Comments

  1. tomh says

    McConnell’s legacy will long outlive him.

    Religion Clause
    Supreme Court Grants Review In Contraceptive Mandate Exemption Case
    Jan 17, 2020

    The U.S. Supreme Court today granted review in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump, President of the U.S. v. Pennsylvania (certiorari granted 1/17/2020). The two cases were consolidated for oral argument. In the case, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s entry of a nationwide preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Trump Administration’s final rules expanding the scope of the exemptions under the Affordable Care Act for employers having religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage.

  2. says

    In reference to comment 483 in the previous chapter of this thread: SC linked to a Twitter thread that included this comment from a reader:

    The most obvious explanation for why Kash Patel was showing up in the Oval Office pretending to be the NSC Ukraine guy is because Nunes and Harvey told him to.

    Yes! That makes so much sense now.

    Derek Harvey is a top aide to Representative Devin Nunes. Nunes is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. The new information and documents obtained from Lev Parnas clearly implicate Nunes in Trump’s Ukraine scheme.

    From tomh’s comment 494 on the same subject:

    The text messages corroborate Parnas’s previous claims that he arranged conversations with the Ukrainian prosecutors for the Nunes aide. And they deepen questions about how much Nunes knew about the pressure campaign — even as he served as one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders during the House impeachment hearings. […]

    Lev Parnas says Devin Nunes was “involved in getting all this stuff on Biden.” […]

    The series of comments from 483 to 500 in the previous chapter of this thread are well worth reading.

  3. says

    An interesting video from “AM Joy,” aired this morning: Link

    Lev Parnas’s interview with Rachel Maddow in which Parnas makes allegations implicating Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and more is discussed with Maddow on AM JOY with Joy Reid. Maddow tells Joy that Parnas described Barr as, in Parnas’ opinion, allegedly being “fully apprised of what was going on in Ukraine.”

    The conversation between Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow is quite good. They analyze the new information well.

    From Maddow:

    He [Trump] doesn’t do things directly. […] He would rage behind closed doors, “You, fire her!” […] This sheds light on why they needed the smear campaign. […] If there was a public smear campaign in the US press about Yovanovitch, that would both enable the President to potentially fire her by tweet, and it also might clear the way to sort of collapse all of the normal channels so that he could fire her regardless of whatever his ridiculous causes were. It would create a sense that there was some real reason to fire her. […]

    That part is interesting in terms of understanding how dysfunctional Trump is, and how chaotic the entire system around him has become. Everything is provisional. However, Trump obsessively moves toward his goal of firing Yovanovitch and getting dirt on Biden no matter how dysfunctional everything is.

    Other parts of Joy’s interview are even more important in revealing the Trump team’s crimes.

  4. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Last night’s document dump makes clear that there was at least some truth to the claim Ambassador Yovanovitch was being surveilled by some group of feral Trumpers.

    The latest documents are a bit hard to make sense of at first. So let me take them one step at a time. What we have are screenshots of WhatsApp conversations between Hyde and another man named Anthony de Caluwe. Hyde apparently took screenshots of those exchanges and then sent those as attachments to Parnas. A number of those claims we had earlier seen Hyde sending to Parnas – for instance the line about having someone “on the inside” – were directly copied and pasted messages de Caluwe sent to Hyde.

    So just to keep this all straight. Hyde sent Parnas screenshots of his exchanges with de Caluwe and he also separately copied and pasted individual sentences of text and sent those as well, as though they were messages from Hyde himself. […].

    Now who is Anthony de Caluwe and what is his involvement? Well, this is a little convoluted too. Let me try to unpack it.

    Yesterday Hyde put out a profanity-laced video message in which he denied knowing anything about Ukraine or having anyone there surveilling anyone. He demanded that Adam Schiff release the other side of the WhatsApp messages which he said were with someone named Anthony de Caluwe who “works for government departments whatever he is” or later “some intel guy probably.”

    NBC News contacted de Caluwe yesterday based on that video. He confirmed knowing Hyde and confirmed that Hyde had asked him to surveil Yovanovich. Be he claimed he refused because doing so would be illegal.

    NBC’s reporting with de Caluwe seemed to stop there until last night’s documents showed that Caluwe had at least told Hyde he was doing just that. At that point, perhaps unsurprisingly, de Caluwe stopped replying to NBC’s messages. But NBC was contacted by Karyn Turk, a pro-Trump Youtube personality, who told them she was now representing de Caluwe with the press. (Turk was sentenced to a month in federal prison last week for stealing her deceased mother’s social security checks.)

    So who is de Caluwe? The first thing is that he’s yet another Trump mega-fan. His Twitter and Facebook pages are non-stop MAGA and Trump. The first suggests he’s some sort of financial services trader and lists locations as “MIAMI/ZURICH/LONDON”; the latter gives a tagline as “IT Tech Geek”. […] Turk told NBC News that de Caluwe is a Belgian, who is based in Florida but frequently travels to Belgium. (It’s not clear whether that means he’s a Belgian citizen or just from there originally.) The cell number de Caluwe was texting from in the WhatsApp messages to Hyde has a Belgium country code. […]

    For the moment, all we can say with some confidence is that this wasn’t just Hyde making stuff up out of whole cloth. He was talking to someone, de Caluwe, who at least claimed to have Yovanovitch under some kind of surveillance. Whether that was true or how elaborate the surveillance was, if it was true, remains to be seen.

    Link</>

    See the link for the actual screenshots of exchanges.

  5. tomh says

    NYT:
    Trump on Virginia Gun Dispute: 2nd Amendment ‘Under Very Serious Attack’
    By Timothy Williams
    Jan. 18, 2020

    RICHMOND, Va. — Days before a planned gun rights rally that has set Virginia’s capital on edge, President Trump warned that state Democrats were threatening Americans’ right to bear arms.

    “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday. “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!”

    The state legislature, where Democrats recently took control for the first time in a generation, is considering several gun control bills, including measures that would require background checks for people purchasing firearms and give municipalities the authority to ban weapons in public buildings.

    Thousands of people are expected to descend on the Capitol in Richmond on Monday to protest those measures, in a state where hunting is popular and gun ownership is common in rural areas. Several men with ties to right-wing militias who had planned to attend the rally have been arrested in recent days.

    On Saturday, the area around the State Capitol was enclosed by a temporary chain-link fence, barricades and patrolled by groups of law enforcement officers.

    Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and banned firearms and other weapons on the Capitol grounds this week, further inflaming gun rights activists. The order was challenged in court by the rally’s organizers, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. On Friday evening, the State Supreme Court upheld the ban.

  6. says

    European countries are trying to save the Iran nuclear deal. They are trying to clean up Trump’s mess, as Trump continues to add to the mess.

    To save the Iran nuclear deal, the EU and the E3 — Britain, France and Germany — must bend the space-time continuum, stretching a mediation period that could last just 30 days into as many weeks, or months, as it takes to calm the fury between the U.S. and Iran, and to broker a new deal.

    Doing so will require the unanimous agreement of Russia and China, and of Iran — any of whom can declare the mediation process dead and prevent further stalling.

    It will require withstanding a potential barrage of bullying threats by U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as maintaining the support of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he leads his country out of the EU and begins to negotiate new trade agreements, including with the U.S.

    And it will require cajoling Trump and Iranian leaders into signing a new accord, possibly one already proposed unsuccessfully by French President Emmanuel Macron, at a time when the Europeans have virtually no incentives to offer Washington or Tehran.

    And those are the more realistic scenarios.

    The long-shot options are seen by European officials as a way to keep treading heavy water long enough for U.S. voters to oust Trump from office in November or, seemingly even less likely, for street protests or other unforeseen events to drive Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, from power.

    In short, saving the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will require nothing less than political miracles and a magical manipulation of the calendar. But EU countries view that as crucial to keeping themselves in the game and preventing a direct standoff between Tehran and Washington.

    As a result, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and his team, who are tasked with coordinating the effort, have already waved their wand and created a cloud of confusion over whether the clock has even started counting toward the first 15-day deadline in the mediation process formally known as the “dispute resolution mechanism” or DRM.

    Under the terms of Article 36 of the JCPOA, Iran or any of the other guarantors of the deal could declare the other side in breach, and trigger the DRM — setting in motion a 15-day review process, to be followed in case of no resolution by another 15 days of review at the level of foreign ministers. A three-member advisory board could also be created to issue a non-binding opinion on the dispute, operating in parallel with the 15-day foreign ministers’ review or in place of it.

    Either the first 15 days, or the second 15 days, can be extended, by an unlimited amount of time, as long as the E3, Iran, Russia and China all agree. […]

    https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-iran-nuclear-deal-desperation/

  7. says

    Followup to comment 8.

    Yesterday, Trump, ever the unhelpful blowhard, tweeted:

    The so-called “Supreme Leader” of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe. Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!

  8. says

    From Melinda Haring, writing for the Washington Post:

    This week, the House Intelligence Committee released a trove of documents from Lev Parnas, Rudolph W. Giuliani’s notorious fixer. The dump includes WhatsApp messages Parnas exchanged with Ukrainian officials. On March 26, 2019, then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko sent a text to Parnas: “Already getting killed in the Washington Post.” Parnas responded, “I know.” The article Lutsenko was complaining about was mine.

    In my piece, I described how Lutsenko was using the conservative media in the United States to push a false narrative about Ukraine. Specifically, Lutsenko used an interview with journalist John Solomon of the Hill to announce that he was opening a criminal investigation into an alleged attempt by a top Ukrainian law enforcement official to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. […]

    It was quite clear at the time that the story was fake, and I dismantled it accordingly. Yet I and other Ukraine-watchers had no idea that we had spotted just one small part of a much larger scheme to boost […] Trump’s reelection via intrigues in Kyiv. We didn’t know that Giuliani was already plotting to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden. We hadn’t heard of Parnas or Igor Fruman.

    What we thought we were seeing was then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko trying to curry favor with Trump for his own domestic political advantage. That spring, Poroshenko was facing a reelection of his own, and he was tanking in the polls. As I noted in my article, he clearly had an incentive to help Trump by promoting the story of Ukraine collusion in the 2016 election. (Back then, Trump was still dealing with the Mueller investigation, and he could have used the diversion.) A White House meeting in return would have been a big help to Poroshenko.

    I might not have been entirely wrong about that. What I didn’t see, though, was that the real push was coming from Washington. We didn’t know that Giuliani and Co. were orchestrating a full-blown campaign to pressure Ukraine into going after Biden.

    Parnas got Lutsenko to play along in exchange for a promise to remove Marie Yovanovitch, then serving as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. […]

    “Lutsenko was motivated out of a lust for revenge,” a top former U.S. official told me. […]

    The Parnas-Lutsenko chats show how deep the scheme went. In February, long before the notorious July 2019 phone call that prompted Trump’s impeachment inquiry, Team Giuliani was pressuring Poroshenko to announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter. In one of his interviews this week, Parnas claimed that the first quid pro quo offer was made to Poroshenko; in exchange for launching an investigation into Biden, […]

    Parnas would continue the same tactics with Poroshenko’s successor, Volodymyr Zelensky. As the chats show, officials in Kyiv understood very well that Parnas represented Giuliani and therefore Trump. Parnas had access to Zelensky’s inner circle as well as the head of the Ukrainian security service […]

    I find myself wondering how the United States will be able to promote democracy and anti-corruption programs in Ukraine now that Americans acting in the name of the president have shown that they can be as transactional as the most ruthless oligarchs. And I wonder how the U.S. foreign service will continue to attract top talent when the president and the secretary of state won’t stand by their own ambassadors.
    How much worse can it get?

    Link

    Melinda Haring is the deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council.

  9. says

    Update to #489 in the previous thread – the National Archives is apologizing for obscuring anti-Trump signs in photos of the Women’s March:

    We made a mistake.

    As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration.

    In an elevator lobby promotional display for our current exhibit on the 19th Amendment, we obscured some words on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women’s March.

    This photo is not an archival record held by the @usnatarchives, but one we licensed to use as a promotional graphic. Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image.

    We have removed the current display and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.

    We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.

    I don’t see anything about accountability in there. Someone did this or told others to do it, and it hints at other alterations of records to mollify the baby in the Oval Office.

  10. says

    Rebecca Ballhaus: “Robert Hyde, who denied to Buzzfeed last year that he was behind these Facebook pages, now is complaining about Facebook taking down those pages, which purported to by run by groups of Trump supporters in different states.”

    WSJ link atl.

  11. says

    Christopher Bouzy, who created Bot Sentinel: “Please be advised there are inauthentic accounts pretending to be Warren and Sanders supporters, it appears they are attempting to inflame tensions between the two camps. I will release a report soon, but please be cautious when you see an account tweeting questionable content.”

  12. says

    Craig Silverman, BuzzFeed, re #15: “Unbelievable. We showed these pages working in coordination, misleading people about their connections and nature, and spreading false information back in November. But now FB acts on them because the guy running them ends up in the news?”

  13. says

    Followup to comment 10.

    Military leaders requested new force to fight cyberwar, but got Space Force instead

    Right now, Texas is under siege, and there’s not too much our military can do about it.

    On Jan. 7, Gov. Greg Abbott told the Domestic Terrorism Task Force that the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) measured, over a 48-hour period, a colossal increase of cyberattacks from Iran on their state agencies “at a rate of about 10,000 per minute.” […]

    Iran has invested heavily in cyberwarfare ever since the Stuxnet virus attack on their uranium enrichment facility in November 2007. […] During the past 10 years, Iranian hackers have breached several U.S. banks, stolen terabytes of information from universities and government agencies, and even broke into the computer system of a dam outside New York City. In 2013, right after Sheldon Adelson suggested that the United States threaten Tehran with a massive explosion, his Las Vegas Sands’ Casino had its hard drives wiped, allegedly costing $40 million in damages. […]

    The Iranian cyberattacks have seriously escalated since the Jan. 2 assassination of Soleimani, and will likely continue to increase for some time. […]

    it’s gotten so bad that even disgraced former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen admitted that cyberattacks have moved from an “epidemic” to a “pandemic.” Now Iran is launching an all-out assault, joining other American adversaries such as Russia, China, and North Korea. We can expect ongoing attacks against critical infrastructure sectors, major businesses, and even our elections for the foreseeable future.

    We are in desperate need of strong leadership to fight this new war—and it is a war. Unfortunately, we have Donald Trump, who POLITICO appropriately refers to as the “anti-cybersecurity president.” […]

    Trump has practically waged his own personal war against any and all cybersecurity measures. In April 2018, one month after Trump congratulated Putin on his fourth consecutive sham re-election, Trump demoted and marginalized our nation’s top cybersecurity officials across various agencies. The following month, he completely eliminated the vital Cybersecurity Coordinator on the National Security Council. He’s done everything he can to leave the nation more vulnerable to these types of attacks […]

    Trump has openly encouraged foreign cyberattacks that he thinks will personally benefit him, and has previously stated that he did not believe his own intelligence agencies were more credible than Putin’s word that Russia would never engage in a cyberwar against us.

    Many suspect that Trump is actually counting on foreign intervention to help his election campaign once again. [Mitch] McConnell has refused to allow any election security bills to come up for a vote, although a tough election year has been weakening his resolve.

    Even worse than Moscow Mitch is Trump ally Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who leads the Senate committee on cybersecurity issues. He has largely escaped media scrutiny thus far, but has been very successful at blocking all major cybersecurity legislation during Trump’s tenure. […]

    At the other end of the spectrum, an assortment of military leaders and cyber experts have not only asked to make cyberwarfare a high priority for the nation’s defense, but have called for the establishment of a new force to tackle what’s become the country’s top foreign threat. […]

    Trump, for his part, did agree that the nation needed a new branch of the military; unfortunately, it was the Space Force. […] it literally started off as a joke. Trump, who is not an expert on anything, put about as much thought into this new military force as one would expect. This was how he announced the effort:

    You know, I was saying it the other day because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said, maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force. And I was not really serious. And then I said, what a great idea! Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.

    That could be the big breaking story… Ahhhh, look at those [reporters] back there. AHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that fake news.”

    And just like that, BOOM! A multi-billion dollar boondoggle was born.

    According to Trump, the next “warfighting domain” is space. In describing the new military branch, your president envisions spacesuited warriors in spaceships fighting in outer space. Some of the first duties the Space Force’s new commander has been tasked with is the critical selection of a uniform design, logo, and an official service song. Trump’s campaign helpfully put out six potential Space Force logos in a competition, complete with cartoon rocket ships and slogans like “Mars Awaits.” […]

    The Pentagon just released the new uniforms, and the internet is having a field day.

    Thankfully, the Pentagon and Congressional leaders managed to take Trump’s preposterous idea and essentially just repackage existing military space missions from the Air Force and create a new military branch. This seems to have placated Trump, and his followers love him for it. Although what they think it actually is might be the most hilarious thing you’ve ever seen. [See the link for video]

    […] The service has nothing to do with rockets or going to Mars. Instead, it will primarily be focused on managing information from satellites. Unlike what Trump is telling his followers, it will NOT be, as one aerospace experts puts it, about “putting military servicemembers in space, it has nothing to do with NASA, it’s not about protecting Earth from asteroids or aliens.”

    […] former astronaut Mark Kelly has argued [that] submarines don’t get the same amount of attention as surface ships in the Navy, and yet no one has ever argued that the solution should be that they get their own service. […]

  14. says

    Trump’s finances appear shaky, opening up more opportunities to buy presidential ‘favors’

    Reporter David Fahrenthold is responsible for perhaps 80% of everything we know about Donald Trump’s ongoing business operations. In a start-of-year summary of where things stand, Fahrenthold and other Washington Post reporters wrote up a terse rundown of the state of the presidential grift-o-matic; they question, among other things, whether the Trump family purging their businesses of undocumented workers (only after being caught, of course) will raise labor costs and whether the hit Donald’s companies have been taking due to their association with, you know, him will compel Trump to sell off assets or take other, similarly drastic measures.

    Donald Trump only months ago sincerely, truly ordered the next G7 Summit be held at one of his own golf resorts, for example, and had the White House defending that obviously crooked money grab before backing down again. […]

    Trump has begun to explore a possible half-billion dollar sale of his Washington D.C. hotel […] It has remained one of the easiest and most plausibly legal ways of buying presidential goodwill short of Mar-a-Lago membership itself […]

    Selling the hotel for a half-billion dollars in an election year, however, opens up an entirely new avenue of grift. To hell with the petty stuff; if the royals of Saudi Arabia want a half-billion dollars worth of personal favors from the United States president they can write a single check and be done with it. If the same Russian oligarchs willing to polish Sen. Mitch McConnell’s record with the home crowd, to the tune of $200 million in investment, want to refinance their most loyal American defender, a man who yet again finds himself in steep debt despite every past attempt to save his bacon, they can spend two and a half times that much and own an American president outright. […]

    The short version is that Trump’s properties here and abroad continue to not do well, the supplications of supporters are still not nearly enough to match the damage done as the rest of the nation cringes away from them, we continue to know almost nothing about the true nature of Trump’s finances but all investigation suggests he is again burdened by massive debts, […]

    If you think the man can handle that sort of pressure without doing something astonishingly crooked and/or stupid, you haven’t been paying attention.

  15. says

    SC @19, yeah. I see that Trump’s legal team is full of bombast. They are highly indignant, accusing the Democrats of a “brazen and unlawful attempt” to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election. Same old, same old.

    […] The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president, […]

    This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months awa. This highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the president began even before his election and continues to this day. […]

    Translation: Please, please let the Russians help Trump win the 2020 election! Postpone all of this impeachment stuff until after Trump is elected. Okay? Please also let Trump, Rudy, et.al. bring the Ukrainians onto the Trump team by ponying up bogus indictments of Trump’s rivals. Okay? We’ll only commit these particular crimes between now and November 2020. Deal?

  16. says

    “House Democrats say Senate must ‘eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security.”

    Washington Post link

    The House Democratic managers argue the Senate must “eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security” in the 111-page legal brief they filed Saturday. The brief lays out their impeachment case against President Trump.

    With opening arguments in the Senate trial to begin Wednesday afternoon, the seven House managers had until 5 p.m. Saturday to file their brief describing why Trump should be convicted and removed from office. […]

    The House legal filing reiterates the findings of the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels, which, after hearing from witnesses and experts, settled on charging Trump last month with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

    “The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both,” the managers wrote in the brief. “The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths.” […]

    Forgot to say in comment 21 that, of course, the Republicans are also saying that “The articles of impeachment violate the Constitution. They are defective in their entirety.” Dunderheads.

  17. says

    Axios – “NSC official on leave pending investigation”:

    Andrew Peek, the senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, has been placed on administrative leave pending a security-related investigation, people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

    Driving the news: Peek had been expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland next week, where President Trump is expected to meet with a number of world leaders as the impeachment trial takes place back in the Senate.

    -Peek declined to comment.

    -White House and National Security Council officials declined to discuss the situation. “We do not discuss personnel matters,” the NSC said in a statement to Axios.

    Why it matters: Peek’s responsibilities at the NSC, and before that at the State Department, touch on a number of sensitive areas.

    -He joined the NSC in November after serving as a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, where he focused on Iraq and Iran.

    -He previously served as a strategic adviser to now-retired Marine Gen. John Allen when Allen was commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

    This was Fiona Hill’s position.

  18. says

    Rep. Ro Khanna, a Sanders surrogate, tweeted: “There is absolutely no justification for anyone tweeting snakes at Senator Warren or any of her supporters —some who include women & people of color. It should stop. At the core of progressivism is respect for every participant & a belief in reasoned debate to advance a position.”

    The responses thanking him for saying it and suggesting that he ask Sanders to call it out are getting swamped by the snake-emoji brigade (note #16 above) mocking and attacking Khanna, who is, again, a Sanders campaign surrogate.

  19. says

    Confirmation and slightly more re #23:

    NEW: The top Russia expert on Trump’s National Security Council, Andrew Peek, has left his post, just a couple months in, sources tell me, @nwadhams and @justinsink.

    That’s the Fiona Hill, Tim Morrison, Russia/Ukraine job.

    Peek was escorted from WH on Friday. Story out soon.

  20. says

    John Mikhail:

    …There is no sound basis for Alan Dershowitz to claim that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. In addition to being at odds with common sense, this claim is contradicted by a clear and consistent body of historical evidence.

    Some of the best evidence comes from the case of Warren Hastings, which informed the drafting Art. II, Sec 4. The fact that he was not guilty of treason, but still deserved to be impeached, was a major reason “other high crimes and misdemeanors” was added to the Constitution.

    Edmund Burke drew up impeachment charges against Hastings in 1786, and his trial began in the House of Lords in February 1788. Burke’s celebrated speeches and reports against Hastings—widely reprinted in US newspapers at the time—often accused him of abuse of power.

    E.g., in a trial speech on 2/15/1788, Burke said: “It is by this tribunal, that statesmen, who abuse their power, are accused by statesmen, and tried by statesmen; not upon the niceties of a narrow jurisprudence, but upon the enlarged and solid principles of state morality…”

    “…It is here that those who by the abuse of power have violated the spirit of law can never hope for protection from any of its forms; it is here that those who have refused to conform themselves to its perfections can never hope to escape through any of its defects…”

    The next day (Feb. 16, 1788), Burke charged that Hastings “took advantage of the imperfections of the institution [i.e., the East India Company] to let in his abuse of the powers, with which he was intrusted.”

    Finally, in an April 1794 report, Burke wrote that the House of Commons had chosen to impeach Hastings “because the inferior courts were habituated…to try men for the abuse only of their individual and natural powers, which can extend but a little way.” Burke then added…

    “…But in the cause which your managers have in charge, the circumstances are the very reverse….The abuses, stated in our impeachment, are not those of mere individual, natural faculties, but the abuses of civil and political authority.”

    There are many other sources & precedents that undercut Dershowitz’s claim. For example, abuse of power was one of the articles of impeachment adopted by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon in 1974 and against Bill Clinton in 1998.

    In the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, House Manager Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts defined “high crime or misdemeanor” to include “the abuse of discretionary power from improper motives or for any improper purpose.”

    At the 1787 constitutional convention, Edmund Randolph explained that “The propriety of impeachments was a favorite principle with him [because]… The Executive will have great opportunit[ie]s of abusing his power.”

    Finally, there is the text of the Constitution itself, which imposes solemn obligations of “faithful execution” on the President in exercising all of his executive powers. Abusing delegated powers is the antithesis of faithfully executing them.

    All of these sources and others like them (e.g., Hamilton’s remark on the “abuse or violation of some public trust” in Federalist 65) suggest that Dershowitz – and Trump – will have a hard time making a persuasive case that “abuse of power” is not an impeachable offense.

    For at least some GOP Senators, Republican voters, or others who profess to be originalists, however, Burke’s impeachment of Hastings may be the most relevant and instructive precedent confirming what should be obvious: grave abuses of power can be impeachable.

  21. says

    Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam at CNN – “Reverting to his usual level of dishonesty, Trump made 81 false claims last week”:

    President Donald Trump made just 15 false claims two weeks ago, a holiday week during which he uttered few public remarks.

    He gave fact checkers only a brief respite. Back to Washington and back to doing interviews and campaign rallies, Trump made 81 false claims last week. That is tied for the fifth-highest total in the 27 weeks we have counted at CNN.

    It was an eclectic batch of dishonesty. Among other things, Trump took unearned credit for both the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace agreement and for the drop in the US cancer death rate, absurdly claimed that NATO “had no money” before his presidency, wrongly denied that his golf excursions cost taxpayers any money, and repeated his usual varied inaccuracies about impeachment, immigration and the nuclear agreement with Iran.

    Trump made 27 of the false claims at his campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio. He made 16 more in a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham. He made six in his speech on National Environmental Policy Act regulations, plus 10 in his exchange with reporters after the speech.

    Trump’s total of 81 false claims last week was above his average of about 61 per week. Trump is now up to 1,636 false claims since July 8, an average of about nine per day.

    The most egregious false claim: Smearing Democrats

    Prominent Democrats had a consistent response to Trump’s decision to kill Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani: criticize Trump’s decision and say nothing nice about Soleimani.

    Trump nonetheless claimed that they were saying nice things about the top Iranian general.

    Appearing on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on January 6, Trump said, “Democrats are trying to make him sound like he was this wonderful human being.” Speaking to reporters after his January 9 speech on environmental regulation, he claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in particular was “trying to defend this monster from Iran.”

    At a press conference the very same morning as Trump’s regulation event, Pelosi had called Soleimani a “terrible person” who “did bad things.”

    The most revealing false claim: Ethiopia and the Nobel Peace Prize

    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize in large part for Ahmed’s successful effort to make a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea.

    Trump is an incorrigible acclaim-seeker who has been open about his desire for a Nobel. At his January 9 rally, he claimed that he was a more deserving recipient than Ahmed — not for some other initiative of his own but because, he suggested, he was the one who actually made Ethiopia’s big deal. “I made a deal. I saved a country, and I just heard that the head of that country is now getting the Nobel Peace Prize for saving the country,” he complained.

    This left Ethiopians baffled. Experts on Ethiopia say there is no sign Trump played an important role in the deal….

    Much, much more at the link.

  22. says

    House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff says that the Intel community is withholding documents relevant to the impeachment trial in the Senate.

    […] When ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked Schiff on his thoughts of Politico’s report that the intelligence community is resisting coming forward in a public hearing due to fear of angering President Trump, Schiff responded […]

    “Unfortunately, I think those reports are all too accurate,” Schiff said. “The intelligence community is reluctant to have an open hearing, something that we had done every year prior to the Trump administration, because they’re worried about angering the President.”

    Schiff then said that he’s worried that the intelligence community is “succumbing to the pressure of the administration” by withholding documents from Congress that could be relevant to the Ukraine pressure campaign.

    “And I’ll say something even more concerning to me, and that is the intelligence community is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine. They appear to be succumbing to pressure from the administration,” Schiff said. “The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial.”

    […] “There are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course,” Schiff said. “We are counting on the intelligence community not only to speak truth to power, but to resist pressure from the administration to withhold information from Congress because the administration fears that they incriminate them.” […]

    TPM link

  23. says

    Followup to comment 30.

    Comments from readers:

    I would guess that the Intel community is not only worried about angering the fool in the WH but also about leaks from Repuglican committee members like Nunes.
    —————-
    The Senate has the chance to prevent Trump from aggregating all power under his control. If they don’t, the Republic isn’t really set up to resist the combined efforts of the CIA, NSA, and GRU.

    Lordy, there are tapes. Rolling Stone link

    The bottomless pit that is the Ukraine scandal continues to grow. According to a report from ABC News on Sunday, the House Intelligence Committee is now in possession of audio and video recordings as well as photographs that include both President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. The materials were handed over as part of a congressional subpoena by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.

    ABC News reported it is unknown what is said on the recordings, and the attorney for Parnas, Joseph A. Bondy, would not comment on the matter. Instead, Bondy directed ABC News to an earlier statement from Sunday that read in part, “Mr. Parnas has vociferously and publicly asserted his wish to comply with his previously issued subpoena and to provide the House Intelligence Committee with truthful and important information that is in furtherance of justice, not to obstruct it.”

    The statement continued, “His evidence and potential testimony is non-partisan, and not intended to be part of a battle between the left and the right, but rather an aid in the determination by our government of what is in the best interests of our nation.”

    ABC News also reported that some of the information the House Intel Committee wants is in possession of the Southern District of New York which has not yet been turned over. […]

  24. says

    House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler’s comments:

    […] Trump’s legal team said that the President “categorically and unequivocally denies each and every allegation in both articles of impeachment.” […]

    “Both of those statements are errant nonsense,” Nadler said. “There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence. Any jury would convict in three minutes flat that the president betrayed his country by breaking the law.”

    Nadler then cited the Government Accountability Office’s report last week that said the White House Office of Management and Budget unlawfully withheld military aid to Ukraine.

    “The reason he did that was in order to extort a foreign government to smear his political opponent for his personal benefit and to help try to rig the 2020 election as he worked with the Russians to try to rig the 2016 election. Same pattern,” Nadler said. “There’s no question that working with a foreign power, trying to extort a foreign power to interfere in our election, is about as bad as you can imagine.”

    Nadler added that the framers of the Constitution put in the impeachment clause because “they were afraid of foreign interference our domestic affairs” and the White House’s argument in its formal response to the Senate summons “that he broke no law is absurd.”

    Later in the interview, said that Trump is engaging “in a concerted attempt to deny all evidence.”

    “Everyone who testified defied the President testifying. I mean, Mike Pompeo ought to testify. John Bolton ought to testify. What is the president hiding?” Nadler said. “The President says don’t let these people testify. If they were — if they had exculpatory evidence, he’d be saying let them testify.” […]

    Link

  25. says

    House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff pushed back against criticism that the House didn’t do enough to enforce its impeachment subpoenas, rejecting a need to tangle with the courts.

    “If you argue that, well, the House needed to go through endless months or even years of litigation before bringing about an impeachment, you effectively nullify the impeachment clause,” Schiff said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

    “You allow the president of the United States — by delay, by playing rope-a-dope in the courts — to defeat the power of the impeachment clause,” the California Democrat added, employing a boxing term describing a strategy designed to wear out one’s opponent. [….]

    Link

    I think Schiff’s explanation is correct.

  26. says

    OMG. Do Republicans really consider this to be a defense of Trump?

    Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) on Sunday said President Trump’s requests for foreign nations to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son were “just statements” and that presidents were prone to “mistakes of judgement.”

    Shelby made the comments amid questioning on ABC’s “This Week” about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial and whether Trump’s dealings with Ukraine met the standard for an impeachable offense. Host George Stephanopoulos pressed Shelby on whether it was appropriate for Trump to solicit foreign interference, regardless of whether he felt it was impeachable or not.

    “Well, I don’t know that has actually been proven. That’s all in dispute. I’ve never seen anything where Trump was actually involved in it,” Shelby responded, prompting Stephanopoulos to note that Trump publicly urged China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in early October.

    “We’ve seen the president in public ask the Ukrainians to get involved, asked the Chinese to get involved,” Stephanopoulos said.

    “Well, those are just statements, political. They make them all the time,” Shelby said.

    “So it’s OK?” Stephanopoulos asked.

    “I didn’t say it was OK. People do things, things happen,” Shelby responded, noting that the president is “human” and that he’s going to make “mistakes of judgement.” He argued that both Republican and Democratic presidents made similar mistakes in the past.

    Link

  27. says

    From Wonkette:

    Dennis Prager, of the Prager Institute, devoted time out of an existence that is finite to relitigate the 2016 presidential election, specifically the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. In case we need to remind you, Donald Trump was caught on a hot mic boasting about how he could sexually assault women with impunity because he was a celebrity. […]

    Now, it’s 2020. Trump is impeached. Yet the injustice of Trump’s first of so very many bad news cycles is still fresh in Prager’s mind. He declared this week during a “fireside chat,” while in the presence of an innocent beagle, that we shouldn’t care what people say in the privacy of an “Access Hollywood” bus.

    PRAGER: My point is not Trump. My point is not what he said. My point is this. I don’t care what people say privately nor should you. That is not an accurate indicator of a person’s character.

    Prager is a white heterosexual male, so he’s probably heard his friends at the country club “privately” smear people because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. He doesn’t think this detracts from their “character” because their comments don’t personally diminish him. Most importantly, their offensive statements don’t reflect how they view Prager as a person. […]

    It’s a shocking concept but Trump isn’t like Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy. They were flawed men privately whose public behavior and actions inspired us greatly. There is no significant difference between “public” and “private” Trump. Neither wears a tie correctly. […]

    Guys like Prager probably hang out regularly with guys like Trump. Their big issue with the president is that he doesn’t zip it in public so Republicans can just close their eyes and imagine he’s Mitt Romney. What’s infuriating about the “everyone is as awful as Trump in private” argument is that conservatives […] hate it when women claim they can never fully trust men, but the “Access Hollywood” tape — with “amiable” Billy Bush chuckling along with Trump — sort of proves their point.

    Evangelist Dwight L. Moody put it best: “Character is who you are in the dark.” Donald Trump, however, lacks character whether the lights are on or off.

    Link

  28. says

    From Lynna’s #37:

    while in the presence of an innocent beagle

    :)

    My point is this. I don’t care what people say privately nor should you.

    It’s not the central point, but he was literally in a workplace. He was on mic because he was on the NBC bus getting ready to tape a segment for Access Hollywood.

    I wonder if they got wind of what’s on some of the recordings now in possession of the House Intel Committee and are trying to get ahead of it…

  29. says

    I don’t care what people say privately nor should you. That is not an accurate indicator of a person’s character.

    I feel that this public statement tells me a lot about Prager’s character.

  30. says

    SC @39, “he was literally in a workplace. He was on mic because he was on the NBC bus getting ready to tape a segment for Access Hollywood.” Good point. I hadn’t thought of that.

  31. says

    From Amy Davidson Sorkin, writing for The New Yorker:

    “This is a difficult time for our country,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last Wednesday, after the clerk of the House of Representatives arrived in the Senate chamber carrying articles of impeachment against […] Trump. McConnell added, “But this is precisely the kind of time for which the Framers created the Senate.” That is true, even if his claim that the Senate would “rise above short-termism and factional fever” is risible. […] But this is the Senate we have at an extraordinarily wrenching juncture in our history, and on Thursday, following the direction of the Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts swore in its members as jurors. The seven House managers whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi named last week are now basically petitioners, coming in to make their arguments before senators whose votes may be fixed by partisanship. And yet they have a strong case to present.

    It could, no doubt, be stronger still. Just a few hours after McConnell spoke, Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, appeared on MSNBC in a doozy of an interview with Rachel Maddow. Parnas asserted that he had understood from Giuliani that they had Trump’s approval to pressure officials in Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, former Vice-President Joe Biden’s son, who had a paid seat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Parnas described a plot involving, among others, Attorney General William Barr. […]

    And more revelations are sure to follow. The essential dilemma, with Trump, is that there is always a new path leading to the disaster site of his Administration: a Parnas interview; a hint from John Bolton, the former national-security adviser, that, if the Senate subpoenas him, he will have interesting things to say; a decision from the Government Accountability Office that the Administration’s withholding of aid to Ukraine, during its pressure campaign, broke a law called the Impoundment Control Act. […]

    The impeachment is the House’s expression of faith in its case, and it should not be forgotten that the managers already have powerful witnesses. More than a dozen testified in the House, defying the President’s orders to stay away. Their damning accounts will be heard in the Senate and by the public, whether in video clips or in transcripts that the managers quote, and their words should resonate. […]

    The message that, without new witnesses, the trial may prove a sham also risks reinforcing the Senate Republicans’ complaint that the House sent them something shoddy and incomplete, and that they can’t be expected to do the lower chamber’s work for it. But their work is there; much evidence is in hand. The Republicans’ craven indifference to the Constitution will be all the more clear to the public if the emphasis is on what the managers do have, rather than on what they don’t. And then the country can judge the Senate.

  32. says

    Trouble is brewing, with Trump’s encouragement.

    Beyond Monday’s gun-laden march in Richmond, militias’ plans for a ‘civil war’ look to go national.

    Thanks to an encouraging tweet from Donald Trump, militias around the United States are preparing to assemble in Richmond, Va., on Monday, to protest gun-control legislation—many vowing to bring their guns, in open defiance of Gov. Ralph Northam’s declaration of emergency and its accompanying ban on any kind of weaponry at the state Capitol.

    […] Trump tweeted an attack on Northam that aligned perfectly with far-right extremists’ paranoid claims about the planned legislation: “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” he wrote. “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.”

    Trump is, quite blatantly, encouraging violence.

    The Monday protest—which extremist groups are calling the “Boogaloo,” a reference to their long-hoped-for opportunity to declare a civil war against liberals—has inspired a number of such groups to declare their intent to show up fully armed. Infowars’ Alex Jones has preemptively declared that any violence that occurs will be a “false flag,” and has said he will be in Virginia to observe, because “we’ve had two revolutionary wars basically start in Virginia, and it looks like one may start again.” […]

    The violent nature of the “Boogaloo” was emphasized this week by the FBI’s arrests of seven members of The Base, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group openly dedicated to training for a “race war.” The first three were arrested Thursday, including Canadian fugitive Patrik Mathews; in addition to being caught with multiple weapons (including an illegal automatic rifle) and a large cache of ammunition, the men had spoken openly of attending Monday’s rally in Richmond and opening fire there.

    Three more were arrested Friday in Georgia, charged with plotting the murders of a local antifascist couple, as well as overthrowing the local county government. […]

    Gov. Northam’s plans call for prohibition of any and all weapons from the Capitol Grounds, enforced by state troopers who have set up a security perimeter.

    However, that is likely to mean that most of the protesters will be circulating around downtown Richmond—which, as in Charlottesville, is when and where most of the planned violence is likely to occur.

    The invading army of paranoid “Patriots” have received official encouragement both from Trump […] and from religious leaders such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., who called for “civil disobedience” in response to the Legislature’s planned gun-control measures. […]

    A number of the militia groups that plan to be in Richmond on Monday include organizations that were banned by court-ordered consent agreement from Charlottesville, Va., following the disastrous Aug. 12, 2017, “Unite the Right” rally in which an antifascist protester was murdered. […]

    Joshua Shoaff, another social-media personality operating under the under the pseudonym “Ace Baker,” not only has been urging his audience to attend the rally, but has been issuing death threats to an African-American Virginia legislator, apparently with the approval of Facebook, where he publishes his livestreams for his 540,000 followers.

    “You should be pulled out of office by the hair on your head, walking down the streets of the capital, walked up to the steps of a swinging rope that’s placed around your neck, because you, sir, are a tyrant and you’re committing treason,” […]

    Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes is particularly keen on the movement “Patriots” are promoting in rural Virginia counties and towns to establish “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in which any state-approved gun-control laws are declared null and void. […]

    In a recent interview on the conspiracist “Power Hour Nation” interview program, Rhodes wants to use the opportunity to realize a longtime “Patriot” movement fantasy: Namely, establishing “constitutionalist” counties in which federal laws are null and void, and the county sheriff is the highest law in the land. […]

    More at the link.

  33. says

    Followup to comment 46.

    Ahead of Richmond Rally, Apple and Google Are Letting Nazis Use This App to Coordinate

    Telegram, which has banned ISIS content, remains a favored tool of white supremacists.

    Neo-nazi and fascist groups have been posting antisemitic and racist messages and calls for violence on the encrypted messaging app Telegram in advance of a massive gun rally in Richmond, Virginia on Monday that far-right extremists are expected to attend and that officials fear might turn violent.

    “If you are not ready to leave your family, friends and daily life and get violent then you need to sit the fuck down,” read a message posted by one account with over a thousand followers that has pushed a new civil war. “Virginia is less than a week away and it will decide the fate and the rate for this year.”

    Another account with thousands of followers has been posting compressed files of “reading material” in the lead up to event with file names like “Guerrilla Warfare, Terrorism,” “Tracking and Evasion,” and “Revenge Anarchy.”

    On sites like 4chan and other forums popular with internet racists, there’s little that can be done to stop neo-Nazis and white supremacists from posting and organizing. But in the case of Telegram, though, Google and Apple have the power to curb neo-Nazi communications if they choose to. […]

    More at the link.

  34. says

    How to continue to scam people, even after you have died:

    […] like the spirits he’s claimed to be able to speak to, lo these many years, death is not keeping Derek Acorah down. In fact, up until this weekend, his website was still offering text message “readings” from Derek for £3 ($3.90) for those who wished to receive his help to contact their deceased loved ones. Each follow-up message cost £1.

    The site was taken down after a reporter from the Daily Record pretended to be a customer who wished to hear from his dead uncle:

    Posing as a bereaved relative, our reporter texted to say his uncle Joe King had passed away two years ago, and asked to make contact.

    Within minutes, a series of three messages arrived back at a cost of £1 each.

    One said: “Welcome darling. He has been trying to contact you and is coming through to sit with you now. He says that he is worried that you tend to allow yourself to get into ruts in life.”

    The last text finishes by saying “More darling”, and which point we responded “Yes please, Derek”. Another three premium rate texts were duly delivered, with one advising: “He says that you will never know what you like or are capable of, if you are not willing to try new things.”

    The last text again ended by prompting to request even more information from the fictitious relative.When the Mail contacted Acorah’s spokesman, he refused to comment on the record but threatened legal action if we ran a story.

    […] It seems highly unlikely that he was writing these text messages from dead people himself while he was alive, either. That would take up a LOT of time.

    I understand why people might find something like this comforting when they are grieving the loss of a loved one. I don’t blame them at all. I am a “whatever gets you through the day” kind of lady. What I don’t understand is how someone decides to make their living (or, in this case, deading?) by scamming grieving people.

    In conclusion: The Fox Sisters were cracking their toes, Uri Geller was using pre-bent spoons, no one has magic powers […]

    Link

  35. says

    From George Conway:

    […] Trump, whose businesses and now campaign have left a long trail of unpaid bills behind them, has never discriminated when it comes to stiffing people who work for him. That includes lawyers — which is part of the reason he found the need to make some curious last-minute tweaks to his team, announcing the addition of the legal odd couple of Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth W. Starr.

    The president has consistently encountered difficulty in hiring good lawyers to defend him. In 2017, after Robert S. Mueller III became special counsel, Trump couldn’t find a high-end law firm that would take him as a client. His reputation for nonpayment preceded him: One major Manhattan firm I know had once been forced to eat bills for millions in bond work it once did for Trump. No doubt other members of the legal community knew of other examples.

    Of course, being cheap wasn’t the only reason Trump struck out among the nation’s legal elite. There was the fact that he would be an erratic client who’d never take reasonable direction — direction as in shut up and stop tweeting. […] Top law students of varying political stripes who might be willing, even eager, to join a firm that provides pro bono representation to murderers on death row, want nothing to do with Trump. […]

    “Any litigator will tell you that adding to your legal team on the eve of trial most likely will not produce better lawyering but, rather, chaos. In that sense, at least, Trump will be getting the representation he deserves. […]

    Washington Post link

  36. says

    I’m going to expand a bit on #31, not to “attack” Sanders, but because I’m seeing some annoying responses to the clip and I want to be clear about what bothers me and how it could have been done better.

    Sanders is asked “Do you think that female candidates have a different experience running for president, and do you think that gender is still an obstacle for female politicians?”

    In response, he begins by lumping gender in with advanced age and inexperience. In a (presidential) campaign, advanced age and relative inexperience are reasonable and legitimate concerns to have about a candidate. Being 78 during the campaign is an issue, heart attack aside. The presidency (if the job is actually done, which isn’t currently the case) is physically and cognitively demanding and exhausting. Having relatively little political experience is also in many ways a drawback. These concerns aren’t ageism.

    Being a woman is not like these two things. There’s nothing inherent to being a woman that is itself a negative in terms of a potential presidency. The obstacles for women are external – sexism and misogyny. Sexism and misogyny aren’t rooted in reasonable or legitimate concerns but in false beliefs and stereotypes. This is true also of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. But Sanders refers to being a woman, like being his age or having little experience, as a “problem,” a “negative,” a “disadvantage,” an imperfection. Rather than locating the issue in the people responding with sexism and misogyny, he’s locating it in women.

    He then immediately transitions to talking about how his age can actually be seen as a positive, pushing aside the original question. And indeed, advanced age hasn’t really been that much of a hindrance in US history. The same, of course, can be said of youth and relative inexperience. Not once does he suggest any positive aspect of being a woman.

    Encouraging people to “look at the totality of a candidate – not at their sexuality, not at their gender, not at their age” is in some ways great, but ignores the basis of the first question, which concerned whether women have a different experience running for president. In a week in which Warren has faced swarms of his supporters tweeting snake emojis and smears at her, he could have used the opportunity to talk about online misogyny and to send a message to his base. The other day, people were sharing a ranking showing that Susan Collins has now overtaken Mitch McConnell as the most unpopular Senator in her state. Women make up 26% of the Senate, but there’s one woman among the 10 most popular Senators and 6 among the 10 least popular. Susan Collins is less popular than Moscow Fucking Mitch. This is what women are dealing with online.

    He also could have talked about not ignoring but acknowledging the obstacles that people discriminated against (including himself as a Jewish man and not an old white dude) can face, and how that requires strength and resilience and can lead to a better understanding of other people’s challenges. He could have talked about some of the people on his campaign and what they’ve faced and how impressive they are… But he didn’t.

    So it was well-meaning but obtuse, is my view.

  37. says

    Laurence Tribe: “.@AlanDersh is grossly misstating law, history, and even the arguments in the Johnson Senate impeachment trial. He’s not to be trusted. Trump’s mendacity has sadly rubbed off on my former colleague. Read my @washingtonpost op-ed laying it all out:…”

    (Incidentally, I’m endlessly amused by how many people in the news Tribe has taught. He was interviewed the other day about the Senate trial and casually mentioned “the Chief Justice, who was a student of mine at Harvard…” and I loled.)

  38. says

    So the NYT has endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, which is a weird thing to do.

    Also, MJ Lee:

    Part of the discussion after Elizabeth Warren NYT edboard interview that just aired:

    – She’s got chops.
    – Did those chops sound a bit patronizing though?
    – You know who doesn’t like that — male voters

    How Warren “comes across” discussion continued by NYT ed board:

    – How she talks comes across as “condescending”
    – She can make people feel like if you disagree with her, they’re dumb
    – Some of that is probably unfair and sexist

    Bizarre. Warren is among the least condescending or patronizing candidates I’ve ever seen.

  39. says

    Guardian – “Sardines take on League in birthplace of Italian socialism”:

    Among the gifts the Sardines – the Italian movement facing off against the far-right politics of Matteo Salvini – received in recent weeks were six works of art by the late Aldo Borgonzoni, a painter and anti-fascist resistance fighter.

    Borgonzoni’s granddaughter is Lucia Borgonzoni, the far-right candidate seeking to bring an end to 70 years of leftwing rule in Emilia-Romagna on Sunday in regional elections that will prove an important test for the stability of the national government coalition between the centre-left Democratic party (PD) and the Five Star Movement (M5S), and may decide whether Salvini and the far-right League return to power.

    The paintings were donated by her father, Giambattista, a self-described “veteran communist” who said last week “the Sardines are better than my daughter’s party”.

    “He gave us another painting today,” Mattia Santori, one of the young founders of the Sardines, told the Guardian on Sunday. “We’re allowed to sell them to raise money for the movement.”

    Lucia Borgonzoni, 43, is among the crop of Emilia-Romagna natives who have jettisoned the leftwing ideals of their parents and grandparents and helped bolster support for Salvini’s League, in the region that gave birth to Italian socialism.

    The Sardines sprang up in mid-November to counteract the rising popularity of the League, which, together with its allies, the fellow far-right Brothers of Italy and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, triumphed in Emilia-Romagna in the 2018 national elections and again in last year’s European parliamentary ballot.

    The Sardines – so-called because they have packed out city squares for demonstrations – have managed to galvanise support across the country in recent months, bringing an estimated 40,000 people together in Bologna’s Piazza VIII Agosto on Sunday in the final major show of strength before the Emilia-Romagna local election.

    Many believe that a defeat for the PD in Emilia-Romagna could lead to a government collapse as it would increase tensions between the PD and its coalition partner M5S, with more MPs from both absconding as their faith in the alliance dwindles further.

    The outcome of the vote will also dictate the future of the Sardines.

    “We’ll know what kind of impact this experiment has had after that,” said Santori. “But what we have understood is that, for many people, we are the first real alternative to the populism of the right.”

    Final polls before the blackout period began on 11 January put Borgonzoni and the League slightly behind Stefano Bonaccini, the incumbent Emilia-Romagna president from the PD.

    Bonaccini, elected president in 2014, has distanced himself from his party’s troubles at national level, focusing his campaign on local issues….

    The election is this coming Sunday, the 26th.

  40. says

    Guardian – “Boris Johnson urged to publish report on Russian meddling”:

    The SNP’s leader at Westminster has written to Boris Johnson demanding that he take immediate steps to allow the suppressed report into Russia’s interference in the British political system to be published.

    Ian Blackford, the leader of the third-largest party in the Commons, called on the prime minister to begin appointing members of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, necessary to allow the controversial document to be released.

    “It is unacceptable that your government has repeatedly and intentionally failed to take steps to establish the committee and has sought to escape scrutiny on vital issues,” Blackford writes in a letter that has been shared with the Guardian.

    “The public interest and the imperative is and has always been clear: lift your sanction on publishing this report and re-establish the intelligence and security committee so that it can be immediately published,” the SNP MP added.

    Ministers have repeatedly said there are no examples of “successful Russian interference” in the 2016 EU referendum or an election, although there is scepticism as to whether that has been properly investigated.

    The report was nevertheless awaiting final clearance from Downing Street, to check it did not contain any classified information, when the election was called. No 10 said it was not possible to clear it in time, a point disputed by the previous chairman of the committee, former MP Dominic Grieve.

    Downing Street eventually said after the election that the report was cleared. But its release depends on the appointment of nine cross-party backbench MPs and peers to the committee’s membership, a task that falls to Johnson after consulting with other parties.

    “Russian interference in elections is widespread and well documented, the evidence that Russia poses a direct threat to the functioning and operability of democracy among our allies in the EU and beyond is overwhelming,” Blackford writes.

    “If this report, as you have recently claimed, shows that Russia has never interfered in any democratic event in the UK then it is inexplicable that you chose not to restore public trust and publish this report before the 2019 general election.”

  41. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 56

    <

    blockquote>So the NYT has endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, which is a weird thing to do.

    It isn’t when you have to play to the left AND the center in order to keep your subscribers and advertisers.

  42. says

    “Russian Prosecutor Chaika has been fired!
    He is best known to Americans for his actions during 2016 elections via Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya and Dana Rohrabacher. What ever happened to Rohrabacher? Another one who disappeared without any investigations

    Rohrabacher’s role was to convince US to remove Russian sanctions tied to Magnitsky Act”

    Pussy Riot, “Chaika.”

  43. says

    Susan Hennessey, Lawfare:

    We don’t know what exactly the impeachment trial will look like. But we do know that whatever unfolds in the Senate in the next few weeks matters to every American. So we’re going to try to help people cut through the noise and access the primary source.

    We assume not everyone can devote hours to CSPAN each day. But watching the five minute highlight reels and listening to what other people think was important won’t be enough. So we are going to take the trial audio each day and condense it down to something manageable.

    We’re jumping into this without knowing any of the details and we’ll make changes as we go. The audio might be dry, who knows, but democracy is never boring! If you want to follow along, hear what senators are hearing, and decide for yourself, subscribe.

    Link atl.

  44. says

    SC @64, wow. There are an awful lot of references to “filth” and to “dirt” in that letter. And I mean “awful” in two ways.

    I don’t want that clear a glimpse into the minds of the people who were trying to get a civil rights leader to kill himself. Stuff of nightmares.

  45. says

    From Steve Benen, a look at the documents filed in preparation for the beginning of the impeachment trial tomorrow:

    […] The 111-page document [from the U.S. House of Representatives] is a persuasive, substantive, well-researched, and thoroughly footnoted indictment against a president who, according to overwhelming and uncontested evidence, abused the powers of his office as part of an unprecedented extortion scheme. It concludes by asking senators to do their duty and bring Trump’s presidency to an end.

    A few hours later, the White House submitted a short “answer” to the House’s allegations. As the New York Times reported:

    In a six-page filing formally responding to the House impeachment charges submitted shortly after and filled with partisan barbs against House Democrats, Mr. Trump’s lawyers denounced the case as constitutionally and legally invalid, and driven purely by a desire to hurt Mr. Trump in the 2020 election. […]

    The president’s lawyers did not deny any of the core facts underlying Democrats’ charges, conceding what considerable evidence and testimony in the House has shown: that he withheld $391 million in aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine and asked the country’s president to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden.

    But they said Mr. Trump broke no laws and was acting entirely appropriately and within his powers when he did so, echoing his repeated protestations of his own innocence. They argued that he was not seeking political advantage, but working to root out corruption in Ukraine.

    […] while it’s true that most of the missive was familiar palaver, there was one element worth dwelling on.

    […] the president’s lawyers argued that the first article of impeachment approved by the House “fails on its face to state an impeachable offense.” It’s a curious argument: the first article of impeachment charges Trump with abusing the powers of his office. By the White House’s latest reasoning, that’s not something a president can or should be impeached for having done.

    The document then complains that the House has not accused Trump of statutory crimes, before adding, “House Democrats’ ‘abuse of power’ claim would do lasting damage to the separation of powers under the Constitution.” […]

    Team Trump, in other words, is of the opinion that there can be no accountability for presidents who abuse the powers of their office. Even if Trump is guilty of abuses of power, the argument goes, Congress can and should have no recourse. […]

    One of the few things the legal defense team was willing to put in writing was a strange, eight-page screed in October – it was, oddly enough, longer than the document it submitted over the weekend – that even some conservatives described as “bananas” and a “barely-lawyered temper tantrum.”

    That was three months ago. The president and his lawyers have had time to craft a more serious defense, but there’s little to suggest they’ve used that time wisely.

    Link

  46. says

    The editorial board of the Quad City Times in Iowa endorsed Amy Klobuchar.

    A new Focus on Rural America poll showed the following: Joe Biden leading with 24%, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 18%, and Pete Buttigieg at 16 %. Bernie Sanders was at 14%, and Amy Klobuchar had 11% support.

  47. says

    On Trade With China, Donald Trump Folds Like A Cheap Suit.

    As many of us have long suspected, the new Phase 1 trade deal with China indicates a complete and total failure on the part of the Trump Administration. The current Administration ended up obtaining basically none of his original goals. If I can use an analogy, the following sums up what has happened between the U.S. and China since Donald Trump was inaugurated in 2017:

    In January 2017, when Donald Trump took office, he stood at the bottom of a big staircase. During the past three years, he basically took 4 steps up the staircase. As he took those four steps up, Americans everywhere suffered. Farmers lost their businesses, and dairy farms collapsed. Other farmers barely stayed out of bankruptcy, and the American consumers were forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in tariffs. In addition, the U.S. government has been forced to pay countless millions of dollars to try and keep farmers afloat.

    Trump’s Phase 1 Trade Agreement represents Donald Trump taking 2 steps back down the staircase. He’s lessoning the tariffs, and in exchange, China has agreed to buy more from us than they have recently been purchasing from us. All of the pain has basically been pointless. Donald Trump is retreating—he is caving—as the Chinese always knew he would.

    So, in three years, Donald Trump has basically gone somewhere, placing lots of tariffs on China, and taken us halfway back cutting those tariffs in half, all while creating a whole lot of suffering, and all the while basically getting none of his goals accomplished. This was always going to happen because the Chinese do things long term, and they were always going to wait for Donald Trump to cave. This is because they knew he would cave before the 2020 election. All of that pain and all of that suffering ended up having no purpose whatsoever. Few things sum up the Trump Presidency like this. What a complete moron, and what an epic failure. […]

  48. says

    U.S. officials have deported some asylum-seekers without first telling them where they’re going.

    The Trump administration’s inhumane move deporting Honduran and Salvadoran asylum-seekers to Guatemala as part of a so-called “safe-third-country” agreement is bad enough. That the administration may be deporting these asylum-seekers without even telling them where they’re being sent makes a bad situation worse.

    Advocates say that U.S. officials have put asylum-seekers, including children, on planes to Guatemala “without being told where they were headed, and left here without being given basic instruction about what to do next,” The Washington Post reports. “When the migrants land in Guatemala City, they receive little information about what it means to apply for asylum in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries.”

    One of these children, a 17-year-old boy, had fled Honduras with his mom after being shot in the face by gang members. This family should be in the U.S. seeking safety, but they say they were instead deported without even knowing where they were going. “In the U.S., the agents told us our cases would be transferred, but they didn’t say where. Then they lined us up to get on the plane,” his mom Marta told The Post. “When we looked out the window, we were here. We thought, ‘Where are we? What are we supposed to do now?’” […]

    Link

  49. says

    Tribe: “Besides, if shaking down an ally to get illegal foreign help in winning re-election with a hit job against a political opponent and using taxpayers’ funds to engage in that extortion ISN’T ‘crime-like’ conduct, what in the world WOULD be?”

    As I said @ #25, I want someone to ask him this question. Dershowitz says he’s been consistent over the years, but the only consistency I’ve seen is that he always opposes impeachment whatever the conduct at issue. Extortion isn’t just bribery-like – it’s the worst form of bribery. (And the new evidence from Parnas suggests that they committed other forms of bribery as well, for example defaming and recalling the US ambassador to Ukraine to bribe Lutsenko to give them Biden dirt.)

  50. says

    Dershowitz on CNN in 1998: ‘I think endangering the country through a course of action which was not criminal’ could be impeachable if it’s ‘a total abuse and misuse of office in a way that endangers the liberty of all Americans’.”

    He cited Filegate.

    Dershowitz’s standard for non-criminal impeachable conduct in 1998 was Filegate.”

    Transcript and video atl. Filegate was one of these bullshit rightwing investigative crusades they’ve harassed the Clintons with for three decades. It’s not a great thing to resurface for anyone on the Right given the zeal with which they investigated these substanceless allegations. The fact that Dershowitz believed it could still be true in 1998 doesn’t speak well of him. Starr and Ray admitted there was nothing to it in November of 1998 – “Starr also chose this occasion to clear President Clinton in the Travelgate matter, and to say that he had not committed impeachable wrongdoing in the Whitewater matter; Democrats on the committee immediately criticized Starr for withholding all these findings until after the 1998 Congressional elections.” In any case, the Ukraine scheme is far worse than even the Republican fever-dream version of Filegate, so Dershowitz’ argument takes another major hit.

  51. says

    CNN – “CNN poll: 51% say Senate should remove Trump from office”:

    About half of Americans say the Senate should vote to convict President Donald Trump and remove him from office in the upcoming impeachment trial (51%), according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, while 45% say the Senate should vote against conviction and removal.

    Nearly seven in 10 (69%) say that upcoming trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry. And as Democrats in the Senate seek to persuade at least four Republican senators to join them on votes over allowing witnesses in the trial, the Republican rank and file are divided on the question: 48% say they want new witnesses, while 44% say they do not.

    The poll is the first major national telephone poll since the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, formally launching Trump’s trial there. They are also the first such poll results since Soviet-born businessman Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, publicly implicated the President in the Ukrainian pressure campaign during a series of television interviews.

    The new poll also finds majorities of Americans view each of the charges on which Trump will face trial as true: 58% say Trump abused the power of the presidency to obtain an improper personal political benefit and 57% say it is true that he obstructed the House of Representatives in its impeachment inquiry.

    Massive partisan gaps continue to dominate views on Trump and his impeachment trial. Overall, 89% of Democrats say he should be removed from office, while just 8% of Republicans feel the same way. Among independents, it’s nearly dead even: 48% say the Senate should vote to remove him, while 46% say that they should not. Views on whether Trump should be impeached and removed are also evenly split across battleground states, 49% are on each side across the 15 states decided by 8 points or less in 2016. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

    Beyond partisanship, there are wide divisions in the poll by gender, race, education and age. Nearly six in 10 women (59%) say the Senate should remove Trump from office; 42% of men agree. Among African Americans, 86% say Trump should be removed. That drops to 65% among Hispanics and 42% among whites.

    More atl.

  52. says

    More bad actions on the part of ICE:

    Are mass deportation agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement going around a New York directive in order to continue detaining immigrants in and around the state’s courthouses? It sure looks that way, […]

    In a groundbreaking decision last year, New York’s Office of Court Administration said ICE agents couldn’t sweep up immigrants at the state’s courthouses unless they had a federal judicial warrant or order first, as it should be. But, immigration officials flouted this directive and swept up 127 immigrants at courthouses in 2019, Immigrant Defense Project said in the new report.

    “Following issuance of the April 2019 directive, ICE told its agents in an internal communication that ‘we are good to make the arrest outside the courthouse with or without a judicial warrant,’” the report said. “As promised, plainclothes ICE agents stationed themselves in multiple locations in and around courthouses, trailed individuals undercover, and arrested most people outside of courthouses.”

    “From April 2019 onward, ICE used tactics that skirted the Directive by moving their arrests to court entrances and exits, while still surveilling people inside courthouses,” the report continued. “In some cases, ICE violated the Directive outright—refusing to identify themselves as required, failing to wait for a supervising judge to review a warrant, and escorting an individual out of the courthouse to handcuff them outside. ICE’s use of force has resulted in injuries, broken glass doors, and crippling fear of attending court.”

    ICE’s actions have already had immense consequences when it comes to the most vulnerable, with prosecutors across the U.S. previously stating that anti-immigrant policies have made it harder to seek justice for immigrant victims of abuse. ICE has long believed it’s above the rules, as this report continues to confirm, and as long as there’s no consequences to this, it’ll continue to believe it’s above restraint. State leaders need to dig into this, because lives are depending on it.

    Link

  53. says

    Followup to tomh @comment 7, and to comments 46 and 47.

    Luckily, there was no violence in Virginia today. There was some mocking of the “warriors” who showed up.

    […] Today we saw a loose gaggle of dime-store warriors without a war […], dressed to the nines in tactical gear, with no combatants in sight, primed for a battle with nothing to shoot at. It was a walking talking premature ejaculation, where the deed was done just by putting on the “manly” gear because there was nothing else to do. The optics were horrible. Paunchy, scruffy, out-of-shape men, wearing camo and scarves (just in case a sandstorm kicked up in the middle of the Virginia winter), flack jackets and boots so that they could… stand around and look tough.

    In the end, the overkill backfired. They revealed themselves to be worthy of ridicule, […]

    They didn’t think it through, because that many guys walking down the street with huge guns was tactically inane. What was the point of that? What were the options? Use the guns. BAD! They’d get hauled off to jail. Don’t use the guns. BAD! They looked like kids in cos-play primping for show and tell. Threaten to use the guns in the future if they don’t get what they want. BAD! Now they’re terrorists. Hug the guns closely to themselves and use them like a blanky. BAD! They look like pathetic wanna-be soldiers.

    This whole event was a mistake. The minute they brought guns to a conversation, they were no longer interested in “conversation.” At that point, they were just vaguely threatening people, and wandering aimlessly around with big guns and no one to point or shoot them at. That didn’t make their intended audience inclined to listen to what they had to say. It made their audience pity, mock and ridicule them. They did not come off as G.I. Joes. They came off as G.I. Jokes.

    Link

  54. says

    House managers argue WHC Pat Cipillone’s involvement in the events underlying both articles of impeachment present[s] a conflict of interest in his representing Trump in the Senate Trial.

    For backup, the Managers cite Cipillone’s fellow Trump defense lawyer, then-Judge Ken Starr.”

    Full letter here.

    The House Managers are doing a press conference shortly.

  55. says

    HuffPo – “Carl Bernstein Hits Mitch McConnell With Scathing New Nickname That Explodes On Twitter”:

    Carl Bernstein sent social media users into overdrive after he slapped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) with a taunting new nickname.

    The famed Watergate reporter called McConnell “Midnight Mitch” during a panel discussion on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” on Monday. It centered on McConnell’s proposed compressed schedule for President Donald Trump’s imminent Senate impeachment trial over the Ukraine scandal that would see some testimony taking place in the early hours.

    Said Bernstein:

    The most important moment for the Republican Party since the censure of Joe McCarthy and the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon, in which Republicans became great heroes and patriots. Now, we’re looking at ‘Midnight Mitch’ and the so-called world’s greatest deliberative body really embracing a cover-up that is there for all to see. That’s what this is about. It’s about preventing information from becoming known and seen by the American public.

    Bernstein noted how in the impeachments of former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton there had been “no problem about knowing the truth of the facts.”

    But in the impeachment trial of Trump, he said, “we still have a factual problem here because the president and those who work for him and Mitch McConnell have impeded the facts from the beginning.”

    The rules would prevent the evidence from the House from being admitted at the beginning, as it was in the Clinton trial.

    #MidnightMitch is still trending on Twitter. Multiple examples at the link.

  56. says

    From Daniel Dale:

    President Donald Trump is dishonest about a whole lot of things. But he is rarely as comprehensively dishonest as he has been about his dealings with Ukraine and the impeachment process.

    From the eruption of the Ukraine controversy in September to the Senate trial that officially began on Thursday, relentless deceit has seemed to be Trump’s primary defense strategy in the court of public opinion. He has made false claims about almost every separate component of the story, from his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to the whistleblower who complained about the call, to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s own relations with Ukraine. […]

    To help you fight Trump-induced dizziness as the trial gets underway, we’ve tallied his dishonesty on the subject of Ukraine and impeachment. Our original list from mid-November included 45 false claims he has made and a brief fact check of each one.

    We have since added 20 more for a total of 65. […]

    Link

    So, yes, Daniel Dale’s report documents 65 false claims that Trump made in connection with the Ukraine scandal. Here’s just a sampling. (See the link for all 65 falsehoods, and Dale’s expert debunking of each one.)

    The phone call with Zelensky

    1. Trump released an “exact transcript” of his July call with Zelensky. (The document says on its first page that it is “not a verbatim transcript.”)

    2. When Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman wanted to add in a word that was missing from the rough transcript, “they added the word.” (Vindman testified that two “substantive” changes he suggested were not made, though he also testified that the document remained “substantively correct.”)

    3. Trump did not ask Zelensky for anything on the call. (Trump asked Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden, look into a debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic computer servers, and speak with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.)

    4. Zelensky criticized former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch “out of the blue” on the call. (Trump brought up Yovanovitch first.)

    5. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “angry” when she saw the rough transcript of the call, and she said, “This is not what the whistleblower said.” (Pelosi has said no such thing in public, and there is no evidence she has said anything like that in private. Her public statement on the call was scathing.)

    6. “Everybody” that looked at the text of the call agreed that it was “perfect.” (Some of Trump’s staunch defenders agreed with this characterization, but clearly not “everybody” did.)

    7. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to Trump about the call and said, “That was the most innocent phone call that I’ve read.” (McConnell said he doesn’t recall speaking to Trump about the call. His public statement on the call was far less effusive than Trump’s description.)

    8. People were not talking about the call anymore in late October. (People continued to talk about the call, a central focus of the impeachment inquiry.)

    9. The Washington Post made up fictional sources for its article on how Trump had allegedly tried to get Barr to hold a news conference saying Trump had broken no laws in the call. (There is no evidence that the Post invented sources. Other major news outlets, including CNN, quickly reported the same thing the Post did.)

    10. Zelensky affirmed in December that “President Trump did nothing wrong.” (Zelensky has said Trump applied “no pressure,” but he did not say Trump did nothing wrong. Zelensky did say, “Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing.” But he continued: “I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”)

    The whistleblower

    11. The whistleblower was “sooo wrong.” (The rough transcript and witness testimony have proven the whistleblower to have been highly accurate.)

    12. The whistleblower should be investigated for “fraud.” (Nothing the whistleblower is known to have done remotely resembles fraud.)

    13. The whistleblower, a second whistleblower and the first whistleblower’s source have all “disappeared.” (There is no evidence for this. Whistleblowers do not have an obligation to speak publicly after filing their complaints.)

    14. The whistleblower had “all second hand” information. (While the whistleblower did get information about the call from other people, the whistleblower also had “direct knowledge of certain alleged conduct,” noted Michael Atkinson, the Trump-appointed inspector general for the intelligence community.)

    15. The whistleblower “said ‘quid pro quo’ eight times.” (The whistleblower did not even use the words “quid pro quo” in the complaint, much less specify a number of times Trump allegedly said those words. Trump may have been referring to a Wall Street Journal article that had asserted that Trump urged Zelensky “about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani” on a probe that could hurt Biden; the article did not say this claim came from the whistleblower.)

    16. The whistleblower “works now for Biden.” (There is no evidence for this. The whistleblower’s lawyers said their client has never worked for or advised a candidate, campaign or party; the lawyers said the whistleblower has come into contact with presidential candidates for both parties while working as a civil servant in the executive branch.) […]

  57. says

    Trump certainly likes the word “warrior.” He misapplies it all the time. (Remember when he called Rudy Giuliani a warrior.) Now Trump is designating some Republican lawmakers who have basically been shut out of the Senate impeachment trial as his “warriors.”

    After excluding House Republicans from his defense team, President Donald Trump announced Monday night that eight of them would serve as his personal warriors.

    Republican Reps. Doug Collins (Ga.), Mike Johnson (La.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), John Ratcliffe (Texas), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) will “serve as part of his team working to combat this hyper-partisan and baseless impeachment,” according to a White House news release Monday.

    Politico link

    Commentary:

    […] The official White House announcement, introducing the eight GOP members, was a little odd. For one thing, it insisted that during the House impeachment process, the White House “was prohibited from participating in the proceedings.” That’s plainly false: Trump and his attorneys were invited to play a role, but they refused. That’s not a prohibition on participation; it’s the opposite.

    […] House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was not included [hmmm]

    […] what exactly are these eight House Republicans going to do? They’re now part of Trump’s “impeachment team,” but what does that mean?

    The Politico report quoted a GOP source who said the lawmakers “are expected to play a more behind-the-scenes role, with a focus on messaging and strategy.”

    Or put another way, it seems these eight House Republicans are going to appear on television a lot in coming days, but unlike so many of Trump’s GOP allies, they’ll enjoy the White House’s semi-official imprimatur.

    Postscript: The official statement last night described the eight-person lineup as an “initial list,” which suggested more congressional Republicans may end with the same White House stamp of approval.

    link

    Maybe the “warriors” will get little badges or hats?

  58. says

    From Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

    After reading his resolution, it’s clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through. On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace.

    If you don’t have a real trial that you can judge impeachment on the merits, then this democracy is eroded. And Mitch McConnell will go down in history as one of the people eroding democracy because he has gone along with President Trump’s cover up hook, line and sinker.

    As SC noted upthread, and as bears repeating: Under McConnell’s proposed rules, evidence gathered by the House will not be entered in the trial unless the Senate votes to allow it. Additionally, the House impeachment team and President Donald Trump’s lawyers will only have 24 hours each to make their arguments within 2 days.

    WTF!? Mitch McConnell is not allowing the evidence gathered by the House? So, no already existing evidence, and no new evidence either? I wonder if McConnell actually has the votes to block all of the evidence the House gathered.

  59. says

    More discussion regarding that letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s current personal attorney Jay Sekulow:

    […] the letter does more than just muster all Trump’s dander behind demands that the whole case be dismissed. It also argues that Trump should be able to bully Ukraine all he wants because it’s just “a comparatively small European republic” and the United States is a superpower. Somehow, this disparity of size is supposed to mean that there’s nothing that Ukraine has that Trump would want. He can’t be guilty of extorting Ukraine because its leaders don’t have “vast treasures at their disposal” to “actually buy off the Chief Executive.”

    Which seems very much as if Trump’s attorney’s are not arguing about what Trump is. They’re debating his price.

    […] their argument is really aimed at the idea of impeachment. According to them, the reasons for impeachment existed when the United States was “a fledgling, debt-ridden republic situated on the seaboard of a vast wilderness continent.” But now we’re all grown up. And if the corruption comes from America … it’s not an issue.

    Trump’s legal duo follows up telling the authors of the Constitution that their document is no longer required by moving to an argument about what they really meant. Forget what it says on paper. Forget what the much-quoted-by-Republicans Alexander Hamilton actually had to say about impeachment in The Federalist No. 65, in which he defined impeachment as dealing with “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

    Instead, Trump’s attorney’s argue that the framers intended only a very “limited impeachment power” that expressly does not allow impeachment over abuse of power. They also belittle the idea of “foreign entanglements” as being subject to impeachment, because of that whole “superpower” thing. And, of course, the pair argue simultaneously that Donald Trump is perfectly within his authority to deny the House both testimony and documents, while also claiming that the House lacks enough direct first-hand evidence to take the case to the Senate.

    The whole document is a master class in contradiction and internal inconsistencies. It’s also so boot-lickingly close to Trump’s own Tweet-logic that some readers have suggested that Trump himself authored parts of the missive. The document certainly contains enough Arbitrary Capitalization to support that argument. […]

    Link

  60. says

    Excellent commentary from Mark Sumner:

    Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delivered his resolution proposing the rules by which Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will be conducted. And it’s not as bad as many expected—it’s far worse. McConnell has not only set up Trump to receive a hasty, perfunctory process that offers no opportunity to interview witnesses, introduce documents, or seriously discuss the issues— […] rules intentionally designed to hide the evidence of Trump’s crimes by squeezing the case into the wee hours of the morning.

    […] while in Clinton’s case those hours unfolded in prime time over the course of a week, McConnell is requiring that the case in the Trump trial be made in just two days. And if that sounds bad, it’s actually much worse. Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial in the Senate, has already informed McConnell that he needs to be at the Supreme Court in the mornings. So each session in the Senate will begin no earlier than 1 in the afternoon.

    This means that, even if there was not a single break or a moment of process, each day of hearings will carry on until at least 1 a.m. More likely, House managers would be delivering the case against Trump in the hours more commonly associated with heart attacks and robberies. […]

    McConnell’s proposed rules ensure that the case will be conducted with the least possible scrutiny. It’s a proposal that extends the cover-up of Trump’s extortion scheme directly into the rules of the Senate trial. […]

    McConnell does something utterly unique, and arguably unconstitutional, by refusing to take the most basic step of any impeachment: accept the case from the House. Instead, McConnell would require senators to vote on the acceptance of each plank of the House case. This makes it likely that Republicans will simply exclude everything the House has assembled, [with the likely result that we will see Republicans frequently objecting] that none of that information is actually in evidence for the Senate trial.

    McConnell has crafted a resolution in which the Republican-dominated Senate has to agree on what evidence it’s going to let in. That doesn’t mean just blocking the testimony of additional witnesses; it also means blocking admission of facts learned from witnesses who have already testified before the House. Under these rules, Republicans can literally pick and choose which evidence they accept.

    […] Republicans get a chance to simply vote down the idea of hearing any witnesses. If that doesn’t stop the process at the outset, they then get to secretly depose any witnesses before testimony. And, with that deposition in hand, they will vote again on whether witnesses will be allowed to speak. It’s a process that seems tailored to filter out anyone with less than whole-throated praise for Trump. […]

    But of course, none of this may matter. Because McConnell’s proposal also gives the Senate another option: vote to dismiss the whole impeachment. […] Republicans could well decide to simply show their allegiance by throwing the Constitution out wholesale. In a way, that’s probably more honest.

  61. says

    Because I wasn’t outraged enough today – TPM – “Report: Glenn Greenwald Charged In Brazil Over Stories That Embarrassed Bolsonaro Gov’t”:

    The co-founder of The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, has been criminally charged in Brazil and accused of being part of a “criminal organization,” The New York Times reported Tuesday, for his outlet’s role in publishing the private discussions of members of a Brazilian anti-corruption task force.

    Last summer, The Intercept, which has an office in Brazil, obtained and reported on the internal communications of the task force, called “Operation Car Wash.” The articles, which showed wrongdoing from current Justice Minister Sergio Moro, rocked the country.

    The Intercept said the leaked documents came from an anonymous source.

    In response, Moro said that The Intercept was “allied with criminal hackers,” the Columbia Journalism Review noted in August. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who’d attacked Greenwald in the past, mused in June that the journalist could “do time.”

    In the criminal complaint reported by the Times, prosecutors alleged that Greenwald had a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime,” based on his communications with the hackers who allegedly provided the leaked material.

    It’s in the TPM article as well, but here’s the link to the Intercept’s Car Wash series.

  62. says

    Schiff is speaking against the McConnell trial-rigging rules now.

    Manu Raju: “Reason why press restrictions need to be reversed. You’re not allowed to walk with senators by floor as usual. We can only talk to them if they stop by our penned areas. I just asked Susan Collins and Cory Gardner about McConnell resolution – and they both ignored the questions.”

    I’m sure this is the primary reason for the rules – to allow vulnerable Senators to avoid press/public accountability.

  63. says

    There are CHANGES to the McConnell resolution – presentations will now take place over 3 days (still 24 total hours)
    Also changes to the evidence section

    The new version was just read on the floor – changes happened very late in the process after some concerns were raised about those sections

    On the evidence piece – evidence will now be admitted automatically unless there are objections (as opposed to not put in record unless voted into it)”

    I muted McConnell, but it appears they can object of the basis of hearsay, etc. They will object all over the place. The information is already public, FFS.

    I’m really starting to suspect that a number of Senators don’t know much about the evidence and McConnell is trying to keep them from finding out.

  64. Akira MacKenzie says

    Fuck it! The fact that the Dems haven’t orchestrated an armed coup over this outrage only shows that they are spineless hypocrites who love to talk about democracy and progress but are too cowardly to spill the blood necessary to achieve it.

    America is dead and it deserves to rot!

  65. says

    Three 8-hour days isn’t an ideal schedule but it is at least moderately defensible. The 12-hour plan was so absurd that I wonder if it wasn’t designed to make this look reasonable.”

    That and they’re already putting out that Collins had objected to the earlier version, so it’s a ploy to make her look moderate. It’s all very similar to the Kavanaugh confirmation, which we have not forgotten.

  66. says

    Cipollone says ‘Not even Mr. Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF’ during impeachment investigation.

    That’s 100% false. Any member of the three investigating committees could attend, and many Republicans did!”

    This is one of a large number of lies. Is anyone Daniel Daleing the trial?

  67. says

    Laurence Tribe:

    Pat Cipollone thinks he made a point by reminding @RepAdamSchiff that “Laurence Tribe” says punishing people for invoking their constitutional rights is dangerous. Of course it is! But Article 2 does nothing of the sort. Cipollone’s argument was pathetic.

    .@RepAdamSchiff’s opening was magnificent. If you missed it, you owe it to yourself to find it and listen to it. It made me proud not just as his teacher, mentor, and friend but as a lawyer, a professor, and, above all, as an American.

  68. says

    Elie Mystal:

    Mom: “How can they say…?” “Why are they allowed to…?” “How come nobody stops them from…?”
    Me: “NONE OF THIS IS LEGAL, MA. NONE OF THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH SOUND LEGAL PRINCIPLES.”

    — I figure there are other mothers of lawyers who need this message.

  69. says

    BOOM. Referencing Alan Dershowtiz’s argument that abuse of power is not impeachable: ‘There’s a reason they had to go outside the realm of constitutional lawyers and get a criminal defense lawyer, because no reputable constitutional lawyer would say it’.

    DAYUM!!”

  70. says

    McConnell has called for tabling (US meaning) Schumer’s amendment, and so far is seems like a party-line vote. Collins’ vote was inaudible, but all of the Republicans so far are voting against subpoenaing the documents now.

  71. says

    Guardian – “Revealed: the Saudi heir and the alleged plot to undermine Jeff Bezos”:

    Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of the Washington Post, had no reason to be suspicious when he received a WhatsApp message from the account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in May 2018.

    Bezos and Mohammed bin Salman had attended a dinner together in Hollywood a few weeks earlier hosted by Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning producer, and Ari Emanuel, the powerful talent agent, as part of the young crown prince’s tour of America, which was hailed by some observers as an effort to rebrand the kingdom and set it on a new course.

    The then 32-year-old Saudi heir, known all over the world as “MBS”, had been greeted with open arms from Los Angeles to New York – with stops at the White House, MIT, and Harvard. He had rubbed shoulders with celebrities ranging from Oprah to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

    It appeared to be a PR coup for the the crown prince, who had previously been criticised by human rights campaigners about his decision to wage a bloody war in Yemen – and also the alleged imprisonment and torture of rich Saudis at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

    Amazon had even been in talks about the possibility of opening data centres in Saudi Arabia.

    The dinner engagement could have been the start of a promising relationship between two of the world’s most powerful men. But it would swiftly turn sour – and in spectacular fashion.

    According to sources who have spoken to the Guardian, the message sent to Bezos on that Tuesday 1 May from the personal account of the crown prince contained a video file – of what, it is not clear.

    But a forensic technical analysis of the file has found that it is “highly probable” it contained malware that penetrated Bezos’s mobile phone and exfiltrated a large amount of data within hours.

    Bezos, it seems, had been hacked.

    The Guardian has no knowledge about the precise nature of the material that was allegedly taken or what was done with it.

    But this apparent targeting of Bezos’s phone appears to fit into a broader pattern of behaviour by Saudi Arabia.

    The crown prince and his inner circle have been criticised for attempting to undermine real and perceived critics of his regime all over the world.

    Was Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, the paper that employed the eloquent Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, considered one of them?

    Certainly, among all of the perceived enemies of the crown prince, Khashoggi was considered one of the most dangerous. His knowledge of the royal Court – he had once worked within it – and the platform then afforded him by such a respected newspaper, gave his articles real weight.

    And this was causing great agitation inside the royal court.

    According to a a New York Times report in 2019, MBS was growing “increasingly alarmed” by Khashoggi’s criticisms during this period.

    In September 2017, just as Khashoggi wrote that Saudi Arabia was becoming “unbearable” because of its repression, the young prince privately told an aide that he would use a “bullet” on Khashoggi, according to current and former US and foreign officials cited by the New York Times.

    At nearly the same time, the crown prince was developing a relationship with a different American publisher who would print a far more flattering portrait of the Saudi heir.

    According to the New York Times, in September 2017, MBS met David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc (AMI), the owner of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid, in Saudi Arabia.

    Pecker is an important player in Washington. Two months earlier he had had a private dinner with Donald Trump in the White House. Among the other guests was Kacy Grine, a financier who reportedly served as an advisor to Saudi royals.

    Pecker and Trump were longtime allies. A Department of Justice investigation would later reveal that Pecker had played a critical role in helping the Trump campaign to “kill” negative stories about the then-candidate’s extramarital affairs and pay hush money to women who were interested in telling their stories.

    When MBS flew to the US for his maiden trip as crown prince in March of the following year, it was Pecker’s company that published a glossy magazine hailing him as a great leader who would transform the world.

    Pecker, Grine, and MBS met for a second time during the crown prince’s stay in New York.

    A few weeks after the alleged Bezos hack, another suspected cyber attack was launched. The target was an influential Saudi dissident who was living in Canada and was a close friend of Khashoggi.

    Two months after the killing on 2 October 2018, another story emerged. It was seemingly unrelated to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and was far more salacious.

    On 10 January 2019, the National Enquirer published a special edition that exposed Bezos had had an affair.

    More than a dozen other articles followed across various AMI publications, in what seemed to be a campaign against the CEO.

    The story of the extramarital relationship included intimate details – including the text messages he had sent to his girlfriend months earlier, text messages that were sent just days after Bezos’s mobile phone had been sent the WhatsApp message with the malicious file.

    Trump, an ardent critic of Bezos, the Washington Post, and Amazon, who was alleged in a media report to be “obsessed” with Amazon, appeared to revel in the news.

    “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post,” he tweeted. “Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”

    The story did not end there….

  72. says

    Schumer’s second amendment also tabled 53-47.

    You know, there are episodes of Law & Order that deal with hearings or trials being rigged and unjust for some crooked reason, and they’re painful to watch. Millions of US voters have seen them and know that feeling.

  73. tomh says

    Good to know the Republicans are taking this seriously.

    WaPo:
    Slumber claims its first victim — Sen. James Risch

    The Democratic case to subpoena the State Department didn’t make much of an impression on one key Republican senator, Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, who appeared to be asleep for a significant portion of it.

    Shortly after 5:30 p.m., Risch — chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees the State Department — could be seen from the press gallery motionless, with his eyes closed and head slumped against his right hand.

    Risch was the first lawmaker seen by Washington Post reporters to clearly have fallen asleep, about four hours after the trial proceedings began Tuesday.

    When Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) cued up video of testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Risch briefly perked up, but quickly closed his eyes again.

    By Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian

  74. says

    47 Democratic Senators voted to seek missing documents from the White House, State Dept, Defense Dept, or the Office of Management and Budget. 53 Republicans opposed them.

    47 Democratic Senators voted to summon the witnesses no one has heard from. 53 Republicans opposed them.

    Thus blinkered, the trial will now proceed to opening args tomorrow at 1p. The House will have 24h over 3 days, followed by the President’s lawyers for the same amount of time. Then 16h of questions. Then a new vote on whether to debate seeking the missing evidence and witnesses.”

    The first episode of Lawfare’s condensed trial report is up. (I haven’t listened yet.)

    Elie Mystal is entertainingly and informatively livetweeting.

  75. says

    Natasha Bertrand in Politico – “‘Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine’: When Russian disinformation met a Trump obsession”:

    Three weeks after Election Day 2016, the Kremlin officially floated a theory that would ultimately lead to only the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history.

    “Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump’s election by planting information” aimed at damaging his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry told reporters on Nov. 30, 2016, accusing the Ukrainian government of scheming to help elect Hillary Clinton.

    President-elect Donald Trump by this time was busy staffing up his incoming administration, and some of his top advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, were making overtures to Russia’s ambassador in the hopes of establishing a diplomatic backchannel to Moscow.

    Russian officials offered no evidence—on that day or on any other day—that it was really Kyiv and not Moscow that meddled in the 2016 election. Nor have U.S. intelligence agencies backed off on their collective finding that the Kremlin orchestrated a major effort to help Trump win office.

    But as Trump himself would later complain, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted in her Nov. 30 briefing that a smattering of Ukrainian officials had criticized him during the campaign.

    “You probably remember that Ukrainian officials and diplomatic representatives abroad did not express their views or political assessments but openly insulted the person whom the American people elected their president. You may remember that they later tried to delete these statements from their social networks accounts and their sites, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions,” she said.

    Zakharova’s claims seemed easy enough to shrug off at the time. It was not surprising that the Kremlin, highly skilled in the dark arts of dezinformatsiya, would try to shift blame to its adversaries in Kyiv.

    But that effort to shift blame may have started months earlier. A review of Russian state media reports from the time and interviews with a dozen current and former officials and experts in Kyiv and Washington paint a more sinister picture: that Zakharova’s seemingly throwaway accusation was actually the culmination of a year-long effort to frame Ukraine for a Russian attack, ultimately leading to parallel efforts by Moscow and President Donald Trump to try to game the 2020 election by seeking dirt on former vice president Joe Biden.

    Cindy Otis, a former political and military analyst at the CIA who now leads the disinformation analysis program at Nisos, a cyber security firm, says that Moscow may even have planted the seeds even earlier than Zakharova’s news conference.

    “There’s been an evolution of the main narrative” tying Ukraine to the 2016 election, Otis said. She pointed to a March 2015 article in the Kremlin-funded outlet Russia Today that tried to connect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the future Democratic presidential nominee, to the popular uprising against the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2013.

    “The Russian narrative in 2015-2016 was that Clinton interfered in Ukraine, and that her campaign was being directed or driven by Ukrainian oligarchs,” Otis said.

    But it wasn’t just isolated accounts accusing Ukraine of manipulating the 2016 election; lawmakers say they’ve seen signs of an organized, top-down effort directed by the Kremlin to create a false narrative and exonerate Russia.

    That initial disinformation effort failed to catch fire, but it solidified a Clinton-Ukraine connection among some on the political fringes—the RT story was posted dozens of times in far-right, pro-Trump, and pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook groups between 2015 and 2019—and set the stage for another Russia-promoted conspiracy theory that continues to be amplified by Trump: that the Ukrainians hacked the Democratic National Committee with the help of a cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, and framed Russia.

    Once he was sworn in, Trump had unfettered access to the unclassified intelligence that informed the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia hacked the DNC and interfered to help him win. But he still refused to believe it, preferring the unsubstantiated rumors about Ukraine’s attempts to sabotage his candidacy.

    “He would almost never not bring it up,” one former White House official said of Trump’s fixation with the Ukraine conspiracy theory. “And that certainly continued the whole time I was there. It was Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine. You just couldn’t make him understand that’s not how it turned out.”

    Suspicion of Ukraine already ran deep among some of Trump’s top advisers, according to another former White House official. “Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller had an enormous amount of distrust and suspicion toward Ukraine,” the former official said, and thought the Ukrainians were trying to get the U.S. to be more adversarial toward Russia.

    “I thought it was odd, because it seemed obvious that Ukraine was someone we needed to be closely allied with,” this former official said.

    Early on in his presidency, Trump went as far as to ask the Justice Department, then helmed by Jeff Sessions, to investigate the issue of Ukrainian interference on several occasions, the formal official said. But DOJ would always decline, this person added, “because their sense was that Mueller was going to do it for them.” A DOJ spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

    It would fall to Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to seek evidence implicating Ukraine in 2016 election meddling—a quixotic mission fueled by his client’s insistence on complete exoneration as his own administration deepened its probe into Russia’s very real involvement.

    The origins of Giuliani’s private investigation are murky….

    It was clear to many government officials early on, however, that the theory was rooted in Russian disinformation and could even be part of an intelligence operation, said another person close to the White House. And intelligence officials have since briefed lawmakers on their belief that the theory is Russian propaganda, according to a person familiar with the briefings.

    But Trump’s advisers soon gave up on trying to convince him of Russia’s role, said the first former official.

    “Anything he associated with the intel community, he rejected pretty much out of hand because his sense was that the ‘Deep State’ had decided in some star chamber or secret meeting that they would feed intelligence to him that would cause him to make mistakes, and disprove a lot of his theories about what happened in the election,” the person said….

    I’m trying to remember if anything about this was in the disinformation packet Veselnitskaya gave them at the Trump Tower meeting.

  76. says

    Richmond Times-Dispatch – “White supremacist group wanted Richmond rally to start a civil war, prosecutors say”:

    A hidden camera captured members of a white supremacist group expressing hope that violence at Monday’s gun-rights rally in Richmond could start a civil war, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday.

    Former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Jordan Mathews also videotaped himself advocating for killing people, poisoning water supplies and derailing trains, a prosecutor wrote in urging a judge in Maryland to keep Mathews and two other members of The Base detained in federal custody.

    The three were arrested Thursday. A day earlier, Gov. Ralph Northam had cited safety threats in declaring a state of emergency and temporarily banning guns from Capitol Square for the rally.

    Mathews, a 27-year-old Canadian national, didn’t know investigators were watching and listening when he and two other group members talked about attending the Richmond rally in the days leading up to Monday’s event, which attracted tens of thousands of people and ended without violence.

    Last month, a closed-circuit television camera and microphone installed by investigators in a Delaware home captured Mathews talking about the Richmond rally as a “boundless” opportunity.

    “And the thing is you’ve got tons of guys who … should be radicalized enough to know that all you gotta do is start making things go wrong and if Virginia can spiral out to [expletive] full-blown civil war,” he said.

    Mathews and fellow group member Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Md., discussed the planning of violence at the Richmond rally, according to prosecutors. Lemley talked about using a thermal imaging scope affixed to his rifle to ambush unsuspecting civilians and police officers, prosecutors said.

    “I need to claim my first victim,” Lemley said on Dec. 23, according to Tuesday’s detention memo.

    “We could essentially like be literally hunting people,” Mathews said, according to prosecutors. “You could provide overwatch while I get close to do what needs to be done to certain things.”

    Lemley talked about ambushing a police officer to steal the officer’s weapons and tactical gear, saying, “If there’s like a PoPo cruiser parked on the street and he doesn’t have backup, I can execute him at a whim and just take his stuff,” according to prosecutors.

    FBI agents arrested Mathews, Lemley and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Md., on Thursday as part of a broader investigation of The Base. Authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin also arrested four other men linked to the group.

    Detention hearings for Mathews and Bilbrough are scheduled for Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. Their attorneys didn’t immediately respond to the memo filed Tuesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom.

    Mathews, who was a combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve, illegally crossed the U.S. border near Minnesota in August after reporting by the Winnipeg Free Press led to his identification as a member of The Base.

    Investigators believe Bilbrough and Lemley, who was a “cavalry scout” in the U.S. Army, drove from Maryland to Michigan to pick up Mathews and bring him to the Mid-Atlantic region, authorities said.

    On Jan. 5, Mathews and Lemley returned to the Delaware home from a gun range in Maryland and began packing rations and other material that investigators believe they planned to use during and after the Richmond rally, court documents said.

    They packed containers with food and supplies before Mathews remarked about needing to bring a gas mask, investigators said.

    Lemley also said he thought they’d have food to last between three and five months and that it “might be enough til the war is over,” according to the filing.

    The Anti-Defamation League said members of The Base and other white supremacist groups have frequently posted online messages advocating for “accelerationism,” a term far-right extremists “have assigned to their desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it.”…

  77. says

    NEW: UN investigators echo the allegation that MBS was directly involved in hacking Bezos’ phone.

    They say it was part of an effort to intimidate Washington Post into halting its critical coverage of Khashoggi’s killing.”

    UN OHCHR release at the link.

    …The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by US and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul.

    At a time when Saudi Arabia was supposedly investigating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and prosecuting those it deemed responsible, it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post….

  78. says

    Bianna Golodryga:

    Marie Yovanovitch’s name & shameful treatment will likely come up during the trial. .@ChristopherJM notes (& new info to me) she had to leave her ailing 90 yr old mother behind in Ukraine upon being abruptly recalled. She later joined her in the US & passed away soon after.

    Her mother had been living in Ukraine with her while her daughter was stationed there and was described as “fascinating”. She had been working on her memoirs at the time. Yovanovitch’s mother was originally from Germany, her father, from the former Soviet Union.

  79. says

    In an incredible exchange at Davos, @realdonaldtrump admits he is comfortable with the status of the impeachment trial because the White House is withholding evidence. ‘Honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material’. As always, he says the quiet part out loud.”

    EMBARRASSING, Trump thinks president of Iraq Kurdistan @IKRPresident is the commander of Syrian SDF @MazloumAbdi! These two are completely different

    Trumps says things have turn out great with Turkey in Syria and mistakenly thanks Barzani for keeping ‘my safe zone’ safe.”

    Videos at the links.

  80. says

    Reuters – “Exclusive: Giuliani told U.S. his client deserves leniency for financing Venezuela’s opposition – Parnas”:

    At a lavish August gathering at a private estate in Spain, a wealthy Venezuelan businessman under criminal investigation in the United States introduced Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, to the father of Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido.

    The affair was part of a campaign for leniency for the businessman, Alejandro Betancourt, who sought to demonstrate his close ties to opposition figures looking to oust Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro – a key objective of the Trump administration.

    Betancourt told Giuliani he secretly helped bankroll Guaido’s efforts to take over the leadership of Venezuela, according to four people familiar with the situation, two of whom provided details about the meeting in Spain. Betancourt hoped those bona fides would enable Giuliani, his lawyer, to persuade Trump’s Justice Department to drop its probe of Betancourt in connection with a Florida money laundering and bribery case, the people said.

    A month later, at a meeting in Washington, D.C., Giuliani urged Justice Department prosecutors to go easy on Betancourt, according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting, and Lev Parnas, a former Giuliani associate, who said Giuliani told him about it soon afterward. Parnas and the other person said Giuliani told prosecutors that Betancourt had provided assistance for Guaido’s political efforts, and was therefore doing good work for the United States.

    This is the first time Parnas detailed his story about Betancourt, Giuliani and Venezuela.

    Giuliani declined to confirm meeting with U.S. prosecutors on Betancourt’s behalf and wouldn’t say whether the Venezuelan businessman is a client. “Lev Parnas has no right to be talking about that meeting,” Giuliani told Reuters in a brief phone interview. “It was a confidential meeting – if it did happen.”

    “Lev Parnas’s credibility is worth nothing,” Giuliani said.

    The Justice Department declined to comment. Betancourt and his attorney Frank Wohl did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    Reuters couldn’t determine whether Betancourt did provide financing to the U.S.-backed opposition or if he was just claiming he did.

    Guaido and the main opposition political party, Popular Will, both denied receiving funding from Betancourt….

    Wilmer Guaido, Guaido’s father, denied meeting Betancourt in Spain….

    Giuliani’s meeting with Betancourt at the Spanish estate, and his efforts to lobby the Justice Department on the businessman’s behalf, were previously reported by the Washington Post. Reuters is the first to report that Betancourt told Giuliani that he provided financial support for Venezuela’s opposition, and that Giuliani touted that alleged assistance to U.S. prosecutors as a reason to remove the legal cloud dogging his client.

    The episode speaks to the complex roles that Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, has played in Washington since Trump took office in 2017.

    Giuliani frequently proclaims himself a business consultant and lawyer working on behalf of private clients. Yet he also enjoys extraordinary access to the halls of power as the president’s unpaid personal attorney – work that has landed him at the center of Trump’s impeachment trial.

    Any attempt by a Giuliani client to avoid possible prosecution by claiming to have been backing an American foreign policy objective – the toppling of Maduro in this case – could prove embarrassing to the administration.

    A representative of Betancourt who declined to be identified said the magnate “didn’t do anything and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.” He also told Reuters that the businessman had provided “very substantial” financial support to Venezuela’s opposition. [Wait, what? – SC]

    Parnas said the August meeting at Betancourt’s estate outside Madrid, and the presence of Guaido’s father, were meant to demonstrate Betancourt’s strong ties to Guaido and his support for U.S. interests in Venezuela. It was to show Giuliani “that Betancourt is a really important person for the cause and that he is helping America,” Parnas said.

    The lobbying took place in Washington the month after the Spain meeting. Giuliani met with Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, a Justice Department lawyer working on the case, and some other government lawyers, according to Parnas and the person with direct knowledge of that meeting.

    Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr, who handles communications for Benczkowski, said the department declined to comment.

    The person said Giuliani was there with two other Betancourt lawyers, and made his pitch that the prosecutors let Betancourt off the hook for the case in Florida.

    Giuliani first insisted there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute the case. He then moved to U.S. foreign policy, pointing to Betancourt’s alleged support for Guaido. “This guy’s been helping the United States,” the person with direct knowledge of the meeting said in describing Giuliani’s reasoning.

    Giuliani argued that Betancourt was crucial to the survival of the Venezuelan opposition, and he urged the Justice Department lawyers to talk to Guaido themselves to corroborate his claims, the person said.

  81. says

    Guardian – “Caribbean leaders boycott Pompeo talks as row grows over US relations”:

    The prime ministers of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are boycotting a scheduled meeting with the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in a growing row between Caribbean nations who are open to improved relations with the Trump administration, and those who have opposed talks on principle.

    Pompeo arrived in Jamaica on Tuesday, where he was set to meet seven Caribbean leaders to discuss regional concerns including Venezuela’s political crisis, trade and national security.

    But the meeting represents a departure from formal talks between the US and Caricom, the 15-member organization that advocates for collective regional interests.

    Barbados’s prime minister, Mia Mottley – who is also the Caricom chair – announced earlier this month that she would not be attending the meeting in Jamaica, which she described as “an attempt to divide [the] region.”

    “I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything,” she said. “As chairman of Caricom, it is impossible for me to agree that my foreign minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of Caricom are not invited.”

    Mottley has previously criticized the US for inaction on the climate crisis and its regional impact on migration. The Trinidad and Tobago PM, Keith Rowley, later joined Mottley’s boycott, announcing on Monday he would also not be taking part in the meeting.

    “[She] has the full support of the government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago in outlining our principles and vision of Caribbean unity. In the expectation of Caribbean unity, the prime minister of Barbados speaks for Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said in a speech.

    The Jamaican PM, Andrew Holness, will be joined by leaders representing the Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia. Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s affairs and foreign trade minister, called Pompeo’s two-day visit “a symbol of Washington’s engagement with the Caribbean”.

    The meeting in the Caribbean comes a year after Jamaican, Bahamian, Lucian, Haitian and Dominican leaders privately met Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump promised investment aid in exchange for support of US interests.

    Shortly after, the same nations broke from other Caricom members to back Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as head of state. Caricom officially recognizes Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s president and urges dialogue with the leaders of the opposition.

  82. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Paul says 45 GOP senators ready to dismiss impeachment charges

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a leading ally of Trump, told The Washington Post in an interview Wednesday that 45 Republicans are ready to dismiss the charges against the president and said he would keep pushing to rally a majority of GOP senators to end the impeachment trial.

    “There are 45, with about five to eight wanting to hear a little more,” Paul said. “I still would like to dismiss it, but there aren’t the votes to do it just yet.”

    With support from other Trump allies, Paul said he would continue to pressure his colleagues in the coming days to move on from the trial and stop hearing from the House’s Democratic managers, including Schiff.

  83. says

    Schiff: Trump’s ‘misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box. For we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage … the president has shown that he believes he is above the law and scornful of constraint’.”

  84. says

    Rep. Raskin: “Cipollone must be forced by CJ Roberts to correct the record and apologize or face disbarment for brazen lack of candor to the tribunal in a legal proceeding. I was in nearly every deposition and the GOP Members were always present.”

  85. says

    The newly released documents – @ #132 above – include emails from legislators or their aides to OMB asking why the aid was being withheld. These include at least one Senator. I hope they’re introduced in the trial this week.

  86. says

    Followup to SC @148 and 152:

    I really suspect a decent number of them have been ensconced in the Fox bubble and/or actively avoiding information.

    and

    Cipollone must be forced by CJ Roberts to correct the record and apologize or face disbarment for brazen lack of candor to the tribunal in a legal proceeding

    Cipollone is either a liar, or he has restricted the information he allows into his mind to that approved by Trump.

    That lie about Republicans not being let into “secret basement meetings” is easily debunked. As Nicole Wallace noted, MSNBC and other networks have footage of Republicans entering and exiting those meetings. Plus, the approximately 100 senators allowed into those depositions is a matter of public record. It was never secret.

    That’s not the only lie Cipollone told. Is he an ethical lawyer of just a Liar-for-Trump? Reminds me of William Barr in some ways. Are Cipollone and his team actually ill-informed?

    I would not really be surprised if not only the Republican senators, but many people on Trump’s team are hearing the facts/timeline behind the articles of impeachment for the first time. Adam Schiff is doing a good job of presenting the facts. They must hate having to listen to that.

    Their defense, however, will be repetition of talking points, lies, and a refusal to acknowledge the evidence. And that reminds me of both Trump and William Barr.

  87. says

    From SC’s link @144:

    […] The House Judiciary Committee [a category of lie that Daniel Dale noted in his list]

    Sekulow alleged that Trump’s constitutional rights were violated by the House Judiciary Committee.

    “During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the President was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, the President was denied the right to access evidence, and the President was denied the right to have counsel present at hearings,” he said.

    Facts First: This is false. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, formally invited Trump to have a lawyer participate in the proceedings in that committee — but Cipollone declined the offer, saying in a letter to Nadler that “an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process.”

    […] Sekulow was wrong when he continued that not having the President’s lawyer question witnesses in a House impeachment hearing “violates the Constitution of the United States.”

    Sekulow might perhaps have made an inadvertent error when he named the Judiciary Committee. Trump was indeed denied the right to have his own counsel participate in the preceding House Intelligence Committee hearings, during which the fact witnesses testified. (A lawyer for House Republicans, Steve Castor, was permitted to question witnesses at the House Intelligence Committee.)

    The constitutional rights of criminal defendants, such as the right to have the assistance of counsel and to call and confront witnesses, do not apply to the subjects of House proceedings. […]

  88. says

    More from SC’s link @144:

    […] Mueller and obstruction [a category of lies in Daniel Dale’s list]

    Sekulow said: “And then we had the invocation of the ghost of the Mueller Report, I know something about that report — it came up empty on the issue of collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction, in fact, the Mueller Report, to the contrary of what these managers say today — came to the exact opposite conclusions of what they say.”

    Facts First: Sekulow’s wording was too vague for us to declare his claim false, but special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia did not come to a conclusion of “no obstruction,” nor did it say “the opposite” of Democrats’ claims that Trump did commit obstruction.

    Mueller laid out multiple instances in which Trump may have committed obstruction, but he explained that he would abide by a Justice Department policy that holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

    The report said: “…If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

    Attorney General William Barr then determined that the evidence laid out by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” […]

  89. tomh says

    This simply confirms what we already know. As long as Trump delivers what they want, whether it’s taxes, anti-abortion judges, religious privilege, or whatever, most Republicans don’t care whether he is acting legally or not.

    WaPo:
    New poll finds 63 percent think Trump acted illegally, but only 51 percent want him removed

    While 63 percent of Americans say Trump has definitely or probably acted illegally as president or as a candidate, a slim 51 percent majority says he should be removed from office for those crimes, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

    That distinction makes the Democrats’ job more difficult: They have to convince Americans not only that Trump committed illegal acts but also that those acts should result in the ultimate punishment by the Senate.

    An even larger majority, 70 percent of Americans, says the president has definitely or probably acted unethically, the poll found.

    The poll also shows why it will be difficult for Democrats to persuade Republicans in Congress to side with them in the impeachment probe. A 59 percent majority of the Republicans who think Trump definitely or probably acted illegally still oppose removing him from office.
    By Colby Itkowitz and Emily Guskin

  90. says

    Jason Leopold, BuzzFeed:

    NEW/UPDATE: Last week, the govt was supposed to turn over to @BuzzFeedNews & @CNN Jared Kushner’s FBI interview summary (302) from the Mueller investigation in response to our #FOIA lawsuits but didn’t and failed to explain why

    Today, govt atty explained why we didn’t receive it

    “It is my understanding that the Kushner 302 has been referred by the FBI to a member of the intelligence community in compliance with 28 CFR 16.4. When that member has finished its review, the 302 will be released with the appropriate redactions.”

  91. says

    Jake Tapper:

    The White House Correspondents’ Association (@WHCA), which does *NOT* make credentialing decisions, confirms to me that the White House credentialed the anti-Semitic TruNews.

    WHCA says it is raising this issue with the WH.

  92. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 99.

    The D.C. press corps is filling in where the cameras that Mitch McConnell refused to allow into the impeachment trial are absent. So we know just what a farce Republicans consider this exercise to be. And precisely why McConnell made sure the American people don’t see it.

    Reporter Michael McAuliff tweeted that, a few of hours into Rep. Adam Schiff’s presentation “21 empty seats on the GOP side of the Senate, 2 on the Dem side. […] Some are just stretching their legs, but most are not in the chamber. Some of them have been out of there for a while.”

    Those who were out for “for a long time”—Republicans Lindsey Graham, Jim Risch, and Bill Cassidy. Reporter Paul McLeod tweeted about McConnell’s histrionics toward the end of Schiff’s presentation when “McConnell threw his hands down and made a clear ‘are you kidding me?’ face.” Republican Rand Paul, Ben Jacobs tweeted, decided to occupy his time working on a crossword puzzle. That’s how much they care about the process; how much they care about their singular role in our republic.

    As for Chief Justice John Roberts, it shows how seriously he’s taking this whole thing, too. Because it’s his job to enforce the rules, which tell them they have to give up electronic devices and stay silent and are “requested to remain in their seats at all times they are on on the Senate floor” during the proceedings.

    They’re all taking this about as seriously as they took that oath they swore to at the outset, to provide impartial justice.

    Link

    Republicans are leaving the chamber. They are not hearing everything that Schiff and Nadler have to say.

  93. says

    Lynna @ #154:

    I would not really be surprised if not only the Republican senators, but many people on Trump’s team are hearing the facts/timeline behind the articles of impeachment for the first time.

    Good point. This might have been at the root of my reaction to Cipollone yesterday – he seemed almost shocked and unable to process the facts as the House Managers were describing them. So it wouldn’t just be a lack of preparation, but a preparation based on falsehoods they’ve absorbed over months, which don’t cohere into any reasonable narrative.

  94. says

    Lynna @ #160:

    Republicans are leaving the chamber. They are not hearing everything that Schiff and Nadler have to say.

    Seems like something Roberts should put a stop to, to put it mildly.

  95. says

    House Ways and Means Committee:

    President Trump gave huge tax cuts to big corporations and the ultra-wealthy that exploded the deficit by $2.3 TRILLION.

    How does he want to pay for that?

    By cutting critical programs like Medicare and Social Security.

    WaPo link atl. The Republicans have tried for years to take away people’s health care, and they have an ongoing lawsuit to destroy the ACA with nothing to replace it. After a tax scam that vastly increased the wealth of the richest people and corporations, inequality, and the debt, they want to do more cuts to basic public services. So populist.

  96. says

    SC @162, Yes. but Roberts seems to be more interested in maintaining what he calls “decorum” than he is in making sure that Republicans adhere to the rule that says they are to remain seated in the chamber most of the time.

  97. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 163. Yeah, Trump needs a second term so he can cut Medicare and Social Security.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] CNBC’s Joe Kernen sat down with the president this morning and broached the subject.

    KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?

    TRUMP: At some point they will be…. And at the right time, we will take a look at that.

    At that point, the president shifted his focus a bit, exaggerating the recent economic growth – GDP growth, in reality, is both short of his projections and slower than parts of Obama’s second term – seemingly as a way to suggest this would make cuts easier. [Trump lied.]

    Kernen followed up, asking about Medicare and Trump’s willingness to “do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past.”

    The president replied, “We’re going to look.”

    This is obviously the sort of thing that raises any number of questions – the details matter – and there are no available answers.

    But at its core, there’s a basic truth that’s unavoidable: ahead of the 2016 cycle, Trump insisted he wouldn’t cut any these social-insurance programs, and ahead of the 2020 cycle, his position is fundamentally different.

    And in case that weren’t quite enough, there’s a larger context that includes Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, arguing in the not-too-distant past that the president’s team is prepared to look at entitlement “reforms” – which is a common euphemism for cuts.

    As CNBC reported a year and a half ago, Kudlow added that the White House was determined to reduce federal spending, and “part of the Republican plan to curb spending is tackling entitlements.”

    No matter who wins the Democratic presidential nomination, Trump and his team have made this a key 2020 issue […]

    Link

  98. says

    From Robin Wright, writing for The New Yorker: “THE STAGGERING (AND UNCOVERED) LEGAL BILLS FACING IMPEACHMENT WITNESSES”

    Kurt Volker, President Trump’s former special representative for Ukraine, has accrued legal bills of about eighty thousand dollars related to the impeachment inquiry.

    In November, the State Department announced that it would cover the legal fees of senior staff summoned to testify during the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings on the impeachment of President Trump. After all, none of the diplomats had been accused of doing anything wrong. […]

    That claim was only partially true—and in very small part. Witnesses have accrued as much as half a million dollars in legal fees that are not being covered by the State Department, according to six witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lawyers, and others involved in helping with the soaring bills. […]

    “Many of these public servants stand to amass legal bills in the six or seven figures,” […]

    The State Department’s program will reimburse the lawyers of witnesses for only a fraction—about a quarter—of the charges for a single lawyer versed in constitutional, U.S. foreign-policy, or government issues at a Washington law firm, according to lawyers working on behalf of witnesses. But the key witnesses have each required teams of several lawyers and law-firm associates, who spent months reconstructing how the Trump Administration’s Ukraine policy unfolded relevant to their clients, piecing together a paper trail, collecting evidence, prepping their clients for closed-door depositions and then public testimony, in addition to dealing with security and the press, and keeping up with how the case unfolds daily. […]

    For the witnesses involved in a high-profile impeachment, a single partner at a major Washington law firm charges up to twelve hundred dollars an hour, with associates making at least half that. Multiple lawyers representing witnesses said the average case would be between four hundred thousand and half a million dollars—so far. […]

    The legal bills of witnesses from the White House, Pentagon, or Office of Management and Budget are not covered by the State Department program, according to lawyers and witnesses. […]

    A few witnesses—including one at the State Department, one from the White House, and a third from another department—have tapped into personal-liability insurance to help cover costs. “I can’t imagine my situation if I hadn’t had liability, just because I am sure it could have been tens of thousands of dollars,” one witness, who was deposed behind closed doors but was not called to testify in the open hearings, told me.

    Liability insurance has limits, however. Government employees first have to take it out at personal expense. Not all do. And some insurance companies do not assist with legal fees unless the policyholder is charged with a crime or a civil offense, lawyers involved in the impeachment said. Multiple witnesses had claims rejected by their insurance agencies.

    Only one State Department witness is receiving modest reimbursement from a liability policy. He, too, was originally rejected; his legal team had to intercede to persuade the insurer to pay. […]

  99. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @164:

    Yes. but Roberts seems to be more interested in maintaining what he calls “decorum” than he is in making sure that Republicans adhere to the rule that says they are to remain seated in the chamber most of the time.

    Would jurors in ANY trial in ANY courtroom in the US be allowed to just walk out of the proceedings of a trial? Of course not. This is just more proof that neither the “jurors” nor the “judge” in this “trial” are taking any of it seriously.

  100. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 157

    <

    blockquote>While 63 percent of Americans say Trump has definitely or probably acted illegally as president or as a candidate, a slim 51 percent majority says he should be removed from office for those crimes, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

    <

    blockquote>

    Did Pew bother to ask that 12 percent WHY a president who acted illegal SHOULDN’T be removed from office?

    Fuck it, it doesn’t matter. May the end of this shithole country come soon.

  101. says

    Apologies if this has been reported here previously, but !!! – Texas Observer – “ICE Quietly Lowers (Already Low) Standards at Some Immigrant Detention Facilities”:

    On December 19, during the news lull just before the holidays, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made public changes to its National Detention Standards (NDS), which govern the conditions and management of some of its detention facilities. The agency says the updates to the standards streamline its focus on “essential requirements.” But immigrant advocacy groups fear that the changes water down critical protections and allow for looser oversight, threatening the health and safety of roughly one-fifth of all immigrants in detention.

    Among the wide range of changes, ICE broadened the reasons a detainee can be placed in solitary confinement and removed language preventing officers from using “hog-tying, fetal restraints, [and] tight restraints.” The agency also extinguished requirements for new facilities to have outdoor recreation areas and provisions guaranteeing that nonprofit organizations have access to the detention centers. There were also significant revisions to protocols in the case of serious injury, illness, or death, such as allowing guards to notify ICE “as soon as practicable” (as opposed to immediately) that a detainee needs to be transferred to a hospital and removing any mention of how to proceed if a detainee dies during the transfer. Attorneys worry the revised standards will have a real impact on the way immigrants in custody are treated.

    “ICE’s [revised] standards for these detention facilities have weakened protections for immigrant detainees across the board,” said Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.

    The new guidelines apply to as many as 140 facilities across the United States, including as many as 18 in Texas. The standards primarily apply to local jails and prisons that have contracted with ICE to rent beds to hold immigrants alongside other inmates.

    ICE has taken the position that less robust safeguards are a testimony to partnering law enforcement’s ability to “successfully manage their own populations.” But several of these facilities, including lockups in East and West Texas, have repeatedly violated detainees’ civil and constitutional rights.

    Under the new weaker standards, chances are that local jails and prisons will have an easier time passing inspections and keeping their lucrative contracts with ICE in place. “The way that the new national detention standards are structured, it removes any incentive to really provide the minimal care and oversight necessary for detainees,” Cho said.

    While experts agree that higher standards are better, none of ICE’s rules carry much weight. Ultimately, the agency is not required to incorporate the most updated safeguards to its agreements, and if facilities fail to comply, there are generally very few consequences. Although ICE conducts annual inspections in most detention centers, even those that repeatedly violate the standards are given a pass…..

    From the article: “One of the men who fled Somalia, fearing for his life, said the conditions at the West Texas facility were so bad he would rather go home.”

  102. says

    Schiff: ‘There are not many first person cables that come in … [Bill] Taylor sent that cable on August 29th. Would you like me to read that to you right now? I would like to read it to you right now. Except I don’t have it. Because the State Department wouldn’t provide it’.”

  103. says

    Hot mic: In chat at start of World Holocaust Forum, Pence and Bibi chat about impeachment. ‘We are contending. He’s unstoppable’, Pence tells Bibi about Trump. ‘Like somebody else I know’.”

    Video at the link.

  104. says

    Significant.

    Roberts announces Senators can read classified testimony (White House won’t let public see).

    Topic: Pence-Zelenskyy call.

    @RepZoeLofgren: ‘I’ve read that testimony and I’ll just say: A coverup is not a proper reason to classify a document’.”

    This happened at the end of the proceedings last night. Claire McCaskill said that if a Senator thinks it’s important information for the public to have and that it shouldn’t be classified, they could reveal its contents, and then the burden would be on the so-called administration to show that it was properly classified; but Chuck Rosenberg thought this would be very risky. Presumably someone could leak it…?

  105. says

    Elizabeth Warren:

    One year from today, the next president will begin her first full day of work. She’ll inherit a government in crisis, infected by corruption, and will need the expertise and drive to rebuild it and ensure it works for the people. I’ve got a plan for that.

    [link to her plan at the link]

    Donald Trump has done serious damage to our government. He’s left key positions unfilled. Of those he has filled, he’s appointed lobbyists, campaign donors, and cronies. His current vindictive actions mean he’s likely to do everything he can to undermine the next president.

    I know how to get our government working for the people because I’ve done it before. In 2010 President Obama picked me to get the CFPB up and running. We recruited a mission-driven staff, set up the organization, and it acted swiftly to protect Americans from financial predators.

    On day one of my presidency, I will take aggressive steps to root out the corruption and incompetence of the Trump administration, starting by removing all political appointees, except those necessary to preserve continuity and protect national security.

    I will also direct the Justice Department to establish an independent task force to investigate violations of specific anti-corruption and public integrity laws during the Trump administration, with independent authority to pursue any substantiated violations.

    I’ll move swiftly to appoint new personnel who will undo the Trump administration’s disastrous policies. I’ll adopt the strictest anti-corruption hiring rules of any administration in American history.

    Under the Trump administration, we’ve seen appointees who are actively hostile to the missions of their agencies, like Secretary Betsy DeVos, who doesn’t believe in public education. As president, I’ll appoint people who want to fulfill their agency’s mission, not undermine it.

    Our government officials can best serve the American public when they reflect the diversity of the country itself. That’s why I’ll build a Cabinet and senior leadership team that reflects the full diversity of America.

    Donald Trump’s presidency has been a dark time—but it won’t end just because he’s left office. Rooting out corruption and incompetence, rebuilding our government, and ensuring it will work for the people will require painstaking work. I’ve got a serious plan to get it done.

  106. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 177

    At that moment, McConnell, clad in a black robe, declares “I AM THE SENATE!” before blasting Harris is force lightning.

  107. johnson catman says

    re SC @189:

    I suspect that many Senate Republicans are hearing the facts of this case for the first time.

    While listening to the news this morning, I heard one Senator make a comment along the lines of “All this just over a phone call?” So, they aren’t even listening to the evidence at the trial. They have made up their small minds, and they will not change.

  108. says

    Related to #16 above – Christopher Bouzy at Lawfare – “Is There a Targeted Troll Campaign Against Lisa Page? A Bot Sentinel Investigation”:

    “Homewrecker.” “Traitor.” “Tramp.” These are just some of the insults flung at Lisa Page—the former FBI lawyer whom President Trump has targeted for her text messages critical of him during the 2016 election—in the almost four thousand responses to a tweet she posted on Jan. 18.

    Phrased like this, such insults might seem unsurprising, if gross. Public figures often receive online abuse, after all. But the replies to Page’s tweet stand out. They likely represent a targeted trollbot attack—one that nobody has reported on until now.

    I operate Bot Sentinel, a platform that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to classify Twitter accounts who exhibit toxic troll-like repetitive behavior—that is, misleading or coordinated posting. Because of my experience, I see a lot of bile from trolls and inauthentic accounts on Twitter. But when my team examined the responses to Page’s tweet, even I was shocked by what we discovered.

    More than one in four of the replies to Page’s tweet comes from accounts likely to be trollbots. 3891 accounts replied to her tweet, and a staggering 28.42 percent of responders received Bot Sentinel “Trollbot rating” of 75 percent—the threshold for accounts that we classify as “alarming.”

    We classify accounts using a four-tiered structure, with a percentage calculated to reflect how likely it is that the account is a trollbot: normal (0-24 percent), moderate (25-49 percent), problematic (50-74) and alarming (75-100). We calculate an account’s score based on several factors, including an account’s propensity to retweet known misleading news and to engage in repetitive bot-like behavior.

    Only the worst accounts receive a rating above 75 percent. Such high a rating is indicative of an inauthentic account that participates in coordinated swarms on a particular tweet or user.

    The proportion of these “alarming” accounts replying to Page’s tweet is highly abnormal. Of the total number of accounts analyzed by Bot Sentinel within a 24-hour time period, on average only 15 percent receive an “alarming” trollbot rating. The proportion among those accounts replying to Page’s tweet is nearly double that: 28 percent of the accounts replying to Page meet the threshold of likely trollbots.

    It’s exceedingly rare to see such a large percentage of trollbot-like responses on a tweet like Page’s. We see swarms like this several times a month, but they almost always target tweets linked to a major news event. For example, on the day the Senate began the impeachment trial, swarms of inauthentic accounts targeted House impeachment managers and shared disinformation about Democrats and the Ukraine scandal….

    But that’s not what surprised us the most. Our team was most struck by the sheer vitriol of the trollbot attacks against Page. It is our job to identify and examine inorganic activity on social media platforms; we sift through vulgar and toxic content all the time. Yet the replies to Page’s tweet stood out for their unusually vile quality.

    This analysis doesn’t definitively prove a coordinated campaign against Page. However, the suspicious activity associated with her tweet has all the characteristics of such a campaign: a swarm of inauthentic accounts using the same toxic language and repetitive activity. It looks a lot like the coordinated campaigns we witnessed during the 2016 election, where a swarm of accounts would suddenly begin tweeting the same toxic messaging.

    All this raises a question: Who is behind the apparent trollbot activity against Page?

  109. says

    Guardian – “A new film argues that Brazil teeters on the brink of authoritarianism. It’s true.”:

    It is not often that a two-hour, Portuguese-language documentary about Brazilian politics, directed by a Brazilian film-maker, is nominated for an Oscar. But on Monday, the Academy-nominated Petra Costa’s Netflix film The Edge of Democracy – not as a foreign film, but as a contender for the more mainstream title of Best Documentary of 2019.

    As its title suggests, the film is a warning about the multiple threats posed to democratic values and institutions in the world’s sixth most populous country. That Brazilian democracy is imperiled by the 2018 election of the far-right, dictatorship-supporting former army captain Jair Bolsonaro has been much discussed in the international press.

    But Costa’s film makes clear that Bolsonaro did not materialize from nowhere. As is true of the US election of Donald Trump and the UK’s ratification of Brexit, the conditions that nurtured that traumatic and disruptive event were years in the making. Indeed, The Edge of Democracy devotes only a few minutes near the end to Bolsonaro’s rise, implicitly depicting it as the consequence of the events that preceded it and that compose the bulk of the film.

    The film focuses on two pre-Bolsonaro events: the 2016 impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and the 2017 corruption conviction, and ultimate imprisonment, of Rousseff’s party compatriot, Lula da Silva, when Lula was leading all polls by a substantial margin for the 2018 presidential race. Both Rousseff and Lula are members of the center-left Workers’ party (PT).

    Notwithstanding the genuine corruption that plagued Lula and Rousseff’s party – corruption which even Lula has acknowledged – the Car Wash corruption inquiry was itself corrupt. It was a stealth rightwing political operation that weaponized the law rather than upheld it, all in the service of achieving what the Brazilian right has tried but failed to accomplish at the ballot box since 2002: removing PT from power and destroying the party.

    In other words, the dominant force in Brazilian politics for the last five years was not elections and politics – where PT has always thrived – but legal and judicial power used for obviously politicized ends. When leaders are determined not by popular vote or electioneering but by unelected judges with a clear political ideology, then democracy exists in name only.

    Beyond the political events which Costa’s film so powerfully covers, her Oscar nomination is itself an important development in Brazilian democracy. It comes at a time when not only press freedoms and democratic values are under assault in Brazil, but also artistic expression.

    Late last week, Bolsonaro was forced to fire his Culture Minister, Ricardo Alvim, after Alvim, among other stunning offenses, plagiarized the words of Joseph Goebbels. Alvim’s 6-minute speech, viewable with English subtitles, has to be seen to be believed: it channels Nazi themes with shocking deliberateness and thoroughness.

    Last month, a member of the far-right party PSL, armed with a molotov cocktail, attacked the production company, Porta dos Fundos, that produced a controversial Netflix film depicting Jesus as gay. (Bolsonaro was a member of PSL, but left in November due to internal disagreements.) The alleged attacker, Eduardo Fauzi, fled Brazil to Russia, where he is currently seeking asylum.

    Recently a far-right judge with sympathies to Bolsonaro issued a shocking ruling that ordered Netflix to remove the film from its streaming platform and barred it from ever showing it again. Though the Brazilian supreme court overturned the order, these multipronged attacks on the film underscore the systemic hostility which film-makers and artists are encountering.

    Threats of violence prevented one of Brazil’s most famous and admired actors – Wagner Moura, of Narcos fame – from showing his 2019 film about the leftist guerrilla Carlos Marighella in cinemas. Throughout 2019, other artists, journalists and writers have had to cancel scheduled public events due to threats of violence from the far right, or have encountered violence when they appeared.

    Films and plays that offend far-right sentiment are subject to violence and censorship. Center-left parties that win elections are destroyed by rightwing judges who then join the government they helped elect. Truly Brazil tinkers on the edge of democracy.

    The Edge of Democracy trailer. You can watch it on Netflix.

  110. says

    White House Trump disinformation operation:

    Adam Schiff is LYING that President Trump withheld an Oval Office meeting from President Zelensky.

    President Trump invited President Zelensky to the White House—with no preconditions—on THREE occasions: April 21, May 29, & July 25.

    They met at the first opportunity, at the UN.

    Daniel Dale replying:

    The White House says Schiff is lying for saying Trump withheld an Oval Office meeting that has…never happened.

    At the very UN meeting this tweet cites, Zelensky told/prodded/ribbed Trump, “You invited me. But I think – I’m sorry, but I think you forgot to tell me the date.”

  111. tomh says

    Religion Clause
    Utah Administrative Rule Banning Conversion Therapy Becomes Effective

    As reported by NPR, in Utah a new rule under the Mental Health Professional Practice Act (full text of rule [scroll to pp. 61-66]) bans mental health professionals from providing conversion therapy to minors. The rule defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient or client, including mental health therapy that seeks to change, eliminate, or reduce behaviors, expressions, attractions, or feelings related to a patient or client’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

    The new rule became effective yesterday. It excludes from coverage:
    (i) a clergy member or religious counselor who is acting substantially in a pastoral or religious capacity and not in the capacity of a mental health therapist; or
    (ii) a parent or grandparent who is a mental health therapist and who is acting substantially in the capacity of a parent or grandparent and not in the capacity of a mental health therapist.
    […]

    While Utah becomes the 19th state to pass this sort of ban, it is the first with a Republican governor and Republican controlled legislature to do so.

  112. says

    HuffPo – “Tucker Carlson Just Got Weirdly Sexual In His Attacks On The Media”:

    Tucker Carlson got quite… heated on Wednesday as he ranted about the media’s coverage of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

    Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, was praised by cable news pundits for his speech on day two of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

    CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin described Schiff’s performance as the “second-best courtroom address… that I ever heard.”

    “I thought the way he wove through both the facts of the case and the historical context was really remarkable,” he said.

    Others, including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and former Robert Mueller team lawyer Andrew Weissmann, lauded his speech as inspiring and powerful. Attorney George Conway said it was a “very coherent, cohesive narrative.”

    These reactions, according to Carlson, were “pornographic.”

    “They were too deep in bliss. To the mouth-breathers on cable television, an Adam Schiff speech is like a brainstem massage, surging waves of ecstasy flood the central nervous system. Linear thought ceases. All that’s left are satisfied grunts of pleasure.”

    After airing several clips of commentators discussing Schiff on cable TV, Carlson apologized to “any viewers under 18 who may have just watched that. It was obviously pornographic and not suitable for children.”

    Reminder that Fox airs this guy.

  113. says

    Up is down, and day is night:

    There’s a video making the rounds online this morning of Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) fielding a question from a reporter about Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. This was the most notable part of the exchange:

    REPORTER: So you’re saying that it’s okay for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival and withhold foreign aid to coerce him into doing so?

    BRAUN: No, I’m not saying that’s okay. I’m not saying that’s appropriate. I’m saying that it DIDN’T HAPPEN.

    For those familiar with the basic elements of the controversy, this seems like a deeply embarrassing incident for the freshman Republican senator. But part of the reason the video is making the rounds is that Braun himself is promoting it. The GOP Hoosier is proud of what he said and how he said it.

    […] Braun’s assertions have no basis in reality. We know the president asked foreign leaders to investigate a domestic rival because he did so, on camera, while standing on the south lawn of the White House. We also know Trump withheld foreign aid in order to coerce a foreign leader because there’s a mountain of documentary evidence — not to mention a recent GAO report and a confession from the White House chief of staff — that definitely proves that it happened.[…]

    My point is not to pick on the junior senator from Indiana, since he’s hardly alone in his embrace of up-is-down, day-is-night politics.

    But I once again find myself thinking anew about former Rep. Earl Landgrebe (R-Ind.), who refused to break with Richard Nixon, […]
    “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” Landgrebe said the day before Nixon’s resignation. “I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”

    The difference between 1974 and 2020 is simple: nearly a half-century ago, Landgrebe was one of a tiny minority. Now, Congress is filled with a few too many Earl Landgrebes.

    Link

  114. says

    Tom Winter, NBC:

    NEW: The FBI in Boston says they’ve taken Christopher Cantwell into custody for threatening a person on the Telegram app.

    Cantwell was part of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. He’s been dubbed ‘The Crying Nazi’ online because of his interviews with Vice News

    According to the indictment Cantwell allegedly threatened a man to hand over the personal identifying information of a person who went by a pseudonym online.

    He allegedly told the person he would “come and f*ck your wife in front of your kids” if he didn’t hand the info over.

  115. says

    Trump claimed yesterday that, “The other thing I wanted to check very carefully, and it’s very important, is corruption.” Oh FFS. He is trying to revive that bogus argument again?

    Commentary:

    […] Sen. Ted Cruz added on Twitter yesterday afternoon: “A reminder of what this is all about: any president — any administration — is justified in investigating corruption.” […]

    Do we really have to do this again? Hasn’t the argument already been discredited enough?

    To show that Trump has no genuine concerns about corruption we could shine a light on his efforts to make international bribery easier. We could also note the many instances in which the president has faced credible allegations of corruption since he took office. We could even note how difficult it is to see the president as an anti-corruption crusader given the number of close Trump associates who’ve recently ended up in prison.

    But let’s instead focus specifically on the subject at hand, highlighting a point House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) made during yesterday’s impeachment trial about why Trump’s claim is impossible to take seriously.

    “If the president was fighting corruption … why would he hide it from us?” Schiff said. “Why would he hide it from the Ukrainians? Why would he hide it from the rest of the world? … Why wouldn’t he be proud to tell the Congress of the United States, ‘I’m holding up this aid, and I’m holding it up because I’m worried about corruption’?”

    “Why wouldn’t he? Because of course it wasn’t true,” Schiff said.

    That’s a devastatingly good point, but there’s no reason to stop there.

    If Trump’s interest in Ukrainian corruption was sincere, why didn’t he broach the subject during his July phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky? For that matter, why did Trump also fail to broach the subject in his April phone meeting with Zelensky?

    Why is it that Trump was specifically urged by his own staff to bring up corruption when speaking with Zelensky, only to have the Republican ignore the advice?

    If Trump was serious about corruption concerns, why did he rely on a private attorney – Rudy Giuliani – and his controversial associates, rather than turning to official channels?

    If Trump “wanted to check very carefully” about corruption in Kyiv, why is there literally no evidence of any such Trump administration investigation? […]

    To hear Trump tell it, his desire to get foreign governments like Ukraine and China to open investigations into the Biden family is all about principled corruption concerns, not politics…. But all it took was one question from CNBC’s Eamon Javers to destroy his talking point.

    “Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponents?” Javers asked.

    The answer, it quickly became apparent, was no […]

    The president got caught engaging in an illegal extortion scheme, which sparked an intense effort to come up with a credible excuse.

    But this talking point has been discredited. They’ll have to look elsewhere.

    Link

  116. says

    One of the many tells that Trump is lying: he claims a project or a required action is “ahead of schedule.” Your alarm bells should be ringing.

    Trump commented on the military aid package to Ukraine — the one he blocked as part of an illegal extortion scheme — and used a familiar phrase.

    “[B]y the way, in terms of the money, it got there two or three weeks ahead of schedule — long before it was supposed to be there,” the president claimed. “There was absolutely nothing done wrong.” He echoed the point again yesterday, telling reporters, in reference to officials in Kyiv, “They got their money long before schedule.”

    […] Trump’s claims are ridiculously untrue. As the New York Times recently explained:

    The 2019 federal fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, the date by which all appropriated aid to Ukraine was supposed to be disbursed. But because of the freeze ordered by Mr. Trump, not all of the aid was spent before the deadline.

    Congress had appropriated $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine — $250 million from the Pentagon and $141 million from the State Department — meant to be spent by the end of September. Though the Pentagon announced its plans to provide the aid in June, White House officials blocked its release in July. It remained frozen until mid-September, when Mr. Trump relented after pressure from lawmakers and administration officials.

    […] he’s making stuff up.

    […] Roughly a year into his term, Trump spoke at a religious right gathering where he boasted, “I didn’t have a schedule, but if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.”

    It’s a phrase he embraced with great enthusiasm and without regard for accuracy. Before adding an inch of border barriers, for example, Trump told supporters, “We’re building the wall…. Way ahead of schedule, way ahead of schedule. Way, way, way ahead of schedule.”

    The president added that his plans to overhaul veterans’ care were “ahead of schedule.” He insisted that his proposed changes to U.S. education policy were “ahead of schedule.” Before the Republican tax plain even existed, Trump assured the public that his plan was “actually ahead of schedule.”

    None of these claims were true, […]

    Link

  117. says

    46 years today 1/23/74

    Nixon says he will ‘fight like hell’ against impeachment, while still engaged in a massive coverup. He is desperately hiding certain incriminating evidence.

    It would come out 6 months later & he resigns 8/9, damaging the @GOP massively in mid-terms.”

    Newspaper clipping atl.

  118. says

    Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys, embarrassed himself big time.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] “‘Lawyer lawsuits’?” Sekulow asked incredulously. “‘Lawyer lawsuits’? … The managers are complaining about ‘lawyer lawsuits’? The Constitution allows lawyer lawsuits. It’s disrespecting the Constitution of the United States to even say that in this chamber — ‘lawyer lawsuits.'”

    No one had any idea what he was talking about, but eventually it became clear that one of the House managers referenced “FOIA lawsuits” — in reference to the Freedom of Information Act — and Sekulow misunderstood. Nevertheless, the White House, true to form, refused to acknowledge the misstep, and said Sekulow’s mistake was actually correct. […]

    From the Washington Post:

    In an exchange with reporters during the first break, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, rebutted a reference by Schiff to a quid pro quo.

    “You’ve noticed that Adam Schiff today talked about quid pro quo,” Sekulow said. “Notice what’s not in the articles of impeachment: allegations or accusations of quid pro quo. That’s because they didn’t exist. So, you know, there’s a lot of things to rebut.”

    From Steve Benen’s commentary on the Washington Post article:

    […] White House officials liked the line so much that it used its official Twitter account to promote Sekulow’s argument, which was most unfortunate.

    While it’s true that articles of impeachment do not literally use the exact Latin phrase, “quid pro quo,” the first article accuses Trump of pressuring Ukraine into targeting his domestic opponents and “conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations. President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.”

    In other words, the articles of impeachment accuse the president of a quid pro quo, which is what Schiff accurately referenced yesterday.

    Honestly, Sekulow’s argument to reporters yesterday would’ve generated derisive laughter at a high-school debate tournament.

    New York’s Jon Chait added, “It’s probably inevitable, given the nature of the defendant and the charges against him, that Trump’s lawyers will bungle the facts and the law. But is it really necessary for the president of the United States to employ a lead attorney who is unable to understand words?”

  119. says

    Kaitlan Collins, CNN:

    The White House comments for the first time on the U.N. report tying the Saudi crown prince to the hack of Bezos’s phone. “Saudi Arabia is obviously an important ally,” Hogan Gidley says. “I don’t have any more information than that. Obviously we take this situation seriously.”

    Meanwhile…one of the U.N. investigators involved in assessing the attack says, “I will hope that Donald Trump’s son-in-law & anyone else is at the moment changing their phone, checking their phone and contacting the best cyber security experts…”

  120. says

    Trump flipped out. He broke his previous record for number of tweets per hour, posting 40 or more rants in a short amount of time. (Over 130 tweets yesterday.)

    From Peter Baker:

    Trump breaks his own Twitter record with 132 tweets or retweets as of 4:45 p.m., the most of any single day of his presidency, as he defended himself and lashed out at the House managers.

    The final count for the day was 142 tweets and retweets.

    Commentary from Cristina Cabrera:

    After mostly confining his Twitter feed to retweets from GOP allies this week, a livid […] Trump fired off tweet after tweet in an extended rant about his Senate impeachment trial on Thursday morning.

    “The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for?” he tweeted. “They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!”

    The tweet contained multiple falsehoods; House Democrats had invited White House lawyers to participate in the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings and had issued several subpoenas to the Trump administration officials whom Democrats seek to subpoena again in the Senate trial. However, GOP senators have voted against allowing witnesses and documents.

    “No matter what you give to the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, it will never be enough!” Trump wrote a few minutes later.

    Followed up by: “The Democrats & Shifty Schiff, whose presentation to the Senate was loaded with lies and misrepresentations, are refusing to state that the Obama Administration withheld aid from many countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, Honduras, & Mexico. Witch Hunt!” […]

    TPM link

    From the readers comments:

    Still after Obama after all these years. ‘Because I said so’ is not a legal defense. ‘Because someone else did it too’ is not a legal defense.

    Again, if they have the docs and witnesses that prove his innocence, release it all and let it come forward.
    ——————-
    Excellent. He’s running scared now. His cult is covering for him in the Senate, but the dems are scoring point after point on him. Add to that the fact that he was generally pretty much dismissed by the other attendees at Davos, and you have major insecurity. Thus the hysterical screaming.

    I would posit that there’s a direct correlation between Trump’s stress levels and the intensity of his tweets, which is a quite useful metric for anyone interested in punching his numerous buttons.
    ———————
    We may be romantising this but Schiff and the other House managers have been great, impressive beyond expectations.
    ——————–
    “The Democrats & Shifty Schiff, whose presentation to the Senate was loaded with lies and misrepresentations, are refusing to state that the Obama Administration withheld aid from many countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, Honduras, & Mexico. Witch Hunt!”

    Clearly ghostwritten, and by a mid-level flunky. Trump has no capacity for listing countries, let alone spelling them correctly. And Trump would blame Obama personally. Besides, it’s a bad lie. If it were true, Team Trump would have mentioned it long ago.
    ———————
    Withholding aid is not the issue. Withholding aid as a means of pressuring another nation to do something illegal is.
    ———————–
    The model underlying the construct suggests that narcissistic injury occurs when a narcissist feels that their hidden, “true self” has been revealed.

  121. says

    Not the most important thing, but kind of funny:

    Mike Pence is in Jerusalem attending the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, where attendees are marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    As Charles, the Prince of Wales, entered the venue, he and his wife, Camilla, made their way down a row of dignitaries, stopping for handshakes and polite chit-chat. That is, until Charles arrived at Mike and Karen Pence. What happened next absolutely had to sting, as Charles looked at Mike Pence directly in the eyes and kept moving, never extending his hand, instead reaching toward Benjamin Netanyahu’s hand. […]

    The VP’s office has responded with a photo showing the pair talking either before or after the event, but it is difficult to take the official handshake line passover as anything other than a deliberate snub. […]

    Link

  122. says

    From Laura clawson:

    “Now, with me, there’s no lying,” Donald Trump said Wednesday about impeachment. You know what happened next, right? Yup, Trump unleashed a barrage of lies about impeachment. Trump made 14 false claims Wednesday spread out between the press conference in which he said “Now, with me, there’s no lying” and interviews with CNBC and Fox Business.

    CNN’s invaluable Daniel Dale has the tally: Trump repeatedly claimed, in different ways, that House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff misled Democrats about what Trump said in his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and that once the White House released the call summary, “all hell broke out with the Democrats, because they say, ‘Wait a minute. This is much different than Shifty Schiff told us.’” In reality, Schiff’s comments on the call came after the White House released the summary, and the only way Democrats were taken aback by the contents of the call is that it was kind of unbelievable how blatantly Trump worked to extort Zelensky.

    Trump also claimed that “I never see them talking about the transcription. I never see them talking about the call, because there’s nothing to say.” This is false. He has been impeached as a direct result of the call, and it is still being discussed constantly. Sections of the call were read out on Wednesday as part of the impeachment trial. […]

    Other Trump lies included basically anything you can think of about funding to Ukraine: he said “They got their money long before schedule,” which they did not on account of how he held it up illegally. He lied about the type of aid that former President Obama extended to Ukraine. He lied about how much funding Ukraine has gotten from Europe.

    Donald Trump lies about everything, big and small, but when it’s about impeachment, it’s almost always big. Usually very big, with the biggest being the fundamental claim that the July 25 call that showed firsthand that he was trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponents is somehow exonerating. He did what Democrats say he did, and we have it in his own words, released on his authority. No matter how often he lies about it, he can’t change it.

    Link

  123. says

    Elie Mystal re #208:

    Now Nadler is using @LindseyGrahamSC during the Clinton impeachment to disagree with… whatever sneering ringwraith inhabits Lindsey Graham’s body now.

    Again, if the GOP felt shame, this would be effective. Since they don’t it will just lead to more screaming on Fox.

    Sorry, I mentioned Lindsey Graham so I am morally obligated to say VOTE @harrisonjaime, the man who can put a stop to the Senator from Mar-a-Lago and restore South Carolina back to TWO members of the U.S. Senate working for their interests.

  124. says

    Followup to comment 210.

    Some additional fact-checking:

    […] Obama did withhold funds. He did so when, between the time Congress allocated funds and the time the Pentagon approved their release, military forces in Egypt mounted a coup. Not only were those funds not approved to be sent, not only did Obama notify Congress that they were being withheld, but members of Congress insisted that the funds not be turned over. That included pleas from Sen. Lindsey Graham to hold the funds. But as the House team continues to lay out its case, and Republicans wait for their chance, it appears that “Obama did it too” is going to be the go-to argument from Team Trump. […]

    [Republicans and Trump] are ignoring more than just the lack of a quid pro quo in any of Obama’s foreign assistance delays. Every aid package has qualifications that have to be met in order for the aid to be approved. Legislation authorizing foreign assistance routinely includes review by agencies that have to sign off that goals have been achieved in advance of the release. In the case of 2019 assistance to Ukraine, that responsibility was assigned to the Department of Defense, which completed its review on May 23 with a conclusion that Ukraine had met required goals on both fighting corruption and promoting democracy.

    What happened in past delays was often simply that the certifying agencies found issues, or that, as in the case of Egypt, conditions on the ground had changed significantly between the time the legislation was passed and the time the funds were slated to go out. In some cases, the result was further review before funds were eventually released. In some cases, the result was a more prolonged delay: Egypt didn’t get any funds from the U.S. for almost two years, until the State Department was satisfied that the new president wasn’t just a puppet of the military. In every case, both Congress and the public were aware not just that there was a delay, but of the reasons for the delay. […]

    Link

  125. says

    “Legal scholars and historians agree no statutory crime is required by the Constitution for impeachment and that abuse of power is in fact the essence of impeachability,” Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, wrote recently in The Washington Post.

    “The English parliamentary history upon which the Framers adopted impeachment makes clear that a public official’s breach of duty to put the public interest first constitutes an impeachable, removable offense.”

  126. says

    From Wonkette:

    “Lev Parnas has no right to be talking about that meeting,” Rudy Giuliani told Reuters yesterday. “It was a confidential meeting — if it did happen.” You don’t even need the back story to know that this is comically, ridiculously not how law goes. If Rudy flapped his yap about confidential client matters to his chucklefuck buddy Lev, then Lev was under absolutely no legal obligation to keep quiet about it. Clearly, the person who breached his obligation of confidentiality is Rudy himself!
    […]

  127. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 203.

    An excerpt from Nadler’s presentation:

    […] The Constitution is not a suicide pact. It does not leave us stuck with presidents who abuse their power in unforeseen ways that threaten our security and democracy. Until recently, it did not occur to me that our president would call a foreign leader and demand a sham investigation meant to kneecap his political opponents, all in exchange for releasing vital military aid that the president was already required by law to provide.

    President Trump has made clear in word and deed that he will persist in such conduct if he is not removed from power. He poses a continuing threat to our nation, to the integrity of our elections, to our democratic order. He must not remain in power one moment longer.

  128. says

    Rep. Garcia did a good job as well. The video of the House witnesses and TV interviews is very effective.

    She pre-debunked some of the nonsense Trump’s team is no doubt planning to go with.

  129. says

    An excerpt from Skiff’s presentation yesterday:

    […] So, we heard in March about the effort to get rid of [Yovanovitch], and it succeeded. And guess what message that sent to the Ukrainians? About the power the president’s lawyer has. The Ukrainians were watching this whole saga. They were hearing his interviews. They were seeing the smears that he was putting out, and this attorney for the president, working hand-in-hand with these corrupt Ukrainians, was able to get a new ambassador yanked out of her job. Proof positive: You want a window to this president? You want entree to this president? You want to make things happen with this president? You go through his lawyer. […]

    April: Zelensky has this huge victory in the presidential election. He gets a congratulatory call from the president. The president assigns Vice President Pence to go to the inauguration. May: Giuliani is rebuffed by Zelensky, cancels the trip to Ukraine, the one where he wanted to go, remember, “meddle, in the investigation.”

    May: Trump disinvites Pence to the inauguration. Pence is going, Giuliani is rebuffed, Pence ain’t going. That’s May. Instead, May 23rd, we have this meeting at the White House and there’s a new — a new party in town: the “three amigos.” They’re going to be handling the Ukraine portfolio. And they’re told, work with Rudy, work with Rudy. […]

  130. says

    BuzzFeed – “The US’s Top Intelligence Official Missed A Deadline To Turn Over A Report On Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing, In Violation Of The Law”:

    The country’s top intelligence official has failed to turn over to Congress a report on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources say, flouting a law passed last month.

    In December, lawmakers passed a sweeping defense bill that included a provision ordering the Director of National Intelligence to send Congress an unclassified report identifying those responsible for Khashoggi’s death at a Saudi Arabian consulate in 2018. The legislation set the deadline for the report at 30 days, which passed earlier this week.

    Though the CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing at the consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saudi officials have denied his involvement — something President Donald Trump seemed willing to believe. The unclassified report, if Congress receives and releases it, could provide the administration’s first public acknowledgement of the crown prince’s role, or that of other Saudi officials, in Khashoggi’s brutal death.

    The provision requiring the report was contained in the larger National Defence Authorization Act that Trump signed into law on Dec. 20. The bill required Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to provide the report to four congressional committees: the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

    The provision requiring the report on Khashoggi’s murder said it should include conclusions and evidence about “the advance knowledge and role of any current or former official of the Government of Saudi Arabia or any current or former senior Saudi political figure over the directing, ordering, or tampering of evidence” of Khashoggi’s killing. The provision also asks for a list of foreigners that “were responsible for, or complicit in, ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing an act or acts contributing to or causing,” Khashoggi’s death, as well as anyone who “impeded the impartial investigation” of his killing.

    It’s unclear what, if any, steps lawmakers might take next to force ODNI to turn over the report, but as the oversight bodies, the intelligence committees have a range of options, including scheduling hearings or cutting off funding.

    Lawmakers — Republicans included — have already shown they are willing to retaliate against the Saudis for Khashoggi’s killing. In December 2018, two months after his death, senators voted to end US military aid for the Saudi war in Yemen. The vote stood in contrast to Trump’s comments on the Saudi crown prince, who most recently has been accused of hacking the cell phone of Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in response to negative press coverage.

    IIRC this was the defense bill from which a still-unnamed Republican Senator stealthily removed tougher provisions on Saudi Arabia. So they’re not even complying with the watered-down requirements, and offering no explanation.

  131. says

    Garrett Haake just said Graham wasn’t in the room for #s 208/215 – the only one not there at that moment. He said they do get a packet of the slides and such beforehand, so he might have absented himself when he knew it was coming.

    It’s good that the House Managers are using some Senate-related evidence, like the letters they sent to Poroshenko calling for anti-corruption reform (including getting rid of Shokin) and the findings of the Senate Intel report on Russian interference.

  132. says

    SC @223: “In unrelated news, Chris Matthews is supremely annoying.”

    Yes, he certainly is. I’m trying to watch analysis provided by expert panels on MSNBC, but Matthews makes it hard. He interrupts the experts. He is very insistent when it comes to propounding his own views. He takes every opportunity to pump up Joe Biden’s reputation, even when the opinions he offers are not directly related to the Biden references brought up during the impeachment trial.

  133. says

    An excerpt from Representative Sylvia Garcia’s presentation:

    Vice President Biden’s conduct was uniformly validated by the witnesses in the House investigation who confirmed his conduct was consistent with U.S. policy. Every single witness who was asked about the allegations again and said that Biden had nothing to do with it and it was false. They testified that he acted properly and every witness with knowledge of this issue testified that Vice President Biden was carrying out official U.S. policy.

    Garcia relied on footage of witnesses testifying to back up her summary.

  134. says

    From Adam Schiff:

    “Thank God,” Putin said. “Nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.'” Well, you’ve gotta give Donald Trump credit for this … He has made a religious man out of Vladimir Putin.

  135. says

    Followup to Elizabeth Warren’s comment about Betsy DeVos, (as posted by SC in #188):

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compared the abortion rights debate to the battle to eliminate slavery during remarks at a Colorado Christian University event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night.

    DeVos, a Christian conservative, discussed the Trump administration’s record of opposition to abortion, and said she was reminded of President Abraham Lincoln. “He, too, contended with the ‘pro-choice’ arguments of his day,” she said, […] “They suggested that a state’s ‘choice’ to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it.”

    She said Lincoln reminded “those pro-choicers” that a vast majority of Americans viewed slavery as a vast moral evil. “Lincoln was right about the slavery ‘choice’ then, and he would be right about the life ‘choice’ today,” she said. “Because as it’s been said: Freedom is not about doing what we want. Freedom is about having the right to do what we ought.”

    Similar comparisons between slavery and abortion by conservatives have drawn intense criticism. For example, minority members of the Utah Legislature, all of them Democrats, condemned comments by GOP Lt. Gov Spencer Cox comparing abortion to slavery at an Eagle Forum convention earlier this month. […]

    DeVos, an avid school choice proponent, also said at the Colorado Christian University gathering there is “irony” in being pro-choice for the mother who seeks an abortion but not for the mother who seeks a different school for her child. […]

    Link

  136. says

    Lynna @ #227:

    Yes, he certainly is. I’m trying to watch analysis provided by expert panels on MSNBC, but Matthews makes it hard. He interrupts the experts. He is very insistent when it comes to propounding his own views. He takes every opportunity to pump up Joe Biden’s reputation, even when the opinions he offers are not directly related to the Biden references brought up during the impeachment trial.

    This exactly. During the break he started to say something about Pelosi being a greatly feared Machiavellian “Prince, Princess, Queen” and I couldn’t get to the mute button fast enough.

  137. says

    From Jennifer Rubin, writing for The Washington Post:

    When bombarded by constant lies from the White House and President Trump’s Republican toadies — e.g., the Ukrainians did not know aid was withheld, there was no “quid pro quo” — we should not ignore that there is a great deal of dissembling coming straight from Trump’s lawyers. Contrary to popular cynicism about lawyers, this is not acceptable, and state bar investigators have an obligation to police their own, regardless of whether a lawyer is in a court of law or a Senate court of impeachment.

    A case in point: White House counsel Pat Cipollone lied during the Senate impeachment trial when he said Republicans were not allowed in the secure briefing room during House impeachment hearings. Confronted by this blatant untruth, one of Trump’s lawyers, Robert Ray, declared, “I’m not interested in wading in the procedural weeds here.”

    Stop right there. Ray knows Cipollone lied; Cipollone knows he has been caught. Neither has corrected the assertion or apologized to the Senate. Some senator should send a note up to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asking him to admonish Cipollone.

    In a court, the judge would not only intervene but very possibly hold the lawyer in contempt for such a blatant misrepresentation. Should Cipollone not come clean, his home-state bar should investigate. It is one thing to get carried away and overstate or misstate something but quite another to allow a known falsehood to go uncorrected. […]

  138. says

    Sen. Murphy, earlier:

    Just left the secure room having read the classified document regarding VP Pence’s Sept 18 call w Zelensky.

    1. Nothing in it is classified. It should be made part of the public record immediately.

    2. Hiding evidence of wrongdoing through bogus classification is unacceptable.

  139. says

    Meanwhile, In Giuliani-World, The Ukraine Scheme Continues

    TPM link

    As impeachment managers churn on through the second day of opening arguments in President Trump’s impeachment trial, one thing hasn’t stopped: the conduct that got Trump impeached in the first place

    Yes, that’s right.

    Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted Thursday morning that he intends to release “the evidence” at an unspecified date and time, presumably in the near future.

    Everything I tried to tell the press last March is now coming out, and more. I will now start to reveal the evidence directly to you, the People. The Biden Family Enterprise made millions by selling public office. Then when Joe was Obama’s Point Man, they ALL made millions.

    Giuliani purportedly prepared a report after traveling to Kyiv in December and meeting with an array of discredited figures, each with obvious interests in making explosive allegations about Joe Biden and supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

    It’s not clear to what new allegations Giuliani may be referring. […]

  140. says

    SC @235, we’re going to have to wait while the classification battle is fought, but when that Mike Pence shoe finally drops, it’s going to be loud.

  141. says

    Oh! Schiff explains why I couldn’t find the readout of the July 25 Zelenskyy call on the WH web site. They didn’t post an official readout, but just a separate statement to reporters, for obvious reasons.

  142. says

    From Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    The Trump Administration’s new Dirty Water Rule is an outrageous assault on the clean water that millions of Californians and Americans across the country rely on to grow our food, preserve our diverse ecosystems and protect the health of our children and families.

    This shameful policy will give polluters free rein to dump pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals directly into waters, threatening the drinking water of 117 million Americans and setting us back decades in our work to clean and protect our nation’s vital water systems.

  143. says

    From Chris Hayes:

    If a trial goes for a long time, often [regular jurors in other trials] don’t collect their paycheck from that and are given a meager amount of money relative to what some of those people might make. This [impeachment trial jury duty] is literally [senators’] job. If you find it too annoying or frustrating or uncomfortable to sit for eight hours and listen, you can resign tomorrow and go get another job.

  144. says

    Red-faced Republicans:

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was red-faced as a House manager made her case by invoking a 2016 letter he and other senators sent urging reforms of the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office.

    Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.) used the letter from Sens. Johnson, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and other members of the Senate Ukraine Caucus to argue that Biden’s desire to see then-prosecutor Viktor Shokin removed reflected official U.S. policy and was not a sign of personal corruption.

    As Garcia spoke, a visibly upset Johnson rose from his seat, approached Portman and whispered in his ear. Portman reacted impassively, but his comments did not appear to calm Johnson, who departed the floor for the Republican cloakroom moments later.

    When he returned, a still-agitated Johnson spoke again to Portman, who still appeared unmoved, before taking his seat.

    Johnson, a fierce ally of Trump, said in October that he did not recall signing the letter. After reviewing it, he released a statement suggesting that Congress was “subjected to the same misinformation campaign against the Ukrainian prosecutor general, perpetrated by representatives of the U.S. government.”

    “The Senate Ukraine Caucus’ 2016 letter was encouraging the Ukrainian government to vigorously pursue an anti-corruption agenda generally,” Johnson stated.

    On the Senate floor, Garcia had said: “Let’s be very, very clear: Vice President Biden called for the removal of this prosecutor at the official direction of U.S. policy, because the prosecutor was widely perceived as corrupt, and with the support of all our international allies. His actions were therefore supported by the executive branch, Congress and the international community.” […]

    Washington Post link

  145. says

    Law.com – “Judge Reggie Walton Is Fired Up (Again) in McCabe-Related FOIA Suit”:

    A federal judge in Washington aired broad concerns Thursday about diminishing confidence in government institutions as he grappled with secrecy surrounding the firing and criminal investigation of Andrew McCabe, a former FBI leader who was terminated in 2018 following an internal inquiry into his contacts with the news media.

    During an hourlong hearing, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton weighed releasing transcripts of three closed-door discussions he had with Justice Department lawyers last year in a Freedom of Information Act case seeking records related to McCabe’s termination. In those private discussions, held between July and September, Justice Department lawyers argued that records concerning McCabe’s firing should be withheld because they related to an ongoing law enforcement proceeding.

    The Justice Department backed off that argument in November, prompting Walton to question whether he had been “manipulated” for months into stalling public release of public records.

    Walton, speaking in court Thursday, described the public interest in McCabe’s firing as “significant” and “tremendous,” while also raising concerns that keeping the public “in the dark” about the termination of a top FBI official risked undermining the bureau.

    “I’m becoming really concerned about the American public having faith in our institutions,” Walton said.

    “I don’t want to see the court dragged down into that concern,” he added, voicing worries that the court could be seen as “complicit” in the government’s drive to keep certain documents under wraps.

    Walton’s remarks came in a case filed by the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, which sued in July 2018 for records related to McCabe’s firing.

    The case has played out against the backdrop of a criminal investigation into whether McCabe misled federal agents about his role in providing a Wall Street Journal reporter with information in 2016 about the FBI’s probe into the Clinton Foundation.

    Last year, a grand jury convened to consider the case against McCabe without issuing an indictment, but the Justice Department has given no public indication that it has abandoned the investigation. McCabe, represented by lawyers from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, in August sued the Justice Department alleging retaliation. The government is opposing his claims.

    On Thursday, Anne Weismann, a lawyer for CREW, said the threat of criminal prosecution “continues to hang over Mr. McCabe’s head.”

    As he has presided over the public records case, Walton has voiced frustration with the Justice Department’s drawn-out criminal investigation into McCabe, saying the probe has left the former deputy FBI director in “limbo.” On Thursday, he said there was “a lot of suspicion among the American people about what the heck the government is doing.”…

  146. says

    From text quoted by SC in comment 245: “a lot of suspicion among the American people about what the heck the government is doing.”…

    Absolutely true. Judge Reggie Walton is not the only once voicing that concern.

    The parts of the government over which Trump has managed to exercise undue influence … those are the parts we can no longer trust, like the DOJ. And the cancer seems to be spreading.

  147. says

    Manu Raju: “Tried to ask Ted Cruz if he defends Trump conduct on Ukraine, and if Trump call with Zelensky was “perfect.” He said: ‘You asked a question last night[,] let me let someone else ask a question’. Then @npfandos asked the same question, he ignored it. He took one other q, then split.”

  148. says

    Giuliani tweeted: “My 1st podcast will be a conclusive demonstration of the illicit Democrat impeachment for non-impeachable, and entirely proper, conduct.
    #UnimpeachablePhonecall”

    Appropriate venue for my conclusive demonstration – Senate trial or podcast? Podcast, definitely.

  149. says

    Re #244 – “NEW: Lt. Col. Vindman’s attorney says the attacks by @MarshaBlackburn reveal ‘her true character – she has failed to follow her oath of impartiality while serving as a juror’. Says she’s ‘smearing his service to our country and his courageous act of reporting Trump’s misconduct’.”

  150. says

    Guardian – “Revealed: the true identity of the leader of an American neo-Nazi terror group”:

    The Guardian has learned the true identity of the leader and founder of the US-based neo-Nazi terror network the Base, which was recently the target of raids by the FBI after an investigation into domestic terrorism uncovered their plans to start a race war.

    Members of the group stand accused of federal hate crimes, murder plots and firearms offenses, and have harbored international fugitives in recent months.

    The Base’s leader previously operated under the aliases “Norman Spear” and “Roman Wolf”. Members of the network do not know his true identity due to the group’s culture of internal secrecy.

    But the Guardian can reveal that “Norman Spear” is in fact US-born Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, who has a long history of advertising his services as an intelligence, military and security contractor. He has claimed, under his alias, to have served in Russia and Afghanistan.

    The revelation of his identity comes after a months-long investigation by the Guardian into Nazzaro and the activities of the Base.

    While Nazzaro’s most recently used address is in New Jersey, there is evidence supporting his claims of being based in Russia, where he lives with his Russian wife.

    The Base – which is an approximate English translation of “al-Qaida” – began recruiting in late 2018. The white supremacy group, which has regional and international cells, extols the virtues of an all-out race war while specifically targeting African Americans and Jewish people.

    Using encrypted apps, members of the highly organized group planned terror campaigns; vandalized synagogues; established armed training camps and recruited new members.

    The US attorney for Maryland, Robert K Hur, speaking after the recent arrest of three members of the Base, said that they “did more than talk – they took steps to act and act violently on their racist views”.
    Few traces of him exist anywhere

    Rinaldo Nazzaro has maintained a decidedly low profile: he has no visible presence on any major social media platforms, no published writings under his own name, and no profile in local or national media.

    Few traces of him exist anywhere, except where a name is required in official business – such as real estate purchases and the registration of companies.

    Multiple emails and phone calls to Nazzaro went unanswered.

    But through a painstaking investigation involving freedom of information requests, the analysis of material provided to the Guardian by a whistleblower inside the group, and cross-examination of information found online and in databases, the Guardian was able to piece together his identity and some of his whereabouts.

    The Guardian was able to unravel Nazzaro’s identity due to his 2018 activities in a remote corner of the Pacific north-west.

    This detail, coupled with other leads, compelled many to speculate whether “Norman Spear” was, in fact, a federal agent operating inside the Base.

    Beginning in 2009 and until as late as 2019, Nazzaro billed himself as an intelligence expert working with various government and military agencies.

    Nazzaro is the principal of an LLC called Omega Solutions International (OSI), a company offering a range of intelligence and security contracting.

    Its website, which was removed from the Internet some time after August 2019, boasted of the firm’s “experience conducting intelligence analysis for government agencies, military organizations, and private businesses”, as well as access to a network of seasoned security professionals with expertise in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, homeland security, hostage rescue/negotiations, psychological operations, and more.

    The firm also has a Cage Code, which is an administrative requirement for military and government contractors.

    Materials inspected and sources consulted by the Guardian indicate that Nazzaro, as “Spear”, has faced persistent suspicions from current and former members of the group that he is a “fed”, or the agent of a foreign government, or that the Base is a “honeypot” intended to lure neo-Nazis out into the open for the benefit of law enforcement agencies.

    Former members have cited this as a reason for leaving.

    Richard Tobin, a Base member, is awaiting trial in New Jersey over allegations that he coordinated the September vandalism of synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin. In a December custody hearing, the prosecuting assistant US attorney cited Tobin’s self-professed belief that “Norman Spear” was a Russian spy.

    The Guardian has discovered that all of the business addresses associated with Nazzaro’s OSI LLCs are “virtual offices”. This describes a situation where a second company provides a business address, and sometimes meeting rooms and greeting services, for businesses who do not wish to maintain their own premises.

    The addresses are often prestigious: OSI’s virtual address locations include Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and K Street in Washington DC, an address associated with federal government contracting and lobbying.

    Meanwhile, “Norman Spear” appears to have had no extended history in the neo-Nazi movement before emerging as leader of the Base.

    According to an internally placed source, the only people within the movement who vouched for “Spear” were connected to the Northwest Front (NWF). The NWF founder, Harold Covington, was himself the subject of persistent rumors within the white nationalist movement that he was a federal informant, and that NWF was itself a honeypot – a front organization routinely used by US law enforcement in order to entrap people.

    “Norman Spear” has told Base members that he remains in Russia. Law enforcement sources have indicated on background that Nazzaro is believed by some agencies to be working for the Russian government.

    The US government may have been monitoring “Norman Spear’s” activities for some time. In the April conversation planning a meetup in July, “Spear” was concerned that he would not be able to attend.

    “I have confirmed that I am on the FBI terrorism watch list. I mean, that doesn’t really matter in the context of the training. What matters is that I’m on it.”

    The Guardian’s investigation of the group continues.

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