Comments

  1. says

    Now he’s worried!?

    “My advice to Giuliani would be to share what he got from Ukraine with the IC to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda,”[Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC)] added. “I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world.”

  2. Phrenomythic Productions says

    It still baffles that a whole 40% still supports this Korrupt and Kallous Klown.

  3. says

    Here’s a link back to older comments in the previous chapter of this thread.

    Comment 163. Scroll down from that comment to read additional posts.

    Excerpt from comment 163: “The Internet’s Most Repulsive Men Are Throwing A ‘Make Women Great Again’ Convention And Oh My God It’s So SAD”

    Coming this May, to a convention center of some kind in Orlando, Florida, the most repulsive and least self-aware men on the entire internet will come together to finally teach women a lesson.

    A lesson in how to be the women of their dreams.

    Yes! For the low, low price of $1,999 a ticket ($999 a ticket and a plus one if you act now!), you can learn all of the secrets to reeling in the kind of man who sits on YouTube all day whining about how women aren’t all barefoot and pregnant anymore. Men like Stefan Molyneux, Mike Cernovich, and organizer Anthony Dream Johnson who claims he is the 1st President of the Manosphere, along with a bunch of other creepy dudes […]

    The conference is called The 22 Convention, and features the tagline “Make Women Great Again.” According to the website, it is “destined to be the mansplaining event of the century.”

    Oh boy!

    What I have learned, just from this website, is that allllllll of the women today are extremely unhappy because feminism told us that we had to be men and were not allowed to be feminine!

    Hiding under a mask of fake progress, feminism today has become a radical assault on all forms of positive femininity – you know, the one hard coded into your DNA. Through an onslaught of anti-feminine propaganda spanning generations, women today have been pushed to act like men and DENY their own feminine nature. This has left millions of women feeling unhappy, confused, frustrated, and hopeless. At The 22 Convention, you will learn the truth that unhealthy militant feminists have been hiding from you your entire life.

    […] In their sad little YouTube fantasy lives, we’re all sitting around pining for them and going “Oh why oh why did we choose to work when we could have been barefoot and pregnant and married to a man who YouTubes all day about how much he hates women?”

    Much more at the link.

  4. says

    Five people were stabbed in a rabbi’s home on Hanukkah. The NY Governor called the attack an act of “domestic terrorism.” That’s not the only attack on Jewish people and/or establishments run by Jewish people (a kosher market, for example) in the New York and New Jersey area.

    In an act of what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called “domestic terrorism,” five people were stabbed at a party celebrating Hanukkah when a man broke into a rabbi’s home in New York City Saturday. The Ramapo Police department has identified the suspect in custody as 37-year-old Grafton Thomas. According to police, Thomas faces five counts of attempted murder and one of count of burglary, NBC reported.

    The attack occurred in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, according to attendees there were over 100 people attending the party. All victims were taken to nearby hospitals with one remaining in critical condition, the Washington Post reported. The rabbi’s son was amongst those stabbed but is recovering. […]

    Authorities found the suspect in a gray Nissan Sentra, hours after the attack in Harlem, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said during a press briefing following the attack. He was then arrested by New York City police and transferred to Ramapo.

    In a statement, Cuomo acknowledged the attack as the state’s 13th anti-Semitic incident in the last few weeks, he added that the state police hate crime task force will further investigate the attack.

    “This is an intolerant time in this country. We see anger, we see hatred exploding. It is an American cancer in the body politic,” he said in a statement Sunday. “Let me be clear: anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate,” he added.

    This attack follows a string of attacks against the Jewish community in the last few weeks. Earlier this week, a Florida man assaulted a man after making an anti-Semitic comment in Manhattan and on Friday three women were allegedly slapped by another woman because they were Jewish, ABC reported. Following the history of attacks, police patrol in neighborhoods and synagogues would increase with the rise of anti-Semitic violence, officials said Friday. […]

    Link

  5. says

    Two people are dead and others are injured after an attack at a church in Texas.

    Two people are dead and a third is in critical condition following a shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, on Sunday, according to The Dallas Morning News.

    One person died at the scene of the shooting, another died on the way to the hospital and a third remains in critical condition, according to the newspaper, citing MedStar spokeswoman Macara Trusty. The shooter is believed to be one of the three, Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Mike Drivdahl told the newspaper, but it was unclear which one.

    In a since-removed livestream of the Sunday service at the West Freeway Church of Christ, a figure appears to draw a weapon and fire twice before a second person shoots back, according to WFAA-TV, which said other armed congregants also rushed toward the shooter. […]

    Link

  6. says

    A new government study shows how Trump’s tariffs have backfired

    Trump promised to revive manufacturing with tariffs. A Federal Reserve study finds he did the opposite.

    […] the manufacturing sector is worse off than it was before [Trump] began his protectionist trade policy.

    Economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, who describe their study as “as the first comprehensive estimates of the effect of recent tariffs on the US manufacturing sector,” argue that the data shows that any benefits from protection from foreign competition have been more than canceled out by retaliatory tariffs from trading partners and an increase in the cost of components sourced from abroad.

    As a result, US manufacturing has seen job losses and higher prices for consumers. […]

    The findings affirm predictions from trade economists across the political spectrum who have warned that Trump’s tariffs were more likely to damage the US economy than help it — particularly in a globalized economy, where any major departure from free trade norms comes with an array of costs.

    The findings also directly contradict what Trump says the effects of the tariffs have been. Trump has argued that “the U.S. is taking in massive amounts of money” and has claimed “Billions of Dollars are pouring into the coffers of the U.S.A. because of the Tariffs.”

    The study finds the tariffs he has imposed on things like steel, aluminum, and Chinese goods have not done this at all. Given Trump’s adversarial relationship with the Federal Reserve, it seems unlikely the president will be swayed by the work of his experts, meaning the study probably will not alter his calculus on trade policy. […]

  7. yangbrother says

    Trump will be impeached and Yang will win 2020 election. Yang is an Asian supremacist who will use Superior Asian intelligence to defeat the shotgun wielding redneck.

    Warren is a compromising shill and Bernie will soon be dead. Wake up and jump in with the Yang gang. $1000/month. Get that bag.

  8. says

    “Casually Homicidal Republicans Share Violent Fantasies Of Killing Us All If Trump Loses In 2020,” an article by Robyn Pennacchia, writing for Wonkette:

    […] as jaded as I might be, I am still quite taken aback by how very frank and casual many Trump supporters are about homicide being a thing that is on the table for them if they don’t get their way.

    Today, The New York Times published an article titled “‘Nothing Less Than a Civil War’: These White Voters on the Far Right See Doom Without Trump” — a write up of Arizona’s “Trumpstock,” which took place this past October. Interspersed between descriptions of the event, of Arizona’s political climate, of speakers, of attendees, etc. were descriptions of and quotes about the various ways in which those attending or speaking at the event would like to murder some people.

    Like this brief but jarring mention of a “North Carolina activist” who wished to murder Muslim people for some reason.

    But this October morning was “Trumpstock,” a small festival celebrating the president. The speakers included the local Republican congressman, Paul Gosar, and lesser-known conservative personalities. There was a fringe 2020 Senate candidate in Arizona who ran a website that published sexually explicit photos of women without their consent; a pro-Trump rapper whose lyrics include a racist slur aimed at Barack Obama; and a North Carolina activist who once said of Muslims, “I will kill every one of them before they get to me.”

    Then there was this guy who appeared to be very laid back about his desire to brutally murder Hillary Clinton: […]

    Link

    More at the link.

  9. Mark says

    The only “positive” thing I can think to say about Trump is that he’s consistently awful. In 2016, his playboy lifestyle, business showmanship, and attention seeking all pointed to him being an obnoxious, lying, realty-show-style president, who loves to be surrounded by adoring yes-men. His presidency predictably unfolded, with him appointing a long list of lobbyist stooges to his administration and him firing anyone who displayed a modicum of experience or sense of duty. His failure was guaranteed from the beginning.

  10. says

    From comment 10: “Yang is an Asian supremacist who will use Superior Asian intelligence to defeat the shotgun wielding redneck.”

    Now that is some very strange use of capitalization, of the English language, and of overly broad (and possibly racist) memes. Are you a Russian bot? Just a troll? What are you actually trying to say?

  11. says

    What is going on here? The United States military struck five facilities in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon claims that the facilities belonged to a militia backed by Iran.

    […] The strikes came after repeated assaults by the militia, Kitaeb Hezbollah, on Iraqi bases, Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. The American operations will “degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks” against coalition forces, he said.

    The actions underscore the continued unpredictability of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria, and raise the possibility of an escalation with the militia. The Pentagon says the group has links to Iran’s Quds Force, a special operations unit that U.S. officials say provides weapons and other support to proxy forces that help Iran extend its reach. […]

    The Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command said four fighters, including the deputy commander, were killed in U.S. strikes on Kitaeb Hezbollah’s headquarters along the Iraq-Syria border.

    Pentagon officials have raised concerns for weeks that Iranian-backed groups in Iraq were likely to attack U.S. forces. On Friday, more than 30 rockets were launched on an Iraqi base near the city of Kirkuk, killing the contractor and wounding several U.S. service members. […]

    Washington Post link

    This action comes right on the heels of China, Russia and Iran announcing joint military exercises in the region. China, Russia and Iran hold joint naval drills in Gulf of Oman

    […] The joint drills are likely to be perceived as provocative by Washington. Earlier this year US President Donald Trump proposed sending a US-led naval mission to the Gulf of Oman to protect economic interests in the region.

    In a Twitter post on Thursday, Trump took aim at Iran, Russia, and the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad, warning the three countries against military action in Syria.

    “Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province. Don’t do it!” Trump wrote.

    CNN link

    More at the link.

  12. yangbrother says

    @Lynna 13

    No I do not speak in meme. And it’s very clear what I was trying to say in my original comment. It is the flag waving redneck( and we all know which flag) who is responsible for getting Trump elected. Yang will defeat Trump in case Trump does not get impeached. I feel Warren is a WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING and will say whatever she thinks will get her elected.

    And before you call me racist again, maybe reflect on your own self. I am a broke man and I learned the meaning of systemic racism when my best friend’s dad shoved wine corks into his nostrils and began to rhythmically beat a couch cushion in the style of African drum music. I’ve forgotten more about racism than you will ever know. Yang gang 2020.

  13. says

    Trump is playing the victim…again.

    This isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone, but the strategy Donald Trump is going to use against his impeachment and in 2020 is to play the victim.

    Everything that happens to him is because someone hates him. Whether it’s the media, the Democrats, the FBI, Nancy Pelosi, other Republicans, or some nebulous “deep state,” one thing remains the same: Everyone is out to get him.

    He is the ultimate victim.

    He seems to have picked up much of his shtick from victim pundits on AM radio or Fox News, where conspiracies abound and nothing is ever the fault of the Republicans they defend. Everything is some kind of conspiracy against these brave souls who sacrifice themselves for our country.

    Like these victimization pundits, he targets easy scapegoats whom his audience often already dislikes rather than addressing actual issues.

    You can’t reason with this victimization. But there are strategies for countering it. Especially because people don’t like to be known as victims. Here are a few strategies that I’ve found work.

    1. Whenever someone tries to use this strategy, point out the victimization. “All you stupid libs have against Trump is evidence and several honorable witnesses and his admission and the admissions of Giuliani and Mulvaney and crap like that.” […]

    2. Keep telling the same simple story that was confirmed in congressional hearings.

    Everything in the whistleblower report was confirmed by testimony during the impeachment hearings.

    Trump blocked and continues to block members of his staff with direct knowledge of the subject from testifying.

    “If you’re having trouble following the impeachment hearings, let me summarize…

    – Of those who were willing to testify under oath, ALL say Trump committed crimes.

    – Of those who say Trump did NOT commit crimes; none were willing to testify under oath.

    …That’s it.” […]

    Link

    More at the link.

  14. says

    In response to comment 15:

    You wrote, “Superior Asian intelligence to defeat the shotgun wielding redneck.” Both “superior Asian intelligence” and “shotgun wielding redneck” are overly-broad categorizations that have been used as online memes to create divisiveness.

    I will also point out that in comment 10 your immediate antecedent for “shotgun wielding redneck” was “Trump.” (Not his followers, but Trump himself.) Trump may appeal to rednecks, but he is not a redneck. He also does not, as far as I know, own a shotgun, nor does he wield one.

    Not all of Trump’s followers are shotgun wielding rednecks.

    Thank you for the clarification in comment 15.

    I did not call you a racist.

    Please be more careful in how you word your comments.

    If you think Elizabeth Warren is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” please present the facts you have to back up that claim.

  15. unclefrogy says

    well there is one thing that can said for sure whether trump gets removed in the Senate trial or not or or be re-elected or not he will eventually have to leave dead, he is old after all,or alive.
    Other investigations will continue and the possibility of major legal action will persist. The Trump organization has all the markings of a criminal organization whose main business is money laundering and fraud.
    In the long run he is screwed the question really is will the regressive policies that have so much favor from those who espouse conservatism will persist in influence or fade into history like the other failed ideas have.
    uncle frogy

  16. ORigel says

    @nomdeplume

    I have long been against removing Trump from office because I thought Trump would be more likely to be voted out in 2020.

  17. tomh says

    @ #10
    “Trump will be impeached and Yang will win 2020 election.”
    Trump has already been impeached, and Yang has to win the nomination before he can win the election. The chances of that are somewhere between slim and none.

  18. says

    @#19. unclefrogy

    Trump will never go to prison or even pay fines, even presuming that he does not die in office (he is showing signs of Alzheimers, and both his parents died of complications of that). Obama demonstrated that when a Republican President commits horrible crimes, it is the job of the next Democrat to give them a de facto pardon by refusing to investigate or prosecute. Heck, even doubling down and extending those crimes is something the party will aggressively ignore.

    Of course, Trump’s crimes are both of the legal variety — which the DNC is happy to go along with — and against Good Taste, and it seems very much like the DNC and most Democratic loyalists are tremendously offended by offenses against Good Taste. Bush got a million people killed and wasted trillions of dollars by telling lies, but he doesn’t rate a prosecution. Trump has — so far — not equalled that, but he makes the average Democratic partisan much, much angrier than Bush ever did. So maybe Trump may take a fall after all. Assuming, of course, that Joe Biden’s self-proclaimed love for Republicans doesn’t distract him so much that he ends up giving Trump and Mitch McConnell a kiss on the lips instead.

  19. chrislawson says

    ORigel@20–

    Don’t forget that Republicans are doing their damndest to stack the 2020 election. It is quite possible that Trump could win even if he loses even more of the popular vote than he did in 2016.

    For instance, a federal judge has just approved the purging of 120,000 voters in Georgia for not having voted for 7 years saying, and I cannot emphasise this enough, that denying people the right to vote, doing as little as possible to inform them, and not allowing same-day registration has not been proved to violate their constitutional rights. This in a state that has already purged 1.4 million voter registrations over the last 6 years. A state with 9.7 million people so presumably about 6-7 million eligible voters.

  20. unclefrogy says

    @24 vicar
    not all of his troubles are federal and i would add not all of them are exclusively U.S. either.
    I think the new York state attorney his investigating serious crimes
    His big problem really relates to his “success”. to be a crook like him and be involved with corruption and all it is good to be able to evade scrutiny but he has succeeded in becoming one of the most watched individual in the whole world . He has shown no signs of being able to moderate his behavior quite the contrary. He is following the teachings of his mentor who we must remember got disbarred following his own advice.
    We can only hope that he will take some other worthy gents with him when the shit finally hits the f’n fan
    uncle frogy

  21. Reginald Selkirk says

    Disappointed in teh poll. “Impeached, then drawn and quartered” is not among the choices.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    $1000/month. Get that bag.

    Yeah, $1000/month paid for with a regressive VAT and lowered for those who receive supplementary benefits. That’s really helpful to those who’d need it most. (/sarcasm)

  23. kenbakermn says

    Here’s what I think is the best case scenario:

    Pelosi is not convinced that the senate will provide a valid, impartial trial. Seeing that they intend to circle wagons around Donny rather than hold a real trial, she never sends the articles of impeachment to the senate. Consequently Donny T never gets acquitted and spends the next 11 months becoming ever more deranged and dysfunctional with frustration.
    In Nov. 2020 he gets voted out and the maga-hats, finally seeing what a loser he really is, crawl back into their own assholes and die..

    This is my fantasy anyway.

  24. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @8:

    In a since-removed livestream of the Sunday service at the West Freeway Church of Christ, a figure appears to draw a weapon and fire twice before a second person shoots back, according to WFAA-TV, which said other armed congregants also rushed toward the shooter. […]

    I know it is Texas, but it seems like there were a lot of guns at that church.

  25. says

    chigau @22, thanks for flagging that. I think PZ can fix that. In the meantime, you can use the link in comment 5 to travel back to the previous chapter of this thread.

  26. says

    16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg is so much smarter than Trump. Trump attacked on her Twitter earlier, but she took it in stride. In subsequent interviews she has demonstrated a practical approach when it comes to Trump: don’t waste your time.

    [… n an interview with BBC radio’s Today program on Monday, Thunberg said that talking to Trump at a United Nations summit on global warming would be a waste of time, since he wouldn’t pay attention in the first place.

    “Honestly, I don’t think I would have said anything because obviously he’s not listening to scientists and experts, so why would he listen to me?” Thunberg said. “So I probably wouldn’t have said anything, I wouldn’t have wasted my time.” […]

    “Those attacks are just funny because they obviously don’t mean anything,” she said. “I guess of course it means something — they are terrified of young people bringing change which they don’t want — but that is just proof that we are actually doing something and that they see us as some kind of threat.”

    Link

  27. says

    Trump and Putin are still best buddies who talk on the phone all the time:

    On Sunday evening, the nation learned that there had been another phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That in itself might seem alarming, considering that Trump has just been impeached for taking actions against a U.S. ally [Ukraine], actions that supported Russian military efforts. But what’s really jaw-dropping in this case is how the nation learned of that phone call.

    U.S. news agencies learned of the call in a release from the Kremlin. Because for a full day after the call, the White House did not release any readout of the conversation. In fact, it wasn’t until late on Monday morning, after Russian media had spent the evening reporting that Trump and Putin spoke on “matters of mutual interest,” that the White House even admitted that there had been a call.

    The Kremlin readout indicates only that the call took place at 10:45 ET and was initiated by Putin, and that Putin “thanked Donald Trump” for information that supposedly helped prevent “the commission of terrorist acts in Russia.” Exactly what this information was is not clear, but two Russian nationals were apparently detained in St. Petersburg on Friday based on the information provided by the U.S. Also unclear is whether the release of this information generated a threat to U.S. intelligence sources or provided an excuse for Putin to move against political opponents. In September, Russian police made mass arrests of political opponents as revenge for losses in local elections.

    The only comment from the White House echoes what the Kremlin said on Sunday—that the U.S. sent information to Russia that “helped foil a potential holiday terrorist attack.” According to CNN, this is the first time Putin and Trump have spoken since July. This is the second time that Trump has forwarded information that Putin credits with stopping terrorism in Russia, which suggests that Trump actually does believe U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia … when they’re not talking about him.

    Link

  28. says

    @#25, unclefrogy

    Trump has been dodging state-level criminal trials most of his adult life. (In large part, it must be admitted, because he seems to mostly operate in states where the criminal justice system can be bought as long as you’re rich enough.) And Bush can’t travel outside the US reliably, either. That hasn’t exactly made his life post-presidency miserable.

    Heck, there’s even a chance that the DNC will actively sabotage the 2020 candidate to keep Trump in office, so maybe they won’t even have to have a de facto pardon.

  29. says

    Fox & Friends Know Who Real Victims Of Hannukah Attacks Are, SURPRISE It Is Christians

    Five people were wounded Saturday at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York. This was the the ninth anti-Semitic attack in New York City during this year’s Hanukkah. It’s part of an alarming trend of anti-Semitic attacks around the country. […] hate crimes targeting Jews have risen 21 percent in the past year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put it bluntly at a press conference Sunday.

    CUOMO [ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo]: This is a national phenomenon that we are seeing and it’s frightening and it’s disturbing. If anyone thinks that something poisonous is not going on in this country, then they’re in denial.

    If you want to observe folks in denial in their native habitat, you should swing by Fox News. […] made sure that the spotlight never wavered from CHRISTIANS, CHRISTIANS, CHRISTIANS. When Jewish Americans are straight-up terrified, there’s no better time to insist — without evidence — that Christians are the most persecuted people who were ever persecuted. […]

    Campos-Duffy described Christians as the most “persecuted religion on the planet right now” less than two minutes after the panel reported on the anti-Semitic attacks this weekend. What the hell kind of transition is that? They brought on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the matter and co-host Pete Hegseth asked him about the “persecution of Jews AND CHRISTIANS.” He just shoehorned Christianity in there […]

    POMPEO: It’s important to put it into context. You’ve seen increased anti-Semitism around the world. We’ve all observed Christians under threat in the Middle East. […]

    Pompeo reassured us that Sam Brownback, who handles “religious freedom issues,” is on the case. Brownback has a history of defining “religious freedom” as the right for bigots to kick LGBTQ Americans in the ass. After Hegseth forced Christians into the discussion, Campos-Duffy went ahead and ditched Jews entirely.

    CAMPOS-DUFFY: We’ve seen over Christmas some horrific attacks on Christians — by the way, the most persecuted religion on the planet right now. Beheadings, a village attacked and seven killed there, as well as the kidnapping of the young teenage Christian girl. Why are we seeing this rise in attacks, specifically for Christians?

    Doing his best to put Campos-Duffy at ease, Pompeo said the United States has a responsibility to protect Christians across the world. And that was it. The panel moved on to other things. Maybe Uncle Sam will get around to looking after Jews in Brooklyn. If not, they’ll just have to take care of themselves. […] when a machete-wielding asshole tried to kill people at a New York rabbi’s home this weekend, they managed to fight him off with an antique coffee table.

  30. tomh says

    @ #34
    “there’s even a chance that the DNC will actively sabotage the 2020 candidate to keep Trump in office”

    And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

  31. says

    Excerpts from an essay by former FBI director, and former deputy attorney general, James Comey:

    […] At first, the attack is stunning and rocks your world. Waking up to find the president has tweeted that you are guilty of treason or committed assorted other crimes and are a [insert any one of this president’s epithets here] is jarring and disorienting. That’s the first stage, but it doesn’t last.

    The second stage is a kind of numbness, where it doesn’t seem quite real that the so-called Leader of the Free World is assailing you by tweet and voice. […]

    But the longer it goes on, the less it means. In the third stage, the impact diminishes, the power of it shrinks. It no longer feels as though the most powerful human on the planet is after you. It feels as though a strange and slightly sad old guy is yelling at you to get off his lawn, echoed by younger but no less sad people in red hats shouting, “Yeah, get off his lawn!”

    In this stage, […] Trump seems diminished, much as he has diminished the presidency itself. Foreign leaders laugh at him and throw his letters in the trash. […] The president’s “trusted” advisers all appear to talk about him behind his back and treat him like a child. Principled public servants defy his orders not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. […]

    Even his secret weapon has lost power. Engagement with his Twitter account — the company’s measure of how often people read, share and comment on a tweet — has steadily declined. Americans have grown tired of the show. […]

    I don’t mean to suggest Trump is not dangerous. The horrific betrayal of allies in northern Syria demonstrates that an impetuous and amoral leader can do great harm, even in shrunken form. And if he succeeds in redefining our nation’s core values so that extorting foreign governments to aid in one’s election is consistent with the oath of office, he will have done lasting damage to this nation […]

    For the fourth, and final, stage, we need to fight through our fatigue and contempt for this shrunken, withered figure. Spurred by the danger he poses to our nation and its values, we have to overcome the shock and numbness of earlier stages. We must not look away. We must summon the effort necessary to protect this republic […]

    Washington Post link

  32. says

    From Greg Sargent, writing for the Washington Post:

    […] McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses [in Trump’s impeachment trial], that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise. […]

    Among the story’s key points:

    As early as June, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney worked to execute the freeze for Trump, and a top aide to Mulvaney — Robert Blair — worried it would fuel the narrative that Trump was tacitly aiding Russia

    Internal opposition was more forceful than previously known. The Pentagon pushed for the money for months. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton privately urged Trump to understand that freezing the aid was not in our national interest.

    Trump was unmoved, citing Ukraine’s “corruption.” We now know Trump actually wanted Ukraine to announce sham investigations absolving Russia of 2016 electoral sabotage and smearing potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden. […]

    Lawyers at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) worked to develop a far-fetched legal argument that Trump could exercise commander-in-chief authority to override Congress’ appropriation of the aid, to get around the law precluding Trump from freezing it.

    Michael Duffey, a political appointee at OMB, tried to get the Pentagon to assume responsibility for getting the aid released, to deflect blame away from the White House for its own role in blocking it. This led a Pentagon official to pronounce herself “speechless.”

    Duffey froze the aid with highly unusual bureaucratic tactics, refused to tell Pentagon officials why Trump wanted it withheld and instructed them to keep this “closely held.” […]

    It’s impossible to square all this with the lines from Trump’s defenders — that there was no pressure on Ukraine; that the money was withheld for reasonable policy purposes; and that there was no extortion because it was ultimately released. [Release of the aid funds] only came after the scheme was outed. […]

    What makes all this new information really damning, however, is that many of these officials who were directly involved with Trump’s freezing of aid are the same ones Trump blocked from appearing before the House impeachment inquiry.

    This should make it inescapable that McConnell wants a trial with no testimony from these people — Democrats want to hear from Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffey and Blair […] [McConnell] wants to prevent us from ever gaining a full accounting. […]

    Link

  33. says

    @#36, tomh:

    Did you not notice the way that Blairite Labour — the equivalent of our “New Democrats”/DLC/Clintonite Democrats — deliberately undermined Corbyn for months leading up to the latest election in the UK? Did you ignore the way that Biden was saying in 2018, long after Trump had been screwing everything up, that if he is elected “nothing significant will change”?

    In the last election we had a lot of people saying “listen when Trump tells you who he is”. Well, here are the DNC Democrats telling you outright that they are traitors who think Trump is better than any shift to the left.

    (And, incidentally, this is nothing new: centrism as a political ideology goes back a long way — there were German centrists between the world wars, for example. Centrists don’t want a balance of power, they want to preserve existing power structures. Always. As such, they are inherently conservative and will always side with the right against the left, no matter how monstrous the right may be. The German ones sided with Hitler — it’s time to wake up and admit that the people who have been running the Democratic Party for decades, now, would rather side with Trump than permit even the weak-tea reforms Sanders proposes.)

  34. says

    Trump’s farm bailout was a failure in some ways. For some, the bailouts meant surprising profits, but for others, the bailouts offered little help. That was especially true for the neediest people in the farm belt. As is usual with Trump policies, the neediest people got the least help.

    In 2019, the farm belt felt about as hospitable as the asteroid belt. Record rainfall turned fields to sludge and made it nigh-on impossible to plant corn and soybeans until long after the typical window had passed. […] Trump’s long-running trade war cut off farmers’ access to China’s enormous market. Across the farm sector, commodity prices remained in the doldrums.

    Yet the Agriculture Department now estimates 2019 was farmers’ most profitable in five years. What happened?

    Three words: Market Facilitation Program. Or, as it’s more commonly known, the farm bailout.

    Without government assistance, U.S. farm income would have fallen about $5 billion from its already-low 2018 level. So the $14.5 billion in bailout funding announced so far represents a substantial reversal of fortune. About three-quarters of the funding already has been distributed. […]

    Most farmers benefited from the bailout, Belasco said, but because bailout money is distributed based on acreage and not farmer’s need, about half of the money (47 percent) went to the largest 10 percent of operations. […]

    Yes, lots of the money went to the top 10 percent of land owners who run farming operations.

    […] The disparity runs too deep to be solved by a government bailout, Belasco [Montana State University economist Eric Belasco] said. According to 2018 data, more than 70 percent of farm households had a high level of financial risk in 2018. But of those that qualify as very large (median income $756,000), only 25 percent fit into that same category. […]

    “The philosophical question is: Should we have trade aid for farmers who are at a low risk of losing their farm?” Belasco asked. “Most other safety-net programs are income-adjusted,” he added later. “Farm policy doesn’t do that at all.” […]

    Washington Post link

    More charts, maps and information are available at the link.

  35. says

    An update on Fox News:

    In 2019, Fox News continued its spiral to the bottom with increasingly racist content, particularly in the prime-time hours, when big audiences are tuning in for nightly immigrant-bashing, overt racism, unhinged late-night rants, conspiracy theories, and even attacks on a 16-year-old climate change activist for having the audacity to work to make the world a better place for her future.

    All of that is troubling for a national cable news outlet, but perhaps even more troubling is the fact that 2019 was a record-breaking year for Fox News viewership. […] according to Nielsen Media Research, peddling conspiracies and promoting racist content must be feeding a hungry audience, because Fox News saw its highest viewership in the 23-year history of the network in 2019, averaging 2.5 million viewers per night. Business Wire writes, “[…] Additionally, Hannity was the number one program in cable news for the third consecutive year with 3.3 million viewers.”

    It gets worse. The notoriously racist shows featuring Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have a tight grip on conservative audiences, and they aren’t only talking to your older relatives. Said Business Wire, ”In cable news, FNC secured nine of the top 15 programs in total viewers and the 25-54 demo. Additionally, FNC’s The Five, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity and The Ingraham Angle claimed four of the top five programs in the younger 18-49 demo.” […]

    Sean Hannity has even taken the stage to address the crowds at Donald Trump’s political rallies. Can you imagine a prime-time host from another network having the audacity to display such blatant partisanship? Is there really a scenario in which Rachel Maddow, Chris Cuomo, or Anderson Cooper could be speakers at a political rally for a Democratic candidate? Their credibility would be shot, and they’d likely be looking for a new line of work. But not at Fox News. Let’s face it, the most-watched network in the country is little more than a Republican-operated super PAC. […]

    Link

    Know thy shameless enemies.

  36. tomh says

    NYT:
    The Latest on the 2020 Money Race
    By Shane Goldmacher
    Dec. 30, 2019 Updated 1:52 p.m. ET

    Senator Elizabeth Warren’s slip in the 2020 primary polls has been accompanied by a dip in donations, with her campaign setting a rare public goal: aiming to raise $20 million for the fourth quarter of 2019 ending Tuesday, or about 20 percent less than what she raised in the previous three-month period.

    Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., meanwhile, has rebounded from a weak third quarter, in which he raised only $15.7 million and spent $2 million more than he took in. Now his campaign is trying to assert his front-runner status in the Democratic race, pushing in the final 48 hours of the year to post “our biggest fund-raising quarter yet,” as Mr. Biden wrote in an email on Sunday, by topping the $21.5 million he raised last spring.
    […]

    Mr. Sanders is expected to remain a financial pacesetter in the 2020 contest. He is pressing toward a goal of five million contributions by the end of the year, and announced Monday that he was at nearly 4.9 million. If Mr. Sanders maintains the current average size of his donations, $18, the numbers suggest he has already raised about $26 million in the fourth quarter, more than any Democratic candidate has raised in any quarter this year.

    No other 2020 candidate has announced reaching three million donations.
    […]

  37. says

    The next debate for Democratic presidential candidates is scheduled for January 14. Trump is planning to do counter programming by holding a rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the same night.

    Five candidates have qualified for the Jan. 14 debate in Des Moines so far:
    Joe Biden
    Bernie Sanders
    Elizabeth Warren
    Amy Klobuchar
    Pete Buttigieg

  38. davidc1 says

    There has been a sharp rise in anti Jewish feeling over here in good old GB ,mainly graffiti daubed on Jewish property .
    In the latest attack there has been 911 spray pained on a synagogue ,some dimwits think the Jews were behind the attacks on 11/09/2001 .
    Anyone got any ideas what to say to people who voted tory ,apart from telling them they are stupid gits ?

  39. Akira MacKenzie says

    CNN: Joe Biden says he would consider a Republican as his running mate

    <

    blockquote>Joe Biden told voters in New Hampshire on Monday that he would consider choosing a Republican as a running mate, but added, “I can’t think of one right now.”

    Biden discussed the possibility after a woman told the former vice president that if he is the nominee, he will “have to pull out all the stops.”

    “Our 21-year-old son said the other night, ‘I wonder if Joe Biden would consider choosing a Republican as a running mate,” the woman added.

    “The answer is I would, but I can’t think of one now,” Biden replied. “Let me explain that. You know there’s some really decent Republicans that are out there still, but here’s the problem right now … they’ve got to step up.”

    Over the past few months, Biden has offered several clues about who he might consider as his vice presidential pick if he earns the Democratic nomination. He previously said he would prefer to pick someone “of color and/or a different gender” as his potential running mate. Biden has also acknowledged he’d think about adding Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to his possible ticket.

    “Whoever I would pick for vice president, and there’s a lot of qualified women, there’s a lot of qualified African-Americans. There really truly are. There’s a plethora of really qualified people. Whomever I would pick were I fortunate enough to be your nominee, I’d pick somebody who was simpatico with me, who knew what I, what my priorities were and knew what I wanted to,” Biden said in Exeter on Monday. “We could disagree on tactic, but strategically we’d have to be in the exact same page.”

    No modern presidential campaign has featured a bipartisan ticket. The late Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, considered former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent, as a possible running mate, before settling on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick.

    IS BIDEN TRYING TO LOSE?!?!?!?

  40. says

    From Susan B. Glasser, writing for The New Yorker: “Our year of Trumpschmerz”

    […] Even now, three years into the Trump Presidency, there is no language to fully capture the madness of all this, though many of my journalistic colleagues have gone to great lengths to record and codify just how disturbingly nutty 2019 has been. The Washington Post reports that Trump ended the year having made more than fifteen thousand four hundred false and misleading statements since his inauguration. CNN’s “Inside Politics” produced a four-page, single-spaced list of all the people and institutions Trump has attacked by name this year. There are online trackers for the unprecedented levels of turnover in Trump’s Administration and for the rapidly proliferating array of lawsuits involving Trump’s assertions of sweeping executive authority. […]

    How will we explain to our future selves the sheer bizarreness of an American leader who rants at rallies about the evils of windmills and modern toilets, who brags that he and North Korea’s homicidal dictator “fell in love,” who repeats Russian propaganda from the Oval Office, and who issues major national-security decisions by fiat on Twitter without informing the Pentagon, State Department, or his own staff? All of that happened this year, too, and it’s not even what he was impeached over. […]

    For a few days, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago tweetstorms were like thunderclaps on a distant horizon; I knew the weather was bad on the Internet, and I happily stayed away. I realize this attitude is increasingly held by the American public, at least that segment of the public which doesn’t follow the news for a living.

    It turns out, however, that staying away from the daily distractions of Trump has not been restorative. You can turn off the Trump show, but the nagging, unfortunate reality is that the show goes on, with or without you. The President of the United States is still out there saying crazy, mean, inappropriate things at all hours of the day and night. This remains disturbing, even if one is divorced from the particulars. You can turn off your smartphone, delete the Twitter app, bake endless batches of cookies, and binge-watch Netflix: Trump is still there.

    […] By choosing not to immerse myself in the details of which conspiracy theorist Trump was retweeting, I had more time to think about the increasingly real possibility of Trump’s reëlection in November. By skipping the mini outrages, I had the mental bandwidth for the macro ones: time, that is, to consider what the Trump Presidency will look like after Democrats have tried and failed to convict and remove him from office, and what the impact will be, over the next several decades, of a federal judiciary remade by a President who is hostile to any interpretation of the Constitution that does not give him essentially unconstrained authority. I had time to think about what a second-term Trump will feel empowered to do […]

    There must be one of those long German words for all that soul-sickening worry, right? Some tortured mouthful of consonants that captures the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity of Washington in the age of Trump? I asked my friend, the German scholar and writer Constanze Stelzenmüller, an astute observer of Trumpism at the Brookings Institution and especially of its toxic effect on the troubled transatlantic relationship. She said that, even in Trump-skeptical Berlin, there was no single, widely accepted word that describes this phenomenon but gamely offered up her own stab at it. The word she came up with is “Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz.”

    My German is nonexistent, but a quick Internet search suggests that Constanze nailed it. In thirty-three letters, she managed to capture the whole damn mess. […] Trump and his Administration (“regierung” means government); the slow-motion car crash of constant controversies (“schlamassel”); and the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all (“schmerz”). […]

    On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche. There is no taking a vacation from it. I confess that I have not yet figured out how to pronounce this unwieldy linguistic invention that so deftly captures our national Trump-soul-sickness. Luckily, I received a follow-up e-mail from Constanze, in which she proposed a shortened version that gets right to the angsty, anxious point: […] “Trumpschmerz.” Either way, in German or in English, it’s my nominee for the word of the year in 2019. I suspect it will be in 2020 as well.

    Link

  41. says

    Talking Points Memo handed out their “Golden Duke” awards.

    […] Best Scandal General Interest

    The award goes to: Rep. Duncan Hunter! (with 3 out of 6 votes)
    […] Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) using donor money to bankroll his sexcapades
    This story has everything: marital betrayal, vaping in Congress, sleeping with lobbyists, taking $600 from a campaign to take a rabbit on an airplane. […]

    President Donald Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine
    President Donald Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine. I don’t think there’s any competition here. This is it: the Omega Point, the Moby Dick of scandals. Leaving aside that it’s the grounds for only the third impeachment in American history, it is also the convergence point for all Trump’s scandals: it has Ukraine/Russia, Trump’s war with the Deep State, Rudy Giuliani, it’s got it all.

    The multiple high-power players in Jeffrey Epstein’s orbit
    […] a sex trafficking ring run by a guy whose suspiciously close friends include Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, future president (LMFAO! WHAT!) Donald Trump, and many other wealthy and powerful men […] How much of the world is run by a group of rich men who would do basically anything to protect their access to young women to sexually victimize, and how many powerful people are complicit in allowing this to happen? […]

    Members’ choice: President Donald Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine
    This nominee won with a 59.7% majority of members’ votes.

    Best Scandal Local Venue

    The award goes to: The three drunk Indiana judges! (with 4 out of 6 votes)
    […] Three Indiana judges’ drunken brawl-turned-shootout
    […] Things seemed to have been really escalated by the non-judicial brawler who brought a gun to a judge fight, though. The poor judges just wanted some White Castle.

    […] The Texas House speaker’s secret crusade against members of his own party
    This one might not have anything as immediately salacious as judges brawling outside a strip club, but the setting couldn’t be better. We’re watching a Texas statehouse that Republicans can’t take for granted in 2020, and the speaker is so nervous that he’s offering some nut a deal in exchange for media credentials. Who could imagine that the nut might have been recording that conversation, and then — comically — dangling it over the speaker’s head for an extended period of time, just to watch him squirm? […]

    […] Three Indiana judges’ drunken brawl-turned-shootout
    So much to love about this story: the incongruity of judges behaving like buffoons, Indiana giving Florida a run for its money as the site of baffling and appalling behavior. I’m hoping for at least one movie to come out of it.

    […] The Baltimore mayor’s children’s book grift
    […] my choice for local venue scandal is one that is decidedly PG-rated: Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s children’s book grift. Of all the things to end your political career, imagine it being mediocre children’s books you wrote and then tried to force the city you run to buy. Imagine having the confidence to hold a press conference where you hawk associated licensed children’s wear. Now that’s the kind of confidence of a woman who would never fuck Duncan Hunter. Surely there’s a happy medium to be found.

    […] Three Indiana judges’ drunken brawl-turned-shootout
    […] I give the prize to The 3 Little Pigs, the Indiana judges’ public brawl-turned-shoot-out at the White Castle Corral. […] a judicial rat pack so wasted that even the renowned Indianapolis Red Garter Gentlemen’s Club refused them all entrance! These kids don’t remember getting in a White Castle gunfight with a strapped meth freak […]

    Members’ choice: Three Indiana judges’ drunken brawl-turned-shootout
    This nominee won with a 42.7% plurality of members’ votes.

    Meritorious Achievement in the Crazy

    The award goes to: Rudy, Lev and Igor! (with 3 out of 6 votes)
    […] Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman
    Every disaffected New York liberal has their decades of grumblings about Giuliani’s fascist tendencies vindicated, […]

    […] Devin Nunes (R-CA)
    Is it okay to say that the only thing keeping me interested by hour seven or eight of an Intel impeachment inquiry hearing this fall was Devin Nunes’ opportunities to speak? No? Well. The terse, self-hating sarcasm laced with references to fake-the-moon-landing conspiracies: This is why I wake up in the morning. What happened to Nunes? This was a Boehner leadership ally, with seniority on “grown-up” committees like Intel and Ways and Means, who would talk to any reporter for years, typically to trash the Freedom Caucus. Now he doesn’t talk to any reporters, treating them as spies for a liberal conspiracy. He sues cows from Twitter. […]

    […] Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman
    As with the Indiana judges, this shows the power of trios. Call it the three stooges principle: three doofuses combined can outdo anything mere mortals can do. […]

    […] Devin Nunes (R-CA)
    Devin Nunes is fascinating. I truly can’t understand what makes him tick, or what his end game is on all of this. What was he thinking, co-chairing the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings, knowing in the back of his mind that he was actively involved in the shenanigans that led to President Trump being impeached in the first place? What was going through his head as he sat up there? What does he think he’s going to get at the end of all this? A jawline?

    […] Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R)
    Gov. Matt Bevin, come on down: You take the Crazy Cake, and all the decapitated ladies stuffed inside of it! […] Matt Bevin didn’t slam the door behind him before he pardoned ALL the incarcerated psychopaths on his Xmas list. Or, at least, anyone who ever put a lollipop in his campaign war chest. But who was Bevin’s special amnesty favorite, the man everyone wants back on the streets? Why, it’s Delmar Partin, a man convicted of murder for strangling his lover before beheading her and stuffing her corpse in a barrel. […]

    Members’ choice: Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman
    This nominee won with a 60.9% majority of members’ votes.

    Most Valiant Trump Defender

    The award goes to: Sen. Lindsey Graham! (with 4 out of 6 votes)

    […] Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
    Tough competition between him and Graham, as both enthusiastically and energetically leap before cameras to defend Our President. But Graham — SHAME ON HIM — occasionally breaks from character and will chastise the president for, say, announcing a swift removal of troops from Syria because the Turkish president was nice to him on the telephone. A stain on your legacy, Mr. Graham! Jordan, meanwhile, served valiantly on both the Intel and Judiciary Committees, sitting in nearly every deposition and running the show behind the scenes during public hearings. It is he, Jim Jordan, who deserves the annual Presidential Belly Rub for Good Service.

    […] Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    Nearly the entire GOP has debased itself for Trump, but Graham remains the champ chump because of his history and self-regard. […] He went out of his way to be the defining senatorial voice of Never Trump in 2016. This makes his transformation into a lap dog all the more stunning.

    […] Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    […] What’s unique about Graham is that while Trump only humiliates him for his fealty, Linds just keeps popping back up, like a Gothic Plot Twist. […] He is not changing his mind about impeachment and he’s going to spread it on a cracker! No one has ever been more dead inside.

    Members’ choice: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    This nominee won with a 46.9% plurality of members’ votes.

    Wildest Press Conference Moment

    The award goes to: The President’s concerns about toilets! (with 4 out of 6 votes)
    […] Trump laments how “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times”
    I love that Trump admitted he has weird, huge dumps, then went back, denied his weird huge dumps, and accused his rally crowd in Battle Creek, Michigan of taking weird dumps instead. Projection, your honor.

    […] Mulvaney blatantly admits to a quid pro quo
    He admitted it right there on TV, and then told everyone to “get over it.” Come on! Mulvaney has long had a reputation for vastly overstating his intelligence, but at least he had the good sense to obstruct Congress and not testify any further after that performance.

    […] Trump laments how “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times”
    Do I like knowing that our big soft lazy president lays down toilet-challenging turds? No. I hate it. I truly hate knowing that a lot of his rage-tweeting and rage-governing comes from a place of total colon blockage brought on by a diet of fast food and carbonated brown sugar water. But knowing that it sometimes takes the president 10, 15 times to flush his golden toilet helps make a lot of his bad personality make sense. […]

    […] Trump laments how “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times”
    A septic man of the people, our President is in the tank on this one. […] Little Trumpy has the look of a boy whose toilet training went awry, and now we all have to pay for it. Diaper Don’s toilet obsession has followed him his entire life. The public first became aware of his kink, pre-Presidency, when The Donald paraded his solid gold toilet fixtures before the press — a classic sign of the self-made turd. Vanity Fair covered the story. […]

    Members’ choice: Mulvaney blatantly admits to a quid pro quo
    This nominee won with a 43.7% plurality of members’ votes.

    Literary Achievement in 280 Characters

    The award goes to: Bret Stephens! (with 4 out of 6 votes)
    […] Bret Stephens’ meltdown over a tweet calling him a “bedbug”
    […] I need to know Bret Stephens’ skincare routine; how does he keep his hide so exquisitely thin?

    […] Bret Stephens’ meltdown over a tweet calling him a “bedbug”
    Stephens gets this based solely on the position he occupies. It takes no great skill to publish something demented in the Washington Times or on twitter. But Stephens is a New York Times columnist. He published an utterly bone-headed and narcissistic piece in The New York Times, a column that was (it’s been reported) line edited by James Bennet, the head of the editorial page. That’s a real feat.

    […] The Washington Times’ “exclusive” article on AOC’s haircut
    Okay, this is incredibly catty, and may count as “girl on girl crime.” But after that bizarrely bitchy article on AOC’s totally normal-cost-for-a-good-haircut-in-a-major-metropolitan-area haircut, I clicked through to see who the author of the article was. And to be frank, she has the hair of a woman who did not know how much a good haircut costs. If you catch my drift. The moral of the story is: “don’t start none, won’t be none.”

    Members’ choice: Bret Stephens’ meltdown over a tweet calling him a “bedbug”
    This nominee won with a 49.5% plurality of members’ votes.

    Most Off-The-Walls Conspiracy Theory

    The award goes to: Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for their Elizabeth Warren conspiracy theory! (with 4 out of 6 votes)
    […] Elizabeth Warren: Secret Cougar
    Honestly, all the other conspiracies are so depressing […] Wohl and Burkman are a bumbling duo of neofascists, but their theory on Warren honestly made me like her more. Get it Liz!!!

    […] The Ukraine-Crowdstrike theory
    I didn’t know what this was until I saw it in the Trump-Zelensky phone call readout, and it’s really fake-moon-landing level or beyond. […] He believes that there is a secret server in Ukraine hiding out in a motel, smoking a cigarette, with fake passports and some international currency all packed up in a getaway bag should the cops turn up.

    […] Elizabeth Warren: Secret Cougar
    There are a lot of conspiracy grifters out there but Wohl and Burkman are in a class of their own in the sheer outlandish incompetence of their schemes as well as their resilience. Everything falls apart for them but they just dust themselves off and start anew. In that sense, they are the Wile E. Coyote of right-wing conspiracy grift. In this case, part of the stupidity at play was not realizing that spreading the story that Warren is an insatiable sex machine was not something that would hurt her.

    […] Elizabeth Warren: Secret Cougar
    So many cool kids these days are saying Pete Buttigieg isn’t gay enough. Gay enough? Get real! The problem with most Democratic Presidential wannabes is that they aren’t STRAIGHT enough! The only candidate pulling her weight in libidinous gold is our lusty heroine, Liz Warren, accused of tricking with a bustin’-hot young Marine, […]. Yes, a thousand times yes. I want a cougar in the White House, who can rip the old boys’ network to shreds and then lick it off her fingertips like cream. Release the boy toys! Praise the Lord and pass the lubrication!

    Link

  42. says

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to Ukraine—but we don’t know why he’s really going.

    While Donald Trump nullifies the nation’s foreign policy in efforts to wring a bit of gain for himself, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani continues a partnership with Ukrainian ex-officials and indicted criminals seemingly intended to destabilize the existing Ukraine government […], Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be traveling to Ukraine later this week to … well, we really don’t know.

    […] The official reason for Pompeo’s brief visit, which will include a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is to “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” But Pompeo will also be meeting with other officials to, The Washington Post reports, “discuss the [Ukrainian] government’s reform agenda.”

    That last part, an alleged concern that the Ukrainian government show its commitment to anticorruption “reforms,” is the exact phrasing the Trump White House used throughout its effort to extort the Ukrainian government into opening “investigations” of Democrats, and notably of Joe Biden. And there’s the catch: This White House is notoriously dishonest, Trump himself has proven absolutely unable to stop committing unethical acts even when caught outright, and Mike Pompeo personally remains implicated in the original extortion effort against Ukraine. One that, for all we know, may yet be ongoing: One of Pompeo’s actions earlier this month was to order Ambassador William Taylor, who testified in the congressional impeachment inquiry, to leave Ukraine before Pompeo’s arrival.

    […] Official U.S. policy is to stand by Ukraine, a NATO ally, as Putin’s Russia continues its military assaults on that nation. Unofficially, however, multiple Trump Cabinet members have each assisted in a White House scheme to stall Ukraine aid, weaken congressional sanctions against Russia, and withhold most public messages of U.S. support for Ukraine until and unless that government was willing to do personal favors for the Oval Office tweeter. Pompeo is among them.

    Which policy is Pompeo traveling to Ukraine to push forward? The State Department policy, or Rudy Giuliani’s version? None of us, in the press or in the public, truly knows. Pompeo is so compromised, by testimony against him and by his own refusal to testify to Congress, that he cannot be trusted as a noncorrupt player. He ought to have stepped down the moment he refused to answer Congress’ demands for his own testimony.

    Link

  43. lumipuna says

    Thunberg said that talking to Trump at a United Nations summit on global warming would be a waste of time, since he wouldn’t pay attention in the first place.

    “Honestly, I don’t think I would have said anything because obviously he’s not listening to scientists and experts, so why would he listen to me?” Thunberg said. “So I probably wouldn’t have said anything, I wouldn’t have wasted my time.”

    It’d be a bit different with Thunberg, since Trump has picked her up as an enemy, but it’s clear that Trump cannot be persuaded on climate policy – not even by the kind of wealthy white men he sort-of respects. At least, not as long as he’s generally surrounded by anti-environmentalist lobbyists who keep turning his head.

    I mentioned previously how Finnish president Sauli Niinistö has been seeking opportunities to persuade Trump on the climate issue. In an October interview, just after the latest White House visit, he claimed there’s been “visible progress” on that front. When I saw that claim in a newspaper, I took a pause and simply said “bullshit” to myself. At best, Trump made some conman show of taking his guest seriously.

    Mind you, this would’ve been credible if I only knew of Trump what Finnish mainstream media writes. They treat him with silk gloves compared to US leftist journalists. Niinistö himself has been very diplomatic with both Trump and Putin, but I don’t think he’s naive. More likely he’s trying to take credit for trying something that’s patently impossible.

  44. Kagehi says

    @45

    IS BIDEN TRYING TO LOSE?!?!?!?

    I wish he was. Sadly, this is more likely to get him posted by the DNC as the “best candidate”, since they literally can’t seem to freaking comprehend what “liberal” actually means – seeming to think that it means, “Slightly less noxious conservative.”

  45. says

    Rudy Giuliani’s associate and co-conspirator in the Ukraine crime spree, Lev Parnas, asked a federal judge for permission to share data extracted from his iPhone and documents seized from his home with congressional impeachment investigators.

    […] Parnas has long sought to share evidence in his case with Congress. He and others have been charged with a conspiracy to funnel foreign money into American campaigns, but Parnas’ connection to Giuliani might mean that the information investigators recovered from him is relevant to the case against [Trump]

    […] “Review of these materials is essential to the Committee’s ability to corroborate the strength of Mr. Parnas’ potential testimony,” Bondy wrote.

    Parnas helped Giuliani dig for dirt on Democrats in Ukraine, and with Giuliani’s effort to smear the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whose ouster played a large role in the impeachment hearings.

    In court earlier this month, prosecutors said they did not expect to object to Parnas’ request to share the evidence with House impeachment investigators. Judge Paul Oetken also said he would likely grant such a request. […]

    TPM link

    We should keep an eye on this. I’m sure Democrats in Congress would be pleased to have more documentation for articles of impeachment against Trump.

    Parnas recently fired one of his lawyers. He ran out of funds to pay the lawyer. Lev might be getting desperate.

    We should also watch to see how Attorney General William Barr (Trunk’s lickspittle in the Department of Justice) works to make this threat go away.

  46. says

    Another court ruling heightens the potential for more Ukraine bombshells to drop:

    […] A Monday afternoon [yesterday] ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed in October by White House deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman served as a reminder that Trump’s house-of-cards claim to “absolute immunity” is likely to crumble in spectacular fashion in the new year.

    Kupperman, the top aide to former national security adviser John Bolton, had asked the court to decide whether he should comply with a congressional subpoena for testimony or honor Trump’s assertion of absolute immunity. But U.S. District Judge Richard Leon declared the matter moot Monday after the House withdrew its subpoena in order avoid a lengthy court battle and the White House likewise argued for the case’s dismissal. Kupperman had urged Judge Leon to make a determination anyway, and the dismissal of the lawsuit means that the definitive ruling on the dispute between House Democrats and the White House is now the sweeping setback U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson delivered to Trump in November in the case of former White House counsel Don McGahn.

    Judge Jackson spent 118 pages spelling out the notion that “presidents are not kings” and “no one is above the law” in granular judicial detail. Jackson’s ruling is currently on hold as the Justice Department appeals it, but the implosion of Kupperman’s case attaches Bolton’s fate to a decision that roundly rejected Trump’s effort to summarily block any and all executive branch cooperation with Congress.

    Former Justice Department official Neal Katyal told MSNBC Monday that he had “always” believed that getting the testimony of former Trump aides such as Bolton and McGahn was an “exceptionally high probability.” And hearing from Trump’s top aides became ever more pertinent with new reporting from The New York Times that firmly ties both White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and top budget officials to repeated efforts to block congressionally approved security assistance from being released to Ukraine.

    […] Democrats could very likely get a boost in their quest for a fair trial [in the Senate] by court rulings that shred Trump’s pervasive blockade of executive branch cooperation. But even if Senate Republicans succeed in blocking a meaningful trial from proceeding, they will still face the distinct possibility of major revelations continuing to surface in 2020 that ultimately haunt their reelection bids.

    Link

    Nancy Pelosi was right to delay the transfer of articles of impeachment from the House to the Senate. Now there is more time for information that damns Trump and his lickspittles to emerge.

    Bolton was probably just looking for an excuse to say that he was forced to testify. Now he has that excuse.

  47. says

    Followup to comment 14.

    The U.S. embassy in Baghdad was besieged by hundreds of protesters following airstrikes that Trump ordered against targets in Iraq and Syria.

    On Sunday, the United States conducted a series of airstrikes against sites in Iraq and Syria supposedly under control of a Shiite militia group supported by the government of Iran. But on Tuesday morning, protesters enraged by those airstrikes surrounded the U.S. embassy and set fire to a sentry box. In a scene that might have been lifted from 1979, dozens of protesters broke into the embassy compound itself, throwing bottles at embassy guards, while hundreds more surrounded the compound chanting “Down, down USA.”

    As ABC News reports, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq was not in the building as the protesters encircled the area. Officials are preparing to evacuate the remaining staff.

    The U.S. airstrikes came after a series of rockets were launched at an Iraqi base where several U.S. soldiers and contractors were present. One contractor was killed, and four soldiers were wounded. Donald Trump placed blame for the contractor’s death on Iran and said that the missiles fired by F-15 fighter jets represented a “strong response” to that action. A spokesperson from the Kataib Hezbollah militia indicated that the strikes killed 25 and wounded 20 others.

    On Tuesday, Trump responded to the protests by again blaming Iran, which, he says, “is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.” Trump also issued a warning to the government of Iraq that he expected that nation to “use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

    Half an hour before the airstrikes on Sunday, the U.S. contacted the Iraqi prime minister to make him aware of the impending action. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi responded by strongly objecting and insisting that the U.S. call off the strikes. Abdul-Mahdi called the U.S. action a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and worried that it could spark a conflict with Iran. However, the U.S. strike went ahead over his objections. It is unclear how willing Iraq is to risk its forces in a confrontation over an attack it did not endorse. It’s equally unclear how Trump will react should Iraq fail to protect the U.S. embassy. […]

    Link

    The government in Iraq is weak. It does not really have the capability to protect the U.S. embassy.

  48. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lyanna @ 52

    Not that I wish ill upon the staff at the Baghdad embassy, but after years of listening to RWNJs shriek and gibber about BENGAZI!!!, having something to throw back at them would be soooooo delicious.

  49. says

    Trump is responsible for weakening Ukraine. No matter how much Republicans insist that Trump’s actions, (and his inaction) did not harm Ukraine, real damage has been done.

    […] Trump’s decision to delay forwarding military assistance to Ukraine by 84 days [put Ukrainian lives at risk].

    […] it signaled to Vladimir Putin that he had a green light to carry on with his plans to dismantle Europe, rebuild the Soviet Union, and destroy that pesky idea of liberal democracy.

    As NBC News reports, Ukraine’s five-year effort to hold back invading Russian forces has cost the lives of 13,000 people and left nearly 430,000 children displaced, orphaned, or otherwise traumatized. Meanwhile, the ever-shifting border has left 2 million people ringed-in by land mines and military forces. Against that backdrop, any sign that support from the United States is weakening is seen not as a temporary delay, but as an existential threat.

    […] The major factor that’s keeping Russian tanks from rolling into Kyiv is not Ukrainian forces on the ground in the Donbass; it’s the impression that behind those Ukrainian forces is an American commitment to expanding democracy. And it’s that basic assumption that Trump not only delayed—he destroyed it. […]

    From the moment Trump dispatched Rudy Giuliani to begin Operation Suborn Perjury, he didn’t just put Ukraine at risk—he also inflicted permanent damage on Ukraine, on the United States, and on the greater effort to defend democracy against authoritarian rule.

    Link

  50. KG says

    Did you not notice the way that Blairite Labour — the equivalent of our “New Democrats”/DLC/Clintonite Democrats — deliberately undermined Corbyn for months leading up to the latest election in the UK? – The Vicar@39

    True. But then, Corbyn had been deliberately undermining Corbyn for several years before that.

  51. says

    Update on the fires in Australia:

    […] a big part of the way the climate crisis is affecting Australia is also the most straightforward: It’s simply getting hotter. On Monday, every single state in Australia topped 40° C (104° F). Accompanied by stiff, bone-dry winds, the high temperatures are directing fires from inland and sending them roaring toward the coasts to engulf the areas where most Australians live.

    So far in this fire season, 10 people have died directly from the flames, with an unknown number affected by the massive drop in air quality. Any efforts to quell or contain the fires have been hampered by the way the firestorm has literally become a storm, creating its own local weather in which dry lightning has sparked at least 70 new fires within just the last 24 hours. Even with firefighting crews bolstered by tens of thousands of volunteers, conditions are such that many fires simply cannot be contained. […]

    Link

    Some videos, and a fire map, are available at the link.

  52. says

    New Hampshire has been spared one indignity: Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, announced that he will not run for Senate next year.

    “After much consideration I have decided to forgo a campaign for the US Senate. While taking on a career politician from the Washington swamp is a tall order, I am certain I would have won. My priorities remain my family and ensuring that @realDonaldTrump is re-elected POTUS,” Lewandowski wrote in a tweet.

    Yeah, yeah. Bullshit. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, would have won.

    Shaheen has won five statewide races, serving three terms as governor, winning election to the Senate in 2008 and defeating former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)[…]

    Link

  53. says

    Followup to comments 14, 52 and 53.

    The U.S. is sending more troops to Iraq.

    The U.S. military is sending additional forces to the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after demonstrators breached the gates and set fire to the property Tuesday.

    “We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement Tuesday.

    Multiple reports say about 100 Marines who are already in the region will be sent to the compound. Additionally, two U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters flew over the embassy in a show of force, according to reports. […]

    Thousands of demonstrators and supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday in response to U.S. airstrikes on that militia over the weekend.

    Demonstrators, some of whom were militia commanders or in militia uniform, chanted “Death to America” and set fire to the compound’s reception area, leading to the use of tear gas and gunfire, according to reports from the ground. […]

    Link

  54. says

    Stacey Abrams’s Org Loses One ‘Fair Fight’ Against Voter Purge

    On Friday, a federal judge declined to reinstate nearly 100,000 voters to Georgia’s voting rolls after yet another voting roll purge by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

    […] The challenge, led by Stacey Abrams’s voting rights organization, Fair Fight Action, had sought to ensure that people would not be unfairly denied their right to vote.

    WTF, Georgia?!

    If you’re feeling a sense of deja-vu right now, that’s because we’ve been here before. Georgia is at the very forefront of the voter suppression movement in America, and it has been for a while.

    It’s very likely that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp would not have his position if he hadn’t done his damnedest to ensure that black voters and other people of color in Georgia could not exercise their right to vote. As secretary of State, Kemp engaged in all manner of ratfucking, from removing voters from the rolls to inviting hackers to mess with the state’s information.

    In 2018, Kemp defeated Assembly minority leader and general badass Stacey Abrams. But Abrams has redoubled her efforts to fight for the disenfranchised people in Georgia. Abrams’s org, Fair Fight Action, was joined by several churches in challenging the most recent voter purge. […]

    Although the federal court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims, it also all but invited them to re-file the case in state court. Due to issues of federalism, federal courts have to abstain from meddling in state affairs unless there’s a constitutional issue or conflict with existing federal law. But those same principles allow state courts to do exactly what the federal courts can’t.

    Winning a voting rights challenge in state court in Georgia is no easy feat. Most of the state’s elected judges are Republicans who favor screwing over democracy in order to win elections.

    But all hope is not lost. And with Stacey Abrams at the helm, there’s always hope. There is no one I would rather have leading the charge against racist ratfucking.

    Godspeed, Stacey.

    Wonkette link

  55. KG says

    OK, I’m finally going to speculate about what Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will do now he has won the UK general election, as I said I would on the previous thread. I should note that I’ve been wrong about the course of action he will choose more than once in the past few months. But one general principle can be stated with great confidence: Johnson will do whatever he thinks is in the best interests of Johnson – among abundant evidence for this, we have the considered opinion of right-wing journalist and writer Max Hastings, Johnson’s one-time boss, that he is unable to care about anyone other than himself, and does not distinguish truth from lies in either his public or private life.

    Johnson has little in the way of ideology, beyond casual racist, misogynist and classist prejudices, and of course has access to many sources of information others do not. However, a few actions already taken (and others not taken) give an idea what his approach is likely to be over the next year or so.
    1) On Brexit, he has altered the motion he was attempting to push through before the election by
    a) removing protection for workers (the motion would previously have carried over EU protections into UK law),
    b) reducing Parliament’s role in negotiations for a post-Brexit relationship with the EU, and
    c) adding a clause ruling out any extension to the transitional period, due to end at the end of 2020.
    The altered motion has been approved in principle by the Commons. The changes made confirm that he intends to go ahead with an ultra-hard Brexit, possibly making no deal at all on the post-Brexit relationship. This could be a feint to keep the ERG headbangers in line, but I don’t believe so – switching to a softer Brexit would be a bigger political risk than sticking with those who put him into the premiership.
    2) He has dropped a previously announced internal party inquiry into Islamophobia. Clearly, he has no intention of challenging a pjeudice he shares with the majority of the party membership. British Muslims (and anyone who “could conceivably be Muslim” – in the words of Sam Harris) have far more reason for concern than British Jews would have had if Corbyn had been elected.
    3) He has gone ahead with a planned increase to the minimum wage. This indicates that at least initially, he intends to go ahead with the abandonment of the rhetoric of “austerity”, and make gestures toward those on lower incomes, and toward protecting public services such as the NHS. However, he has not significantly changed the balance of his cabinet, which remains dominated by the hard “libertarian” right; so we can expect these gestures to be abandoned as soon as there is significant economic trouble, or as soon as he feels he can do so without political damage.
    4) The Queen’s speech was heavy on “security” and “tough on crime” themes. We can expect increases in the prison population, and new “anti-terrorist” legislation that can and will be used in practice to harrass Muslim, limit the right to demonstrate, and step up surveillance, particularly online.
    5) He will try to keep his distance from Trump in the run-up to the US presidential election. If Trump is re-elected, however, Johnson will cosy up to him.

    More later, particularly on Scotland and Ireland.

  56. says

    From Greg Sargent, writing for the Washington Post:

    One of the thorniest challenges of this moment is the difficulty of finding language adequate to capturing […] Trump’s actual, openly stated positions. They are often so profoundly ridiculous or nakedly corrupt, or so audaciously saturated with bad faith, that we struggle to find ways to clearly convey what he’s genuinely telling us.

    Case in point: Trump is now openly calling for his impeachment trial to be converted into something that is purely devoted to serving his own political needs — one that only includes witnesses that will help him keep smearing potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden, but has no meaningful relevance whatsoever to the corrupt conduct for which he has been impeached.

    Incredibly, this comes as Senate Republicans push for a trial that features none of the witnesses who actually do have direct knowledge of that very same corrupt conduct.

    Trump just made all this very explicit:

    The Democrats will do anything to avoid a trial in the Senate in order to protect Sleepy Joe Biden, and expose the millions and millions of dollars that “Where’s” Hunter, & possibly Joe, were paid by companies and countries for doing NOTHING. Joe wants no part of this mess!

    […] Trump’s disinformation campaign
    Let’s reiterate that Trump’s deeper claim — about the Bidens’ alleged corruption in Ukraine — has been widely debunked. This narrative holds that as vice president, Biden pushed for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Hunter — who got a lucrative contract to join Ukrainian company Burisma’s board — and withheld loan guarantees as leverage.

    Here are the facts: The campaign to oust that prosecutor constituted an effort to root out corruption in Ukraine — that prosecutor was turning a blind eye to it. The push was U.S. policy widely backed by international institutions, which were also behind using loan guarantees as leverage. There was an investigation into Burisma, but Hunter Biden’s role was irrelevant to that, and it was dormant by the time of Joe Biden’s effort.

    It’s fair to say Hunter Biden shouldn’t have joined Burisma. Obama administration officials worried it created the appearance that he was milking proximity to his father and selling influence over Ukraine policy. Joe Biden probably shouldn’t have allowed this — though it’s unclear what control he had over Hunter Biden — and it has created an aura of vague sleaze that Trump is exploiting.

    But what’s not in dispute is what Joe Biden himself did in Ukraine, which is at the core of Trump’s false narrative.

    Indeed, there’s a deep irony here: Biden actually did work for years to root out kleptocracy and corruption in Ukraine, explicitly describing this as essential to drawing it into the Western orbit, and away from Russian predation, serving our national interests.

    By contrast, Trump actually does not care a whit about corruption in Ukraine. He used it as his cover story for extorting the Ukrainian president to help him advance his own kleptocratic and corrupt designs, subverting our national interests to his own.

    Perversely, Trump has been weaponizing his fake concern about Ukrainian corruption to pressure Ukraine into helping him magically transform Biden’s actual efforts against Ukrainian corruption into the only “real” corruption in this whole saga. It’s pure disinformation warfare. […]

    And it is disinformation warfare backed by Russia.

  57. KG says

    An item I should have included at #60. Johnson intends to go ahead with introducing a requirement for photo ID in order to vote. As in the USA, this is a transparent attempt to make it harder for certain groups of people to vote. As in the USA, there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in the UK. We can certainly expect more of the same (e.g., i wolud expect it to be made harder to register if you move frequently), and to prevent students being able to register both at their parental home and their university residence. We can expect Trumplike efforts to pack the judiciary, and remove checks on the power of the executive. On the judiciary, there were rumours he would move to allow political appointment of judges as in the USA, but more likely, he will pack the Judicial Appointments Commission. Moves to limit judicial review of legislation are expected.

  58. tomh says

    WaPo:
    The GOP is campaigning against voting — and it’s winning in some states
    By Editorial Board
    Dec. 30, 2019

    Georgia struck almost 100,000 voters from its rolls. In Wisconsin, a state with only 3.3 million registered voters, perhaps 200,000 are set to be purged. Some of them might have moved out of their respective states or died. But many will unjustifiably fall victim to Republicans’ relentless drive to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters on the pretext of preventing voter fraud.

    A recent Georgia state law calls for people who have not voted or contacted election officials for several years to be removed from the rolls. About 100,000 people are subject to the loss of their registration status after three years of inactivity, before state lawmakers lengthened the period to five years. Voting advocates argue that those 100,000 should get the benefit of the lengthened five-year period. State officials disagree and want to continue with their purge. A federal judge ruled Friday that the state may proceed.

    The legal wrangling should not disguise the bigger point: Georgia’s underlying law is wrong. The United States does not require people to vote. Americans may exercise their franchise or decline to do so. How often they do one or the other should not affect their access to the ballot box. States can keep their voter rolls clean without disenfranchising people who choose to vote occasionally or who missed a postcard informing them that their registrations were to be purged.

    The disenfranchisement in Wisconsin is even worse. A Wisconsin judge ruled this month that 200,000 voters must be struck because they failed to respond within 30 days to notices sent from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which asked whether the voters had moved. These letters did not mention that voters who failed to respond would be purged, because the commission had not planned to remove them from the rolls, at least not anytime soon. After the commission sent its letters, a conservative activist group concocted a reading of state law that would require the commission to move to immediate purges, and a state judge ordered quick removal. Though the legal reasoning is a stretch, the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court seems likely to agree.

    The records on which the commission relied to target these 200,000 people were imperfect. Despite the tight turnaround period, 2,300 said they still live at the same address — in a state in which a margin of 23,000 swung its electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016. Thousands more no doubt failed to respond because the commission’s notice got lost in the shuffle of their daily lives. At least Wisconsin allows Election Day registration — a hassle, but better than Georgia, which offers no such option.

    It should not be up to Americans, on penalty of disenfranchisement, to help state governments with their record-keeping. Officials should strive to make voting easier, not harder. States should build automatic voter-registration systems that update voter rolls whenever people interact with motor vehicle departments or other state agencies, and they should impose no arbitrary time limits on those registrations.

    If there were any sign of massive in-person voter fraud, the case might look different. But there is no evidence of such a threat — only of a disturbing push to purge voters who disagree with those in power.

  59. says

    @#49, Kagehi

    Sadly, this is more likely to get him posted by the DNC as the “best candidate”, since they literally can’t seem to freaking comprehend what “liberal” actually means – seeming to think that it means, “Slightly less noxious conservative.”

    As for the last 3 decades, you can either assume that the DNC is filled with people so incredibly stupid that for our own protection we should be demanding they step down, or that they know perfectly well what they are doing and are betraying us because — rhetoric aside — they love right-wing policy and would be Republicans if it wasn’t such a sweet deal to be hobbling any resistance to right-wing policy by suborning the other major party. Either way, we need to be rid of these people and fast.

    Every major betrayal of the centrists now in charge of the party — the embrace of Reagan’s union-killing NAFTA, “the end of welfare as we know it” (what could be better than destroying the social safety net at the same time that you encourage good jobs to move out of the country with NAFTA?), the repeal of Glass-Steagall under the guidance of Libertarian Alan Greenspan (which led directly to the 2008 meltdown), the embrace of GWB’s Iraq invasion, the mass embrace of the creation and subsequent expansion of ICE, the PATRIOT Act (which was based on an omnibus anti-terrorism bill authored and defeated in the 1990s by Joe Biden) — has been accompanied by non-centrists telling us, up front, that these were bad ideas which would lead to disaster. In most cases, the opposition was even able to correctly identify in advance what the disaster would be and how it would manifest.

    In short: objecting to centrists is not a “purity test”, as their defenders would have it, it’s an “intelligence test”. Anybody dumb enough to champion the policies which centrists have continuously gone for — and will presumably continue to go for — is somebody who should not under any circumstances be permitted to manage a Denny’s, let alone run the country. Whether the idiots who voted for the invasion of Iraq were “pure” is irrelevant; what’s important is that they were incredibly stupid, to the point of being dangerous. This applies to Joe Biden just as it did to Hillary Clinton. In order to deal with the problems we’re facing, we need leadership which has not already demonstrated overwhelmingly that it is dumb as a box of rocks — and the centrists don’t qualify. They haven’t qualified for decades. It’s time to dump them, completely and mercilessly, and look for somebody who isn’t an abject fool.

  60. says

    KG @62, sometimes it amazes me how similar the rightwing playbooks are. If they keep running the same plays will more people catch on and then resist?

  61. Kagehi says

    @64 Beginning to think we need a whole new freaking party to get anything done. Personally I would start with these principles:

    Personal liberty is key, so long as that liberty does not infringe on someone else’s.
    Opinion isn’t relevant, only facts, and this applies to whether or not someone is actually “infringing” on someone else’s liberties from #1. Merely believing there is a problem, or that you have a some sort of solution, is not sufficient to deny someone rights, choices, or impose laws on someone.
    Some trade offs may be necessary, but they should be based on the least harm, not the perceived “threat” from the powerful, if you don’t force everyone to abide by their rules. Doing so is what gives them that power, it is not something they simply “have”.
    Organizations, in general, are not “people”.
    The rules of any such organization should apply only to the organization, and those currently within its wall.
    Such rules cannot, without infringing on personal liberties, be made to apply outside such organizations, to other people.
    As much as it pains me to say, “some” organization may be allowed to have its “members” agree to have their behaviors defined by those rules, on their own choice, outside of the walls of such an organization, but this should not apply to places of business – what you do when not working “for” a company is not their business.
    In the case of actual businesses, history shows that they lack the ability to self regulate, without infringing on the rights and well being of either their employees or the general public. As such, regulation must exist to curtail their excesses and protect the life and liberty of the public. As such, the government cannot govern unless it can specify what companies can, or can’t, do, with regard to such issues requiring regulation.

    I would also add, as contentious as it might be: 9. A government cannot govern so long as the money flowing into its hands comes from special interests, whose goal is to coach the government into service of organizations, including corporations, nor can it function on mere scraps from the table, offered up from those who can least afford to have those scraps taken from their own mouths.

    and 10. No agency can function, or regulate itself, or the things for which is was created to govern, while starving of resources and staff. Thus a priority must be to making sure that “existing” systems are repaired and function, over the invention of entirely new ones, which are invented to attempt to badly address the results of those existing agencies/programs being intentionally starved to death.

    I am sure there are others, and more “lawyerly” ways of scrambling the above ideas into something appropriately confusing, vague, and “politically speechified”, but I would say that, just from a basic stand point of what the Rethuglicans are not doing at all, and the DNC is ignoring, while just throwing a new study, or some new this, or that, at problems, and allowing everything to keep decaying in the process, it is a minimum.

    And, honestly, the first bit, where you need to freaking know what the F you are talking about first would solve a lot of damn problems. Because, even the, supposedly, super liberal, pro-women, Kamala Harris fell for a half dozen bullshit, and since debunk, bits of nonsense, when voting “in favor” of some bills, and ended up “hurting” women instead, because she thought it would somehow help end “trafficking”. And, if you side, even by accident, with the bigots and women haters, and so called “moralists”, because you “feel” you are right, then you are not an ally to the people you think you are saving. You have to do what is right, and what actually works, not what, “feels like it might be right”. And, our side, far, far, too often, falls prey to this irrational sort of “solution”, out of a desire to solve things, just as much as the right does (and often for the same BS).

    Progress isn’t progress, to be frank, if you wear a blindfold, while sailing, and fail to notice, as a result, that the current is dragging you backwards, despite how loud your engines are running. A representative that intends to make things better needs to be capable, and willing to question “if” they are being told the truth, even if what they are being told matches their own inclinations. Doing otherwise is what makes the GOP so f-ed up in the first place – the abject refusal to admit, accept, or even consider, anything that contradicts what they want to be true.

  62. KG says

    Lynna, OM@65,

    In this case, I think the British Tories are directly copying Republican tactics. Both parties are facing similar problems, in that demographics can be expected to make it increasingly hard for them to retain power by democratic means. As I noted on the previous thread, an absolute majority of those under 35 who voted, voted Labour (unfortunately, not enough of them voted at all); the Tory “victory” – which, as I also noted, depended on our undemocratic electoral system – also depended largely on those over 55.

  63. tomh says

    CNN:
    Buttigieg announces $24.7 million fundraising haul in fourth quarter
    By Fredreka Schouten
    Wed January 1, 2020

    Pete Buttigieg raised more than $24.7 million during the final three months of 2019, his campaign announced early Wednesday morning — cementing his standing as one of the fundraising leaders of the 2020 Democratic presidential race.
    […]

    In all, Buttigieg raised more than $76 million from more than 733,000 individuals in the last year, his campaign manager Mike Schmuhl said in a memo. He said the campaign has used the money to build a staff of more than 500 people nationwide and open 65 field offices in early voting states.

    Other candidates have offered clues about their fundraising in recent days.

    In a rare move, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign publicly announced late last month that it had collected more than $17 million. Candidates typically keep those numbers private, but Warren’s campaign released an early number in a bid to encourage supporters to help her hit the $20 million mark by year’s end.
    […]

  64. says

    Anyone who tells you you have a choice in insurance is lying to you.

    Wendell Potter, the former health insurance industry executive turned single-payer advocate, came clean in a Twitter thread last week about how the big lie in every healthcare debate in the last decade—choice in private insurance—came to be. He says that when he was in the industry, “we were instructed to talk about ‘choice,’ based on focus groups” […] Because what would motivate people the most against a change that threatens the profits of the entire industry—the threat that something was being taken from them. Even though almost no one actually does have free will when it comes to their private insurance or their health care.

    If you have employer-based coverage, your company chose a handful of plans for you to pick from and it only had a handful of possible offerings. Within those plans, you are limited as to which doctors, or specialists or hospitals you can choose, those who are “in network” and have negotiated rates with insurers. What’s more, you employer can change offerings every year and your “choice” will have to change with it. […] So-called “churn” in health insurance and in the system as a whole is just a given. Everything changes all the time and that makes the individual’s choices in the system limited at best.

    That’s the reality that Potter said they set out to “muddy.” He says they “spent millions on lobbying, ads and spin doctors—all designed to gaslight Americans into thinking that reforming the status quo would somehow give them ‘less choice.'” They created an industry front group that launched a campaigned called “My Care, My Choice” to push the myth to Americans that they have a choice and that reform of the system was going to take that away. After the Affordable Care Act passed, they morphed that front group to the “Choice and Competition Coalition,” to lobby states against creating their own insurance exchanges with multitudes of plans.

    Here’s what’s particularly galling in all of this—under Medicare for All, you actually would have more choice. Every doctor and every hospital would be on your plan because there would be one, all-encompassing and generous plan. If doctors want to keep working and getting paid, they have to take patients. […]

    […] There’s not a person in this country who looks forward to open enrollment season and their chance to pour through page after page of incomprehensible industry-speak and fine print. And when a candidate—Democrat or Republican—tries to tell you the status quo is better because you’ll have “choice,” you’ll know you’re being conned.

    Link

  65. says

    Spanish-language journalist who was detained by ICE for 15 months wins settlements:

    Manuel Duran, the Spanish-language journalist who was jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than a year after he was arrested by Memphis, Tennessee, police while covering a pro-immigrant protest, has won two settlements totaling nearly $20,000.

    The Washington Post reports that Shelby County, which jailed Duran before he was thrown into federal immigration custody, has paid him $10,000, while the city of Memphis has settled for another $9,000. It’s an important victory for the journalist—but nowhere close to the justice he deserves.

    […] While charges related to the protest were dropped, he continued to remain in immigration detention. Advocates said at the time that his imminent deportation wasn’t just an effort to kick him out of the country: It was an attempt to silence him, because Duran’s media outlet had published numerous pieces critical of ICE.

    The mass deportation agency has a sordid history of targeting critics. The Nation reported that the agency tracked pro-immigrant demonstrators last summer, even spying on an anti-racism rally […]

    Back in Tennessee, Manuel was freed from ICE custody in July, and the court decision granting him a stay of deportation has given him precious time he needs to pursue his asylum claim. “Lawyers argue that conditions have worsened for journalists in El Salvador and Duran could be in danger if he returns,” The Washington Post continued. But he’s feeling hopeful. “I feel like I’m reborn,” he said following his release.

    Link

  66. says

    Trump is issuing and threats … and nonsense:

    […] “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” Trump tweeted. “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”

    Trump declared that the embassy in Iraq was safe thanks to the deployment of U.S. military resources and a “rapid response” from the Iraqi government.

    He called the incident the “Anti-Benghazi” in a follow-up tweet, a reference to the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Libya in which two Americans were killed. […]

    Iraqi security forces reportedly did not intervene to stop the demonstrators from advancing until a commander arrived and issued orders.

    No U.S. personnel were reported harmed amid the demonstrations, and a State Department spokesperson denied that evacuations were taking place. […]

    Link

  67. says

    Wonkette’s 2019 Legislative Shitheel Is Moscow Mitch, Who Else Would It Be?

    How can we possibly pick just one person to be Wonkette’s 2019 Legislative Dickheel Shitcanoe Of The Entire Year? It would seem like a daunting task, and that’s why we are a professional and you are not.

    You might think it should be Jim Jordan (last year’s winner) or Devin Nunes or Doug Collins or Matt Gaetz or any of the other Republican […] on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees who showed their asses during the impeachment hearings […] But they also are all kind of interchangeable dumbshit white dudes who do and say all the same things. […]

    You might think it should be Lindsey Graham, and TBH, maybe it should be.

    But as this post is not a democracy, and we are the decider-in-chief of it, for our money it’s gotta be the guy at the very top of the Senate, the one who overall has the most power to fuck America for Donald Trump, and boy oh boy does he exercise that power.

    That’s right, Moscow Mitch McConnell, you get a prize!

    Let us briefly tick off three or four reasons why:

    ALLLLLL THE BILLS (He Refuses To Pass)

    Did you know that, in theory, the Senate is supposed to take up legislation the House passes, for the good of the American people? Instead, McConnell has bragged about how he will be the “grim reaper” for all those bills, because he will make them die. […]

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer commented to Vox in November: “From raising the minimum wage to ensuring equal pay, we have passed legislation to raise wages. And we have passed legislation to protect and expand health coverage and bring down prescription drug prices,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement to Vox. “We continue to urge Senator McConnell to take up our bills, many of which are bipartisan.”

    And some of those bills specifically deal with election security, in order to make sure we have truly free and fair elections in America, which is against the GOP platform these days, so McConnell won’t even bring them up, which brings us to …

    ALLLLLLLLL THE MOSCOW MITCH-ING!

    There is a reason Moscow Mitch got his name. […]

    February 26: Mitch McConnell SO MAD Democrats Forced GOP To Cheat In North Carolina Election

    July 26: Senate GOP: We Don’t Need No F*ckin’ Election Security! Also Senate GOP: Here’s How Russia Attacked Us In 2016

    July 30: MOSCOW MITCH MAAAAD!

    August 15: Nancy Pelosi Calls Moscow Mitch By His Name

    September 5: Today Would Be A Good Day For Moscow Mitch To Go F*ck Himself With A Russian Matryoshka Doll

    September 20: Moscow Mitch Does Absolute Least He Can Do On Election Security, DO NOT CONGRATULATE

    Links embedded in the Wonkette article back up the February to September list of egregious acts, (or failures to act), above.

    This is happening against the backdrop of a president who fluked his way into office on the back of a Russian attack on the 2016 election, who has invited Russia to interfere on his behalf again, and who literally just was impeached for hitting up another country, Ukraine, to meddle in the 2020 election on his behalf, partially in order to damage a likely election opponent, Joe Biden, and also partially to scapegoat that country (and not Russia) for the 2016 election attack. […]

    Know what Mitch McConnell has found time to do?

    ALLLLLLLLLL THESE 24-YEAR-OLD BIGOT JUDGES CONFIRMED FOR LIFE!

    Donald Trump has held up his end of the bargain with Republican voters who might otherwise mildly disapprove of his lying and adultery and potty language, by nominating every fucking unqualified idiot he can find to lifetime appointments in the federal judiciary, in order to finally achieve their dream of killing Roe v. Wade and (more of) the Voting Rights Act and just about every other terrible thing you can imagine. And Mitch McConnell’s Senate can’t seem to find a problem with any of ’em, no matter how bad they are. Here, read about one of ’em! […]

  68. says

    Supporters of an Iranian-backed militia ended their siege of thr U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

    The siege […] ended Wednesday after the militia ordered them to withdraw, bringing relief to the diplomats trapped inside and averting a potential showdown between the United States and Iran.

    Supporters of the Kataib Hezbollah militia who had spent the night camped outside the embassy dismantled their tents and marched out of the area, saying they would instead continue to press for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in the nation’s parliament.

    “Yay! We burned them!” they chanted as they headed away from the embassy, a reference to the fires set by the demonstrators that burned two embassy reception areas Tuesday.

    The retreat signaled an end to a crisis in which thousands of angry militia supporters attempted to storm the embassy Tuesday, protesting the deaths of 25 militia members in U.S. airstrikes Sunday. Those strikes were conducted in retaliation for the death of a U.S. contractor in a rocket attack the U.S. military blamed on Kataib Hezbollah. […]

    […] fresh U.S. troop reinforcements headed to the region. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force were en route to the Middle East, with additional soldiers expected to follow in the coming days. […]

    Washington Post link

    Still a volatile situation.

  69. says

    The 2010s were a lost decade for climate. We can’t afford a repeat, scientists warn.

    At the start of the last decade, Kallan Benson was 5 years old, her favorite story was “The Secret Garden,” and Earth was in the midst of its warmest year on record. Benson had heard about climate change (her mother is an environmental scientist), but she didn’t know world leaders had just signed an agreement calling it “one of the greatest challenges of our time.” She cared about Earth, but she trusted adults to protect it.

    She doesn’t feel that way anymore.

    By the final year of the decade, the planet had surpassed its 2010 temperature record five times. Hurricanes devastated New Jersey and Puerto Rico, and floods damaged the Midwest and Bangladesh. Southern Africa was gripped by a deadly drought. Australia and the Amazon are ablaze.

    See comment 70 also, for additional information about fires.

    Global emissions are expected to hit an all-time high this year, and humanity is on track to cross the threshold for tolerable warming within a generation.

    The 2010s were a “decade of disappointment,” said Benson, now 15 and a national coordinator for the youth climate organization Fridays for Future. If the world is to stave off further disasters, the next decade must be one of unprecedented climate action, she said.

    “This decade that we’re going into now will be the most important of our lives,” Benson said. “We’re kind of running out of options. And we’re running out of time.” […]

    Washington Post link

  70. says

    Excerpts from an article by Sheelah Kolhatkar, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] Abigail Disney is the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who founded the Disney company with his younger brother, Walt, in 1923 […] Abigail’s parents owned a Boeing 737, one of the largest private-aircraft models on the market, and they let her use it for family trips. […] One day, when her children were older, she took an overnight flight from California to New York, where she lives. She was travelling alone, but there was a full staff on duty to cater to her needs. As she got into the queen-size bed and secured the safety belt that stretched across the mattress, preparing to sleep for the next few hours, an unpleasant feeling came over her. “I couldn’t help thinking about the carbon footprint of it, and all the fuel,” she said. “It just felt so wrong.”

    It wasn’t the first time that Abigail, who inherited part of her grandfather’s fortune, had experienced discomfort about her wealth […] She eventually stopped flying on the private plane, although it took a year or two. (“These things are hard to give up,” she told me.) […]

    In 2011, she joined an organization called the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans who are concerned about rising income inequality and who speak out in favor of policies traditionally considered to be antithetical to their economic interests. She […] promoted higher taxes on the wealthy. She told me that she realized that the luxuries she and her family enjoyed were really a way of walling themselves off from the world, which made it easier to ignore certain economic realities. […]

    In March, 2018, she received a Facebook message from a custodian at Disneyland who was asking for help. He said that many workers there were barely able to survive on what they were paid, and that their union was fighting for a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage, without success. […] That year, the Walt Disney Company had reported almost thirteen billion dollars in profit; the night janitor was estimated to have been earning thirteen or fourteen dollars an hour. […]

    Abigail had told the union representatives that she didn’t want her visit to attract publicity, so some of the workers were summoned to the office without being told whom they were meeting. They sat in a circle and talked about their economic struggles. A full-time hair stylist named Rebekah Pedersen told Abigail that she, too, had often slept in her car. Abigail recalled that a thirty-year veteran of the park said that she had also recently been homeless for a time, and that some of the workers said that they were on food stamps. […]

    Abigail spent the next few weeks working on an e-mail to Bob Iger, the company’s C.E.O. The Walt Disney Company is one of the largest and most profitable media businesses in the world, and in 2018 Iger, […] received almost sixty-six million dollars in total compensation. That was more than fourteen hundred times the median pay of a company employee. […] Abigail found the pay ratio disturbing. “It is something that the whole country is engaged in—shaving every benefit off workers’ lives, making sure they are living as close to the bone as is humanly possible,” she said.

    In the U.S., executive compensation has increased, on average, by nine hundred and forty per cent since 1978, according to one estimate; during the same period, worker pay has risen twelve per cent. Income inequality hasn’t been this extreme since the nineteen-twenties. A recent study by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found that, as a result of cuts to estate and corporate taxes, as well as the 2017 G.O.P. tax bill, the four hundred richest Americans pay a lower over-all tax rate than any other group in the country. In a Times Op-Ed, Saez and Zucman wrote, “This is the tax system of a plutocracy.”

    […] Disney is one of the highest-profile figures in the Patriotic Millionaires, which now has more than two hundred members in thirty-four states […] the group’s mission was initially a simple idea endorsed by a half-dozen rich people: “Please raise our taxes.”

    The members now have the broader goal of pressuring their wealthy peers to confront what they believe are the destructive effects of trickle-down economics—the idea, which has driven U.S. policy decisions for several decades and has largely been debunked, that reducing taxes on businesses and the wealthy will benefit low- and middle-income workers. Members of the Patriotic Millionaires lobby lawmakers and affluent individuals to instead support policies that would, for instance, increase the minimum wage and raise taxes on corporations and the rich. […]

    People who support tax cuts for high earners and reductions to social programs are “very deliberately attempting to create a permanent underclass,” she [Erica Payne, founder of Patriotic Millionaires] said. “You want people to suffer and die earlier, because your greed is more important to you than another human being.” […]

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  71. says

    Explosive New Emails Add To Pile Of Evidence That Trump Personally Ordered Ukraine Aid Freeze

    Newly leaked emails from the Pentagon add to the pile of evidence showing that […] Trump himself ordered a freeze on U.S. money destined to Ukraine, which officials have testified was part of an effort to pressure Ukraine to do Trump’s political bidding.

    The emails, which were leaked to Just Security, show communications between the Pentagon and the White House Office Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

    For example, after a key meeting between the Defense Secretary and Trump on Aug. 30, two days after the aid freeze had become public, OMB political staffer Mike Duffey emailed the Pentagon.

    “Clear direction from POTUS to hold,” he said.

    The brief, explosive sentence was one of several emails detailing the President’s orders.

    The White House blocked the documents from the House of Representatives’ impeachment probe. […]

    Trump ordered the money frozen just hours after his infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he pushed Zelensky to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Trump’s Democratic rivals.

    The next day, a read-out of a meeting between Ukraine-focused officials at the Pentagon made Trump’s orders clear — the freeze had come at “the President’s direction via the Chief of Staff in early July.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper read the read-out and “has no further questions,” Esper’s assistant emailed. […]

    By Aug. 26, McCusker complained in an email that the budget office’s general counsel Mark Paoletta “appears to continue to consistently misunderstand the process and the timelines we have provided for funds execution.”

    In an email the next day to Esper’s chief of staff, McCusker said “OMB lawyers continue to consistently mischaracterize the process — and the information we have provided. They keep repeating that this pause will not impact DOD’s ability to execute on time.”

    In other words — the Pentagon was running out of time to spend the money before the end of the fiscal year. But when Politico finally revealed the aid freeze publicly in a Aug. 28 article, the White House budget office emailed talking points to staffers, including the line, “No action has been taken by OMB that would preclude the obligation of these funds before the end of the fiscal year.”

    McCusker replied that it was “just not accurate from a financial execution standpoint, something we have been consistently conveying for a few weeks.” […]

    “Do you believe DOD is adequately protected from what may happen as a result of the Ukraine obligation pause?” she asked, adding that she was “concerned we have not officially documented the fact that we can not promise full execution at this point in the [fiscal year].” […]

    McCusker, who’d dealt with weeks of the White House’s orders not to release any Ukraine money, appeared dumbfounded.

    “You can’t be serious,” she replied. “I am speechless.” […]

  72. says

    Followup to comment 81.

    From the readers comments:

    This is a big deal. Paoletta is OMB’s general counsel. He lied to facilitate the cover-up on the eve of an impeachment vote. He should be on the witness list for the Senate trial as well. Who directed him to lie? Barr?
    —————–
    “Who directed him to lie? Barr?”
    since he’s OMB, it would be Mulvaney (or Duffey, on Mulvaney’s instructions)
    ———————
    Gonna be fun to see how Judge Kollar-Kotelly is going to view DOJ’s compliance with her order requiring these documents to be produced under FOIA. The redactions are obviously bad-faith attempts to cover up Trump and Mulvaney’s responsibility.
    ————————
    “When he responded on Sept. 9, Duffey tried to blame the Pentagon.”
    Isn’t it cute that Duffey of the Wisconsin GOP could think that he could out maneuver the DoD?
    ————————
    Given the DOJ’s choice of redactions, they certainly attempted to paint DoD as the bad actor.

    I understand why JustSecurity did not post the unredacted emails as they were leaked, but that investigation is going to come.

  73. says

    Followup to comments 81 and 82.

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] It’s not just what the President did. It’s that he did it in full view of basically all his key foreign policy advisors and no one stopped him or did anything about it. This is not only true of people who were deeply complicit, like Mike Pompeo. It is also true of apparent “good guys” like acting Ambassador Bill Taylor or NSC Eurasia Director Fiona Hill, though both made their views clear or made real efforts to stop what was happening.

    […] A number of players clearly weren’t happy about what was happening (Bolton, maybe Pompeo). Others knew it was wrong and tried to nudge the effort in a less damaging direction (Bill Taylor, maybe Kurt Volker). But at the end of the day, Trump was able to do the whole thing. No one resigned and the whole thing would have remained secret if not for the now-pilloried whistleblower. […]

    The evidence that he [Trump] did it is clear, overwhelming, incontrovertible. So here we see it again with this Pompeo, Esper, Bolton meeting. They knew exactly what was happening. They may not have cared that it was wrong. But they did want the aid released to Ukraine. They actually made an effort, for whatever motive. Trump said no. And that was that. We can only imagine the things that have already happened that we still don’t know about.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-sky-is-the-limit

  74. says

    Update on efforts to end rights to abortion:

    […] 207 members of Congress, including 39 Republican senators, have filed an amicus brief asking that the Supreme Court revisit and potentially end abortion rights, including Roe v. Wade. That’s not hyperbole. In specific, the lawmakers claim an “unworkability” of the “right to abortion” found in Roe v. Wade. The brief:

    […] respectfully suggest[s] that the Fifth Circuit’s struggle to define the appropriate “large fraction” or determine what “burden” on abortion access is “undue” illustrates the unworkability of the “right to abortion” found in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and the need for the Court to again take up the issue of whether Roe and Casey should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.

    That Republican lawmakers would ask the Supreme Court to undo the key decision establishing abortion as legal […] is not surprising. Republican lawmakers have defended and enabled the corruption of the Trump presidency precisely because stocking the court with justices who would do so was considered more consequential than any law breaking.

    But the brief asks that Roe v. Wade contains a Democratic name, as well. Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a staunch abortion foe no matter what those in his own district desire, also signed the request. His name appears alongside those of Republican brothers such as Rep. Steve King, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Rep. Mark Meadows.

    Link

    Lipinski should be booted from office. His opponent in Illinois is Marie Newman.

  75. says

    It’s a new year, and Trump is still lying.

    […] “One of my greatest honors was to have gotten CHOICE approved for our great Veterans. Others have tried for decades, and failed!” tweeted the Idiot in Chief.

    Not true. Not even close to true. CHOICE was signed by President Barack Obama. It was something the late Sen. John McCain was a bit proud of, as well; how very surprising that Trump’s still-bizarre memory lapses somehow manage to erase his declared enemies and re-imagine things so that TRUMP, in big gold letters, turns out to be the only relevant human in history.

    Trump’s contribution was to sign a modification slightly decreasing wait times. It may or may not have been done with a Sharpie. Whether he is intentionally lying, is suffering from delusions brought on by his well-documented narcissistic obsessions, or his jumbled and conflated memories are a product of a slow slide into dementia is, as usual, not clear.

    But this is how the year is going to go. With this possibly confused, definitely crooked, now-impeached personification of humanity’s worst faults lying constantly, about everything, as Republicanism continues to adapt itself into a vehicle for disinformation, propaganda, and crime-doing. Then there will be an election.

    Link

  76. says

    Trump lying about Mar-a-Lago, in Mar-a-Lago:

    […] Trump [goes to Mar-a-Lago] to play golf, but on Wednesday he was angry, angry at the “lamestream Media” for reporting that he played golf during the siege of the American embassy in Iraq. Trump repeatedly huffed that he did not play golf on Wednesday. Which would be easier to believe, had he not been pictured in golf clothes, riding in a golf cart, with his golf clubs. […]

    Trump isn’t letting anything less than a full brink-of-war event interfere with his critical schedule of sending the Secret Service scurrying for balls in the rough. CNN is just one of several sources that tallied up Trump’s time on the course at the end of 2019 and found that he spent a good 20% of his time directly out there riding around in carts. That’s 252 days at a Trump golf course and 333 days at a Trump resort since taking office. Well before he finishes out year four, Trump will have taken a full year of vacation. […]

    Trump loves going to Mar-a-Lago for a very good reason. He may not be able to attend a major sporting event, or visit any other public venue, without meeting a rousing chorus of boos, but he can always be sure of support from those he calls “his people.” The members of Mar-a-Lago are not there for a golf course that doesn’t even rate in the nation’s top 100. They’re shelling out a quarter-million a year for access. Trump makes absolutely no bones about giving them that access. […]

    As Politico reports, Mar-a-Lago allows Trump to invite who he wants, and talk as he wants, without the “gatekeepers” of Washington. To liven up the 2019 holiday season, guests included child-murdering Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, whom Trump forgave even after members of his own team saw him convicted of war crimes. And of course Rudy Giuliani was there to chat with Trump about the trip to Ukraine that he conducted right in the middle of Trump’s impeachment in the House, and the ongoing effort to cook up some dirt that can be used against Joe Biden. And Giuliani wasn’t the only lawyer who got to exchange a “Happy holidays.” Trump supporter, and former attorney to Jeffrey Epstein, Alan Dershowitz was also there to chat in the buffet line. Like Trump, Dershowitz is accused of not just being an acquaintance of Epstein’s, but taking part in his underage sex trafficking. […]

    Mar-a-Lago, where everyone present knows that the reason they’re in the room is because they’re paying to be close to Trump, gives Trump exactly the ego-boost he wants. As one regular reports, “The people around him are increasingly the true believers and it’s almost like a religious revival when he shows up there. They jump up and down, they shout, they scream his praises.” [OMFG]

    Mar-a-Lago is a Trump rally where Trump spends almost a third of his time in a golden bubble of screaming adoration from people whose morality perfectly aligns with Trump’s. Which almost certainly makes it far more dangerous to the United States than either the Kremlin or Pyongyang.

    Link

  77. says

    Oh, no. Turkey is planning to send troops to Libya?

    […] Trump on Thursday warned his Turkish counterpart against sending troops to fight in Libya hours after the Turkish Parliament voted to authorize such a move.

    Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed several “bilateral and regional issues,” according to a readout of the call released by the White House, as well as simmering tensions and ongoing instability in Libya that have been condemned by the top United Nations official there. […]

    The offensive has split the international community: The rival regime led by commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar has been backed the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia, according to The Associated Press, while Sarraj’s government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

    Erdogan and Sarraj recently signed a deal allowing Ankara to send military experts and personnel to the volatile region, the AP reported, and some in Turkey have argued that threats to the Libyan government could “spread instability to Turkey.” […]

    Link

  78. says

    Expect the price you pay for prescription drugs to increase:

    Drug companies raised prices on a wide range of drugs to start the year, with an average increase of 5.3 percent so far […]

    The drug price increases include some blockbuster drugs: the price of Humira, which treats arthritis and other conditions, rose 7.4 percent, and the price of Revlimid, which treats multiple myeloma, rose 6 percent, according to the data.

    Drugmakers have traditionally raised prices at the start of a new year, and the data shows that the price increases are continuing, even as outcry over high drug prices rises in Washington. […]

    Link

  79. says

    Trump is messing around in AT&T’s business as a way of criticizing, and he hopes, damaging CNN:

    […] Trump is very mad about AT&T over CNN. The thousands of jobs it’s cutting, not so much.

    The telecommunications giant, which acquired CNN through its $85 billion merger with Time Warner in 2018, has generated scrutiny among the press, organizers, and activists over job cuts it has made over the past several months. Most recently, Axios reported that thousands of AT&T workers were about to lose their posts after training foreigners in line to replace them this year. Trump has positioned himself as a job creator and a crusader against outsourcing, but when it comes to AT&T, he’s not saying anything — well, at least not about jobs. His focus is on his ongoing annoyance with CNN.

    On Wednesday, three days after the Axios report, Trump took to Twitter to take a swipe at CNN after a supposed “ratings dive” and suggested parent-company AT&T “should make changes.” It’s not clear what specific changes he would want. […]

    This is hardly the first time Trump has called for AT&T to do something about CNN — which presumably translates to shifting to coverage that’s more favorable to him. He spoke out against the AT&T-Time Warner merger from the get-go, and while there were plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose the deal — it marked a significant amount of consolidation in the media industry, and multiple lawmakers raised red flags about it — Trump’s animus toward CNN was evidently in play. He has called on AT&T to fire CNN chief Jeff Zucker, and over the summer, the president pushed for people to stop “using or subscribing” to AT&T in order to force changes at the network. […]

    Link

  80. says

    Trump spent his holidays retweeting QAnon and Pizzagate accounts.

    The president is normalizing conspiracy theories that portray his political opponents as satanist pedophiles.

    […] He broke personal records with the numbers of tweets he posted. And tweets he shared over the holidays indicate he’s feeling more shameless than ever about retweeting sketchy accounts that have promoted conspiracy theories portraying his political enemies as satanist pedophiles. […]

    On December 27, the president attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders by retweeting an image of dog poop below a placard reading, “Bernie 2020: FREE SHIT.” […]

    A cursory scan of the account Trump retweeted revealed some very sketchy characteristics. For one, its unwieldy handle — @DebPort03755076 — is the sort often used by bots. Second, the account was created just weeks ago and had relatively few followers (it has since been suspended), raising questions about how Trump came across the tweet in the first place. And third, during its few weeks on Twitter, the account had amplified content promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, which, as Business Insider puts it, holds that “the world is run by a satanic cabal of elites and pedophiles led by Hillary Clinton and the so-called deep state, who Trump […] will eventually expose and defeat.” […]

    Yes, Trump is retweeting disinformation from sketchy bots. Yes, Trump is retweeting stuff he has dredged up from the sludge on the internet.

    […] While we might hope that the president would do some basic vetting of the accounts he chooses to amplify on Twitter, a single mistake of this sort would be understandable. But Trump’s retweet was far from an isolated incident — on December 27 alone, he posted about 20 tweets from accounts that have promoted QAnon, including at least one from an account that also promoted the equally ludicrous Pizzagate conspiracy theory about Democrats running a sex trafficking ring out of a Washington, DC, pizzeria. […]

  81. says

    Followup to comments 81, 82 and 83.

    From Wonkette:

    There are no good fact witnesses for Donald Trump. There’s no one he could send to Congress to vouch that his “perfect, perfect” shakedown call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and subsequent freeze on military aid to that country was totally kosher and only arose out of his deep-seated concern about corruption. It’s very clear why the White House stonewalled Congress and flatly refused to allow anyone to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. But it’s also clear that all their dirty, illegal shit is going to come out, and probably sooner rather than later.

    To wit, Just Security’s Kate Brannen got hold of the unredacted version of emails released last month thanks to the Center For Public Integrity’s FOIA lawsuit. And SURPRISE!!!! it looks like Trump’s little helpers have been highly strategic with their Sharpies. Can’t let the public see an email saying, “Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold,” can we?

    The White House has tried to present the freeze as a routine “pause” that was part of a regular and orderly process. Nothing to see here, folks! In fact, under all those black bars, the Defense Department accountants were flipping their shit at what they viewed as a dangerous and probably illegal seizure that had the potential to blow up in their faces if they didn’t get the money out the door and it wound up coming back to the Treasury.

    As the New York Times reported, this all started back in June, when Donald Trump “discovered” the $391 million defense allocation for Ukraine in a Washington Examiner article and freaked out. He’d already signed bills in February 2019 and September 2018 authorizing it, but apparently it was news to him because … reading is hard. So (acting) Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — who has refused to testify — called over to (acting) Office of Management and Budget head Russ Vought — who also refused to testify — and told him, “We need to hold it up.”

    That same day, OMB’s National Security Programs chief, Michael Duffey, a political appointee, reached out to the Pentagon’s head accountant, Elaine McCusker, to determine the status of the DOD’s $250 million share of the Ukraine allocation. This began a months-long negotiation over the mechanics of the freeze, during which Duffey admonished everyone to keep it “closely held to those who need to know to execute direction,” theorized that Trump could simply withhold the money forever by shouting NATIONAL SECURITY, and threatened to blame McCusker if the whole thing went sideways and the money couldn’t be spent in time. […]

    The Impoundment Control Act requires the president to promptly notify Congress and explain his reasoning if he decides not to spend money Congress has allocated. When career civil servant Mark Sandy objected to the hold over fears that it violated the law, Duffey seized control of the process. On July 25, 90 minutes after Donald Trump hung up the phone with Zelenskyy, Duffey announced the first of his “apportionment footnotes,” the mechanism by which he would withhold the money. […]

    In the end, the whistleblower complaint forced Trump’s hand and the funds were released September 11. But not all of them, since McCusker wasn’t bluffing and DOD couldn’t get the last $35 million tranche out in time.

    And this, right here, is exactly why Mitch McConnell isn’t calling any witnesses. Because if Democrats get McCusker and Duffey on the stand, they’re all up shit’s creek.

  82. says

    Classy as always, Elijah Cummings left a gift for poor kids in his will.

    When Elijah Cummings died in October, his congressional campaign had about a million bucks in funds ready to go for his 2020 reelection campaign. And while it’s legal for campaigns of retired or deceased politicians to linger on for years, using unspent funds to influence future elections by supporting other candidates or political action committees, that’s not what’s going to happen with the money currently held by the Cummings for Congress Campaign
    Committee. Campaign treasurer Ronald Thompson emailed the Baltimore Sun to let the paper know Cummings said he wanted the funds to go to programs for local youth, like helping poor kids pay for college.

    The committee “is in the process of winding down operations,” Thompson wrote. “We contemplate that, in accordance with Congressman Cummings’ wishes, at the conclusion of this process, any ‘excess campaign funds’ will be transferred to educational and charitable organizations for the purpose of need-based college scholarships and youth leadership programs.”

    That sounds like exactly the sort of thing Cummings, who went from being the child of sharecroppers to being a voice of moral clarity in Congress, would want. Even after he’s been gone for months, he can make us get a bit teary-eyed with his vision of an America that’s fairer and kinder for everyone. […]

    Link

  83. says

    “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell.”

    NY Times link

    And he’s on a mission to use the “authority” of the executive branch to stop it.

    Why would a seemingly respectable, semiretired lion of the Washington establishment undermine the institutions he is sworn to uphold, incinerate his own reputation, and appear to willfully misrepresent the reports of special prosecutors and inspectors general, all to defend one of the most lawless and corrupt presidents in American history? And why has this particular attorney general appeared at this pivotal moment in our Republic?

    A deeper understanding of William Barr is emerging, and it reveals something profound and disturbing about the evolution of conservatism in 21st-century America.

    […] In a Nov. 15 speech at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington, he accused […] Trump’s political opponents of “unprecedented abuse” and said they were “engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.”

    […] In his earlier stint as attorney general, during the George H.W. Bush presidency, Mr. Barr took on the role of helping to disappear the case against Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-contra affair. The situation demonstrated that “powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office,” according to Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in that case. […]

    Another view is that Mr. Barr is principally a defender of a certain interpretation of the Constitution that attributes maximum power to the executive. This view, too, finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In the speech to the Federalist Society, he said, “Since the mid-’60s, there has been a steady grinding down of the executive branch’s authority that accelerated after Watergate.” In July, when President Trump claimed, in remarks to a conservative student group, “I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” it is reasonable to suppose this is his CliffsNotes version of Mr. Barr’s ideology.

    Both of these views are accurate enough. But at least since Mr. Barr’s infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery,” it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.

    In Maryland, the department rushed to defend taxpayer funding for a religious school that says same-sex marriage is wrong. In Maine, it is defending parents suing over a state law that bans religious schools from obtaining taxpayer funding to promote their own sectarian doctrines. […]

    In these and other cases, Mr. Barr has embraced wholesale the “religious liberty” rhetoric of today’s Christian nationalist movement. When religious nationalists invoke “religious freedom,” it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power. […]

  84. says

    Using a U.S. military airstrike, Trump approved the killing of Iran’s Quds force at the Baghdad airport.

    A top Iranian general was killed in an airstrike on Baghdad International Airport, a development that could skyrocket tensions in a region that has been roiled by a spike in violence this week.

    Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed when Katyusha rockets hit the airport, The Associated Press reported, citing Iraqi TV and three Iraqi officials. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed in the attack. […]

    Soleimani’s death could have widespread ramifications for the Middle East and Iran’s involvement in other country’s affairs. The general was involved in directing Tehran’s proxies in Syria and other countries in the region and began taking a more public role in Iran’s affairs, fueling speculation that he could rise in the country’s political ranks.

    Soleimani’s activities throughout the Middle East made him a top target for criticism from Washington, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comparing him to the founder of ISIS. The Quds Force which has been designated as a terrorist group since 2007, is estimated to have 20,000 members.

    The nighttime attack on the airport came amid Iranian tensions with the U.S. after an Irani-backed militia stormed the American embassy in Baghdad, leading to a spike in security concerns and tensions between Washington and Tehran. […]

    Link

    Most experts are saying that Iran will engage in reprisals around the world. There will be repercussions. Soleimani was an official leader in Iran.

    U.S. officials have confirmed the strike.

  85. says

    From the Washington Post: “Pentagon launched airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, Defense Sec. Mark Esper says.”

    BREAKING: Pentagon launched airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, Defense Sec. Mark Esper says.

    Esper said Thursday night that Soleimani was “actively developing plans” to attack US troops and diplomats.The killing of a senior figure linked to Tehran’s support for foreign proxy groups is certain to heighten tensions between the United States and Iran. This breaking story will be updated.

    Link

  86. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    We now have apparent confirmation that the US mounted a retaliatory raid on a convoy in Iraq (unclear whether it’s a drone attack or missiles) that killed a leader of the Iraqi militia that menaced the US Embassy and critically also killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. There is apparent confirmation of Soleimani’s death on Iraqi TV. […] It’s chaotic and developing story. Perhaps we’ll new reports will change the picture. But it seems pretty clear that Soleimani is dead.

    I hesitate to comment more than simply to say that this is a massive, massive escalation of the confrontation between the US and Iran. Soleimani is a very important figure in Iran. People will disagree about the wisdom of this action or its eventual consequences. But this is a big, big deal – a pandora’s box type escalation with consequences that are hard to predict.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/a-very-grave-situation

  87. says

    This may well get lost in the shuffle because of the whole attempt to start a war with Iran (you think maybe Trump would stop if somebody pointed out that he’s doing what John McCain always thought was a good idea?):

    A bunch of documents related to the Carter administration letting the Shah of Iran into the US have been unsealed. Not only do they show that a lot of evil people were conspiring to do it basically as a middle finger to the left — the usual suspects, like Henry Kissinger — but also: Carter, contrary to the “nice guy” image he has cultivated, had been urging the Shah to brutally put down the uprising against him with force all along.

  88. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Ben Carson’s HUD will propose new rule, further weakening enforcement of fair housing laws
    By Tracy Jan
    Jan. 3, 2020

    The Trump administration will propose a new rule, as early as Friday, that would reduce the burden on local governments to meet their fair housing obligations, further scaling back civil rights enforcement.

    Among the changes sought by the Department of Housing and Urban Development: redefining what it means to promote fair housing, eliminating the assessment used to examine and address barriers to racial integration, and encouraging cities to remove regulations that stand in the way of affordable housing, according to the proposed rule obtained by The Washington Post.

    Fair housing advocates say the proposal reduces the financial pressure on local governments to end residential segregation and discrimination, as required by the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and is the latest erosion of Obama-era regulations designed to enforce the landmark legislation.
    […]

    Thomas Silverstein, a fair housing attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said “discrimination and segregation will continue unabated when HUD doesn’t provide meaningful fair housing oversight of local governments.”
    […]

  89. says

    Trump briefed Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and lickspittle Lindsey Graham ahead of the U.S. airstrike that killed Qassim Suleimani, but Trump did not brief Democrats.

    While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) railed against […] Trump for approving a fatal attack on Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani without consulting Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that he got a special early briefing while golfing with Trump in Florida.

    “I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham said Friday morning on Fox and Friends. “I appreciate being brought into the orbit.” […]

    Graham was spotted golfing with Trump earlier this week at the President’s West Palm Beach golf club.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a member of the Gang of Eight, was not briefed on the attack before it happened, according to HuffPost. Pelosi is demanding a full congressional briefing before the administration makes any more moves.

    This isn’t the first time Trump opted not to prepare congressional leaders before a highly sensitive strike. In October, he told the Russians — but not congressional leadership — about plans of the raid that culminated in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He made a crack at the time insinuating that he didn’t want congressional leadership to leak details of the plan.

    Talking Points Memo link

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region.

    From Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (a known liar, like Trump):

    I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats but the American people should know that President Trump’s decision to remove Qasem Soleimani from the battlefield saved American live. No doubt about that. He was actively plotting in the region to take”‘big action,” as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent. This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision making process.

    From Joe Biden:

    This is a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region. […] Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.

    From Elizabeth Warren:

    Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.

    From Bernie Sanders:

    Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.

    Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.

  90. says

    Another Republican Congress critter, Phil Roe of Tennessess, has decided to retire. That brings the total number of Republican lawmakers giving up their seats before the 2020 election to 26. That’s three times the number of Democratic lawmakers retiring.

  91. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    The White House can declare that the Quds Force was a terrorist organization. It can label Qassem Soleimani a terrorist. But attempts to paint his assassination on Jan. 3 outside the Baghdad International Airport as just another takedown of a terrorist leader, no different from the elimination of Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or many others, founder on a single point: Soleimani, Major General Soleimani, was also the head of the Iranian armed forces and a major figure in the government of a foreign power.

    The operation to strike and kill Soleimani was planned days in advance. Donald Trump, along with everyone at the White House and Pentagon involved in the operation, was absolutely aware that this was an attack that risked involving the United States in a war against a country with the eighth largest official army on the planet. More than that: They had to be aware that the very thing they’ve accused Iran of again and again—the use of irregular forces around the globe to carry out military actions—meant that making the attack on Soleimani generated a threat to U.S. forces in Iraq, to American civilians everywhere in the Middle East, and to both American and allied assets around the world. […]

    Link

  92. says

    An new report indicates that Donald Trump’s loans from Deutsche Bank were backed by Russia.

    […] According to Forensic News, Trump’s loans from Deutsche Bank were underwritten by a Russian state-owned bank. That news reportedly comes from a whistleblower with access to documents from both Deutsche Bank and Russia’s state-owned VTB Bank. VTB Bank was also the proposed lender on the never-completed Trump Tower Moscow project.

    The question of why Deutsche Bank would extend a series of huge loans to Trump has been dangling since before he ever announced his candidacy for president on a golden escalator ride. When Trump first went to Deutsche Bank, he was worse than broke. He had just finished bankrupting multiple casinos in New Jersey, and then had convinced investors to back a takeover of those casinos at a fraction of the original value. Then Trump deliberately allowed the investment group to go bankrupt so he could grab the whole deal himself at a fraction of what his investors had paid. Then he went bankrupt. Again. And along the way he was socked with a massive fine for money laundering at his now bankrupt (again) casino.

    Trump was so fiscally radioactive that no American bank would let him in the door. But Deutsche Bank turned around and gifted Trump with loans that gave him a fresh start and an apparently miracle turnaround of his New York real estate empire. Those loans have always been the subject of head-scratching over just what Deutsche Bank could have been thinking. But if Forensic News is right, what Deutsche Bank was thinking was that it wasn’t risking a damn thing, because the Russian government was actually vouching for Trump through VTB Bank. If Trump didn’t come through, Vladimir Putin was offering to make it good.

    The documents supposedly originated with the son of a former Deutsche Bank official who committed suicide, which is very much the kind of connection that raises concerns about the authenticity of the information. This only highlights the importance of efforts by Congress to gain access to information on these loans. The last appeals court ruling in the case instructed Deutsche Bank to turn over the information, but the Supreme Court stepped in to block the subpoena and hear the case. […]

    this would show that Donald Trump was 100% dependent on the Russian government for his “big comeback.” It would mean that he was completely beholden to Putin for his real estate, for his golf courses, for his candidacy—for everything.

    Link

  93. says

    War Hawks on Fox News are celebrating:

    […] nowhere was that praise more effusive than on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.

    “This is a huge victory for American intelligence, a huge victory for our military, a huge victory for the State Department, and a huge victory and total leadership by the president,” Hannity, who was off for the evening, declared on Thursday during a phone-in appearance. Hannity’s guest host for the night, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), described the drone strike against Soleimani as measured and “proportional.”

    Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary under George W. Bush and a leading figure behind the 2003 drumbeat to war in Iraq, also appeared on Hannity, where he predicted that Iranians are likely welcoming Soleimani’s killing, even as Tehran vowed retaliation. “I think it is entirely possible that this is going to be a catalyst inside Iran where the people celebrate this killing of Soleimani,” Fleischer said.

    Oh, FFS. Ari Fleischer is delusional.

    […] While discussing the potential political and economic ramifications of Soleimani’s killing, Fox Business host Stuart Varney at one point appeared to suggest that impeachment proceedings against Trump should be halted. “Where does it leave impeachment? Varney asked. “Are we now going to try and impeach and remove from office the commander-in-chief who has just taken out one of the world’s leading terrorists?

  94. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lynna @ 106

    As I stated elsewhere, I had a taste of local Right Wing talk radio this morning and the hosts were practically climaxing over the airstrikes and the prospect of a new war with Iran.

    Oh, FFS. Ari Fleischer is delusional.

    Since Trump’s election, my RWNJ father has often (and loudly) claimed “Trump could cure cancer and the libs still want to impeach him!” Well, if he did something impeachable, FUCK YES!!! Why would curing cancer absolve you from crimes you’ve committed? Aren’t you the asshole who tried to raise me under absolutist Catholic moral dogma, Dad?

  95. says

    About 3,500 additional U.S. troops are now headed to the Mideast as Iran threatens retaliation. As expected. Sigh.

    […] The Pentagon said that it will deploy 3,500 additional troops to the Middle East after Iran vowed to exact “severe revenge” on the United States after a drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, one of the country’s top military figures, early Friday near the Baghdad airport.

    The targeted killing of Soleimani, a powerful figure among forces aligned with Iran’s Islamic Republic throughout the Middle East, increased tensions in the region and caused U.S. outposts and personnel to brace for retaliatory attacks. The attack also upset global markets and sent oil prices shooting upward. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warned Americans in Iraq to leave “immediately.”

    Iranian militias allied with Iran had been harassing U.S. forces in Iraq over recent weeks, including one attack on a base that killed a U.S. contractor. The United States has said that Soleimani was killed as he was planning new attacks and that […] Trump ordered the attack. […]

    Washington Post link

    So far, no one, not one person in the Trump administration, has offered proof that Soleimani was planning new attacks, or that those attacks were “imminent” as Pompeo claimed. To be legal, such a assassination would have to be justified by proof of the imminent danger. There’s no proof. I think Trump and his lackeys are lying … or that they are, at best, exaggerating.

    Soleimani has been a threat for decades. Why now? The timing is suspect.

    No love from Russia:

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that a drone strike that killed senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was illegal and threatened Middle Eastern stability and peace.

    “Lavrov emphasized that the targeted actions of a UN member state to eliminate officials of another UN member state, moreover, in the territory of a third sovereign state without its knowledge, flagrantly violate the principles of international law and deserve to be condemned,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    “Moscow urges Washington to abandon the illegal power methods to achieve its goals in the international arena and solve any problems at the negotiating table,” the statement said.

    Washington Post link

  96. says

    One of Rudy Giuliani’s best buddies when it comes to committing crimes in Ukraine, (or encouraging others to commit crimes in Ukraine), is Lev Parnas. Ever since he was arrested, Parnas has been cooperating with law enforcement, and he has been trying to give his iPhone and a lot of documents to the House Intelligence Committee. Now a federal judge has ordered that, yes, Parnas can give his intel to the House.

    A federal judge allowed Giuliani associate Lev Parnas to hand over the contents of an iPhone and other documents to the House Intelligence Committee in a Friday morning order.

    Manhattan federal district judge Paul Oetken granted an unopposed request from Parnas to share the contents of the iPhone that Parnas was carrying at the time of his October 2019 arrest in a jetway at Dulles Airport on campaign finances charges. Parnas will also be allowed to share documents that the FBI seized from his home.

    Parnas and his longtime associate Igor Fruman face charges related to an alleged scheme to funnel foreign money and excess contributions into GOP campaign coffers.

    Since his indictment, however, Parnas has shared some of what he knows with the public through his attorneys, saying he feels slighted after Trump claimed not to know him. Parnas had spent the past two years with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, helping the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York make contacts in Ukraine in a bid to generate political information helpful to President Trump.

    Along the way, Parnas was hired by Ukrainian gas billionaire Dmytro Firtash. Prosecutors said that Parnas received a $1 million unsecured loan from Firtash’s attorney in September 2019.

    Both Parnas and the House Intelligence Committee have said that the south Florida businessman has produced documents to the impeachment inquiry.

    Joseph Bondy, Parnas’s attorney in the case, tweeted that his client would continue to petition the judge to allow him to transfer information to the House as the government continues to produce more evidence before trial. […]

    Link

  97. says

    This is a good summary statement:

    Mike Pompeo claims killing Soleimani made Americans safer, as his own department [the State Department] tells them to run.

    Link

    On Friday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was out to cheerlead in the wake of U.S. airstrikes that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The action, said Pompeo, was in response to “imminent threats to American lives”; however, Pompeo would not describe those threats and, as of 1:30 ET, has still not explained those threats to Congress.

    What Pompeo would say is, “The world is a much safer place today. I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer.” Which is why the State Department has just released a security alert saying, “Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region,” American citizens are urged to “depart Iraq immediately.” As an even greater example of safety, the instructions are to “depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.“ Depart via airline while possible?

    Actually, it may have already been impossible by the time the bulletin was issued. Royal Jordanian Airlines announced early on Friday that it had stopped all service between Amman and Baghdad “in light of the security situation.” And Bahrain’s Gulf Air has also suspended all service to Baghdad “until further notice due to safety.” Taken together, that would be half of the regular daily flights into Baghdad International Airport. At the time of this writing, Qatar Airways and British Airways still have scheduled departures for Friday evening. For those not lucky enough to snag one of the remaining flights, the opportunity to escape “to other countries via land” means a several-hundred-mile journey to Jordan or Saudi Arabia, or about an 80-mile jaunt from Baghdad to Iran.

    For Americans who were thinking they might seek shelter at the embassy, think again. The State Department instructs that “U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.” Because that’s how much safer things are after Soleimani’s death.

    Pompeo also said that the assassination of Soleimani was an attempt to “de-escalate the situation.” So maybe it will all look better if it’s given a little time. A little patience. […]

    “We tell everyone be patient to see the dead bodies of Americans all over the Middle East,” says the new commander of the Iranian Quds Force Ismail Qaani.

  98. says

    More legal opinions:

    […] in order for this strike to be legal without congressional authorization, it would have to be in response to an imminent threat to the United States […]

    Based on the preponderance of evidence that I’ve seen and my own understanding of how Iran and Soleimani work, it’s rather unlikely that he was signing off on an operation that was immediately going to target Americans as he was driving back from the Baghdad airport for meetings. Now, that is my definition of imminent, but other experts will disagree.

    I’ll say this, though. Many of the people who have shaped our legal understanding of “imminent” over the years understood it to mean that the threat was unfolding right now and there’s no time to do anything other than to kill the person.

    The Soleimani killing doesn’t appear to meet that threshold. […]

    I am not so sure we can separate the legal discussion from the political discussion. We are, for better or worse, at a point where the majority of lawmakers have basically acquiesced to the administration’s interpretation of the law when it comes to war, and again, this goes back to the George W. Bush era. So if that’s the case, then eventually the law becomes whatever the current administration says it is. That’s where we are. […]

    there were several AUMFs but none of them, in any way, were directed at Iran. Each of them very clearly gave the executive branch the power to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and later, ISIS in Iraq. And in fact, Iran has been on our side in the fight against ISIS and the Taliban. So there’s just no plausible legal justification under which you could stretch any of the AUMFs to include an attack on an Iranian official. […]

    If the Iraqi government asked America to kill someone on its soil, and for whatever reason felt it was incapable of doing the job itself, then perhaps that’s permissible under domestic and international law. But simply having troops stationed in a country doesn’t give us blanket permission to kill anyone we feel like killing. And it’s also worth noting that Congress has approved a mission to fight ISIS in Iraq, not to kill Iranians. […]

    Neither Congress nor the Iraqi government authorized the administration to target Soleimani. […]

    Link

  99. says

    So, Trump has spoken. To my ear, this sounds like the usual trumpian gaslighting:

    […] Trump accused Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani of plotting “sinister attacks” against U.S. personnel in the Mideast before a U.S. airstrike killed him.

    “We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said during remarks made from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “We did not take action to start a war.” […]

  100. says

    From Matt Yglesias:

    […] Trump is a deeply dishonest person.

    Since long before he was a politician, he’s lied frequently and even written in multiple books about his profound belief in the value of lying as a means to get ahead. And he’s good at it. After his Atlantic City casinos went bust, he successfully duped a bunch of mom-and-pop equity investors out of their money to get out of debt and had them pay him a salary for the privilege. He then got himself elected president and immediately started bullshitting about everything from the size of his inaugural crowds to the way NATO works to Chinese currency manipulation. […]

    Part of Trump lying about everything is that he frequently says things specifically about Iran that are not true…. Trump, from time to time, even lies about his own past statements on Iran, spending one day last September complaining that the media reported he’d said he was willing to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions when he clearly said in both an interview with Chuck Todd and a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that he was willing to meet without preconditions.

    The point is that the probative value of a Trump statement about Iran is, to be generous, roughly zero. And Pompeo is no better…. Pompeo, too, engages in routine misstatements about Iran specifically, including lies about Iranian nuclear research.

    This is important both because Pompeo has become the public face of the administration on this issue, and because though Pompeo does not engage in the range of dishonest statements that Trump does, his more focused dishonesty does include the policy topic at hand. […]

    https://www.vox.com/2020/1/3/21048079/trump-pompeo-iran-lies

    More at the link.

  101. says

    Remember Paul Manafort, currently in prison, previously Trump’s campaign manager? His name comes up again in today’s news. He is newly relevant thanks to the release of 356 pages of FBI interview notes from the Mueller investigation. As it turns out, and as has long been suspected, Manafort was deeply involved in the very beginnings of Trump’s pressure/bribery/extortion campaign against Ukraine.

    […] Over the course of two interviews on Sept. 11 and 12, 2018, Manafort ran prosecutors with the special counsel’s office through his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of his from Kyiv who the FBI has described as having ties to Russian intelligence. […]

    According to the notes from the interview, Manafort told the Mueller team about a meeting he held with Kilimnik in Madrid in February 2017.

    At the meeting, the document says, Kilimnik updated Manafort “on the work of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, information from a ledger found with Manafort’s name written in it” as well as activities of the country’s then-President Petro Poroshenko. […]

    These items came to be at the center of the pressure campaign launched by President Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

    Giuliani has said that he began to “look into” allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the Democratic Party and Ukraine because of the Manafort case in 2017. Much of that — both for Giuliani and the wider landscape of Trumpworld — focused on an allegation that the “ledger” which forced Manafort to resign as campaign chairman in August 2016 was fabricated, and part of a campaign by the Ukrainian government to hurt Trump.

    The ledger was being investigated by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, an institution set up to be an independent graft prosecutor by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. NABU’s involvement in Manafort’s downfall has become a pillar of theories that the Obama administration conspired with Ukraine to hurt the Trump campaign.

    Key to Trump and his allies’ sense of grievance is that the New York Times quoted NABU officials in its August 2016 story breaking the news that Manafort’s name appeared next to $12.7 million in payments on the ledger. The NABU officials told the newspaper that Manafort’s name appeared on the ledger, fueling suspicion that the Ukrainian government was trying to tip the race towards Hillary Clinton.

    The Mueller 302 reports summarizing interviews suggest that Manafort himself was interested in the theory, and was relying on his own contact in Kyiv to learn more.

    Giuliani would later investigate the allegations himself, and reportedly was in contact with Manafort’s attorneys about the theory as part of a bid to defend his own client: […] Trump.

    […] The document suggests that Kilimnik assuaged any worry Manafort may have had about being prosecuted in Ukraine.

    By spring of the following year, Ukraine general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko had reportedly frozen the investigations into Manafort.

    The special counsel’s office later accused Manafort of lying about other portions of the February 2017 Madrid meeting, saying that the longtime GOP consultant lied about whether he and Kilimnik discussed a “peace plan” that could bring an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

    Link

  102. says

    Mitch McConnell has been insulting Nancy Pelosi. Ditto for Trump. Today, Pelosi issued a statement:

    In December, the House upheld its Constitutional duty to defend democracy For The People, honoring the vision of our Founders for a Republic. In an impeachment trial, every U.S. Senator is required to take an oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’”

    For several months, the House has subpoenaed documents and witnesses which the President stonewalled. These cases are now in the courts. While the House nevertheless was able to obtain compelling evidence of impeachable conduct, Leader McConnell knows full well that the President’s obstruction of the House impeachment inquiry is unprecedented and in defiance of our system of checks and balances.

    Today, Leader McConnell made clear that he will feebly comply with President Trump’s cover-up of his abuses of power and be an accomplice to that cover-up.

    Leader McConnell is doubling down on his violation of his oath, even after the exposure of new, deeply incriminating documents this week which provide further evidence of what we know: President Trump abused the power of his office for personal, political gain.

    The American people deserve the truth. Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution. The GOP Senate must immediately proceed in a manner worthy of the Constitution and in light of the gravity of the President’s unprecedented abuses. No one is above the law, not even the President.

    https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/1320

  103. says

    Followup to comment 115.

    From Wonkette:

    […] She called him [McConnell] an “accomplice” in Trump’s cover-up, one who will “feebly comply” with the president’s ongoing criminal enterprises like some common trained seal flunky.

    […] Pelosi also sticks to the larger message that McConnell violated his Senate oath when he went on Fox News and promised the president a sham trial. She also leans on Republican senators to choose between Trump or their dignity. Most Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, already made their choice, but Pelosi clearly isn’t listening to the simpering advice of flakes in the media or her own caucus who say Democrats should just accept that Republicans are corrupt and go home. The Republican-controlled Senate might eventually clear Trump but they can’t clear themselves. She’s going to embarrass them like Chuck Schumer never could.

    Thank God and not Tim Ryan that Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House. She’ll fight Trump all the way to the Senate, and she’s not afraid of Mitch McConnell.

  104. says

    Wonkette’s Doctor Zoom discussed Elizabeth Warren’s plan to help people with disabilities.

    Elizabeth Warren keeps cranking out the policy proposals, because she has this funny notion that ideas matter, and being able to put them into action does too.

    Her latest proposal takes on rights and equality for people with disabilities, which only sounds like a niche issue to people who’ve never tried to get around with a wheelchair or a walker or […] Like all of Warren’s plans, it’s an impressive look at how the machinery of government can be used to make life better and fairer for everyone […] And just like her other plans, this proposal is designed to work as a blueprint for governing, whoever the nominee is.

    […] the depth of research and awareness of unmet needs is impressive. […]

    In one brief paragraph, Warren and her policy team call attention to several interlocking instances of why this all matters:

    Right now, people with disabilities are excluded from economic opportunity and denied financial security. Adults with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability. The unemployment rate of people with disabilities seeking employment is also more than twice the unemployment rate of individuals with no disability – and Black and Native American people living with disabilities have the lowest rates of employment. Those that are employed are more likely to have part-time and hourly jobs, subjecting them to abusive scheduling practices, no benefits, and inadequate leave policies.

    Warren points out that seriously outdated policies allow some employers to get away with paying workers with disabilities absurdly low wages, citing a 2013 NBC News investigation that found Goodwill Industries paid some workers with disabilities as little as 22 cents an hour, and some franchises paid even less, as low as four cents an hour. Yes, in this century. And it’s still legal under the loophole in employment law the company exploited. […]

    As with some of her other plans, Warren would make sure the government workforce promotes inclusion and diversity. She notes that:

    When President Obama prioritized recruiting and hiring individuals with disabilities for federal jobs, he was able to raise the level of people with disabilities in federal service to 14% of the overall workforce. […]

    To make the economy work for people with disabilities, we must also take aim at the ways that the financial industry targets people with disabilities, who can face higher risks of identity theft, financial abuse, and financial fraud, as well as limited incomes, making them less likely to be banked and more likely to borrow from payday lenders.

    […] Warren would also overhaul outmoded eligibility rules for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, since in their current form, they can trap people in poverty by eliminating all benefits if someone has income over a certain threshold; the same bureaucratic rules can keep people from marrying. […]

    Yes, she goes into quite a bit of detail on the kinds of aides and resources needed, from elementary classroom aides to programs to help high schoolers transition to college or work.

    And here’s one more thing that’s only surprising for half a second, and then you say, Oh shit, that’s not right:

    The high school graduation rate for students with disabilities is still 18 points lower than the graduation rate for students without disabilities. And even among students with disabilities, there remain substantial racial gaps in graduation: whereas 74% of white students served under IDEA received a high school diploma in the 2016-2017 school year, only 70% of Latinx students with disabilities and 64% of Black students received a diploma.

    […] reversing the Trump/DeVos gutting of the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, which eliminated discrimination by refusing to notice any. […]

    If companies that used government funding to develop their products are unwilling or unable to offer key assistive technologies at reasonable prices, my administration will use its authority […] to license patented innovations to companies that will ensure that technologies are available to the public on reasonable terms.

    […] Warren wants to make sure having a disability isn’t treated as a crime. How about training cops so they won’t shoot deaf people for “failing to comply” when cops shout orders? And how about we fully fund mental health care so cops are no longer America’s “de facto first mental health providers”?

    And again, there are the stats we didn’t know about:

    People who are incarcerated are three times more likely to report having a disability, and while incarcerated, individuals with disabilities often lack access to critical health and mental health services, as well as necessary accommodations.

    Why yes, those problems are worse in private prisons. For fuckssake.

    Thirty years ago, 60 activists set aside their wheelchairs and other assistive devices and crawled up the steps of the US Capitol to demand passage of the ADA. It’s kind of criminal that even now, there’s so much more that needs doing.

  105. says

    United Methodist Church Divorces Itself Over Same-Sex Marriage

    For years, the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America and the third largest in the world, has been arguing about the role of LGBT people in its church. This week, that argument has been settled as they have officially decide to split the church into two separate denominations: One that accepts gay people, performs same-sex weddings, and permits LGBT clergy, and another, for the homophobes.

    Last year, they held a conference to decide what to do about same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. Should they allow them? Should they let individual churches decide which way they they wanted to go? They had a vote, and to the surprise of many, the plan that eventually won out was one that would not only ban both same-sex marriage and LGBT ordination, but also would institute harsh penalties on churches and clergy that refused to go along and be bigots with them. While the “traditionalists” in the church were very happy about this, many others were not. And who can blame them?

    […] The penalties for not being crappy to gay people were set to go into motion this week, but on Friday, after much deliberation and mediation, the church decided to split from itself.

    Now the normal Methodists will be in the United Methodist Church and the “Straight Methodists Only!” people will have their own special “Traditionalist” church, to be officially named later. Those churches will continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to pretend that none of their clergy is gay. […]

    According to those who devised the plan, it is: “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.”

    That seems like a really nice and churchy way of putting “it was just easier to let the homophobes go.” […]

    Link

  106. tomh says

    The biggest reason the Evangelicals still support Trump.

    Scotusblog:
    Federal government’s brief in abortion case supports Louisiana’s position, raises possibility of overruling Whole Woman’s Health
    Amy Howe
    Fri, January 3rd

    On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in one of the biggest cases of the new year: the challenge to the constitutionality of a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have the right to admit patients at a nearby hospital. Four years ago, the justices struck down a similar law from Texas, by a vote of 5-3. But the court has changed since then…
    […]

    Yesterday the federal government weighed in, in a “friend of the court” brief in which it urged the justices either to throw the case out or, alternatively, to allow the admitting-privileges requirement to stand. And if necessary, the federal government told the justices, the Supreme Court should overrule its 2016 decision in the Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the federal government had argued in support of the abortion providers.
    […]

    Details at the link.

  107. Pierce R. Butler says

    re tomh @ # 119 — The Supreme Court’s decision in June Medical v. Gee is expected before the Court’s term ends in late June 2020.

    Not that I want to encourage anything so drastic as actual optimism, but the GOP 5 @ SCOTUS may save the world if they over-reach and provoke a strong pro-choice backlash persisting through November (but only if we still have elections then).

  108. KG says

    A deliberate snub in response to Johnson sniggering about Trump at the NATO meeting, or does Johnson just not enter Trump’s mind?:

    It has been reported that Boris Johnson, who has been celebrating the new year on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, was unaware that the attack was due. The prime minister made no immediate comment.

    The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, known as a Brexit hardliner, has urged de-escalation on both sides. But if Trump gets into a war with Iran, he and Johnson will face a crisis far beyond their experience, and in my view, their competence. Along with “Geting Brexit done”.

  109. KG says

    A deliberate snub in response to Johnson sniggering about Trump at the NATO meeting, or does Johnson just not enter Trump’s mind?:

    It has been reported that Boris Johnson, who has been celebrating the new year on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, was unaware that the attack was due. The prime minister made no immediate comment.

    The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, known as a Brexit hardliner, has urged de-escalation on both sides. But if Trump gets into a war with Iran, he and Johnson will face a crisis far beyond their experience, and in my view, their competence. Along with “Geting Brexit done”.

  110. says

    Thin-skinned and ultra narcissistic Trump ordered airstrikes in part because he was disappointed with media coverage of the fact that he halted an airstrike against Iran last year.

    […] According to a Washington Post report Friday night, after Trump was told at Mar-a-Lago that Soleimani was going to Baghdad — which senior officials viewed as a way to taunt the U.S. — calls between national security principals were set up by Vice President Mike Pence throughout the week after initial plans were made Sunday to kill Soleimani, a senior administration official told the Post.

    The Post reported that officials then reminded Trump that he failed to respond after Iranians mined ships, downed a U.S. drone and allegedly attacked a Saudi oil facility last year. The officials argued that the time is ripe to act now to send Iranians a message that they can’t “get by with anything.” […]

    Officials told the Post that Trump was also compelled to authorize the Soleimani strike due to what he viewed as negative coverage that ensued after his decision last year to call off the airstrike targeting Iran. Additionally, Trump held frustration over the details of his internal deliberations leaking out — which he felt made him look weak, […]

    And there you have it. Trump is so weak that he is deathly afraid of he will “look weak.” And, so, the U.S. goes to war to salve Trump’s ego.

    Trump also wanted an opportunity to make Obama look bad, (or so he thought in his twisted, barely functional mind), by comparison.

    Lawmakers and aides who have spoken to Trump told the Post that the President’s fixation on Benghazi and the Obama administration’s response to it also played a role into his decision.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Post in an interview that when he went to Mar-a-Lago on Monday, he could tell that “Benghazi has loomed large on his mind.” […]

    Link

  111. says

    Pompeo is complaining that the U.S.’s European allies have not backed up Trump’s latest stupid move in the Middle East:

    During an appearance on Fox News […], Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threw European allies under the bus for not coming around to President Trump’s authorization of the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani.

    When Hannity asked Pompeo what other countries have been telling him after the strike that killed Soleimani, the secretary of state said that he’d been “talking to partners in the region” which has been “fantastic.” [Saudi Arabia?]

    “I spent the last day and a half, two days, talking to partners in the region, sharing with them what we were doing, why we were doing it, seeking their assistance,” Pompeo said. “They’ve all been fantastic.” […]

    “Frankly, the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be,” Pompeo said. “The Brits, the French, the Germans all need to understand that what we did — what the Americans did — saved lives in Europe as well.” […]

    “Qassem Soleimani and his IRGC led assassination campaigns in Europe,” Pompeo said. “This was a good thing for the entire world and we are urging everyone in the world to get behind what the United States is trying to do: To get the Islamic Republic of Iran to simply behave like a normal nation.”

    Earlier Friday, Trump attempted to justify his decision to authorize the strike that killed Soleimani by arguing that the move was intended “to stop a war.” The President’s comments came after the State Department urged all U.S. citizens in Iraq to depart the country immediately as the region braces for possible retaliation from the Iranian military. […]

    link

  112. says

    Commentary from Kerry Eleveld:

    It finally arrived. Not the New Year, rather the moment we have all been bracing for when Donald Trump would take unilateral and irrevocable military action that likely puts America on the path to another intractable war.

    It’s a horrific redux of the haunting preemptive strike doctrine we have been paying for in blood and treasure ever since the last Republican president led us into a conflict that continues to this day. […]

    They have yet to provide any real rationale for assassinating a top Iranian commander other than flimsy claims of an “imminent” attack on U.S. diplomats and soldiers in the works. No one briefed Congress in advance […]

    “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said, repeating claims of “imminent and sinister attacks” without providing any evidence. No administration official has even come close to explaining the “Why now?” of assassinating Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. He’s been on America’s radar for two decades and yet two presidents, Bush and Obama, opted not to kill him for the very reason that doing so might spiral into an endless conflict with Iran.

    If it all weren’t so terrifying and consequential, it would be amusing. Apparently, every single person in the Trump administration is suffering from some kind of crippling brain disorder. Trump is precisely the least credible person on earth to make the case for escalating tensions with Iran […] Did they forget that lies spout from Trump’s lips like a city fire hydrant loosed in the blistering summer heat? In fact, when times are tough and the politics are dicey, you can absolutely count on Trump to lie (see: health care policy, personal taxes, hush money payments, Russian collusion, Russian interference, Putin convos, firing Mueller, North Korea denuclearization, Mexico border wall funding, Hurricane paths, tariffs/trade wars, Puerto Rico relief, the Bidens, and Ukraine, just to name a few). […]

    As former Florida Congressman David Jolly noted on MSNBC Friday, Trump not only lies, he’s not temperamentally fit enough to be trustworthy in a moment of true national crisis.

    Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are reportedly “relishing the optics” of Democrats’ push for a fair trial of Trump, whom Republicans have now elevated to wartime president status in their own minds. […]

    Americans do usually rally around a wartime president, and Trump may manage to eke out a small bump in approval ratings from his military intervention. But Trump isn’t just any president—he is an eminently untrustworthy human being. […]

    You can’t lie your ass off, rage against everything and everyone, toy with starting a war for reasons no one can explain, and not suffer a point or two at the ballot box—points Trump simply cannot afford to lose. That’s especially true when your incompetence leads to the betrayal of one of your biggest campaign promises—ending endless wars. Voters went to the polls in record numbers in 2018 to put a check on Trump, electing an historic number of Democrats to the House. Trump is once again reminding those voters just how imperative it will be to boot him from office once and for all in November.

    Link

  113. says

    A Democratic Senator Has Introduced a Resolution to Prevent War with Iran

    It raises the question of whether Congress will intervene if military tensions escalate.

    I just filed a resolution to prevent Trump from starting a war with Iran. The President wants to pretend that Congress doesn’t exist, but it’s our clear Constitutional duty to debate and vote before allowing him to rush into an unnecessary war.

    https://twitter.com/timkaine/status/1213184490085863430

  114. says

    Another consequence of Trump’s ill-considered actions:

    NATO suspended its training mission in Iraq, the alliance said Saturday after a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

    NATO has been advising the Iraqi defense forces on how to keep ISIS from regaining strength. However, those “training activities are temporarily suspended,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in an emailed statement. […]

    https://www.politico.eu/article/nato-suspends-iraq-training-mission/

  115. says

    Remember what Ari Fleischer said: “I think it is entirely possible that this is going to be a catalyst inside Iran where the people celebrate this killing of Soleimani.” [delusional asshat]

    Fact:

    Thousands of mourners chanting “America is the Great Satan” marched in a funeral procession Saturday through Baghdad for Iran’s top general and Iraqi militant leaders who were killed in a U.S. airstrike. […]

    The mourners, mostly men in black military fatigues, carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani. They were also mourning Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior Iraqi militia commander who was killed in the same strike.

    The procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. Mourners marched in the streets alongside militia vehicles in a solemn procession.

    The mourners, many of them in tears, chanted: “No, No, America,” and “Death to America, death to Israel.” Mohammed Fadl, a mourner dressed in black, said the funeral is an expression of loyalty to the slain leaders. “It is a painful strike, but it will not shake us,” he said. […]

    On Saturday, billboards appeared on major streets in Iran showing Soleimani and carrying the warning from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that “harsh revenge” awaits the US.

    Iranian state television also aired images of a ceremony honoring Soleimani at a mosque in the Shiite holy city of Qom, where a red flag was unfurled above the minarets. Red flags in Shiite tradition symbolize both blood spilled unjustly and serve as a call to avenge a person who is slain.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Soleimani’s home in Tehran to express his condolences.

    “The Americans did not realize what a great mistake they made,” Rouhani said. “They will see the effects of this criminal act, not only today but for years to come.” […]

    Illustrating Soleimani’s regional reach, Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, including the territory’s Hamas rulers, opened a mourning site for the slain general and dozens gathered to burn American and Israeli flags.

    Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official, said the killing of Soleimani was “a loss for Palestine and the resistance.” […]

    Link

  116. says

    Oh, FFS!

    The New York Times’ first opinion editorial about war with Iran is by a guy who said there were no downsides to invading Iraq.

    At 10 a.m. EST on Friday, the New York Times published its first op-ed about the United States airstrike that killed Iranian paramilitary commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, an attack that effectively constitutes a declaration of war against Iran. […] The piece describes Soleimani’s assassination as “long overdue,” asserting that his death will “make Iran much weaker” and create “hope” among Iranian dissidents and anti-Iranian factions in Iraq and Lebanon.

    The author of the op-ed is Michael Doran […] Doran worked at the National Security Council and Pentagon during the presidency of George W. Bush. And as it just so happens, Bush also launched a war by promising that an operation against a Middle Eastern leader would eliminate threats to the the United States and create a domino effect of democratic reform. One of the threats Bush cited, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, turned out not to exist. Another, al-Qaida, never had a connection to Saddam in the first place, although his downfall cleared the way for a branch of the group to begin attacking U.S. forces in Iraq. That branch eventually became ISIS. Democracy did not spread through the Middle East.

    Doran […] made arguments advancing the Bush-Cheney party line in a January/February 2003 Foreign Affairs op-ed and a May 2003 Council on Foreign Relations debate.

    In the former, Doran dismissed the “chorus of voices” from “European and Arab capitals” that argued that deposing Saddam would trigger a regional backlash that could “wreak havoc on American interests.” In fact, he wrote, by “thwarting Saddam’s ambitions and continuing to root out [Osama] bin Laden’s henchmen and associates,” the U.S. would “demonstrate forcefully that challenges to its authority in the region will be defeated.” This, he said, would deter other Middle Eastern groups considering attacks against American interests. […]

    Doran’s Foreign Affairs piece about why invading Iraq would not create a regional backlash against the United States was reprinted contemporaneously in the New York Times, which has now printed his new piece celebrating military action against one of the regional powers that was drawn to Iraq to attack U.S. forces after the invasion.

    Space is presumably already reserved for his next article, in 2037, which will justify the invasion of Lebanon.

    Link

  117. says

    OMFG! Really? Vice President Mike Pence falsely linked Soleimani to 9/11 in an attempt to justify the Trump-approved assassination.

    […] Pence defended […] Trump’s decision to authorize a drone strike that killed Iran’s top intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, in a series of tweets that pushed a conspiracy theory that ties the Sept. 11, 2001 attack to Iran even though there is no proof to make that connection.

    […] Pence called Soleimani “an evil man who was responsible for killings thousands of Americans.” The vice president went on to say that Soleimani “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.” It is far from clear how Pence made that conclusion that is not supported by what is publicly known about both Soleimani and those who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. […]

    it is also unclear how Pence can assert that Soleimani assisted the attackers in the first place. Even though he was already a powerful military leader in 2001, Soleimani isn’t mentioned once in the 9/11 Commission Report.

    One thing the report does point out though is that “there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.” But the report also says there is “no evidence” that Iran or Hezbollah were aware of plans for the attack. The Post explains what Pence’s tweet could be referring to and why it is misleading:

    Basically, it boils down to this: Iran adopted a policy of not stamping visas on al-Qaeda members’ passports, […] “Such arrangements were particularly beneficial to Saudi members of al Qaeda.” The hijackers essentially exploited a known policy.

    So it’s technically correct to say that Iran “assisted” in their travel, but the impression could be left that it was knowingly assisting in what became the 9/11 attack.

    Even if you want to make an argument that somehow Iran assisted the attackers though, Pence went beyond that and specifically said it was Soleimani who gave that assistance. When Pence’s office was asked for clarification, it referred to a document that once again refers to the way the Sept. 11 attackers traveled to Iran, but fails to mention Soleimani at all.

    There’s also a small detail that raises questions about Pence’s statement. Soleimani was a Shiite, so why on earth would he come to the aid of a Sunni extremist group that had clear ties to al-Qaida? Soleimani even cooperated with the U.S. government briefly after Sept. 11, 2001 to target the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    So what was behind the statement? It could simply be a way for the vice president to justify the assassination in a way that could appeal to the American public. But some experts say it could go beyond that and may be an effort to make the argument that the killing of Soleimani falls under a 2001 authorization for the use of military force that was approved by Congress. That broad law authorizes the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

    Link

  118. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Tim@130,
    Well, it’s just about the only type of crime he hasn’t tried yet, so I suppose it’s natural for him to want to branch out. I suspect he’ll be a natural at war crimes, too.

  119. lumipuna says

    Americans, don’t export any more freedom to Middle east! You’re gonna face a domestic shortage.

  120. says

    Yes, Trump is publicly tweeting about committing war crimes.

    […] Destroying a country’s sites of cultural significance is classified as a war crime by not only the United Nations and the Geneva Convention, but also by Trump’s own Department of Defense per section 5.18 in its Law of War Manual.

    The U.S. is on the brink of a full-scale war with Iran after Trump authorized a drone strike on Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport last week to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, a top general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Trump insisted he ordered the assassination to “stop a war” and that he has a “deep respect for the Iranian people.”

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper claimed on Friday that Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

    “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” he said.

    Link

    Some media outlets are using headlines that say “52 sites,” and not “cultural sites.” This is unfortunate. We have to stress that Trump is talking about targeting cultural sites, as well as other targets in Iran. Also, Trump’s language that uses phrases like “hit them hard and fast” is an escalation.

    The Trump tweet in question:

    Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.

  121. says

    Predictable result of Trump throwing another tantrum:

    Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told parliament that Iraq’s government must establish a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops “for the sake of our national sovereignty.” His recommendation follows a U.S. strike that killed Iran’s Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, and a key Iraqi leader of Iran-backed militias. “What happened was a political assassination,” Mahdi said of the strike. “Iraq cannot accept this.”

    Ill just not that Putin wants US troops out of Iraq.

  122. says

    From the readers comments (link to article is in comment 137):

    the Times is reporting that the air strike was presented as the worst option in a range of possible responses, and that’s the only one he wanted.
    ——————–
    I can’t wrap my head around what possessed these advisors to dangle that bait in front of him.
    Or why they claim they were stunned he took it.
    ———————
    I know! We’ve heard stories that critical info was held from him in briefings, because he’s such a blabbermouth. Why wasn’t this?

    I wonder if his so-called WH advisors or other bad actors were whispering sweet nothings into his ear.
    ————————–
    If the Iraqis kick us out we’ll be humbled before the world. It’s a brilliant stroke, and we damn well brought it on ourselves.
    ———————–
    Ah, the second coming of ISIS at the behest of Little Donnie pitching a fit and showing the world he is a BIG man.
    ————————
    David Corn (DavidCornDC)
    .@realDonaldTrump found a novel way to withdraw US troops from Iraq and essentially hand over the country to Iran. Can’t wait to see how all those GOPers who once attacked Obama for pulling troops out of Iraq react to this. @LindseyGrahamSC, what say you? https://t.co/oKduKUl9cK
    ———————–
    Make American Genocidal Again.
    ————————
    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Retweeted Donald J. Trump

    This is a war crime. Threatening to target and kill innocent families, women and children – which is what you’re doing by targeting cultural sites – does not make you a “tough guy.” It does not make you “strategic.” It makes you a monster.

  123. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    It is basically impossible to think that President Trump’s decision to authorize the dramatic assassination of Qasem Soleimani wasn’t influenced his looming impeachment trial. But we’re also getting more detail now on the precise chain of events leading up to it. […] The upshot is that the claim of disrupted future attacks was thin at best, inferences drawn from Soleimani’s travel itinerary placed in the context of the shadowy game of tit for tat the two countries have been playing for the last year.

    From a different perspective, this is the kind of assemblage of evidence that gets made after you make a decision – justification rather than actual reason. […] this is after the fact justification meant to put the operation on a better legal and political footing.

    Military advisors will present a President with a range of possible options [Trump went for the “far out option”] This apparently prompted a rushed and somewhat chaotic chain of events because the US didn’t know at that point precisely where Soleimani was or who he was with.

    We know that Trump was chilled or highly defensive about claims that the Embassy attacks would or could be “another Benghazi”. That clearly seemed to play into this decision. […]

    So big picture is that this does appear to have evolved out of an at least somewhat conventional military/policy-making process, to the extent those still exist in the Trump administration. But it saw the President opting for the most aggressive option given to him. And, as I said, I don’t think you can separate that from the domestic political situation in the United States.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/more-information-emerges

  124. says

    How it went down:

    Unnamed senior officials insist that they were “stunned” when Donald Trump decided to kill Iranian Major General Quassem Soleimani, as the attack was never considered a serious suggestion, the New York Times reported Saturday evening. As Mark Sumner noted earlier in the day, officials had previously described the deadly airstrike as the “far out” option, but the Times’ latest reporting notes that that the hit on Soleimani was not pitched to Trump as a viable course of action. Instead, the “most extreme” deed was intended to be a spoonful of sugar to nudge Trump towards better choices.

    American military officials put the option of killing him — which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq — on the menu they presented to […] Trump.

    They didn’t think he would take it. In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.

    The “menu” of options was first presented to Trump at Mar-a-lago one day after the Dec. 27 military base attack that killed an American contractor, and included “strikes on Iranian ships or missile facilities or against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq.” Pentagon officials “tacked on” the Suleimani hit, the Times reports, “mainly to make other options seem reasonable.” […]

    Link

  125. says

    Donald Trump Threatened Iran With War Crimes. Mike Pompeo Doesn’t See a Problem With That.

    “We will be bold in protecting American interests. […].”

    […] When asked about the tweets on CNN’s State of the Union, Pompeo backed the president. “The American people should know that we will not waver,” he said. “We will be bold in protecting American interests, and we will do so in a way that is consistent with the rule of law.” When host Jake Tapper asked about the potential violation of international law, Pompeo did not express concern over the chosen cultural site targets. […]

    Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence reportedly had been among the most hawkish in their encouragement of the strike. […]

    Link

  126. says

    From Wonkette:

    Hillary Clinton warned us all that an unstable reality TV host would make a piss-poor commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military. Unfortunately, she shrunk the testicles of insecure men in the rust belt, so here we are. Donald Trump, flush from killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, tweeted threats at Iran yesterday like a drunk-dialing Dr. Evil. Duck and cover, y’all. […]

    See, this is why Kamala Harris wanted to take Trump’s Twitter away and send him to bed without his dessert. The fool’s playng the dozens with Iran on social media. He even has WARNING in ALL CAPS so Iran knows he’s serious. It’s bonkers. This ain’t how you foreign policy. It’s not even how you mobster. Cobra Commander at least took the time to broadcast his maniacal threats on live television in a freshly pressed super villain suit. Our so-called president just tweets out deranged gibberish […] Forget extorting Ukraine. This alone is the kind of crap presidents get impeached over in saner countries. Here, it’s another Saturday in the park. […]

    Trump isn’t just playing 52 pickup. Iran held 52 Americans hostage in 1979, and Trump or either the morons surrounding him believe Iran will shiver from all the symbolism. Of course, deliberately targeting a nation’s cultural sites is a war crime. This isn’t some new snowflake theory. The precedent was established during the Civil War. We yelled at Nazis in Nuremberg for this crap. Trump obviously possesses neither the moral core nor working knowledge of the law to comprehend the flaws in his mad scheme.

    However, wrecking buildings of cultural importance is old hat for Trump. Also back in 1979, Trump razed the Bonwit Teller building so he could construct that grotesque monument to his vanity, Trump Tower. The classic art deco building was built by the same architects who designed Grand Central Station. The top of the building featured two stunning limestone reliefs of dancing women that Trump promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its sculpture collection. Instead, he jackhammered them into oblivion […]

    Link

  127. says

    Best thread on the razor thin “evidence” Trump had for killing Suleimani:

    https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213423250300166144

    I’ve had a chance to check in with sources, including two US officials who had intelligence briefings after the strike on Suleimani. Here is what I’ve learned. According to them, the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is “razor thin”.

    In fact the evidence pointing to that came as three discrete facts: a) A pattern of travel showing Suleimani was in Syria, Lebanon & Iraq to meet with Shia proxies known to have an offensive position to the US. (As one source said that’s just “business as usual” for Suleimani)

    More intriguing was b) information indicating Suleimani sought the Supreme Leader’s approval for an operation. He was told to come to Tehran for consultation and further guidance, suggesting the operation was a big deal – but again this could be anything.

    And finally, a) and b) were read in the context of c) Iran’s increasingly bellicose position towards American interests in Iraq, including the attack that killed a U.S. contractor and the recent protest outside the American embassy.

    But as one source put it a) + b) + c) is hardly evidence of an imminent attack on American interests that could kill hundreds, as the White House has since claimed. The official describes the reading of the intelligence as an illogical leap.

    One official described the planning for the strike as chaotic. The official says that following the attack on an Iraqi base which killed an American contractor circa Dec. 27, Trump was presented a menu of options for how to retaliate. Killing Suleimani was the “far out option” […]

    More at the link.

  128. says

    Another predictable result of Trump’s latest temper tantrum: “Iran announces it is suspending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal.”

    BREAKING: Iran’s government said Sunday it was taking its final step away from the accord it negotiated with world powers, including the United States.

    It plans to abandon limits on uranium enrichment, research and development and its stockpile of nuclear fuel. Iran will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

    This is a developing story and will be updated.

    Washington Post link

  129. says

    Cyber attacks from Iran are a real threat.

    For years, US tensions with Iran have held to a kind of brinksmanship. But the drone assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, widely understood to be the second most powerful figure in Iran, has dangerously escalated tensions. The world now awaits Iran’s response, which seems likely to make new use of a tool that the country has already been deploying for years: its brigades of military hackers.

    In the wake of Thursday’s strike, military and cybersecurity analysts caution Iran’s response could include, among other possibilities, a wave of disruptive cyberattacks. The country has spent years building the capability to execute not only the mass-destruction of computers but potentially more advanced—albeit far less likely—attacks on Western critical infrastructure like power grids and water systems. […]

    Iran has ramped up its cyberwar capabilities ever since a joint US-Israeli intelligence operation deployed the malware known as Stuxnet in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in 2007, destroying centrifuges and crippling the country’s nuclear efforts. Iran has since put serious resources into advancing its own hacking, though it deploys them more for espionage and mass disruption than Stuxnet-like surgical strikes. […]

    The most likely form of cyberattack to expect from Iran will be the one it has launched repeatedly against its neighbors in recent years: so-called wiper malware designed to destroy as many computers as possible inside target networks. Iran has used wipers like Shamoon and Stone Drill to inflict waves of disruption across neighboring countries in the Middle East, starting with an attack in 2012 that destroyed 30,000 Saudi Aramco computers. In 2014, Iranian hackers hit the Las Vegas Sands corporation with a wiper after owner Sheldon Adelson suggested a nuclear strike against the country. More recently, Iran’s hackers have hit private-sector targets in neighboring Gulf states like the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait, as well as Saipem, an Italian oil firm for whom Saudi Aramco is a major customer.

    “From what we know to date of their capabilities, they’re still really focused on IT-targeted wipers.” says Joe Slowik, an analyst at industrial cybersecurity firm Dragos […]

    Dragos and other cybersecurity firms like FireEye and CrowdStrike have recently observed Iranian hacking groups like APT33, known also as Magnallium or Refined Kitten, looking for points of ingress into potential targets in the US, including the Department of Energy and US National Labs. […]

    WIRED link

  130. says

    [head/desk] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to blame Barack Obama for Trump’s escalation of war with Iran.

    […] “Jake, we’re trying to restore deterrence that frankly is a need that results directly from the fact that the previous administration left us in a terrible place with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo told CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper.

    [Pompeo] said the Obama administration had “appeased Iran,” which he claimed “led to Shia militias with money, Hamas, the [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed by Soleimani himself.”

    “This was the place we find ourselves in when we came in,” Pompeo said.

    He accused Obama of being too soft on the Iranians by entering the U.S. into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran nuclear deal, from which the Trump administration withdrew as part of its “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran. […]

    The blame game continued during Pompeo’s other morning show appearances.

    “We’re trying to correct for what was the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran,” he said during an interview with “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos. “And we have to-we have to do that. We have to continue to do that, or Americans will be less safe.”

    “The risk of terror is increased by appeasement,” Pompeo told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan. “That’s what the Obama-Biden administration did. It’s what President Trump will never do, Margaret.”

    “What we are now having to correct for is the enormous economic activity that took place during this Iranian nuclear deal that President Trump rightly got out of in May of 2018,” he said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd. […]

    “It may be that there’s a little noise here in the interim, that the Iranians make the choice to respond,” Pompeo told Todd. “I hope that they don’t. President Trump has made clear what we will do in response if they do, that our response will be decisive and vigorous, just as it has been so far.” […]

    Link

    From the readers comments:

    Liar! There was no need to exit the JCPOA -none. What a sane administration would have done is gather allies and begin negotiation on the other issues wrt Iran’s adventurism. The Iranian people were extremely upset with the government, Soleimani and the economy before Trump exited the JCPOA. Unfortunately, this administration made Soleimani a martyr and has for now united the factions in Iran against the U.S. This is the height of stupidity and Pompeo needs to be out on his ass tomorrow.

  131. says

    Authoritarianism, and the rise of a dictator, just took another step in Venezuela.

    The government of President Nicolás Maduro staged a de facto takeover of Venezuela’s legislature on Sunday, swearing in its own candidate as head of the National Assembly in a move apparently orchestrated to rob international credibility from Juan Guaidó, who had led the body and has staked a rival claim as head of state.

    […] Opposition officials declared the move an effective “parliamentary coup” meant to consolidate Maduro’s near-dictatorial powers.

    “Today, they dismantled the rule of law, assassinating the republic, with the complicity of a group of traitor lawmakers,” Guaidó told reporters outside the parliamentary building.

    The replacement of Guaidó amounted to a bait and switch. On Sunday, he began the day anticipating his reelection as head of the National Assembly, viewed internationally as the last democratic institution in the authoritarian South American state. Guaidó’s claim as the nation’s true president — recognized by nearly 60 countries, including the United States — has been based on his status as the assembly’s chief.

    But security forces loyal to Maduro formed a cordon around the assembly building in central Caracas, blocking opposition lawmakers — who control the chamber — from entering. Lawmakers who back Maduro — including several allegedly involved in a government plot to buy votes — were allowed to pass. At one point, Guaidó sought to scale the spiked wrought-iron fence surrounding the assembly, trying to force his way in and shredding the jacket of his business suit. […]

    Washington Post link

    And, of course, the criminals are taking over as if they were legitimate politicians:

    […] At the same time, Luis Parra — a former opposition politician who was one of several lawmakers accused last month of accepting government bribes — announced his surprise candidacy against Guaidó on Twitter on Sunday morning. Hours later, his swearing-in was suddenly shown on state television. […]

  132. says

    Thousands take to New York streets in solidarity after anti-Semitic attacks

    […] Lawmakers joined protestors at the demonstration organized by dozens of advocacy and Jewish community groups chanting “No hate, no fear, our Jewish families are welcome here,” as they marched across lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Images and video clips shared on Twitter showed thousands of people coming out in support of the protest of the rise in hate crimes against Jews. […]

  133. says

    Trump is still blustering and posturing on Twitter:

    The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!

    They attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!

  134. says

    @#122, KG:

    Things beyond Johnson and Raab’s competence? Now there’s a hole with no bottom.

    Given that Trump is well-known for holding grudges, I think that the chances of the UK getting a “special deal” with the US — which Johnson has always claimed would happen — came to a definite end when Johnson mocked Trump at NATO.

    @#124, Lynna, OM:

    This is nothing new — look how long the Vietnam war went on because both major parties feared that admitting defeat would have made us “look weak”. Or how we’ve persistently built up our useless and dangerous nuclear arsenal because dismantling even a portion of it would make us “look weak”. Or how Democrats have voted for all those military budget increases and wars because voting against them would “let the Republicans say we’re weak” (as though that stopped the Republicans!). If anything, this is another piece of continuity with pre-Trump policy.

    @#130, Lynna OM:

    I didn’t know Joe Biden was writing for the NY Times. Oh, wait, that’s right, after thirteen years he finally admitted that invading Iraq was a bad idea, and now he’s bashing Trump with it.

    @#134, a_ray_in_dilbert_space:

    Trump has already committed war crimes, repeatedly. (Just for a start, the treaties we signed at the end of World War II make it a war crime to shelter a war criminal, and Trump didn’t hand over anybody from the Bush or Obama administrations for war crimes trials. But he’s also done a bunch of the usual more active stuff since then.) If the US cared about war crimes, Trump would have been gone pretty quickly… but then, if we cared about war crimes, there hasn’t been a president in my lifetime who wouldn’t have been on trial at the very least, and probably locked away where the dogs don’t bite.

  135. says

    Well, this is just getting worse and worse:

    These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!

    “Disproportionate”! Sheesh.

    And no, I don’t think Trump just announcing this part of his shitstorm on Twitter is “legal notice.”

  136. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lynna @ # 152: …I don’t think Trump just announcing this part of his shitstorm on Twitter is “legal notice.”.

    Consider it a revival of the Nixon Doctrine: if the president does it, it’s legal.

  137. KG says

    Sorry for the repetition upthread – #122 and #123 didn’t appear to post when I submitted them. UK Foreign Secretary Raab has now been slapped down for daring to deviate from a straight pro-US line on the assassination.

  138. tomh says

    9:00 a.m.
    Bolton ‘prepared to testify’ in Senate if subpoenaed…

    Former national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that he is “prepared to testify” if called as a witness by the Senate… “I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.”

    Apparently, a Senate subpoena is more powerful than a House subpoena.

    9:40 a.m.
    Bolton’s lawyer declines to say whether Bolton would testify before House

    Bolton’s Monday statement only referred to his willingness to testify in the Senate and did not address how the former national security adviser would respond to a House subpoena if one were issued.

    When asked whether Bolton would testify if subpoenaed by the House, his lawyer, Charles Cooper, responded by directing reporters to the statement Bolton posted earlier Monday. Cooper declined to provide more information.

  139. says

    Followup to comment 125.

    Commentary on just why it is that our European allies are not cheering Trump’s undiplomatic moves in Iraq, and in reference to Iran:

    […] our European allies partnered with the United States on the international nuclear agreement with Iran; they held up their end of the bargain; and they helped ensure that the JCPOA policy was a success. When Donald Trump signaled his intention to abandon the agreement, our European allies took a variety of steps to make the American president happy, strengthening the deal in order to secure the Republican’s support.

    Trump blew then off, ignored their efforts, and rejected the effective policy for reasons he struggled to explain.

    When European leaders scrambled to salvage a working agreement with Iran, the Trump administration threatened our allies with sanctions.

    Months later, when Trump moved forward with a dangerous new policy that created new national security risks for our allies, the White House didn’t bother to give them a heads-up. And now they’re not being “helpful”? Imagine that.

    Pompeo apparently wants everyone to know he’s disappointed. It’s a safe bet that there are officials in London, Berlin, and Paris who are feeling the same way.

    Link

  140. says

    Julian Castro endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren for president this morning. Castro ended his own campaign last week.

    There is one candidate I see who is unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America’s promise will be there for everyone.

    No one is working harder than you are, not only in meeting people but in listening to people. And also bringing the goods, saying, “OK, this is what I’m going to do about it.”

  141. says

    Just to round up and summarize the effects of Trump’s ill-considered mission to kill Iranian General Qassem Soleimani:

    Shiite politicians in Iraq passed a resolution urging the Prime Minister to rescind Iraq’s invitation to U.S. forces. (Kick U.S forces out of Iraq, in other words.)

    Iran announced that it was ending its commitment to limit enrichment of uranium … no more nuclear deal. (Our European allies had been trying to hold that agreement together in spite of Trump having walked away from it earlier.)

    The American-led coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria has halted that fight in order to prepare instead for retaliation that is expected to come from Iran.

    American citizens have been evacuated from Iraq.

    Iranian citizens, who had previously been demonstrating in favor of greater democracy and/or freedom in their country, are now solidly in support of Iranian leaders and government officials. Trump’s actions united them.

    Israel and Saudi Arabia are seriously worried. Saudi diplomats are in Washington D.C. now, trying to tamp things down, trying to prevent war.

    Putin received a bounty of presents: a further weakened U.S./Europe alliance; more pressure to remove U.S. troops from the Middle East, which makes more room for Russian influence; more divisive attitudes within the U.S. population; and a strengthening of goodwill between Russia and Iran.

    More proof that Trump is a dolt.

    Trump’s reputation with our European allies sunk even lower.

    More American troops deployed to the Middle East.

  142. Akira MacKenzie says

    Details are forthcoming, but Reuters is reporting that U.S.-led coalition tells Iraqi military it will withdraw from Iraq out of respect for the nation’s sovereignty.

  143. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    I’m inclined to think that John Bolton’s statement that he would comply with a subpoena from a Senate impeachment trial is largely meaningless. First of all, it only matters if he is in fact subpoenaed by the Senate — which is the whole question currently being debated. There’s little sign that this contingency will ever come to pass.

    […] The more interesting question is why Bolton felt the need to say this at all. It is certainly being seen by commentators as a big deal. And it could perhaps add some pressure to Senate Republicans. But that’s really a political question. And as for what Bolton is trying to accomplish, I’m really not sure.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/whats-up-with-bolton

    I think Bolton is teeing up sales orders for his upcoming book. I also think Bolton feels relatively secure in the idea that there won’t be 4 Republican senators who break ranks from Mitch McConnell and vote to have witnesses testify in Trump’s impeachment trial.

  144. says

    Followup to comment 161.

    From Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

    John Bolton correctly acknowledged that he needs to comply with a Senate subpoena to compel his testimony, if issued. It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton, and the other three witnesses, as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial.

    From Adam Schiff:

    Bolton is an important witness to misconduct involving Ukraine that he called a “drug deal.”

    Bolton refused to testify in the House, following Trump’s orders.

    Now he is willing to come forward. The Senate must allow testimony from him, Mulvaney and others. The coverup must end.

    Schumer’s full statement:

    Momentum for uncovering the truth in a Senate trial continues. John Bolton correctly acknowledged that he needs to comply with a Senate subpoena to compel his testimony, if issued. It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton, and the other three witnesses, as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial. Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up.

    From the readers comments:

    Sneed [Tierney Sneed, author of the article] says “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has countered that the Senate should follow the example of the Clinton impeachment trial, where decisions on witnesses weren’t made until after the Senate had finished the initial stages of the proceedings.”

    This is disingenuous. Bill Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, appointed an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, to investigate the Clintons’ business deals. There has been no DOJ investigation into Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal and Trump has completely stonewalled the impeachment. Since these two impeachments are not the same, the proceedings cannot be the same and still be fair.
    ———————
    All of the witnesses in the Clinton [case] had already testified and given sworn statements in the House impeachment hearings and that information was relayed as part of the impeachment articles to the Senate. McConnell is attempting to distort the truth again and if we don’t fight back with how the Clinton impeachment really went down then who is going to get the truth out […]

    Link

  145. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Donald Trump Junior posed with an assault rifle that referenced the Crusades, and that also featured the Hillary Clinton “lock her up!” image on the ammunition clip.

    […] “Inspired by some of the most fierce warriors who fought in nearly 200 years of epic conflicts known as the Crusades,” a description from the company reads. “This lower honors the warrior mindset. Technology evolves, warriors never change.”

    The “Hillary for Prison” magazine, sold by Spike’s Tactical, shows Clinton peering out from behind prison bars. The product riffs on the “lock her up!” chant Trump popularized as a 2016 candidate for president. It’s since become an all-purpose meme, applied to other rivals of Trump’s like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

    The receiver, which features a Jerusalem Cross, resembles the “great helm” helmets worn by the Christian soldiers as they went to battle in the Middle East. A Rare Breed Firearms video introducing the product a year ago featured audio of solemn Latin chanting. The company also sells Crusader shirts and stickers. […]

    A disturbing photo is available at this TPM link, and on Junior’s Twitter feed, to which I will not link.

    […] As Josephine Livingstone noted in The New Republic last year, “the chivalric paraphernalia of the Crusades has been repurposed by Trump-supporting hate groups, while rightwing terrorists, from Anders Behring Breivik to the Christchurch shooter, have used their manifestos to bemoan Muslim ‘invasions’ of white culture. The KKK’s newsletter is called The Crusader.” […]

    Yep. More white supremacist paraphernalia in Junior’s hands.

  146. tomh says

    WaPo:
    John Bolton says he would testify to the Senate. So why not the House?
    By Aaron Blake
    Jan. 6, 2020

    The first-blush reactions to John Bolton saying he will testify if subpoenaed in a Senate impeachment trial were understandably skeptical. The GOP controls the Senate and has shown no appetite for subpoenaing new witnesses, after all, so it may mean next to nothing.

    But even if his Senate testimony may still be a long shot, what about potential testimony in the House?
    […]

    Constitutional scholar Heidi Kitrosser of the University of Minnesota said this could make it much more difficult for Bolton to fight a potential House subpoena.

    “By stating that he would testify if the Senate subpoenas him, Bolton has effectively waived any argument against testifying should the House subpoena him,” Kitrosser said. “Bolton had no plausible claim for absolute immunity from showing up to testify in the first place. But even if he previously had such a claim, there is no plausible basis on which it would apply only against a House subpoena and not against a Senate subpoena.”
    […]

    So, subpoena him already. What are they waiting for?

  147. says

    Followup to comment 163.

    […] Merely calling Trump Jr.’s post insensitive hardly gets across the severity of the situation. Jared Yates Sexton, an author and political analyst, used more certain terms to describe Trump Jr.’s recent social media imagery on Twitter Monday. “All right. Let’s talk about Donald Trump, Jr. posing with a gun adorned with crusader iconography as America teeters on the brink of a religious war, why the imprisoned Hillary Clinton image plays into apocalyptic white identity Christianity, and how this country got so screwed up,” Sexton tweeted.

    Kelsey Atherton, a military tech blogger at C4ISRNET, gave his own take on the concept in a tweet Monday: “In light of Don Jr.’s ‘my divorce is going fine, thank you’ assault rifle, time to dust off this history of Tacticool that I co-wrote with @iboudreau for @waypoint back in March 2018.” “We are living in the age of tacticool, and the AR-15 pattern rifle is the weapon of the age,” Atherton and cowriter Ian Boudreau wrote in the piece.

    It’s unfortunate that while people like Trump Jr. are quick to boast about big guns and casually make light of death, the thousands of people who die as a result of gun violence each year in this country seldom attract a blink of their gun-enamored eyes. American troops, apparently, get the same lack of consideration. […]

    Linka,/a>

  148. says

    From Kara Voght:

    On Sunday afternoon, […] Trump achieved what might be the apex of a weekend full of reckless Twitter diplomacy. As best I can tell (bear with me, it’s a weird one, folks): The president went to Twitter…to tell Congress…that he can attack Iran…without its permission (?)

    These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!

    Setting aside the fact that these assertions are based on a backward reading of the Constitution (Congress gives the executive branch the “legal notice” to declare war, not the other way around), what are we even supposed to make of memos to Congress delivered via Twitter? What if some lawmakers are practicing mindfulness in the new year and turned off their notifications? What is a “Media Post?” What the hell is any of this?

    Yesterday, Trump tweeted that he was contemplating some international war crimes. Today, his brain is just leaking onto his phone keyboard. […]

    Link

  149. says

    An update on Trump’s mistreatment of immigrants who are seeking asylum:

    […] Officials received guidance indicating Mexican asylum-seekers were to be included in a controversial program that began sending asylum-seekers to Guatemala in late November […]

    Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli said in December that Mexicans would be included in the program.

    While the program was originally planned for just the El Paso, Texas, area, it was extended to the Rio Grande Valley. Forty-three asylum-seekers from El Salvador and Honduras have been deported to Guatemala as of late December, […] the plan was initially supposed to only apply to adults but was expanded to include families on Dec. 10.

    […] advocates and asylum officers [said] that sending the asylum-seekers to Guatemala is not legal and could put them in jeopardy.

    Migrants go through interviews with asylum officers, in which they have no access to legal counsel, that will determine if they can be deported to Guatemala, […] The asylum-seekers need to outright say they are afraid of persecution or torture in Guatemala and prove that is “more likely than not” to happen in order to avoid being deported, it added.

    […] Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S. was planning to send asylum-seekers to Honduras, regardless of whether they were from there, to prevent them from making claims to stay in the U.S. […]

    Link

  150. says

    followup to tomh’s comment 164.

    […] Former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller tells me, “There is no legal difference between a subpoena issued by the House and one issued by the Senate, and if Bolton is willing to comply with one, the same should be true for the other.” He adds, “As a political matter, however, it probably makes sense for the House to delay any subpoena to keep the pressure squarely where it belongs — on Senate Republicans.” Vowing to call Bolton in the House could actually make the pressure that much more intense.

    Matters never should have gotten to this point. The bogus assertion of “absolute immunity,” already knocked down in the case of former White House counsel Donald McGahn by a district court judge, does not give current or former administration figures the right to avoid showing up or the administration the right to withhold documents and instruct witnesses not to testify. […]

    Washington Post link

  151. says

    In Virginia we may be seeing a preview of what will happen if Republicans lose a lot of political races in 2020.

    Gun rights advocates and militia members from around the country are urging thousands of armed protesters to descend on Virginia’s capital later this month to stop newly empowered Democrats from passing gun-control bills.

    What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights. […]

    And so a Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it’s sending training teams to help form posses and militia in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging “patriots” to converge on Richmond. The right-wing YouTuber “American Joe Show” warned without evidence that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of false and exaggerated rumors spreading online. […]

    Washington Post link

  152. says

    Followup to Akira’s comment 160.

    Well, that is one serious fuckup.

    Who among us has never accidentally clicked send on a draft and made an embarrassing faux pas—like, say, prematurely ordering U.S. troops out of Iraq?

    On Monday afternoon, Reuters and the Washington Post’s Liz Sly reported that the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq sent a letter suggesting that U.S. troops would soon be pulling out of the country.

    “Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” read the letter signed by Marine Brigadier General William H. Seely III. The missive added: “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”

    […] later followed up on Twitter, quoting Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying that the letter had been a draft and that releasing it had been a mistake—but that it had been sent to the Iraqi military and then released by the Iraqi prime minister’s office. Whoops!

    […] There’s no formal basing agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, like there was before the last troop withdrawal in 2011. U.S. troops returned to the country in 2014 to fight ISIS and around 5,000 remain at the Iraqi government’s invitation.

    Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi spoke in support of the measure, but the legislation isn’t binding and it’s not clear how he would proceed with forcing U.S. troops out, or how much he even wants to. […] Trump reacted angrily to the vote, threatening sanctions against Iraq and to charge the country for the cost of building U.S.
    bases. [JFC]

    […] Soleimani fought for nearly two decades to force the U.S. out of Iraq. Is the U.S. really going to grant him his wish just days after killing him?

    The vagueness of the draft statement gives the U.S. a lot of wiggle room to avoid a full troop withdrawal. At this point, we should know better than to take troop-withdrawal announcements from this administration at face value.

    It seems more likely the Trump administration is considering calling the Iraqi government’s bluff by keeping its troops in the country for the foreseeable future. It should probably figure out if that’s what it actually wants to do—and until it does, stay away from that send button.

    Link

  153. says

    Followup to comments 160 and 170.

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper denied Monday that U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq after a letter circulated online suggested otherwise. […]

    Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah added in a tweet that “there has been no change in US policy with regard to our force presence in Iraq.”

    “We continue to consult with the Iraqi government regarding the defeat-ISIS mission and efforts to support the Iraqi Security Forces,” Farah said. “We remain committed to the D-ISIS coalition and ensuring a safe, secure, and prosperous future for the Iraqi people.”

    Link

  154. says

    From Senator Mitt Romney:

    I would like to be able to hear from John Bolton. What the process is to make that happen, I don’t have an answer for you.

  155. says

    Supreme Court news related to Obamacare:

    The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Trump administration and states challenging Obamacare to respond by Friday to an appeal filed by defenders of the health care law.

    Such a highly abbreviated timeline — the rules normally allow a month for filing a response — gives the court the option to take up the case during its current term, which would mean a ruling on a contentious issue this spring, just as the presidential campaign heats up.

    Nineteen blue states, led by California, asked the Supreme Court last week for a quick decision on whether to take the case. They’re appealing last month’s ruling by a federal appeals court that said Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law cannot survive without it. […]

    NBC News link

  156. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @163:

    Donald Trump Junior posed with an assault rifle that referenced the Crusades, and that also featured the Hillary Clinton “lock her up!” image on the ammunition clip.

    I think that DJTjr should relocate to the front lines in Afganistan and prove his mettle with his assault rifle.

  157. tomh says

    How wacky are Republicans? This much.

    Axios:
    2024 lookahead poll: GOP voters eye Trump dynasty
    Which, if any, of the following Republicans would you consider voting for in the 2024 general presidential election?

    Ready to skip 2020 and go straight to 2024? In a SurveyMonkey poll for Axios, Republican voters chose children of President Trump — Don Jr. and Ivanka — as two of the top four picks for president in four years.

    Junior got 29%, second to Pence, and Ivanka polled at 16%, just behind Nikki Haley.

  158. Ragutis says

    johnson catman

    6 January 2020 at 5:48 pm

    I think that DJTjr should relocate to the front lines in Afganistan and prove his mettle with his assault rifle.

    That’s not an assault rifle. To him its just a masturbatory aid.

    Imagine how different the world could be if genetics had gifted these last few generations of Trump men with decent sized penises. Or at least half a well-developed brain, even if they had to share the one.

  159. Ragutis says

    tomh

    6 January 2020 at 6:38 pm

    How wacky are Republicans? This much.

    Axios:
    2024 lookahead poll: GOP voters eye Trump dynasty
    Which, if any, of the following Republicans would you consider voting for in the 2024 general presidential election?

    Ready to skip 2020 and go straight to 2024? In a SurveyMonkey poll for Axios, Republican voters chose children of President Trump — Don Jr. and Ivanka — as two of the top four picks for president in four years.

    Junior got 29%, second to Pence, and Ivanka polled at 16%, just behind Nikki Haley.

    I would be chortling with glee and popping champagne at the self-destruction of the Republican party, if only they weren’t dragging the whole damn country down with them.

    At least they’re not even considering Eric.

  160. KG says

    Imagine how different the world could be if genetics had gifted these last few generations of Trump men with decent sized penises. – Ragutis@176

    Sneering about the supposed small penises of unpleasant men (and of course we don’t have any actual information about those of the Trump men) is just another aspect of the toxic masculinity these men embody.

  161. says

    Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan to overhaul existing bankruptcy laws. It is worth noting that Joe Biden helped write a flawed bankruptcy law in 2005.

    Elizabeth Warren wants to make it easier for you to file for bankruptcy. […]

    […] a direct challenge to rival Joe Biden over landmark legislation from more than a decade ago that she opposed and he supported.

    “I’m announcing my plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules in this country to give Americans a better chance of getting back on their feet,” Warren wrote in the plan, which the campaign posted on the blogging platform Medium. The plan does not mention former Vice President Biden by name.

    Warren was, as an academic, and one of the nation’s leading scholars of bankruptcy law, teaching at Harvard Law School and other universities, before she won her seat in the Senate. […]

    The fight over the law was one of the precipitating factors behind Warren’s transition from academia into public office and is one of the central policy differences animating the clash between her and Biden […].

    “My plan streamlines the process, reduces costs, and gives people more flexibility in bankruptcy to find solutions that match their financial problems.”

    […] She would do away with paperwork requirements in the bill that she said “imposed the same onerous paperwork requirements on a middle-class American filing bankruptcy that it did on a wealthy real-estate developer.”

    The plan would do away with filing fees for those who are below the federal poverty line and allow Chapter 7 filers to pay attorneys’ fees during or after bankruptcy, rather than just up front. […]

    The plan takes particular aim at Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which Warren characterizes as “longer and less generous” than Chapter 7. Warren noted that black bankruptcy filers are disproportionately drawn to Chapter 13, citing data reported by the investigative outlet ProPublica.

    Chapter 7 bankruptcies cost about $1,200 while Chapter 13 bankruptcies cost about $3,200, Warren wrote, but Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires filers to have the cash up front, while those in Chapter 13 can pay over time.

    Under Chapter 7, a bankrupt individual’s assets, such as their homes, are sold by a trustee, while Chapter 13 allows for them to stop foreclosure proceedings. But Warren wrote in the plan that many opt for Chapter 13 because it’s “the only way they can afford to pay their bankruptcy lawyer.”

    “Forcing people into Chapter 13 because they cannot afford to pay their lawyer up front is a ridiculous way to run a consumer debt relief system,” Warren wrote.

    […] “When people file for bankruptcy, they would disclose all of their debts, assets, and income, just as they do now,” Warren wrote. “And just as under the current system, creditors must stop all collection actions against the debtor outside of bankruptcy court.” […]

    CNBC link

    More details at the link.

  162. tomh says

    Republicans never disappoint.

    CNN:
    GOP congressman shares fake image of Obama with Iranian president

    Washington (CNN)–A Republican congressman on Monday posted a fake photo of former President Barack Obama shaking hands with the Iranian president and later acknowledged that the image was falsified.

    “The world is a better place without these guys in power,” Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar said in his caption of the doctored photo.

    Obama, who left office in 2017, never met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is still in power. The image was photoshopped from Obama’s 2011 meeting with former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    Gosar later defended himself, saying that it was not implied that the photo wasn’t altered. “…no one said this wasn’t photoshopped. No one said the president of Iran was dead. No one said Obama met with Rouhani in person,” Gosar said on Twitter.

    Nothing in the original post indicated it was fake. The image dates back to at least 2015 when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) used it in a television ad that aired in Wisconsin

  163. says

    Chris Hayes presented an excellent summary of Trump’s position on war crimes, a position that is an “absolute moral abomination.”

    Link to the segment

    The video is only 3:55 minutes long, but still manages to be thorough.

    See also:
    https://twitter.com/kaitlancollins/status/1213979712776744961

    After Trump threatened to hit Iranian cultural sites, he tells the pool [press pool on Airfare One]: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs…And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

  164. says

    Oh, FFS. Now Trump is trying to bully Iraq as well.

    Senior administration officials have begun drafting sanctions against Iraq after President Trump publicly threatened the country with economic penalties if it proceeded to expel U.S. troops, according to three people briefed on the planning.

    The Treasury Department and White House will probably take a lead role if the sanctions are implemented, the officials said. Such a step would represent a highly unusual move against a foreign ally that the United States has spent almost two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars supporting.

    Washington Post link

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] The Post spoke with Peter Kucik, who served in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which implements sanctions policy, under the Bush and Obama administrations, who said, “I’m astounded by what’s even being discussed. You don’t typically use force against your allies. We are threatening to use extreme coercive policy tools against countries with whom we are allied.” […]

    On Sunday morning, Iraq’s parliament voted to expel American forces from their country. On Sunday afternoon, Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions as punishment. […]

  165. says

    What Marco Rubio said in reference to a subpoena of former White House national security adviser John Bolton, and to Bolton’s proposed testimony before the Senate:

    I wouldn’t because… I believe you should be constrained by the information that those articles are based on. If the House wants to start a new impeachment inquiry or pull it back and add additional elements to it, that’s their choice to make.

    No, no, no Marco. That’s all wrong. And it doesn’t make sense. Steve Benen explains:

    […] In the impeachment process, the U.S. House effectively plays the role of a grand jury. It considers the available evidence, weighs the seriousness of the allegations, and makes a decision whether to charge the accused. If a majority of the House votes to impeach, that creates an indictment, which heads to the U.S. Senate for a trial.

    As Rubio – who graduated from law school – sees it, after the House votes on whether to bring charges, the search for truth ends. Even if the case against the accused gets stronger, as is true in the current controversy, it doesn’t matter. If the grand jury didn’t have access to certain facts, then those facts have to be excluded from the subsequent trial.

    Why? Because March Rubio says so.

    There’s nothing in the American system of justice to support such a position. Imagine a hypothetical scenario in which a person is suspected of bank fraud. Prosecutors present evidence to a grand jury, which decides the evidence is sufficient for an indictment. The accused is charged and the case heads to trial.

    Then imagine, during this hypothetical trial, investigators uncover an email from the defendant in which he told a business partner, “I totally committed bank fraud, and I hope to get away with it. Please don’t tell anyone.”

    Under Rubio’s approach to justice, that email should have no role in the accused fraudster’s trial. As the senator put it, the “testimony and evidence considered” by the grand jury is all that matters. Nothing else.

    It’s as if a “heads-in-the-sand” caucus is taking shape in the Senate, and the Florida Republican is eager to be its leader.

    As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake put it, the senator envisions a trial “in which you can only use information gleaned from the investigation phase.”

    Republicans can support a fair trial and a search for the whole truth, or they can choose to exclude relevant facts. They cannot do both.

    Link

  166. says

    Well, Mike Pompeo tried to blame Barack Obama for Trump’s airstrike that killed Soleimani, so why shouldn’t some other dunderheaded Republican blame House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (a Democrat)?

    That’s exactly what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did.

    […] After the “Fox and Friends” hosts brought up Schiff’s Monday afternoon tweet in which he took issue with both the Soleimani strike and Trump’s threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites […], McCarthy was quick to criticize Schiff’s call for more congressional hearings and suggested that if the House intelligence chair didn’t focus so much on impeachment, then Trump wouldn’t have authorized the strike against Soleimani.

    Cough. Bullshit!

    “You know what, he’s the chairman of the Intel Committee,” McCarthy said. “Maybe had he spent the last year working on that — trying to protect us from what was happening in Iran from the bombing of the tankers, Saudi Arabia taking down our drone — instead of taking that committee and making an impeachment, he would never have made that comment.” […]

    McCarthy added that “the world is safer today because this President took action and he stopped something from creating in the future” while also taking another whack at House Democrats.

    “I don’t think it’s a place for them to play politics,” McCarthy said.

    TPM link

    From the readers comments:

    Isn’t McCarthy admitting (albeit unintentionally) that Trump only ordered the hit as a response to – and to deflect from – the impeachment action against him?
    —————–
    Unbelievable. Schiff made him do it?! This is just beyond batshit crazy. McCarthy is one of Murrica’s “elected representatives?” Really, I want to retch.
    ——————–
    Don’t forget [McCarthy] lost his chance to be Speaker because he admitted on camera that the Benghazi hearings were being done to affect Hillary’s poll numbers.
    ——————–
    There seems to be a concerted effort on the right now to blame the Dems for the Soleimani assassination. They’re working the refs in advance of the inevitable Iranian blowback that Trump was too stupid to foresee when he ordered this clusterfuck.

  167. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 180

    ““…no one said this wasn’t photoshopped.

    Yeah, but you didn’t say it was, cupcake.

    No one said Obama met with Rouhani in person…

    Perhaps not, but you sure did imply it.

  168. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lynna @ 181

    “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs…And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

    I think Shakespeare put it best in Henry V (Act IV, Scene 1):

    If the enemy is an ass and a fool and a prating
    coxcomb, is it meet, think you, that we should also,
    look you, be an ass and a fool and a prating
    coxcomb? in your own conscience, now?

    Then again, Trump is not the literary, much less the literate, sort.

  169. tomh says

    Re: #180

    Gosar has a history of fakery. He was a birther, of course, but more recently, in November he boosted the theory that the whistleblower was George Soros’s son. About the same time he posted an acrostic to his account that spelled out the phrase “Epstein didn’t kill himself.”

    And in a 2017 interview with HBO, he spread the conspiracy theory that a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., which left one person dead, was actually planned by a supporter of former President Barack Obama, and another debunked conspiracy that liberal financier George Soros sold out his fellow Jews to the Nazis during the Holocaust.

    It doesn’t sit well with his family. All six of his siblings appeared in campaign ads for his opponent in the last election. Thanksgiving dinners must be fun.

    But Republicans. He won with almost 70% of the vote.

  170. says

    Akira @187, I like the “prating coxcomb” description for Trump. That made me laugh. When I was growing up, my mother would say, “If your classmates jump off a cliff, does that mean you should jump?”

  171. says

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the U.S. airstrike on Qassim Soleimani by claiming there was intelligence showing an “imminent attack.” Pompeo can’t back that claim up. Here’s what happens when he is asked:

    [A reporter asked], “American officials have failed to provide any evidence to show what might have been targeted, or how soon an attack was expected.”

    “If you’re looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Suleimani,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters at the State Department on Tuesday.

    OMFG. That doesn’t make sense, and it does not even imply “imminent,” let alone fit even a broadened definition of “imminent.”

    Commentary:

    […] In “the days that led up to” the airstrike that killed the Iranian general, there was considerable unrest in Baghdad, where large groups of Iraqis held enraged protests at the U.S. embassy in response to earlier U.S. airstrikes, which came in response to the death of an American contractor in Iraq.

    In time, those protests dissipated. They do not represent evidence of an “imminent attack.”

    Similarly, in the days before the airstrike targeting Soleimani, there was deadly violence in Syria and Lebanon, but that’s not evidence of an “imminent attack,” either. The whole point of the word “imminent” is that it’s prospective, not retrospective. Those looking for evidence of something that’s poised to happen in the future shouldn’t necessarily look backwards.

    […] it doesn’t inspire confidence to hear Pompeo and his colleagues struggle to present any evidence, or even talk about this in mildly persuasive ways.

    All of which again leads us to a familiar point: if the official White House line about the reason for the attack appears dubious, we’re left to wonder about the actual motivation for Donald Trump doing what he did.

    Link

  172. says

    No Take-Backs! Iraq Still Expects US Withdrawal Mistakenly Promised In DOD Letter

    Oh, the Trump administration’s letter informing Iraq of the U.S.’ withdrawal from the country was actually just “an honest mistake”? Too bad.

    The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that even though the Pentagon clumsily retracted Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William Seely’s letter on Monday and told reporters there was “no decision whatsoever” to leave Iraq, the Middle Eastern country expects the U.S. to go through with it anyway.

    “We don’t deal with statements [made] in the media,” an unnamed senior Iraqi official told the Post. “As a state, we deal with the official letters that we receive, and we will act in accordance with this letter.”

    According to the official, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi believes there is “no way to organize Iraq stably” while foreign troops are still in the country.

    “We will tell the U.S. to put in place a timeline to implement this withdrawal,” the official said. […]

    From the readers comments:

    Also there were two copies -one in English the other in Arabic. Just when you think it could not get any worse, it does.
    ———————
    But Madhi said that the draft he got was signed and is binding.
    ——————
    Louisa Loveluck (leloveluck)
    In comments to Iraqi cabinet, PM Abdul Mahdi confirms @Mustafa_salimb’s reporting that the Americans sent two versions of the “withdrawal letter last night – the first included a mistranslation. https://t.co/6AEtJIF2Dx
    ————————–
    This is a sign of dysfunction at the highest levels of the military and probably the result of Trumpism’s impact on it.

  173. says

    From Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif:

    They killed one of our most revered commanders and most senior commanders, and they took responsibility for it.

    This is state terrorism, this is an act of aggression against Iraq, and it amounts to an armed attack against Iran. And we will respond, but we will respond proportionately, not disproportionately, because we are committed to law. We are law-abiding people, we are not lawless like President Trump.

    He needs to wake up and apologize. He has to apologize. He has to change course.

    He’s showing to the international community that he has no respect for international law — that he is prepared to commit war crimes because attacking cultural sites is a war crime. Disproportionate response is a war crime. But he doesn’t care, it seems, about international law.

  174. says

    The completely non-transparent Trump administration is outed one again by media postings from other countries:

    The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) on Tuesday slammed the White House for a lack of transparency after it failed to disclose President Trump’s meeting with a Saudi official in the Oval Office.

    “A meeting with a foreign leader in the Oval Office should, at the very least, be on the public schedule with a read-out of the meeting released after it is over,” WCHA President Jon Karl said in a statement. “This has been the long-standing precedent for presidents of both political parties.”

    Trump met Monday with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi vice minister of defense, amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The meeting was not listed on Trump’s public schedule, and the White House did not provide a readout of the discussion.

    News of the meeting broke when Salman shared photos of it on social media.

    “It is disturbing to see the government of Saudi Arabia have more transparency than the White House about a meeting with the President in the Oval Office,” Karl said in a statement. […]

    Khalid tweeted that he delivered a message to Trump from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

    Moments after the WHCA issued its statement, Trump tweeted that he had a “very good meeting” with Khalid to discuss trade, military issues, oil prices and the situation in the Middle East. […]

    Link

  175. says

    Dinesh D’Souza Branches Out, Gets Iran History Wrong Too

    It’s been a good week for rightwing shitposter, convicted/pardoned felon, and habitual liar Dinesh D’Souza. Donald Trump, who D’Souza unironically compares to Lincoln, retweeted D’Souza’s funny joke that it was perfectly fine that Democratic congressional leaders weren’t informed in advance of the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani because after all, “Neither were the Iranians, and for pretty much the same reason.” Haw haw, both are sworn enemies of the USA, how true this is!

    Over the weekend, D’Souza departed from his usual schtick of explaining that Democrats love slavery and Jim Crow because history stopped in 1964, and offered a very smart historical take on the current unpleasantness, explaining that if only Jimmy Carter had propped up the Shah of Iran in 1979, Donald Trump wouldn’t have to be fixing things now.

    “Let’s remember how this whole thing started. Thanks to Jimmy Carter pulling the Persian rug out from under the Shah of Iran, Islamic radicals in 1979 took charge of a major country. If ever a president deserved an award for global nincompoopery, Carter takes first prize”

    If nothing else, D’Souza stands in his complete wrongness as a pretty useful proxy for how Americans think about history and foreign affairs, especially the notion that US-Iran problems started with the Shah’s ouster and the hostage crisis in 1979. Add to that the dubious idea that American presidents have the power to shape world events, and you might end up with a deeply stupid conclusion, like claiming Jimmy Carter singlehandedly allowed the rise of Islamic fundamentalist radicalism because he was weak. You might also have to be super dishonest and partisan to get there, too, which is Dinesh D’Souza’s special talent.

    To be clear, there’s no real value in simply pointing out how very wrong D’Souza is, because his only game is stirring up rightwing anger and selling his distorted versions of history to the rubes. But it’s worth looking at the actual history of the Iranian Revolution, since it really does, unlike D’Souza, offer useful context for what’s going on right now. Pity that the “president” of the USA doesn’t read, though.

    For starters, there’s the seriously bad take that “this whole thing started” in 1979. A whole bunch of people replied to D’Souza that a far better starting point for the Iranian revolution was 1953’s CIA-run coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was deeply disliked by Great Britain because he’d nationalized Iran’s oil industry. The CIA only officially acknowledged its role in the coup 60 years later, in 2013. […]

    Fun fact: in 1953, the mullahs helped the CIA oust Mosaddegh, so they could have influence once the Shah was restored. By 1979, it was to the clerics’ advantage to argue that a popular uprising would actually fulfill the democratic dreams of Mosaddegh. Iranians had a lot of nationalist nostalgia for Mosaddegh, and Khomeini and the leaders of the Islamic Revolution promised they’d bring back Iran’s democratic glory days. Or at least be way better than the Shah, who was a prime example of the sort of murderous tyrant the US liked to ally itself with in the developing world. […]

    Now, as to whether Jimmy Carter “pulled the Persian rug out from under the Shah,” that there is some bullshit. Fortunately for anyone who wants to read up, last January marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution, and plenty of outlets published timelines of the events leading up to the rise of Khomeini and the Islamic Republic. Here’s a pretty good one from the Brookings Institute.

    The big takeaway is that, no, Islamic radicals didn’t take over Iran primarily because Jimmy Carter betrayed the Shah. Iranians had been demonstrating and rioting against the Shah’s authoritarian rule for years, and he had a nasty habit of sending the military and secret police to shoot into crowds, killing hundreds of protesters. Carter, like most US Presidents, had praised the Shah’s Iran as “an island of stability in one of the most troubled areas of the world” in December 1977, but as the cycle of protest and repression got worse, Iranians wanted the Shah gone. […]

    For that matter, the Shah was busy dying of cancer, a fact Carter and other Western leaders knew quite well. He died in 1980, but some right-leaning folks argue that somehow, Carter should have propped up the dynasty until the Shah’s son was old enough to become a dictator in his own right. […]

    Heck, maybe Carter should have just bombed cultural sites in Iran. […]

    Wonkette link

  176. says

    Many of the same myopic people are lining up to propagandize for war with Iran, the same people who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    Ben Mathis-Lilley takes a trip down memory lane:

    Judith Miller, Karl Rove, Tom Friedman, Joe Lieberman, and an armada of other journalists and political figures who supported the invasion of Iraq are back on TV and in major newspapers. They are arguing that attacking Iran is necessary to eradicate threats against the U.S., that demonstrating military power will advance American interests in the Middle East, and that the Iranian population will ultimately be grateful for our intervention in its affairs. These are near-verbatim versions of the same arguments the same people made in 2003 about the invasion of Iraq, which in fact created a terrorism-incubating multifaction civil war in which thousands of Americans and many more thousands of Iraqis were killed.

    It’s a nice trip down memory lane, for those who like their lanes lined by IEDs and blocked by a checkpoint at which soldiers have just accidentally shot a 9-year-old. But as a country, we’re not only reliving 2003. Much of what’s happening right now is actually more stupid and unreal than what was happening then.

    For one, the president is Donald Trump. George W. Bush was a shallow and belligerent chief executive with contempt for details, but he was surrounded by people who projected (falsely, it turned out) the sort of competent ruthlessness that news organizations and pundits and much of the public associated with strong foreign policy. The Bush administration presented detailed (though untrue) arguments about invasion being a matter of national security, recruited at least some international allies to the cause ahead of time, and made a point of emphasizing its concern about human rights and respect for Islamic faith and culture. None of this prevented the invasion from being a brutal bungling disaster, or even made it look like a good idea in advance, but it gave a lot of influential people a lot of excuses to go along with it.

    Trump doesn’t even provide the war enthusiasts with this protective cover. He says he is prepared to order the destruction of historic cultural sites in Iran, which is a no-doubt-about-it war crime. […]

    Meanwhile, the White House has already backed away from its claim that Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Friday’s Baghdad airstrike, was planning imminent attacks on Americans. After asserting that Soleimani’s death would prevent further conflict with Iran through deterrence, the administration now says it expects “a little noise“—i.e., retaliatory attacks—and has deployed additional troops to the Middle East because of the heightened danger. […]

    In sum, it’s not 2003 again; it’s 2003 as interpreted by 2020, which means more fascism and, somehow, even less competence.

    The brutality and idiocy of it run so deep, they become a source of hope. Polling says that Trump is 15-odd points less popular now than Bush was before the invasion of Iraq. The Democratic Party’s anti-war caucus, […] is much stronger and more confident than it was then. […] the mainstream pro-war figures mentioned above have already been deluged with disbelief and outrage. […]

    There is obviously no good reason to do it, and there are not even bad, political reasons to let it happen. Could that be enough, this time, to keep it from happening?

    Link

  177. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lynna @ 196

    A whole bunch of people replied to D’Souza that a far better starting point for the Iranian revolution was 1953’s CIA-run coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was deeply disliked by Great Britain because he’d nationalized Iran’s oil industry. The CIA only officially acknowledged its role in the coup 60 years later, in 2013.

    Knowing D’Souza I wonder which he hates more: Socialism or former colonial puppets getting uppity and telling Westerners to go fuck off.

  178. tomh says

    The American political system, where any billionaire can run for president.

    Axios:
    Bloomberg, Trump each secure $10 million Super Bowl ad slots

    Michael Bloomberg and President Trump’s 2020 campaigns have both secured 60-second advertising spots during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 at a likely cost of at least $10 million each, Politico reports.

    The buy highlights Bloomberg’s massive spending power, as the billionaire continues to pump millions of his own money into his campaign. And it’s just the start of what’s likely to be a huge spending year for Trump.

    Bloomberg has already spent $170 million on ads this election cycle, according to Advertising Analytics.

    The Republican National Committee last week announced that it raised $463 million in 2019 and has nearly $200 million cash on hand.

    The Super Bowl is just one day before the Iowa caucuses.

  179. says

    Followup to John in comment 199.

    Yes, Iran did fire ballistic missiles at a military base in Iraq, a base that includes both Iraqi and American forces. Iran state TV, and the official Twitter account of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have claimed responsibility for the missiles fired at American forces.

  180. says

    Rockets hit Iraq base housing US troops; Iran claims responsibility

    Iran said earlier that they would respond to Soleimani’s killing by directly attacking a U.S. military target, and they said they would not hide the source of the attack.

    […] Trump was briefed Tuesday evening after Iran claimed responsibility for the launch of unspecified projectiles at an Iraqi military base housing U.S. troops, a marked escalation in the conflict between the two countries following the U.S.’s killing of a top Iranian general.

    “The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun,” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement Tuesday on the IRCG Telegram channel, according to the New York Times.

    The Associated Press reported Iranian state TV had claimed credit for the attack on Ain Assad air base.

    “We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team.”

    Tehran vowed it would retaliate after the Friday killing of Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. Shortly after the killing, Iraq’s parliament took a nonbinding vote to expel U.S. troops, while President Trump vowed that if Iran retaliated, the U.S. would target sites of cultural significance to Iran before appearing to walk back the threat Tuesday. […]

    There is no way that Trump can be trusted to NOT escalate further.

  181. says

    Live updates: Iran launches missile attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, according to Iranian state media.

    Washington Post link

    Iran launches missile attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, according to Iranian state media

    Al Asad air base in western Iraq, which houses U.S. troops, was hit by at least six rockets, according to a U.S. defense official. The White House said it was aware of reports of attacks on American facilities in Iraq and that President Trump is monitoring the situation and consulting with his national security team.
    This breaking story will be upated.

  182. says

    Pentagon now says that “more than a dozen ballistic missiles” were fired from Iran toward joint Iraqi/U.S. military bases in Iraq. Two military bases were struck.

  183. says

    SC @205, JFC! indeed. That’s all we need. A blustering, stupid speech from Trump will pour gasoline on what is, so far, a smallish fire.

    We are in the escalation spiral.

    Commentators on Chris Hayes’ “All In” show made the point that, prior to all this mess, the Trump administration had also destroyed most our official and our back channels with Iranian leaders. So, now we have no way to communicate. (Unless you count threats issued via Twitter.)

    We are in a limited hot war with Iran. Trump is not the man who can get us out of this. Trump is not the man who will slow down or limit the damage.

    It is looking more and more likely that Lebanon (using Iranian proxy forces) will attack Israel after Trump inevitably strikes back (again) at Iran.

  184. says

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.

    From Ilan Goldenberg:

    statement from the IRGC.
    – this is our response. Don’t hit us back
    – regional players stay out or suffer consequences

    This may not be an escalation just the response they felt they needed to make. Again everyone CHILL

    Good to note: Iran actually attacked Iraqi bases. Yes, American troops are housed there, but this could be spun by a wiser Trump (who does not exist) as an attack on Iraq, not on America proper.

  185. says

    Are we expecting that the same Trump who threatened to strike cultural sites in Iran will get off the escalation spiral and calm things down? Also, Pompeo is NOT a voice of reason that can help here.

    Republicans in the Senate need to speak out loudly and clearly against escalation. [bitter laughter]

  186. says

    From Elizabeth Warren:

    We have to start on a very sober note. [Warren spoke at an event in Brooklyn] For any of you who haven’t been able to follow it, within the last hour, the Iranian government has announced that it has sent missiles to attack our military bases in Iraq.

    This is a reminder of why we need to de-escalate tension in the Middle East. The American people do not want a war with Iran.

  187. says

    SC @211, I wish that before they all left, they could have put Temper Tantrum Toddler Trump to bed for the night, without his phone.

  188. tomh says

    Republicans will eat it up.

    Politico:
    Trump unfurls a new attack for 2020: Dems as Iran sympathizers

    After years of casting himself as the leader to end America’s decades-long wars, President Donald Trump is now trying to use his administration’s aggressive military strike against Iran to his political advantage — as a tool to batter his Democratic rivals.

    Trump and his conservative allies are hitting the airwaves and social media to portray Democrats as Iran sympathizers for questioning the president’s decision to kill Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, leaning into patriotism and national security threats ahead of the 2020 election as a way to cast the Democrats as the weaker party.

    “The president took out the world’s most threatening terrorist and the Democrats are trying to take out the president. He wins!” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “The alarmists and apologists show skepticism about our own intelligence and sympathy for Soleimani.”
    […]

    Apart from calling Soleimani a “monster” and speaking in broad terms about an imminent threat, the Trump administration has not yet offered up a detailed explanation about why it opted to kill the Iranian general at this particular juncture.
    […]

  189. says

    We’re attacking Iran for Iraqis invading our embassy. Iraqis who wanted help because they don’t want us there. We’re an occupying force. We’re villians.
    I can get less polite. It’s worth it on facebook.

  190. Ragutis says

    No American or Iraqi casualties officially reported as of yet (unless you’re watching Iranian state TV). Seeing much speculation that there was forewarning and some careful targeting designed to minimize the chances of actually killing anyone and further escalating the situation. This pot just might not boil over, if Trump is smart enough to turn the dial the right way. Then again, he’s got Pompeo and Graham whispering in his ears. Anyway, he’s supposed to make a statement sometime this morning. As soon as Fox and Friends is over, I’m guessing.

  191. Ragutis says

    176 dead after plane en route to Kyiv crashes after takeoff in Tehran:

    Victims of the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons[…]

    The Boeing 737-800, operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, took off from Imam Khomeini international airport at 6.12am Tehran time on Wednesday, after being delayed by almost an hour. It took off to the west, but never made it above 8,000ft and went down about 10 minutes later, according to flight-tracking websites.

    A video purportedly of the crash circulated by Isna showed the aircraft burning as it fell from the sky.

    Iranian officials said the plane’s engine had caught fire, causing the pilot to lose control. A statement initially posted on the website of the Ukrainian embassy in Iran ruled out an act of terror and said the crash had been caused by an engine malfunction. However, this was later redacted, with the embassy stating that all information would be provided by an official commission.

    The black box containing vital records of how the plane crashed has been located in a field among the debris outside Tehran, but Iran said it would not hand the device over to plane maker Boeing. It is not clear whether Iranian authorities are disputing the legality of handing over the black box to Boeing, a US company, or whether they are seeking to inspect the box themselves.

    The news has fueled speculation that there was something suspicious about the downing of the plane[…]

    The plane was less than four years old and had been checked two days before the accident, according to Ukraine International Airlines, which has indefinitely suspended flights to Tehran..

    This was yesterday, hours before the missiles, but kind of got lost once the fireworks started.

  192. says

    “The worst national security team that I’ve ever seen.”

    Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent, sat down with Brian Williams last night and reflected on the White House team responding to the crisis in the Middle East. She characterized Donald Trump’s existing operation as “least experienced, the least effective, and the smallest” in recent memory.

    Mitchell, a veteran journalist who’s covered a variety of Democratic and Republican administrations, concluded that the current president has “the worst national security team that I’ve ever seen.”

    […] Trump’s team, to the extent that it can even be called a “team,” is woefully incomplete. As Garrett Graff noted yesterday, the Trump administration does not currently have, for example, a Senate-confirmed director of National Intelligence or a deputy director of National Intelligence.

    There’s also no Senate-confirmed Homeland Security secretary or deputy secretary. There’s no Senate-confirmed undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs or assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance.

    At the Pentagon, meanwhile, there’s been a scramble of top officials resigning, including six notable departures in the last five weeks.

    For several of the aforementioned positions, the White House hasn’t even nominated anyone to fill the posts. […]
    some of the officials who make up Trump’s current national security team fail to inspire confidence.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who appears to effectively be running the show, is a far-right hawk who’s set his credibility on fire. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is still fairly new to the job, and he arrived at the Pentagon following a stint as a lobbyist.

    They’re answering to a former reality-show personality who tends not to listen to intelligence briefings, who’s never demonstrated any familiarity with the basics of international affairs, and routinely struggles to understand current events.

    The question isn’t whether this is “the worst national security team” we’ve ever seen; the question is how anyone could possibly disagree.

    Link

  193. says

    An update on Trump’s ridiculous “all is well” tweet, and on messaging coming out of Iran:

    […] There have also been reports that this Iranian offensive represents the totality of Tehran’s planned response to the airstrike that killed Soleimani — Iran’s foreign minister said in a tweet that the country has “concluded” its attacks on U.S. forces and does “not seek escalation or war” — though Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the strikes were not sufficient retaliation.

    For his part, Donald Trump, who green-lit the Soleimani mission for reasons that are still unclear, published a tweet assuring the public, “All is well!” Referring to the damage assessment in the wake of the Iranian missile strike, the American president added, “So far, so good!”

    [Trump] seemed to suggest that there were no American casualties. But all things considered, it’s difficult to look at the landscape and agree that “all” is “well.”

    An American enemy has fired ballistic missiles at facilities housing U.S. troops. Our ostensible allies in Iraq seem awfully eager to kick Americans out of their country. NATO has begun removing some troops from Iraq for their safety. The Trump administration finds itself isolated from several of our traditional allies, while it struggles to keep its story straight when trying to explain the president’s dangerous and nebulous new policy. The military campaign against ISIS, meanwhile, is now on hold.

    A variety of phrases come to mind when describing these conditions. “So far, so good!” isn’t among them.

    That said, there is a possible off-ramp. Iran appeared eager to find a “Goldilocks” response to Soleimani’s slaying – not so aggressive as to start a full-fledged hot war, not so tepid as to appear weak in the eyes of its own people – and Tehran may be satisfied that last night’s missile strike met the standard

    At least in theory, if no Americans were killed in the blast, Trump could shrug off the Iranian strike, and we could see a de-escalation. Alternatively, Trump, who warned Iran not to retaliate, may now feel the need to respond to Iran’s response, continuing the cycle.

    Link

  194. says

    Predictable, typical. Mitch McConnell said:

    Yesterday evening, in the midst of these deadly serious events, Speaker Pelosi put out another statement saying she has no intention to end her political game playing. At the very same time a global crisis was unfolding in real time, she published another “dear colleague” letter saying she intends to keep our commander-in-chief in this limbo indefinitely.

    McConnell is not the only Republican using Trump’s self-made conflict with Iran to pretend that the impeachment trial is not important, or not a priority, or that it should be stopped. That’s not logical, to my mind. Trump’s disastrous actions against Iran have, so far, fallen short of all-out war thanks to the fact that Iranian leaders are more reasonable than he is. We have more reason to impeach Trump than ever.

    Background:

    […] Pelosi’s letter addressed McConnell’s Tuesday announcement that he has the requisite votes to go forward with his rules proposal for the impeachment trial, which would delay deciding whether or not to call witnesses until after the proceedings had started.

    “It is important that he immediately publish this resolution, so that, as I have said before, we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate,” Pelosi wrote.

    Pelosi also denied McConnell’s refrain that the Senate trial for Trump would follow the blueprint of the Clinton impeachment, saying that “witnesses were deposed” in the Clinton trial.

    Democrats have doubled down on their witness demands after former National Security Adviser John Bolton said that he would testify during the trial if subpoenaed. McConnell has been intractable in his opposition, and at least so far, successfully kept his members most likely to defect to the Democrats on a tight leash.

    Link

  195. says

    From the readers comments:

    Remember, the guy who wants you to believe that Iran was planning an imminent threat to the United states, is the same guy that used a Sharpie to try to get you to believe that Hurrican Dorian was an imminent threat to Alabama.

    Trump has started his speech. He is huffing, puffing and sniffing more than usual.

  196. says

    Update on Puerto Rico:

    Puerto Rico has been rocked by aftershocks from the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit the island Tuesday, killing one and knocking out power and water in some areas. Residents have been sleeping outside in case the aftershocks cause more damage. According to Jose Ortiz, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, most of the island is without power, which has been restored to about 100,000 customers, including “most hospitals.”

    According to CNN, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced that aid will be made available in response to the earthquake. But that promise can’t be taken at face value, since the Trump administration has refused to release all of the disaster recovery money allocated after 2017’s devastating Hurricanes Maria and Irma. In fact, about $18 billion Congress appropriated for disaster aid has not been provided, including funding for rebuilding both housing and the electrical infrastructure.

    Democrats in Congress are calling on Trump to finally release all of that funding. In a statement, the Democratic chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, praised the residents of Puerto Rico who have “repeatedly shown strength and resiliency,” but said that their their responses “are no substitute for adequate government assistance.” “The Trump administration’s indifference and incompetence have already cost residents of Puerto Rico their lives and their livelihoods […]

    Link

  197. says

    From Wonkette: “Liveblogging Trump Taking Responsibility For Latest F*ckup Hahahahahahaha Just Kidding”

    11:05: Surprise, he is late. […]

    11:14: STILL LATE.

    Remember when Obama was late all the time but it was OK because when he finally arrived he was smart and well-spoken and sexxxy and good?

    This is not that.

    This is like being roped into going on a blind date with somebody who smells like raw sewage but you did it as a favor for somebody you care about, dunno why they asked you to do this, but anyway, the raw sewage person is late for the date you don’t actually want to go on. […]

    11:26: PREVIEW OF ACTUAL (NOT ACTUAL) TRUMP SPEECH:

    “Hey remember how a few weeks ago, Iranians were literally in the streets protesting their bad government, but now they are romance married to their government again because of my poor decisions? Wow!”

    Anyway, all the idiots just walked out and so did Dipshit.

    11:28: HERE WE GO!

    TRUMP: “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon. Good morning.”

    11:30: Blah blah blah Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon, and will never have a nuclear weapon, even though I pulled out of the Iran deal that Iran was complying with, and now because of what I did, Iran has announced its intentions to stop complying with what was left of the nuclear deal, I am bad and I should feel bad.

    Anyway, Soleimani was bad.

    11:32: Blah blah I still don’t understand that the money Iran got back as part of the nuke deal was actually THEIR MONEY, THEIR OWN UNFROZEN ASSETS.

    Yep. Trump went on an on about that money. He claimed that Iran used the money Obama gave them to buy the missiles they shot at the Iraqi base last night. He also claimed that the money was like a gift from Obama that allowed Iran to support more terrorists.

    Trump just said GIIIIIINA should also pull out of the Iran deal, because Iran did the terrorism and Iran said “death to America,” etc.

    Trump says he’s going to ask NATO for help with this, because of how he’s always been so nice to NATO and is in such a position to ask NATO to help prop up his fuckups.

    11:36: Trump have big missile but Trump dunnot want to use big missile! Also he killed the head of ISIS, which reminds him of another thing he wanted to say, which is “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children,” except for how he will never be able to say that, because that’s what Barack Obama was doing with one hand behind his back while Obama made fun of Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

    And that’s it!

    And the fucker actually didn’t take questions, which, all things considered, including the status of the president’s brain, is probably wise.[…]

    Link

  198. says

    More on Trump’s address to the nation:

    […] Trump [promised “punishing economic sanctions” but added that the nation “appears to be standing down.”

    Trump said that the American people should be “grateful and happy” that no soldiers were killed in Iran’s strikes fired at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers Tuesday night.

    He also spent some minutes praising his and his administration’s killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, a man who he said has American blood on his hands and should have been taken out “long ago.”

    He urged American allies including German and the U.K. to join the U.S. in pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal to forge a new pact. […]

    Some in the administration suspect that Iran purposefully aimed the weapons at areas largely devoid of Americans during the attack. [Seems likely, especially when one considers their recent, extremely accurate missile strike on Saudi oil field.]

    […] Trump argued to aides that the strike would be politically popular, and that Iran wouldn’t “do anything too stupid” in response.

    Many European allies to the U.S. have responded to the strike with apprehension, and the Iraqi parliament voted to boot American troops from the country in an attempt to keep the country from becoming a battleground. Despite a mistaken letter to the contrary, the U.S. has no current plans to leave.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-iran-missile-strike-address

    Iranian leaders are saying just this morning that the missile strike last night was “just a slap in the face,” and that more retaliatory actions are to come.

  199. says

    Ha! This is funny. Trump is bluffing:

    Q: Will you be okay if John Bolton testifies? He indicated yesterday that he would if he is subpoenaed.

    TRUMP: Well, that’s going to be up to the lawyers. It will be up the Senate. And we’ll see how they feel. [Bolton] would know nothing about what we’re talking about….

    Facts:

    […] Bolton is a first-hand witness to Trump’s Ukraine scheme, participating in a late-August meeting with the president in which Trump was urged to release the military assistance to our vulnerable ally. According to Tim Morrison, the former top National Security Council official for Russia and European affairs, Bolton and Trump also had a one-on-one meeting that month about the aid package that the president delayed.

    Bolton’s lawyer added in November that the former White House national security adviser was also “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” pertaining to the impeachment investigation that have not yet been made public.

    There have also been multiple media reports about Bolton balking behind the scenes at the Ukraine scheme, and according to former White House analyst Fiona Hill, Bolton condemned Trump’s political plot as a “drug deal” he didn’t want to be caught up in.

    It’s against this backdrop that Trump argued yesterday that Bolton “would know nothing” relevant to the scandal. There’s a whole lot of evidence suggesting otherwise.

  200. says

    Just to note, Rudy Giuliani wants Trump to force regime change in Iran:

    I am for regime change. Down with the tyrants in Iran. Down with the ayatollah and the mullahs and all the crooks.

    Rudy said that at the U.N. back in September 2019.

    More from Rudy, posted on January 8, 2020:

    The Ayatollahs’ 40 year #REGIMEOFTERROR is, and has been throughout, the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world.

    The Obama-Biden administration practiced appeasement.

    The Dems want to return to appeasement. The only way to avoid war is to stand up to them.

  201. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @230:

    The only way to avoid war is to stand up to them.

    I say we should give Rudy a ticket to the front lines and some body armor and let him do his best to stand up to them. My bet is that he would be cowering in fear behind the biggest pile of sand he could find.

  202. says

    Some bits and pieces of political news, from Steve Benen:

    * More than five weeks after his guilty plea, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) submitted his resignation letter yesterday. […]

    * Republican officials in Wisconsin yesterday agreed to exclude Donald Trump’s primary rivals from the state’s GOP primary ballot. State Republican Parties in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina have done the same thing. [Rigging the primary process.]

    * Trump’s re-election campaign is reportedly poised to spend $10 million to advertise during the Super Bowl, and according to Politico’s report, the message is “expected to run early in the game, when viewership is likely to be at its highest.” […]

    * Michael Bloomberg’s Democratic presidential campaign also announced yesterday that it, too, has bought Super Bowl ad time, investing $10 million in a 60-second spot.

    * The next debate for Democratic presidential candidates is six days away, but DNC Chair Tom Perez said yesterday that if the presidential impeachment trial is underway, the party is prepared to postpone the event. Of the five candidates who’ve qualified to participate, three are sitting U.S. senators.

    An amazing campaign-finance statistic: Tom Steyer’s Democratic presidential campaign has spent more on advertising than 12 of the other Democratic candidates combined. Michael Bloomberg’s campaign, meanwhile, has more than doubled Steyer’s ad spending.

    And while Joe Biden leads the Democratic field with 31 congressional endorsements, McClatchy News made a notable observation yesterday: at this point four years ago, Hillary Clinton had 181 congressional endorsements.

    Link

  203. says

    johnson catman @231, Good idea.

    While Trump gave his speech this morning, he had Vice President Pence plus an array of Pentagon brass stand behind him. Rudy, pretend warrior, was not there.

    More details:

    […] Trump, echoing what has been the standard patter from Republicans over the last days, described President Barack Obama as having given Iran $180 billion, and repeated claims that Iran’s missiles were paid for by funds provided by the last administration.

    In an apparent echo of the way in which Trump attacked NAFTA only to turn around and adopt the same outline of actions for his own version of the treaty, Trump called on signatories to the Iran nuclear deal to pull out of that deal and join the U.S. in creating another deal. Trump also indicated that he wanted NATO to be more involved in the negotiations … a complete flip of his previous positions. At the same time, Trump indicated that he would increase sanctions against Iran, though it was unclear how.

    In the middle of the speech, Trump talked about how “big, powerful, lethal and fast” American missiles are, and indicated that there was a new generation of hypersonic missiles on the way—which is genuine news, and amounts to the unveiling of a top-secret weapons system. Russia has been publicly demonstrating hypersonic technology purposely designed to thwart missile defense systems. But until this speech, the United States had not made any announcement that it intended to deploy similar technology.

    Trump also made statements about the size and effectiveness of the U.S. military, which he claimed had been “completely rebuilt” on his watch. Trump also said that he didn’t want to use those forces.

    In an odd twist, Trump appeared to appeal to Iran to assist in fighting ISIS at the same time he repeated past claims that ISIS had been 100% destroyed. […]

    Trump did not threaten any immediate response to Iran’s missile launch. But neither did he extend an offer for negotiations to de-escalate the situation. […]

    Link

    Trump also berated Iran for not “saying thank you to the United States.” Sheesh.

    Susan Rice called Trump’s references to Obama “despicable lies.”

    Trump may have spilled top secret details: ” Trump talked about how “big, powerful, lethal and fast” American missiles are, and indicated that there was a new generation of hypersonic missiles on the way—which is genuine news, and amounts to the unveiling of a top-secret weapons system.”

  204. says

    Update on the rightwing response:

    […] both right-wing radio and Fox News have been filled with voices calling for more action, more attacks, more kill, kill, kill. That includes the specter of Ollie North, the man who once personally saw that missiles were delivered to Iran, calling for retaliation for Iran making use of a later generation of those same missiles. And it includes Trump’s late-night phone pal Sean Hannity practically chewing apart his stage set in his demands for additional strikes against Iran. […]

    Link

  205. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @234: Chickenhawks all of them. Give them some body armor and send them with Rudy. They don’t give a rat’s ass if US soldiers get killed as long as they personally don’t get so much as a hangnail.

  206. says

    The Only Winner of the U.S.-Iran Showdown Is Russia

    A crisis tailor-made for Vladimir Putin.

    Hours before Iran launched a missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq, Vladimir Putin visited Syria to huddle with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad over the mounting U.S.-Iran crisis. Russia has repeatedly condemned the U.S. airstrikes that killed Iranian Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It’s fair to assume that leaders in Moscow are seeking to turn the situation to their advantage.

    […] Russia and Iran have grown closer through military cooperation in Syria. Moscow’s expanding influence in Syria suggests that a conflict between the United States and Iran could advance Russia’s power and reputation in the region. At the very least, Russia will be able to paint the United States as an erratic aggressor, leading regional actors and international allies to question cooperation with Washington.

    Russia has helped the Assad regime maintain control in Syria, even as the U.S. and its NATO allies demanded Assad’s ouster. […] Russia’s triumphs from that conflict include drawing Turkey away from its NATO allies, building a reputation as a valuable foreign backer, and emerging as a kingmaker—all at the expense of the United States. […]

    Beyond strengthening Russia’s position, the Soleimani strike contributes to Russia’s goals of driving a wedge between Washington and its partners and advancing global perceptions of the United States as volatile and belligerent. […]

    Moscow could also benefit if the U.S. strikes create more disunity between Washington and its European allies. Numerous U.S. decisions in the Middle East have frustrated allies, particularly its withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Reports suggest that the Trump administration even failed to warn Britain and other allies ahead of the strikes on Soleimani. […]

    Ultimately, U.S. actions will strengthen Russian leadership: first, by removing American competition, and second, by turning regional and global sentiment against the United States. Provided Moscow continues cooperating with all regional states and maintains stability in Syrian territory where Russian forces are present, Russia stands a good chance of supplanting U.S. influence in the Middle East—no matter what happens next.

    Link

  207. tomh says

    More Republicans behaving badly.

    Religion Clause:
    State Senator’s Threats Were Not Religious Speech
    January 08, 2020

    In Boquist v. Oregon State Senate President Peter Courtney(D-OR), an Oregon federal district court rejected claims by Oregon state senator Brian Boquist that his constitutional rights, including his 1st Amendment rights, were violated when state Senate leaders imposed a requirement that he give 12-hours notice before entering the Capitol building. [Me–This was to give officials time to arrange for additional state troopers to ensure the safety of employees and the public.]

    The notice requirement was imposed in reaction to statements made by Boquist. All of this occurred during a political battle in which Republican senators left the Capitol in order to prevent a quorum from being present in the Senate, and the governor ordered state police to arrest them and bring them back. [Me–The walkout was over a climate change bill.]

    Rejecting Boquist’s 1st Amendment claims, the court said in part:

    […]Remarkably, Plaintiff argues that his statement to Defendant Courtney— “if you send the State Police to get me, Hell’s coming to visit you personally”—was a statement of religious expression….
    […]
    Plaintiff also said that if the State Police were to arrest him, they should “send bachelors and come heavily armed.”… These statements, apart and together, resonate more as threats than the expression of theological ideas.

    More at The Oregonian.

  208. says

    More comments on some of the stranger parts of Trump’s speech that was delivered this morning:

    […] Instead of claiming the high road, acting in a presidential manner, and striving for some semblance of national unity, Trump told Americans this morning, for example, that last night’s missiles “were paid for” with funds “made available” by the Obama administration.

    That’s absurd, and it’s part of a bogus claim Trump has been repeating for many months.

    He went on to take credit for “destroying 100% of ISIS,” which is plainly false, since ISIS hasn’t been destroyed. He also boasted, “We are now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” which is true, though it’s a status the United States reached in 2012.

    Just as alarming, Trump seemed eager to step on his own message. While embracing the idea of de-escalation, he added, “The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem, will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward.”

    In the next breath, Trump suggested involving NATO in … something related to the Middle East. It wasn’t at all clear what exactly he had in mind.

    Look, I don’t mean to sound picky. There was a real possibility that Trump could’ve rattled a saber and made matters vastly worse this morning, and I’m glad he didn’t. But this was also the latest in a series of missed opportunities for the president: facing a credibility crisis, he lied. Facing a divided domestic electorate, he took partisan cheap shots at his predecessor. Facing questions about whether he’s up to the task of leadership, he struggled with his trusted teleprompter and mispronounced a series of words.

    Once again, Trump is the president who just can’t seem to help himself.

    Link

  209. says

    From Joby Warrick, writing for The Washington Post: “How a ‘quantum change’ in missiles has made Iran a far more dangerous foe.”

    When a swarm of drones and cruise missiles attacked Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil facility on Sept. 14, an outraged Trump administration quickly blamed Iran for what it called an “unprecedented attack” on global energy supplies. But the real surprise was the strike’s accuracy: Of 19 weapons used, all but two scored direct hits.

    When the smoke cleared, Saudi officials counted 14 holes where incoming projectiles had sliced through petroleum storage tanks. Three other critical parts of the oil-processing facility had been hit and disabled, shutting it down and temporarily cutting Saudi oil production in half.

    In subsequent reports, U.S. analysts would describe the attack as a kind of wake-up call: evidence of a vastly improved arsenal of high-precision missiles that Iran has quietly developed and shared with allies over the past decade. […]

    “They’re saying, ‘We can now hit those,’ ” said Fabian Hinz, an expert on Iran’s missile program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monte­rey, Calif. “What we’ve seen in Iran in the past few years is a change from missiles that were mainly political or psychological tools to actual battlefield weapons. This is a quantum change.” […]

    Because Iran has provided its advanced missiles and bombmaking technology to proxy groups, it also possesses options for harming its adversaries while limiting the risk of reprisals. In the past, Tehran frequently tasked pro-Iranian militant groups — chiefly the Lebanon-based Hezbollah but also proxies and sympathizers based in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain — with carrying out a wide range of covert actions on its behalf, including bombings and missile strikes, kidnappings and cyberwarfare. […]

  210. says

    The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel — until after the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the discussions. […]

    Washington Post link

    What other damning information is about to be revealed? I wonder why Trump tying to delay all of those revelations until after election. Hmmm.

  211. says

    Mike Lee is a Republican senator from Utah. This is what he had to say after the Trump administration briefing on the assassination of a top Iranian commander:

    It was probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate. […]

    I find it insulting, and I find it demeaning to the Constitution of the United States to which we’ve all sworn an oath

    They [the briefers] left after 75 minutes, while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.

    I find that absolutely insane.

    More details:

    […] “I think we need to have a debate about separation of powers,” he said.

    Both senators [Rand Paul and Mike Lee] said they would support Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) war powers resolution in the Senate, with some amendments. The House will also take up a war powers resolution on Iran.

    “That briefing is what changed my mind,” Lee said. “I walked into the briefing undecided, I walked out decided, specifically because of what happened in that briefing.”

    “It’s un-American, un-Constitutional and wrong, and I hope and expect that they will show greater deference to their own limited power in the future.” […]

  212. Ragutis says

    Lynna, OM

    8 January 2020 at 2:40 pm

    https://twitter.com/bubbaprog/status/1214955938119127040

    58 times. He sniffed 58 times during his address. Here are all of them.

    I wish I could read that general’s mind… I can’t tell if he’s just trying to figure out Trump’s hair or terrified of what he’s hearing. Or maybe he’s trying to figure out what he’s hearing and terrified of Trump’s hair.

  213. tomh says

    Republicans: If we can’t have an all-out war, let’s just coninue to destroy the environment.

    NYT:
    Trump Moves to Exempt Big Projects From Environmental Review
    By Lisa Friedman
    Jan. 9, 2020

    WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday introduced major changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental protection law, moving to ease approval of major energy and infrastructure projects without detailed environmental review or consideration of climate change.
    […]

    Under the law, major federal projects like bridges, highways, pipelines or power plants that will have a significant impact on the environment require a review, or environmental impact statement, outlining potential consequences. The proposed new rules would narrow the range of projects that require such a review.
    […]

    The changes would also eliminate the need for agencies to consider the “cumulative impacts” of projects, which in recent years courts have said include studying the planet-warming consequences of emitting more greenhouse gases.
    […]

    Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, called the changes a giveaway to the fossil fuel industries.
    […]

    “Our country is at a pivotal time for American energy,” said Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration & Production Council, an oil and gas trade association.

    She praised the administration for clarifying the regulations and creating what she described as a more-efficient process that “removes bureaucratic barriers that were stifling construction of key infrastructure projects.”

    The driving force behind this giveaway? Interior secretary, David Bernhardt, former oil and gas lobbyist.

  214. says

    Ragutis @243, I interpreted the General’s thought as, “Oh, fuck.” Repeated over and over again. When I was watching the entire speech, I noticed the General’s eyes slide to one side and widen when Trump claimed that money Obama gave Tehran paid for those missiles. He knows that’s a lie.

    The General may think in time-honored military terms, “SNAFU!” Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.

  215. says

    Members of the Trump administration presented a closed-door, classified briefing to Congress yesterday. Congress critters at that briefing have clearances that allow them to hear classified information. And yet, Robot Lickspittle Vice President Mike Pence made a ridiculously claim:

    On NBC’s “TODAY,” Pence told Savannah Guthrie that the administration could not provide Congress with some of the “most compelling” intelligence behind the administration’s decision to kill Soleimani because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods.

    “Some of that has to do with what’s called sources and methods,” Pence said. “Some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence that we have — it could compromise those sources and methods.”

    The Gang of Eight can hear even more sensitive information, but the Trump administration didn’t tell them either.

    One can only conclude that Pence’s “most compelling” intelligence does not exist.

    Some commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters yesterday that lawmakers, including some of his GOP colleagues, who balked after yesterday’s briefing are “empowering the enemy.”

    At the root of the senator’s argument is the same dubious pitch that Pence peddled: Trump deserves the benefit of the doubt. To question the president’s decision, Graham suggested yesterday, is to undermine U.S. national security interests.

    What’s unclear is why in the world anyone would take such an argument seriously. Donald Trump hasn’t just engaged in uncontrollable lying throughout his brief political career, but the Trump administration has struggled to keep its story straight about the airstrikes in question, offering competing and contradictory explanations for why the president risked a war.

    To see Trump as credible is to ignore everything we’ve seen, heard, and learned in recent years. To see Trump as credible on life-and-death national security matters is folly.

  216. says

    Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders continues her unbroken streak of making ill-informed comments that stroke Trump’s ego:

    You know, I can’t think of anything dumber than allowing Congress to take over our foreign policy…. I think the last thing we want to do is push powers into Congress’ hands and take them away from the president. […]

    T]he last thing I want to do is see them take power away from President Trump and put it into their own hands. I don’t think anything could be worse for America than that.

    Those powers, Sarah, are already in Congress’ hands because that’s what the Article 1 Section of the U.S. Constitution says. To the legislative branch of Congress is given the power “to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water” [and to] “raise and support armies,” “provide and maintain a navy,” and “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.”

    Go away, Sarah.

  217. says

    From USA Today:

    Confidence in President Donald Trump to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs remains broadly negative, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

    The Washington-based Pew study, released Wednesday, found that among people it polled in 32 countries, 29% express confidence in Trump. Sixty-four percent say they lack confidence in the White House occupant.

    The figures stand in marked contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world in a positive manner.

  218. says

    Trump’s newly announced Iranian sanctions may not exist.

    Yeah, I thought he was lying when he said that. Then, soon after, when reporters questioned him about the sanctions, Trump said, “You’ll see.” That’s one of Trump’s “I’m lying” tells.

    More details:

    […] In a White House address yesterday, Trump said, “As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.”

    I made the case yesterday that no one should necessarily assume that these “additional punishing” sanctions are real. As it turns out, as of this morning, their existence is very much in doubt.

    Ordinarily, when an administration is poised to impose economic sanctions on a foreign country, there’s some kind of briefing, usually involving the Treasury Department. There was no such briefing yesterday. CNN reported, “[I]t was not immediately clear what shape those sanctions would take. The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.”

    The New York Times added this report overnight:

    He said instead that he would ratchet up sanctions on Iran, although administration officials said later that they had no specific plan to do so. The administration has already imposed so much economic pressure on Tehran that it was unclear if additional measures would make a meaningful difference.

    Oh. So when Trump told the world that the United States is “immediately” imposing “powerful” sanctions, he may have been referring to sanctions that are not, in reality, real.

    Making matters slightly worse, there’s a degree of familiarity to these circumstances.

    In June, after Trump backed off military strikes against Iranian targets, he declared via Twitter that he’d just added “biting” new sanctions on Iran. While it’s true that the administration eventually added sanctions, the president’s specific claim in that tweet wasn’t true, either.

  219. says

    Followup to tomh’s comment 244.

    More about Trump’s presser on environmental policies:

    So much for staying on message.

    During his press conference announcing new environmental regulation policies Thursday, […] Trump seemed to be in a particularly bizarre mood, referring to a “rough neighborhood” around Tehran and at one point talking about the “YMCA” song.

    Twitter speculated about the President’s appearance while he spoke at length about a variety of topics unrelated to the matter at hand. When he was asked about what happened to the Ukrainian plane that crashed outside Tehran this week — killing all 176 people on board — Trump didn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t buy the belief that the plane suffered a mechanical issue.

    “Well, I have my suspicions,” he said when asked about the flight, just minutes before multiple credible news outlets reported that American officials believe the flight was downed by an Iranian missile.

    “I don’t want to say that, because other people have their suspicions also. It’s a tragic thing when I see that. It’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake on the other side, could have made a mistake,” he said. “It was flying in — not in our system, it has nothing to do with us. It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood and somebody could have made a mistake. Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question, personally.”

    He then went on a near-incoherent rant about his rationale for renaming various global alliances — NATO and the USMCA — claiming he told people they should think of the YMCA song to remember the USMCA abbreviation.

    “I actually had a name. NATO, right? And then you have M-E. Middle East. You’d call it NATOME,” he said. “I said, ‘What a beautiful name.’ NATOME. I’m good at names, right? USMCA. Like the song YMCA. Nobody could remember USMCA. I said, ‘think of the song YMCA.’ Now everybody says it.”

    Trump eventually got back around to the initial point of the press conference, which was to announce new environmental regulatory rollbacks, all in line with his ongoing approach to environmental policy — to dismantle protections put in place by the Obama administration.

    “I’m a big believer in that word, the environment,” he said. “I’m a big believer, but I want clean air and I want clean water, I also want jobs, though. I don’t want to close up our industry because somebody said, you know, ‘you have to go with wind’ or ‘you have to go with something else.’ It’s not going to be able to have the capacity to do what we have to do.” […]

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-weird-press-conference

  220. says

    US Officials Believe Iran Shot Down Ukrainian Plane Outside Tehran

    […] According to CBS, U.S. satellites detected two missile launches shortly before the plane exploded. CNN reported that unnamed U.S. officials believe Iran mistakenly shot down the plane. CNN called it a “working theory” among U.S. brass.

    Newsweek also reported on unnamed U.S. officials’ beliefs that the plane was shot down by a Russian-built anti-missile system. […]

    The plane crash, which claimed the lives of all 176 people on board — Iranians, Canadians, Ukrainians and others — was shrouded in mystery and contradictory statements in the hours following the incident. The plane crashed hours after Iran fired missiles that struck two U.S. bases in Iraq. […]

    Various aviation experts have expressed the possibility of foul play with the Tehran crash, citing the circumstances of the incident and photographic evidence from the crash site.

    There’s also some talk that a Russian-made missile shot down the plane. Iran does buy military equipment from Russia.

    From the readers comments:

    I wonder if the missile batteries are manned by the Russians. You know, like when they shot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine.
    —————–
    The BBC reports US satellite caught two blips – believed to be missile launches – followed by the blip from the explosion.

  221. says

    Collusion!

    Moscow Mitch McConnell spent his Wednesday evening hanging out at the White House with Donald Trump to talk impeachment […]

    To collude with Trump regarding how to get him absolved of all his wrong doing.

    But don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because, as CNN reports, McConnell “has not shared with the White House the text of the resolution that would set up the trial, according to one of the sources, who insists there’s no negotiation with the GOP leader’s office on how the language should be drafted.” Which is entirely believable. Sure. Especially when you read this: “We want this to start as quickly as possible,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative director. “We want the President to be acquitted as quickly as possible.”

    Acquittal is a foregone conclusion. We knew that already, because McConnell has been saying so for weeks. They’re not even trying to pretend otherwise in the White House. That makes McConnell’s brazen statements that he is plowing over the 47 Democratic senators and writing his own resolution without their consultation even more striking. Strikingly bad.

    Link

  222. says

    “I don’t want to say that, because other people have their suspicions also. It’s a tragic thing when I see that. It’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake on the other side, could have made a mistake,” he said. “It was flying in — not in our system, it has nothing to do with us. It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood and somebody could have made a mistake. Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question, personally.”

    The fact that he’s trying to play it as a mistake makes me wonder. If it wasn’t him, then why would he play down the responsibility? That’s hardly his style.
    Also, “It was flying in — not in our system, it has nothing to do with us.”
    It sounded guilty when I read it and it sounded guilty when I went and saw the video. “Not in our system.” Why is he denying something that wasn’t asked?

    Perhaps the correct interpretation is that this was a screw-up. Some local commander got antsy and blew up a civilian plane. Oops. Now what?

  223. says

    LykeX @254, people in Iran are pushing the theory that the CIA shot the plane down. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s what they are saying.

    Also, the plane was not flying in, it was taking off. The “pretty rough neighborhood” comment makes no sense. Sounds like Trump trying to muddy the waters.

    It’s also possible that Putin has been in touch with Trump, and has pushed Trump in the direction of, “It was a mistake.” With Trump, you never know.

    Also, Trump may really want this to have been a mistake so that he is not pushed to retaliate, not pushed to escalate the war. I really think Trump wants two contradictory things: he wants to appear tough, as if he is not letting Iran get away with anything; and at the same time he is deathly afraid of starting a full-blown, Middle-East-encompassing war.

  224. says

    From Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

    We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional.

  225. says

    Trump is still trying to create a show trial that deflects attention away from his obvious crimes:

    I’m going to leave it to the Senate, but I’d like to hear the whistleblower, I’d like to hear “shifty” Schiff, I’d like to hear Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.

    About John Bolton testifying, Trump said:

    When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that. People can’t go up and say whatever my thoughts are, whatever your thoughts are about us, countries, views. You don’t want that to be out.

  226. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Warren has just released videos and interviews with both Elle AND ALSO Cosmo, a day apart […]

    We’ll start with the Cosmo because of how Warren again threatens to dance, saying she really loves it when the selfie line starts because they play Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” and she just has a hard time not dancing to that.

    This heads into a full-throated defense of Warren’s approach for actually achieving Medicare For All, and a discussion of money in politics, where Warren notes that on the very day Kamala Harris dropped out of the race because she didn’t have enough money, “a billionaire bought his way onto the debate stage.”

    It’s not that she hates rich people — far from it! — she just wants them to contribute their fair share in taxes, and not contribute more than their fair share to our democratic process […]

    This was followed by wonky details about Warren’s wealth tax and all kinds of discussions of I Have A Plan For That, etc.

    Warren also addressed the killing of Qasem Soleimani, noting that he “was a bad guy but a high-ranking Iranian government official,” and that Trump’s actions “[have] not made America safer.” It’s funny, because Chris Cillizza was just telling us the other day how Warren was a big flip-flopper about Soleimani, and there she is, saying literally everything she’s been saying about it from the beginning. Huh. […]

    Elizabeth Warren, what is your New Year’s resolution, besides “be president”?

    Elizabeth Warren: Walk more, more exercise. I’m trying to up my mileage, my daily mileage.

    Jessica Pels: From where to where?

    Elizabeth Warren: Well, I don’t know. My eyes may have been bigger than what I can manage here, but I want to go from six and a half miles to seven every day.

    Elizabeth Warren walks more than you do. That is what we take from that.

    Warren tells Cosmo that out of all the Little Women, she is a “Jo,” and that out of all the coffee shops, she is a “Dunkin’ Donuts.” She also says she’ll bring her dog Bailey to the White House if she wins, and that you really should make her win, because if she does, we all get eight full years of Kate McKinnon playing her on “Saturday Night Live.” (This may be the best campaign platform she’s come up with yet, TBH.) […]

    Warren answers questions for readers, like should this one woman keep pursuing a guy who basically quit talking to her, but still watches her Instagram stories (DROP HIM); how can another person get their non-dog-interested roommate into the idea of getting a dog (Warren encourages the devious trickery of taking the roommate to a dog shelter and causing them to accidentally fall in love with a specific dog); and how to make it up to your friend whose birthday you forgot (GROVEL AND BRIBE WITH CHOCOLATE). […]

    Hey, know what video you can watch right here? This one from Warren’s campaign page on Facebook, where she takes a question from an oh-so-earnest evangelical white dude voter whining about how nobody will respect his right to ban women from making their own bodily decisions. Her answer is masterful […]

    Video available at the link.

  227. says

    From Wonkette: “Kansas Expanding Medicaid. Yes, That Kansas!”

    In Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican leaders of the state legislature announced today they’ve reached an agreement to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It’s not only honest-to-God bipartisanship, but in a genuine surprise, the more than 100,000 Kansans who’ll get Medicaid coverage won’t even be subjected to poor-people punishing work requirements that are all the rage in red states these days. […] Kelly’s predecessor, Sam Brownback, repeatedly blocked Medicaid expansion and crashed the state’s revenues through deep tax cuts that somehow never resulted in prosperity.

    Now, of course, the Kansas Lege still has to actually pass the legislation, so Kansans making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level may not want to go scheduling any “I got live-saving surgery without going bankrupt” parties yet. Still, with Republican leaders on board, it looks hopeful.

    […] The 10 percent of costs that the state would kick in for expanding Medicaid will be paid for through a hospital surcharge so Rs won’t whine too much about taxes, and even the hospitals are in support.

    Even so, as soon as the plan was announced, some Republicans started invoking fears of creeping socialism. […]

    The compromise also included a provision that Medicaid beneficiaries would be referred to employment resources, but not forced to meet work requirements. As we point out every damn time “work requirements come up,” most Medicaid recipients ALREADY WORK. And while Republicans just looooove them some poor-shaming, work requirements often cost so much to administer that they eat up funding that could go to services. Some states throw up so many dumb hurdles — like online registration, regardless of whether applicants have internet access — that they keep qualified people from using the program. […]

    Some Republicans may have been persuaded to support expansion because it’s just about the only thing likely to prevent rural hospitals from closing, a trend that has measurably increased mortality rates in rural areas. With up to 30 percent of Kansas’s rural hospitals at risk, the federal money seems like maybe a good damn idea. […]

  228. says

    War powers vote: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that the House would send a clear statement to President Donald Trump on Thursday saying that he should not take any further military action against Iran without getting approval from Congress.”

  229. says

    Oh, FFS. The Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday cleared the way for the state Republican Party to exclude Trump’s primary rivals from the GOP ballot in March. Minnesota will join Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina in limiting Republican primary voters to a single candidate.

    StarTribune link

  230. says

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

    Well, that makes more sense tan the other, shifting, and sometimes contradictory explanations offered by Trump and his lickspittles.

  231. says

    Trump took credit for lower cancer rates:

    U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration.

    The trend has nothing to do with Trump. This is from USA Today:

    Gary Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, pushed back against Trump’s insinuation, stating that “The mortality trends reflected in our current report, including the largest drop in overall cancer mortality ever recorded from 2016 to 2017, reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years.”

    He continued that “Since taking office, the president has signed multiple spending bills that have included increases in funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute — though the impact of those increases are not reflected in the data contained in this report.”

    Link

    That article also points out that Trump’s proposed budgets would have cut billions of dollars from National Institute of Health funding, cuts that would, in turn, have negatively affected the National Cancer Institute.

    From Joe Biden:

    You tried to slash nearly $1 billion for cancer funding. We’re lucky that the cancer rate is down, but we’re luckier that Congress stopped you.

    The life expectancy of Americans has declined during Trump’s administration. Maybe he can take credit for that.

    It’s Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy, from The New York Times.
    A new study shows that death rates increased for middle-aged people of all racial and ethnic groups.

  232. says

    E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit will go forward.

    From The New York Times:

    A New York judge has rebuffed […] Trump’s bid to throw out a lawsuit filed against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who accuses him of hurting her career and reputation in denying her claim that he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

    In a ruling made public on Thursday, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan of State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected Mr. Trump’s argument in a filing last week that New York’s courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case because he was not in New York and did not live in the state when he made the comments that Ms. Carroll says defamed her.

    Weak!

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    The Times’ article added that judge in the case noted that Trump failed to provide anything — “not even a tweet, much less an affidavit” — to support his position. The judge also cleared the way for the discovery process to continue.

    For those who may need a refresher on the controversy, Carroll spent years as a prominent writer, media figure, and advice columnist, including having hosted a show on America’s Talking, which later became MSNBC. As regular readers may recall, in June, she also joined a long list of women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

    Indeed, in a recently published book, Carroll described an alleged encounter in a New York department store in the mid-1990s, which the writer described as a violent sexual assault committed by the future president. Though definitively proving or disproving Caroll’s claim is difficult – there is no security footage to review and no physical evidence to scrutinize – the writer said she confided in two friends shortly after the alleged incident, telling them at the time what she said occurred. Those friends soon after came forward with on-the-record accounts.

    The president has denied the claim, arguing, among other things, that his latest accuser is a “liar” who isn’t his “type.” Two months ago, Carroll sued Trump for defamation.

    For her part, the plaintiff said in November that she was “filing this lawsuit for every woman who’s been pinched, prodded, cornered, felt-up, pushed against a wall, grabbed, groped, assaulted, and has spoken up only to be shamed, demeaned, disgraced, passed over for promotions, fired, and forgotten.”

    Carroll added, “While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than twenty years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so.” […]

    Link

  233. says

    Dubious DOJ ‘Review’ Of Clinton That Trump Pushed Ends With A Whimper

    So … don’t lock her up?

    A politically-driven DOJ “review” of the Clinton Foundation and other warmed-over Clinton-related stories, which President Donald Trump demanded in 2017 as the Mueller probe heated up, has essentially concluded with nothing to show for its work.

    The U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, John Huber, has finished the probe and found no criminal conduct to pursue […]

    The review followed an intense public push in 2017 by Trump and his allies in Congress to appoint a second special counsel — counter-programming for special counsel Robert Mueller.

    “Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems..”

    More background details:

    The same month that Trump tweeted a push for a probe of Clinton, November 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote to Huber, telling him to review existing evidence.

    “Your recommendations should include whether any matters not currently under investigation warrants the opening of an investigation, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources or further investigation, and whether any matters would merit the appointment of a Special Counsel,” Sessions said.

    The Justice Department claimed no such written directive to Huber existed; it was ultimately surfaced through a public records lawsuit by the watchdog group American Oversight. [Yeah, the Justice Department lied.]

    In addition to other seemingly never-ending probes, like one into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, Huber pursued the non-scandal surrounding the Canadian mining company called Uranium One.

    Uranium One’s chairman had donated to the Clinton Foundation, which fueled conservative conspiracy theories that Clinton had meddled in the approval process for the company’s acquisition by Russia’s nuclear energy agency Rosatom during her time as secretary of state.

    Clinton didn’t meddle in the deal — an independent board consisting of the the State Department and eight other federal agencies approved it — but it was a useful attack line for Republicans in 2016 and beyond.

    Like many anti-Clinton attacks, the Uranium One story began with Peter Schweizer, the Breitbart contributor whose group, Government Accountability Institute, was founded by Steve Bannon, funded by the pro-Trump mega-donor Robert Mercer and chaired by Mercer’s daughter Rebekah. […]

    Yep. The Mercers paid for that dirt in much the same way that Rudy Giuliani and Trump tried to orchestrate payment for dirt on Joe Biden. Except that the Mercers used their own money, and Trump was trying to use taxpayer funds allocated by Congress. Heaven forbid that he should use his own money to finance his crime spree. And Giuliani was, at least in part, paid by Russian/Ukranian oligarchs.

  234. says

    Pelosi seems to be almost ready to send articles of impeachment to the Senate.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Friday that she planned to bring a resolution to the floor “next week” to transmit the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate. Pelosi outlined the timing in a “Dear Colleague” letter, saying Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had shown his “true colors” Thursday when he signed on to a resolution that would dismiss the impeachment charges outright without even holding a trial.

    “A dismissal is a cover-up and deprives the American people of the truth,” Pelosi wrote. “Leader McConnell’s tactics are a clear indication of the fear that he and President Trump have regarding the facts of the President’s violations for which he was impeached.”

    Pelosi also highlighted important pieces of new information that have emerged since the House voted to impeach Donald Trump:

    On December 20, new emails showed that 91 minutes after Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, a top Office of Management and Budget (OMB) aide asked the Department of Defense to “hold off” on sending military aid to Ukraine.

    On December 29, revelations emerged about OMB Director and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s role in the delay of aid, the effort by lawyers at the OMB, the Department of Justice and the White House to justify the delay, and the alarm that the delay caused within the Administration.

    On January 2, newly-unredacted Pentagon emails, which we had subpoenaed and the President had blocked, raised serious concerns by Trump Administration officials about the legality of the President’s hold on aid to Ukraine.

    And on January 6, just this week, former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton announced he would comply with a subpoena compelling his testimony. His lawyers have stated he has new relevant information.

    She closed by saying she was “proud of the courage and patriotism” her caucus had demonstrated in defense of the Constitution and reminding everyone that U.S. senators must take an oath to “do impartial justice” during an impeachment trial.

    ”Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution,” Pelosi concluded.

    […] Pelosi got exactly what she wanted: a clear indication that McConnell planned to rig the Senate trial, even to the point of not holding one at all.

    Link

  235. says

    From Wonkette:

    Hey, there was a Trump Hitler rally last night, you hear about it? No you didn’t, you have a life. […]

    From Ashley Parker:

    “Where’s Hunter? Where’s Hunter?” Trump says to the crowd, referring to Biden’s son Hunter.

    “Check the crack house,” shouts out a rally attendee, adding: “Report that, you frauds. He’s in the crack house!”

    More from Wonkette:

    Neat, Trump supporters who go to Trump rallies continue to be just the best people. Well done.

    Anyway, the rally was the first Trump rally of 2020, and it was in “town” in “heartland” (Toledo). And he played all his greatest (senile dementia authoritarian lie) hits!

    The usual suspects (Aaron Rupar) live-tweeted the affair, let’s find out what happened (cheat off Aaron Rupar’s paper).

    Mike Pence started out the whole hoo-hah […] explaining why Trump bombed the shit out of Iran’s second most powerful government official, none of which was about how we were about to be attacked. Instead it was “no more Benghazis!” or something, because Trump wingnuts are well known for making Pavlov’s Dog rage-gasm sounds when you say “BENGHAZI!11!1!!!!”

    Anyway, Donald Trump eventually took the stage and he said the Trump things and he pretended he accomplished a veterans thing that was actually accomplished by Barack Obama and there was a protester and Trump told the crowd the protester was “goin’ home to mommy” when he was booted out.

    All normal so far.

    Here is Trump saying we are “uzhing” our military power to make “peesh” happen, because we “seek friendzh, not emenenies,” and this is accurate because of how Trump just bombed the shit out of Iran’s second-most powerful military official, which is just a real “peesh” move. Our point is that his face was malfunctioning last night, like it usually does. […]

    Link

    Video available at the link. More details available at the link.

  236. says

    Say what now? Can the U.S. “decline” or refuse?

    Iraq calls on US to make withdrawal plans, Trump admin declines

    There are roughly 50,000 American troops in the Middle East – with several thousand more on the way – 6,000 of whom are in Iraq. This past weekend, the Iraqi parliament voted unanimously to expel U.S. forces from Iraqi soil, a vote that came in response to the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

    […] Iraq, our ostensible ally, has directly requested that the United States begin the planning process that would end our military presence in the country.

    Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said in a statement Friday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call “to send a delegation to Iraq to put a mechanism [in place] for implementing the Iraqi parliament decision to safely withdraw troops from Iraq.”

    This was, he said, because “Iraq is keen to keep the best relations with its neighbors and friends within the international community, and to protect foreign representations and interests and all those present on Iraqi soil.”

    As we’ve discussed, the initial response from the Trump administration to the Iraqi parliament’s vote was acquiescence. Earlier this week, officials in Baghdad received a signed letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely, who commands Task Force Iraq, not only declaring the U.S. intention to withdraw, but including specific and detailed information about how it would occur.

    In apparent reference to the Iraqi parliament’s vote, the letter said, “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”

    As is too often the case, the Trump administration struggled to keep its story straight about the letter, before eventually saying the whole thing was an unfortunate “mistake.”

    Today, however, the administration had an entirely new message for our allies in Baghdad: We’re not leaving. The New York Times reported:

    The State Department on Friday rebuffed the Iraqi government’s request to begin discussions on pulling out troops, saying that any American officials going to Baghdad during a state of heightened tensions would not discuss a “troop withdrawal,” as the Iraqi prime minister had requested. Instead, discussions would be about the “appropriate force posture in the Middle East.”

    The statement from Washington was a direct rebuttal to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq, and was certain to add to the friction between the two nations.

    Well, yes, I’d say “friction” is inevitable when one country asks another to leave, and the response is, “No.”

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters this morning that the administration is “going to continue” its mission in Iraq, and a State Department spokesperson insisted that the United States is a “force for good” in the region.

    It appears Iraq may have come to a different conclusion. It also appears the Trump administration doesn’t care.

  237. KG says

    A new study shows that death rates [in USA] increased for middle-aged people of all racial and ethnic groups. – Lynna, OM@264

    That’s really remarkable. AFAIK (disclaimer – I’m not a demographer) the only similar national death rate rises in recent decades have been due to AIDS, in parts of Africa, and the application of the “shock doctrine” following the collapse of the USSR.

  238. says

    KG, @272, Yes, it is remarkable. The Trump administration is still attacking health care availability in the USA, restricting access to food supplement programs, and increasing pollution in the environment. They are not done yet when ti comes to increasing death rates.

  239. says

    Some bits and pieces of news, as posted by Steve Benen:

    Pointless cruelty: “The Texas governor said that his state will reject the resettling of new refugees, making Texas the first state to do so following a Trump administration order granting local governments the authority to do so.”

    * Looks like they came up with some sanctions after all: “The Trump administration on Friday announced a new round of economic sanctions against Iran in response to the regime’s missile attacks on Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. and coalition forces.”

    * Trump can’t ask Putin to stop doing this? “A Russian naval ship ‘aggressively approached’ a U.S. Navy destroyer in the North Arabian Sea on Thursday, in a dangerous near-collision, authorities said Friday.”

    * In case you missed this last night: “The House adopted a war powers resolution Thursday with the aim of limiting President Donald Trump’s military actions against Iran. The adoption of the measure on a largely party-line vote of 224-194 came amid heightened tension between the two countries after the United States killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. forces.”

    * Speaking of the House doing important stuff: “The House on Friday passed legislation to broadly regulate a cancer-linked chemical over objections from the White House that Congress is sidestepping agencies. The bill, which passed 247 to 159, targets a class of chemicals abbreviated as PFAS that have been leaching into the water supply across the country, causing health problems in communities where water has been contaminated.”

    * Border barriers: “The White House on Thursday celebrated a federal court ruling that will allow $3.6 billion in military construction funds to be used for the construction of the border wall. A separate court on Thursday lifted a restraining order on a private group allied with President Trump that wants to build its own barriers on private land.”

    * Rep. Doug Collins (R-Colo.) this week told a national television audience that his Democratic colleagues are “in love terrorists.” This morning on Fox News, he defended his own rhetoric, but two hours later, he apologized.

  240. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Jared Kushner, equipped with an amorphous professional title and razor straight hair part, has long had a laughably large portfolio.

    He has been assigned chunks of policy as massive as “Middle East peace” and “reforming the criminal justice system.”

    Now, per the New York Times, he’ll have even more on his plate.

    Kushner is taking over the reelection effort from the White House, organizing meetings and making decisions on staff and spending. He attended meetings with campaign officials in Mar-a-Lago, and made a rare public appearance at a December campaign press event. There, he announced that he is now a registered Republican.

    This means that he’ll have less time for some of the other tasks on his to-do list:

    Solving Middle East Peace

    […] “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump said at a dinner the night before his inauguration. […]

    Reforming the Criminal Justice System

    Kushner has actually been relatively more successful with this job than some of his others tasks. Kushner, with the unlikely help of Kim Kardashian West, shepherded through prison sentencing reform called the First Step Act. […]

    Negotiating Trade with China

    Kushner played a big role in ending NAFTA, and became the point person for the U.S. in trade negotiations with China. […]

    Overseeing Mexico Border Wall Construction

    Per the Washington Post, Kushner was chosen to oversee the construction of Trump’s border wall in November, and has since held biweekly meetings about its progress. Kushner has been pushing for progress to be expedited, in order to meet Trump’s mileage promise — 400 — by the end of 2020.

    Some officials have criticized Kushner’s lack of understanding of a multi-agency project, and haste to obtain private land along the border despite the legal roadblocks.

    Modernizing Government Tech

    Kushner attended a summit with leaders in tech in June 2017 to make the case for consolidating and streamlining government records, some of which are stored on antiquated systems. Per TechCrunch, he did not explain specifics or security measures.

    Solving the Opioid Crisis

    In March 2017, Trump named Kushner as head of the “White House Office of American Innovation,” charged with tackling massive problems like the opioid epidemic and veteran care. […]

    Link

  241. says

    The Trump administration tried to assassinate a different top Iranian commander.

    […] Several unnamed U.S. officials told the [Washington] Post and the [Wall Street] Journal that […] Trump had reportedly authorized a drone strike on Iranian Quds Force leader Abdul Reza Shahlai in Yemen, but it failed to kill him.

    “If we had killed him, we’d be bragging about it that same night,” one official told the Post.

    The sources did not explain why the operation was unsuccessful.

    Neither Trump nor any of his senior administration officials have publicly disclosed the second assassination effort in Iran. They have also yet to provide evidence of the “imminent” danger from Iran that they claim justified the strike on Soleimani.

    Link

    Looks like a few of the people in the know on the assassination-happy trumpian plans are none too pleased, so they are leaking to the press.

    From the readers comments:

    So who’s playing Assassin’s Creed in Trumplandia?
    ————————–
    Iran is going to respond to these attacks through quieter means than a bunch of missile strikes. And, the administration just put a target on every senior American official…they are now fair game for assassination since Trump ordered the military to pick off a couple upper level government officials. That’s how Iran will see it, and the world may agree…Trump brought this on himself, he’s going to reap it.

    Hopefully the Iranians don’t go through with this, or do something like blow up a Trump hotel…innocents will get caught in the crossfire in this tit for tat play. But it just may happen…and, the people crowing the most about assassinating other state officials will be screaming about it happening to us, instead of noting that Trump started it when he should not have done so.

  242. tomh says

    For anyone interested in the role of the Chief Justice in the upcoming impeachment proceedings, Scotusblog has a detailed analysis.

    In short, the Senate rules appear to give considerable power to the Presiding Officer, including the power to issue “orders, mandates, writs, and precepts”, to “direct all the forms of proceedings while the Senate is sitting for the purpose of trying and impeachment”, and to “rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence”.

    In every case, however, this appearance of authority is subject to the limitation that any ruling he makes can be questioned by any Senator and overturned with a simple majority vote of the Senate. This means that the Republicans have absolute power as long as McConnell can keep 51 votes together.

    Bottom line (from the article):

    In the end, I doubt that Democrats have much to hope for from Roberts, or that Republicans have much to fear. The smart money is that he will strive to replicate Rehnquist’s approach [in Clinton’s impeachment] of doing “nothing in particular and doing it very well.”

  243. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Lynna@264
    My own take is that humans don’t do well when you try to turn them into domesticated animals that produce a steady income stream for the real “people”–namely corporations and the asshole-jerkoffs who run them.

    Healthcare is becoming more and more an exercise of “treating” rather than curing disease–more long-term income for corporations, less well being.
    Our food is coming more and more from multi-nationals than from the farm down the road.
    Hell, you can’t even rely on the water supply. Have to buy tap water in disposable plastic bottles.
    Education, the prison system, even defense are all being privatized to ensure a steady stream of rents to corporations and the people who own them. People in America increasingly live lives of debt/illness driven despair and corporate-supplied distraction. We are no longer free-range.

  244. says

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/shock-and-awe-2

    From Josh Marshall:

    With Iran’s admission that it accidentally shot down a civilian airliner the night of its retaliatory strikes against the US military bases in Iraq it is worth remembering that Russia has still not made a similar admission about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The facts are not identical. In that case Russia provided Buk surface-to-air missiles to “separatists” operating in eastern Ukraine who seem to have thought they were shooting down a Ukrainian military jet.

    Here we get into the inherent and intentional murkiness about which of these “separatists” aided by Russia were people who could legitimately be called “separatists” versus Russian military or Russian veterans operating with plausible deniability […] the upshot is the same: As part of an intentional policy of using vaguely deniable proxies, Russia gave highly lethal weaponry […] to people operating with little command and control or oversight. The result was unthinkable tragedy. Not only has Russia never admitted responsibility it has continued to support and propagate various conspiracy theories and “false narratives” about what happened.

    […] whatever you think of the government of Iran this is simply an unimaginably hard admission to have to make. And they cut the denials relatively quickly. This is not simply because a wrong is always hard to admit but because they were admitting to killing scores of Iranians. […]

    All governments have great difficulty admitting wrongdoing, even if they are tragic errors without malign intent. It’s important to remember here that while this was a Ukrainian airliner the victims were overwhelmingly either Iranian nationals or Canadian citizens of Iranian descent. So in a communal and national sense it is mainly a self-inflicted wound. […].

  245. says

    Trump still plans to block witnesses that may appear in the impeachment trial.

    […] Trump signaled in an interview aired Friday that he would seek to block key witnesses from testifying in the Senate’s impeachment trial, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

    Trump ordered the men, and several other witnesses, not to cooperate with the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry about his pressure campaign on Ukraine to produce political dirt against Democrats.

    […] Trump implied he would seek to do the same in [the Senate] chamber.

    Asked by Fox News host Laura Ingraham if he would invoke executive privilege in an attempt to prevent Bolton from testifying, Trump said “I think you have to, for the sake of the office.”

    Bolton witnessed several attempts by Trump administration officials to pressure Ukraine to do the President’s political bidding.

    At one point, referring to the EU ambassador and the White House chief of staff, Bolton reportedly told a deputy “I am not part of whatever drug deal [Gordon] Sondland and [Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up.” […]

    Trump similarly suggested Friday he would seek to prevent potential testimony from Pompeo, Mulvaney and Perry.

    “I would love everybody to testify,” he said. “I would like Mick to testify, I like Mike Pompeo to testify. I like Rick Perry to testify. I want everybody. But there are things that you can’t do from the standpoint of executive privilege.”

    “You have to maintain that,” Trump continued. “So we’ll see where it all goes. But especially a national security adviser, you can’t have him explaining all of your statements about national security concerning Russia, China, North Korea, everything. You just can’t do that.” […]

    Link

    Executive Privilege does not apply when crimes are being committed.

    From the readers comments:

    “I have to completely block the process” said the criminal president. “For the good of me”.
    ——————–
    If not for the necessity to protect executive privilege for future presidents, Trump would let these witnesses provide testimony that would completely exonerate him. You have to admire that kind of principled selflessness. [Ha!]
    ———————-
    The problem here, of course, is anytime a President is impeached for actions either due to malfeasance or illegality, the people best positioned to know are those serving under the President in the Executive Branch. If he’s allowed to claim this privilege, then there’s almost no point to Impeachment because it becomes practically an impossibility to discover the truth of the matter.

    Finding the truth here should be the highest priority, as there’s no Privilege when crimes are involved

  246. says

    Evolution of a lie: from “imminent attack” to “four embassies,” with no facts in between. Trump started by saying there was an imminent attack planned against our embassy in Baghdad (though he waited seven, 7!, days to make up that bullshit), and then, as he usually does, he increased the number as he went along. Most recently, Trump pulled the number “4” out of his ass.

    Now his lickspittles are scrambling to catch up. Pompeo even claimed that the purported attacks against U.S. embassies had been briefed to the Congress. Nope. That’s a blatant lie. No Congress critter, not even a Republican one, has claimed that imminent attacks against embassies were mentioned during the briefing.

    Lindsey Graham, however, claims that Trump’s address to the nation about killing Soleimani will go down in history as the equivalent of Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall” speech.

    Trump’s address was full of lies.

    Sometimes deception generates a “tangled web,” other times just a hilarious mess. But Donald Trump’s war-triggering assassination and post-drone strike rationalizations show two things: one is how clumsily Trump shifts his lies from day to day, the other is how Mike Pompeo and Fox News hurry along in Trump’s wake, trying to paper over irrational statements with a thin veneer of claims that all fall apart on even the most cursory examination.

    […] Pompeo and others were willing to throw away any pretense of integrity to make it seem that Trump had a passing grasp on the facts. […]

    1) Donald Trump was not supposed to assassinate Qassem Soleimani. Military planners presented it to Trump as the “far out” option under the silly assumption he would take a more reasoned approach.

    2) What those planners weren’t considering wasn’t just Trump’s disdain for reason, but his need to make a big gesture toward Iran to secure the support of Republican senators in his upcoming impeachment trial.

    3) So the mission went forward, with a pretense of “improving safety,” even though killing the Iranian general made the situation across the whole Middle East immediately, and obviously less secure.

    4) After initially stating that Soleimani was calling back to Tehran for authorization on a plan that threatened hundreds of Americans, Mike Pompeo continually shifted the target and tried to confuse “imminent attack” with retribution for things that were already past.

    5) When Congress finally got a chance to be briefed on the so-called intelligence behind the attack, even Republicans were shocked at the inability of the White House to produce anything to support their actions in the “worst briefing ever”.

    6) Then, days after the attack and stinging from complaints by Republicans in House and Senate, Trump dropped the idea that Soleimani had been plotting “to blow up the U.S. embassy” into an interview, while providing absolutely no evidence.

    7) With that new claim on the board, Pompeo hurried to not only try to support Trump’s claim by giving a long list of possible targets, including “embassies,” but flat-out lied by saying Congress had been told about the embassy threat in the briefing — which was quickly contradicted by those in attendance.

    8) Trump expanded on his freshly-generated claim at his rally, telling those in attendance that “Soleimani was … looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad,” forcing Pompeo to ramp up his lies to match Trump’s latest claims.

    […] at every step along the line, Fox News has been not just cheering on Trump’s latest claim, but out in front, making suggestions that Trump is underplaying the real threat and that only more attacks can bring peace.

    Link

    That’s not all the lies told. Trump also lied about the money paid to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, and Trump blamed Obama in totally nonsensical ways.

  247. says

    Oh, FFS.

    […] Kim [Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea] has been launching new missiles, building more nuclear weapons, generally sending a message of big-D Doom, and calling Trump a “dotard.”

    So, concerned that his friendship was in peril, Trump did what any kid in the back row of math class would do when he wants to know if that girl with the pigtails still likes him—he got a friend to carry a note. As The Hill reports, rather than risk being personally rebuffed, Trump asked South Korean President Moon Jae-in to deliver a birthday message to Kim. While President Moon reported that the message was delivered, he did not reveal the contents, or what reply, if any, Kim sent back to Trump. […]

    Trump has some reason to be concerned other than just being called a foolish old man. Kim has yet to send his promised Christmas present. In mid-December, the North Korean dictator promised that Pyongyang was readying a gift for the American people. Though Trump, and this is true, speculated that it might be something like “a beautiful vase,” expectations were that Kim was signaling the launch of a new longer-range missile, a suspicion that was increased by activity at the facility North Korea uses for its nascent space program. And though the launch did not make it in time for the holidays, it still appears that North Korea is taking steps to prepare for showcasing a new weapon. […]

    Link

  248. says

    From Iranian foreign minister Mohamad Javad Zarif:

    A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:

    Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster

    Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.

    From Iranian President Hassan Rouhani:

    The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.

    My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.

    Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.

    Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake.

  249. says

    The administration’s deceptions about the Soleimani strike are a big deal

    […] though the deception involved has been fairly widely reported in the press, it hasn’t played a leading role in describing the escalating cycle of tensions. That’s a mistake. By killing a foreign country’s key leader, the US put itself in the position of facing retaliation, as Iran did with rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq earlier this week. Those attacks, thankfully, didn’t kill any Americans. The Trump administration, thankfully, agreed not to retaliate further, for now.

    […] For an administration that wants to start a war with Iran but lacks the public backing to do so — or for a faction that wants to start a war but lacks the full support of the president — one good way to make the dream happen is to do things that provoke Iranian responses that, in turn, provoke new American responses.

    A way to halt that cycle of escalation is to insist that people who want to take provocative steps give accurate information about what they are doing.

    […] There’s substantial evidence to doubt the administration’s imminent threat message.

    For example, the Pentagon’s original press release about the Soleimani operation didn’t mention it, and the immediate US reaction was to order all American civilians out of Iraq for fear of retaliation […]

    [Trump] said it was heading off imminent attacks even as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conceded that he couldn’t say where or when these attacks were supposed to happen. […]

    Similarly, senators briefed on the intelligence simply said there was no evidence of an imminent threat. […]

    EPORTER: Why are you saying that Soleimani presented an imminent threat against embassies here but not to senators during this week’s briefing?

    POMPEO: We did.

    REPORTER: So senators are lying?

    POMPEO: I won’t talk about the details.

    […] Lying the country into war is really bad
    Trump is, of course, notorious for lying about all kinds of things. And the national security sector, accustomed as it is to dealing in classified matters and state secrets, seems in some ways to be instinctively unbothered by deception. But in reality, this kind of lying is especially dangerous.

    The public is highly motivated to protect American lives, as are members of Congress who are responsive to the public. They would be willing to go further in terms of killing foreigners to actually defend Americans in a specific way than they would to, say, advance Saudi Arabia’s regional ambitions with regard to Iran. […]

    This dynamic is already clearly in place in the larger question of the Iran nuclear deal, the specific elements of which Trump keeps lying about. Iran’s aggressive behavior against the US is clearly linked to Trump’s decision to abrogate the deal. Trump keeps saying he did so because Iran was cheating, which, if it were true, would be a good reason to abrogate the deal. But it wasn’t true.

    US-Iran relations have deteriorated to a point where Iran is refusing to abide by the limits in the agreement. If you lack the original context that the US pulled out of the deal despite Iranian compliance, Iran’s actions could be seen as justifying new anti-Iran moves from the US. […]

  250. says

    Trump’s climate change reading material is beyond parody

    Good news: Trump plans to read a book about environmentalism. Bad news: the actual book.

    […] Given his long history of dismissing climate change as a “hoax,” Trump made a bit of news on Thursday when he claimed to take the issue seriously during a White House event to announce, ironically, regulatory changes that make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without having to consider climate implications.

    Asked whether he thinks climate change “is a hoax” by a reporter, Trump replied, “No, no. Not at all.” But instead of talking about the risks of climate change, Trump mentioned a book he intends to read and proclaimed his support for clean air and water.

    “Nothing’s a hoax. Nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject. I want clean air. I want clean water. I want the cleanest air, I want the cleanest water,” Trump said. “The environment is very important to me. Someone wrote a book that I’m an environmentalist … I’d like to get it. I have it in the other office. I’ll bring it to my next news conference perhaps.” […]

    his remark about having a book in mind piqued the curiosity of New York Times climate change reporter Lisa Friedman.

    Friedman followed up with the White House to find out which book the president was referring to. But if you thought Trump was planning to read something that might broaden his horizons, think again. It turns out the volume in question is literally titled Donald J. Trump: An Environmental Hero, and it was written by Ed Russo, who worked as a consultant for Trump’s business. […]

    Suffice it to say that Russo isn’t exactly an unbiased source. The Amazon page notes that he “acted as an environmental consultant for Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization for fifteen years.”

    Trump really should do some legitimate reading about climate change […]

    When Trump has tried to talk about climate in more detail, it’s typically a mess. During a speech to a conservative youth group last month, for instance, he made a series of false and bizarre claims about wind energy, including, among others, that the manufacturing of turbines creates “fumes” that “are spewing into the air,” making it sound as though wind turbines are pushing California’s bald eagle population to the brink of extinction; and, in an especially galaxy-brained moment, riffing that “you know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe.” […]

  251. says

    From Wonkette: “Trump Claims Four Embassies Were Going To Bombed By Iran, Didn’t Bother To Tell Them That”

    […] his own senior intelligence officials say that this was not the case and that all they had was a few rumors of a not-yet-fully-formed plot to attack the embassy in Baghdad. This “news” also came as a surprise to lawmakers who attended a classified meeting on the Iran situation this week, including Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who told the Washington Post, “I feel like I would have remembered if they would have presented that kind of intel at the briefing.” […]

    But let’s say it’s true and not just a thing Trump made up to impress Laura Ingraham. The embassy in Baghdad was not made aware of this, despite that being fairly standard protocol when a place is being threatened like that. You know, so people don’t go to work and then die! Or so they can beef up their security! Something!

    So either Trump is lying or he’s not lying and just didn’t feel it was at all necessary to warn the embassy in Baghdad, or the three other potential targets… which would actually be worse. […]

  252. F.O. says

    https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1216252081029271557

    [..]
    Right now, Iran is a tinderbox internally. As some of you know, there are protests mostly around the anger that Iranians feel towards the gov after they admitted IRGC shot down the Ukraine Airlines aircraft
    [..]
    Iranians are in the street calling for prosecutions, saying Soleimani is a murderer. Telling leadership of the Iranian government to resign and saying that Trump isn’t the problem, that the Iranian government is.

    To say that these protesters are brave is an understatement

    Nearly 2 months ago, Iran massacred hundreds (at least) and up to 1,500 of its citizens in the streets for protesting against gas prices. People in the streets are taking an enormous risk not only by protesting but by saying what they’re saying like death to the Supreme Leader

  253. says

    Followup to comment 386.

    A few days after attempting to clean up his “worst briefing” comment regarding the Trump administration’s briefing on the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani last week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) seems to have added to the mess.

    On Friday, […] Trump said that he was justified in authorizing the strike that killed Soleimani because he had been planning attacks on four U.S. embassies — a claim that is at odds with senior officials in his administration.

    During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday morning, Lee reiterated how “we didn’t receive very much information that wasn’t already available through public media sources.”

    “This is one of the things that’s very frustrating,” Lee said. “When something like this happens, when events are unfolding quickly, events that will have a profound impact on national security and military strategy, Congress does need to know about it, in part so we can evaluate the scope of our authority to act or choose not to act. We didn’t get that. And that was disappointing.”

    When Tapper asked Lee whether Trump’s claim that there was a threat against four U.S. embassies was brought up during last week’s briefing, Lee said he “didn’t hear anything about that” and that “several of my colleagues have said the same.”

    “So, that was news to me. It certainly wasn’t something that I recall being raised in the classified briefing,” Lee said. “Well, look, I’m not sure exactly what he’s trying to say there. I don’t recall being told, look, there were four embassies. I’m sure there was a mention of at least one embassy in that briefing, because there had been an attack on one of our embassies in the days leading up to General Soleimani’s killing.”

    Lee was then quick to bring up his talking point of issuing “a statement within a few hours of the attack on General Soleimani” that “was a good development from the standpoint of the security of the American people” because Americans are “safer as a result of the fact that he’s dead.”

    When pressed by Tapper about whether he believes Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat, which Trump administration officials have said regarding what prompted the strike that killed the top Iranian military official, Lee dodged the question and appeared to place more blame on the briefers.

    “Look, I have not yet been able to ascertain really specific details as to the imminence of the attack. Again, we weren’t provided that the other day. We were given somewhat general statements,” Lee said. “And I believe that the briefers and the President believe that they had a basis for concluding that there was an imminent attack. I don’t doubt that. It’s just frustrating to be told that and not get the details behind it.” […]

    Link

    Video available at the link.

    Why do Republicans always attempt a high speed 180° turn so quickly after a brief moment in the sunlight of facts when they dare to criticize something the Trump administration has done? They run, scared, from comments they made just days before.

  254. says

    Comment 288 was a followup to comment 286.

    Here is further followup, in the form of readers comments:

    Lee knows that †Я☭mp is full of shite, but refuses to say so…like everybody else with an R attached to his/her name.

    What will be interesting are the future self-justifications for such behavior we see every day from the Rs. Deliberate or ignorant? Savvy or stupid? Fearful or cowardly?
    ———————
    Lee went out of his way to defend Trump, while throwing Pompeo to the wolves, apparently not realizing consequences of decisions rests with the leader of the government.

    Curious to me that Lee chose to do these very public interviews when he could have just stayed home.
    ———————-
    How soon does Mike Lee become a non-person for this, unwelcome at the White House and the object of insulting tweets?
    It’s already happened to Trump superfan Matt Gaetz. He had the temerity to vote with the Democrats for Congressional approval for a war with Iran. He’s now persona non grata at the White House and Trump won’t take his calls.
    ————————–
    He also threw a gratuitous slam at Obama about the Benghazi briefing being the #1 worst, a must-do for anyone attempting to stay in Trump’s favor.
    ————————-
    Lee’s position appears to be a confused muddle. On one hand, he congratulates Trump for showing “restraint” in staying out of wars in a manner superior to any other President, but then states it was right and proper to kill Suleimani and that it made Americans safer.

    If he thinks we can kill a senior government leader of a powerful Middle East nation without consequences, he’s sadly mistaken. While it probably won’t lead to a direct war, our bases, troops, infrastructure, and even ordinary citizens are now at risk.
    ————————–
    If Joseph Smith had become POTUS he’d be a lot like Trump – a fabulist, career liar, con man, surrounded by wives, collecting protection money (tithes) etc. [Mike Lee is a Mormon.]
    ————————-
    Trump flat-out lied and made up the spot assassination excuse. There was not intel to support the claims of an imminent attack on any of our embassies, let alone four of them.

  255. says

    More details concerning Trump and his lickspittles threatening Iraq:

    The Trump administration reportedly threatened to cut off Iraq’s access to its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York over a proposed withdrawal of American troops.

    The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that the State Department threatened to cut off Iraq’s New York Fed account in a phone call Wednesday with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, according to unnamed Iraqi officials. The resulting cash shortage would hurt Iraq’s economy.

    Many countries maintain accounts with the New York Fed in order to store government revenue in the form of U.S. dollars. In Iraq’s case, much of that comes from oil sales. […]

    Link

  256. says

    Nancy Pelosi was interviewed on a Sunday morning talk show. Here is some of the news she made:

    On ABC’s “This Week,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deftly called out Donald Trump’s ceaseless projection before confirming she doesn’t regret her decision to hold on the articles of impeachment. Then, she dropped a line that is a pretty big deal. Asked about possible Russian interference in the 2020 election, Pelosi confirmed what most progressives think: Trump, in her words, is in “complete denial.” What’s new and pretty darn intriguing, though, is what she said about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his support for Trump when it comes to election security.

    “Sometimes I wonder about Mitch McConnell, too,” Pelosi continued. “Why is he an accomplice to all of that?” Accomplice! Now that’s a strong word.

    […] Stephanopoulos did, indeed, ask Pelosi to respond to Trump’s tweet. “I don’t like to spend too much time on his crazy tweets because everything he says is a projection. When he calls somebody crazy, he knows that he is,” she replied. She also noted that she felt Trump was “not worth impeaching” until the Ukraine allegations came about.

    That’s smooth, and the lack of reaction is probably enraging to Trump if he ever hears her say it. Of course, not everyone agrees that Trump’s tweets aren’t worthwhile; Sen. Kamala Harris, for example, has argued that Trump should be banned from Twitter. For the Democratic women of color known as the ‘Squad,’ Trump’s tweets go beyond just elementary-grade jabs of “crazy” and deep dive into xenophobia and racism. But when it comes to insults like “crazy,” Pelosi seems unconcerned.

    “He has to know that every knock from him is a boost,” she added. […]

    Link

  257. says

    “I didn’t see”: Esper admits he saw no direct evidence of Iranian threat to U.S. embassies

    Secretary of Defense Mark Esper admitted Sunday on the CBS show “Face the Nation” that he saw no specific evidence of the “imminent” threat […] Donald Trump has used to defend an airstrike he ordered, killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani and sparking widescale fear of retaliation that might endanger U.S. troops and diplomats.

    “The president didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said was he believed,” Esper said on the show. “I didn’t see one, with regard to four embassies. What I’m saying is that I shared the president’s view that probably—my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassy is the most prominent display of American presence in a country.” […]

    “Probably,” and “could have been,” plus “I believe”: those are all weasel words. “I didn’t see” indicates that there was no direct evidence to be seen. No imminent threat.

  258. says

    Oh, FFS. Really, Bernie?

    Bernie Sander’s campaign is slamming Elizabeth Warren as candidate of the elite.

    […] Sanders’ campaign has begun stealthily attacking Warren as a candidate of the upper crust who could not expand the Democratic base in a general election, according to talking points his campaign is using to persuade voters obtained by POLITICO.

    The script instructs Sanders volunteers to tell voters leaning toward the Massachusetts senator that the “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what” and that “[s]he’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party.”

    “I like Elizabeth Warren. [optional]” the script begins. “In fact, she’s my second choice. But here’s my concern about her.” It then pivots to the criticisms of Warren.

    The Sanders campaign did not challenge the authenticity of the script […]

    It is not clear whether the script is being used for phone calls or door knocking or both, or in which locations […]

    Link

  259. says

    From Wonkette: “You Can’t Even Bribe White House Press Sec. Stephanie Grisham To Do Her Job Now”

    Donald Trump was impeached last month. Now, he’s trying on wars for size to save his own skin… so it’s a good time for the White House press secretary to finally meet the press after more than 300 days. Stephanie Grisham’s had this job for six months and has yet to hold a single briefing for reporters. She makes $183,000 a year to go on Fox News every once in a while and complain that people keep expecting her to do shit.

    Grisham started to feel the heat this week. Anderson Cooper explored the many ways Grisham is useless during a full segment of his CNN show. Author Don Winslow offered to donate $100,000 to charity if Grisham did her job for just one hour. Stephen King matched the $100,000. It was suddenly a telethon! Their indecent proposal offended Grisham, who responded in an email to Jake Tapper.

    GRISHAM: If you have $200,000 to play with, why not just help children because it’s a good thing to do? Donations to charity should never come with strings attached.

    Back in 2012, Trump offered Barack Obama a $5 million donation to the charity of his choice if our last legitimate president handed over his college records and passport applications. This was a little different from Winslow and King’s offer because they aren’t racists who refuse to believe Grisham is who she says she is. They’d also actually come through with the money. […]

    The brief glimpses we see of Grisham at work indicate that she sucks at whatever it is she does. She appeared on “America This Week” and commiserated with host Eric Bolling over how much the media hates Trump. Grisham believed the reporters she’s never personally met failed to praise Trump’s killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani with sufficient “rah-rah” jingoism.

    GRISHAM: I do think [the media] are biased. Just in this instance, Soleimani got coverage not about all of the horrible acts he’d done, not about the people who’d been killed under his regime… People on the networks, and CNN, they were talking about how sad everybody was. It was almost as if they were mourning his death.

    Grisham was asked again when she planned to do her job, and her answer was the same: The public needs to hear from the subject matter experts, not Stephanie Grisham, who lacks expertise on any number of subject matters. Bolling suggested that people are “intrigued” by Grisham, which is true in the sense that I’m “intrigued” when the pizza I ordered never shows up. I don’t find the missing pizza fascinating and mysterious like Greta Garbo. I just want the damn pizza I paid for. Grisham claimed she has three different roles at the White House and doesn’t have time to do any of them,

    GRISHAM: I think people aren’t sure of me because I’m not out at the podium.

    It’s not a podium, lady. […]

    Friday, 13 former White House press secretaries, foreign service and military officials wrote an open letter for CNN that called for the return of regular White House briefings.

    The process of preparing for regular briefings makes the government run better. The sharing of information, known as official guidance, among government officials and agencies helps ensure that an administration speaks with one voice, telling one story, however compelling it might be.

    Regular briefings also force a certain discipline on government decision making. Knowing there are briefings scheduled is a powerful incentive for administration officials to complete a policy process on time. Put another way, no presidents want their briefers to say, day after day, we haven’t figured that one out yet.

    In times of military conflict and international crisis, these briefings take on even more importance. Americans want to know the latest developments and seek the truth. On social media, wild rumors can fly, and our adversaries can manipulate disinformation to their advantage. This is now well documented. […]

    Link

  260. says

    […] it should surprise absolutely no one that The Deplorable Choir — some ladies who sing songs about how much they love Donald Trump — have a new song out all about how excited they are for Trump to just start bombing the shit out of all who “mess” with America. […]

    The Deplorable video has since been taken down. YouTube notes that is was “removed by the user.”

    Good.

  261. says

    Why did the Pentagon ever give Trump the option of killing Soleimani?

    Washington Post link

    Sending the U.S. military to use force is among the most consequential decisions presidents can make. Matters may get out of control even with the most careful and deliberate planning. Skipping such steps shows callous disregard for American lives and interests. And there is overwhelming evidence in the past week that […] Trump instigated an escalation cycle with an American enemy without such consideration. […]

    Instead of holding a tightly managed, inclusive debate in the Situation Room, Trump made one of the most dangerous choices of his presidency among a tiny group at Mar-a-Lago. Such decisive moments are usually preceded by hundreds of people spending countless hours in dingy government offices and conference rooms, building PowerPoint slides and questioning lawyers. These individuals create the parameters and permutations of what the decision-makers consider. They identify the possible options, vetting their likely operational, diplomatic, economic and other effects. That work enables the commander in chief to make wrenching decisions about his military options wisely.

    At least, that is how decisions are supposed to be made, and how we helped leaders make them when we worked in government. Bad options, considered with little serious deliberation on an unnecessarily rapid timeline, should never get to the president in the first place. […]

    With Soleimani’s death, we don’t know whether civilians cut out military planners or if military officials took shortcuts in the process. Regardless, whatever truncated steps led to the choice to kill him had alarming results. […]

  262. says

    Marc Fisher, writing for The Washington Post, took a closer look at Trump’s transactional approach to … well, everything:

    […] Trump’s obsession with the bottom line permeates his approach to governing, including his current stance toward Baghdad: We own you. You owe us. “We had Iraq,” Trump said on “Face the Nation” last year. “We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it.” That idea has stuck with the president, and on Jan. 3, he tweeted that “the United States has paid Iraq Billions of Dollars a year, for many years. That is on top of all else we have done for them.”

    Trump “boils complex issues down to things he can count,” said G. Richard Shell, a professor of business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “He asks, ‘What’s the asset here, and how can I get it?’ He perceives unequal benefits being exchanged, and he immediately escalates to the highest level of conflict he can see. And then his people signal to him, ‘No, no, no,’ and he backs off. […] On Wednesday, Trump did just that, delivering a measured address, noting that “Iran appears to be standing down” and seeking to “work together” with Tehran on “shared priorities.” […]

    The decision to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani without any apparent plan for managing Iran’s inevitable retaliation is typical of how Trump has always operated. He takes pride in acting swiftly and decisively, in the moment. He does not want to hear about antecedents that might inform his decision-making or about how today’s decision might alter future options. […]

    Research on executives who favor transactional deals over enduring business relationships finds that “you get better deals and fewer of them” with the more impulsive approach, Shell said, but “you get many more deals, and they’re much more nuanced,” if they are based on lasting relationships. […]

    I don’t think governing a nation should be viewed from a “deal making” approach at all. Trump is not mentally fit for office.

    Much more at the link.

  263. says

    Hillary Clinton: The most exonerated politician ever.

    Hillary Clinton has a unique distinction: She has been exonerated twice after extensive federal investigations, the latest entirely unjustified and the result of a politicized Justice Department. […] Trump of course was NOT exonerated in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, which found 10 or so categories of conduct that but for the present policy of Justice Department guidelines would serve as the basis for obstruction-of-justice charges. If Trump is defeated in November he can still be criminally charged the moment he leaves office.

    But back to Clinton. It may be hard to remember given then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s voluminous investigative report in the midst of the 2016 election, his testimony before Congress and his intrusion into the campaign 11 days before Election Day, but he found no basis she committed a crime. His subjective comments about poor judgment and negligence were entirely irrelevant (and frankly inappropriate for the FBI, which is charged with finding or not finding criminal conduct). The bottom line: Clinton committed no crimes.

    […] Based on no new evidence but rather on an undisguised personal vendetta, Trump opened up another investigation. The Post reported:

    John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, was tapped in November 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into concerns raised by President Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI had not fully pursued cases of possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation and during Clinton’s time as secretary of state, when the U.S. government decided not to block the sale of a company called Uranium One.

    As a part of his review, Huber examined documents and conferred with federal law enforcement officials in Little Rock who were handling a meandering probe into the Clinton Foundation, people familiar with the matter said. Current and former officials said that Huber has largely finished and found nothing worth pursuing — though the assignment has not formally ended and no official notice has been sent to the Justice Department or to lawmakers, these people said.

    The coverage of her exoneration has been minimal. […] The legitimate media does not seem interested in asking Trump or other Republicans to acknowledge that their accusations were baseless. […]

    The hordes of right-wing media pundits and columnists will not fess up for pushing a blatantly false narrative. Because they are held to such a low standard by legitimate media outlets, the voices in the right-wing echo chamber pay no price for joining in the persecution of Trump’s nemesis.

    “One of the most common tools of autocrats around the world is to use law enforcement as a weapon to go after political opponents,” explains Ian Bassin, executive director of the nonpartisan organization Protect Democracy, […] “That this misguided investigation has been brought to an end is a sign the walls of our system are still holding; that it was allowed to happen at all is a sign that Trump’s constant pounding at those walls is producing cracks.” Bassin adds, “With a president who has boasted wrongly that he can do ‘whatever he wants’ with the Justice Department, we can’t afford to just hope that sanity prevails the next time — and there will be a next time.” […]

    Washington Post link

  264. says

    No one from the Trump administration can confirm “specific” intelligence pointing to a threat from Iran to attack four U.S. embassies, (unless you count Trump’s lies).

    Throughout their multiple appearances on Sunday cable news shows, neither Defense Secretary Mark Esper nor National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien could confirm that President Trump had specific intelligence that top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani threatened to target four U.S. embassies.

    In an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that aired Friday, Trump said that he was justified in authorizing the strike that killed Soleimani because the top Iranian military official had been planning attacks on four U.S. embassies […]

    During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday morning, Esper said that Trump never claimed to have “specific intelligence” that Soleimani planned to attack four U.S. embassies, but that he shared the President’s “belief” that was the case.

    When Tapper asked Esper whether Trump was “embellishing” the imminence of the threats, Esper said that he didn’t believe so because “the bottom line is we had exquisite intelligence that could only be shared with the Gang of Eight.”

    After Tapper said that it “doesn’t make sense” for Trump to make the threat claim publicly on Fox News while Esper can’t share what he said is “exquisite intelligence” with Congress, Esper refused to go into details of what they were briefed “partly because I wasn’t there.” […]

    Link

    More at the link.

  265. says

    From former Republican, now an independent representative, Justin Amash:

    He [Trump] sells troops.

    “We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia—I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1B in the bank.”

    https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/1216054398138376192

    From Brian Tyler Cohen:

    The US military is now a mercenary army for the country that sent the majority of hijackers to do 9/11.

    Other comments posted in Justin Amash’s Twitter feed:

    And sells morals. Don’t forget SA butchered a journalist, our intelligence agencies said it MBS, and trump ignored them.
    ——————-
    Our troops aren’t a commodity, they are people, with fams, who risk their lives to serve our country, our nat. sec. and interests.
    This sickens me. It’s not who we are.
    So, SA is putting $1 bill in the bank? Whose bank? Will military families see more in their pay and benefits?
    ————————-
    Oct 16: Pelosi questioned Trump about sending troops to Saudi: “My question to him … Why are our troops going to Saudi if you promised to bring them home?” Trump responded, the Saudis are “paying for it,” and then had a meltdown.

    One has to wonder if Eric Prince (former mercenary himself, and brother of Betsy DeVos) played a part in Trump’s decision to sell troops to Saudi Arabia.

  266. says

    Oh, FFS.

    From Trump:

    Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, “no pressure” Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree! […]

    This phony Impeachment Hoax should not even be allowed to proceed. Did NOTHING wrong.

    Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong? Read the Transcripts! A totally partisan Hoax, never happened before. House Republicans voted 195-0, with three Dems voting with the Republicans. Very unfair to tens of millions of voters!

    From readers comments on The Hill website:

    This is not the way a sane man behaves, or an innocent one.
    ———————-
    Trump is guilty. Republicans in the Senate know he’s guilty. The shame is the cover up, not the impeachment.
    ———————–
    Simply love the Orange Hairball’s priorities. No impeachment! Wahhhhh, people hate me! Wahhhhhhh, did nothing wrong!!!

  267. says

    At the intersection of Trump’s health care lie and his ACA case:

    For proponents of the Affordable Care Act, the last couple of months have been quite encouraging […] Totals from the recent open-enrollment period, for example, were solid and in line with expectations, while the latest industry data pointed to stable health care markets, Republican sabotage efforts notwithstanding.

    It was against this backdrop that Utah’s Medicaid expansion program got underway on Jan. 1, while policymakers in Kansas reached a bipartisan compromise to bring Medicaid expansion to the Sunflower State. Others may soon follow: Phil Cox, a former head of the Republican Governors Association and a well-known figure in D.C. circles, was quoted saying two weeks ago, “The battle has been fought and lost on Medicaid expansion.”

    There is, however, just one dark cloud hanging over the ACA’s head. A Republican lawsuit, backed by the Trump administration, is trying to destroy “Obamacare” in its entirety, and a Texas judge has already ruled in the GOP’s favor. The 5th Circuit, in a move that appeared awfully political, recently left the future of the nation’s health care system in limbo, almost certainly until after the election.

    […] The ACA’s proponents asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, and a week ago today, the justices directed the Trump administration and Republican state officials behind the lawsuit to respond. As NBC News’ Pete Williams explained, “Such a highly abbreviated timeline – the rules normally allow a month for filing a response – gives the court the option to take up the case during its current term, which would mean a ruling on a contentious issue this spring, just as the presidential campaign heats up.”

    On Friday, the administration filed a brief, effectively telling the high court to cool its heels. [Delay!] The Washington Post reported:

    The Trump administration and a coalition of conservative states that have been challenging the Affordable Care Act said Friday that there is no reason for the Supreme Court to rush a ruling on the issue this term. […]

    […] Trump’s solicitor general, Noel Francisco, replied that the [5th Circuit’s] decision simply preserved the status quo until a lower court looked more closely at which parts of the law should survive. It would be premature to intervene now, he said.

    […] To put it mildly, the Trump administration’s argument is a tough sell, at least as it relates to the ACA itself. On the one hand, the lawsuit argues that the law’s individual mandate, which Republicans gutted in late 2017, was so integral to the ACA that the nation’s health care system can’t function effectively without it, so “Obamacare” should cease to be. On the other hand, the Trump administration is also arguing that the mandate-less ACA is working fine right now, so there’s no reason for the justices to act with any haste.

    Both points cannot be true.

    […] It’s likely that Trump and his team realize that if the Supreme Court takes up the case in the short term, there’s a very real possibility that the White House and Republicans would either (a) lose a humiliating health care case in an election year; or (b) convince five conservative justices to take health care benefits away from tens of millions of Americans in an election year.

    […] Trump is peddling truly outrageous nonsense on the issue, including a tweet this morning in which the president claimed, “I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare.” He added, “I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!” [Bull pucky!]

    It’s as brazen a lie as Trump as ever told – and to know anything about the president is to know the competition in that category is fierce. In reality, Trump didn’t “save” protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions; he fought to take those protections away through a series of far-right repeal-and-place proposals he couldn’t get through a Congress led by his own party.

    Trump, of course, is also helping champion an ongoing federal lawsuit which would – you guessed it – strip protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

    Link

  268. says

    Trump Sends Cryptic Messages To Iran In Unhinged Early Morning Tweet Screed

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-iran-tweets-unhinged

    Wow. This is even more unhinged than usual:

    […] Trump sent a series of cryptic messages to Iran and Democrats on Twitter Monday morning, retweeting a photoshopped image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wearing a turban and a hijab, as well as an image of a dead body to criticize Pelosi.

    […] [Trump also tweeted]: National Security Adviser suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran “choked off”, will force them to negotiate. Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and “don’t kill your protesters.”

    Trump later claimed that Democrats were working to paint Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani as a “wonderful guy” and are attempting to downplay the intelligence that his administration used as rationale for the strike. The Trump administration has been arguing for weeks that an attack on Americans by Soleimani was “imminent,” but has not produced evidence for that rationale. Trump also spelled “imminent” wrong in his initial tweet, which he deleted and reposted minutes later.

    [Trump tweeted]: The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was “imminent” or not, & was my team in agreement. The answer to both is a strong YES., but it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!

    […] The Monday morning tweet-storm follows a weekend of unhinged posts by the President, in which he castigated Democratic leadership as well as former Secretary of State John Kerry, posted more tweets in Arabic and English sent directly to the people of Iran and even praised his own border wall. The online diatribe of mixed messages is notable as the President heads into a week of impending impeachment developments, including the possible launch of a trial in the Senate.

    Oh, so now “it doesn’t really matter” if Soleimani’s planned attacks were imminent. That should make things easier for Trump’s lickspittles. They can stop coming up with new and contradictory explanations for the airstrike while they look like deer caught in headlights on national TV shows.

  269. says

    Another Democrat dropped out of the presidential race. Senator Cory Booker announced his withdrawal from the race today. He cited a lack of financial resources and the fact that he would not appear in the upcoming debate on Wednesday.

    […] In a high-energy video peppered with moments from his speeches and events, he said that he “can’t wait to get back on the campaign trail” to work for other candidates, including the eventual nominee.

    Booker did not qualify for the democratic debate in Iowa on Tuesday, and was a vocal critic of the DNC’s metrics. […]

  270. Akira MacKenzie says

    @303

    Trump later claimed that Democrats were working to paint Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani as a “wonderful guy” and are attempting to downplay the intelligence that his administration used as rationale for the strike.

    Hey Donald, which Democrats have said that Soleimani was a “wonderful guy?” Please name names and cite your sour… You’re not listening to me, are you?

    Hey news media, ask the president which Democrats have said that Soleimani was a “wonderful guy?” Please have him name names and cite his sourc… You’re too cowardly to do that, are you?

  271. says

    WTF!?

    Akira @305, Trump is not the only one confused about the facts. Even the simplest facts seen to elude the entire Trump administration. This is disturbing:

    A tweet from the White House heralding a snowy D.C. has people scratching their heads as the city stews in unseasonably warm, snow-free weather.

    “First snow of the year!” the official account tweeted on Sunday night with a photo of snow sprinkling over the White House.

    The tweet was met with a wave of confusion pointing out that it was a little over 50 degrees in the city at that time, with no snow in sight.

    It wasn’t even the first time the White House had posted the photo this weekend; the Washington Post pointed out that it had posted the same photo on Facebook with an identical caption on Friday–and it hadn’t snowed in D.C. that day either.

    According to the Post, the White House on Sunday tweeted, then deleted, a link to the image on Flickr explaining that the photo was taken “during a snow flurry” on Tuesday, which was shortly before Iran had fired missiles at Iraqi bases holding U.S. troops.[…]

    Link

    From the readers comments:

    I’ve never seen such a bunch of screwups. There’s not one I’d hire to work in a school district PR shop or write a press release for a company that makes knife sharpeners. If you’re not “detail-oriented” enough to ask yourself if it snowed today or not you’re not suited for the role.
    ———————-
    Also goes to show how lazy & inept everyone in this Administration is… post a picture with inappropriate/inaccurate caption, and refuse to even acknowledge it.
    ———————
    If you contradict White House claims it was snowing in DC yesterday you’re a terrorist sympathizer.
    ———————
    We’re simply not qualified to understand the deep workings of a very stable genius.

  272. says

    About that “imminent” attack … not so much.

    The Trump administration insists that it killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani to prevent an “imminent” attack on the U.S.–but […] Trump signed off on his assassination over six months ago.

    NBC News reported on Monday morning that Trump authorized a fatal drone strike on Soleimani in June. […]

    TPM Link

    NBC News link

    […] Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.

    The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final signoff on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said.

    That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump two weeks ago for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members were wounded, the officials said.

    The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped. […]

    From the readers comments:

    With Trump in White House, every day is an imminent threat
    —————-
    The ‘imminent threat’ for which Trump had been preparing for six months was the transmission of his impeachment articles to the Senate. He knew they would come – someday – so he had to plan a diversion. Once it was clear that the articles would land on McConnell’s desk within the next week or two few weeks, the threat to Trump was imminent.

  273. says

    I’m sure this will make Trump’s day:

    Former President Obama on Monday took to Twitter to celebrate after “American Factory,” the first Netflix film produced by he and his wife, Michelle Obama, received an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature. […]

    The Hill link

  274. says

    Some fun, sarcasm, and facts from Wonkette: “Dunno How To Say This, But Russia Might Be Attacking 2020 Election To Hurt Biden And Help Trump”

    US officials have announced a surprise development, or at least they are leaking a surprise development to the news reporters, and it is that Russia may be meddling in the 2020 election to hurt Joe Biden and help Donald Trump. Whoa if true!

    It is like Russia is on the same page with Donald Trump, who was impeached for bribing Ukraine […] to meddle in the 2020 election, to hurt Joe Biden and help Donald Trump!

    It’s good when Donald Trump and the country where his true allegiance lies (“allegedly”) can work so very independently of each other (NO COLLUSION!) for the exact same goals.

    The probe comes as senior U.S. officials are warning that Russia’s election interference in 2020 could be more brazen than in the 2016 presidential race or the 2018 midterm election.

    Part of the inquiry is to determine whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over his past involvement in U.S. policy toward Ukraine while his son worked for an energy company there. […]

    “In America, they’re using social media and many other tools to inflame social divisions, promote conspiracy theories and sow distrust in our democracy and elections,” [National Counterintelligence and Security Center director William] Evanina said in a statement. “As we look ahead to 2020, one thing I can guarantee is they’ll keep up their influence campaigns and utilize new vectors of disinformation.”

    We already knew every bit of this.

    The story about how Ukraine is the real collusion is Russian propaganda. The entirely made-up stories about Joe Biden and/or his son Hunter Biden doing supposedly nefarious things in Ukraine are Russian propaganda, and some of the people mama birding that shit down Rudy Giuliani’s throat on his foreign adventures are literally tied to the former KGB and the Russian mob. And for the origin of all that shit, look no further than jailbird Paul Manafort, who spent years in Ukraine working for the benefit of Vladimir Putin with some of the same exact characters pushing the Biden stories now […]

    The only silver lining, we guess, is that Trump’s officials are telling us this. They’ve also told Congress this, and they told the American public this during the impeachment hearings.

    […] whatever Russia does in 2020 will probably will be worse than in 2016. […] timely reminder, their 2016 campaign worked. Their puppet is in the Oval Office […]

    How bad will it be?

    “It’s possible that you will see the creation of false documents,” [Justice Department national security chief John] Demers said. “They could be mixed in with real information, which would make it very difficult to discern the difference. I worry about that as the next evolution of some of their means.”

    Officials also expect Russia to continue trying to hack organizations, release embarrassing information and carry out malign social media operations.

    False documents. Awesome. And we don’t think they just mean the false documents Rudy Giuliani waves around on Fox News.

    […] “What isn’t Russia doing to help Trump steal another election?”

    And if Joe Biden doesn’t get the nomination, you can betcha that Russia’s got plans for whomever ultimately gets it […]

    2020 is going to be the worst year ever, but maybe it’ll end well, hopefully, but maybe it won’t, and that’s the extent of our power of positive thinking right now, the end.

    Link

  275. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 308

    I’m sure he’ll demand an Oscar nomination for his cameo in Home Alone II.

  276. says

    Akira @310, Ha!

    In other news, who’s left in the White House to limit Trump when he’s ‘spun up’?

    No one, really.

    Here’s a description, from last night’s Washington Post report, of the way things used to work:

    Kelly [General John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff] regularly told military officials that he wanted to talk to Trump before they actually carried out one of his orders and sometimes told them to hold off. For example, when Trump ordered the United States to leave NATO, or U.S. troops to leave the Middle East in late 2017, senior intelligence and military officials were brought in to change his mind.

    “He’d get spun up, and if you bought some time, you could get him calmed down, and then explain to him what his decision might do,” said a former senior administration official.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] I think I know where Kelly was going with this. He was describing a governing dynamic in which an amateur president would throw a tantrum, bark orders, and cause some confusion among those whose job it is to follow a president’s directives. In his capacity as White House chief of staff, Kelly – who has an incentive to make himself look as good as possible – made it sound as if he played the role of cooling saucer, letting U.S. military officials know that Trump’s orders weren’t actual orders when he’d “get spun up.”

    But Kelly’s description isn’t altogether reassuring.

    […] if Kelly’s description is accurate, this isn’t how a responsible White House is supposed to function. There’s a chain of command in the United States, and when a president gives orders to military leaders, they’re not supposed to go to the chief of staff to determine whether the orders are real and legitimate, or the random piques of a president whose emotions routinely get the better of him.

    […] is there anyone left on Team Trump playing this role?

    As unsettling and undemocratic as it was to think a White House team found it necessary to obstruct their unfit boss, is it worse to think the guardrails are gone and the president is surrounded by officials who fail to challenge him, even when he’s “spun up”?

  277. says

    White nationalists running for-profit prisons to detain immigrants? Doesn’t sound like a good idea.

    U.S. Senaotors Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen of Nevada are calling on the Homeland Security inspector general to open a probe into a for-profit, private prison contracted to jail immigrants in the state, following a recent report revealing that the facility employs a captain who posted at a neo-Nazi site and at one time tried to start his own chapter of a white nationalist group.

    The request from the senators comes on the heels of a VICE investigation finding that Travis Frey, a captain at private prison profiteer CoreCivic’s Nevada Southern Detention Center, posted on a neo-Nazi site at least a dozen times from 2016 to 2017. Frey, who self-identified as a fascist on the now-closed site, also expressed interest in starting his own chapter of a white nationalist group that played a key part in the deadly Charlottesville rally in 2017.

    Cortez Masto and Rosen write that the report detailing Frey’s radical views, coupled with further reports of other “recent concerning incidents” at the facility, merit a federal probe right away. […]

    Abuses of immigrants have been rampant in facilities operated by CoreCivic, which has also been implicated in the death of at least one child. In testimony to Congress last summer, asylum-seeker Yazmin Juárez described “no effort” by staffers at CoreCivic’s Dilley, Texas, migrant jail to separate sick kids from healthy. Her 19-month-old daughter Mariee was cleared as healthy when they arrived, but then became sick. They were released only when Mariee’s condition had deteriorated, and she died in a hospital several weeks after their release. Juárez subsequently filed a $40 million claim against CoreCivic.

    […] Frey was an employee at the time he made the postings [on the Nazi site] and expressed interest in starting his own white nationalist group, raising even more concern about the safety—and very lives—of other detained immigrants under the company’s watch. “With overwhelming evidence that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States,” Cortez Masto and Rosen continue, “it is critical for our government to take concrete steps to combat them.”

    Link

  278. says

    Oh, FFS! There’s an “official bible” for Trump’s Space Force?

    At least one organization is complaining:

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) condemned the blessing of an “official Bible” for the swearing-in of commanders of the newly created Space Force.

    The group issued its statement after Washington National Cathedral held a ceremony to bless an “official” King James Bible on Sunday and tweeted that it “will be used to swear in all commanders of America’s newest military branch.”

    […] the Bible in Washington, will be used to swear in Gen. John Raymond as the first chief of space operations.

    […] the ceremony included mentions of blessing Trump, Raymond and “all the men and women of the newly created United States Space Force, wherever they may go.”

    Several people as well as the MRFF denounced the designation, saying officers are not usually required to use religious texts to take an oath of office and that the move could ostracize non-Christians. The MRFF has promised to take the matter to federal court in Northern Virginia if it cannot settle it through the Defense Department’s “administrative remedies.”

    “The MRFF condemns, in as full-throated a manner as is humanly possible, the shocking and repulsive display of only the most vile, exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian supremacy, dominance, triumphalism and exceptionalism which occurred at yesterday’s ‘blessing’ at the Washington National Cathedral,” a statement from the group said.

    Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of MRFF, told Military.com that using the Bible goes against Air Force Instruction 1-1 that says leaders “must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.” […]

    The Hill link

    Twitter link

    Photo available at both links.

  279. says

    Aiyiyiyi, I fear this is worse news than we might at first realize.

    Allies of […] Trump are pursuing an effort to acquire right-leaning news channel One America News Network, according to people familiar with the matter, in a bid to shake up a conservative media market that has been dominated by Fox News.

    The investment firm Hicks Equity Partners is looking to acquire the channel and is pitching other wealthy GOP donors to arrange a bid of roughly $250 million for the channel’s parent company, the people said. The firm is owned by the family of Thomas Hicks Jr. […]

    Wall Street Journal link

  280. says

    State Department officials were “blindsided’ by Trump’s claims that Iranian threats to U.S. embassies, etc. were “imminent.”

    State Department security officials were reportedly not given the heads up of the imminent threats to four US embassies, which President Trump said last week justified his authorization of the strike that killed top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani.

    Two State Department officials told CNN in a Monday report that the department failed to issue warnings about specific threats to any US embassy prior to Trump’s authorization of the Soleimani strike.

    Although a senior State Department official said and the department spokesperson confirmed to CNN that a global warning was sent to all US embassies before the Soleimani strike happened, the warning was not directed at specific embassies and did not signal an imminent attack.

    According to CNN, one senior State Department said they were “blindsided” when the Trump administration argued that the Soleimani strike was justified due to an imminent threat to blow up US embassies.

    Despite senior Trump administration officials repeatedly insisting that US embassies in the Middle East were under threat, sources told CNN that State Department officials are unclear of the specific nature of that threat and added that the department failed to provide analysis that those embassies faced an imminent threat.

    Former State Department officials also told CNN that the department didn’t operate as it usually does in an “imminent threat” situation, given how it would typically issue an explicit warning to diplomats overseas, take follow-up measures to restrict their movements or actively weigh whether to evacuate staff. […]

    TPM link

  281. says

    From Glenn Kessler:

    Trump claimed that he’s gotten $1 billion in the bank from the Saudis to pay for US troops. But the Pentagon just confirmed to me the Saudis still have not paid their outstanding bill for refueling costs in the Yemen war. So let’s label Trump’s statement as highly doubtful.

  282. says

    From Southpaw:

    The [Russian] hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States. https://t.co/23YgdTHRAn

  283. says

    Followup to comment 304.

    From Joe Biden:

    Cory, you campaigned with joy and heart, and instead of just talking about bringing people together, you did it every day. You made our politics better just by running. Grateful to you and looking forward to your continued leadership.

    From Trump:

    Really Big Breaking News (Kidding): Booker, who was in zero polling territory, just dropped out of the Democrat Presidential Primary Race. Now I can rest easy tonight. I was sooo concerned that I would someday have to go head to head with him!

    Quite the contrast.

  284. KG says

    posted more tweets in Arabic and English sent directly to the people of Iran – Lynna, OM@303

    Farsi, not Arabic, according to your link. Presumably someone was on hand to tell Trump the Iranians are not Arabic speakers!

  285. lumipuna says

    Imagine Trump asking an aide to translate some of his highly rambly tweets into the “Iran language”.

    Then, wonder if said aide just fed the tweets into Google Translate (after first googling “what is the language of Iran”), or if they actually gave the job for some on-call government Farsi translator as “urgent”.

  286. lumipuna says

    Oh, FFS! There’s an “official bible” for Trump’s Space Force?

    I guess kicking up some stupid like this is the cheapest possible way to keep Space Farce in the news, to give people an impression that it’s a real thing, something that’s actually happening – and most importantly, something that’s being unreasonably opposed by leftist haters.

    Tangentially related, I’d dearly wish that any references to “official bible” in modern militaries were nickname references to some sort of soldier’s law handbook.

  287. says

    BBC – “Scottish independence: Johnson rejects Sturgeon’s indyref2 demand”:

    The UK government has formally rejected a call from Scotland’s first minister for a second independence referendum.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a referendum would “continue the political stagnation Scotland has seen for the past decade”.

    And he said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously pledged that the 2014 referendum would be a “once in a generation” vote.

    Ms Sturgeon tweeted that the Tories were attempting to “deny democracy”.

    She said Mr Johnson’s formal refusal of her request for a referendum to be held later this year was “predictable but also unsustainable and self defeating”, and insisted that “Scotland will have the right to choose”.

    The first minister also said the Scottish government would set out its response and “next steps” before the end of the month, and that the devolved Scottish Parliament would again be asked to “back Scotland’s right to choose our own future”.

    Ms Sturgeon has previously warned that a “flat no” from Mr Johnson to her request would “not be the end of the matter”.

    But she has made clear that she will not hold an unofficial referendum similar to the disputed one in Catalonia in 2017, arguing that it would not actually deliver independence as the result would not be recognised by the EU or wider international community.

    The first minister said: “The Tories are terrified of Scotland having the right to choose our own future. They know that given the choice the overwhelming likelihood is that people will choose the positive option of independence.

    “The Tories – and their allies in the leaderships of Labour and the Lib Dems – lack any positive case for the union, so all they can do is try to block democracy.

    “It shows utter contempt for the votes, views and interests of the people of Scotland and it is a strategy that is doomed to failure.”

    The prospect of an independence referendum on Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred timetable – the second half of 2020 – now looks very remote.

    The first minister is confident that Mr Johnson’s refusal will help make the case for independence in the longer term, but for now her options are limited….

    The former First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones tweeted “If Boris Johnson says that it is entirely a matter for the UK if it chooses to leave the EU then it’s entirely matter for Scotland if it chooses to leave the UK. As Brussels didn’t prevent the Brexit referendum so Westminster shouldn’t stop this one.” Sturgeon retweeted it, with “A sensible Labour voice.”

  288. says

    Pelosi is meeting with her caucus this morning. According to reports from the meeting, she won’t name the floor managers today, but they’re expected to both vote on the floor managers and send the articles of impeachment to the Senate tomorrow.

  289. says

    Guardian – “Justin Trudeau: US escalation partly to blame for Iran plane deaths”:

    Victims of an Iran-downed jetliner would still be alive were it not for a recent escalation of tensions partly triggered by the US, Justin Trudeau has said.

    “I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” the Canadian prime minister said in an interview with Global television.

    He added that the international community had been “very, very clear about needing to have a non-nuclear Iran”, but also in “managing the tensions in the region that are brought about by US actions as well”.

    Trudeau also said he would have “obviously” liked a heads-up from Washington about the drone strike on Suleimani.

    Over the weekend, Trudeau demanded that Iran provide Canada with “full clarity” on the downing of the airliner.

    The prime minister said he made the demand in a call with Rouhani, who admitted earlier on Saturday that the airliner was mistakenly shot down by Iranian missiles.

    At a televised press conference on Saturday, Trudeau said he told Rouhani the admission was “an important step” but “many more steps must be taken”.

    “A full and complete investigation must be conducted,” he said. “We need full clarity on how such a horrific tragedy could have occurred. Iran must take full responsibility.”…

    Thank you to whoever it was at C-SPAN’s Book TV who had the brilliant idea to re-air Stephen Kinzer’s 2003 talk about his All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror in recent days.

  290. says

    Awful scenes in Melbourne.

    Dalila Jakupovic has abandoned her #AusOpen qualifying match after suffering a coughing fit while playing in thick smoke caused by the #AustralianFires.”

    Video at the link. Reading the responses, by all reasonable standards and TennisAustralia’s own guidelines, the event should have been canceled.

  291. says

    “Statement by University Students in Tehran Protesting Downing of Flight 752” (link at the link):

    [The following statement was issued by a group of students at Amir Kabir (Polytechnic) University in Tehran, protesting an admission of guilt by the Iranian government for downing Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 with a missile on 8 January 2020….]

    #Statement by a collective of protesting students present at today’s gathering on the campus of Amir Kabir (Polytechnic) University[1] in Tehran to protest the calamitous downing of a passenger flight by a defense missile.

    These days, Iran is drowning in sorrow and grief. We wash away blood with more blood, we pile suffering upon suffering, we wash the corpse of one martyr with the blood of another. It’s as if history has been compressed; one crisis follows another and threats respond to threats. We, the children of Iran, do not see ourselves as separate from the people of the country. Their pain is our pain. The grief that has settled in their hearts weighs heavily on our chests as well. The tragedy reached its peak on Wednesday morning, when only one day after the killing of tens of fellow citizens in Kerman,[2] Iran once again witnessed its children fade into the horizon. We had not yet been given an opportunity to mourn the deaths of the Aban martyrs[3] when we were given yet another reason to grieve.

    Today, “evil” flanks us from every shore. While economic policies and political repression suffocate the people, the shadow of war looms over our heads. What has been lost in the current political climate, amidst ongoing threats from military powers, is the voice of the people. A people who, above all, long for freedom and equality. In Aban, they brought the sound of that voice to everyone’s attention in the best manner possible. The events of the past two months have been a clear and complete manifestation of the incompetence of the ruling order in Iran. An order whose sole response to every crisis is repression (sarkub). Today, it is incumbent upon us to target the totality of our oppression (sarkub) whether in the form of a repressive government or an imperialist power.

    In recent years, the presence of the United States in the Middle East has done nothing but sow chaos and disorder. We have long understood where we stand in relation to this aggressive power. Nonetheless, we also understand that U.S. adventurism in the region cannot be an excuse to justify domestic repression. If these days “national security” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, the time has come for us to ask what they mean by security, for which groups, classes, and social strata? We are not afraid to cry out, “The security of impoverished, excluded, and deprived Iranians has been pillaged for years!” The economic policies of the past three decades, in conjunction with the rentier class, the wealthy, and the corrupt, have created an enormous number of have-nots and outcasts. The situation is made all the worse by the fact that a corrupt and totally dependent opposition has developed outside of our borders with the aid of the media and financial support of outside powers. Yes, today we are surrounded by evil on all sides.

    People of Iran:

    The only way out of our current crisis is a return to popular politics.

    A politics that neither clings to the coattails of (imperial) arrogance [istikbar] from fear of oppression, nor legitimizes tyranny in the name of anti-imperialism and resistance. Indeed, the only way out of our current predicament is the simultaneous rejection of both domestic despotism and imperial arrogance. We need a politics that doesn’t merely claim security, freedom, and equality for a select group or class, but that understands these rights as inalienable and for all people. Today, the urgent need for social democracy has become clear to all. In such a democracy, the government will not be inattentive to the needs of the people, but will safeguard security, freedom, and equality for all.

    We, the children of Iran, extend our condolences to all of the people of our country for the death of hundreds of our fellow citizens in Kerman and in the downing of the plane, and we swear we will not allow their blood to have been spilled in vain. History will never forget the spilled blood of the innocent. History will return with force to take revenge on the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed.

    [1] The Polytechnic University accepted its first class of students in 1958. It became a hotbed of student activism, across the ideological spectrum, leading up to the 1979 revolution. Abbas Abdi, Junbish Dānishjū‘ī-yi Pulītiknīk-i Tihrān (Dānishgāh-i Amīr Kabīr), 1338-1357 [The Tehran Polytechnic Student Movement (Amir Kabir University), 1960-1979] (London: Nashr-i Nay, 2013), 10-11, 22.

    [2] On January 6, 2019, over fifty people were killed in a stampede that took place during the funeral procession of Suleimani. The procession was in Suleimani’s hometown of Kerman.

    [3] In December 2019, there were mass uprisings in dozens of counties in Iran in response to the Islamic Republic’s decision to ration fuel and hike its price by fifty percent. The Iranian Hijri calendar begins on the first day of spring. Aban is its eighth month.

  292. says

    Politico – “Corruption case law in jeopardy as Supreme Court hears ‘Bridgegate'”:

    Six years ago last week, a cache of messages exchanged between several allies of then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie landed in the inboxes of reporters who had been looking into a series of strange, traffic-snarling lane closures that occurred four months earlier at the George Washington Bridge.

    The documents — including the smoking gun email, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — blew up claims the incident was anything but what it seemed: an effort to punish a mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s reelection campaign, and one the perpetrators went to extraordinary lengths to cover up.

    More than half a decade later, with Christie’s career felled by the ensuing scandal and his allies still facing time in prison, the surreal, only-in-Jersey conspiracy will now be fodder for the nation’s highest court, offering a fresh test of where dirty politics ends and criminal corruption begins.

    The U.S. Supreme Court, set to hear arguments in the case Tuesday morning, must mull over the validity of a core underpinning of the case: That the defendants misapplied public property and, in doing so, committed fraud.

    The “Bridgegate” case gives the court an opening to further limit public corruption prosecutions. It follows the court’s 2016 ruling that vacated the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell — and helped others, like former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, do the same.

    The decision in this case, expected in the spring or early summer, could leave U.S. attorneys with one fewer tool in which to target unethical public officials and may renew calls for Congress to shore up the country’s laws on political conduct.

    That the Supreme Court would even take this case suggests some of the justices may be interested in overturning the convictions and curtailing the way in which prosecutors pressed the charges, legal experts say.

    Anti-corruption watchdogs say they’re worried about the outcome.

    “We all see where this is going, which is to further rein in the ability of prosecutors” to go after political misconduct, said Daniel Weiner, the deputy director of the election reform program for the Brennan Center, who believes the court is “playing with fire” when it comes such public corruption laws.

    “The court has adopted increasingly and even constitutionalized this profoundly cynical view of politics,” he said, also expanding that view to include cases like Citizens United. “I think it’s fair to say has had a pretty corrosive effect on our public discourse.”

    More atl.

  293. says

    Manu Raju:

    Behind closed doors, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised concerns to her caucus about the Russian hack into Burisma, and said the Gang of Eight was not briefed on it, saying she learned about it through news reports, per multiple sources.

    Pelosi told her colleagues in private that Mitch McConnell is acting like a rogue Senate leader, as she’s said before. She mused that sometimes she wonders whether McConnell has Russian connections, per attendees.

  294. says

    Thanks, KG, for identifying the Farsi. Trump and his lickspittles proved, once again, that they are totally incompetent.

    SC @322, holy crap. I didn’t realize it was that bad. “Here Are 20 Headlines Comparing Meghan Markle To Kate Middleton That May Show Why She And Prince Harry Are Cutting Off Royal Reporters.” I thought maybe Meghan Markle was overreacting, but now I see what she has been going through.

    SC @323,

    The former First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones tweeted “If Boris Johnson says that it is entirely a matter for the UK if it chooses to leave the EU then it’s entirely matter for Scotland if it chooses to leave the UK.”

    Yes. Well said.

    SC @325: I do not envy Justin Trudeau and other leaders who have to deal with “managing the tensions in the region that are brought about by US actions as well”.

    SC @328: Thank you for posting that. The entire statement is worth reading, but I was particularly struck by this part: “In recent years, the presence of the United States in the Middle East has done nothing but sow chaos and disorder. We have long understood where we stand in relation to this aggressive power. Nonetheless, we also understand that U.S. adventurism in the region cannot be an excuse to justify domestic repression.”

  295. says

    What Trump said:

    The more people learn about impeachment, the less people want impeachment.

    I think he is projecting again. The more he learns about impeachment, the more he realizes that he is truly in deep shit.

    The facts from the latest Quinnipiac poll:

    A slight majority of voters, 51 – 46 percent, approve of the House of Representatives’ vote to impeach President Trump. […]

    Similar to the opinion on the House vote to impeach President Trump, a majority of voters, 52 – 45 percent, say they are troubled by President Trump’s actions involving Ukraine. Two thirds, 66 percent, would like to see John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor to President Trump, testify in the Senate impeachment trial, including 39 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents, and 91 percent of Democrats.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] Trump hopes to intimidate members of Congress into steering clear of holding him accountable, telling them the public is on his side. The evidence suggests otherwise […]

  296. says

    A sort of update and summary from Steve Benen:

    […] we’re dealing with a dynamic in which the president risked a war for reasons that now appear illegitimate. Pressed for an explanation, Team Trump has gone from shifting and contradictory claims about the motivation behind the airstrike to arguing that the motivation itself “doesn’t really matter.”

    And while his most sycophantic followers may find that satisfactory, the rest of the political world need not accept politically motivated lies about national security so casually.

    As a Washington Post report added yesterday, “The result is a credibility crisis for an administration that has long struggled to communicate factual information to the public. At a perilous moment for the nation’s security, with the United States at the brink of war with Iran, Trump is unable to rely on trustworthiness to justify his decision to take out Soleimani, both because of his lengthy record of exaggerations and lies and because of his ever-shifting rationales.”

    Link

    See comment 303 for the “it doesn’t really matter” statement from Trump.

  297. says

    Good: Mitch McConnell simply doesn’t have the votes to follow through on one of his dastardly plans.

    This is from the New York Times:

    Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump, proceeding instead to a trial with arguments and the possibility of calling witnesses that could begin as soon as Wednesday. […]

    In interviews, rank-and-file senators and party leaders made clear on Monday that even if they wanted to pursue dismissal, the votes simply were not there to succeed — at least not at the outset of the trial.

    From Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri:

    I don’t think there’s any interest on our side of dismissing. Certainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.

  298. says

    Ah, poor Rudy. He has been rejected.

    Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is itching to join President Donald Trump’s anti-impeachment team ahead of the Senate impeachment trial, HuffPost and CNN reported on Monday night.

    An unnamed adviser told HuffPost that Giuliani has been “working Trump hard” in his efforts. Another adviser said that the lawyer has made it clear to Trump that he was “available” to serve as one of the President’s lawyers.

    However, Trump’s team apparently isn’t interested.

    “They said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” the second adviser said.

    “The President is never going to have him in the Senate trial, starting with the problem that he’s a potential witness,” a source told CNN. […]

    TPM link

    Uh, yeah. “He’s a potential witness,” does rule him ineligible for Trump’s anti-impeachment legal team. Rudy doesn’t seem to realize that.

  299. johnson catman says

    “He’s a potential witness,” does rule him ineligible for Trump’s anti-impeachment legal team.

    And yet it is totally okay for the head juror (Moscow Mitch) to consult with the defendant about how the impeachment trial should be run.

  300. says

    SC @339, Lev Parnas’ lawyer has a sense of humor.

    johnson catman @336, yeah Moscow Mitch’s collusion with the Trump team is evil.

    In other news, a reminder that tonight is debate night for Democratic presidential contenders. Six campaigners have qualified.

  301. says

    More bad news for migrant families:

    A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration has been within its power to continue tearing additional migrant families apart at the southern border […]

    The decision came after the American Civil Liberties Union returned to court last year in response to alarming findings that the administration had continued to separate as many as 1,000 families since Judge Dana Sabraw’s June 2018 court order blocking widespread separation. Some of these additional families, advocates said, had been torn apart by U.S. border officials “for the most minor crimes,” and for reasons as petty as a dirty diaper.

    But The Washington Post reports that in his decision this week, “Sabraw indicated he was uncomfortable second-guessing government decisions to separate children on grounds that parents were considered unfit or dangerous, or in other limited circumstances like criminal history, communicable diseases and doubts about parentage. He found no evidence that the government was abusing its discretion.”

    Advocates certainly haven’t seen it that way. “Lawyers wrote that one migrant lost his daughter because a U.S. Border Patrol agent claimed that he had failed to change the girl’s diaper,” The Post reported. In another instance, officials ignored an asylum-seeker’s plea to conduct DNA testing on him and his three-year-old daughter to prove they were related. By the time officials agreed and proved the dad right, he’d already agreed to be deported because he couldn’t stand being detained any longer. This, as advocates have long said, has been state-sanctioned kidnapping.

    This decision is no doubt a setback in the fight to keep families together, and even a part of Sabraw’s ruling in favor of these families could turn into something very concerning. “In a partial victory for the ACLU, the judge said the government must settle any doubts about parentage before separating families by using DNA tests that deliver results in about 90 minutes,” The Post continued. That could no doubt prevent more cases like that of the deported asylum-seeker and his daughter, but a worry is that this administration will abuse that as well, and DNA test more people than they need to. […]

    Link

  302. says

    A guy named Bradley Byrne is running against Jeff Sessions in Alabama. Byrne, a Republican, is exploiting the death of his Army veteran brother, and he is featuring Ilhan Omar and other brown or black people burning in a fire in campaign advertising. Byrne is trying to win by being worse than Jeff Sessions, more racist.

    https://twitter.com/SanaSaeed/status/1216456087605514240

    oh cool just a campaign ad showing Ilhan Omar burning in the fire & the only opponents shown are black and brown people. nothing to see here, folks.

    You can view the 30-second ad at the link.

    From the readers comments:

    This burning cross vibes ad got him a free trip to Fox and Friends where he said:

    “We’re either going to go in the direction the President wants to take us or the direction of AOC, Omar, Colin Kaepernick, and the Squad.”

    Making America blatantly racist again.

  303. says

    This may turn out to be a significant endorsement for Elizabeth Warren:

    Rep. Joaquin Castro, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, announced Tuesday he is endorsing Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

    Castro’s endorsement comes a couple of weeks after his twin brother, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, backed Warren upon ending his own White House campaign.

    The congressman championed Warren as “the only candidate” who can unite the party and the country, “two things essential to defeating Donald Trump and restoring America’s leadership role at home and abroad,” he said in a statement.

    “Today, I’m endorsing Senator Elizabeth Warren for President, because she’s going to make sure that everyone has great opportunities to achieve their dreams and get ahead,” Joaquin Castro said.

    “Sen. Warren is going to fight for all of us, including for people who came from neighborhoods like mine,” the San Antonio native added. “That’s why I’m proud to be in this fight with her.” […]

    Link

  304. says

    Followup to comment 316.

    More details regarding this story are finally emerging.

    What Trump said:

    We’re sending more [troops] to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is paying us for it. I said, “Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you have to pay us.” They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

    From Aaron Rupar:

    […] Though the Pentagon did announce last October that it would send troops to Saudi Arabia to defend the country against Iran, there had been no reporting about Saudi Arabia financially compensating the US.

    Trump’s comments immediately raised questions: Into which bank account did Saudi Arabia deposit the $1 billion? What exactly are US troops doing over there? And did this transaction even happen, or was the president just making stuff up?

    […] it seems that the president, as he often does, was exaggerating.

    Exaggerating? That’s putting it mildly.

    […] Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich said, “The Department of Defense has engaged Saudi Arabia on contributing to US activities that support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression.”

    But the statement did not specify whether any sort of financial transaction took place — on the contrary, it said that “discussions are ongoing to formalize these contributions.”

    Here’s Rebarich’s statement in full:

    Consistent with the president’s guidance to increase partner burden-sharing, the Department of Defense has engaged Saudi Arabia on contributing to US activities that support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression. The Saudi government has agreed to contribute to the costs of these activities, and discussions are ongoing to formalize these contributions. Contributions of this nature do not lead to the deployment of additional US forces, and they do not drive DoD to take on new missions or responsibilities.

    “Discussions are ongoing” is quite different than Trump’s unequivocal claim that Saudi Arabia had “already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

    Trump’s comments came during an interview in which he bragged about war crimes, told blatant lies about the FBI, and said he feels no obligation to publicly detail the intelligence underpinning his decision to approve a military strike against an Iranian official that brought the country to the brink of war. […]

    Link

  305. says

    Trump is diverting another $7.2 billion in military funds to build his border wall

    The funds transfer would bring the total amount devoted to border wall construction under Trump to $18.4 billion.

    The Pentagon — not Mexico — will again be paying for the construction of […] Trump’s wall on the US’s southern border, to the tune of $7.2 billion in 2020.

    […] the White House will use last year’s national emergency declaration to pull $3.5 billion from military counter-drug enforcement, up significantly from the $2.5 billion taken from the same program in 2019. An additional $3.2 billion will be taken from Department of Defense construction projects for additional fencing projects. The number is more than five times the amount allocated to barrier construction by Congress for 2020.

    […] administration officials have recently begun counting miles of fencing under construction — rather than completed — as their goal metric, moving the goalposts on Trump’s promise. […]

  306. says

    Daily Beast – “Warren Calls for SEC Probe Into Whether Trump Tipped Off Mar-a-Lago Pals to Soleimani Attack”:

    2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is calling on financial regulatory agencies to investigate whether President Donald Trump broke the law when he told associates and attendees of his Mar-a-Lago club to expect something “big” in response to Iran’s killing of an American contractor in Iraq.

    The Daily Beast previously reported that Trump told allies at his Palm Beach club, that he had something “big” in the works to address Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region and that they would read about it “soon.” The president specifically mentioned to some of his associates at Mar-a-Lago that he’d been in contact with his senior national security and military advisors on possible plans to hit back, two sources told The Daily Beast.

    Just days later the U.S. launched a mission to assassinate Iran’s top military leader General Qassem Soleimani while driving near the Baghdad airport. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration decided to decision to strike the Iranian general because he was planning “imminent” attacks against American interests. Those claims have since fallen apart, with the president himself tweeting that it “doesn’t really matter” whether the threat was imminent or not.

    Now, Senator Warren is calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to determine “whether there may have been any illegal trading in defense company stocks or commodities related to individuals’ advance knowledge,” according to the letter Warren sent to the agencies, which cites The Daily Beast’s reporting. Warren also asks the agencies for a briefing on the matter no later than Feb. 13.

    “Individuals who were guests at President Trump’s resort may have obtained confidential market-moving information,” the letter says. “These private individuals … would have had the opportunity to obtain significant profits simply by being guests or members at President Trump’s private resort.”

    Warren’s letter notes that several contractor’s stock prices jumped following the assasination of Soleimani. Northrop Grumman stock prices increased by over 5 percent and Lockheed Martin’s stock prices increased by 3.6 percent, according to the letter.

    And while Warren said her team has no way of knowing which individuals received information from President Trump in advance of the attack, if individuals had made securities or commodities trades based on that information, they could have violated the Insider Trading Sanctions Act of 1984….

    Letter atl. It’s also from Sen. Van Hollen.

  307. says

    A Canadian takes Trump to task:

    […] Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain took over his company’s Twitter account on Sunday evening to voice some of the anger and pain he felt over the “collateral damage” Trump and his chicken hawk allies have unleashed in their efforts to wag the dog by destabilizing the region. McCain wrote that a colleague of his lost his wife and 11-year-old son in the crash. McCain went on to explain that this event was the result of an “ill-conceived plan to divert focus from political woes.”

    And if it is unclear which leaders he is talking about, McCain goes on to explain that “A narcissist in Washington tears world accomplishments apart; destabilizes region. US now unwelcomed everywhere in the area including Iraq; tensions escalated to feverish pitch.” And to answer the very cynical conservative talking point about how bad a guy Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was, McCain pointed out that Soleimani wan’t unique on the world stage, “There are a hundred like him, standing next in line.”

    McCain finished by signing his name to his final Tweet, saying that “We are mourning and I am livid.”

    Link

  308. says

    Mitch McConnell announced that the impeachment trial will begin next Tuesday.

    Meanwhile some of Trump’s lickspittles are making a great effort to put out the word that Trump is not afraid. So, you can be sure that Trump is afraid.

    White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is “not afraid of a fight” in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate and is, in fact, eager for witnesses to testify that “this man did nothing wrong.”

    The president could get his wish as soon as this week, with the House set to vote on Wednesday to send its articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate. […]

    “I hate to talk about hypotheticals, but let’s be clear: The president is not afraid of a fight,” Gidley said in an interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “And if you or anyone within the sound of our voices have been falsely accused of a crime, with no proof, and no evidence, for more than three years, you’d want every witness to come forward too, and say this man did nothing wrong.”

    He continued: “We are not afraid of a fight. We are prepared and whether this thing goes to a full trial, whether it’s modified or whether it’s just dismissed out of hand for the sham illegitimate scam it has become, we will be ready.”

    Link

  309. says

    Followup to comment 346.

    […] Trump intends to reprogram $7.2 billion in military construction and defense funds toward building his border wall.

    “To say this is unacceptable and infuriating would be an understatement,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    “Once again the President continues to abuse the separation of powers in our Constitution,” he added.

    […] Democrats refused to back fill the funding for military construction projects that Trump emptied for the wall, but were unable to convince Republicans to block Trump’s authority to reprogram the funds in a package of spending bills for 2020 that passed with broad bipartisan support in December.

    Republican appropriators, more subdued than their Democratic counterparts on the issue Tuesday, said they had been caught unawares by the report and that they were seeking specifics from the White House.

    “We have to weigh what this does to the military, and what it affects and where and how,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as the subcommittee on defense. […]

    Democrats were outraged at the report, pointing to military infrastructure projects that Trump defunded last year, such as repairing a Kentucky school and building a medical center in North Carolina.

    “Having failed to get his way in Congress, it appears President Trump is now once again forcing service members and their families to pay for his wall by cancelling even more vital military construction projects,” Democratic appropriators including House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind), and Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) wrote in a joint statement

    “Moreover, at a time when the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the country, President Trump is stealing funding that was intended for meaningful counterdrug priorities to pay for his wall,” they added.

    Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the top Democrat on the Senate’s Military Construction subcommittee, called the move “illegal,” but said he wasn’t sure the administration would follow through given that they had yet to spend reprogrammed funds from previous years.

    “They haven’t spent the money they already stole,” he said.

    Link

  310. says

    Followup to comment 345.

    Other times when the Pentagon (Defense Department) has contradicted Trump:

    […] Last week, for example, after the American president talked about committing war crimes by targeting Iranian cultural sites, Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained on the record that the U.S. military would not be doing that.

    As we discussed at the time, it was not an isolated contradiction. Indeed, it was just a couple of months ago when Trump boasted that the United States has “taken” Syrian oil, and he intends to partner with the private sector to extract even more. Soon after, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson insisted that we would absolutely not be taking any Syrian oil.

    A few months earlier, the president tried to defend his ban on allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military, arguing that in the military, servicemembers are “not allowed to take any drugs,” which in his mind, necessarily means there could be no transgender troops.

    This was wrong for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that Trump was misstating DOD policy on medications. A Pentagon spokesperson explained, “The Military Health System covers all approved medically necessary treatments and prescription medications. If a service member has a hormone deficiency for any reason (such as hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, menopause, etc.), he or she would be prescribed hormones.”

    Has any government agency been more willing to publicly contradict Trump than the Department of Defense?

    Link

  311. says

    Update on the War Powers Act:

    Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Tuesday said he has majority support for his resolution aimed at reining in President Trump’s war powers against Iran […]

    “I’ve got 51 declared votes on version two,” Kaine told reporters, adding there are “more considering getting on board.”

    Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) previously announced support for Kaine’s resolution. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) also said Tuesday he supported the amended version of Kaine’s measure.

    Kaine said the fourth Republican vote would come from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). With every Democrat expected to support the measure, four Republican votes give it the simple majority needed to pass.

    In a procedural hurdle, though, Young said he wouldn’t vote for a motion to proceed on Kaine’s original resolution — which Kaine can force a vote this week and then could have amended on the floor to the second version.

    But Kaine said he is not likely to force on the original resolution.

    “I’m not likely to force a vote on Kaine one because I’ve got the votes on Kaine two and not on Kaine one,” he said. “And I do think there’s something virtuous about bringing up the bipartisan version.”

    That means Kaine will have to wait to force the vote until the second version ripens, which is 10 days after he introduced it last Thursday. That means Jan. 21 is the earliest Democrats can force a vote on the measure.

    That’s the same day the Senate is expected to begin its impeachment trial of Trump. Kaine said it was possible there will be an agreement to consider the resolution before then, but also said he expects to be able to conduct the trial and consider the war powers resolution simultaneously.

    “It’s widely understood that we will be doing other stuff during impeachment,” Kaine said. “The nice thing is [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) and [Sen. John] Cornyn (R-Texas) and [Senate Minority Leader Charles] Schumer (D-N.Y.) have also said we’re going to be taking up the Kaine war powers resolution soon.” […]

    Link

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  312. says

    Sarah D. Wire:

    I’m loathe to insert myself in the news, but as the Chair of the Standing Committee of Correspondents I am compelled to weigh in on the restrictions to press access during the Senate impeachment trial that are being proposed. Bear with me.

    The Standing Committee of Correspondents vigorously objects to restrictions being considered on press access during the upcoming Senate trial of President Trump.

    The Standing Committee sought to address our concerns with the Sergeant at Arms and with Rules Committee before final decisions were made, but decisions are being made quickly as plans for the trial are completed and we are hearing that nearly every suggestion has been rejected.

    Our suggestions were rejected without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.

    The restrictions that are being considered exceed what occurred during the Clinton trial 20 years ago, with fewer ways for press to speak to senators and even a magnetometer being installed within the Senate Press Gallery to ensure electronics are not brought into the chamber.

    The no electronics in the chamber rule has existed for many years, reporters don’t violate it, and we’ve never needed an extra layer of screening to ensure it is followed.

    Installing a magnetometer means the Senate trial will have a soundtrack of “beep, beep, beep” as 90+ reporters walk in and out all day. There is no additional safety or security brought by bringing such a device into reporter work space

    It also gives the impression that it is being done mostly to protect Senators from the bright light of the public knowing what they are doing in one of the country’s most important moments.

    The Standing Committee requested an exemption to the no technology in the chamber rule so that we can provide the public with up to the moment information without having to walk out of the chamber, but we’re hearing that request has been denied.

    I grasp that there is precedent, but few things in Washington are more momentous than an impeachment trial and the American public deserves to have eyes in the room.

    Reporters will be kept in pens, meaning only senators seeking out press coverage will get covered.

    Currently we can walk with Senators as they enter the chamber, wait for them outside of meetings or lunches. It leads to a diversity of voices. Penning us means people across the country might not hear from their senator.

    These potential restrictions fail to acknowledge what currently works on Capitol Hill, or the way the American public expects to be able to follow a vital news event about their government in the digital age.

    Here is the statement that the Standing Committee sent to Senate leadership…

  313. says

    #355 are some samples from the Parnas materials that the House Intel Committee is transmitting to the House Judiciary Committee. Holy forking shirt. Links to the committee’s letter and the documents here.

    From the letter:

    “In March 2019, Mr. Parnas communicated by text message with Robert F. Hyde about former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In response to some articles, tweets, and videos accusing the Ambassador of being disloyal to President Trump, Mr. Hyde wrote ‘Wow. Can’t believe Trumo [sic] hasn’t fired this [b****]. I’ll get right in that’. Mr. Hyde then sent a series of text messages suggesting that he had Ambassador Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kyiv and that ‘They are willing to help if we/you would like a price’.”

  314. says

    Assuming, as several people have suggested, that Robert F. Hyde is the racist Trumper (but I repeat myself) congressional candidate from CT, what’s he doing in the midst of these crimes in Ukraine?

  315. says

    Yovanovitch’s testimony from November 15th:

    “She said, ‘I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately.

    ‘You need to come home on the next plane.’

    And I said, ‘Physical security? I mean, is there something going on here in the Ukraine?'”

    She was also pulled out of a ceremony honoring a murdered Ukrainian human rights activist to receive the message.

  316. tomh says

    @ SC #365
    All these things coming out are, IMO, exactly why the Articles shouldn’t be sent to the Senate so soon. This evidence, and more, should be investigated, subpoenas should be enforced, and testimony given, and more charges should be added to the Articles. I think Pelosi buckled under the pressure of queasy Democrats worried about their reelection chances.

  317. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Republican senators pitch McConnell on witness reciprocity, officials say

    Four Republican senators met with McConnell Tuesday to discuss a proposal for “witness reciprocity” during the impeachment trial, a Senate GOP aide and another official familiar with the meeting said.

    Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Tex.) and Mike Lee (Utah) pitched McConnell on the plan ahead of Tuesday’s Senate GOP luncheon, according to the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.

    Cruz told McConnell during the 30-minute meeting that if Democrats get a certain witness during the trial, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, then Republicans should get a witness of their own, such as Hunter Biden, one of the officials said.
    […]

    The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted approvingly of Cruz’s idea Tuesday night.

    “I love @tedcruz’s plan of witness reciprocity,” he said. “The American people want to hear from #wheresHunter Biden, #sleepyJoe Biden, #fullofschiff, the phony ‘whistleblower’ etc. much more than they do anyone on our side especially since the house had free reign of witnesses for months.”

    By Seung Min Kim and Robert Costa

    “Free reign of witnesses,” that’s pretty funny, with all the ones they blocked from testifying.

  318. redwood says

    @370 For someone hoping to be part of a monarchy, free “reign” is the right spelling, I guess.

  319. johnson catman says

    The term “witness reciprocity” is just a euphemism for “obfuscation”. Any competent judge in a criminal trial would throw out an attempt to bring such bullshit into the trial because it has nothing to do with the case at hand.

  320. says

    johnson catman @372, true. I am thinking, though, that if they do bring Hunter Biden in as a witness, it may backfire on them. That move would certainly make the Republicans look bad.

    tomh @366, Adam Schiff said that the House Intelligence Committee would continue to investigate. They will investigate even as the impeachment trial proceeds.

    SC @363, Robert Hyde strikes me as a narcissistic blowhard who is also a bully. In other words, much like Trump … except perhaps worse, since Hyde was stupid enough to post a vulgar comment about Kamala Harris that included a reference to oral sex. Hyde is, no doubt, a liar. We definitely need further investigation to figure out what parts of Hyde’s messages are based in fact. At this point, I don’t trust anything he posts, and that includes messages to Lev Parnas.

  321. says

    Here are the “managers” that Nancy Pelosi chose to try the Trump impeachment case:
    Adam Schiff of California, lead manager; Jerry Nadler of New York; Hakeem Jeffries of New York; Jason Crow of Colorado; Zoe Lofgren of California; Val Demings of Florida; and Sylvia Garcia of Texas.

    Here is Steve Benen’s summary of their qualifications:

    […]* Crow is an Armed Services Committee member, an experienced lawyer, and a decorated Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. (He’s one of two freshmen on the seven-member team, having only been in Congress for 12 months.)

    * Demings serves on both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, and is a former chief of police in Orlando.

    * Garcia is a House Judiciary Committee member and a former judge in Houston. (Like Crow, Garcia has only been in Congress for one year.)

    * Jeffries is a Judiciary Committee member, an experienced lawyer, and a former clerk for a judge.

    * Lofgren has the unique experience of having been a Judiciary Committee staffer when the panel was preparing to impeach Richard Nixon, a Judiciary Committee member during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and will serve as an impeachment manager against Trump.

    * Nadler is a lawyer and a longtime member of the House Judiciary Committee, which he currently chairs.

    * Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, but he’s also a former federal prosecutor. Just as notable, he’s served as a Senate impeachment manager before – along with Lofgren – in the 2010 case against Judge Thomas Porteous.

    Incidentally, before today, every presidential impeachment manager in American history was a white man. Of the seven members of the current team, most are not white men. […]

    Lots of familiarity with courtroom procedures, and with law enforcement.

  322. says

    Commentary on Trump’s impotent flailing around as he tries to criticize the House of Congress:

    [Trump] isn’t yet done complaining about the process that brought us to this point.

    Here, for example, was a tweet from […] Monday:

    “‘We demand fairness’ shouts Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats, yet the Dems in the House wouldn’t let us have 1 witness, no lawyers or even ask questions. It was the most unfair witch-hunt in the history of Congress!”

    […] the House Democratic majority invited the White House counsel’s office to participate in the impeachment proceedings. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) explained that his panel explicitly gave the president “a fair opportunity to question witnesses and present his own to address the overwhelming evidence before us.”

    So when the president says House Dems “would let” Team Trump participate, the opposite is true. And yet, that didn’t stop him from giving it another try last night:

    “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer just said, ‘The American people want a fair trial in the Senate.’ True, but why didn’t Nervous Nancy and Corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff give us a fair trial in the House. It was the most lopsided & unfair basement hearing in the history of Congress!”

    It’s tweets like these that suggest Trump is struggling to keep up with the basic details of current events surrounding his own presidency.

    For one thing, the House doesn’t hold impeachment trials, the Senate does. For another, there were closed-door hearings, for a variety of legitimate reasons, which ultimately gave way to public hearings and the disclosure of transcripts from the private depositions.

    Trump’s “basement” talking point is months out of date.

    All of which leaves us with a familiar question for which there is no good answer: why, exactly, are we supposed to think the House impeachment process was “unfair”?

    As we discussed several weeks ago, Republicans originally argued that the House impeachment process was unfair because there’d been no formal vote on the House floor to authorize the inquiry. After the House did, in fact, hold such a vote, Republicans shifted their focus, complaining that the process is unfair because there were no public impeachment committee hearings.

    After the House did, in fact, hold extensive public impeachment committee hearings, Republicans shifted again, insisting that the process is unfair because Donald Trump and his team were not given an opportunity to present a defense. The president and his White House attorneys were, in fact, invited to participate in the impeachment inquiry, and Team Trump refused to accept the offer.

    This has apparently led Trump to believe it’s time to circle back to discredited arguments that have already been addressed – apparently because he can’t think of anything else.