaration is not required, an exit summary declaration has to be lodged”

    Barclay’s initial statement on exit declarations: “We’ve said in terms from NI to GB that it will be frictionless and so there wouldn’t be [declarations].”

    His correction: “The exit summary declarations will be required in terms of NI to GB.”

    Suggests trade not frictionless…

    .@StewartWood, who asked Barclay the question: “The idea that NI companies can continue to have unfettered access to Britain if this deal goes through is fanciful.”…

    Link to Politico Pro article atl. So the Brexit Minister doesn’t know what’s entailed by the agreement they wanted MPs to vote on on Saturday and will try again to jam through today/tomorrow.

  13. says

    Greg Sargent:

    Stunning new numbers from PRRI illustrating the Fox effect:

    98% of Fox-watching Republicans oppose removal

    71% of them *strongly* approve of Trump. Only 39% of non-Fox Rs strongly approve

    One of the biggest obstacles to removal? Fox News.

    WaPo link atl. Of course, the cause-and-effect relationships are more complex than this suggests.

  14. says

    David Rothkopf tweeted: “This won’t win me any friends, I suspect, but every time I read about the increase in secularization in the U.S. (or anywhere), I think that is a good thing and a sign we are moving away from superstitions and prejudices that have caused the planet untold misery. Ok. Fire away.”

    The responses suggest that his expectation that this would be greeted with hostility was mistaken.

    See also here.

  15. says

    NEW — Turkey appoints Hakan Atilla, a former banker who served prison sentence in New York for violating Iran sanctions, as general manager of Istanbul Stock Exchange.

    Atilla, a then-deputy general manager of state owned Halkbank, always denied his culpability in Iran sanctions busting scheme. His appeal process is pending.

    Turkey named the court case as a charade that is crafted by Gulenist ex-officers. A Gulenist police officer was a witness.”

    As Josh Marshall would say, sounds legit.

  16. says

    Meduza – “Putin appoints Kremlin-friendly chair and gives independent professionals the boot in major Human Rights Council shakeup”:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order appointing a new chairperson to Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council. Under the order, former state TV host Valery Fadeyev will take the council’s top job, and current chair Mikhail Fedotov will be dismissed “in connection with the fact that he has reached the age of 70.” Political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann brought press attention to Putin’s order by posting a copy on Facebook.

    Another simultaneously issued presidential order alters the lineup of the Human Rights Council itself. Schulmann, who has served on the council for less than a year, will be excluded from it along with well-known human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov and two other members. Fadeyev, the council’s newly appointed chair, is broadly considered more of a Putin loyalist than his predecessor, and Putin’s second order regarding the council shifts the rest of its composition toward the Kremlin as well. One of its newly appointed members is Kirill Vyshinsky, the editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti — Ukraine who was released from a Ukrainian prison ahead of this year’s mass prisoner swap.

    The Presidential Human Rights Council is known as a potential mediator between Russia’s human rights community and the country’s government. When news of Fedotov’s potential firing first began to emerge, members of the council wrote a letter to Putin asking for their chair to be permitted to keep his post.

    This person suggests Fedotov’s removal is “over criticism of crackdown on Moscow protests, displeasure in presidential administration.”

  17. says

    Ian Dunt’s livetweeting from Parliament is something else.

    “Barry Sheerman, Lab: ‘It’s our sacred duty – not just to get on with it – to make sure that what the deal is, the quality of it, actually serves our constituents. We must take this business seriously and slowly’.”

    I mean, yeah.

    No one seems too clear on where Johnson actually is, which is odd.

  18. says

    From the G liveblog:

    The government is coming under fire this evening over confirmation by the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, that Northern Irish businesses will have to complete exit declarations when sending goods to Great Britain under the terms of the Brexit deal.

    As reported by Politico, Barclay was correcting an answer he gave minutes earlier to the House of Lords European Union committee, when he said he did not think such forms would be required under the deal.

    He told peers: “We’ve said in terms of [trade] from NI to GB that it will be frictionless and so there wouldn’t be [declaration forms].”

    The Labour Peer, Stewart Wood, was the committee member who pressed Barclay and has been making hay on Twitter and says that Barclay’s “revelation” confirms two things

    “1. The GB-NI border inside the UK will, from a commercial point of view, feel like a real border.

    2. The Govt is trying to push through a vote on the deal before the text of the Withdrawal Bill is seen for a reason: the contents are alarming.”

  19. Akira MacKenzie says

    SC @ 32

    “We do get along great with the Kurds. We’re trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget, that’s their territory. We have to help them. I want to help them.”

    –Donald Trump
    September 26, 2018

  20. says

    Ian Dunt:

    …Mogg making business statement. Withdrawal bill second reading tomorrow, followed by commencement of committee. Wednesday, continued proceedings. Thursday, conclusion of proceedings. Friday: House doesn’t sit.

    Trying to get a bill of this size, of such significance, in that time frame is functionally insane.

    Shadow leader of House Valerie Vaz responds.

    Wants to know when bill will be published and programme motion put forward.

    “At every stage the govt has been running scared of this House and democracy and it’s now attempting to force through a flawed Brexit bill which sells out people’s jobs, rights and our communities.”

    Mogg also confirmed that MPs would only vote on Queen’s Speech next week. That whole thing was just the most preposterous theatrical sideshow.

  21. says

    Laura Rozen: “this is the cabinet meeting. it is not that the press goes away and then they have the cabinet meeting. the cabinet are props for trump to diss this constitution you all have”

    It seems like that can’t possibly be correct, but I fear it is.

  22. says

    More from Dunt’s thread:

    …Mogg gibbering on about removing the “imperial yoke”, like some kind of lunatic historian roaming the street at night shouting at strangers.

    This really is the most extraordinary godawful cynical Jacobin shitshow. 100 pages. No impact statements. Ministers who do not even understand if Northern Ireland will have to fill out export forms to send goods within the UK. And they want to bludgeon it through in three days.

    Remember when we used to pride ourselves on being a stable country that did things properly. I mean just imagine.

    Owen Smith reminds Mogg that the Lisbon treaty was debated for 11 days, Maastricht for 23, the Treaty of Rome for 22.

    Mogg says Brexit has been well debated already. I mean, it’s such a pitiful argument it’s barely worth even shooting down, but this is a piece of legislation, not a debate over Brexit.

    The timetable is incredibly aggressive and, like almost everything this govt does, seemingly motivated more by trolling than good sense. I wonder of that might put off figures, like Ken Clarke earlier, who are tempted to vote against programme motion….

  23. says

    Engel: “US officials tell me Trump wants to wash his hands of responsibility for the Kurds. The US mil/gov gave Kurds REPEATED assurances of protection. US even asked Kurds to REMOVE defenses BEFORE the Turkish offensive. Kurds complied and now being displaced. WH says not our problem.”

  24. says

    CNN – “Facebook: Russian trolls are back. And they’re here to meddle with 2020”:

    People linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-backed troll group indicted by the United States for its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election, are laying the groundwork to do the same in 2020, new information released by Facebook on Monday suggests.

    Profiles originating in Russia had since the beginning of this year been building a network of accounts on Instagram designed to look like groups in swing states, the company said. Instagram is owned by Facebook (FB).

    Although the accounts posed as Americans from all sides of the political spectrum, many were united in their opposition to the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to Graphika, a social media investigations company that Facebook asked to analyze the accounts. The Russian trolls who used social media to interfere in the 2016 election employed a similar tactic, going after Hillary Clinton from the right and also trying to spread a perception on the left that Clinton was not liberal enough and that liberals and African Americans especially shouldn’t bother voting for her

    The accounts Facebook revealed Monday, 50 of which were on Instagram and one of which was on Facebook, were designed to look like they were advocating on a broad range of issues across American life.

    Accounts with usernames like @black.queen.chloe and @michigan_black_community_ looked like they were run by black activists. There were also pro and anti-Trump accounts, and accounts posing as feminists, LGBTQ rights advocates, and environmentalists. Other account names included @stop.trump2020, @bernie.2020__, @iowa.patriot, and @feminist_agenda_, according to Graphika.

    Facebook said the accounts combined had more than 250,000 followers, more than half of which were based in the U.S. Facebook did not disclose how many of those followers were real and how many might have been fake or bot accounts designed to make the main accounts look more legitimate. Facebook says it has removed the accounts.

    “It looked like there was a systematic focus on attacking Biden from both sides,” Graphika director of investigations Ben Nimmo, who analyzed the accounts, told CNN Business.

    Nimmo also observed attacks on other candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but said those attacks seemed more the result of “character building” in which the accounts were sharing content to bolster their respective personas — for instance, liberal-looking accounts attacked Trump, while conservative-looking accounts posted negative content about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    “Among the accounts focused on black activism, there was strong support for Bernie Sanders along with a moderate amount of content opposing Kamala Harris,” Graphika said in its analysis….

    Nimmo said the accounts sent just under 75,000 posts, the majority of which were not directly related to the 2020 election, but to broader political and social issues in the US.

    The campaign mostly recycled existing memes and posts from real American news organizations and political groups.

    “This wasn’t Russians targeting Americans with Russian content, this was Russians targeting Americans with American content,” Nimmo said.

    The decision to recycle existing content, rather than create new material, might have been part of the campaign’s strategy to conceal its Russian links, Nimmo said. However, errors in some of the accounts’ posts suggested the accounts weren’t run by native English speakers.

    Nathaniel Gleicher, who leads Facebook’s team investigating foreign influence operations, said the company had caught the operation in its early stages and that the Russian group had been focusing on audience building. Gleicher said the accounts were “trying to make themselves look like ordinary citizens” in a way that could later have lent credibility to their posts….

  25. says

    Nick Cohen in the Guardian Observer – “Have you heard of the catastrophic men theory of history? Step forward Boris Johnson…”:

    Boris Johnson concludes his Churchill biography with splutters against historians who insist the “story of humanity is not the story of great men and shining deeds”. The story of Winston Churchill, he cries, “is a pretty withering retort to all that malarkey. He and he alone made the difference.” [This is…not true. – SC]

    The story of Boris Johnson withers too. He is shrivelling Britain: making it cramped, poor and irrelevant. Modern historians may sniff at the 19th-century notion that “the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men” to use Thomas Carlyle’s words. The rest of us should not be so complacent and register the capacity of catastrophic men and women to change the world for the worse.

    In his classic study On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, Norman Dixon analysed British generals who had led their men to pointless deaths from Crimea to Arnhem. How familiar his diagnosis feels. Dixon identified “overweening ambition dedicated to one goal – self-advancement” as a persistent fault; and that sounds familiar. Catastrophic men equated “war with sport”, he continued, and one thinks of Theresa May’s warning in 2016 that “politics isn’t a game.”

    She surely had Johnson in mind. For him, it is a game and winning is all….

    …Dixon noticed “an underestimation, sometimes bordering on the arrogant, of the enemy”. And one thinks of Dominic Cummings, so lost in his deluded machismo that he told EU countries that they “will go to the bottom of the queue” if they dared challenge the mighty Britain. A mere fortnight later, Johnson capitulated to Brussels so thoroughly the EU will no longer has to worry about the Irish border and can adopt the toughest of stances when and if trade negotiations begin.

    No one should be surprised. It is an essential part of the catastrophic character that catastrophists do not learn from their mistakes or realise they are making them.

    On the small matters as well as the large, political incompetents mirror military incompetents. Generals who display “a love of bull, smartness, precision and strict preservation of the military pecking order” are prone to lead regiments to disaster, Dixon wrote. Remember Jacob Rees-Mogg’s semi-literate instruction to his civil servants that they must address untitled men as “esq” when the practice is archaic. Or his insistence that they never use “hopefully” in his presence: even though the adverb has stood in for “I hope” for centuries and no serious linguist has the smallest problem with it.

    Hopefully, you can see the links between disastrous generals and politicians. Catastrophic business leaders share their characteristics. Since the crash, there has been an explosion of interest in how unstable men and women are overrepresented at the top of business….

    …Johnson remains in a bubble that feeds narcissistic delusions. The Tory press fawns over him because he is one of its own. His party toes the line because Johnson removes the whip from Tory MPs who challenge him and Cummings orders armed police officers to take away allegedly disloyal aides on the flimsiest of excuses.

    Johnson’s career of failing upwards since he left Eton illustrates that overconfidence is class determined. In politics and so many other British institutions, you see mediocrities take jobs for which they are not remotely qualified, because wealthy families and a private education have emboldened them.

    In all spheres, catastrophic men and women are united by an imperviousness to the suffering they cause. Even on the most optimistic assumptions, UK in a Changing Europe found Johnson’s “deal” will take £16bn from already dangerously underfunded public services and all who depend on them. (The pessimists believe £49bn will go.) The PM’s lack of concern for them is typical. Dixon described the siege of Kut in 1915 in what is now Iraq: an operation that led to 30,000 British and Indian army casualties. It distinguished itself, even in the First World War, for having no military purpose whatsoever.

    Catastrophic men can determine the fate of armies, businesses and countries. Without fail, the catastrophes they bring are always someone else’s problem. I will grant Johnson this. There is every chance that history will say: “He and he alone made the difference.”

  26. says

    From the G liveblog:

    The withdrawal agreement bill includes a provision to enable the prime minister’s Brexit deal to be ratified in time for the UK to leave with an agreement on 31 October.

    Under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRAG), an international treaty – such as the Brexit deal – must be laid before Parliament for at least 21 sitting days before ratification to take place.

    However, in order for the government’s timetable to be met, there is a provision in the WAB which “disapplies” the relevant section of the CRAG.

    You can just “disapply” laws like that?

  27. says

    David Henig:

    The Government will not publish a Brexit impact assessment even though this is standard practice for international agreements and UK government policies. There is no excuse for this, just as there isn’t for limiting Parliamentary debate, because an IA is not just about numbers…

    Impact assessments are about ensuring a policy is properly scrutinised. Even if the policy goes ahead, Government typically wants to know what the impact will be on business generally, on sectors, on levels of regulation, environment, equality etc.

    So for the example of this Brexit Withdrawal Agreement we might want to know what the impact will be on business in GB and Northern Ireland of extra paperwork. Or on the NHS if citizens return to the UK from abroad. Or on the car manufacturing sector.

    By starting to think about these impacts policy-makers are then able to consider what interventions might be required, or whether during implementation certain approaches should be taken. Obviously MPs can also ask questions on this basis.

    Brexit being political does not remove the need for good administration. In fact the very opposite – when decisions are made in the coming years about implementation it will be helpful for officials to have an agreed baseline. But this won’t be in place.

    Yet again on Brexit the Government is ignoring usual practice, and then accusing anyone who points this out of being a remainer. It may be good electoral politics, but it is terrible governance for the country as a whole, and it will come back and cause problems.

  28. stroppy says

    Remedial headline writing…

    Reminds me of another pet peeve I have about the pundit/stenography class, and that’s this constant business of referring to Trump “violating norms” as if he’s doing something daring and innovative. It’s just another way of normalizing the “new normal”. What he’s violating are good ethical and professional practices, and probably the law, and the press should just say that straight out.

  29. says

    Leah Litman in Slate – “Will the Supreme Court See Through Trump’s War on California?”:

    The Trump administration is once again testing the limits of truth in government.

    In September, President Donald Trump unleashed a barrage of environmental policies and sanctions to punish California for pollution (or for attempting to regulate pollution). He claimed the actions were necessary either because California wasn’t doing enough to regulate pollution or because there was too much regulation of pollution. The attacks on California present the same legal issue that has arisen time and again since Trump became president: Can the administration lie about its reasons for pursuing a given policy? The answer to that question will determine whether this presidency ushers in government by lies—whether administrations can brazenly misrepresent its reasons for pursuing particular policies.

    This summer the Supreme Court smacked down the administration’s last attempt to justify a policy with a lie. In Department of Commerce v. New York, the court held that the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census was “pretextual,” meaning that the administration failed to provide the “genuine” reason for adding the question. The administration had argued it wanted to obtain citizenship information in order to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

    At the time, experts recognized that the administration’s justification was bunk….

    The Trump administration apparently did not get the message. After the census decision, the president announced that he is withdrawing California’s ability to set auto emissions rules stricter than the federal standards; that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering sanctioning California cities for the pollution that purportedly results from the cities’ homeless populations; and that the EPA is considering cutting California’s highway funds because of its air quality. The Department of Justice also announced an antitrust investigation into a compact California signed with several auto dealers in order to generate stricter environmental standards.

    None of these policies individually holds up, but collectively the policies reveal just how specious the administration’s justifications are. It cannot be the case that California’s air pollution is so bad that it should lose its highway funds and that California’s air pollution is insufficient to allow the state to adopt more stringent vehicle emissions standards than recently rolled-back federal ones. Likewise, it cannot be the case that California’s air pollution is so bad it deserves an EPA sanction and that California is violating federal antitrust law by attempting to regulate vehicle emissions standards.

    No one seriously thinks that the president is enforcing environmental statutes against California because he’s concerned about pollution….

    Moreover, there is plenty of evidence about why the president is targeting California and California cities: because California’s political leaders do not support the president, and because California voters do not either….

    There are other plausible administrative law and constitutional challenges to these various policies besides the argument that the administration’s decisions are all pretextual. But recognizing that these policies are pretextual is nonetheless important.

    Allowing the government to force through policies that rest on unbelievable justifications could unleash all kinds of arbitrary actions and prejudicial mischief. Consider what else the administration might do if it is legally permitted to lie about the reasons for its policies.

    Protections against arbitrary government decision-making are supposed to make ours a government of laws rather than lies. The Trump administration continues to test whether that will remain the case, and we may be closer to government by lies than we would like to think.

    More atl.

  30. says

    Owen Jones:

    “Woe betide any MP who tries to stop” us living in a “free country” if they don’t vote for Johnson’s Brexit deal.

    This language. A Labour MP was murdered by a far right terrorist who screamed “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.

    Shame on The Telegraph and the Tory Right.

  31. says

    Matt Yglesias:

    It’s really underappreciated how much Facebook is, for whatever reason, a platform for primarily spreading low-quality right-wing content and not just like some open “fifth estate” in which the people make their voices heard.

    That’s not like a regulatory issue per se.

    But if you’re a person with a lot of in-demand labor market skills you have choices to make about what you want to do with your life.

    Zuckerberg pretty clearly thinks it’s important for employee recruiting and retention that Facebook not be thought of as a trough of low-grade right-wing propaganda whose policy arm is run by a handful of GOP political operatives, but the facts are what they are.

  32. tomh says

    House Democrats add legal firepower to their ranks as impeachment inquiry ramps up

    House Democrats are adding legal firepower to their ranks as they move from investigation mode to the impeachment process, according to multiple House Democratic officials.

    The House Judiciary Committee has added impeachment scholar Joshua Matz, a constitutional law expert and former attorney at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, to its ranks in recent days, according to multiple officials familiar with the move. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly.

    Matz, who clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, recently wrote a book, “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” with another impeachment scholar Democrats are consulting, Laurence Tribe.

    Tribe, while not on staff or being paid, has also become a regular source of advice for House Democrats, particularly for his former students who are now in the thick of the impeachment probe: Schiff and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), both of whom studied under Tribe at Harvard Law School.

    Tribe has been a vocal critic of Trump both in writing and on TV and boasts more than 600,000 Twitter followers. He also has a direct line to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), these people said.

    The House Judiciary Committee declined to comment, as did Tribe. Matz could not be reached for comment.

    Multiple officials familiar with House Democrats’ preparations for impeachment said there is not much time to hire new lawyers given how fast Democratic leaders hope to move on impeachment. Pelosi and her top lieutenants still hope to have impeachment finished by the end of the year, though that timeline seems increasingly tricky with Democrats in town only for six more weeks this year.

    The Judiciary panel at the start of the year brought in two heavy-hitting lawyers, who are still in place and expected to help guide the panel through impeachment: Norman L. Eisen and Barry H. Berke.

  33. tomh says

    Putin and Hungary’s Orban helped sour Trump on Ukraine

    President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by its regional adversaries, including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, current and former U.S. officials said.

    Trump’s conversations with Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election, the officials said.


    The role played by Putin and Orban, a hard-right leader who has often allied himself with the Kremlin’s positions, was described in closed-door testimony last week by George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, before House impeachment investigators, U.S. officials said.

    Kent cited the influence of those leaders as a factor that helped sour Trump on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the months leading up to their July 25 phone call — a conversation that triggered an extraordinary whistleblower complaint as well as a House impeachment inquiry.

    U.S. officials emphasized that while Putin and Orban denigrated Ukraine, Trump’s decision to seek damaging material on Biden was more directly driven by Trump’s own impulses and Kyiv conspiracy theories promoted by his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

    In their early May phone call, Putin “did what he always does” in seeking to undercut the United States’ relationship with Ukraine, said a former U.S. official familiar with details of the conversation. “He has always said Ukraine is just a den of corruption.”

    The efforts to poison Trump’s views toward Zelensky were anticipated by national security officials at the White House, officials said. But the voices of Putin and Orban took on added significance this year because of the departure or declining influence of those who had sought to blunt the influence of Putin and other authoritarian leaders over Trump.


    There is no evidence that Putin spoke about Biden or endorsed Giuliani’s unsubstantiated claims that it was Ukraine — and not Russia — that had interfered in the 2016 election. Still, officials said that treating Ukraine as a pawn is consistent with Putin’s approach toward the former Soviet republic.

    American policy has for years been “built around containing malign Russian influence” in Eastern Europe, a U.S. official said. Trump’s apparent susceptibility to the arguments he hears from Putin and Orban are “an example of the president himself under malign influence — being steered by it.”


    In his testimony, Kent indicated that U.S. officials were encouraged by Trump’s initial phone call with Zelensky after his April election and hoped the president would see the new leader as a potential partner in long-standing U.S. efforts to help Ukraine fend off Russian aggression and battle internal corruption.

    Instead, Kent testified, Trump’s view of Zelensky and Ukraine seemed to sour in the ensuing months, with Trump voicing disdain for Kyiv, ordering the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed, blocking Vice President Pence from attending Zelensky’s inauguration and suspending the flow of $391 million in military and other aid to the country.

    Trump spoke with Putin by phone and met with Orban at the White House in the weeks between Zelensky’s April 21 election and his May 20 inauguration. Trump also spoke with Putin on June 28, during a global summit in Japan, and by phone on July 31, days after the call in which he solicited a “favor” from Zelensky.


    Trump turned to Putin for guidance on the new leader of Ukraine within days of Zelensky’s election. In a May 3 call, Trump asked Putin about his impressions of Zelensky, according to a Western official familiar with the conversation. Putin said that he had not yet spoken with Zelensky but derided him as a comedian with ties to an oligarch despised by the Kremlin.


    The May conversation with Putin coincided with a White House visit by Orban that many in the administration had opposed because of the Hungarian leader’s moves to undercut democratic institutions in that country and his combative relations with U.S. allies in Europe.

    “I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that [Trump] would love to have the situation that Viktor Orban has, but he doesn’t,” David Cornstein, Trump’s ambassador to Hungary, said in an interview published by the Atlantic this spring.

    The May visit from Orban began with an hour-long meeting between Trump and the Hungarian leader with no note-takers, officials said. Bolton and the Hungarian foreign minister joined afterward.

    Senior U.S. diplomats said they had limited insight into the private conversation between Trump and Orban, let alone how Trump’s views of Ukraine have formed. But one official familiar with the encounter said that it became “clear that the meeting with Orban had solidified” Trump’s pessimistic view about Kyiv and Zelensky.

    Orban’s grievances toward Ukraine are grounded in a historic border dispute and the claimed mistreatment of a Hungarian-speaking minority that resides in Ukraine. But Orban’s animosity toward Zelensky is also ideological, officials said, noting that Zelensky has positioned himself in opposition to Orban as a Western-leaning reformer.

    White House and State Department officials had sought to block an Orban visit since the start of Trump’s presidency, concerned that it would legitimize a leader often ostracized in Europe. They also worried about Orban’s influence on the U.S. president.

    “Basically, everyone agreed — no Orban meeting,” said a former White House official involved in internal discussions. “We were against it because [we] knew there was a good chance that Trump and Orban would bond and get along.”

    The effort to keep distance between Trump and Orban began to fray earlier this year with the departures of senior officials and the emergence of new voices around the president. Among the most important was Mulvaney, who became acting chief of staff in January and was seen as sympathetic with Orban’s hard-right views and skepticism of European institutions. In Congress, Mulvaney’s former Freedom Caucus colleagues last year backed Orban’s efforts to kill a small U.S. grant designed to nurture independent media outlets in Hungary.

    Mulvaney’s involvement in approving the Orban visit was one of several instances in which he overruled national security officials, officials said. At the same time, Mulvaney also facilitated an arrangement in which Trump directed other diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, to work with Giuliani on his Ukraine agenda.

  34. says

    Quartz – “Trump admin apparently over Khashoggi killing, will attend Saudi’s ‘Davos in the Desert’”:

    US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner plan to attend this year’s “Davos in the Desert,” a Saudi Arabian economic conference the US and many others skipped last year after Saudi security agents murdered Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

    According to a federal procurement filing reviewed by Quartz, the State Department recently booked 45 rooms at Riyadh’s Burj Rafal Hotel in support of the two “VVIP visitors” taking part in the kingdom’s third annual Future Investment Initiative, as the event is officially known.

    While several big names in Silicon Valley have again decided not to go, more than 150 other global business executives—many of whom stayed away last year because of the Khashoggi killing—have been confirmed as attendees, including representatives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and BlackRock, according to a guest list seen by the Washington Post.

    They will be there even though little has been done to prosecute those responsible for the murder. Human Rights Watch said in a recent statement that the Saudis have not seriously investigated the crime and have, in fact, “obstructed meaningful accountability for Khashoggi’s murder.” The government has “refused to cooperate with an investigation led by the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings,” according to the nonprofit, and Saudi authorities continue their “sweeping campaign of repression against dissidents and activists.”

    The Burj Rafal was apparently not Mnuchin and Kushner’s first choice for lodging, per the State Department filing. The conference is taking place at the Ritz-Carlton, but the Saudis declined to let the Mnuchin-Kushner entourage stay at the property.

    “The government of Saudi Arabia controls the Ritz-Carlton, where the visitors are attending a conference, and has not authorized use of the hotel by our delegation,” the filing says….

  35. tomh says

    New Energy Secretary Fits Trend: Cabinet Dominated by Lobbyists
    By Lisa Friedman
    Oct. 18, 2019

    WASHINGTON — President Trump likes to say that people in his political orbit come straight out of central casting, “tough hombres” from far beyond the Capital Beltway ready to roil the swamp.

    Increasingly, though, his cabinet is full of lobbyists.

    On Friday came the latest lobbyist elevation. Out went Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the genial former governor of Texas and onetime Dancing with the Stars contestant. In came his deputy, Dan Brouillette, who spent much of his career as a senior vice president of the United Services Automobile Association, a financial services company, and at the Ford Motor Company.

    Mr. Trump called him “a total professional,” in a staff change by Tweet: “Dan’s experience in the sector is unparalleled,” the president said.

    The pattern holds throughout the agencies trusted to provide for the common defense, promote clean air and water, care for public lands and waters, and safeguard energy supplies and nuclear weapons.

    Mr. Trump, who campaigned for president on the oft-repeated pledge to “drain the swamp,” initially favored charismatic former politicians with a flair for the dramatic, like Mr. Perry; or former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former member of the Navy SEALs who arrived to work on horseback; his first Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, a bellicose Oklahoma attorney general; or his first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, a former Marine Corps general whom Mr. Trump introduced as “Mad Dog.”

    All are gone, replaced by lobbyists — less camera-ready but more familiar with the inner workings of their agencies, if only because they spent years trying to influence them.

    A ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis this week found Mr. Trump brought in 281 former lobbyists since the start of the administration. His cabinet now includes a former coal lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency, a former oil and gas lobbyist in charge of the Department of Interior, a top lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon leading the Defense Department — and, if he is confirmed, an automobile lobbyist at the Energy Department.

    Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, called the proliferation of lobbyists in Mr. Trump’s cabinet deeply worrisome. He pointed to David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist who served as deputy secretary of the Interior Department before he replaced Mr. Zinke in April as Interior secretary.

    Mr. Bernhardt has been dogged by ethics investigations since he joined the Trump administration, in large part because of his lobbyist past. In April the Interior Department’s internal watchdog opened an inquiry into allegations, revealed by New York Times investigations, that Mr. Bernhardt used his position to advance a policy pushed by his former lobbying client.

    More at the link.

  36. says

    Kobani – Northern Syria
    A demonstration by thousands of local civilians condemning Turkish military invasion in northern #Syria, denouncing the international silence regarding the violations committed against civilians in different areas along the border with #Turkey”

    Pictures at the link.

  37. says

    Guardian – “Canada elections: Trudeau wins narrow victory to form minority government”:

    Justin Trudeau has won a second term as Canada’s prime minister after the country’s federal election, but his narrow victory means he will lead a minority government that will be forced to depend on other parties to govern.

    With results still trickling in on Tuesday morning, the Liberals had 156 seats 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons.

    “We seek hardship for none and prosperity for all, and if we unite around these common goals, I know we can achieve them,” Trudeau told cheering supporters in Montreal, saying that Canadians had sent a clear message of support for progressive policies.

    Despite Trudeau’s attempt to strike a conciliatory tone, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer issued a stark warning to the Liberals. “Mr. Trudeau, when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready and we will win,” Scheer told supporters at his concession speech.

    In the final week of campaigning, Trudeau faced a strong challenge from the left-wing New Democratic party, led by Jagmeet Singh, which looked poised to peel away progressive votes from the Liberals.

    But despite a surge in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign, the NDP was unable to convert that success into electoral wins. The party’s 44 seats were nearly cut in half.

    The overall result laid bare the deep divisions in the country: not a single Liberal was elected in the western Prairie provinces, which the Conservatives swept.

    After his landslide victory in 2015, Trudeau positioned himself as a progressive force both in Canada and aboard: he welcomed Syrian refugees at a time when the US and other countries were closing their doors, and he legalized cannabis nationwide.

    But in a country heavily reliant on natural resources, his efforts to strike a balance on the environment and economy have been criticized by both the right and the left. His government brought in a carbon tax to fight the climate crisis – but also paid billions to rescue a stalled pipeline project.

    Monday’s result marks a significant erosion of support for the charismatic prime minister, but the narrow victory will be enough to ensure Trudeau’s marquee policies – including the national carbon tax – are likely to remain in place.

    But without his majority, Trudeau will have to reach out to other parties with a “confidence-and-supply” deal in which junior partners will support the government on individual pieces of legislation, as opposed to joining in a fully-fledged coalition.

    Such a deal will leave the leftwing NDP and the Bloc holding the balance of power a minority government. The most likely ally for Trudeau is Singh, who has made a commitment to fighting climate change and funding health care key requires for co-operation from the NDP.

    Scheer sounds like a special kind of asshole.

  38. says

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

    Jean Claude-Juncker has been speaking in the European parliament – “the beating heart of European democracy” apparently – as his five-year term as president of the European commission comes to an end.

    “In truth, it has pained me to spend so much of this mandate dealing with Brexit when I have thought of nothing less than how this union could do better for its citizens … a waste of time and a waste of energy,” he said.

    “I will always regret the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union but at least we can look at ourselves in the eye and say we have done all in our power to ensure that this departure is orderly.”

    There was applause from MEPs as he added that MPs in Westminster had to first ratify the deal before MEPS did so: “First London, then Strasbourg.”

  39. says

    Institute for Government – “The government’s timetable is designed to frustrate Brexit scrutiny”: “…The Commons should not agree to the government’s proposed timetable for scrutiny of its Brexit deal today. It’s hard to believe the government thinks that they will.”

    Ian Dunt – “Brexit legislation: This is a mandate for another year of no-deal chaos”:

    …This is the basic dynamic of the Brexit legislation: a mandate for more no-deal Brexit chaos. The government has created a scenario in which the two sides of the argument have had their final objective ruled out, then stacked the odds in the hard Brexiters’ favour, created an operational mechanic which allows for there to be all sorts of crazed Brexit fights over EU laws, and provided a new cliff-edge in 14 months which we will absolutely will hit.

    ‘Get Brexit Done’ might be the most misleading description of this legislation imaginable. It is the precise opposite: A mandate for another year of chaos, under precisely the same dynamic as we’ve lived through for the last three years.

    Much, much more at both links.

  40. says

    DW – “German defense chief recommends international security zone in Syria”:

    In an interview with DW on Monday evening, Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer advocated for the establishment of an internationally controlled security zone in Syria in cooperation with European partners, as well as Turkey and Russia.

    The proposal has the potential to lead to German and European military deployment to the region, marking an escalation of involvement in the Syrian conflict as it enters its ninth year.

    “This security zone would seek to resume the fight against terror and against the ‘Islamic State,’ which has currently come to a standstill,” she said. “It would also ensure that we stabilize the region so that rebuilding civilian life is once again possible, and so that those who have fled can also return voluntarily.”

    The defense minister, who is also the leader of Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), added that longtime chancellor and fellow party member, Angela Merkel, had already been informed of the recommendation, and that she has the backing of defense and foreign policy experts within her own party.

    However, her announcement drew criticism from the CDU’s coalition partner, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). Any German military engagement would need to receive legislative approval.

    Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that Europe and Germany have a strong imperative to take action in Syria.

    The situation in northern Syria is one that “directly concerns the security interests of Europe and the security interests of Germany,” the defense minister told DW. “In my opinion, it requires a stronger European initiative.”

    “Europe cannot simply be an onlooker,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added. “We also have to come up with our own recommendations and initiate discussions.”

    Kramp-Karrenbauer called for concrete recommendations for a security zone to be worked out with NATO partners during a meeting of defense ministers on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

    Germany would also use its current nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council to enter into bilateral talks with all parties involved in the conflict, the defense minister added.

    Controversially, Kramp-Karrenbauer also underscored the need for Turkey and Russia to be actively included in any European-led discussions on the matter

    “The alternative to that would be that the Europeans and NATO simply watch as talks between Turkey and Russia continue,” she told DW.

    “Russia is one of the most important actors in Syria,” she added. “Regardless of whether one likes that or not, it is a fact that we have to deal with.”

    “I would oppose that,” former NATO General Harald Kujat told German broadcaster NDR, referring specifically to Turkey’s involvement in such a security zone.

    While he supports the idea of a NATO and European-led initiative to guarantee the protection of Kurds in the region, he expressed reserves about a “security zone” similar to that which Turkey claims to be establishing in the region.

    “I’m skeptical about whether that is feasible under the current conditions,” he said.

    Meanwhile, the willingness of partners with such disparate views on the conflict to come to the negotiation table remains open….

  41. says

    NPR – “Syria Envoy To Face Bipartisan Grilling”:

    Trump administration officials are expected to be grilled about Syria by angry lawmakers from both parties Tuesday afternoon.

    “We have always been promised by the United States, by U.S. officials that [we would] not be subjected to genocide … we only want them to keep their promises,” Ilham Ahmed, a president of the Syrian Democratic Council, said through a translator during a press conference with U.S. lawmakers Monday evening. “Turkey is attacking us currently and we are subjected to ethnic cleansing.”

    It’s in the context of this fast-moving development that James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, is scheduled to testify before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday afternoon.

    Some of the Senate’s most vocal Trump Republican critics on this issue are on this committee, including Sen. Mitt Romney, who called Trump’s withdrawal “a bloodstain on the annals of American history,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has departed from his usual role as a staunch Trump ally to criticize this decision.

    On the other hand, the Senate panel also includes GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who has been supportive of the president’s move to withdraw troops.

    Jeffrey will also testify Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a hearing titled: “The Betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish Partners: How Will American Foreign Policy and Leadership Recover?”

    Large numbers of Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate have teamed up to rebuke the president’s foreign policy decisions in Syria. Last week, the House of Representatives voted on a symbolic resolution opposing the president’s withdrawal decision. The vote was 354 to 60, with most Republicans joining Democrats in a rare show of unity.

    The withdrawal has sent lawmakers scrambling to react. One of the few tools that members of Congress have with regards to foreign policy is the drafting and enactment of sanctions. Multiple groups of bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate are writing sanctions now to punish what they see as Turkey’s bad behavior….

  42. says

    AJ – “Iraq: US troops leaving Syria have no approval to stay”:

    US forces that crossed into Iraq as part of a pullout from northeastern Syria do not have permission to stay and can only be there in transit, Iraq’s military said.

    An Iraqi statement on Tuesday contradicted the Pentagon’s announcement that all of the nearly 1,000 troops withdrawing from northern Syria are expected to move to western Iraq to continue the campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) and “to help defend Iraq”.

    “All US forces that withdrew from Syria received approval to enter the Kurdish region so that they may be transported outside Iraq. There is no permission granted for these forces to stay inside Iraq,” the statement said.

    US defence chief Mark Esper said he had spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.

    A senior US defence official later clarified the situation was still fluid and plans could change….

    The military parade Trump wanted. The military parade he got.

  43. quotetheunquote says

    SC #73:

    Scheer sounds like a special kind of asshole.


    For one thing (of many), he’s a kind of sneaky, weaselly homophobe, who denies being bigoted about sexual orientation, but has said (on video) that only heterosexual relationships have “real family values” etc.

    I breathed a great sigh of relief this morning upon discovering that we didn’t end up with a Sheer-led government (and I am far from alone). I am not thrilled that we got so few Green MPs, I thought that they might have been able to steer government policy towards a more responsible carbon-reductions policy in the incoming parliament. (I am mostly okay with the Trudeau Liberals on other issues, except for natural resources policy; find they are far too pro-oil. But nowhere near as bad as the Sheer and the Conservatives, who had promised to tear up the current carbon tax as their first priority. Trudeau initiated the carbon tax, in the previous term, possibly his best policy change.)

  44. says

    From the G liveblog:

    Johnson is saying that the deal “is the biggest restoration of sovereignty in our history”.

    Asked by Labour’s Catherine McKinnell about the government’s refusal to release economic assessments, he says that getting the deal done would “unleash a great tide of investment” and a “powerful shot in the arm” for the country.

    Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP in Batley and Spen, raises the issue of workers rights. Johnson acknowledges that people need reassurance that the UK will not regress on worker’s right. He says that if the EU decides that they want to introduce new protections, the UK parliament will automatically consider introducing them too. “In essence it takes back to this House, the powers to decide these matters,” he says. Johnson adds that we shouldn’t lack confidence in “our collective ability” to use these new powers for the public good.

    Green MP Caroline Lucas asks about “the trap door” in the deal where if the UK hasn’t negotiated an arrangement with the EU by the end of next year, we will “crash out”. Johnson says there will be no crashing out “because we will negotiate a great new friendship and partnership”.

    I’m sorry, but this is insane. He’s a flimflam man.

  45. says

    More, from Ian Dunt’s livetweeting:

    …Pat McFadden, Lab: “Does he agree with himself when he said ‘we should go into these negotiations with a clear agenda to root out the nonsense of the social chapter, the working time directive and other job destroying regulations’.”

    “If that’s what he said then, why should believe a word he says on this now?”

    Johnson: “It is absolutely clear on the face of this bill and from what I said that this country will maintain the highest possible standards.” This is a lie. It gives the govt power to lower whatever workers standards it wants.

    Johnson says we will now have “the opportunity to do better”. This is a lie. Under EU rules, you can do better than the workers rights standard as much as you like. It’s a baseline below which you cannot go.

    Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour pro-dealer, pitifully says he’s really “grateful” for the assurances on workers’ rights and wants assurances on consumer protection.

    Johnson gives it, of course. He’ll provide any assurance as long as it means nothing. Fitzpatrick is precisely stupid enough to believe him….

  46. says

    Boris Johnson knows that if people were aware of what’s actually in his Brexit deal, and knew he’s planning an assault on workers’ rights, social protections, and living standards, they’d reject it.

    That’s one reason he’s so desperate to rush it through.”

  47. says

    G liveblog:

    Steve Baker, leading eurosceptic Tory MP, says to Corbyn that he cherishes the memory of the interview they did together to Sky news before he became leader, where they agreed we should leave the EU on democratic grounds.

    Corbyn says that parliament needs time to do its job and scrutinise the bill. He also says that as a former trade union organiser he learned that “you don’t give up what you’ve won”. He says the bill undermines workers rights.

  48. says

    Maddow last night – “Trump Wields DOJ As Russia, Media Reprise 2016 Roles For 2020”: “Rachel Maddow looks at the curiously quiet treatment of the end of the Hillary Clinton e-mail story that shaped the 2016 election and notes that the media seems no better prepared for Russia’s continued online campaigns to help Donald Trump, but for the 2020 election Donald Trump has the power and authority of Attorney General Bill Barr and the DOJ at his disposal.”

    Politico – “Trump’s quest for vengeance against John Brennan”:

    President Donald Trump’s obsession with former CIA director John Brennan could be on a collision course with an ongoing Justice Department probe as Attorney General Bill Barr takes a more hands-on approach to examining the intelligence community’s actions in 2016.

    Barr has been meeting with the U.S.’ closest foreign intelligence allies in recent months, making repeated overseas trips as part of an investigation he is overseeing into the origins of the Russia probe and whether any inappropriate “spying” occurred on Trump’s campaign.

    As part of that investigation, Barr and John Durham, the federal prosecutor he appointed to conduct it, have been probing a conspiracy theory for which there is little if any evidence, according to several people with knowledge of the matter: that a key player in the Russia probe, a professor named Joseph Mifsud, was actually a Western intelligence asset sent to discredit the Trump campaign — and that the CIA, under Brennan, was somehow involved.

    Trump, meanwhile, has become “obsessed” with Brennan, who frequently gets under the president’s skin by publicly questioning his mental acuity and fitness for office, according to a former White House official.

    Brennan allies and skeptics of the Durham investigation note that the CIA played no role in the probe involving Americans, and was narrowly focused on determining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations and how the Kremlin was carrying out its election attack in 2016.

    “The CIA was focused on Russia’s interference in the election and the role that Russian officials played,” said Nick Shapiro, who served as Brennan’s chief of staff at the CIA and is now his spokesman. “In our government, the FBI is who conducts counterintelligence investigations on U.S. citizens. What Barr and Trump are reportedly up to not only doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but it is yet another dangerous abuse of power, something that seems to now happen on a daily basis in this administration.”

    As with the IG report, Trump’s allies have been raising expectations for the Durham investigation for months, predicting that he will uncover a deep state plot to stage a “coup” against the president. Durham and Barr have been focusing primarily on the intelligence community—reportedly seeking interviews with the CIA analysts who drew conclusions about Putin’s motivations in 2016—and have not requested interviews with any of the senior FBI or DOJ employees who were directly involved in the opening of the Russia investigation in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Barr has also been fixated on the question of how the intelligence community determined that Russia intervened specifically to help Trump win rather than to just sow chaos and distrust in the Democratic process, according to the New York Times. But as POLITICO first reported, that question has already been asked and answered at the CIA’s highest levels — by Mike Pompeo, a Trump loyalist….

    I don’t think it’s being recognized enough that what they’re doing is precisely what they did to Clinton in 2016 and what they were trying to get Ukraine to do to Biden and the DNC for 2020. The important thing is the existence of the investigation itself, so the more drawn-out and far-reaching, and the more stories about the various targets of their scrutiny the better. It’s a show to smear and raise suspicions about their political opponents. What they’re failing to appreciate, though, is that the jig is now up. The existence of these investigations and the reporting on their targets and their twists and turns only works to the extent that they’re perceived as legitimate, and this obviously is not. Their corruption is out in the open now.

  49. says

    Kurdish MPs @RemziyeTosunHDP & @Dersimdagg surrounded by the police earlier today while they were protesting government’s appointing trustee against the Kayapınar Municipality in Diyarbakir won by HDP.”

    Video atl.

    Background from August – AP – “Turkey removes 3 pro-Kurdish mayors from office”:

    In a new government crackdown on a pro-Kurdish party, Turkey on Monday removed from office the elected mayors of three cities in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeast region over their alleged links to rebels, replacing them with government appointees.

    The mayors of the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van — members of the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP — were sacked over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and over evidence that they had allegedly aided the outlawed organization, an Interior Ministry statement said.

    They were removed some five months after being elected to office in local elections.

    In a similar move in 2016, the government ousted mayors from nearly 100 municipalities in the southeast region and replaced them with government appointees during a state of emergency declared after a failed military coup.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned prior to the election that pro-Kurdish mayors could be replaced by a caretaker should they win.

    Accusations against the three include attending funerals of PKK rebels, changing street or park names to those of known militants and singing the group’s anthem, according to the Interior Ministry statement. The ministry also listed a series of charges or ongoing trials against the three mayors.

    The HDP said the mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van all received more than 50 percent of the votes and their ouster was “based on lies and unlawful grounds.”

    “This is a new and clear political coup,” the party said in a statement. “It also constitutes a clearly hostile move against the political will of the Kurdish people.”

    Police used water cannons to disperse crowds that tried to gather outside the municipality building in Diyarbakir to protest the elected mayors’ ouster.

    Ekrem Imamoglu, the newly elected mayor of Istanbul, also criticized the mayors’ dismissal, saying on Twitter: “Ignoring the will of the people is unacceptable.”…

  50. says

    Ian Dunt:

    This is a defining debate for MPs. The one that will define their careers. That’s not on how they vote on the deal. Some have genuinely struggled between ideas of compromise and the gap between their own judgement and that of their constituents.

    It’s on the programme motion before anything else. Regardless of any view you have on Brexit, it’s MPs’ job to scrutinise the government and most of all to carefully assess massive pieces of legislation.

    To vote for the government’s programme motion is unforgivable. There is no tenable argument for it.

    Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson turns to the Labour backbenches. “I speak as the former employment relations minister in the Coalition govt so I do know a little of what I’m talking about here when it comes to what the Conservatives want to do to workers’ rights.”

    “Who would you rather trust? Would you trust Frances O’Grady and the TUC, who say this deal would trash workers’ rights? Or would you trust the PM? He is a man who is prepared to say anything and sell out anyone if it is in his own personal interest.”

  51. says

    Go David Lammy:

    “I think about very good colleagues and friends who are minded on this side of the House to vote for this bill, I think of what connects constituencies like mine and their constituencies in other parts of the country. It is most certainly a degree of deprivation and poverty.”

    “On the govt’s own estimates, we would see a reduction of GDP with a Canada-style trade deal of 6.7% in our country. When you use a figure like that it almost doesn’t mean anything. But in a constituency like Tottenham it means everything.”

    “It means the knife crime I’m worried about could get considerably worse. I don;t want the south side of Chicago in Tottenham. It means the jobs we need might not be there.”

    “How will that assist our country? On the govt’s own estimates, in the North East – GDP reduction of 11%. In West Midlands – 8%. In East Midlands – 8%. This is massive. This is bigger than the 2008 crash.”

    “How can we contemplate, seriously, making this worse for those people.” It’s a brilliant speech from Lammy.

    “And yet, I stand here, prepared to vote for this deal, on the basis that we put it back to the British people so that they can have the final say. That’s how we get this done. We actually use democracy.”

  52. tomh says

    2 Proud Boys Sentenced to 4 Years in Brawl With Antifa at Republican Club
    By Colin Moynihan
    Oct. 22, 2019, 12:07 p.m. ET

    Two members of the far-right group the Proud Boys were sentenced to four years in state prison on Tuesday for taking part in an attack on protesters outside a Republican club on the Upper East Side last year.

    The two defendants, Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman, were convicted in August in a Manhattan courtroom on charges of attempted gang assault, attempted assault and riot for their part in a melee in October last year.

    The clash came after an appearance by Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys at the Metropolitan Republican Club on East 83rd Street.

  53. says

    Nick Schifrin:

    BREAKING: Gen. Mazloum Kobani sent letter this morning to @VP announcing all Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters have evacuated the safe-zone, as negotiated last week in Ankara.

    And US believes it’s accurate, according to senior Administration official. Official says US is waiting to see what Turkey does inside the safe-zone. “If Turks can find any [Syrian Kurdish fighters] inside the safe zone, they’ll either let us know, or they will shoot them.” [Bear in mind that they’re claiming the only people killed in their invasion are terrorists – SC]

    But Senior Administration Official provides a stark warning to Turkey if it tries to expand beyond negotiated safe-zone: “Any Turkish kinetic operation that moves forward … will lead to us to conclude the Turks have violated our agreement, with inevitable sanctions that follow”

    … “Halt means halt. If they violate the agreement, we no longer have an agreement to lift sanctions or even freeze sanctions,” Senior Administration official warns #Turkey.

  54. says

    Great intervention:

    Caroline Lucas, Green: “I want to speak out on behalf of those who do not share this govt’s vision of a mean-minded little Britain, with our borders closed and our horizons narrowed.”

    “For those like me who are proud to stand up for the precious right to be able to work and study and live and love in 27 other countries, who celebrate the contribution made by the 3 million EU citizens in our country.”

    “For those who recognise that imperfect thought it undoubtedly is, the EU remains the greatest international venture for peace, prosperity and freedom in history.”

    Thank fuck for Caroline Lucas, man. Really.

  55. KG says

    It seems clear the junta will get the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through (this does not make it law – that’s the third reading, after possible amendments). But the junta’s programme motion, passing which would mean rushing through all subsequent stages in three days, looks very close. There is no possible reason for this other than (1) so the UK can leave the EU on October 31st, as promised by the junta, and (b) to avoid proper scrutiny. Johnson “threatens” to ditch the WAB and press for a general election if the programme motion is defeated. (A general election could be triggered by a vote of no confidence put down by someone other than Corbyn, if the Speaker allows time for it to be debated. This could see the Tories voting for it, and Labour against – in which case it would go through, as the SNP and LibDems want an election.) Any Labour MP or “Tory rebel” who votes for the programme motion will have outed themselves as a Johnson toadie. That any Labour MP could vote even for the second reading of the WAB is incredible – the Bill gives the government unfettered rights to trash workers’ rights, and it has been condemned by the TUC.

  56. says

    Another source says the sighs & gasps were in reaction to Taylor describing ‘how pervasive the efforts were to tie an investigation of Burisma and 2016 election ‘interference’ to a White House meeting and aid being released’.”

    ‘All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress — it’s not even noon, right — and this is my most disturbing day in Congress so far. Very troubling’. —Rep. Andy Levin, as he left Bill Taylor’s deposition this morning.”

  57. says

    Raf Sanchez:

    Lavrov is reading out a memorandum of understanding between Russia and Turkey now.

    Lavrov is speaking very quickly and translators are struggling but he announces that Russian and Syrian forces will make sure all YPG forces are out of the “safe zone” within 150 hours.

    After that, Turkish and Russian forces will carry out joint patrols in the area.

  58. says

    Many thanks to SC and to others who have kept this thread up to date.

    One of my brothers has stage 4 metastatic cancer. The diagnosis is “terminal.” He needs a lot of care, and I have been helping with that. I have not been able to contribute to this thread as much as I usually do.

  59. says

    A few responses to previous comments:

    In comment 492 (previous chapter of this thread), a well-spoken woman in the UK blasted the lies behind the Brexit movement. I was glad to see that SC posted a link. That woman, who is holding her young child, was so spot on.

    In comment 44, SC posted a statement from Richard Engel:

    “US officials tell me Trump wants to wash his hands of responsibility for the Kurds. The US mil/gov gave Kurds REPEATED assurances of protection. US even asked Kurds to REMOVE defenses BEFORE the Turkish offensive. Kurds complied and now being displaced. WH says not our problem.”

    Comment 63:

    Richard Engel: “The seasons change quickly here in Northern Syria. It’s now starting to get cold at night. Soon it will be very cold. Aid workers say 70,000 kids, at least, already displaced. Those parents must be thinking, ‘this is the thanks the Kurdish people got for helping America.’”

    Richard Engel is one of the most forceful, most truthful, and most effective reporters on this issue. Glad to see him featured here.

    Comment 69, from text quoted by tomh:

    […]Trump turned to Putin for guidance on the new leader of Ukraine within days of Zelensky’s election. In a May 3 call, Trump asked Putin about his impressions of Zelensky, according to a Western official familiar with the conversation. Putin said that he had not yet spoken with Zelensky but derided him as a comedian with ties to an oligarch despised by the Kremlin. […]

    Mulvaney’s involvement in approving the Orban visit was one of several instances in which he overruled national security officials, officials said. At the same time, Mulvaney also facilitated an arrangement in which Trump directed other diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, to work with Giuliani on his Ukraine agenda.

    Trump is Putin’s puppet. Trump is so easily manipulated by Putin and Orban! I’m not surprised to see that Mulvaney is following along.

  60. says

    SC @108, thanks.

    From some of the dismal news: some Trump administration officials still cannot (or will not) say that it is not right for Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate his political rivals.

    From Steve Benen:

    The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning on election security and, as the Associated Press reported, the witnesses were asked if they believe it’s inappropriate for an American president to ask a foreign government to investigate a domestic rival. The answers were encouraging — for the most part.

    House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler … was referencing a July phone call in which President Donald Trump prodded his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.

    Three officials answered that it was not appropriate to ask a foreign leader for a political investigation. [Yay! Good for them.]

    A deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s national security division, Adam Hickey, said he would not comment on the president’s activities.

    If the published witness list is correct, it means Department of Homeland Security Senior Cybersecurity Advisor Matthew Masterson, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Nikki Floris, and U.S. Election Assistance Commission Vice Chair Ben Hovland were all willing to say that an American president should not ask a foreign government to investigate a domestic rival.

    But the Justice Department’s Adam Hickey, the deputy assistant attorney general in the National Security Division, balked. He could’ve commented on the underlying principle, without commenting on Donald Trump’s actions specifically, but the DOJ official chose not to.

    William Barr’s Justice Department cannot be trusted.

    What amazes me about incidents like these is how easy the question should be to answer. Heck, even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) knows how to answer it properly.

    […] CBS News’ Margaret Brennan recently asked Cruz whether it’s appropriate for Trump to urge foreign countries to go after one of his domestic rivals. “Look, of course not,” the Texas Republican replied. “Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it’s not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections.”

    Cruz added, “Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections. That’s true for Russia. That’s true for Ukraine. That’s true for China. That’s true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections.”

    I’m not generally in the habit of singling out the junior senator from Texas as an example to follow, but there’s no reason Republicans can’t answer this simple, fundamental question the way Ted Cruz did. It should be especially easy for someone at the Justice Department to do so.

    And yet, here we are. […]


  61. tomh says

    Lynna, so sorry, best of luck to you.

    Ukraine Envoy Testifies Trump Linked Military Aid to Investigations, Lawmaker Says

    In closed-door testimony, a Democratic lawmaker said, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, drew a “direct line” between President Trump’s withholding of security aid and his demand for investigations.
    By Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos
    Oct. 22, 2019, 2:41 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON — William B. Taylor Jr., the United States’ top diplomat in Ukraine, told impeachment investigators privately on Tuesday that President Trump held up security aid for the country and refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s leader until he agreed to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

    The testimony drew what one lawmaker described as a “direct line” between American foreign policy and his own political goals. In testimony that Democrats in attendance called the most damaging account yet for the president, Mr. Taylor provided an “excruciatingly detailed” opening statement that described the quid-pro-quo pressure campaign that Mr. Trump and his allies have been denying.

    Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, who sat in on the deposition as a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said that Mr. Taylor relied in part on detailed “notes to the file” that he had made as he watched the pressure campaign unfold. His testimony shed new light on the circumstances around a previously revealed text message in which Mr. Taylor wrote to colleagues that he thought it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

    On Tuesday, Mr. Taylor directly addressed accusations surrounding Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the leading Democratic candidates for president.

    He “drew a very direct line in the series of events he described between President Trump’s decision to withhold funds and refuse a meeting with Zelensky unless there was a public pronouncement by him of investigations of Burisma and the so-called 2016 election conspiracy theories,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.
    You have 9 free articles remaining.


    Ms. Wasserman Schultz said that in addition to referencing his notes, Mr. Taylor “had very specific recall of things,” including what she said were “meetings, phone calls, what was said.”

    Several Democrats who participated in Mr. Taylor’s questioning described his testimony in terms. Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, shook his head after exiting the deposition, saying “what he said was incredibly damning to the president of the United States.”

    Ms. Wasserman Schultz called it “one of the most disturbing days” she has had in Congress, and added: “I have not seen a more credible witness than this.”

    Republicans accused Democrats of exaggerating, but they declined to share details of the testimony.

    “I don’t know that any of us, if we are being intellectually honest, are hearing revelations that we were not aware of,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina. “The bottom line is no one has yet to make the case for why the aid was withheld or even if the Ukrainians knew about it.”

    Still, by Democrats’ account, Mr. Taylor’s testimony provided the most extensive picture yet of the scope of the president’s effort to pressure Ukraine and the players who were involved in the effort on Mr. Trump’s behalf.

    “It’s like if you had a big, 1,000-piece puzzle on a table,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “This fills in a lot of pieces of the puzzle.”


    During his testimony on Tuesday, Ms. Wasserman Schultz said, Mr. Taylor provided new context for and details about the exchanges with Mr. Sondland, including a phone call that occurred after the texts.

    In his lengthy opening statement and in questioning afterward, Mr. Taylor laid out a meticulous timeline of events during his time in the administration, according to several members of Congress and a person familiar with his testimony.

    Mr. Taylor’s habit of keeping notes throughout his tenure has given the inquiry a boost, allowing him to recreate crucial conversations and moments even as the administration seeks to block Congress from reviewing documents related to its dealings with Ukraine.

    Mr. Taylor has shared his notes with the State Department but has not produced copies of them for lawmakers conducting the impeachment inquiry, a person familiar with his testimony said.

    The State Department objected to Mr. Taylor’s appearance before the committee, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry. In response, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena Tuesday morning to compel his testimony, and Mr. Taylor complied, according to the official.

  62. says

    More weirdness related to the Tulsi Gabbard saga: Trump singled her out for support yesterday. Yes, Trump sort of supports Tulsi Gabbard. He all but said so during his White House cabinet meeting, saying that she is “not a Russian agent.”

    Of course, Hillary Clinton referred to Gabbard (not by name), as an “asset” and not as an “agent.” There’s a big difference. The Russians are certainly pushing propaganda promoting Gabbard on a lot of social media platforms. (See SC’s comment 12.) The Russians think she is an asset in their campaign to defeat all Democratic Party opponents to Trump.

  63. says

    Where the fuck is Europe? Do they not think they have any responsibility or role in Syria? They’re just saying it’s OK if the genocidal Turkish regime and the criminal Russian regime take over the Kurds’ land? That a resurgent ISIS isn’t a problem?

  64. says

    A little bit of good news:

    Nearly three years into […] Trump’s aggressive efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, prices for the most popular type of health insurance plan offered through the health law’s federal marketplace will actually drop next year, and the number of insurers offering plans will go up.

    Administration officials credited Mr. Trump with the resiliency of the law even as they echoed his contempt for it. […] [Effing liars. Trump and his lackeys played no part in the law’s survival and/or resiliency.]

    The 4-percent price decline is only the second time that average monthly premiums have dropped year-to-year since the marketplace opened in 2014, and it is a sign that the health law is stabilizing after several years of turmoil caused in part by Trump.

    Quoted text is from the New York Times.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] the idea that Donald Trump, of all people, deserves credit for the ACA’s resiliency is demonstrably ridiculous. [Trump] first declared the death of the Affordable Care Act on March 17, 2017. “I also want people to know that Obamacare is dead,” he said. “It’s a dead health care plan. It’s not even a health care plan…. Obamacare is not an alternative. It’s not there. It’s dead. It’s dead. ” He hadn’t quite been in office for two months.

    [Trump] proceeded to repeat the claim obsessively for months, telling anyone who’d listen that the health care reform law is “dead.” “Gone.” “Absolutely dead.” “Finished.” A “dead carcass.”

    In the months that followed, this White House went to extraordinary lengths to sabotage the health care system, only to fail to kill its target. The ACA is persevering, but that’s happening despite Trump, not because of him. […]

    The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is still weighing a Republican lawsuit that intends to destroy the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, including the elimination of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration – which is to say, the folks who believe the president deserves credit for the law’s ability to endure – endorsed the litigation and asked courts to destroy the existing system, its protections, and its benefits.

    A ruling from the appeals court could come at any time.

    Even if the law survives the latest court challenge, there’s still the legislative threat to consider. Earlier this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that if Republicans fare well in the 2020 elections, “I can promise you … we’re going to repeal Obamacare.”

    Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed the message, emphasizing that ACA repeal remains a Republican priority.

    The fact that the health care law is working appears to be an inconvenient detail for which the party has no use.

    tomh @111, thank you!.

  65. tomh says

    Phil Mattingly

    President Trump has said McConnell told him his call with the Ukraine President was “perfect.”
    McConnell, asked about that today:
    “I don’t recall any conversation with the president on that phone call.”

  66. says

    SC @115, does anyone seriously think that the swath of Syrian land in question is not now under Russian control? Does Assad think that Russia is not the major player? Does Erdogan think that he an Putin are equal partners?

  67. says

    Nobody is backing up Trump’s claim that Saudi Arabia has “agreed to pay for the cost of those troops. They’ve agreed to pay fully for the cost of everything we’re doing over there…. Saudi Arabia is paying for 100 percent of the cost, including the cost of our soldiers. And that negotiation took a very short time – like, maybe, about 35 seconds.”

    In other words, that too may be a big fat Trump lie.

    […] To hear Trump tell it, this will be the first time in American history that U.S. troops have been deployed abroad at literally no cost to taxpayers. It led the Washington Post to wonder what in the world the president was talking about.

    White House officials would not explain what Trump meant. So, we checked with the Pentagon for more details on the supposed payment arrangement. Officials at the Defense Department deflected our inquiry. […]

    We checked with the relevant committees in the House and the Senate – Defense, Foreign Affairs and Appropriations – and none could report an understanding of the president’s claim. The Saudi Embassy did not respond with an explanation, either.

    Eventually, the State Department gave the Post a vague statement about “burden-sharing among partners,” which shed no light on whether the president’s odd claim had any bearing on reality.

    All of which suggests the Trump administration wasn’t sure how best to explain the president’s strange claim.

    I realize, of course, that “Trump peddles bizarre lie” is a routine headline, but in the not-too-distant past, an American president caught saying something untrue about U.S. troop deployments would expect to face a significant controversy. […].


  68. says

    SC @121, yep, it’s one big mind boggling mess. Turkey should be kicked out of NATO in my opinion. Assad is already whining about Russia (note that he was left out of the Big Boys meeting).

  69. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] The public declaration wasn’t just a way to get the Ukrainians to commit themselves. It was actually the “deliverable” in itself. [Sondland and Volker were trying to lock President Zelensky in to investigating with a public statement.]

    Remember, there’s really no there there in the whole Rudy/Biden thicket of conspiracy theories. Yes, Hunter Biden was a privileged son and he clearly got work to a significant extent because of his name. But there were no shakedowns or threats or firings or investigations or really anything. There’s no there there.

    So even an aggressive effort to manufacture damaging information could only be so successful. Really though that wasn’t necessary. Having the government, indeed the President of Ukraine himself, make a high profile declaration that the accusations were legitimate, that crimes were probable and that the government was launching an investigation would probably have been more than enough to fatally wound Biden’s candidacy. It certainly would have been more than enough to get pretty much the entire political press in the US to see it as a live and legitimate issue. Whether there was ever any proof of anything, whether there was even any kind of actual investigation barely matters. That was enough. Those Volker texts alone show that was the real issue. Taylor just provides more granular detail.

    Let’s also remember that it wasn’t just the Bidens. It was also probes into conspiracy theories about Ukraine and the DNC framing Russia for election interference as well as Paul Manafort. Again, as nonsensical as that was, that public declaration would be more than enough to radically shift the nature of the political debate in the US. How can you really be so sure Ukraine didn’t play some unknown role in the 2016 election or frame Russia and Trump if they’re basically saying they think they might have?

    The public declaration was if not the whole enchilada, a good 90% of the enchilada. And they almost got it.


    Yep. The public declaration was the “deliverable” Trump wanted.

  70. says

    From SC’s link in comment 124:

    […] William Taylor told Congress that Washington’s relationship with Ukraine had been undermined for “domestic political reasons,” according to an opening statement made public on Tuesday.

    “[…] in August and September of this year, I became increasingly concerned that our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons,” the statement reads.

    Taylor said in the statement that his ousted predecessor – Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch – was “treated poorly” due to “political machinations both in Kyiv and in Washington.” […]

    Taylor added concerns about “the role of Rudolph Giuliani.”

    […] That irregular channel, Taylor said, included “then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry” and Rudy Giuliani.

    “Although this irregular channel was well-connected in Washington,” Taylor wrote, it appeared to exist to circumvent the State Department.

    […] Taylor said that he began to notice many things were amiss. An attempt to arrange a meeting between Trump and Zelensky hit an unexpected roadblock. On June 27, the statement reads, Sondland told Taylor over the phone that Zelensky “needed to make clear” that he wasn’t blocking any “investigations.”

    Taylor added that in a conversation ahead of a call scheduled with President Zelensky on June 28, Volker said that he planned on being clear about “what President Zelensky should do to get the White House meeting.”

    Taylor noted that he wrote a memo on June 30, memorializing the call.

    The current chief of mission went on to say that he first heard about a delay in military aid to Ukraine on July 18, from an anonymous Office of Management and Budget official who announced the delay off-screen on a video conference call.

    “In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened,” the statement reads. “The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of longstanding U.S. policy.” […]

  71. says

    Ian Dunt – “Britain set for Article 50 extension after parliament defeats Johnson again”:

    … Either way, the battle is now on. Be under no illusions. It is a battle where critics of the deal are on the backfoot. But they now have the time to dig down into the details of the bill, with proper scrutiny, and a series of amendments from every angle.

    The prime minister now has serious problems. He is going to break his one central political commitment, from which all else flows, to leave the EU on October 31st. That could prove debilitating.

    Parliament has shown that even now, in the harshest climate, it still just about has the backbone to stand up to a bullying executive.

    Each day brings another moment of crisis. But critics of the government are clinging on.

    Much more atl.

  72. says

    A Republican elected official stays true to the assholiness of many people in his party by openly bashing gays:

    A local official in the Tennessee county of Sevier bashed openly gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg during a public meeting of the county commission on Monday night. County commissioner Warren Hurst made the offensive comments during what was scheduled to be a meeting on establishing the county seat of Sevierville as a “gun sanctuary city,” one in which gun laws would not be enforced. During this meeting, Hurst described 2020 presidential hopeful Buttigieg as a “queer running for president.” He also declared that white men in the United States are losing their rights.

    “It’s time we wake up, people, it’s time. It’s past time,” Hurst said. “We got a queer running for president in this country. If that ain’t about as ugly as you can get,” he added. “Look what we got running for president in the Democratic party. We can go over here to Hoss’s jail and get better people out of there than those running for democratic to be President of the United States.”

    Apparently the spattering of applause was enough to encourage him to continue, because continue the commissioner did. “I’m not prejudice,” he proclaimed, uttering the words of every not-prejudiced person in the world, “but by golly, a white male in this country has very few rights and they’re getting took more every day.” […]


    Ah, poor guy. He is afraid that men are losing their rights.

  73. KG says

    Lynna, OM@106,

    I’m really sorry to hear about your brother. I hope at least he is getting the best medical care.

  74. KG says


    Confirms my suspicion that the attack on Rojava was agreed with Russia beforehand. Sickening, as you say. And I’m afraid the EU will not risk offending Erdogan sufficiently for him to carry out his threat to allow the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey to leave for Europe.

  75. KG says

    So, both the Withdrawal Agreement Bill second reading (approved by 30) and the timetable motion (rejected by 14) were more decisive than I expected. What happens next is unclear, but Johnson is already seemingly rowing back from the threat that he’d pull the WAB and press for an election – which he made in a vain attempt to get the timetable motion through. The EU 27 will almost certainly grant another extension. In my view the oppostion should now launch a vote of no confidence and give Johnson the election he claims to want – but I can’t see Corbyn doing it.

  76. says

    KG @129, My brother has some hospice caregivers that come to his home. That type of care, as good as it is, is limited. The number of days per week,( and the number of hours per week), that hospice aides can be in the home with him is quite limited. (This may differ by state. I don’t know.)

    It falls to his siblings and children to be there most of the time, and to learn all about the differences between extended-release morphine, liquid morphine, other pain killers, administration of meds, etc. etc.

    Eventually, he will have to leave his home and be placed in a care facility.

    This is a man who taught me how to do hard rock mining, how to find a promising vein of rock, and how to live with integrity when dealing with other human beings. He is/was a master in the making of custom jewelry. His brain still works well, but his body is falling apart.

    I think his medical care is quite good now. Appropriate doctors, appropriate hospice nurse, etc. But it took us awhile to get there. Medicare pays for many of his expenses now that he has a terminal diagnosis, but before that thousands of dollars of expenses were racked up. You have be rich (or old and terminal) to be able to afford proper medical care in the USA.

  77. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @122:

    including the cost of our soldiers

    So, what is the going price of a US soldier? Was that negotiated in those 35 seconds?

  78. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @135: I am sorry for your brother. I lost my sister to a brain tumor in 1991 when she was 29. She only lives in my heart now, but I still wear a small diamond-stud earring that she gave me so that I will always have a piece of her with me.

    You have be rich (or old and terminal) to be able to afford proper medical care in the USA.

    And that sucks more than I can express. The “greatest country” will not take care of its people.

  79. says

    There are horrific reports of Turkish-aligned Arab militias torturing/executing innocents. US Defense Sec @EsperDoD says he holds Turkey partly responsible: ‘They would be war crimes… In many cases it would be the government of Turkey that should be held accountable for this’.”

    Video atl. And the so-called government of the US, which gave them the green light, got out of their way, and lied about and disparaged their victims while it happened.

  80. says

    Great piece by Asha Rangappa I’d missed before – “Running Covert Propaganda Against Americans Is Illegal. Trump Tried It Anyway.”:

    Each new revelation in the money-for-dirt scandal involving the White House and Ukraine appears to add another nail in the impeachment coffin. So far, however, the list of impeachable offenses has focused on whether President Donald Trump’s actions amounted to an illegal solicitation of foreign election interference, or more simply, a broader abuse of his power to secure a personal benefit.

    While both of these are important (and impeachable), it’s critical that we not overlook the bigger purpose behind the president’s actions: The White House was attempting to employ an illegal, covert propaganda operation against the American public.

    This is explicitly against the law. The 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act prohibits the U.S. government from using covert actions — which include propaganda — to “influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”

    As a former FBI counterintelligence agent, I know about propaganda operations because I investigated them. Most of my cases involved foreign “perception management” campaigns — covert activities designed to influence the attitudes and opinions of the American public toward particular issues that would benefit the intelligence service’s host country.

    These activities pose a national security threat because, in an open society and a free marketplace of ideas, it is essential that people know the true source of information in order to assess credibility and critically evaluate its content — especially when they are exercising fundamental rights, like voting, based on it. Russia’s perception management campaign in the 2016 election is what led special counsel Robert Mueller to indict 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for spreading misinformation on social media while posing as American groups and citizens.

    The Ukraine saga shows how these tactics have been adopted by the Trump administration….

    The conditions do not merely involve a promise by Zelensky to open and pursue an investigation into the Bidens (which could be done quietly); rather, they convey to him that he must make a “public announcement” about these investigations in order to get a meeting with Trump. In other words, the administration’s focus wasn’t simply that Ukraine investigate Biden — it was that Ukraine publicly broadcast it would be conducting an investigation.

    The focus on the messaging about the investigation, rather than on the substantive investigation per se, indicates that the Trump administration was interested in shaping public perception — specifically that of American voters….

    The most important feature of the back and forth between the State Department and Ukraine is their insistence that the public announcement comes from Ukraine alone….

    Black propaganda attempts to conceal the true source of information so that the target (in this case, the American public) cannot accurately assess the credibility of the message or the motives of the source behind it. By having the information emanate from a separate and more credible outlet, the target audience is more likely to believe it.

    A unilateral statement from Zelensky would manipulate the American public into believing that Ukraine had independently reached the conclusion that there was a basis to investigate the Bidens and the origins of the 2016 U.S. election interference. By cloaking his own role and motives behind the statement of a foreign country, Trump could corroborate his own claims and have “proof” that his views were not politically motivated, but instead grounded in real facts.

    In short, the Trump administration was using a propaganda technique to covertly plant credible seeds of doubt about a political opponent and the Russia investigation in anticipation of the 2020 election so he could capitalize on it.

    The good news is that propaganda is neutralized by one thing: exposure.

    The whistleblower who brought to light the machinations of the White House and its State Department enablers not only started the ball rolling on impeachment, but stopped a covert psychological operation against the American public dead in its tracks.

    And now there’s much more in the Taylor testimony about the tailoring of the propaganda message.

  81. says

    Thread on Taylor’s prepared statement:

    …19/ This is as damning as it gets, and Taylor recorded everything, as a good bureaucrat does. I don’t see any possible wriggle room for Trump defenders here. This is a highly persuasive, exhaustively documented account of abuse of power from an unimpeachably credible source.

    20/ If I were reading this years later, as a historian poring through the archives, this would read like a textbook conspiracy to undermine existing US policy in the service of a covert domestic political agenda, undertaken on a shadow policy track. Wow. Wow. Wow. END

  82. says

    Josh Marshall: “Depth of the debt the USA owes to this still unnamed whistleblower is almost unfathomable. A broad criminal conspiracy, a plot against a second presidential election, gross abuses of power. Apparently we never wld have learned of any of it if not for this single person.”

  83. says

    Taylor writes that he asked Sondland in that Sept. 1 call to push back on Trump, and Sondland said he would try. ‘We also discussed the possibility that the Ukrainian pros. general ..would make a statement about investigations..potentially i in coordination’ with Barr probe into investigation of interference in the 2016 elections.”

    Also – MoJo – “New Evidence Hints at Another Justice Department Coverup”:

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released evidence on Tuesday that the Justice Department buried the whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president by failing to refer the matter to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Klobuchar suggested the Justice Department violated a longstanding agreement between the agencies to share information about possible campaign finance violations for potential enforcement action.

    In August, Justice Department officials decided that rather than turn the whistleblower complaint over to Congress, department lawyers would assess the allegations against Trump, including evidence that the president had broken campaign finance law. After what news reports described as a cursory review, the department declined to launch a criminal investigation, finding that Trump had not asked for a “thing of value.” This was a stretch; campaign finance experts generally agree that opposition research damaging to an opponent, which campaigns can pay a lot of money for, is clearly valuable. The FEC also considers it a “thing of value.” Nevertheless, the department lawyers declared the matter case closed.

    But under a 1978 memorandum of understanding between the department and the FEC—which, like Justice is authorized to penalize campaign finance violations—the complaint should have been passed onto the FEC even if the department declined to launch a criminal investigation, so the election watchdog can determine whether a civil penalty is called for.

    Earlier this month, Klobuchar set out to uncover whether the Justice Department had honored this agreement, sending two letters to the FEC inquiring whether it had received any such referral. On October 18, the commission’s Democratic chair, Ellen Weintraub, confirmed to Klobuchar that the FEC had not been notified. “The refusal to inform the FEC and refer the matter regarding the President’s call to the FEC as required to do, as the Justice Department is required, undermines our campaign finance system and is unacceptable in a democracy,” Klobuchar said in Tuesday statement.

    What’s unclear so far is why no such referral was made. Either the Justice Department dropped the ball, or Klobuchar has helped discover another avenue in the administration’s sprawling coverup.

  84. says

    Richard Engel: “Putin became the kingmaker in Syria today as he and Erdogan carved up the Kurd’s homeland. Geopolitically, it’s a win for Russia. On a human level, the Kurds think it’s a catastrophe. Their fate is now the hands of Putin, Erdogan and Assad – and they don’t trust any of them.”

  85. says

    BuzzFeed – “Federal Investigators Are Probing Suspicious Financial Transactions By Two Giuliani Associates Who Ran A Back-Channel Campaign”:

    A federal grand jury investigating activities surrounding Rudy Giuliani’s back-channel campaign in Ukraine has demanded legal documents that include records of extravagant spending at Trump hotels and millions of dollars in financial transfers by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two key operatives who carried out the plan, according to a source familiar with the demand.

    The documents requested by a subpoena that was issued in Florida last week could shed light on whether other people, including foreign nationals, were trying to influence the top levels of government and impact the 2020 presidential campaign.

    The subpoena also shows the investigation has extended beyond campaign finance violations — the current charges against two of the defendants in the shadow campaign — and may examine more serious financial crimes.

    The documents in question, some of which were previously obtained by BuzzFeed News, show dozens of transfers totaling more than $3 million into accounts belonging to Parnas last year as he and his business partner Fruman jetted into Ukraine and other countries in search of damaging information on Joe Biden.

    The demand for the documents comes after at least one US bank raised concerns about a series of suspicious transactions in Parnas’s accounts, which had hallmark signs of money laundering and fraud, according to two senior law enforcement officers.

    Among the suspicious transactions is one for more than $250,000 — money that arrived, late last year, as the two business partners were setting the groundwork for the plan in Ukraine and launching a marijuana venture, according to court records and the law enforcement officers.

    Ken McCallion, a former New York federal prosecutor who spoke earlier this year with FBI agents working on the case, said investigators are steeped in a financial probe that will require an examination of money wires from multiple banks. “You follow the money to find the people financing the campaign,” said McCallion, who once represented the former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a civil lawsuit against Donald Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort.

    Month after month, the partners’ business accounts took in money — dozens of transfers ranging from a few thousand dollars to $1.26 million — mostly in large, round numbers.

    While dollars were flowing into the accounts, the men were spending tens of thousands on travel and entertainment as they carried out their campaign and set up their marijuana enterprise, according to the records turned over to federal prosecutors last week.

    McCallion said he learned from his contacts in Ukraine that “Parnas and Fruman were throwing around a lot of money. It’s very conspicuous spending.” He said the agents he spoke with earlier this year were conducting a counterintelligence investigation into whether foreign money was paying for their activities. They “want to know who is bidding for the services of Parnas and Fruman and Giuliani,” he said….

  86. says

    Sen. Schumer:

    I just took to the floor to demand again that the Senate, Republicans & Democrats, pass the bipartisan resolution opposing President Trump’s actions in Syria

    Because when Republican Senators protest what the president has done, he sometimes acts

    But Senator @RandPaul objected.

  87. says

    CNN – “McConnell introduces resolution opposing US withdrawal from Syria”:

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republican senators introduced a resolution Tuesday in opposition to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, warning that his decision has benefited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, Russia and Iran.

    “If not arrested, withdrawing from Syria will invite more of the chaos that breeds terrorism and creates a vacuum our adversaries will certainly fill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

    McConnell said if the President doesn’t halt the withdrawal, Russia “will gain more leverage” in the Middle East, Iran-backed forces could gain greater access to a “strategic corridor that runs all the way from Tehran to the very doorstep of Israel” and the Assad regime will be invited to “reassert its oppressive control” over northeastern Syria.

    He also urged Trump to rescind his invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House until a “more enduring cease-fire” is struck between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

    The measure tries to tie the hands of the commander-in-chief by requiring the President to report to Congress that ISIS and al Qaeda have been defeated “before initiating any further significant withdrawal” of US troops from the region.

    McConnell did not say when the Senate would take up the resolution.

    Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said Congress “didn’t have an opportunity” to work out its disagreements with the administration before the president made his decision.

    “Congress has a voice,” said Burr, a Republican from North Carolina. “And now is the time … to exercise it.”

    But there’s disagreements in Congress over how to try to pressure the administration and Turkey to reverse their moves.

    While McConnell has strongly condemned Turkey’s incursion into Syria, he urged Congress on Tuesday to consider the repercussions of punishing a NATO ally in the same way the US punishes “rogue states.” He cautioned his colleagues to evaluate whether the sanctions would also hurt US companies or its allies.

    The strongest proponents of sanctioning Turkey objected to McConnell’s comments.

    Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, said that a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds will soon end and warned that Erdogan “has said he will resume the slaughter of our allies, the Syrian Kurds, and will engage in ethnic cleansing.”

    “This is no time for dithering,” said Van Hollen. “We need to impose bipartisan sanctions now.”

  88. says

    A few thoughts:

    First, it’s interesting that they planned to coerce Zelenskyy into announcing the bogus investigation on CNN. They recognized that Fox wasn’t useful for this aspect of the covert propaganda operation, and knew that a CNN interview would be seen as more legitimate.

    Second, it’s very hard to believe that the whole scheme went on all these months without the knowing involvement of Fox or at least some Fox personnel.

    Third, I don’t understand how it’s possible that Barr hasn’t been compelled to recuse himself from these matters. Do the DoJ ethics people do anything at all?

  89. says

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

    The EU looks poised to give an extension until January 31st. The first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, just gave a press conference. From Peter Walker’s tweets linked at the liveblog:

    …Sturgeon says Johnson’s deal is not the solution even if passed, and she wants an extension long enough for an election.

    Both Sturgeon and Drakeford note that the UK govt asked Scottish and Welsh devolved assemblies for consent on the Brexit deal – and that both are withholding this. This remains a difficult narrative for Boris Johnson given his talk about Brexit benefitting the union.

    Mark Drakeford notes that Welsh ports and businesses will be “at the front line” of a new customs border with Northern Ireland, and that increased regulations will hamper this. It was “a huge breach of trust” by Johnson, he says.

    Nicola Sturgeon, answering questions, refuses to say yet if or when SNP MPs will vote for a general election. But says she finds it hard to see a route to a second referendum except via a general election first.

    Sturgeon, answering another question, says that while Johnson “is a prime minister not to be trusted”, if an extension is “nailed down” she would support a general election.

  90. says

    Moscow Times (Reuters) – “Kremlin Says U.S. Betrayed Kurds in Syria, Tells Kurds to Withdraw or Be Mauled”:

    The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised the Kurds to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army.

    The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russian news agencies followed a deal agreed on Tuesday between Russia and Turkey that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria to remove Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey.

    Peskov, who was reported to be reacting to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, complained that it appeared that the United States was encouraging the Kurds to stay close to the Syrian border and fight the Turkish army.

    “The United States has been the Kurds’ closest ally in recent years. (But) in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them,” Peskov was cited as saying.

    “Now they (the Americans) prefer to leave the Kurds at the border (with Turkey) and almost force them to fight the Turks.”

    If the Kurds did not withdraw as per the deal between Moscow and Ankara, Peskov said that Syrian borders guards and Russian military police would have to withdraw, leaving the Kurds to be dealt with by the Turkish army.

    So many people and governments to despise in this scenario.

  91. says

    Rachel Maddow – “Trump reaches end of legal rope on ‘executive immunity’ excuse”:

    Rachel Maddow alerts viewers that Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET, Donald Trump’s lawyers will appeal federal ruling that Trump’s claims of executive immunity are “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure,” in a case that could not only expose Trump’s taxes, but could expose Trump himself to criminal scrutiny.

    CNN – “Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine policy set to appear before impeachment inquiry”:

    A top Pentagon career official overseeing Ukraine policy is due to testify before the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, an appearance that takes place amid intense scrutiny over whether the White House sought to freeze military aid to Ukraine as part of an effort to pressure Kiev to investigate President Donald Trump’s political rivals.

    Laura Cooper — the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia — is set to appear even though the Defense Department told Congress that it would not comply with a House subpoena to provide documents related to the freezing of US security aid to Ukraine.

    Cooper is currently believed to be voluntarily appearing before the three House committees leading the Democratic impeachment inquiry and the Pentagon has not yet sought to block her testimony. She will be accompanied by a personal lawyer, according to defense officials.

    She has been a vocal advocate for US support for Ukraine in the face of what she called the “threat from Russia,” telling an audience during a 2018 visit there that “going forward, the US intends to continue providing security assistance support to Ukraine across all domains, including maritime, by providing equipment to support its most critical operational needs.”…

    Also today, House Oversight hearing “The Trump Administration’s Syria Policy: Perspectives from the Field”:

    The hearing will examine President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria and the resulting consequences for U.S. national security. The hearing will also address the humanitarian crisis resulting from Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

    One of the witnesses is SDC Co-President Ilham Ahmed. The hearing is at 2 PM ET.

  92. says

    The Hill – “Trump hotel cancels Christian aid group’s event to support the Kurds: report”:

    A prayer event for the Kurdish people that was scheduled for this week at President Trump’s hotel in D.C. was abruptly canceled, The Washington Post reported.

    The event, dubbed “A Night of Prayer for the Kurds,” was planned by Frontier Alliance International (FAI), a nonprofit Christian organization that provides medical aid in the Middle East.

    FAI’s administrator, Charlene Struebing, said hotel staff had expressed “security concerns.”

    “They said they’ve gotten a lot of security concerns and they couldn’t accommodate enough security,” Struebing told the Post. “I think it’s more related to people protesting our event than it was anything we were doing.”

    However, a D.C. police spokeswoman told the newspaper that it had not “received any information regarding potential security threats or concerns with this event.”…

  93. says

    SwissInfo – “Syrian Kurd sets himself on fire outside UNHCR in Geneva”:

    A man set himself on fire outside the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday morning. The Syrian Kurd from Germany was transported by helicopter to a local hospital.

    The man reportedly covered himself in petrol and set light to himself outside the UNHCR headquarters building.

    “He is a Syrian Kurd, born in 1988 and a resident in Germany,” Geneva police spokesperson Silvain Guillaume-Gentil told 20 Minutes.

    The emergency services were quickly on the spot and reportedly managed to save his life. The online site said he was then quickly transported by helicopter from the Place des Nations square in front of the UN headquarters to Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), which specialises in the treatment of burns.

    The man had set light to himself and then tried to enter the UNHCR building but security officers and medical services intervened, and the fire was extinguished, Mahecic said. The UNHCR headquarters is situated opposite a collective shelter for asylum-seekers, including Syrian Kurds.

    According to the UN, more than 176,000 Kurds have fled their homes since Turkey launched its cross-border offensive. Some 80,000 children alone have been uprooted, UN officials said on Tuesday.

    Demonstrations against the offensive have taken place in the cities of Geneva, Bern, Zurich and Lucerne in the last couple of weeks.

  94. says

    “Syrian Kurd sets himself on fire outside UNHCR in Geneva”:

    A man set himself on fire outside the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday morning. The Syrian Kurd from Germany was transported by helicopter to a local hospital.

    The man reportedly covered himself in petrol and set light to himself outside the UNHCR headquarters building.

    “He is a Syrian Kurd, born in 1988 and a resident in Germany,” Geneva police spokesperson Silvain Guillaume-Gentil told 20 Minutes.

    The emergency services were quickly on the spot and reportedly managed to save his life. The online site said he was then quickly transported by helicopter from the Place des Nations square in front of the UN headquarters to Lausanne University Hospital…, which specialises in the treatment of burns.

    The man had set light to himself and then tried to enter the UNHCR building but security officers and medical services intervened, and the fire was extinguished, Mahecic said. The UNHCR headquarters is situated opposite a collective shelter for asylum-seekers, including Syrian Kurds.

    According to the UN, more than 176,000 Kurds have fled their homes since Turkey launched its cross-border offensive. Some 80,000 children alone have been uprooted, UN officials said on Tuesday.

    Demonstrations against the offensive have taken place in the cities of Geneva, Bern, Zurich and Lucerne in the last couple of weeks.

  95. says

    “Syrian Kurd sets himself on fire outside UNHCR in Geneva”:

    A man set himself on fire outside the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday morning. The Syrian Kurd from Germany was transported by helicopter to a local hospital.

    The man reportedly covered himself in petrol and set light to himself outside the UNHCR headquarters building.

    The emergency services were quickly on the spot and reportedly managed to save his life. The online site said he was then quickly transported by helicopter from the Place des Nations square in front of the UN headquarters to Lausanne University Hospital…, which specialises in the treatment of burns.

    The man had set light to himself and then tried to enter the UNHCR building but security officers and medical services intervened, and the fire was extinguished, Mahecic said. The UNHCR headquarters is situated opposite a collective shelter for asylum-seekers, including Syrian Kurds.

    According to the UN, more than 176,000 Kurds have fled their homes since Turkey launched its cross-border offensive. Some 80,000 children alone have been uprooted, UN officials said on Tuesday.

    Demonstrations against the offensive have taken place in the cities of Geneva, Bern, Zurich and Lucerne in the last couple of weeks.

  96. Saad says

    Elie Honig: “When a trial witness gives testimony like Bill Taylor gave today, that’s usually when the defense lawyer sidles over at a break and asks if there’s any plea offer still on the table.”

    If only this was a trial in a court.

  97. says

    Guardian – “Driver arrested after 39 bodies found in lorry container in Essex”:

    A murder investigation has been launched after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry from Bulgaria on an industrial estate in Essex.

    A 25-year-old driver, from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

    The victims, found at the Waterglade industrial park in Grays, were all adults apart from one teenager, Essex police said.

    The force said the lorry was believed to be from Bulgaria but entered the country in Holyhead, the Welsh port town that serves Ireland.

    The home secretary, Priti Patel, said Home Office immigration officials were working closely with the police to establish what happened, while the National Crime Agency (NCA), which has a remit to investigate organised immigration crime as well as human trafficking, said it was looking into whether organised crime groups might have played a role in the tragedy….

  98. says

    Neera Tanden:

    I skimmed the testimony of Ambassador Taylor earlier today; but I just read it word for word and honestly, I hope every American reads it. Chilling how Trump was willing to let Ukrainian soldiers die without US arms they were relying on in order to extort political retaliation.

    The testimony tells a story of base criminality. And that criminality should make every American shudder. You normalize this behavior, and we don’t have a democracy anymore; we end up with a corrupt kleptocracy.

    Ambassador Taylor describes going to the frontlines of the conflict and seeing Ukrainian soldiers who didn’t have the weapons that they were promised, as they faced Russian soldiers. Trump didn’t just turn his back on the Kurds.

  99. says

    MSNBC is already altering people to Trump’s speech about Syria. I suspect they and CNN will air it live, despite the fact that it will be a cavalcade of dangerous lies and Putinesque propaganda.

    Jim Jeffrey is scheduled to testify in the House at 10, Laura Cooper will testify in the impeachment inquiry this morning, the appeals hearing on Trump’s claims to be above the law begins at 10, and Ilham Ahmed and others will appear at House Oversight at 2. They should cover that.

  100. says

    Brett McGurk:

    Under the Putin-Erdogan deal, the Syrian regime will take control of the main border crossings with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region at Fishkabour and Rabiya. The president seems not to realize the extent to which the entire position in NE Syria has unraveled.

    Putin and Erdogan want us out. That’s been their plan for some time. What they agreed to yesterday makes it very difficult to realistically maintain a US presence, let alone one that might meaningfully impact the situation on the ground in Syria or against ISIS.

    How would a small residual US force be sustained without land supply? Extremely difficult and high risk. In military affairs, you don’t preserve options after making a catastrophic decision without thought or preparation. You foreclose them, as last three weeks demonstrate.

  101. tomh says

    Justice Dept. Sues California to Stop Climate Initiative From Extending to Canada
    By Katie Benner and Lisa Friedman
    Oct. 23, 2019
    Updated 11:26 a.m. ET

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued California on Wednesday over the state’s carbon dioxide and greenhouse-gas reduction program, claiming that California officials overstepped their authority by entering into what is essentially an international agreement because one of the participants is in Canada.

    In a lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of California, the Justice Department said that the regional system created by California’s air resources board, which caps planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions but lets corporations trade emissions credits within that cap, was unlawful because it included Quebec, Canada. The Justice Department cited the constitutional prohibition on states making their own treaties or agreements with foreign governments.

    “The state of California has veered outside of its proper constitutional lane to enter into an international emissions agreement,” Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.

    “The power to enter into such agreements is reserved to the federal government, which must be able to speak with one voice in the area of U.S. foreign policy,” Mr. Clark said.

    The suit is the Trump administration’s latest salvo in its battle with California over whether the state can set its own environmental policies. If it is successful, the lawsuit will also cut at the heart of California’s ability to curb planet warming emissions at a time when the Trump administration has vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change and is rolling back former President Barack Obama’s efforts to curb fossil-fuel pollution.

    President Trump also has targeted California through the Environmental Protection Agency, which threatened to withhold highway funding from the state because of what it said was its inaction on decades-old state Clean Air Act plans. The agency also warned California that the state is failing to meet federal water quality standards in a letter that E.P.A.’s own officials said bypassed the regional experts based in San Francisco and was filled with exaggerations.

    Earlier this year the Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into the deal that California struck with several carmakers to reduce auto emissions, and the Trump administration argued that California should not be allowed to set its own vehicle admissions standards at all. In a recent letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, the federal government said that the state may have violated clean water laws.

    Mr. Clark said that California’s cap-and-trade agreement — a regional carbon trading system called the Western Climate Initiative — “undermines the President’s ability to negotiate competitive agreements with other nations, as the President sees fit.”

    The Western Climate Initiative — whose board includes representatives from California, Quebec and Nova Scotia, another Canadian province — is also a defendant in the lawsuit. The state of Oregon recently passed legislation that would allow it to link into the Western Climate Initiative’s cap-and-trade system. A similar cap-and-trade system, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, covers power-plant emissions in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, but does not stray beyond the borders of the United States.

    California officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

  102. says

    Trump says General Mazloum, SDF commander, told him that ISIS is under strict lock & key. Adds that some of the ISIS fighters who escaped have been recaptured.

    Meanwhile US Syria Envoy Jeffrey telling congress that 100+ ISIS fighters escaped & ‘we do not know where they are’.”

    But the media is covering Trump’s delusional lies and not Jeffrey’s testimony under oath.

  103. says

    Reuters – “Iraq says it is taking ‘measures’ over entry of U.S. forces from Syria”:

    Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday said Baghdad is taking “all international legal measures” over the entry of U.S. troops from neighboring Syria, in an apparent attempt to assert his government’s opposition to the arrival of the American forces.

    In a statement, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi reiterated his government’s position that U.S. troops pulling out of northeast Syria and moving into Iraq were not allowed to remain in his country….

  104. says

    Adam Klasfeld:

    Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman just pleaded not guilty.

    Prosecutor said there are subpoenas for **50** bank accounts.

    Parnas attorney said there may be concerns about executive privilege due to relationship with Giuliani.

    More soon, @CourthouseNews.

    To be clear, Parnas’ attorney recognized he personally couldn’t assert executive privilege but claimed that it might be implicated.

    Rudy Giuliani does not work for the fucking government.

  105. quotetheunquote says

    @SC #158

    Normally, I would be ashamed of myself for having thoughts like this, but… that headline just gave me a happy moment: imagining Hair Furor at the end of a rope…

  106. says

    quotetheunquote @ #189, Lynna has said that she doesn’t want suggestions of violence on this thread.

    Hopefully he is reaching the end of his legal rope. His lawyers’ arguments are shameful and preposterous.

  107. says

    Amb Jeffrey claims they had written commitments from Turkey that they would not do ethnic cleansing & says that since 20% of Turkish population is Kurdish and serve in army, they would not do ethnic cleansing.

    Did he not see what happened in Afrin? Is he blind?”

  108. says

    Mieke Eoyang:

    A few words on why Gaetz stunt to storm the SCIF to disrupt Laura Cooper’s deposition is a VERY serious national security problem.

    Note, I worked in that SCIF for HPSCI and handled cybersecurity issues while there.

    So, to recap:

    To disrupt testimony from a DOD official on how the President endangered national security for both the US and Ukraine by withholding military aid, the President’s allies further endangered national security by storming the SCIF with their electronic devices.

  109. says

    Also, on the Republican SCIF stunt delaying Laura Cooper’s testimony: the other interviews this week have been postponed due to memorial services for their own colleague, Elijah Cummings. What a disgusting display of disrespect.

  110. tomh says

    @ #174
    It’s going to the Supreme Court for sure, the 3 judge panel even said so. Now we’ll find out if the Trump appointees/McConnell shenanigans are going to pay off for Trump.

  111. says

    Law.com – “New York City Bar Calls for US AG William Barr’s Recusal in Ukraine Matter”:

    The New York City Bar Association in a statement Wednesday called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to stand aside in any ongoing or future review by the Department of Justice of issues stemming from the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, in which Barr has allegedly involved.

    If Barr does not recuse himself, the bar association’s statement said, “he should resign or, failing that, be subject to sanctions, including possible removal, by Congress.”

    A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment on the demand.

    The New York City Bar’s statement said that Barr has been mentioned, most notably, in a whistleblower report of a July 25, 2019 telephone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky….

    The bar association took no position on the legality of the phone call or merits of the whistleblower’s complaint. But it said the mention of Barr’s name was enough to require his recusal from the probe.

    “We do, however, believe it was, and is, incumbent on the Attorney General to recuse himself from any participation, direct or indirect, in DOJ’s review of the whistleblower complaint,” the New York City Bar statement said….

    The statement noted that Barr himself has recused in two instances–one in 1993 during his term as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration and the other earlier this year in the matter of Jeffrey Epstein–and that the step is not rare.

  112. says

    Also re #194 – They pulled this sorry stunt while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Maryland delivering the eulogy at her brother’s funeral. They ordered pizza for themselves. Layers of vileness.

  113. says

    Politico – “Nunes protégé fed Ukraine info to Trump”:

    A protégé of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes was among those passing negative information about Ukraine to President Donald Trump earlier this year, fueling the president’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.

    Kashyap Patel, a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February, was so involved in the issue that at one point Trump thought he was in charge of Ukraine policy for the National Security Council, according to congressional testimony by Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs whose portfolio included Ukraine.

    Hill’s testimony was described to POLITICO by a person with direct knowledge of her recent deposition, and who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closed-door hearing. Hill declined to comment.

    The official who replaced Hill in early September, Tim Morrison, formally held the Ukraine portfolio at the NSC. Testimony before House lawmakers has depicted Morrison, a Bolton acolyte, as similarly unnerved by Trump’s desire to withhold all assistance from Ukraine. Morrison also kept the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, abreast of developments inside the White House.

    But Patel’s involvement demonstrates that the president had at least some support for the scheme from within the NSC, and has given House impeachment investigators yet another name to add to their witness list—a name they are already familiar with, given Patel’s previous work in Congress to discredit the Russia investigation.

    Patel joined the National Security Council’s International Organizations and Alliances directorate in February and was promoted to a senior counterterrorism role around the same time as Trump’s fateful call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he urged the newly elected leader to investigate Biden and “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

    The type of Ukraine work Patel was doing that Hill described would not be within his purview as a senior counterterrorism adviser, said Joshua Geltzer, who held Patel’s position early on in the Trump administration.

    “If true, this sort of activity seems wildly outside the scope of anything a counterterrorism senior director at NSC should be spending their time on,” Geltzer said. “What’s more, it politicizes a piece of the NSC staff that administrations of both parties have worked for decades to keep as apolitical as possible.”

    Patel’s name has been brought up in several recent depositions, according to another person with direct knowledge of the interviews, in connection with the shadow foreign policy campaign Trump allegedly directed in an effort to extract political favors from the newly elected Zelensky.

    Democrats have been especially interested in Patel’s role in the Ukraine scandal given his intensive work as Nunes’ top staffer on the House Intelligence Committee to discredit the FBI and DOJ officials investigating Russia’s election interference.

    Patel’s ascension to the NSC staff earlier this year—and particularly his promotion to a senior counterterrorism role that was created for him within the directorate, according to a former official familiar with the matter—raised eyebrows among some in the NSC who didn’t believe he was experienced enough for the role, despite a two-year stint from 2014-2016 as a counterterrorism prosecutor at the Justice Department.

    His “unique access” to the West Wing, and the ease with which he has been able to interact directly with the president without NSC leadership’s involvement, has also struck some as unusual, the former official said.

    More atl.

  114. says

    NEW: Trump had advance knowledge and supported a protest by Republicans who told him they planned to barge into a secure hearing room on Capitol Hill where Democrats are holding impeachment testimonies, according to four people familiar with the matter.”

  115. says

    Trump just tweeted about the Never-Trump Republicans, calling them “dangerous” for the country, telling people to “watch out for them,” and calling them “human scum.” It’s meant to menace and incite.

  116. says

    @RepStephenLynch ‘We are honored to be joined today by @ilham_ehmed executive president of the SDC. Miss Ahmed has been part of Kurdish struggle for freedom and democracy since 1990s with a particular focus on women rights’.

    @RepStephenLynch ‘She is joined today by a translator mr @mutludc. Miss Ahmed, I would like to thank you for being here and for your sacrifice (s) on behalf of the international community in fight against ISIS’.”

    She’s describing how the Kurds were misled by Trump. They were still fighting ISIS when Turkey attacked. ISIS-aligned groups are being backed by Turkey. Pose great danger to US. She’s showing photos, which will be entered into the record. Mutlu Civiroglu, who’s translating for her, is emotional describing the contents of the photos. Now a US soldier is talking about his experience in the Special Forces working with the Kurds.

  117. says

    NEWS: The Pentagon sought to block Laura Cooper from appearing for her deposition today, prompting House Intel to issue a subpoena, per an official. She is complying with the subpoena.

    Deposition started just after 3pm.”

  118. says

    CNN – “Judge orders State Department to release Ukraine records in 30 days”:

    A federal judge Wednesday gave the State Department 30 days to release Ukraine-related records, including communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

    In response to an emergency motion from the watchdog group American Oversight, Judge Christopher Cooper ordered lawyers for the group and the State Department to come together to narrow the scope of the documents in the request — eliminating those that would likely be exempt from release — and produce documents in the next 30 days.

    Cooper said that he could not think of a third party exemption that would prevent the release of correspondence between Giuliani and top State Department officials regarding Ukraine.

    “The judge zeroed in on communications with Rudy Giuliani to be most subject to public disclosure. Why? Because he doesn’t work for the government,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers told reporters after the hearing….

  119. says

    Sen Van Hollen:

    My final question to Trump’s special envoy for Syria: Is it your view that the Putin-Erdogan deal serves American national security interests? His answer?

    “I am personally skeptical.”

    My full questioning:…

    7.5-minute video atl.

  120. tomh says

    An overlooked consequence of the Supreme Court’s gerrymandering rulings: Stricter abortion laws
    By Reis Thebault
    Oct. 22, 2019 at 4:57 p.m. PDT

    For the next two months, petitioners will swarm Michigan ahead of late-December deadlines. They’ll knock on doors, flock to fairs and hand out pamphlets after church. Every day will be valuable, and every signature will get them a little bit closer to their goal: making it harder for women to get abortions in their home state.

    If the volunteer fleet is successful, Michigan will join the list of states that have tightened restrictions on abortion rights this year. But, unlike those other states, which have overwhelmingly conservative governments, Michigan could pass antiabortion laws without the governor’s approval and without the support of a majority of voters.

    If that happens, the legion of petitioners won’t be the only reason. Abortion rights advocates could also point the finger at a familiar specter: gerrymandering.

    In Michigan, as elsewhere, the sparring over access to abortion spans local politics, the state judiciary and federal courts. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court gave Republicans a victory when it threw out a lower court’s ruling that the state’s political district maps were illegally gerrymandered — reaffirming the high court’s stance that federal judges have no power to stop partisan gerrymandering.

    At the same time, Michigan’s recently elected Democratic governor has promised to veto antiabortion bills passed in the GOP-dominated House and Senate.

    However, an obscure but long-standing provision in the state constitution gives the state’s citizens the chance to work hand-in-hand with the legislature to pass bills that are exempt from a governor’s veto or a popular vote.

    That provision, known as the indirect initiative process, gives antiabortion groups a way to push for new bans on the procedure, and it puts ultimate power back in the hands of Republican lawmakers, who critics say are not representative of the state’s current, mostly Democratic electorate. Under the process, petitioners who collect a certain number of signatures from voters could force the passage of a law with a simple majority vote in the statehouse.

    “It’s clever but it’s deeply undemocratic,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, the University of Chicago law professor who created the efficiency gap, a method for measuring partisan gerrymandering. “Through this loophole, they’re still able to pass laws as though the gubernatorial election never happened.”

    Gerrymandering, in others words, can have an even more profound effect in Michigan.

    It’s happening elsewhere, too. The age-old practice of hyperpartisan redistricting, experts say, has led to more-extreme laws countrywide — none more visible this year than those dealing with abortion. In 2019, 12 largely conservative states have restricted access to abortions, while six liberal states have expanded or protected such access.

    But to really grasp the impact that gerrymandering has had on abortion laws, you have to look back to 2010, said Dan Vicuña, the national redistricting manager at voting rights watchdog group Common Cause. That election year, Republicans set out to win control of as many statehouses as possible, which gave them power to redraw state and congressional districts after the census.

    “That effort succeeded beyond their wildest dreams,” Vicuña said. “Republicans took over tons of state legislatures, and they were interested in gerrymandering.”

    Since then, he said, it’s no surprise that the number of abortion bans passed at the state level has exploded.

    From 1973 through 2010, states passed nine laws seeking to ban abortion outright or to prevent it after a certain point of pregnancy, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research and advocacy organization. But from 2011 to today, that number has nearly tripled. States have passed more abortion bans in 2019 alone than in the nearly 40 years before the 2010 election.

    “They will take the power they have and use it,” said Michelle Kuppersmith, the director of the abortion rights advocacy group Equity Forward. “They’re good at this. … They have an advantage in the gerrymandered legislatures and they’re using it.”

    Of the dozen states to enact stricter abortion laws this year, at least half have districts that skew unfairly in Republicans’ favor, according to PlanScore, a nonpartisan mapping tool Stephanopoulos helped develop. PlanScore compares the numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the states and determines which states have legislatures that are unrepresentative of their electorates.

    Of the six states to protect abortion rights, Vermont is the only one with a map that PlanScore says skews Democratic. Illinois, where Republicans have for years argued that districts are stacked against them, also passed protections for the procedure.

    For Michigan, Stephanopoulos says his research shows Republicans have enjoyed a particularly profound advantage. Democrats consistently win the majority of the statewide vote but lose the legislature. He says it’s happened in every election since the state’s Republican governor approved the Republican-backed redistricting plan in 2011.

    “Michigan is awful,” he said. “It’s one of the handful of the most gerrymandered legislatures in the country.”

    It happened again in 2018, when Democratic candidates won 54 percent of votes statewide but still ended up as a minority in the Michigan House — making it the only state in the country with both an “anti-majoritarian” legislature and an indirect initiative law, an analysis from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project showed.

    Now antiabortion groups are on the verge of resurrecting two bills that passed in the House and Senate but stalled when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) threatened to veto them. If the groups’ dual petition drives are successful, those bills — bans on the dilation-and-evacuation procedure and on abortion after six weeks — would become law after legislators pass them with a simple majority.

    The six-week ban, backed by the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition, is similar to others championed by conservatives in Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky and elsewhere, and would ban the procedure before some women even know they’re pregnant. Courts have agreed that such bans are unconstitutional, and abortion rights advocates have called the effort a coordinated plot to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions nationwide.

    Representatives of the Heartbeat Coalition didn’t respond to an interview request, but on group’s website, its president said he hopes the bill will be “the arrow in the heart of Roe v. Wade.”

    Right to Life of Michigan, a local affiliate of the antiabortion group National Right to Life, is behind the other petition — a ban on dilation-and-evacuation abortions, the most common procedure used during the second trimester of pregnancy. The organization’s strategists have been here before. They’ve used the indirect initiative process to enact into law four bills that ran afoul of a governor’s veto.

    “We are the most successful organization in the state’s history of doing this,” said Genevieve Marnon, the legislative director at Right to Life of Michigan.

    Since 1987, the group has used this method to pass a ban on the use of public funds to pay for the abortions of welfare recipients, a requirement that minors get parental consent before having abortions, new legal protections for fetuses and, in 2013, a requirement that women purchase extra insurance if they want abortion included in their health-care coverage.

    Marnon rejected criticism that her group’s petition drives are undemocratic.

    “The process is the same for everyone,” Marnon said. “All of a sudden they’re crying foul because Right to Life Michigan is doing something they don’t like.”

    And if a gerrymandered legislature means lawmakers’ votes don’t count, she argued, then “are we just going to do away with every law that’s been passed?”

    The indirect initiative process requires petitioners to gather the signatures of at least 8 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election — or, in this case, about 340,000 registered voters out of a population of roughly 10 million people. As of Sept. 30, Right to Life said it had gathered 200,000 signatures.

    Once the initiative gets back to the statehouse, lawmakers have three options: They can reject it, which will send it to the ballot for a popular vote; they can propose an alternative, in which case both will go to the ballot and whichever receives more votes will become law; or they can pass it without amendments.

    Marnon is confident that lawmakers, who have already supported the legislation, will do so again, bypassing Whitmer’s veto.

    Marnon bristles at those who say Right to Life is circumventing the will of the majority of voters who elected Whitmer. Instead, she said, Whitmer’s promised veto would undermine the power of the legislators.

    Each side of the debate has staked its claim to the majority opinion. Marnon said people are more likely to oppose abortion if they first read a detailed description of the dilation-and-evacuation method, which antiabortion groups call “dismemberment abortions.”

    However, abortion rights advocates argue that lawmakers and the thousands of petition-signing citizens represent a minority of the state’s population. And polling indicates that most of the state’s likely voters want abortion legal in most or all cases.

    “What’s going on in Michigan is nothing more than tyranny by the minority,” Kuppersmith said. “A clear majority of Michiganders are pro-choice, and the minority is pulling out every stop to impose its fringe views on the state.”

    Michigan’s constitution is, as lawyers say, “close to the people.” Its citizen-led indirect initiative process has also long allowed liberal groups to force their causes onto the ballot without the blessing of Republican-controlled legislatures. The difference, Democrats have said, is that when lawmakers reject the proposals, the majority of voters then have a chance to decide.

    In 2018, Michiganders approved three initiatives this way. They legalized recreational use of marijuana and enacted voting policies, including same-day registration.

    They also did something that could fundamentally reshape the architecture of the state legislature: Voters transferred the power to draw legislative and congressional boundaries from state lawmakers to an independent redistricting commission — a constitutional amendment that Michigan Republicans have since tried to block in court.

  121. says

    Reuters – “U.S. senators want quick visa for Kurdish general, amid Syria crisis”:

    Republican and Democratic U.S. senators asked the State Department on Wednesday to quickly provide a visa so that the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces could visit the United states to discuss the situation in the country.

    Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Marsha Blackburn and Democrats Chris Van Hollen, Jeanne Shaheen and Richard Blumenthal wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to expedite a visa for the commander, General Mazloum Kobani.

    “To say we are extremely concerned with the situation unfolding in northern Syria is an understatement,” they said in their letter, saying it would benefit both Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration to hear from Kobani.

    Their request came hours after Trump announced that a ceasefire in northern Syria was now permanent and he lifted sanctions on Turkey as a result, rejecting criticism of his decision to pull out U.S. troops that allowed Kurdish allies to come under attack from Turkey….

  122. says

    NBC – “MSNBC names four renowned female journalists as moderators for November debate”:

    The fifth Democratic presidential primary debate in Georgia will have four moderators, MSNBC announced on Wednesday — and all of them are women.

    Moderating the Nov. 20 event, which is being co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, will be Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC; Andrea Mitchell, host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC and NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent; Kristen Welker, NBC News’ White House correspondent; and Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for The Washington Post.

    The debate will likely feature a smaller lineup of candidates than the dozen who qualified for October’s debate in Ohio — only eight candidates have qualified for the debate stage so far, according to an unofficial NBC News tally. It will also be shorter than the three-hour October debate — it’s scheduled to air from 9 to 11 p.m. ET….

  123. says

    NBC – “Murat Yasa was beaten by Erdogan’s guards. But he’s not backing down.”:

    Murat Yasa was sure he was going to die.

    What had started as a peaceful protest outside the Turkish ambassador’s home in Washington two years ago devolved into violence. Yasa, a Kurdish-American activist protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s human rights record, was beaten by Turkish security officials in an attack caught on video.

    They stomped his head again and again, he recalls, kicking it like a soccer ball. They shouted curses in Turkish. They left him bloodied and bruised — broken nose, loose teeth, searing pain across his body — and he was rushed to a local emergency room.

    The scars linger.

    In a phone interview Tuesday, Yasa told NBC News he struggles with memory loss, and a neurologist told him he has brain tissue damage. The sheer outrage of the May 2017 attack — foreign bodyguards and Erdogan supporters pummeling U.S. citizens in the nation’s capital — still infuriates him.

    But he will not be deterred. That is why Yasa, 62, plans to return to Washington next month when Erdogan is scheduled to pay another visit to the U.S. on Nov. 13.

    “I feel terrible,” Yasa said when asked for his thoughts on Erdogan’s visit. “I feel like a truck crashed [into] me, and then an 18-wheeler is going to crash into me again.”

    “But as long as I breathe, as long as I live, I am not going to give up to the dictators,” Yasa later added. “I will always stand up for the innocent people against tyranny.”

    Yasa suggested the upcoming protest of Erdogan’s visit has recently taken on greater urgency. He is deeply angered by Erdogan’s incursion in northern Syria and the siege on the Kurdish people — and devastated by what he sees as President Donald Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds by pulling U.S. forces out of the region.

    “This is insane. This is not acceptable,” Yasa said. “How could [the Trump administration] give the green light to Turkey to commit genocide against your allies?”

    He conceded that returning to the scene of the chaotic melee is not without risk, and he said he fears for the safety of his family, including his children. But he nonetheless feels compelled to stand up to the Turkish regime and to Erdogan himself, whom he called “evil.”

    A total of 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, were indicted by a grand jury in Washington in 2017; charges against 11 people were later dropped, according to The Associated Press.

    He expressed disappointment that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence did not firmly denounce Erdogan, but he said he was heartened that the U.S. House of Representatives voted 397-0 to pass a resolution condemning the violence of 2017.

    Yasa emphasized that he has nothing against the Turkish people, adding that several of his Turkish friends were horrified by the video of the beating. The target of his anger and source of his sorrow is Erdogan, who he believes orders far greater atrocities in his own country.

    “If he can do this in [Washington],” Yasa said, “imagine what he can do in Turkey.”

  124. says

    Two reports from Reuters:

    “For Syrian Kurds, a leader’s killing deepens sense of U.S. betrayal”:

    Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf spent the final months of her life building a political party that she hoped would help shape Syria’s future, drawing the attention of U.S. officials who said it would have a say in what happened once the war ended.

    To her colleagues in the Future Syria Party and Kurdish communities in Syria’s northeast more broadly, her killing became a symbol of betrayal by the United States.

    As recently as Oct. 3, State Department officials reassured her at a meeting that Washington would safeguard northern Syria from a threatened Turkish assault by mediating between Kurdish-led forces and Ankara, according to a colleague who was present.

    A state department official said the U.S. message to Syrian partners had been consistent: that American forces would be withdrawing from the country.

    Days after the meeting, President Donald Trump announced U.S. forces would quit the region, leaving it vulnerable to attack by Turkey.

    Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, key allies in the U.S. battle against Islamic State, said rebels fighting on the Turkish side murdered Khalaf. She was 34.

    She was slain on Oct. 12 along with a driver and aide when Turkey-backed fighters stopped their SUV on the M4 highway in northern Syria, according to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and officials in her party.

    “If America hadn’t decided to withdraw, these factions … would not have dared to carry out their operations in that area,” said Moaz Abdul Karim, a Future Syria Party leader.

    The U.S. State Department has said it was looking into reports of Khalaf’s death apparently while in the hands of Turkey-backed forces, calling the reports “extremely troubling”.

    An autopsy report circulated by the SDF said Khalaf’s body had been riddled with bullets.

    On Oct. 3, U.S. State Department representatives visited the Future Syria Party’s headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa and told Khalaf and party president Ibrahim al-Kaftan that American efforts in the region were aimed at mediation.

    Since the party was founded in 2018, its leaders say U.S. officials have voiced their support. The party aims to attract members from across the ethnic spectrum in a region where critics said the Kurdish YPG militia had become too powerful.

    “Yes, there was encouragement from the Americans to set up a party,” Kaftan said.

    “The party was already being worked on by a team who believes in Syrian democracy. It was a Syrian idea, not an American one, but I repeat they were in favor of this idea,” he told Reuters in written answers to questions.

    In 2018, she was elected secretary general of the Future Syria Party, which was launched from Raqqa, a predominantly Arab city where the SDF defeated IS in 2017 with U.S. backing.

    Kaftan, an Arab architect from Manbij, was elected its leader, and he said that U.S. and French officials attended the ceremony.

    The United States has long adopted a cautious political approach toward northern Syria, even as it backed the SDF militarily in the fight against IS.

    Washington opposed the emergence of the Kurdish-led autonomous region and the main Kurdish groups were always kept out of the U.N. political process for Syria, despite their huge influence on the ground.

    But according to Kaftan, U.S. officials including the envoy for Syria James Jeffrey told members of his party that it would have a role in international talks over Syria’s future.

    The State Department official said the United States wanted a political solution to Syria’s conflict that included “full representation for all Syrians.

    “U.S. officials, including Ambassador Jeffrey, made clear that this included the populations of northeast Syria and intervened repeatedly with the UN to this end.”

    The SDF says Washington has stabbed it in the back.

    Despite the Turkish incursion, which has sparked an exodus and killed scores of people, leaders of Future Syria Party hope it will have a role in shaping the next phase of Syria’s recovery from war.

    Khalaf always believed the solution in Syria must come through dialogue with all concerned parties including the Syrian government and Turkey, Kaftan said.

    “Hevrin didn’t sleep more than 4-5 hours a day,” he said. “But she would always say Syria deserves a lot from us, and for the people who have suffered through nine years of war, we must seek to secure a real, safe future for them.”

    “Pentagon chief looks to focus on Turkey, Syria at NATO but has few good options”:

    U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to focus on Turkey’s recent offensive into northeastern Syria and the future of the fight against Islamic State when he meets with NATO partners in Brussels this week, but he has limited options in dealing with either issue.

    Last week, Esper said he would press NATO allies “to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response” to Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria, even as critics have pointed out that Trump’s decision enabled the Turkish offensive.

    In a speech on Thursday in Brussels before the NATO meeting, Esper is expected to call out Turkey’s actions.

    According to prepared remarks, Esper will say Turkey’s actions jeopardize the progress made in Syria.

    Statements by the Pentagon criticizing Turkey in the past month have had little impact on Ankara.

    Rachel Rizzo, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security think-tank, said Esper has few options to punish NATO member Turkey at NATO.

    “As far as NATO-level punishment, I don’t see really what is possible,” Rizzo said.

    She said Trump’s initial decision to pull out of northeast Syria was seen in Europe as enabling Turkey to carry out the incursion and the latest sign that they could not rely on the Trump administration.

    A number of European countries have suspended weapons sales to Turkey.

    French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday decried NATO’s inability to react to what he called Turkey’s “crazy” offensive, and said it was time Europe stopped acting like a junior ally when it came to the Middle East.

    Germany’s defense minister has told lawmakers she wants to get the U.N. Security Council to approve a safe zone in northern Syria.

    Esper is expected to meet with counterparts from Germany, France and the Britain to discuss how the fight against Islamic State militants can continue and what it would look like, a senior U.S. defense official said….

  125. says

    SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali: “Turkish army have been attacking villages of Assadiya, Mishrafa and Manajer with a large number of mercenaries and all kinds of heavy weapons despite the truce. SDF will exercise its right to legitimate self defense and we are not responsible for the violation of the agreement.

    We urge all parties and especially the US to monitor the implementation of the cease-fire agreement that they brokered and hold violators to account.”

  126. says

    Giuliani tweeted: “With all the Fake News let me make it clear that everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges.Dems would be horrified by the attacks on me, if my client was a terrorist.But they don’t believe @realDonaldTrump has rights. Justice will prevail”

    Marty Lederman:

    1/ This merely confirms what was so outrageous: Giuliani wasn’t a representative or employee of the United States; his duty of loyalty was 100% to his (personal capacity) client. And yet Trump told Ukraine it had to dance to Rudy’s tune–

    2/ –a tune *designed to advance Trump’s personal interests*–in order to remain in the U.S.’s good graces (e.g., to secure access, aid, etc.). This is the highest of high crimes–using the leverage of his position as chief diplomat to advance his own interests–and …

    3/ … it’s hard to imagine anything more inconsistent w/Trump’s constitutional oath & duty and more revealing of his utter unfitness for office. And that’d be true *even if there were no quid pro quo* (but of course there was, which makes it all the worse).

  127. says

    A pretty serious accusation from Mike Flynn’s increasingly off-the-wall lawyer in this filing: ‘the government has continued to… hide evidence that it knows exonerates Mr. Flynn’.

    Seems to come right up to the line of withdrawing his guilty plea.

    There’s an email chain attached that shows what Brandon Van Grack and his colleagues have been dealing with, and how little comity remains between Flynn’s team and the DOJ prosecutors. (Check out Sidney Powell’s email signature in particular.)”

    Documents atl.

  128. says

    Josh Marshall in TPM:

    The Prime Minister of Italy has shot down a big chunk of the Barr/Trump conspiracy theory about a Deep State plot against President Trump that allegedly gave birth to the Russia probe. Giuseppe Conte says Italy had nothing to do with the Russiagate probe or investigation. He goes on to confirm the extraordinary detail that Barr asked Italian intelligence officials to confirm or explain the actions of US intelligence officials. In other words, Barr has told foreign intelligence leaders that he does not believe his own country’s intelligence officials and and gone to Italy to ask if US intelligence officials are telling the truth.

    As he says, “We here in the US may be too close to it. But there are a number of stories like this that suggest people and governments abroad can see the blood draining out of the Trump presidency.”

  129. says

    Rukmini Callimachi: “American aid worker & missionary David Eubank has sent me this image from Soda Village shot by him today. Shelling, explosions and gunfire from Turkish-backed Arab militias continue despite Trump’s ceasefire announcement. Head of Kurdish militia also confirms ceasefire violations.”

  130. says

    New: Source familiar w/ Cooper’s deposition says a key testimony takeaway is her technical description of the 2 ways in which funding provided by Congress can be put on hold: Congressional rescission or a Dept reallocation.

    Source says neither were used in case of Ukraine aid.

    Source notes that both ways require notice to Congress.”

  131. says

    BuzzFeed – “Boris Johnson Raised The Issue Of Northern Ireland Export Forms With Jean-Claude Juncker. And Then Agreed To Them.”:

    Boris Johnson personally raised the controversial issue of businesses having to fill in export forms on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a phone call with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the morning the Brexit deal was agreed, BuzzFeed News has learned.

    Juncker insisted that the matter could not be renegotiated. Shortly afterwards, in a follow-up call, Johnson agreed the deal, thereby accepting the need for the forms.

    The revelation, confirmed by two separate sources, shows the prime minister was fully aware that the issue of export forms would be problematic back home, but signed it off anyway in order to secure the agreement with the EU….

    More atl. Remarkably duplicitous.

  132. says

    Scoop: Trump’s chief of student-loan portfolio resigns, says federal loan program is fundamentally broken and calls for student debt to be canceled — a position mostly associated with Democratic presidential candidates.”

  133. says

    “EU lawmakers demand sanctions against Turkey over Syria incursion”:

    MEPs condemned Turkey’s military intervention in northeast Syria in a resolution which received cross-party support in the European Parliament on Thursday (24 October), urging Ankara to withdraw all of its forces from Syrian territory or expect “economic measures”.

    On Wednesday (23 October), MEPs debated the Turkish offensive and its consequences and urged the EU to be more active and ambitious in its security and defence policy – in a rare consensus across the political spectrum.

    Although the European Parliament has no direct influence on the EU’s foreign and security policy, it can considerably restrict EU funding towards third countries.

    In the adopted resolution, MEPs call for “appropriate and targeted economic measures against Turkey” and the freezing of preferential treatment for Turkish agriculture exports to the EU.

    It also “calls on the [European] Council to introduce a series of targeted sanctions and visa bans to be imposed on Turkish officials responsible for human rights abuses during the current military intervention”.

    As a last-resort sanction, it also urges the suspension of the EU customs union with Ankara, a measure that would hit the €200 billion annual trade between the bloc and Turkey.

    The European Parliament could also consider blocking any new EU funding to help Turkey handle the 3 million Syrian refugees on its territory, although Parliament sources told EURACTIV such a step is “rather unlikely”.

    Currently, a few EU member states argue for freezing funds, while others want EU money to continue flowing to Turkey to avoid a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis.

    MEPs pulled no punches during Wednesday’s heated debate. A number of parliamentarians said they find it unacceptable that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has “weaponised” refugees and “used them to blackmail the EU”.

    In the resolution text, MEPs also “firmly rejected” Turkey’s safe zone ambitions and instead called for a UN-led security zone to be set up in the area.

    Last week, EU foreign ministers failed to reach a common decision on an EU-wide arms embargo against Turkey, although some governments committed to halting their arms exports to Ankara, while EU leaders did not discuss Turkey’s intervention in Syria at their two-day summit.

    The resolution sparked a diplomatic rebuke from Ankara.

    “We reject in totality the approach adopted today by the European Parliament on Operation Source of Peace”, the Turkish foreign ministry reacted in a statement.

    “No force will be able to prevent Turkey from taking the necessary measures to ensure its security,” the statement said.

  134. says

    Yahoo – “In rebuke of Erdogan, Armenian genocide resolution could soon pass House”:

    For years a resolution condemning the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by Turkish nationalists during World War I has failed to gain traction in either chamber of the Congress. Though lawmakers have long promised a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, they have been hampered by Turkey’s role as a critical ally whose significance has only increased with the rise of violent extremism across the Middle East.

    As soon as next week, Democrats in the House of Representatives could ratify a measure recognizing the Armenian genocide out of committee and to the chamber floor, where it is likely to pass. The House Rules Committee is set to announce today that it is going to take up the resolution next week, a final formal process before it can receive a vote.

    “I’m proud that the Rules Committee will be considering this resolution next week,” that committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told Yahoo News, noting that his Worcester-area district has the oldest Armenian diaspora community in the United States. “Not acknowledging the genocide is a stain on our human rights record and sends the exact wrong message to human rights abusers around the world,” he added.

    Members of the U.S. Senate have introduced a genocide-recognition resolutions of their own, though its fate is less clear….

  135. says

    G liveblog:

    The vote on the Queen’s speech is expected after 5pm. The vote will be tight and if it is voted down it will be the first time since 1924 that a government has lost a Queen’s speech vote. (That was when Stanley Baldwin’s minority government was defeated. The opposition went on to form a new government.)

    In less bizarre times you would expect this to result in an election being called, but – since the introduction of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 – this would require the backing of two thirds of MPs.

    We could find ourselves in the strange situation of having a government that cannot pass its legislative programme but also cannot secure a general election.

    Downing Street has said Johnson would not resign if he lost a vote on his Queen’s speech.

    …There are mounting reports that Johnson could announce his intention to push for an election this evening.

  136. says

    Wichita Eagle: And what good really is the word of the U.S. in light of the president’s treatment of the Kurds? Has that undercut U.S. credibility?

    Pompeo: The whole predicate of your question is insane.”

    The Secretary of State interviewed by local media as part of a diplomatic delegation to…Kansas.

  137. johnson catman says

    re SC @248 from that link:

    . . . the word of the United States is much more respected today than it was just two and a half years ago.

    I am not outside of the US, but I know that his depiction is total BS.

  138. says

    G liveblog:

    Boris Johnson has announced that he will push for a general election on 12 December.

    He says that parliament voted to delay Brexit and “that delay could go on for a very long time” because the EU would respond to parliament’s request and agree an extension.

    The prime minister said he wanted “to be reasonable with parliament” and say they can have more time to scrutinise the legislation if they submit to a general election on 12 December.

  139. says

    G liveblog:

    “MPs have voted for the Queen’s speech – 310 to 294.”

    “@CommonsLeader has announced that on Monday 28 October there will be a debate and vote on an early general election.
    Watch the statement here:…”

  140. says

    Mutlu Civiroglu:

    SDF Chief @MazloumAbdi :…”We agreed to ceasefire and withdrawal of our forces from the ceasefire zine. We have not agreed to 13 points in Russian- Turkish deal because our opinion was not taken about the decision about the future of our people…”

    General Mazloum: “ I received an invitation from @realDonaldTrump to visit the US. According to the circumstances on the ground I will decide what to do in coming days”

  141. says

    Not looking like there’s a lot of support for Johnson’s general election call.

    Nicola Sturgeon: “So Johnson appears to be saying to MPs ‘if you vote for an election, I’ll bring back my bad Brexit bill and try to drag us out of the EU before we go to the polls’. Elections should be exercises in letting voters decide, not devices for charlatans to get their own way.”

  142. says

    Trump tweeted: “I really enjoyed my conversation with General @MazloumAbdi. He appreciates what we have done, and I appreciate what the Kurds have done. Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region!”

    Brett McGurk: “The President of the United States of America appears to be calling for a mass migration of Kurds to the desert where they can resettle atop a tiny oil field. Shocking ignorance of history, geography, law, American values, human decency, and honor.”

  143. tomh says

    This should be made clear every time the Republicans whine about the “secret hearings.”

    Fox legal analyst says Democrats’ handling of impeachment inquiry is ‘consistent with the rules’

    In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano said that while he understands House Republicans are “frustrated” with the impeachment inquiry, their critiques of the process are off the mark because Democrats are simply following rules that were enacted by the Republican majority in 2015.

    “I read the House rules,” Napolitano said. “And as frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors — the hearings over which Congressman Schiff is presiding — they are consistent with the rules.”

    When co-host Brian Kilmeade interjected, claiming that Democrats “can make up any rules they want,” Napolitano said that wasn’t the case.

    “Well, they can’t change the rules; they follow the rules,” Napolitano said, noting that the rules were last written in January 2015, signed by then-House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and enacted by the Republican House majority.

    “The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret. … Secret evidence doesn’t work in this world, so eventually there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them,” Napolitano said. “This is like presenting a case to a grand jury, which is never done in public.”

  144. says

    The Washington Post and the New York Times will no longer be delivered daily to the White House because Hair Furor doesn’t like those newspapers.

    What does Hair Furor want to read/hear? Tweets that refer to him in a positive way:

    Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren on Wednesday shared a printout of positive tweets about President Trump, including one of her own praising his recent rally in Dallas, that Trump himself signed with a personal note.

    “Tomi, thank you for everything, best wishes,” Trump’s note to the conservative commentator reads, along with his signature. She in turn thanked Trump for the note.

    The tweet from Lahren included in the printout praised his rally in Texas last week.

    The Hill link

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] Tomi Lahren’s complimentary post was one of several that had been pulled together for the president, showing online Republican praise for Trump’s recent rally in Texas. Without exception, each of the tweets (a) was written by a supporter of the president; and (b) told Trump how great he was.

    In the case of the Fox Nation host, the president sent Lahren a signed copy of the tweet collection to thank her for her support.

    Or put another way, Trump doesn’t want to see print editions of the nation’s most important newspapers, but he does want to see a list of people saying nice things about one of his pep rallies on Twitter.

    It’s worth noting for context that in every modern White House, aides prepare clippings for the sitting president, which are intended to offer a look at how various stories are playing out in the media. Ideally, these collections should be representative of a larger whole, featuring examples of positive and negative coverage.

    […] Trump receives a daily folder “filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.”

    […] He’s convinced of his broad popularity in part because of the materials his team puts in front of him.


  145. says

    If the bill, (the SHIELD act), to protect elections in the USA reaches Trump’s desk, he has already said that he would veto it.

    From the Associated Press report about the bill:

    The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy, or SHIELD Act, would require that candidates and political committees notify the FBI and other authorities if a foreign power offers campaign help. It also tightens restrictions on campaign spending by foreign nationals and requires more transparency in political ads on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

    And it would explicitly prohibit campaigns from exchanging campaign-related information with foreign governments and their agents. The latter provision was aimed at reports that officials in Trump’s 2016 campaign shared polling data with a person associated with Russian intelligence.

    The bill passed the House 227 to 181. No Republicans voted for it.

    Mitch McConnell already criticized the bill, so he is not likely to bring it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Some senators, Warner, Lobuchar and Wyden tried to pass the Senate companion to the SHIELD act, but Marsha Blackburn blocked those efforts.

    Republicans want the Russians to interfere in the 2020 election process.

  146. says

    johnson catman @137, I’m sorry that you and your family had to go through such a tough time with your sister. I’m glad to hear that you hold her memory close.

    In other news, I agree with David Corn that we should stop talking about the Trump-Ukraine scandal solely in terms of “quid pro quo.” It is/was extortion.

    […] On Wednesday morning, Trump responded to William Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, who the day before presented testimony to Congress confirming the White House withheld security assistance from Ukraine in an effort to pressure its president to launch investigations to produce political dirt useful for Trump and his reelection campaign.

    Quoting a GOP member of Congress, Trump tweeted that no such thing happened. “Neither he (Taylor) or any other witness has provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld. You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.’ Congressman John Ratcliffe @foxandfriends.” And referring to the still-unidentified CIA official who had filed the complaint about Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine that triggered this scandal, he added, “Where is the Whistleblower? The Do Nothing Dems case is DEAD!” […]

    Once more, Trump was trying to gaslight the nation.

    Taylor had indeed testified during his closed-door session with congressional investigators that Ukrainian officials were aware Trump was withholding nearly $400 million in military assistance at the same time he and his minions were pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election (which held that Russia did not hack the election) and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

    Trump was also insisting that Zelensky announce publicly that these investigations were underway. Taylor was quite explicit about all this in his lengthy and detailed opening statement, which was leaked. In fact, the news that Trump was holding up the funds for Ukraine was reported publicly on August 29. Days later, Taylor testified, the top White House aide on Ukrainian matters, Tim Morrison, told him that Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union and a key figure in this caper, had told Andriy Yermak, a senior Zelensky aide, that the security assistance money would not be sent to Ukraine until Zelensky committed to pursing the Biden investigation.

    So there it is: a much-respected veteran diplomat who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations testifying that Sondland, doing Trump’s bidding, had threatened the Ukraine government: No investigation, no money. That’s extortion.

    But Taylor had so much more to say. And his testimony shows there was more than one quid pro quo. […]


  147. says

    Cornyn: Not a bad idea to get U.S. troops out of the way if Turkey planned to ‘ethnically cleanse the Kurds’.”

    Because that’s what the US, with the most powerful military on the planet, does when an ethnic cleansing campaign is imminent: turn tail and run, leaving our allies to face a genocidal attack. Proud to be a fucking American.

  148. tomh says

    Ginsburg wins Berggruen Prize for ‘thinker’ whose ideas changed society
    By Robert Barnes
    Oct. 23, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. PDT

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the 2019 winner of the Berggruen Prize for Culture and Philosophy, a $1 million award given annually to a “thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.”

    The 86-year-old justice will donate the money to charity, the Berggruen Institute said.

    Ginsburg was lauded by the jury that chose her “for her work in pioneering gender equality and strengthening the rule of law.”

    The prize recognized not only Ginsburg’s 26 years on the Supreme Court, but her work as an advocate for women’s rights. As a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginsburg quarterbacked a team of lawyers that brought six cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s and helped establish that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection applied not only to racial minorities but to women as well.

    She was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Jimmy Carter, and President Bill Clinton chose her for the Supreme Court. She has received a burst of publicity and fandom as the “Notorious RBG,” and inspired a documentary and feature film last year.

    The institute, founded by billionaire philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen, said she was chosen from a group of 500 who had been nominated for the prize, narrowed down to a list of five finalists.

    In an interview, Berggruen, who was not involved in the selection, said Ginsburg was not the “traditional philosopher” the institute has chosen in the past.

    “The prize is a way to celebrate ideas,” he said, adding that “the issues she has moved and been an important voice on are frankly the key issues that need to be addressed.”

    Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the jury for the prize and a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, said in a statement:

    “Few in our era have done more to bring vital philosophical ideas to fruition in practical affairs than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has been both a visionary and a strategic leader in securing equality, fairness, and the rule of law not only in the realm of theory, but in social institutions and the lives of individuals.”

  149. says

    Latest: Boris Johnson’s Govt has threatened to go on strike if Labour refuses a Dec 12 election on Monday. PM’s spokesman said: ‘Nothing will come before Parliament but the bare minimum. We will pursue a general every day from then onwards, and do everything we can to get it’.”

  150. says

    New House impeachment witness schedule: Monday, 9:30: Charles Kupperman [see #259 above]
    Tuesday, 9:30: Alexander Vindman [Director for European Affairs, NSC]
    Wednesday, 9:30: Kathryn Wheelbarger [Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, DoD]
    Thursday 8:00: Tim Morrison [see #259 above]”

    AFAIK, Reeker is still scheduled for Saturday (delayed due to memorial services for Elijah Cummings).

  151. says

    Politico – “Lawyers for Ukrainian oligarch have another client: The columnist who pushed Biden corruption claims”:

    Conservative lawyers Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who this year took on as a client an oligarch at the center of the Ukraine scandal, also represent the conservative columnist who has advanced Trump-friendly claims of corruption in Kyiv.

    “John Solomon has been a client of our firm for a very long time,” Joe diGenova told POLITICO on Thursday. “He’s a journalist and he has legal needs, like many journalists.”

    DiGenova wouldn’t comment on how far back that relationship went, and he also declined to answer questions about whether there’s been an uptick in activity with Solomon. “We don’t discuss our client’s business,” he said.

    Solomon confirmed to POLITICO that Toensing and diGenova “have been my lawyers for a very long time, along with other lawyers across many different law firms.” Solomon said he used Toensing and diGenova “for libel review, to help review book and movie offers, and to do personnel contracts.”

    Toensing and diGenova also represent Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian gas magnate who lives in Vienna and is fighting extradition to the U.S. on bribery charges. Firtash paid the lawyers $1 million to uncover dirt on Joe Biden and to win help in his legal case from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to Bloomberg News.

    Solomon was the first to report on an affidavit obtained from Firtash by his lawyers, Toensing and diGenova, who are also Solomon’s lawyers.

    Solomon, a former op-ed columnist and executive vice president for The Hill who recently left to launch his own outlet, has written extensively about Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine and about Marie Yovanovitch, the veteran ambassador who was abruptly recalled in May amid a campaign by Trump’s allies—including Giuliani—to remove her. DiGenova and Toensing have appeared frequently as guests on Hill TV.

    A series of articles Solomon published about Ukraine were mentioned in an anonymous complaint by an intelligence community whistleblower, which characterized Solomon’s work as part of the “circumstances leading up to” Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and “get to the bottom of” Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.

    Solomon, who is now a Fox News contributor, also featured in documents the State Department’s Inspector General gave Congress earlier this month that revealed a campaign to smear Yovanovitch and the Bidens.

    Included in the roughly 50-page packet was an email from Solomon to Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas previewing an article he’d written that was not yet published. The story claimed that the Obama administration had directed Ukrainian prosecutors to drop an investigation into a group “co-funded by both the Obama administration and the liberal megadonor George Soros.”

    After that email became public, Solomon claimed he was simply fact-checking the piece before it was published. But Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas are not mentioned in the article, raising the possibility that the trio, who had been working to find evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens in Ukraine, had been working directly with Solomon on the story.

    Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and corrupt pressure by the Obama administration on Ukrainian prosecutors are not the first unsubstantiated theories pushed by Toensing and diGenova that Solomon has advanced in his columns.

    In 2017, then-attorney general Jeff Sessions appointed U.S. Attorney John Huber to look into the Uranium One matter under public pressure from President Trump, but he has yet to produce any findings.

    DiGenova’s ties to William Barr, Sessions’ successor as attorney general, go back years….

  152. says

    Powerful piece – NYRB – “‘This Is Ethnic Cleansing’: A Dispatch from Kurdish Syria”:

    …That night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about what I ought to be doing for my family and my homeland. Since 2011, I have worked as a journalist, covering events as they unfolded. When the demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad first began, I had to tell the world what was happening—and then about the atrocities carried out by the regime.

    At the same time, in Rojava, we were building our revolution; we wanted to build a new system. We wanted democracy for our people, and to break the patriarchal system that had oppressed women for so long. I, too, wished to play a part in this, and I became one of the first women working in the media.

    It has been difficult; I can’t deny it. But I felt sure I’d made the right decision when, on January 21, 2014, Rojava’s system of self-administration officially formed. I still remember the scent of the crisp winter air that greeted its beginning. All of the local journalists came to cover the event. The inauguration ceremony was held in the cultural center in Amuda, a town about thirty minutes’ drive from Qamishli.

    At the entrance to the hall, a huge statue of a woman symbolized the revolution. On the walls were portraits of the martyrs who had lost their lives in the struggle. Jiwan Mohamed, an official spokesperson for the Rojava self-administration, started to read the constitution. Then its appointed delegates took their oath. The moment was so full of emotion that many wept.

    The Kurds have been oppressed and persecuted through history, but now we could finally be ourselves without being ashamed. It was a historic moment, and it reminded me of the republic that an earlier Kurdish leader, Mahabad, had established in 1946, in the Iranian part of Kurdistan. Created with the support of the Soviet Union, it lasted just eleven months. As soon as the Soviets withdrew, the Iranian forces crushed the fledgling Kurdish republic. The Kurdish leader Qazi Muhammad was hanged in 1947, the first of many more martyrs.

    In much the same way, this sudden withdrawal of US support seemed a repetition of history. President Donald Trump’s announcement came through late, so, on October 7, I awoke to hundreds of messages on my phone. I was shocked, angry, and speechless. Everyone was asking: What will become of Rojava? In Kurdish culture, guests are so important that they take priority over everything. We will not eat in order to feed them. This is how we treated our American allies, and now they were turning their backs on us. There is a proverb in Kurdish that says, “Don’t spit in the dish you ate from.” The Americans spat in their dish.

    The consequences of this shortsighted policy will be catastrophic, not just for us, but for the whole region. It will have an impact on the national security of many other countries around the world. The so-called Islamic State will regroup. This war will not just continue here, but, with many terrorists on the run, it will strike in the heart of Europe.

    And there will be a new wave of refugees from northeast Syria. Many civilians will try to go to Europe, looking for peace and stability. After nearly a decade of conflict, we are all tired. The worst feeling is that in Rojava, we were living the dream of being at peace—finally, after so much struggle. Now we have to hear the American president calling us children and saying that this is just a quarrel in a sand-box with Turkey.

    It is so mortifying to hear these words. We Kurds fought ISIS, the most dangerous terrorist group of the twenty-first century, on behalf of the entire world. On March 28, when we defeated the Caliphate, I remember all the Western heads of state congratulating our forces. Where are they now? Why are they allowing Turkey to send jihadist groups into our land, once again?…

  153. says

    Famous Kurdish singer Şivan Perwer on 23 Oct joined protest march in Brussels against the ‘Turkish occupation state in Rojava’.

    PYD co-chair @shahoz9 and other Kurdish reps from Syria were also in the protest

    The Turkish attacks are uniting the Kurds more and more. SDF leader @MazloumAbdi also today called Kurdish parties to unite.

    The Kurdish show of unity indicates that the arguments of the Turkish state that they are not against ‘Kurds, just against PKK’ are weak.”

  154. johnson catman says

    Barr’s investigation into origins of Trump-Russia probe is now a criminal investigation: Attorney General William Barr’s probe into the intelligence and origins of the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation is now a criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    The so-called investigation of the investigators is led by John Durham, a Connecticut-based federal prosecutor, who so far has conducted some interviews but also has run into some obstacles from witnesses who have declined voluntary interviews, CNN reported last week. https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/24/politics/barr-probe-russia-2016-criminal-investigation/index.html

  155. says

    Reuters – “U.S. Justice Dept. review of origins of Russia probe now a criminal investigation: source”:

    A U.S. Justice Department review of the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

    The person, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to say whether a grand jury had been convened in the investigation.

    The development was first reported by the New York Times.

    U.S. Attorney General William Barr launched a review earlier this year to investigate President Donald Trump’s complaints that his campaign was improperly targeted by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies during the 2016 election.

    Democrats and some former law enforcement officials say Barr is using the Justice Department to chase unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that could benefit the Republican president politically and undermine former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

    As part of his inquiry, Barr has asked Australian and British justice officials for assistance and visited Italy twice, meeting intelligence agents in Rome in August and September to learn more about people mentioned in Mueller’s report….

    This is a noteworthy development not in the sense of the “investigation” itself, but because it marks a significant escalation of tactics in the Trump-Putin-Fox-Barr propaganda scheme. As the pressure from the impeachment has intensified this week, we’ve seen the ridiculous congressional putsch, desperate Fox/WSJ whining and Republican lying, wildly veering policy changes and dishonest pronouncements on Syria, the pointless Graham-McConnell resolution, and now this.

    This is another example of what I described @ #87 above, and whatever rationalizations Durham has for his involvement in this bullshit don’t excuse it. For all the damage it does, none of this ever goes anywhere real – the Benghazi “investigation,” the IG report on Comey, the Clinton FBI email investigation, the Clinton State Department email investigation, the “unmasking” claims, the FISA claims, the Nunes memo, the Huber Uranium One probe,… It’s all political harassment and propaganda. They likely fear the IG report on the Mueller investigation’s origins will end with a whimper like the State Dept. investigation did last week, and a judge has given the DoJ a deadline of November 15 to make a decision on whether to charge Andy McCabe.

    In the reality-based world, in contrast: the ongoing impeachment inquiry, the Mueller investigation and its associated prosecutions, the Republican-led Senate Intel investigation and reports, the Parnas/Fruman/Correia/Kukushkin charges and continuing investigation, the investigations into Giuliani, the various IG investigations finding extensive wrongdoing by Trump appointees across several agencies, the shuttering of Trump’s fake charity, the James and Vance investigations in New York, the Treasury whistleblower, the public revelations about Hofeller, Collins’ guilty plea, Hunter’s indictment,… And that’s setting aside the numerous well-grounded congressional inquiries that are being completely stonewalled by the Trump gang. It’s no wonder they’re terrified and rapidly escalating.

  156. says

    Tulsi Gabbard has been going on Hannity and Carlson’s shows to bash Democrats and parrot Republican lies about the impeachment hearings, and has hinted she might run as a third-party candidate. At least she’s announced that she won’t be running for congress. The Democratic challenger for her seat, Kai Kahele, tweeted:

    I wholly respect and appreciate Congresswoman Gabbard’s decision not to pursue re-election for her Congressional seat as she pursues the Presidency. I wish her and her family the best going forward.

    I remain fully committed to my campaign to becomes Hawaii’s next Congressman.

  157. says

    Guardian – “Anti-LGBT rhetoric stokes tensions in eastern Europe”:

    In a recent survey, Poles were asked to identify what they felt to be the biggest threats facing them in the 21st century, choosing from options such as the climate crisis, renewed aggression from Russia and a possible economic downturn.

    Among men under 40, the most popular answer was “the LGBT movement and gender ideology”. The survey, conducted by Ipsos for the Polish website OKO.press, suggested that a government campaign against the nebulous concept of “LGBT ideology” was having an impact.

    In Poland, and elsewhere in central Europe, there has been a notable rise in tolerance and empathy towards the LGBT community in recent years, illustrated by the emergence of a confident new generation of activists in smaller towns and cities. But across the region, populist politicians and church leaders are using the issue to mobilise their conservative bases.

    On Thursday, the continent’s biggest annual gathering of LGBT activists was told that the iron curtain that once divided Europe between communist east and capitalist west remained intact for gay and transgender people, amid a rising tide of homophobic hatred, violence and discrimination.

    Adéla Horáková, an advocacy director at the Czech group We Are Fair, said that 30 years after the end of communism, former eastern bloc countries still lagged behind their western European counterparts in granting fair and equal treatment to members of the LGBT community.

    “The iron curtain … still stands,” Horáková said at the opening of the three-day ILGA conference in Prague. “While life for them isn’t perfect on either side of the [former] curtain, in none of the eastern European countries can they get married, in none of them can same-sex couples jointly adopt children.”

    That message will resonate with activists in Poland, where senior members of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) have engaged in an increasingly ferocious campaign portraying so-called “LGBT ideology” as a menace akin to that of Soviet-imposed communism. In the run-up to parliamentary elections this month, which PiS narrowly won, the “LGBT issue” emerged as one of the main campaign grounds.

    Zbigniew Nosowski, the editor-in-chief of Więź, a relatively liberal Catholic quarterly in Warsaw, said the tactic was seen to have worked in May’s European elections. “They provoked people who were usually passive in the elections to come to the polls and vote, because they perceived the threat from supposed LGBT and gender ideology with anxiety,” he said.

    Before the May elections, the PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, told a gathering of lay Catholics in the central city of Włocławek that “these ideologies, philosophies, all of this is imported, these are not internal Polish mechanisms. They are a threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state.”

    Since then, the rhetoric has only escalated….

    In Hungary, where the church is less powerful than in Poland, there is less deep-rooted homophobia. Budapest was one of the first cities in the region to have pride marches. But in recent months the ruling Fidesz party of the far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has begun what appears to be a coordinated homophobic campaign.

    The LGBT community could provide a useful new target for Orbán after several years of relentless messaging about the dangers of migration from the Middle East and Africa.

    In the Czech Republic, attitudes are even more progressive, with a recent survey showing 61% of people supported a bill currently under consideration that would legally enshrine gay marriage. But here too, conservative politicians are rallying part of their base with homophobic rhetoric disguised as a promotion of “traditional values”.

    Partly as a result, the bill has become ensnared in the chamber of deputies, the Czech parliament’s lower house, at the first reading stage. Attempts to give it a second reading have been repeatedly blocked, despite it having the public backing of Andrej Babiš, the prime minister.

    Opponents have tabled a counter-proposal to bring the Czech constitution into line with laws passed in Hungary and Slovakia that would explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman. It is unlikely to pass but has received support from church figures and from Miloš Zeman, the populist Czech president, who has said he would veto any legislation legalising gay marriage.

    The increased homophobia has prompted solidarity and fightback among the LGBT community and more liberal-minded central Europeans….

    It’s too bad the article doesn’t make the connection between this and what’s happening in Russia more explicit.

  158. says

    CNN – “Feds blow door off safe, issue subpoenas as probe into Giuliani associates escalates”:

    Federal prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed the brother of one of the recently indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani, according to two people familiar with the matter, as they escalate their investigation in the campaign-finance case.

    The subpoena to Steven Fruman is the latest indication of prosecutors’ actions since the rushed arrest two weeks ago of his brother, Igor Fruman, and another defendant, Lev Parnas, at a Washington-area airport. Since then, investigators have doled out multiple subpoenas and conducted several property searches, in one case blowing the door off a safe to access the contents, sources tell CNN.

    Federal prosecutors told a judge this week that they are sifting through data from more than 50 bank accounts. In addition, they’ve put a filter team in place as they examine communications obtained via search warrant and subpoena, sensitive to material that could be subject to attorney-client privilege because Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, counted Parnas as a client. A filter team is a separate set of prosecutors who are assigned to examine evidence and set aside material that is privileged.

    Since the October 9 arrests, federal agents visited the New York home of Steven Fruman and served him with a subpoena from Manhattan federal prosecutors, the people familiar with the matter said.

    It’s not clear why prosecutors are interested in Steven Fruman, or what specifically agents sought from the safe. Steven Fruman is listed in US Security and Exchange Commission filings as the vice president of FD Import & Export, the same company his brother ran.

    Igor Fruman also appeared to use the address of a property in Woodmere, New York, that belongs to his brother when making certain political donations, according to Federal Election Commission and other public records.

    As they pursue an ongoing investigation into Igor Fruman, Parnas and their co-defendants, prosecutors are also investigating Giuliani’s Ukranian business dealings, CNN has reported….

  159. says

    Kansas City Star editorial – “Mike Pompeo, either quit and run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or focus on your day job”:

    If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is running to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, then he should quit his rather important day job and do that.

    Or if, as he told The Star and The Wichita Eagle in a testy, credulity-straining interview on Thursday, he isn’t even thinking about it, then he should by all means focus on U.S. diplomacy — remember diplomacy? — and stop hanging out here every chance he gets.

    If it’s the first, Mr. Secretary, then you are also going to have to drop the put-upon posture and answer the many valid questions that a Senate run would require with less attitude and more truthfulness.

    With the Kurds betrayed, ethnic cleansing made possible, Russia rewarded along with Iran and even ISIS, foreign service agents beside themselves, and a shadow foreign policy team on Ukraine apparently headed by Rudy Giuliani, well no wonder you’d rather be in Wichita with Ivanka Trump, cheering on “the great work this administration is doing to ensure that our workforce is prepared to compete all around the world.”

    But again, if you’re not running, you have better things to do.

    And if you are, what’s to be gained from complaining that you’ve already been asked “103 or 104” times whether the House impeachment inquiry has changed your thinking on the race? Until you stop what looks a lot like hedging your bets, there will also be a 105th and 106th time.

    Telling a reporter asking a legitimate question about how our standing with other allies has been damaged by our treatment of the Kurds, “The whole predicate of your question is insane” is no doubt satisfying, so if you don’t want other questions not to your liking, don’t run….

  160. says

    WSJ: A federal council of US govt inspector generals has faulted a DOJ legal memo that initially blocked the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint from Congress.
    The memo was wrong in determining the matter wasn’t an urgent concern & recommended it be withdrawn or modified.

    The lead signatory on the council’s letter, dated Oct. 22, is DOJ’s own IG Michael Horowitz.
    The letter rejects argument made by DOJ Office of Legal Counsel that WB complaint didn’t meet statutory definition of an ‘urgent concern’ & therefore didn’t require transmission to congressional intelligence committees.

    The opinion “creates a chilling effect on effective oversight and is wrong as a matter of law and policy,” the IG wrote to Asst AG Steven Engel, who oversees OLC. ‘We urge you to reconsider.. & withdraw or modify it’.
    DOJ didnt comment.”

  161. says

    Reuters – “Erdogan files complaint against French magazine over ethnic cleansing comment”:

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has filed a criminal complaint against a French magazine after it accused him of conducting ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria, state-owned Anadolu Agency said on Friday.

    The front page of this week’s edition of Le Point magazine features a picture of Erdogan making a military salute with the words: “Ethnic cleansing, the Erdogan method” and “Are we going to let him massacre the Kurds?”

    Erdogan has asked Ankara prosecutors to open a case against Etienne Gernelle, the managing editor of Le Point, and Romain Gubert, the author of the article, Anadolu reported. The complaint accuses them of insulting the president, a crime in Turkey.

    Other Western media have also accused Turkey of carrying out ethnic clean[s]ing in the Syrian border region.

    Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, criticized the article in Le Point and what he sees as France’s anti-Turkey stance, saying on Thursday that France had colonized many countries in the past and slaughtered thousands of people.

    “They (France) are trying every way to protect their puppets but to no avail,” he said, referring to the YPG. “Kurds are not your contractors and they will not be. Your colonizing days are over.”

    French President Emmanuel Macron has been one of the leading Western critics of Turkey’s operation in Syria, describing it as “crazy”. He has also expressed frustration at NATO’s inability to check Turkey, an alliance member….

    Note that these are journalists, not representatives of the French government.

  162. johnson catman says

    The complaint accuses them of insulting the president, a crime in Turkey.

    Fuck that motherfucker.

  163. says

    TPM – “Trump Org Is Considering Selling Trump International Hotel In DC”:

    The Trump Organization is contemplating selling its International Trump Hotel in Washington, Eric Trump told the Wall Street Journal, amid longstanding criticism that hotel serves as an improper source of profit for the President.

    A real estate firm has been hired to market the hotel, Eric Trump, who serves as executive vice president for the family business, told the Journal.

    “People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell,” he told the Journal.

    Trump Organization currently has a ground lease for the Old Post Office with the federal government’s General Services Administration.

    According to the Journal, Trump Organization is hoping to sell the leasing rights for $500 million….

    They probably need the money to pay back the whopping Deutsche Bank loans for the failing Doral, or the unknown sources of funds for their Scottish and Irish moneypits.

  164. says

    NEW: #MoscowMarsha Blocks 3 Election Security Bills

    WATCH @MarshaBlackburn again block election security bills, including one requiring campaigns to report foreign interference.

    ‘The only person winning from our failure to act is Putin’. – @MarkWarner”

  165. says

    NY Mag – “Senate Republicans Keeping Their Options Open on Impeaching Trump”:

    President Trump is probably going to survive impeachment. But even though he only needs 34 Senate Republicans to keep him in office, that outcome is hardly preordained. Far from standing behind him, the Senate is keeping the backdoor unlocked.

    The latest machinations in Congress are designed to create the appearance of staunch partisan support for President Trump. In reality, it indicates the opposite. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has positioned himself as one of Trump’s most debased sycophants, has tried to assemble a show of support. But Graham has only been able to get 44 of the 54 Republicans to sign his resolution. And even mustering that rather tepid showing, reports Jonathan Swan, required negotiating with Mitch McConnell to soften the wording.

    The resolution itself, tellingly, contains no substantive defense of Trump’s behavior whatsoever. It merely complains that the House impeachment has been conducted in secrecy, and urges some procedural changes. Trump should be permitted “to call witnesses on his behalf, and have a basic understanding of the accusations against him that would form any basis for impeachment.” (Of course, if Trump having a “basic understanding” of the charges is necessary to impeach him, he’s in the clear, since he seems to lack the capacity to understand the offense.) It likewise calls for the House “to vote to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry.”

    Taken literally, Trump’s staunchest defenders are literally asking the House to vote to impeach Trump. That can’t be the defense he wants….

  166. says

    This is a telling detail:

    MALONEY: It’s not enough that [dozens of House Republicans on the relevant committees] have every right to be there for every deposition, that their lawyers get equal time, that their members get equal time. And, of course, the funny part is, is very few of them have taken advantage of that because apparently they don’t want to do the actual work.

    MADDOW: Republican members haven’t been sitting in on the depositions even when they’re allowed to?

    MALONEY: Very few.

    Dozens of Republicans have the right to be in the room where closed-door depositions are being taken in relation to the impeachment inquiry. Thirteen of the Republicans who barged into the secure congressional hearing room were fully permitted to be there. It was a stunt for the cameras.

    Congressional Republicans could be part of the process. Many of them, however, don’t show up to participate, or they show up briefly so that they can lodge a process complaint, and then they leave.

  167. says

    Ian Dunt – “Week in Review: This really might be the worst government we’ve had”:

    It’s the inadequacy that really kills you. Once you get past the constant lies, the self-interest, the cynicism and the irresponsibility, it’s the inadequacy that finishes you off. It’s just so low-grade. From where we’re standing, mediocrity would seem a towering achievement, way up there above the clouds.

    It’s all so embarrassingly low grade. From the attacks on parliament, to the nonsense about a ‘surrender bill’, to the political speeches in front of police recruits, to the constant insistence Johnson would meet a deadline he never could, to the attempt to paper-over the fact he hadn’t, to his inability to admit there would be checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, to the threats about an election, to the self-sabotaging idiot tactical gambits, to the on-off Budget, to the pantomime Queen’s Speech, to Mogg’s back-patting over nothing. It’s just so nakedly cynical and shambolic.

    Who knows? Maybe it’ll work. People seem to think it will. Half the newspapers, including some which really ought to know better, eat this stuff up like it was some kind of political delicacy.

    Maybe the public will too. Maybe they won’t find it shocking that a government lies to them, relentlessly, every day, or that it has no interest in governing, or that its tactical calculations involve pointing a gun at its own head and repeatedly pulling the trigger. Maybe we really are that much of a basement-level country that we find this kind of thing endearing.

    Or maybe, behind the frenzy of activity and the daily jabber of nonsense, there is a clear sense of insecurity. They’re terrified of being found out. People don’t like being taken for fools. Anyone with a lingering faith in this country’s better nature should point out that this is precisely what’s happening.

    Much more atl. We feel your pain.

  168. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    Here is a rundown of a few of the things that have occupied William Barr’s time over just the last three months.

    – Barr went to Rome in effort to solicit testimony that a Maltese professor was actually a U.S. deep-cover agent put in place before Donald Trump even became a candidate in order to “trap” his campaign into clamoring for Russian assistance. Then he did it again.
    – Barr attempted to block the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry against Trump from ever reaching the public, and delayed knowledge of the complaint from reaching Congress for weeks. To do this, Barr overrode the judgement of the Trump-appointed general counsel of the CIA and the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community.
    – Barr leaned on Australian officials in an effort to get them to attack U.S. intelligence operatives […] As with his Italian trip, the conspiracy theory Barr attempted to support with this move would both indict U.S. officials and exonerate Vladimir Putin.
    – Barr joined a private lawsuit to protect Trump’s tax information, directly placing the government in the position of elevating Trump’s commands over the clear letter of the law.
    – Barr attempted to land an indictment against former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on charges of misleading investigators.

    The results of those actions? The Italian prime minister told Barr to leave them out of it; Australian officials refused to take any part in this fantasy; the lawsuit to protect Trump’s taxes failed in court; and Barr couldn’t manage to achieve a single indictment against McCabe. Also, that whistleblower complaint? It got out.

    But while Barr’s batting average may look to be in the low-nothings, he doesn’t have to put one between the lines every time. He doesn’t have to be right at all. After all, what Donald Trump requested of Ukraine wasn’t actual investigations into anything; it was just the announcement of investigations. And even if Barr hasn’t convinced anyone else to play along with Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories, he’s perfectly adequate at suppressing information and distorting findings.

    Trump isn’t after facts. He doesn’t require convictions. The announcement that the DOJ is conducting a criminal investigation focused on James Comey, or Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama … that’s more than enough for Trump. And Barr is exactly the Roy Cohn-Joseph McCarthy hybrid who will give it to him.

  169. says

    The White House wants climate change off the G7 agenda.

    The host country sets the agenda but can’t prevent other countries from discussing important issues.


    Buried in the flurry of headline-grabbing statements last week by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney about Ukraine, presidential quid pro quo, and a plan to host the next G7 summit at the president’s own golf resort was another announcement that attracted less notice. Climate change, Mulvaney said, won’t be included in the G7 summit’s formalized agenda when the leaders of the world’s major economic powers meet in June.

    While the administration has backed off its intention to hold the event at Trump’s Doral resort in Florida, it hasn’t budged on its plans for the summit agenda. The country hosting the summit—in this case, the United States—sets the agenda. But that doesn’t mean the other G7 members will allow climate change to go undiscussed. […]

  170. says

    Kellyanne Conway, bully in training?

    […] The Examiner on Thursday published a transcript of the exchange after Conway called breaking news reporter Caitlin Yilek regarding an article that mentioned the tense history between Conway’s husband and the president.

    “Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman,” she told Yilek in the call. “Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed.”

    She then appeared to threaten the reporter, saying, “So, listen, if you’re going to cover my personal life, if you’re going to cover my personal life, then we’re welcome to do the same around here. If it has nothing to do with my job, which it doesn’t, that’s obvious, then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here.” […]

    In the article, Yilek referenced George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, who repeatedly scorches the president on Twitter and recently said in a podcast that Trump’s closest aides should consider resigning since they have limited ability to positively influence him. […]


  171. says

    Trump continued his attacks on William Taylor:

    […] Trump called William Taylor, the top diplomat who recently testified in the House impeachment inquiry, a “Never Trumper” and said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a mistake hiring him.

    “Here’s the problem: He’s a Never Trumper,” […] “His lawyer is the head of the Never Trumpers.”

    “They’re a dying breed, but they’re still there,” Trump said of Republicans who do not support his agenda.

    NBC News reported last week that lawyer John Bellinger, a former George W. Bush administration official who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, would represent Taylor and another witness in the impeachment probe: Pompeo’s former chief of staff, Michael McKinley.

    […] Trump also said this week that Republicans who do not support his agenda are “human scum.”

    Taylor testified behind closed doors to Congress on Tuesday that a White House meeting and military aid to Ukraine were contingent on Kiev opening investigations into 2016 election interference and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, according to his opening statement. […]


  172. says

    We Can’t Keep the Oil

    Trump’s new rationale for keeping troops in Syria makes no sense.

    […] Syria doesn’t even rank among the world’s top 60 oil producers, pumping out only about 0.05 percent as much petroleum as Iraq—just half as much as Cuba, which isn’t known as an oil power.

    [It’s oil fields] are owned by the Syrian government, with some venture capital provided by China, Russia, and India. No American oil companies are keen to step into the fray. […] As Joshua Landis, editor of the Syria Comment website, notes, the Russians and Turks will in effect control the oil. […]

    the new rationale—even if it had merit—contradicts Trump’s claim that his abandonment of the Kurds in northern Syria was the first step of a broader pullout from the “endless wars” of the Middle East. He had already reversed that policy a few days later, when he announced the deployment of 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia, […] the Pentagon announced that the troops withdrawn from Syria won’t be coming home; rather, they’ll redeploy to western Iraq, at least for a while. And now, Trump is saying that some of the troops will stay in Syria too—not to protect the Kurds or to keep ISIS from recovering territory or to help stabilize that corner of an incendiary region, but to preserve oil. […]

    even if U.S. troops could somehow occupy and take over the oil fields, they would need more troops and equipment to guard the routes and pipelines through which the oil flows—and more troops and equipment still to protect and supply the troops guarding the fields and pipelines. In other words, if the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command take Trump’s new rationale seriously, if it’s translated into an operational order, it will mean much more than keeping the 1,000 troops we currently have in Syria—it will mean having to send thousands more. […]

    Sen. Lindsey Graham […] shifted tactics to focus on something he figured the president would understand: finances. According to NBC News, Graham and Jack Keane—an influential retired Army general who, back in 2007, persuaded President George W. Bush to order a “surge” of troops to Iraq—brought maps into the Oval Office, showing Trump the network of oil fields across the region, including in Syria.

    The argument about oil was flimflam, and Graham and Keane knew it. Citing a defense official, NBC noted that “while the emphasis on oil in Syria is intended to convince the president that the U.S. military is valuable, securing the oil fields is not a military strategy. U.S. troops will not actually be guarding the oil fields.” […]

    Trump not only reversed his decision to pull out—he doubled the number of troops that President Barack Obama, toward the end of his term, had kept in.

    Graham, Keane, and many others wanted to keep some U.S. troops in Syria. Trump did not. So they made up a phony argument to get him to change his mind. It worked. Now even Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is going along with the game. At some point, will Trump ask how the campaign to defend the oil fields is going? Esper, Graham, Keane, and the others probably assume he won’t. They know, from experience, that, ultimately, he doesn’t care.

  173. johnson catman says

    re SC @301:

    According to the Journal, Trump Organization is hoping to sell the leasing rights for $500 million….

    Sounds almost like a pump-and-dump. Use the presidential position to get people to use a facility that was underperforming so that it’s numbers get pumped up, then sell it when you know it is about to crash because of the walls closing in around.
    re Lynna @310:

    He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed.

    Me! ME!! MEEEE!!!!

    If it has nothing to do with my job, which it doesn’t, that’s obvious, then we’re either going to expect you to cover everybody’s personal life or we’re going to start covering them over here.

    DUDE!!!! Your husband is commenting on YOUR EMPLOYER. How the fuck could it NOT be about your job?

    Here’s the thing. I don’t have teams. Everyone’s talking about teams. I’m the team. I did nothing wrong.

    “I don’t have teams because it’s all about MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!” Hasn’t he ever heard the saying that there is no “I” in team?
    re Lynna @313: Fucking republicans have no shame. I hope every fucking one of them gets smacked down HARD when they come up for election again.

  174. tomh says

    @ #304
    They’re up to 50 Republican co-sponsors on the Graham resolution, with only Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney holding out. No Democrats. Republican arms are easily twisted.

  175. says

    tomh @ #315, they never cease to defy even my lowest expectations. I had a feeling as I was posting about it that with all of the articles today pointing to the bad optics there would be even more pressure for them to fall into line. Still looks bad, but my god what weak people.

  176. says

    From the opinion:

    No House “Impeachment Inquiry” Resolution is Required

    …The precedential support cited for the “House resolution” test is cherry-picked and incomplete, and more significantly, this test has no textual support in the U.S. Constitution, the governing rules of the House, or Rule 6(e), as interpreted in binding decisions.

  177. says

    Intercept – “For Some Reason, We Can’t Find a Single Leftist Mark Zuckerberg Invited to His Dinners With Pundits From ‘Across the Spectrum'”:

    During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Mark Zuckerberg about his “ongoing dinner parties with far-right figures.”

    This was terribly unfair to Mark, and Ocasio-Cortez owes him an apology. Yes, as Politico recently reported, he’s been holding lots of private get-togethers with prominent hard-right media figures. According to the article, these include Tucker Carlson of Fox News; talk show host Hugh Hewitt; Ben Shapiro; former Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti [who is on MTP right now, incidentally – SC]; and Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, which exists “to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.”

    But this isn’t because Mark is cultivating right-wingers specifically. Rather, as he explained on Facebook, he just loves to have dinner with “lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time.”

    So obviously — given Mark’s thirst for meeting new people, hearing from a wide range of viewpoints, and the joy of learning — he’s also constantly hanging out with prominent leftists. All that remains now is to document it.

    Asked to name some of these leftists, a Facebook spokesperson responded, “We don’t have anything further to share on this subject beyond what Mark posted.”

    […lists several leftwing journalists Zuckerberg didn’t invited to dinner…]

    Cynics might tell you that Zuckerberg, the fifth-richest person on Earth and head of a giant international conglomerate, is largely sympathetic to the corporate right. According to a Bloomberg News analysis, the 2017 GOP tax bill saved Facebook $8.3 billion in just one year.

    The same cynics might mention that Facebook’s first outside investor was Peter Thiel, who now serves on the company’s board — and is one of just two members of its compensation and governance committee. Thiel, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, secretly funded a lawsuit that destroyed the news outlet Gawker.

    These cynical cynics would point out that, despite constant accusations from the right-wing media that Facebook “silences” conservatives, the right-wing media is wildly popular on Facebook. They’d say this is no surprise, since Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy is Joel Kaplan, a former aide to George W. Bush and current member of the board of Bush’s presidential museum. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kaplan has “wielded his influence to postpone or kill projects that risk upsetting conservatives.”

    But the most likely explanation here is that Mark, with his intense quest for knowledge, did in fact share invigorating meals with these leftist individuals and organizations, and they’ve all just forgotten. They’re pretty busy; it’s easy to see how that would happen.

    Another plausible explanation is that Mark accidentally sent his invitations to different people with the same names. E.g., he may have been relentlessly dining with and learning from Katrina vanden Heuvel of Tempe, Arizona.

    The only alternative is to believe, as Naureckas says, that large media corporations like Facebook hate being attacked from the left, but “do not mind being attacked from the right, because the right is fundamentally in favor of the kind of corporate power they represent.” It would also mean believing that Zuckerberg, one of the most powerful people on this planet, is an absolutely shameless liar.

  178. says

    Jennifer Bendery (yesterday):

    A thing that happened today that won’t get much attention: Senate Republicans confirmed *another* lifetime federal judge who earned a rare and embarrassing “not qualified” rating by the American Bar Association.

    In this case, it was Justin Walker.

    He’s 37. He’s never tried a case in court — as lead or co-counsel. And in the 10 years since he graduated from law school, it’s not clear how much he’s been practicing law.

    Walker is the FIFTH Trump judge that Senate Republicans have confirmed with an abysmal “not qualified” rating by the ABA.

    For context, in 8 years, Obama nominated approximately 0 people to be judges who got a “not qualified” rating.

    Why was Justin Walker even nominated to be a lifetime federal judge if he isn’t qualified?

    Because Mitch McConnell personally recommended him to the White House to be confirmed.

    McConnell called Walker “unquestionably the most outstanding nomination that I’ve ever recommended to Presidents to serve on the bench in Kentucky.

    The guy was rated “not qualified” to be a judge!

    Justin Walker’s background: He’s an associate law professor + previously clerked for Brett Kavanaugh, who he went out of his way to defend against Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations.

    Walker did more than *seventy* media interviews to push back on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh.

    “She may believe that assailant was Brett Kavanaugh,” Walker said on Fox News in Sept. 2018. “I believe she’s mistaken.”

    Anyway, this guy is a lifetime federal judge now.

    Goodnight to all!

  179. tomh says

    @ SC #317
    Even the three retiring GOP senators, Alexander (TN), Enzi (WY), and Isakson (GA), who presumably have nothing to lose, caved in and joined the crowd. Heck, Isakson is expected to resign at the end of the year (health) and won’t even be around for the impeachment vote.

  180. says

    CREW – “CREW Exposes Dark Money Donors including Thiel, DeVos and Adelson”:

    Following a historic victory against dark money by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Americans for Job Security (AJS) has released its donors from 2010 through 2012, including major contributions from Peter Thiel, Richard and Helen DeVos, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, and Robert McNair, as well as contributions from Trump appointees like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and former-Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder. Other major donors included major players in the dark money world such as the Wellspring Committee, the Koch-connected Center to Protect Patient Rights, Crossroads GPS and Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, major corporations like Wynn Resorts, Bass Pro Shops and Quicken Loans, PR firms like the DCI Group and government contractors like Hensel Phelps Construction.

    “This is a major victory for transparency and the rule of law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This is the first major release of dark money sources in the post-Citizens United era, a rare and long overdue victory in the fight against the illegal use of dark money in politics.”

    “It’s not a surprise to see that AJS’s donors included some of the richest people in America, major political players, corporations and PR firms, but it is still shocking to see them all listed out,” Bookbinder said. “These people tried to get around the law and keep their massive political money secret. It took a long time, but transparency and the rule of law prevailed.”

    In 2012, CREW filed a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against AJS alleging it failed to register as a political committee despite AJS’s extensive campaign activity. More than two years later, after the FEC’s general counsel concluded that AJS had likely violated the law, three Republican commissioners still blocked enforcement by deadlocking the Commission. The deadlock led the FEC to dismiss CREW’s complaint. CREW then sued the FEC, and a court ordered the FEC to reopen the case in 2016. Over the next two years, CREW filed two additional lawsuits due to the FEC’s inaction. Last month, CREW received notice that the FEC reached a conciliation agreement with AJS, requiring them to register as a political committee and disclose their donors, which they did today.

  181. says

    FT – “Fears rise over post-Brexit workers’ rights and regulations”:

    The British government is planning to diverge from the EU on regulation and workers’ rights after Brexit, despite its pledge to maintain a “level playing field” in prime minister Boris Johnson’s deal, according to an official paper shared by ministers this week.

    The government paper drafted by Dexeu, the Brexit department, with input from Downing Street stated that the UK was open to significant divergence, even though Brussels is insisting on comparable regulatory provisions.

    In a passage that could alarm Labour MPs who have backed the Brexit bill, the leaked government document also said the drafting of workers’ rights and environmental protection commitments “leaves room for interpretation”.

    The paper, titled “Update to EPSG on level playing field negotiations”, appears to contradict comments made by Mr Johnson on Wednesday when he said the UK was committed to “the highest possible standards” for workers’ rights and environmental standards.

    The document said the UK’s and EU’s “interpretation of these [level playing field] commitments will be very different” and that the text represented a “much more open starting point for future relationship negotiations”. It added that London believed that binding arbitration would be “inappropriate”.

    The document boasts that “UK negotiators successfully resisted the inclusion of all UK-wide LPF rules” in the previous Theresa May deal.

    Jenny Chapman, Labour’s shadow Brexit minister, said: “These documents confirm our worst fears. Boris Johnson’s Brexit is a blueprint for a deregulated economy, which will see vital rights and protections torn up.”

    Mr Johnson has in the past been a persistent critic of what he sees as unnecessary regulation from Brussels. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, this week pointed out that Mr Johnson had once described employment regulation as “back-breaking”, saying the bill’s provisions offered “no real protection at all”.

    Mr Johnson’s deal leaves the UK with freedom to set its own regulatory standards from the end of its post-Brexit transition period, which runs to the end of 2022 at the latest. But the EU has warned that Britain’s prospects of getting an ambitious trade deal with Brussels depend on it continuing to uphold robust rules….

  182. says

    Re #162 above – VOA (not sure why this is in the “Extremism Watch” section) – “Kurdish Family in Anguish After Loved One Sets Himself on Fire in Protest”:

    A Kurdish family in Syria’s northeastern city of Hasakah is anguished by news that 31-year-old Ali Wezir set himself on fire Wednesday outside a United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Wezir, a Syrian Kurdish refugee residing in Germany, suffered burns on 80% of his body after setting himself on fire at the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    His family says it was an act of self-immolation to draw global attention to Turkish attacks on the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria.

    “I spoke to him two days before his action, and he kept saying he wanted to come back [home],” his sister, Mehbuba, told VOA.

    “Since the day Turkey attacked, he was not eating nor sleeping. He became very thin because he was worried. He was saying he would come back. He could not bear sitting there and watch Turkey attack his country,” Mehbuba said, adding that her family learned of Wezir’s act through a Facebook post.

    Wezir’s family said he is expected to survive the severe burns but will remain in critical condition for 72 hours.

    Wezir’s brother Dilawer told VOA that Wezir was particularly disturbed by the graphic images on social media showing children who had suffered burns, allegedly resulting from Turkey’s bombing campaign in northeast Syria.

    The U.N.’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) earlier this week said it was investigating allegations Turkey has used phosphorus bombs, which Ankara denies.

    “My brother showed everyone how Kurdish kids in Ras al-Ayn are being burned by phosphorus chemical weapons. He set himself on fire to break the silence on the Kurds being killed,” Dilawer Wezir told VOA.

    Referring to thousands of fighters from the Kurdish-led SDF group who lost their lives in the war against Islamic State (IS), Dilawer Wezir said many Kurds feel betrayed.

    “When we say 11,000 martyrs and 25,000 wounded who sacrificed against IS, it was not just for Kurdistan. It was for the entire world, because if it wasn’t for this force, IS would have gone into Europe and destroyed there, too,” he said….

  183. says

    Update to #76 above – Kurdistan 24 – “NATO welcomes German proposal for international safe zone in Syria”:

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that he welcomed a German proposal for further international involvement in a Turkish-Russian safe zone in northern Syria.

    Earlier in the week, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested the creation of an “internationally-controlled security zone” in northern Syria following Turkey’s military operation against Syrian Kurdish forces.

    Kramp-Karrenbauer said the move would “stabilize the region” and help civilians return to their homes voluntarily.

    At a two-day NATO meeting, which concluded on Friday, the German defense minister presented her proposal, which she said should be “ideally” mandated by the United Nations.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Stoltenberg welcomed the initiative but said there is still “some work to be done to collect the necessary political support.”

    “The present situation in northern Syria is not sustainable and in the international community has the responsibility to try to address all the challenges that we see,” he stated.

    “Therefore, I welcome the initiative and idea about how we can do it in a coordinated way as an international community.”…

    So who’s doing the work to be done?

  184. says

    PBS transcript – “For northern Syrians who endured ISIS, U.S. withdrawal means a new struggle to survive”:

    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon:

    …When we first met this woman named Batoul two years ago, she had just delivered a baby who was around four pounds. And no one knew what would happen.

    She had fled the Islamic State during the siege of Raqqa, had given all her gold, every bit of savings to a smuggler, who got her out as part of a five-car convoy. Her car was the first car. The fifth car blew up as it drove over an ISIS land mine.

    And over the past two years, I have really watched her fight for normalcy. And she, the last time I saw her in May, was so moving about how things were going well. And she said: “Look, thank God our children are all in school. We have this fragile stability.”

    And she really was, I think, to me, a mom whose life is on the front lines of this fight against extremism. And she told me: “Look, we don’t want the world to save us. We can do the work, but we just need some space and some normalcy.”

    A woman named Malika, who I have met a few times over the past year. She’s from the town of Deir el-Zour, and was talking to me about how her husband joined the SDF, which were the U.S.-backed forces who fought ISIS.

    Her husband died fighting ISIS alongside other members of the SDF who were backed by the Americans. And she talked to me about how her in-laws had afterward wanted to take control of her children. She has two boys and a girl.

    And she said: “No way. I will not have my children grow up among extremists. I’m actually going to give them a chance of education.”

    And she talked to me for a while about her daughter, and how she wanted her daughter to be educated. And even when I pressed her about what she wanted for her daughter, in terms of a husband, she said: “I won’t even think about that right now, because I want her to be a teacher or professor or something I never had the chance to be.”

    Malika is from the Arab community. And here is a young woman, Nitha, who I met, who is from this Bethnahrain Women’s Protection Force, which was a group of Christian young women who had formed early in the ISIS fight and joined alongside the Kurds, and then later the other Arabs who were part of the SDF, the U.S.-backed forces.

    And she talked to me about how, when she first joined this all-women’s force, her mother and father had been very against it. They thought it was shameful. And then, when they realized that her unit was part of protecting Christian communities from the Islamic State, Christian communities who had been besieged by ISIS fighters, kidnapped and worse, they were really proud.

    And they had come to really accept her decision and be very proud of it when they went to church on the weekends. And so she was talking to me about how she is in law school now, and was recruiting the next generation of young women who are going to be part of protecting their futures.

    And she said to me: “You know, Gayle, our generation is very different. We’re educated. The young women are educated. And all we want is for stability and security in our area.”

  185. says

    More from Gayle Tzemach Lemmon – “On the women who fought the Islamic State’s territory — and won.”:

    The story of America’s partners in the ISIS fight cannot be told without talking about the role of the women who led in battle against men who bought, sold and enslaved women. Talk to them and they will tell you they are not just battling ISIS, but the entire mindset that says women are worth nothing and matter none. These women signed up and refused to back down against the men of the Islamic State, and they have pressed forward to write what they call a new chapter for women, not just in Kurdish communities, but across the region. In the process, as I have seen for myself, they have built an experiment in women’s equality that goes well beyond what we have seen until now, anywhere in the world.

    For the past two years I have chronicled for my next book the stories of the women who led the battle against ISIS as the partner force for the United States. The respect the American forces felt for these battlefield fighters and commanders is shown in the words they used to describe these women: warriors, leaders, fighters.

    This all-women military force sits at the center of a politcal experiment based upon the notion that true equality is possible for women and good for everyone. And brought to you by women who spent four years battling — at close range — men who bought, sold and enslaved women while leading men in that fight.

    These young women — from Kurdish, Arab, Christian communities and beyond — have given all to beat ISIS. And on the heels of that fight, these young women created a real-life utopian push for equality in the last place most would expect to find it. On the ashes of the battle against the physical territory of the Islamic State, they launched an unlikely political experiment in which women play a leading role in all political bodies. And all this while almost no one outside its borders was taking note.

    Spend time with these women — Kurds, Christian, Arabs — -and it is clear they fight not just to defeat the Islamic State, but to gain against extremism and to advance the idea of women’s equality. After all, who are the first people to pay the price when extremists win? Women and girls. Across communities.

    In the coming months, I look forward to introducing you to the women who are part of this story. Their futures now hang in the balance as negotiations about the fate of their region presses forward. What is not in question is their role serving and protecting their communities and the important part they played in keeping ISIS at bay….

  186. says

    Independent – “Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to send millions of refugees to Europe unless it backs Syria ‘safe zone’”:

    Turkey‘s president has vowed to send millions of refugees to Europe if countries do not back his proposals for a “safe zone” in Syria.

    In a repeat of a previous threat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would “open the gates” for asylum-seekers if European countries failed to support Ankara’s plans to resettle them in Syria’s northeast.

    Turkey hosts about 3.6 million Syrians who fled conflict in their homeland, but wants to resettle up to two million of them back across the border.

    Earlier this month Mr Erdogan told European leaders he would “send 3.6 million refugees your way” in retaliation to stinging international criticism of his country’s military operation in northern Syria.

    The president said on Saturday that Turkey would clear Kurdish YPG militia from the region near its border if Russia did not fulfil its obligations under a bilateral accord clinched this week.

    Two human rights groups this week accused Turkey of risking Syrian refugees’ lives by forcibly returning them to a “war zone” in the north of their country.

    Dozens of Syrians have been “arbitrarily” detained by Turkish authorities and deported across the border to Idlib province, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.

  187. tomh says

    Former top Trump aide asks court to rule on whether he must testify in impeachment inquiry
    By Derek Hawkins and Tom Hamburger
    Oct. 25, 2019 at 11:18 p.m. PDT

    A former top national security aide to President Trump filed a lawsuit Friday asking a federal judge to resolve conflicting orders from Congress and the White House over whether he must testify in the impeachment inquiry, setting up a potentially momentous legal battle that could determine the course of the investigation.

    Charles Kupperman, who served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, is seeking a judicial ruling on whether he should comply with a subpoena from House Democrats or follow instructions from the White House not to appear.

    “Plaintiff obviously cannot satisfy the competing demands of both the Legislative and Executive Branches, and he is aware of no controlling judicial authority definitively establishing which Branch’s command should prevail,” the lawsuit read.

    The case could become the major test of what has emerged as a top constitutional dispute of the Trump era: whether the White House can prevent Trump’s top advisers from testifying before Congress, in this case about the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

    “If this case is ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, it will be one of the most consequential separation of powers cases in American constitutional history — however it is decided,” former federal judge J. Michael Luttig told The Washington Post.

    The outcome could also guide whether Bolton, who has not been subpoenaed, will face House investigators as part of the impeachment inquiry. Bolton and Kupperman, both represented by attorney Charles Cooper, are important witnesses for Democrats on Capitol Hill. Unlike some of the witnesses who have appeared in the inquiry so far, both have long records as Republican advisers — and both had access to private deliberations at the White House involving the president’s communications about Ukraine. Democrats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees have expressed keen interest in having both men testify.

    House Democrats subpoenaed Kupperman on Friday, ordering him to appear for a previously scheduled Monday morning deposition at the Capitol, according to the lawsuit. Kupperman’s attorney immediately asked the White House for the president’s position on the document.

    In a letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone responded that “constitutional immunity” protected Trump’s current and former senior advisers and that Kupperman was “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to his service as a senior adviser to the President.” The letter ordered Kupperman not to comply with the subpoena.


    Kupperman asked the court to expedite the case “in light of the pending impeachment proceedings.”

  188. says

    Reuters – “Erdogan should be prosecuted over Syrian offensive: ex-U.N. investigator del Ponte”:

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan should be investigated and indicted for war crimes over his country’s military offensive in Syria, former prosecutor and U.N. investigator Carla del Ponte said in an interview published on Saturday.

    Del Ponte, a former member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said Turkey’s intervention had broken international law and had reignited the conflict in Syria.

    “For Erdogan to be able to invade Syrian territory to destroy the Kurds is unbelievable,” said del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

    “An investigation should be opened into him and he should be charged with war crimes. He should not be allowed to get away with this scot free,” she told the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende in an interview.

    Turkey’s NATO allies, including the United States, have criticized its military incursion in northeast Syria, fearing it will undermine the fight against Islamic State militants.

    But del Ponte said European nations were reluctant to confront Turkey over its actions after Erdogan threatened to “open the gates” for refugees to head to Europe.

    “Erdogan has the refugees as a bargaining chip,” she said.

    Del Ponte joined the three-member Syria inquiry in September 2012, chronicling incidents such as chemical weapons attacks, a genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi population, siege tactics, and the bombing of aid convoys.

    She quit in 2017, saying a lack of political backing from the U.N. Security Council made the job impossible.

  189. says

    More re #322 above – Guardian – “Facebook includes Breitbart in new ‘high quality’ news tab”:

    Facebook’s launch of a new section on its flagship app dedicated to “deeply-reported and well-sourced” journalism sparked immediate controversy on Friday over the inclusion of Breitbart News, a publication whose former executive chairman explicitly embraced the “alt-right”.

    Facebook News is a separate section of the company’s mobile app that will feature articles from about 200 publishers. Friday’s launch is a test and will only be visible to some users in the US.

    The initiative is designed to quell criticism on two fronts: by promoting higher quality journalism over misinformation and by appeasing news publishers who have long complained that Facebook profits from journalism without paying for it. The company will pay some publishers between $1m and $3m each year to feature their articles, according to Bloomberg.

    Participating publications include the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, Bloomberg and ABC News, as well as local newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.

    Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, paid tribute to the importance of “high quality” journalism in an op-ed published in the New York Times, which referenced “how the news has held Facebook accountable when we’ve made mistakes”.

    Zuckerberg also alluded to the power that Facebook will have to influence the media, stating: “If a publisher posts misinformation, it will no longer appear in the product.”

    The op-ed does not reference the inclusion of Breitbart News, but the outlet is notorious for its role in promoting extreme rightwing narratives and conspiracy theories. Thousands of major advertisers have blacklisted the site over its extreme views.

    In 2017, BuzzFeed News reported on emails and documents showing how the former Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos had worked directly with a white nationalist and a neo-Nazi to write and edit an article defining the “alt-right” movement and advancing its ideas.

    Facebook has long faced scrutiny for its reticence to police white nationalism and far-right hate on its platform….

    Facebook declined to provide a full list of the participating publications or offer further comment.

    Asked about the inclusion of Breitbart News at a launch event for Facebook News in New York, Zuckerberg declined to comment on “any specific firm” but added, “I do think that part of having this be a trusted source is that it needs to have a diversity of … views in there. I think you want to have content that kind of represents different perspectives, but also in a way that complies with the standards that we have.”

    The Facebook CEO faced harsh questioning from lawmakers this week, when he testified at a hearing of the US House of Representatives financial services committee….

  190. says

    Julian Sanchez:

    If this [awarding of Pentagon contract to Microsoft over Amazon – SC] was the result of Trump’s intervention—and we know be DID explicitly intervene—it’s at least as bad as Ukraine. It’s not $400 million but $10 billion in taxpayer funds held hostage to punish a newspaper’s exercise of core First Amendment rights.

    As I noted the other day, this is exactly how Mexico’s PRI controlled the press during the long era of one-party rule; less through explicit censorship than use of public funds to reward compliant papers, and punish ones that published negative coverage or exposed corruption.

    Again, if this is the result of Trump’s directive to “screw Amazon” in procurement [quote here – SC] & there are no consequences, how many billions do we think the parent companies of media outlets are going to be willing to lose before they start ordering changes in coverage to appease Trump?

    The House needs to request an exp[e]dited GAO review of the procurement process here immediately.

  191. says

    Brett McGurk:

    Syria, last 24 hours:

    * US military returns in force from Iraq to guard oil fields

    * Thousands of refugees stream in other direction into northern Iraq

    * Erdogan threatens again to “do the cleansing work” in Kurdish areas US forces left to Russia and Assad


  192. says

    Rojava Information Center:

    We are working with local sources to document looting and property crimes in the zone of Turkish occupation.

    These images show the home of community leader Fuad Pasha after being plundered and burned.

    Local supermarkets, cooperatives and other family homes were also plundered.

    Also looted were:

    – Wheat and barley stores
    – Workshops for cement, iron and car batteries
    – Car workshops throughout garage district

    Look out for our detailed report on attacks and crimes against civilian infrastructure, coming soon.

  193. says

    Breaking via WSJ: Senior State Department official Philip Reeker is set to tell House impeachment investigators that Mike Pompeo and other top officials stymied a show of solidarity for the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after Trump had her removed.”

    Pompeo should resign for this alone. He can’t possibly have the trust and support of the people at State after this.

  194. tomh says

    Republican lawmakers ask questions about whistleblower, loyalty to Trump and conspiracy theories
    Greg Miller and Rachael Bade
    Oct. 26, 2019 at 2:33 p.m. PDT

    Republican lawmakers have used the congressional impeachment inquiry to gather information on a CIA employee who filed a whistleblower complaint, press witnesses on their loyalty to President Trump and advance conspiratorial claims that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election, according to current and former officials involved in the proceedings.

    GOP members and staffers have repeatedly raised the name of a person suspected of filing the whistleblower complaint that exposed Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations into his political adversaries, officials said.

    The Republicans have refrained during hearings from explicitly accusing the individual of filing the explosive complaint with the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general two months ago, officials said.

    But the questions have been interpreted as an attempt “to unmask the whistleblower,” whose identity is shielded under federal law, said several officials with direct knowledge of the depositions. Republicans appear to be seeking ways to discredit the whistleblower as well as other witnesses “by trying to dredge up any information they can,” one official said.

    The effort comes as Trump continues to lash out publicly against the whistleblower in ways that seem designed to goad Republican allies into naming the person. Trump has attacked the whistleblower at least 40 times on his Twitter account since the Ukraine scandal broke, including on Friday, when he asked, “Where is the whistleblower and why did he or she write such a fictitious and incorrect account of my phone call with the Ukrainian president?”

    The GOP line of questioning provides the most direct insight to date into the strategy of the president’s defenders in closed-door hearings that have produced powerful testimony about the administration’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into conducting investigations that Trump hoped would yield damaging information on Democrats, including former vice president Joe Biden. Biden is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

    The accounts, based on interviews with 10 people involved in the depositions, also underscore the extent to which senior Republicans are directly involved in the impeachment inquiry even as party leaders claim they are being excluded from it, depicting it as a secretive — and therefore suspect — attack on the president.

    In reality, Republican lawmakers and staffers have played a substantial — if subordinate — role since the impeachment inquiry began last month, officials said. Among those chiefly involved are Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), one of Trump’s most fervent defenders and the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee.

    “This is an utterly unfair characterization of how Republicans are using their time in the depositions and advances erroneous facts to benefit Adam Schiff’s partisan effort,” the senior GOP official said in a statement, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). “Our questions have resulted in the unearthing of material that Democrats want to ignore because they run counter to their impeachment quest.”

    Democrats contend that Republicans are not using the inquiry to uncover facts about the administration’s interactions with Ukraine. “There’s been zero interest [among the GOP] in actually getting to the conduct of the president,” a Democratic lawmaker said. “It’s not the subject of their questioning at all.”

    Nunes has used the depositions to try to link those appearing as part of the impeachment inquiry to other individuals who figured prominently in GOP efforts to discredit previous investigations of Trump’s ties with Russia in 2016, officials said.

    Witnesses including former top White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill have been asked whether they had any interactions with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled a dossier of allegations about Trump’s Russia ties, work that was initially funded by Republicans but was later underwritten by Democrats.

    Republicans have also asked witnesses whether they had contact with Bruce Ohr, a former Justice Department official whose wife was affiliated with Fusion GPS, the investigative firm that hired Steele.

    Hill denied having such connections, according to officials familiar with her testimony. She declined to comment for this story through her attorney, Lee Wolosky.

    The questions about the whistleblower have caught the attention of Democrats who initially explored ways to have the CIA employee testify while shielding the person’s identity, and more recently have indicated that it may not be necessary for the person to testify.

    Attorneys for the whistleblower said any efforts by lawmakers to unmask the individual would be improper. “Members of Congress have a duty to protect those who lawfully expose suspected government wrongdoing,” the attorneys, Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid, said in a statement.

    The development has created a potential complication for the committee’s plans to release transcripts of deposition testimony. Two officials said the committee probably will have to remove “personally identifiable information” about individuals named by members of Congress and witnesses in those sessions to protect those not appearing before the committee from retaliation or exposure.

    One former official said that Republicans “didn’t press much beyond” preliminary questions about contacts between witnesses and the suspected whistleblowers. A second official said, however, that “it’s more nefarious than that,” and that the Republican inquiries are persistent and seen as a “bid to out” those individuals.

    In her Oct. 14 testimony, Hill was also asked about the activities and loyalties of a longer list of current or former employees of the National Security Council, including former national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

    Republicans seemed to be trying to “tie him” to suspected efforts to undermine Trump by former Obama administration officials who remained in their White House assignments during Trump’s early months in office, officials said.

    The questions appeared driven at least in part by Derek Harvey, a senior adviser to Nunes who worked on the National Security Council early in the Trump presidency before being removed by McMaster amid allegations that Harvey was compiling lists of suspected disloyal colleagues.

    Yovanovitch was asked point-blank whether she had ever spoken disparagingly about Trump while serving in Kyiv or had sought to undermine his policies — a veiled charge that she vehemently denied, officials said.

    Republicans have also spent substantial time in depositions seeking to advance Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine — and not Russia — interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

    Republicans appear to be trying to link their concerns about the Steele dossier to Ukraine, a country Trump has said, without evidence, interfered in the election. One Democratic official present for witness testimony said Republicans were asking witnesses things like, “Are you aware that part of the evidence in the Steele Dossier originated in Ukraine?”

    “The witnesses are like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ which makes sense, because it’s totally made up,” an official said.

    Republicans have also used their time to go after Biden, including citing Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that Biden used his position as vice president to pressure Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who had been investigating the energy company that had employed Biden’s son. During an interview with George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, GOP questioners repeatedly asked the diplomat whether the United States had led the effort to remove the Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin.

    U.S. officials did press for Shokin’s removal amid concerns that he was allowing corruption to go unchecked in Ukraine, a position backed at the time by U.S. allies in Europe.

  195. says

    A short time ago: Water cannons used on protesters in Santiago, Chile – unrest continues despite the President firing his ministers.
    @Maritza050407 said:
    ‘Right now Plaza Italia …. is the repression over ??? All it’s normal?? Judge yourself’.”

    Video atl.

  196. says

    Yesterday’s tweet o’ the day.

    BBC – “Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us'”:

    …Qamishli ‘s squares and electricity poles are decorated with the pictures of the fallen – men and women killed in the war against IS.

    Every day there are funerals somewhere in this tiny region. It has been this way since IS attacked the Kurds in 2014. But now the victims are those who have been killed since Turkish and allied forces launched their cross-border attack earlier this month.

    At the funerals, many mourners hide their tears. Instead they lead the caskets to graveyards with dances and chants.

    At one such ceremony, for a fallen fighter of the Kurdish YPG, a tall man in his 60s approaches me and calmly says: “Erdogan doesn’t like the Kurds. He wants us to leave,” referring to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip, who regards the YPG as terrorists.

    The Kurds lost 11,000 men and women battling against IS. “The fight wasn’t ours only, we fought on behalf of humanity,” the man says. “Where is the international community, why don’t they stop Erdogan?”

    In a bakery sits a pile of bread, baked for fighters on the front line. Bahouz, a 16-year-old boy who is cutting dough, asks me my opinion of Americans and Europeans.

    “Do you think they will stop Erdogan from massacring us?” An older boy shouts: “Trump sold us – oil is more important than our lives.”

    The young boys are clearly frightened. They know if the pro-Turkish Islamist militias arrive here, they would be the prime target. Already videos have emerged apparently showing Turkish-backed militias shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting handcuffed young men just like them.

    At a hospital treating wounded YPG fighters, a doctor, Rojda, runs from one operating theatre to another. Rojda, a petite woman in her 30s, is also the director of the facility.

    “What’s the point of filming?” she asks wearily. “Don’t waste your time. The world has closed its eyes on us.”

    One of the patients I meet there is 23-year-old Jiyan. She sits on her bed, staring into the distance. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her head has been surgically pinned, her skull fractured and a hand and both legs are injured.

    She laughs derisorily. “I survived fighting IS in Kobane, Manbij, and Raqqa, but it was the Turks who almost killed me!”

    Jiyan was in Ras al-Ain when Turkey attacked the border town. Her unit came under extensive Turkish artillery and bombardment.

    “We put up a good fight against Turkish-backed thugs, but we couldn’t match Turkish firepower,” she tells me, adding: “I lost many friends.”

    On our way out of Syria, I meet Kino Gabriel, spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led alliance of militias.

    A tall man with a big smile, he is the founder of the Christian Syriac Military Council, part of the SDF. He avoids criticising President Trump, hoping, it seems, that the US will change course and come back to the SDF’s aid.

    “Those jihadists backed by Turkey are not only coming for our land, they see us as infidels. They are coming for us,” he says.

    As US troops withdrew from Qamishli last week on Donald Trump’s orders, one picture in particular – of a US soldier in his armoured vehicle wearing YPJ (the Kurdish women’s fighting force) insignia on his sleeve – resonated with the Kurdish allies they were leaving in haste.

    “The American soldiers are just like us – shocked and disappointed with this political decision,” Kino Gabriel says. “But it is not their fault. We honour their sacrifices too.”

  197. says

    Ryan Browne:

    Turkey’s Defense Ministry says it exchanged information and coordinated with the US military prior to the US counter-terrorism operation in NW Syria, a raid that US officials tell CNN targeted the leader of ISIS, al Baghdadi

    A US official tells CNN that Turkey played no role in assisting the operation though the operation was deconflicted with the Turkish military due to its proximity to Turkey’s border. The official also said the Kurdish-led SDF did provide some intelligence support to the operation.

    The Iraqi government as well, it appears.

  198. says

    #Breaking #SDF statement;
    ‘Following intensive discussions with Russia on our previous reservations, we agreed to implement its initiative to stop the Turkish aggression against NE Syria, as a result of Sochi agreement in Oct 22 2019.

    SDF would redeploy in other areas away from the Turkish borders to save blood and keep people safe from the Turkish war machine. However, the Government of Syria border guards will be deployed along the Syrian sovereign borderline with Turkey.

    We assure the public opinion that remain fully committed defending people and their achievements. We call Russia to implement its commitments and guarantee initiating a constructive dialogue between the Self Administration and the central government in Damascus’.”

  199. says

    Should be noted that YPG spokesperson @NuriMahmud1 already told @K24English in March 2019 that the SDF information that Baghdadi escaped (Deir ezZor) to Idlib. This also confirms the important role SDF played in locating Baghdadi.”

    It seems like the US mission was launched from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, not al-Asad airbase in Iraq or İncirlik in Turkey.”

    Americans called Russians on ‘de-confliction’ line to warn of pending U.S. military assault on Baghdadi compound in NW Syria. No de-confliction with Turkey who ‘did not help in any way’, U.S. defense official says.” (This conflicts with the statement @ #355; either way, they weren’t involved.)

    SDF advisor @PolatCanRojava ‘Baghdadi was hiding in a village called Barisha, near the Turkish base in the northern countryside of Idlib. For 5 months, there has been joint cooperation on the ground & accurate monitoring until we achieved a joint operation to kill al-Baghdadi’.”

  200. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    […] Trump delivered his speech with such bloody glee, that clips of it could be used for any number of terrorist recruiting videos. He repeatedly returned to claims that al-Baghdadi had “screamed, cried, and whimpered,” that he had “run like a dog, like a coward.” And, according to Trump, the ISIS founder was eventually pursued into a dead-end tunnel by dogs brought to the compound by U.S. forces. He then died by setting off a suicide vest. In the process he also killed three children.

    No one mourns al-Baghdadi. The level of fanaticism, intolerance, and violence he brought to ISIS was disturbing even to other terrorist leaders. However, the way that Trump painted his end, including his emphasis on the use of dogs, his calling al-Baghdadi a dog, and repeatedly talking about the ISIS leader crying and screaming … will not go down well in the Middle East. Additionally, the idea that al-Baghdadi ultimately evaded capture and died by his own hand will also be seen as a “victory” of sort by his followers. Trump’s delivery of the information, and the disturbing level of childish gloating that came with it, is likely to generate considerable anger […]

    Trump reported that eleven children were taken out of the compound and handed over to “someone” who could be trusted to look over them. He did not say who, and he did not provide any figures for the number of ISIS fighters killed or captured at the site.

    At numerous times during the announcement and the short Q&A that followed, Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, and Syria for their help. He mentioned the Kurds only in response to a question, and denied that Kurdish soldiers had been involved even though Kurdish leaders had earlier described al-Baghdadi’s death as a “joint operation.” Trump also noted that he had called Russia in advance to let them know U.S. forces were coming in to do something “they would like.”

    Trump ended the Q&A session by claiming that he had called for Osama bin Laden to be taken out in a book published before 9/11. Which was simply not true. […]

    Finally, Trump used his speech to once again make claims that the United States should have taken the oil when invading Iraq and declared that the U.S. actually would take some of the oil from Syria — even though such action is clearly against international law. “It helps us, because we should be able to take some also,” said Trump. He suggested that Exxon could do the job as he repeated that the U.S. would keep forces in Syria not to protect people … but to take oil.


  201. says

    Why is Facebook trying to re-elect Trump?

    Bullying works.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been on a GOP charm offensive, and it seems to be working for the social media behemoth as it makes its allegiance to the Republican Party more open.

    In the days preceding his latest testimony before Congress, Zuckerberg had been “hosting a series of dinners with conservative journalists, right-wing celebrities, and at least one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who grilled Zuckerberg about Facebook’s market dominance when he testified in a Senate hearing last year,” Politico reported. Among those who attended the conservative-only dinners at Zuckerberg’s home were Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, radio host Hugh Hewitt, Guy Benson of Townhall, and Byron York of the Washington Examiner. All of them function as public apologists for Donald Trump, who has spent years bullying Facebook for supposedly trying to “censor” conservative voices.

    Facebook’s reward for that outreach effort came last week when “Republican members of the committee were generally more supportive of Mr. Zuckerberg,” when he appeared before Congress, The New York Times reported.

    […] Facebook’s political transformation from a quasi-progressive outpost that revolutionized information sharing into a bullied GOP lapdog now seems complete, as the company gives Republicans a green light to use the social media platform to lie their way through Trump’s re-election campaign next year and create a sea of online disinformation. “Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation,” Elizabeth Warren warned this month .[…]

    “Trump’s reelection campaign is far outspending other candidates on Facebook ads and boosted posts—to the tune of more than $20.7 million between May 2018 and October 2019, more than all the Democratic presidential candidates combined,” Slate reports. […]

    Facebook now comes across as a digital errand boy for Republican campaigns: It’s because the Republican Party today revolves around telling lies. And it’s not a bug—it’s a feature.

    Republicans proudly lie about taxes, and they lie about immigration. It’s become like breathing for them. (Trump is on pace to tell 16,000 lies in four years.) They lie about everything and that has become the fuel that drives the party. So naturally it’s also the fuel that drives Trump’s re-election campaign. […]

    Note, however, that there is no such mirror embrace of wholesale untruths by the Democratic Party, which simply does not traffic in misinformation the way the GOP does. And in that environment, Facebook has decided that it will unilaterally allow politicians to lie via paid Facebook ads under the auspice that it’s news. “In a democracy, I think that people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying,” Zucker recently told The Washington Post, defending the company’s official shoulder-shrug policy to allow massive misinformation campaigns. Well, guess who benefits from that? The GOP. And guess who looks like they created a really bad policy in order to appease the Republican Party? Facebook. […]


  202. says

    Trump can’t control his narcissism and sadistic delight in announcing killing of ISIS leader

    […] Trump on killing of ISIS leader: “He was screaming crying and whimpering, he was scared out of his mind…”

    1) Trump revels in accounting violent details.
    2) Trump can’t control praising himself.

    Some more quotes:

    “He died like a dog. He died like a coward.”

    Terrorists are “losers and violent puppies.”

    “As a coward running and crying,” —

    “If you were a normal person you say “knock, knock” and you come in” describing why the walls had to be blown down. (How dumb does he think we are?)
    “I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq and I also want to thank the Syrian kurds for certain support they were able to give us.” (For “certain support” how about for the support from the CIA most likely working with the Kurds that made it all possible?) -—
    “We had our own intel we got very little help… when we waste our time with our intelligence we hurt our country.” (A slam at the CIA)
    Another slam about the CIA “I’ve dealt with some people who aren’t very intelligent having to do with intel.”
    “I wrote a book. I don’t get any credit for this, I never do, there’s somebody like Osama bin Laden, we’ve got to take him out…” “I think I wrote 12 books, all very successful…” (Brags about predicting World Trade Center — saying if they had listened to him it wouldn’t have come down. Plus, how often does he brags about books that were ghost written for him?)
    When bin Laden was killed Obama said four sentences describing it and then entire press conference lasted 15 minutes. Trump spoke for 50 minutes. […]

    AP FACT CHECK: Trump book didn’t foreshadow bin Laden attack

    Excerpt for a longer article:

    TRUMP’s tweet: “Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!”

    THE FACTS: There was nothing original or clairvoyant in the reference to bin Laden in Trump’s 2000 book. As part of his criticism of what he considered Bill Clinton’s haphazard approach to U.S. security as president, he stated: “One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy Number One, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.”

    […] Trump’s book did not call for further U.S. action against bin Laden or al-Qaida to follow up on attacks Clinton ordered in 1998 in Afghanistan and Sudan after al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. […]

    In the campaign, Trump boasted even more expansively about being a soothsayer. He stated that his book said of bin Laden, “you better take him out,” which it did not say, and that he “predicted Osama bin Laden” back when “nobody really knew who he was.” Bin Laden was well known by the CIA, other national security operations, experts and the public long before 9/11 […]

  203. says

    From Wonkette:

    In a stirring moment of national triumph, Donald Trump announced this morning that you can’t impeach him because he’s finally a war hero.

    In a press conference that was exactly as boastful and self-serving as you’d expect, the man who tweeted that Barack Obama deserved no credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden took a victory lap for his brilliant leadership in bringing about the death of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US special forces in a raid last night. Trump said he had watched the entire operation “like a movie” in the White House Situation Room […]

    Trump said al-Bahgdadi had blown himself and three of his children up with a suicide vest, and then the “president” made sure America knows what a complete girly-man the terrorist leader was, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” Trump returned to that theme again and again, because in pro wrestling and Trump’s foreign policy, the bad guy isn’t just defeated, he has to be emasculated. Also, Trump made sure to emphasize his military prowess by having ALL the flags behind him, whereas when Obama announced bin Laden’s death, he didn’t feel the need to wrap himself in borrowed military regalia […]

    Gosh, Trump sure is a model of humility. […]

    Trump insisted that capturing or Killing al-Baghdadi had been his top foreign policy priority, which is why you won’t find hardly any discussion of it prior to today, because it was secret. He said that while al-Baghdadi’s body was mutilated in the blast, DNA testing had confirmed his identity. Then it was back to the ritual ridicule, insisting that al-Baghdadi, a “thug” who tried to intimidate people through terror, “spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.” But wait, there’s more! “Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward running and crying.” Trump doesn’t like crying, because it’s unmanly, except when it’s coming from an accused attempted rapist he’s nominated to the Supreme Court.

    Trump even got to use his favorite animal metaphor, too!

    Baghdadi and the losers who worked for him, and losers they are, they had no idea what they were getting into. In some cases, they were very frightened puppies […] He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place. God bless America.

    Trump noted that no Americans were hurt in the operation, but that one of the special forces’ K-9 dogs was injured, presumably like something other than a dog because that’s a dishonorable thing. Dogs don’t like Trump, either. (Incidentally, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told ABC’s “This Week” that two soldiers received minor injuries but quickly returned to duty.) […]

    More at the link.

  204. says

    SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali: “Turkey which did not see presence of ISIS head #Baghdadi and ISIS spox. literally a few kilometers from its border as a security threat is demanding the forces who fought ISIS to move 32 km.s away from the border since they constitute a security threat. What does it tell?”

  205. microraptor says

    I saw on the TV tonight that Steve Pinker is doing commercials promoting the FFRF now.

  206. says

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

    We have not had a response from No 10 yet to the EU Brexit extension decision. But under the terms of the Benn act (the law that was passed requiring Boris Johnson to request an extension), he has to accept the offer. This is what it says in section 3(1):

    If the European council decides to agree an extension of the period in article 50(3) of the treaty on European Union ending at 11.00pm on 31 October 2019 to the period ending at 11.00pm on 31 January 2020, the prime minister must, immediately after such a decision is made, notify the president of the European council that the United Kingdom agrees to the proposed extension.

  207. says

    Guardian – “Argentina election: Macri out as Cristina Fernández de Kirchner returns to office as VP”:

    In a dramatic comeback, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, one of Argentina’s most popular presidents during her two terms in 2007-2015, has been voted back into office as vice president.

    A large crowd of supporters burst into a roar outside the Frente de Todos (Everybody’s Front) party bunker in the Chacarita neighbourhood of the capital city of Buenos Aires at 9pm when preliminary official results gave the victory to the centre left presidential candidate Alberto Fernández and his running mate Fernández de Kirchner.

    Incumbent Mauricio Macri conceded defeat on Sunday night, telling supporters at his headquarters that he had called Fernández to congratulate him and invited him for a breakfast chat on Monday at the Pink Presidential Palace.

    “We need an orderly transition that will bring tranquility to all Argentinians, because the most important thing is the wellbeing of all Argentinians,” Macri said.

    With more than 90% of ballots counted, Fernández, who is no relation of Fernández de Kirchner, had 47.79% of the vote, compared to Macri’s 40.71%.

    The victory puts an end to the pro-business economic policies of Macri’s administration, who promised “zero poverty” during his electoral campaign but exits office with a plunging peso, an inflation rate that rocketed to an annual 56% and the number of people living beneath the breadline having risen from 29% to 35%.

    President-elect Fernández, who assumes office on 10 December, is a moderate Peronist who has pledged to respect the $57bn IMF loan taken out by Macri last year to try and salvage Argentina’s creaking economy while promising to improve wages and benefits for workers and pensioners.

    His victory was widely expected and car horns started sounding non-stop in Buenos Aires after polling booths closed at 6pm on Sunday celebrating his victory….

  208. says

    Lara Seligman:

    New details: The SDF spent 5 months working with USG to gather intelligence on Baghdadi’s whereabouts, according to Kurdish and U.S. officials. Gen. Mazloum Abdi, SDF commander, was the only foreigner to know about the target, he tells me.

    The operation was delayed by Turkey’s incursion into NE Syria, Mazloum says. US official backs up his account.

    “Mazloum built a sophisticated network of informers in Northwest Syria, a lot of his intelligence helped even stopping terrorist attacks in the west,” says one analyst.

    FP link atl.

  209. says

    More re #371 – “As it turns out, Alberto Fernández was elected Argentina’s new President on Lula’s birthday. Here he is making the ‘Free Lula’ sign, saying he hopes to see the imprisoned former Brazilian President soon. There’s about a 100% chance of a feud with Bolsonaro”

    Also, as mentioned in that thread – AJ – “‘What you see is what you get’: Bogota elects first woman mayor”:

    Colombians made history on Sunday by electing a woman mayor in Bogota as they took to the polls in local and regional elections for the first time since the signing of a landmark 2016 peace deal.

    Journalist-turned-politician Claudia Lopez, 49, is part of the Green Alliance party. A former senator, she was vice-presidential candidate in the 2018 election.

    The position of mayor of Bogota, the capital, is as the most influential political position in Colombia, after the presidency.

    “Claudia Lopez’s win in Bogota is historical on several levels,” said Arlene Tickner, political science professor at Rosario University.

    “She will be the first woman and the first openly-gay politician to occupy the second most important elected office in Colombia, and her long-standing fight against corruption will hopefully create a battle cry that other like-minded elected officials throughout Colombia can join.”…

  210. says

    Jennifer Griffin, Fox:

    @BenjaminHallFNC interviewed Kurdish Gen Mazloum, who says US and SDF knew Baghdadi’s location since May 15th.
    He left Baghouz when Caliphate fell, and was in Syria near Deir ez-Zour first, before heading to Idlib May 15th

    @BenjaminHallFNC in frank interview with Kurdish general Mazloum: They acted, because Baghdadi’s right hand man was planning on moving him to a new location.
    Had Baghdadi moved, the US would have struck quickly, acc to Mazloum.

    Kurdish Gen Mazloum tells .@BenjaminHallFNC: The SDF provided the location, the details about the Baghdadi compound, the tunnels, and how many people were with him. The SDF knew this because of a source inside ISIS.
    An SDF member was on the raid helping US.

    Gen Mazloum tells .@BenjaminHallFNC Kurdish fighters still working w/ US military. “There are more ISIS raids/ arrests planned for next few days,” acc to Mazloum, who detailed a joint US raid to kill ISIS spokesman in Jarabulus, N Syria around same time Baghdadi killed.

    Esper is speaking now. Talking a lot about the SDF and how the US will continue to work with them, how the oil is important in providing funds for their counter-ISIS work, Turkey will be held responsible for its incursion, etc.

    Holy shit, does Milley look and sound like a US military dude.

  211. tomh says

    Morrison will appear if subpoenaed, lawyer says

    Following Kupperman’s failure to appear, a lawyer for another witness scheduled for deposition this week — Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s Europe and Eurasia director — issued a statement saying that he still plans to appear if subpoenaed.

    “Our plans have not changed: if subpoenaed, Mr. Morrison will appear,” Morrison’s attorney Barbara Van Gelder said in a statement.

    Morrison could be a key witness.

    Acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. has told investigators that Morrison was on the July call between Trump and Zelensky. Taylor said he spoke to Morrison several times about his concerns that Trump was using military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

  212. says

    Reuters – “Ministers in anti-Islamic State coalition to meet in Washington November 14: official”:

    Foreign ministers from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State will meet in Washington on Nov. 14 to weigh how to bolster the fight against the jihadist group after the killing of its leader in a U.S. raid, a senior State Department official said.

    About 30-40 ministers and organizations that are part of the wider coalition will convene on the initiative of France and backed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, aiming to boost the coalition’s presence in northeast Syria, the official said.

    “This is something President Trump has been working on both to get troops on the ground, airplanes in the air and money flowing to stabilization in that area from partners and allies who are in the coalition,” said the official, who spoke to reporters on Monday on the condition of anonymity…. [LOL]

  213. tomh says

    Shifting Course, Democrats Plan First Floor Vote on Impeachment Inquiry
    By Nicholas Fandos
    Oct. 28, 2019
    Updated 3:51 p.m. ET

    The House plans to take its first formal vote Thursday on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Democratic leaders said Monday, ushering in a new phase as they prepare to go public with their investigation into his dealings with Ukraine.

    Democrats described the vote, in which they plan to “affirm” the inquiry, as a necessary next step to be able to push it forward, rather than a response to sustained criticism from Republicans and the White House, who have accused them of throwing out past impeachment precedents and denying the president due process rights.

    But it will mark the first time that the full House has gone on record with regard to an inquiry that has been underway since late September. And it comes after Democrats have insisted for weeks that they did not need a formal vote of the full House to authorize the proceedings.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the vote in a letter to colleagues Monday afternoon.

    “This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the president and his counsel,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.

    Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he would introduce the resolution, which has not yet been finalized, on Tuesday. His panel plans to consider it on Wednesday, followed by a vote of the full House on Thursday.

    “We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.

  214. says

    VOA’s Mutlu Civiroglu @Mutludc: Kurds in Syria never sought independence, rather they wanted a decentralized Syria where Kurds and ethnic and religious minorities can live together.

    Watch more on Plugged In with @greta:..”

    This is true. They’ve been saying this for a long time, and the community they’ve been building in Syria has been multi-ethnic.

  215. says

    “What Trump’s travel ban really looks like, almost two years in”:

    Did President Donald Trump’s travel ban – in place now for more than 22 months – become, in practice, a Muslim ban?

    The third version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban went into full effect on Dec. 8, 2017.

    The list of countries whose citizens are banned from entering the United States include Muslim-majority countries Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, as well as North Korea and Venezuela.

    Now that time has passed, policymakers, political scientists like myself and all Americans can start to understand the ban’s effects.

    Was it actually a Muslim ban, as it was called at the time it was introduced? Or was that just an anti-Trump label? What percentage of people from those banned countries did pass the “enhanced vetting” and get an actual visa to enter the United States?

    I looked through the government’s data to find answers.

    The first congressional hearing on the travel ban, held on Sept. 24, established a need to reassess the impacts of the policy.

    From what I see, looking at 18 months of government-provided data, the current travel ban is in effect a Muslim ban. I think that policymakers should take a deeper look into travel ban statistics and hold the Trump administration accountable for its visa policy for the restricted countries.

    Data presented atl.

  216. says

    BREAKING: Syrian Democratic Council representative @sinam56 just confirmed to me that the #SDF and the US military conducted counter-#ISIS operations with air support in #Afrin and #Jarabulus, both #Turkey-held territories. Updates to come…”

    Richard Engel: “There’s a reason Kurds are sharing so much intelligence. They want to show they played, and still play, a vital role fighting ISIS. That they lost 11,000 people doing it, and should not be abandoned by the US while their homeland is under attack. It’s not about bragging rights.”

  217. tomh says

    IMO, Pelosi has mishandled the impeachment from the start. She was six months late in starting it, putting the Dems in a time crunch, particularly wrt court proceedings, and now buckling to GOP pressure to hold a vote on authorization. Republicans are already crowing that it means the Dems are admitting they have been conducting an “unauthorized impeachment,” and that all depositions so far are illegitimate. Linday Graham taking credit for the vote, “There is no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming response House Democrats heard from the American people and Senate Republicans in support of my resolution forced their hand,”

    Why wouldn’t she stick to her guns and ignore the loudmouths? This was unnecessary. At the beginning it would have meant something, now it’s just caving in.

  218. says

    Russia has become the world’s most unequal country, with 83% of its wealth owned by the richest 10% of the population, according to a Credit Suisse report.”

    I keep thinking about these tweets from Julia Davis last week:

    #Russia’s state TV shows Joe Biden’s campaign ad, wherein he says:
    ‘Mr. Putin, the American people decide our elections—not you’.
    The hosts and guests (including lawmaker Aleksey Zhuravlyov, chairman of the party Motherland) laugh out loud in the most sinister, hideous manner.”

    #Russia’s state TV: Ukrainian panelist says that he doesn’t usually get involved in U.S. politics, but America can’t stand four more years of Trump. Host Olga Skabeeva tells him: ‘When we interfere, our candidate usually wins—and yours loses. That’s what happened in 2016’.”

    What a sad little dystopia Putin and his gang have made of Russia. No vision of justice or a good life to offer anyone at home or abroad. A celebration of theft, trickery, thuggery, callousness, cheating. An utterly stupid ideology based on insane conspiracy theories. A bunch of hollow kleptocrats looting the national wealth.

  219. says

    NEW: Alex Vindman, the first White House aide who listened to Trump’s July call to testify, will tell impeachment investigators he considered Trump’s treatment of Ukraine so damaging to US interests that he twice raised it with superiors.

    Vindman will also testify that he wrote a memo in August to try to restart security aid for Ukraine but Trump refused to sign it.”

  220. says

    Breaking via NYT: A W.H. national security official who’s a decorated Iraq war vet plans to tell investigators he heard Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden, a request he considered so damaging that he reported it to a superior.”

    NYT link at this and #411.

  221. says

    Shimon Prokupecz:

    I think this is significant. For all this talk about how long it could take impeachment inquiry demands by congress to wind its way through the courts – here’s what happened tonight:

    Judge Richard Leon wants to hear from lawyers for the Trump White House, the House of Representatives and from impeachment witness Charles Kupperman this Thursday, after Kupperman filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to decide whether he would need to testify.

  222. says

    Susan Hennessey (similar to Josh Marshall @ #143 above):

    The astounding thing is how very close Trump came to getting away with it. But for the courage of one nameless whistleblower, headlines would now be overrun with Biden and ominous foreign investigations. The fact of Trump’s malicious hand it in all never would’ve been untangled.

    And while I admire many of the civil servants who’ve come forward to testify in a full and forthright manner, I also wonder if there hadn’t been a whistleblower complaint and subpoenas and safety in numbers would they have just gone on and said nothing?

    As I argued @ #87 above, it makes it that much harder for Barr to get away with his scheme as well.

  223. says

    Re #415, I will say that from what we’ve seen Zelenskyy was admirably resistant to the pressure. I’m not sure that the “ominous foreign investigations” were a given.

  224. says

    Andrew Desiderio:


    —Has first-hand knowledge
    —Was on July 25 call
    —Twice reported concerns to NSC lawyer
    —Believed Trump undermined U.S. nat’l security
    —Is an immigrant from the Soviet Union
    —Served in Iraq & was wounded by roadside bomb
    —Received a Purple Heart

  225. tomh says

    Judge sets Thursday hearing in Kupperman case

    A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for 3 p.m. Thursday in the Kupperman case.

    In announcing the hearing date, Judge Richard J. Leon cited “the time-sensitive nature of the issues raised in this case.”

    Leon was nominated to the U.S. District Court in 2001 by President George W. Bush. He previously spent much of his career working as a congressional committee investigator and Justice Department attorney.

  226. says

    Kurds in northeast Syria are grappling with loss and a sense of betrayal since the U.S. withdrew troops. ‘What is there to say to Trump?’ said the grandfather of a girl who lost a leg. ‘If it weren’t for his withdrawal, this wouldn’t have happened’.

    Mass funerals for Kurdish fighters have become a common scene since the U.S. troop withdrawal left them open to Turkish attacks. ‘It’s not just one person who died’, one fighter told us. ‘An entire nation has died’.”

    Video and NYT link atl.

  227. says

    Politico – “‘Unprecedented’: Florida GOP postpones biggest annual fundraiser”:

    The Republican Party of Florida on Monday postponed its biggest annual fundraiser, a move that some officials blamed on lackluster interest from donors.

    Planners were having difficulty selling table sponsorships to the Statesman’s Dinner [heh], and money that Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to raise for the event has yet to arrive. Event planners also couldn’t land a keynote speaker for the dinner, which was scheduled for Nov. 9 in Orlando.

    The postponement is a significant setback to the state Republican Party and potentially President Donald Trump, who will need to win Florida to secure his reelection in 2020. The annual dinner, which last year netted the party $500,000, is as much a pep rally as it is a fundraiser, serving to gin up excitement in a state where elections are decided on slim margins and voter turnout is critical. The snafu adds to the woes of a party already gripped by infighting over its leadership.

    “Someone dropped the ball, it is unprecedented to cancel such a high-profile dinner,” said one member of the state executive committee. “Announcing the cancellation without even giving a notice to the committee is even worse.”

    Some officials are unconvinced the party is in a position to reschedule the Statesman’s Dinner.

    It’s another blow to a party that has been in turmoil in recent weeks.

    DeSantis Chief of Staff Shane Strum and first lady Casey DeSantis were behind the ouster of top party officials earlier this year and recently, with Trump’s endorsement, installed a new executive director, Peter O’Rourke.

    Last week, O’Rourke was hit with a scathing report on at his leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ whistleblower office.

    The department’s Office of Inspector General said O’Rourke tried to bury whistleblower complaints and showed “bias” investigating complaints made against prominent Trump appointees….

  228. says

    Thread on Operation Inherent Resolve’s spokesman’s press conference today:

    #HappeningNow: @OIRSpox delivers press conference in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil to discuss the Global Coalition’s mission in the autonomous Kurdish region.

    “The #Peshmerga are so proficient that the coalition’s mission continues to develop,” @OIRSpox says, adding they “will continue to partner with the Peshmerga as they continue to implement reforms to become more unified and stronger.”

    .@OIRSpox: #Baghdadi is no more, but our mission continues to the enduring defeat of #ISIS. We are commited to our partnerships with the Peshmerga as well as the #SDF south of the Deir al-Zor border.

    .@OIRSpox to Kurdistan 24: The coalition and our partners have continued our missions against #ISIS, and we will continue to target the terror group wherever they are.

    Asked by a reporter if the Coalition will continue to support the Kurdistan Region, @OIRSpox says, “Absolutely. The coalition continues to be partnered with the Peshmerga.”

  229. KG says

    A UK election in the first half of December now looks a certainty, as Corbyn has decided to back it (probably so as not to be seen to be dragged into one, as other opposition parties were going to support a government bill for one). On the whole, this is probably the best, although small, chance of avoiding Brexit. The Tories are well ahead in the polls, but:
    a) An election campaign means other parties get more coverage, the governing party is seen more as one among the compatitors. And Corbyn is at his best in such a campaign.
    b) The tories’ vote – around 35% in current polls – may not be well-distributed. They are almost certain to lose seats to the SNP in Scotland and to the LibDems in parts of England, so would need a considerable gain from Labour to win a majority.
    c) Farage is likely to syphon off part of the Brexiteer vote, unless Johnson can buy him off.
    d) The “D”UP may well lose seats in Northern Ireland. Their strategy has proved a failure, and their main unionist rivals, the UUP, have said they intend to fight every seat. Moreover, it’s not clear Johnson, who has just betrayed them, will be able to rely on them if he’s a few seats short of a majority.

    An oddity about the current situation. Since it appears a bill needing only a simple majority can override the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, any future majority government will be able to get an election whenever it wants – as was the case pre-FTPA – just by pushing such a bill through. So only a minority government cannot choose to hold an election – but arguably, that’s the situation in which it should be able to: disregarding the special features of the current situation, any such government could be put in the position of being unable to pass any legislation, or even continue to collect taxes, but forced to continue as the government. One more argument for a written constitution.

  230. says

    From Vindman’s prepared statement (NPR link):

    …I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America. For more than two decades, it has been my honor to serve as an officer in the United States Army. As an infantry officer, I served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations. In Iraq, I was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart.

    Since 2008, I have been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia. In this role, I have served in the United States’ embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. In Washington, D.C., I was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs where I authored the principle strategy for managing competition with Russia. In July 2018, I was asked to serve at the National Security Council.

    The privilege of serving my country is not only rooted in my military service, but also in my personal history. I sit here, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant. My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three and a half years old. Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country. For many years, life was quite difficult. In spite of our challenging beginnings, my family worked to build its own American dream. I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics.

    For over twenty years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a nonpartisan manner, and have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations.

    Before recounting my recollection of various events under investigation, I want to clarify a few issues. I am appearing today voluntarily pursuant to a subpoena and will answer all questions to the best of my recollection.

    I want the Committees to know I am not the whistleblower who brought this issue to the CIA and the Committees’ attention. I do not know who the whistleblower is and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistleblower.

    Also, as I will detail herein, I did convey certain concerns internally to National Security officials in accordance with my decades of experience and training, sense of duty, and obligation to operate within the chain of command. As an active duty military officer, the command structure is extremely important to me. On many occasions I have been told I should express my views and share my concerns with my chain of command and proper authorities. I believe that any good military officer should and would do the same, thus providing his or her best advice to leadership.

    Furthermore, in performing my coordination role as a Director on the National Security Council, I provided readouts of relevant meetings and communications to a very small group of properly cleared national security counterparts with a relevant need-to-know.

    When I joined the White House’s National Security Council (“NSC”), I reported to Dr. Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to John Bolton, the National Security Advisor. My role at the NSC includes developing, coordinating, and executing plans and policies to manage the full range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic national security issues for the countries in my portfolio, which includes Ukraine.

    When I joined the NSC in July 2018, I began implementing the administration’s policy on Ukraine. In the Spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency. This narrative was harmful to U.S. government policy. While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined U.S. government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.

    In support of U.S. policy objectives to support Ukrainian sovereignty, President Trump called President Zelenskyy on April 21, 2019. I was one of several staff and officers who listened to the call. The call was positive, and President Trump expressed his desire to work with President Zelenskyy and extended an invitation to visit the White House.

    On July 10, 2019, Oleksandr Danylyuk, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council for Ukraine, visited Washington, D.C. for a meeting with National Security Advisor Bolton. Ambassadors Volker and Sondland also attended, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

    The meeting proceeded well until the Ukrainians broached the subject of a meeting between the two presidents. The Ukrainians saw this meeting as critically important in order to solidify the support of their most important international partner. Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short.

    Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.

    Following the debriefing meeting, I reported my concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel. Dr. Hill also reported the incident to the NSC’s lead counsel.

    On July 21, 2019, President Zelenskyy’s party won Parliamentary elections in a landslide victory. The NSC proposed that President Trump call President Zelenskyy to congratulate him.

    On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said.

    I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel….

  231. says

    Toluse Olorunippa, WaPo:

    Brian Kilmeade on Fox & Friends refers to Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman’s place of birth (Ukraine) to undermine the Iraq War veteran’concerns about Trump’s phone call with Zelensky.

    “He tends to feel simpatico with Ukraine,” Kilmeade says of the Purple Heart recipient.

    Rep. Sean Duffy on CNN going full dual-loyalty in attacking Lt. Col. Vindman

    “He has an affinity, I think, for the Ukraine… He speaks Ukrainian.”

    Some of Duffy’s comments:…

    Link to video atl. Just unbelievably disgraceful.

  232. says

    Ari Berman re #404: “This is big deal. NC GOP has 10-3 advantage in Congressional delegation because of gerrymandered maps. GOP sponsor said he drew 10-3 map because ‘I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats’.”

    Also, how’s that 2016 “firebombing” investigation going?

  233. says

    You know what doesn’t get enough attention? The “Doctors’ Plot”:

    On January 13, 1953, the so-called Doctors’ Plot, a fabricated conspiracy that attempted to frame, among others, a number of Soviet Jewish physicians for allegedly trying to murder key members of the country’s political leadership, entered a critical phase: publicity. It was on this day that the newspapers Pravda and Izvestiya informed readers of the existence of the alleged plot, and of the arrests of a number of “killer doctors,” who wanted to bring down the regime.

    According to Pravda, the plotters had been recruited by “the international Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organization called ‘Joint,’” (the Joint Distribution Committee), which was working on orders from “American intelligence.”

    Had the drama been permitted to run its course, the initial group of suspects would surely have been convicted of any number of crimes at trial and quickly executed. They were saved, however, by the death of Joseph Stalin, the Communist Party secretary general, on March 5, 1953….

  234. says

    The Prime Minister of Lebanon is resigning after weeks of protests:…

    Important to remember how largely peaceful & free of sectarianism the protest movement has been — until Iran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, turned on demonstrators earlier today. Hezbollah is part of the current government & the larger elite establishment system being challenged.”

    Hariri’s resignation atl.

  235. says

    Kyle Cheney:

    JUST IN: Prosecutors say Joseph Mifsud’s phones are “not favorable” to FLYNN or relevant to his case.

    “Mifsud has no connection to the defendant’s communications with the Russian Ambassador in December 2016, or to the defendant’s work on behalf of the Republic of Turkey.”

    MORE FLYNN NEWS: In another filing, prosecutors say every charge leveled by Flynn’s attorneys in a recent brief are “unsupported by fact or law.” And they go further to say the filing itself is flawed because you’re not allowed to raise novel issues in a reply brief.

    Prosecutors also note that the recent filing is the first claim by Flynn that he’s innocent, despite pleading guilty before two judges.

    “In an extraordinary reversal, the defendant now claims that he is innocent of the criminal charge in this case.”

    And lastly, prosecutors say they were prepared to file a detailed rebuttal of Flynn’s new claims before Sulilvan decided he has all the info he needs to rule. They want to make sure he plans to dismiss the new allegations, or offer prosecutors a chance to respond before he rules.

  236. says

    Update to #397:

    “In the aftermath of the #Bayonne Mosque attack , we have a lot of crocodile tears flooding from the same French politicians who tweet they are horrified by the attack but who spend their entire time and career demonizing their French Muslim fellowmen/women. We see you. #France

    Update: The #Bayonne city prosecutor just announced that the mosque shooting suspect blamed Muslims for the burning of #NotreDameDeParis and wanted revenge. (PS: Notre Dame’s fire was determined to be an accident, not a terrorist attack.)”

  237. tomh says

    Democrats muddle impeachment vote messaging despite explosive testimony

    It’s also muddled some of the House Democratic caucus’s carefully crafted messaging in recent weeks, as they’ve repeatedly shot down GOP criticism about the Democrats’ inquiry process — a position reinforced last week by a federal judge’s ruling strongly in the majority’s favor.

    Top Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), have sought to clarify this week that the vote does not authorize the impeachment inquiry, which is already ongoing.

    Some lawmakers though privately say that explanation has fallen flat, and has unintentionally overshadowed other events this week, like Vindland’s testimony.

    Both sides presented at the link.

  238. says

    CNN – “No refugees will be resettled in the US in October, leaving hundreds in limbo around the world”:

    The United States is on track to not admit any refugees in October, after already canceling around 500 flights this month, CNN has learned.

    A pause on admissions that was expected to lift on Tuesday will now extend into November, leaving those who expected to resettle in the US in limbo. It also means additional travel will need to be canceled and re-booked at the expense of federal taxpayers.

    The moratorium will run through November 5, according to a State Department spokesperson. “We will work with our implementing partners to plan for a resumption of refugee arrivals, including rescheduling travel for those affected by the extension,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

    It’s the third time this month that the State Department has delayed refugee admissions. Travel for refugees who were told they could come to the US was postponed through October 21, and then later to October 28. There’s usually a pause in arrivals the first week of October.

    The Trump administration has proposed capping the number of refugees allowed into the US at 18,000, a historic low. But in order for refugees to be admitted in the new fiscal year, President Donald Trump has to sign off on the refugee ceiling. The consistent delays in travel suggests Trump has not signed it yet.

    The latest travel delays come as the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens. More than 12,000 Syrian refugees have recently fled to shelters in the region, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency. The agency estimated that in 2018, there were more than 20 million refugees.

    Groups who resettle refugees have grown increasingly concerned over the extensions….

    Danielle Grigsby, interim director of Refugee Council USA, a coalition of 24 nongovernmental agencies focused on refugee protection, noted that while a pause on refugee admissions is expected at the start of the fiscal year, the recent moratorium extensions are “unprecedented.”

    “We are systematically re-traumatizing people who have already been through a significant amount of trauma. It’s unconscionable,” Grigsby said….

  239. says

    Really important detail in here: impeachment hearings can open with up to 90 minutes of questioning by staff counsel (45 per side), before members get their turn. These hearings will look entirely different from the ones you are used to.

    The House already has the proof, now it needs to move public opinion. This is how you construct hearings that can do that. Kudos to House Intel members for sacrificing ego to make this happen.”

  240. says

    NEW: For the first time since the Ukraine scandal blew up, the House affirms in a court filing that the Mueller probe is still a crucial part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

    DOJ claims to the contrary, which solely cite a WaPo article, are inaccurate, the House says.

    As I noted yesterday, the Post story in question was accurate but was not characterized accurately by DOJ in its request for a stay:…”

  241. says

    Guardian – “UK general election confirmed for 12 December after Brexit stalemate”:

    The UK is set have a general election on December 12 after Boris Johnson won his fourth bid to take the country to the polls with the support of Labour.

    MPs voted by 438 to 20 to have a pre-Christmas election in what is expected to be the most unpredictable contest in a generation and the first December poll since 1923.

    If the House of Lords passes the bill, parliament will dissolve next Wednesday for a short campaign of five weeks.

    After Johnson failed to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 as promised, the major battle line will be drawn along on the subject of Brexit.

    The Conservatives will campaign to get Brexit done by pushing through Johnson’s deal, while Labour is promising a second referendum to let the people resolve the EU question.

    The Brexit party will try to outgun the Tories by arguing for a no deal Brexit, while the Liberal Democrats will seek remain votes from Labour by pledging to revoke article 50.

    The Tories under Johnson are on around 10 points ahead of Labour in the average polls, roughly half the lead that Theresa May had before she led her party to a disastrous result in 2017 that saw her lose her majority.

    Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said: “I’m ready for it, we’re ready for it.

    “Because we want to be able to say to the people of this country there is an alternative to austerity. There is an alternative to inequality. There is an alternative to sweetheart trade deals with Donald Trump.”

  242. says

    TPM – “Vindman, Subject Of Xenophobic Attacks, Was Featured In Ken Burns’ ‘America’ In ’80s”:

    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC official who is giving impeachment inquiry testimony damning to President Donald Trump’s cause Tuesday, has become the target of xenophobic attacks from the right-wing echo chamber due to his childhood emigration from Ukraine.

    But in a film of Ken Burns’ 1985 “America” series, spotted by the eagle-eyed Philip Bump of the Washington Post, the Vindmans are revealed to have such a compelling and classic story as to be featured in “Statue of Liberty,” an ode to the immigrant’s American dream.

    The famed documentarian was pounding the pavement of 1980s New York when he came upon an older woman sitting on a bench in Brighton Beach with young twin boys: Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman. The family had come from the then-Soviet Union. The boys would both one day serve in the Army and now work at the National Security Council.

    Their storybook American dream has not been enough to sate the appetites of Trump’s most rabid acolytes, however….

    It’s so fucking absurd. Ukraine is a US ally, at war with a US adversary! Support for Ukraine is US policy! The aid was appropriated by congress! What could even possibly be “dual” about this?!

  243. says

    Ian Dunt – “Election 2019: Remainers have one last chance”:

    It’s on. Britain is going to the polls again. And there’s a chance – just a chance – that this Brexit mess will be sorted one way or the other.

    The final battle came down to a single amendment, which would have moved the date to December 9th. This got close. Just hours before it was voted on, ten Tory MPs who had lost the whip over the no-deal votes last month had it returned to them. It was a crucial move. In the end, the amendment was defeated with the votes of exactly ten MPs.

    That was it. It was done. The election would be held on December 12th.

    The next few weeks will be a brutal, no-holds-barred battle for the future of this country. It’ll be ugly and it’ll be harsh. But it is also necessary.

    The reality is that Johnson’s Brexit deal was on the verge of passing the House of Commons. It almost passed ten days ago, when MPs instead broke cover for Oliver Letwin’s amendment. It nearly passed two days later, when it was narrowly saved by the rejection of the programme motion.

    People seem to have forgotten how close these votes were. There were no safety nets left. If they’d gone through, Brexit would be happening right now. Remainers were at the point of absolute defeat. They were wobbling on the cliff edge. And then the government made a high-risk strategic decision. It gave up on the deal and decided to go for an election.

    It is a quite mad thing to have done. They could have got that deal through if they’d had a bit of patience and then they could have held an election afterwards. But they made a different choice. And Remainers should breathe a sigh of relief that they did. They have nothing to lose from it and much to gain.

    [Johnson] can be made to suffer extensively for that decision. Yes, he has a lead in the polls. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn is unpopular. Yes, Remain is more divided that Leave. But for all that, it is a fairly even contest.

    There is a geographical split in the Remain vote which is to its advantage. Opposition parties have multiple coalition opportunities open to them while Johnson has none. It can be won. A minority Labour government relying on Lib Dem and SNP support is a perfectly likely outcome. And that outcome leads to a second referendum.

    There are no guarantees. This will be the most uphill, fraught, emotional, gruelling political battle many Remainers will have ever faced. But now they have a chance. And they have been saved from the relentless, and increasingly inevitable, crunching momentum towards the deal passing.

    It’s a good day. Full of risk, but also full of potential. And more importantly: there were no other avenues open. This was the only one.

    The fight is now on. For many of the people involved, it’ll be the most important one of their lives.

    More atl.

  244. says

    Update to #242 – The Hill – “House votes to recognize Armenian genocide”:

    The House passed a resolution on Tuesday officially recognizing and rebuking the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against the Armenian people and rejecting any efforts to enlist the U.S. government in denying that the genocide took place.

    Proponents of the long-delayed measure, which passed in a 405-11 vote, argue that it’s a necessary and overdue step in providing justice for Armenians. Three lawmakers voted present.

    The resolution was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a vice chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus.

    “Many American politicians, diplomats and institutions have rightly recognized these atrocities as a genocide, including America’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time, Henry Morgenthau, and Ronald Reagan,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.

    “Only by shining a light on the darkest parts of our history can we learn not to repeat them and properly acknowledging what occurred is a necessary step in achieving some measure of justice for the victims,” he added.

    The bill emphasizes the position of the House that U.S. policy will “(1) commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance; (2) reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide; and (3) encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the United States role in the humanitarian relief effort, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.”

    “Genocides, whenever and wherever they occur, cannot be ignored, whether they took place in the 20th century by the Ottoman Turks or mid-20th century by the Third Reich and in Darfur,” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), who helped lead the efforts on the measure and co-chairs the Armenian Caucus, said on the House floor.

    The measure comes amid tensions with Turkey following their military incursion into northern Syria after the Trump administration pulled U.S. troops from the area earlier this month. The move put a potential further strain on relations as Turkey does not recognize the murder of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.

    The House is also slated to pass a bill to place additional sanctions on Turkey on Tuesday in the wake of their incursion against U.S.-allied Kurdish troops.

  245. says

    Adam Schiff:

    The House just voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide – a vote I fought for 19 years to make possible, that tens of thousands of my Armenian American constituents have waited decades to see.

    We will not be party to genocide denial. We will not be silent. We will never forget.

    5-minute video of Schiff’s speech, which is well worth watching, atl.

  246. says

    Sen. Van Hollen: “The House passed a sanctions bill 403 to 16, sending a signal that Congress will not stand by while Turkey and its proxies slaughter our Syrian Kurdish allies and fuel the revival of ISIS. Senate must stop dithering and act—the lives of our allies and our security are at risk.”