Trump Plans On Ending State Level Medical And Personal Marijuana Sales

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS)

 

President  Trump is once again threatening to derail medical cannabis access in the majority of U.S. states that regulate its access and use.

In his recently released 2021 federal budget proposal, the president has called for ending existing federal protections that limit the federal government from interfering in the state-sanctioned regulation of medical cannabis. Doing so would place thousands of medical cannabis providers and the millions of patients who rely on them at risk for criminal prosecution.

Some context: since 2014, Congress has repeatedly approved spending legislation forbidding the Justice Department from using federal funds for the explicit purpose of preventing states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia regulate the production and dispensing of medical cannabis products to over three million patients. All of these programs, and the patients served by them, would be at risk if the president gets his way.

To those following this issue closely, the president ’s latest move hardly comes as a surprise. Despite Trump mentioning during his campaign that he supported medical marijuana and a general states-rights approach to cannabis policy, his presidency has consistently proven these words to ring hollow.

Most recently, Marc Lotter, the director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, stated in an interview that the administration is intent on keeping marijuana illegal under federal law. “I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs,” he said. “They need to be kept illegal, that is the federal policy. I think the president has been pretty clear on his views on marijuana at the federal level, I know many states have taken a different path.”

Let’s be clear — the policy that the administration wants to keep in place is the same failed policy that has existed since 1970, which opines that the cannabis plant should remain classified in the same category as heroin and possesses no accepted medical value. This position doesn’t comport with either public opinion or scientific reality

The data speaks for itself. It is not an alternative fact that state-regulated medical marijuana has been proven to possess important benefits to millions of patients while not undermining public safety or health.

To date, these regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies has not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. Additionally, they have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. That is why more and more states are enacting medical cannabis laws while existing states are continually expanding them. No state that has passed a medical cannabis access law has ever repealed it.

Americans almost universally know that patients are not criminals and that marijuana indisputably has medical value in the treatment of a wide range of ailments. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found an eye-popping 94 percent of Americans support the legal use of medical cannabis.

It makes no political sense for the president to try and put this genie back in the bottle and it up to Congress to see that he does not.

Justin Strekal is the Political Director for NORML, where he serves as an advocate to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and to reform our nation’s laws to no longer discriminate against its consumers. 

(A Savage Comment) So, You Think Russia/Putin Only Interfered In The 2016 General Election, Really?

So, You Think Russia/Putin Only Interfered In The 2016 General Election, Really?

 

This letter to you today is just an opinion piece from my thoughts to your eyes, it is for the purpose of getting us all to think a little bit about the chances of, what if.  For those of you who do not know me I am a 63 year old Christian white guy who lives in the state of Kentucky. I believe my political leanings to be a registered Independent who has voted Republican and Democratic in the past but I honestly can’t see me ever voting for a Republican again because of them backing our current President. I consider myself to be a moderate, sort of right down the middle between being a Conservative on some issues and a bit Liberal on others. So, I don’t agree with either extreme to the left nor to the right. In 2016’s Presidential Election I voted for Gary Johnson, not because I thought he had any chance of winning but because I could not get myself to vote for either Hillary or Trump. I feel the same now as I did then, I could not get myself to vote for a person I totally believe to be a very intelligent, hate filled, habitual liar (Hillary) nor for a totally ignorant, hate filled, ego-maniac, habitual liar (Trump).

 

As most everyone whom has an I.Q. above 2 now knows that President Putin of Russia had his people interfering in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections in an effort to get Donald Trump elected as our 45th President. But I have a question that I would like for you to ponder, do you honestly believe that the Russians only screwed with the General Election in November of 2016? As over 20 U.S. State Election Boards also said that there is plenty of evidence that they were interfered with from the Russian Government. What I believe is that there is a very good chance that Mr. Trump did not win nearly as many of the State Republican Primaries as he was given credit for. He could never have been the Republican Nominee if he didn’t win enough of the Primaries. So, what if Trump via actual American votes did not win a lot of those Primaries that he was given credit for? Would John Kasich have been the Republican Nominee? Just as if the Democratic National Convention had not had the farce of so called “Super Delegates” I believe that Senator Bernie Sanders would have been the Democratic Nominee, not Hillary. Personally I believe that if Senator Sanders had been the Democratic Nominee that he would have beaten Mr. Trump in the November election. What I am saying is that I believe that the American voters totally got scammed in 2016 and to me it is looking like the Republican Party big wigs of today are bound and determined to make sure that we can have another Russian scam election in November of 2020.

 

Another side thought for you, something I just thought of while writing this letter to you. Thinking back to the 2016 General Election, it was a given that the Democrats would win the Congressional Elections but the question was by how much. A bigger question was how many Senatorial Seats would the Republicans lose to the Democrats. Turns out that the Democrats didn’t win near as many Congressional Seats as most Annalists thought they would and the Republicans actually picked up a few Senatorial Seats, not lose them. You know if a person wins the White House from one Party but the opposite Party rules both the House and the Senate the President will be vastly limited in getting anything his Party wants passed into law. So, how many Senate and Congressional Seats did the Republicans ‘win’ that they actually did not win with the American peoples votes? Looking at this issue through an “Independents” glasses it becomes obvious why the Republican Party’s Leadership isn’t concerned about “the Russians” interference. This letter is simply meant as ‘food for your thoughts’.

Author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

‘Anonymous’ author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

USA TODAY

The anonymous official who has written a scathing account of the presidency of Donald Trump suggests the president might refuse to leave office even if convicted in impeachment hearings or defeated narrowly in the 2020 election – and says Trump is preparing his followers to see either outcome as a “coup” that could warrant resistance.

“He will not exit quietly – or easily,” the author, self-described as a senior administration official, writes in A Warning, a book that builds on an explosive op-ed by the same unnamed author last year. USA TODAY obtained an early copy of the book.

“It is why at many turns he suggests ‘coups’ are afoot and a ‘civil war’ is in the offing. He is already seeding the narrative for his followers – a narrative that could end tragically.”

From ‘Anonymous’:Read key excerpts from inside Trump White House on Putin, Pence, Hillary

As the House of Representatives prepares to open public impeachment hearings Wednesday, the book also says that Trump ordered aides more than a year ago to pursue a “deliberate and coordinated campaign” to obstruct an impeachment inquiry and other congressional investigations. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he is considering obstruction of Congress as a possible Article of Impeachment.

The book’s author is identified only as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” and its forthcoming publication has created a firestorm over both its depiction of a dysfunctional president and the decision by the writer to remain anonymous.

Cover of "A Warning" by an anonymous senior Trump administration official.

“The coward who wrote this book didn’t put their name on it because it is nothing but lies,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

Many of the disclosures echo news stories that have portrayed the president as impulsive, sometimes uninformed and regularly willing to defy established norms. There is already no shortage of books by Trump critics, including former FBI director James Comey and others who have served in his administration, that raise questions about the president’s fitness for office.

But The New York Times op-ed in 2018 and the new book, being published next Tuesday by Twelve, have commanded enormous attention because the author had an inside view, often participating in small White House meetings where crucial decisions were made.

The author portrays himself or herself as sharing some policy views with Trump and initially having a positive if wary view of the possibilities of his presidency.

The author says the intended audience for A Warning isn’t those who closely follow politics but rather those who don’t, particularly voters from across the country who were drawn in 2016 to Trump’s promise to shake up the establishment.

Dropping Pence from the ticket?

The book says that Trump “on more than one occasion” discussed with staffers the possibility of dropping Vice President Mike Pence before the 2020 election.

“Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley was under active consideration to step in as vice president, which she did not discourage at first,” the author writes, saying some advisers argued that putting Haley on the ticket would help the president bolster his support among female voters.

In an interview Friday with USA TODAY, Nikki Haley dismissed out of hand the suggestion that she might replace Pence. In her new book, With All Due Respect, Haley offers a generally positive portrait of Trump, and the president rewarded her with a friendly tweet urging his millions of followers to buy a copy.

Pathway of impeachment:How it works, where we are

“Anonymous” depicts Trump as impatient, immoral, cruel, even dangerous as he rejects the limits placed on presidents by Congress and the courts.

As the 2018 midterm elections approached, the book says, the White House counsel’s office began to develop a “contingency plan” to shield the administration if Democrats gained control of Congress, and with that the ability to launch investigations and issue subpoenas. New lawyers were hired and internal procedures revamped, the author writes.

“The goal wasn’t just to prepare for a barrage of legislative requests,” the book says. “It was a concerted attempt to fend off congressional oversight. When Democrats finally took the House, the unspoken administration policy toward Capitol Hill became: Give as little as possible, wait as long as possible. Even routine inquiries are now routed to the lawyers, who have found unique ways to say “We can’t right now,” “Give us a few months,” “We’re going to need to put you on hold,” “Probably not,” “No,” and “Not a chance in hell.”

Trump impeachment inquiry:Early findings and how Republicans are opposing them

The author says the administration’s refusal to comply with congressional requests and even subpoenas “go beyond standard practice and have turned into a full block-and-tackle exercise against congressional investigators across an array of Trump administration controversies.”

On the president’s actions with Ukraine, now the heart of the impeachment inquiry, the author writes that the idea Trump was trying to battle corruption abroad – rather than gain some partisan political advantage at home – was “barely believable to anyone around him.”

But the book provides no significant new information or insights into that episode.

‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards

The author’s agent, Matt Latimer, said the author didn’t take an advance payment for the book and plans to donate a substantial amount of the royalties to nonprofit organizations that encourage government accountability and an independent press.

Among other allegations, the book says:

  • Several top advisers and Cabinet-level officials last year discussed a mass resignation, “a midnight self-massacre,” intended to call attention to what they saw as Trump’s questionable and even corrupt behavior. “The idea was abandoned out of fear that it would make a bad situation worse.”
  • If a majority of the Cabinet called for Trump’s removal under the rules of the 25th Amendment, Pence would have been willing to go along with them. But the author provides no evidence to back up that assertion, and Pence in recent days has strongly denied it.
  • Trump told officials that, if they took illegal actions on his behalf, he would give them presidential pardons. “To Donald Trump, these are unlimited ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards on a Monopoly board.”
  • Trump was “particularly frustrated that the Justice Department hasn’t done more to harass the Clintons.” The president suggested to his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, that he might “un-recuse” himself from the Mueller inquiry into Russian election interference, presumably so he would feel free to order a more aggressive inquiry into Trump’s 2016 opponent. “You’d be a hero,” the president told him.

Civil Rights Leader Rep. John Lewis To Start Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Civil Rights Leader Rep. John Lewis To Start Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Trump this month. Lewis says he’ll stay in office while he undergoes treatment for pancreatic cancer.

AP

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The Democratic congressman will stay in office while he undergoes treatment, his office announced on Sunday.

“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis said in a statement.

The 79-year-old says the diagnosis was made during a routine medical visit this month.

He added, “While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance.”

Lewis, the only remaining survivor of the “Big Six” leaders who spearheaded the 1960s push for civil rights, vowed to fight the disease with the same vigor as that which he fought for racial equality.

“I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community,” he said. “We still have many bridges to cross.”

Lewis says he will continue representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, a position he’s held since he was first elected in 1986, while he begins treatment “over the next several weeks.”

“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” Lewis continued in the statement.

Noted leaders tweeted their support to Lewis after the announcement, including former President Barack Obama, who nodded to the congressman’s fighting spirit.

“If there’s one thing I love about @RepJohnLewis, it’s his incomparable will to fight,” Obama wrote. “I know he’s got a lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend.”

Law professor writes Kentucky newspaper op-ed accusing McConnell of breaking two oaths

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS PAPER)

 

 

Law professor writes Kentucky newspaper op-ed accusing McConnell of breaking two oaths

A Kentucky-born law professor went after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an op-ed Friday, saying that the senator broke two of the three oaths in the U.S. Constitution.

The Boston College law professor, Kent Greenfield, criticized McConnell’s comments about an impeachment trial for President Trump.

“We Kentuckians know that our word is our bond. Oaths are the most solemn of promises, and their breach results in serious reputational — and sometimes legal — consequences,” Greenfield wrote in his op-ed published by the Courier Journal.

“President Donald Trump will soon be on trial in the Senate on grounds that he breached one oath,” Greenfield wrote. “Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is about to breach two.”

The first oath McConnell is breaking, Greenfield states, is the oath that he took when took office. It’s an oath that all state and federal officers take, an “Oath … to support this Constitution.”

The second oath pertains to the impeachment trial that will take place sometime after the new year.

“In Article I, the Constitution gives the Senate the ‘sole’ power to ‘try all impeachments,’ and the Constitution requires that ‘when sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation,’ ” Greenfield wrote.

Continuing, he wrote: “The framers wanted to make sure the Senate would never take such a trial lightly — this oath requirement is over and above the oath each senator has already taken to support the Constitution.”

McConnell has openly said that he plans to coordinate with Trump’s defense team and that he doesn’t view himself as an “impartial juror.”

Greenfield, a sixth-generation Kentuckian, targeted those comments in his op-ed.

“McConnell’s loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the Constitution,” he asserts. “If he fails in this, he is not only violating his Article I oath but his Article VI oath.”

Greenfield concludes his piece by stating that history will be a “harsh judge,” and urges the longtime Kentucky senator to take his “obligation of faithful impartiality seriously.”

Pelosi warns: ‘Civilization as we know it today is at stake’ in 2020 election

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Pelosi warns: ‘Civilization as we know it today is at stake’ in 2020 election

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that “civilization as we know it today is at stake” in the 2020 presidential election, saying that she does not want to “contemplate” the possibility that President Donald Trump could be elected to serve as second term in office.

“Let’s not even contemplate that,” Pelosi said at a CNN town hall Thursday evening in response to an audience question about what checks will exist in the House of Representatives if Trump is reelected and the impeachment process is over.
“Civilization as we know it today is at stake in the next election, and certainly our planet,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s participation at the town hall event came on the same day that she announced that the House will take the momentous step of moving forward with articles of impeachment against Trump. That announcement adds a new level of intensity to the impeachment effort and likely paves the way for Trump to become the third President in US history to be impeached.
Pelosi called her decision “quite historic” during a CNN town hall moderated by Jake Tapper.
In response to an audience question, she said, “I have to admit that today was quite historic. It was taking us, crossing a threshold on this that we just had no choice. I do hope that it would be remembered in a way that honors the vision of our founders, what they had in mind for establishing a democracy.”

‘I’m not on a timetable, I’m on a mission’

Pelosi, who is guiding House Democratic caucus through the impeachment process as the top Democrat in the chamber, sidestepped a question whether she would step aside if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020.
“I’m not on a timetable, I’m on a mission,” Pelosi said, an answer that met with applause from the audience.
As House Democrats grapple now with how to draft articles of impeachment, Pelosi said during the town hall that Democrats are working “collectively” on determining what will be included in the articles.
Asked by Tapper whether she would proceed if Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler recommends including obstruction of justice charges from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Pelosi said, “We’re operating collectively. It’s not going to be — somebody puts something on the table. We have our own, shall we say, communication with each other.”
Pelosi declined to go further. “We’re not writing the articles of impeachment here tonight.”
Articles have not been finalized, but Democrats are now signaling that the articles of impeachment could go beyond the scope of the Ukraine investigation that has dominated Washington for the past two months.
Whether to include Mueller’s findings of obstruction of justice has been debated internally for weeks as some moderate Democrats only got behind an impeachment inquiry because it was narrowly focused on Ukraine.
Pelosi took aim at Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani during the town hall when asked about his continued efforts in Ukraine as Democrats move forward with their impeachment inquiry.
“I’m a busy person,” Pelosi said, “I don’t have time to keep track of Rudy Giuliani, I just don’t, but I do think that it is further indication of the arrogance of it all.”

‘Disgusting’ question over hate

During the town hall, Pelosi also explained why she had reacted so strongly to a reporter who asked her if she hates President Donald Trump, calling the question “really disgusting.”
Asked by Tapper during a CNN town hall about her reaction during her weekly press conference to the question, Pelosi cited her Catholic upbringing and responded, “The word hate is a terrible word … so for him to say that was really disgusting to me.”
The California Democrat added, “I’d rather like to think that America is a country that is full of love, whatever we think about what somebody else might believe that might be different from us, that that isn’t a reason to dislike somebody. It’s a reason to disagree with somebody.”
Pelosi issued a stark warning to the reporter from Sinclair who had asked her the question, responding forcefully, “Don’t mess with me” — a sign of the tension amid the House of Representatives’ impeachment push.
During CNN’s town hall, Pelosi questioned whether the person who asked the question is actually a reporter, saying, “Was that a reporter? Is that what reporters do?” when Tapper asked about the exchange.

‘I don’t think we’re headed for a shutdown’

Pelosi also predicted during Thursday’s town hall that there will not be a government shutdown later this month.
“I don’t think we’re headed for a shutdown. I don’t think anybody wants that,” Pelosi said.
“We’re on a good path, if we were not, we would just go to a continuing resolution until after Christmas,” Pelosi said, referring to a stop-gap measure to keep funding in place.
Lawmakers will need to take action to avert a government shutdown before the end of the month, making the month even busier in Congress as the impeachment inquiry dominates headlines in Washington.
The President’s contacts with Ukraine are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry and investigators have focused on probing the now-famous July 25 phone call where Trump asked the President of Ukraine for a “favor” and pushed for investigations into the family of a potential political rival, former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The President has argued that the call was “perfect,” and congressional Republicans have defended the President and his administration, saying that Trump did not commit an impeachable offense.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

‘Bombshell’ Morning in Trump Impeachment Inquiry: ‘Everyone Was in the Loop’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW)

 

‘Bombshell’ Morning in Trump Impeachment Inquiry: ‘Everyone Was in the Loop’

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testifies before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified Wednesday morning in the ongoing impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump and, judging from the reaction on social media, threw just about everyone involved in the messy Ukraine scandal under the proverbial bus.

Sondland set the tone of the rest of the morning with an opening statement that criticized the White House and U.S. State Department for not giving him access to his own email and phone records, disparaged Rudy Giuliani, and said pretty much everyone in the administration knew that military aid to Ukraine was being held up until officials there announced an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

It was, in the words of some observers, a “bombshell day.”

Justin Baragona

@justinbaragona

During the first break in hearings today, Ken Starr says that Sondland’s testimony is leading to articles of impeachment being drawn and that this “has been one of those bombshell days.”

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Among the morning’s key moments:

The investigations into Joe Biden had to be announced by Ukrainian officials, but didn’t necessarily have to happen.

ABC News

@ABC

Amb. Sondland says Ukraine would have had to “announce” the investigations, but never heard anyone say “the investigations had to start or had to be completed.”

“The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani…was that they had to be announced in some form.” https://abcn.ws/2KBuiXR 

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Everyone in the Trump administration was aware of the much-discussed “quid pro quo.”

Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

Sondland makes clear that Pompeo and Pence are neck deep in this Ukraine mess too

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Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

SCHIFF: You testified that that meeting was conditioned was a quid pro quo for the 2 investigations the president wanted. Is that right?

SONDLAND: Correct.

SCHIFF: And that everybody knew it.

SONDLAND: Correct.

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Then again, maybe not. “[Trump] just said I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing. Something to that effect.”

Ryan Saavedra

@RealSaavedra

Ambassador Sondland confirms Trump told him no quid pro quo

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“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

CSPAN

@cspan

Ambassador Gordon Sondland: “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

Watch LIVE here: https://cs.pn/2Odalb0 

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Even Vice President Pence.

ABC News

@ABC

Amb. Sondland says he told Vice Pres. Pence ahead of Warsaw meeting with Zelenskiy, “It appears that everything is stalled until this statement gets made, words to that effect.”

“The vice president nodded that he heard what I said.” https://abcn.ws/2KBuiXR 

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Ann Doesn’t Give a Fig@neverfindapen

YOU GUYS HIS FACE AFTER THEY ADJOURN FOR A BREAK. *chef kiss*

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Brazil: Congresswoman Joice Hasselmann to Denounce Bolsonaro Digital Militias

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS)

 

With Power Point, Joice Hasselmann to Denounce Bolsonaro Digital Militias

Inspired by the same method with which Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, responsible for Operation Lava Jato, accused Lula in 2017, Congresswoman Joice Hasselmann will make a power point presentation to denounce the digital militias in the service of the Bolsonaro clan.

(Photo: Agência Câmara)

247 – Federal Representative Joice Hasselmann (PSL-SP) is preparing a PowerPoint to detail allegations about digital militia cells operating on the Internet to spread lying information against Jair Bolsonaro’s disaffected people.  

The presentation should take place during the testimony of the MP on Wednesday (20) at CPMI of fake news.  

Each cell will be represented on an organization chart with the picture of its leader in the center — and from it, its ramifications. 

The illustration is inspired by PowerPoint that Deltan Dallagnol wrote to accuse Lula of being head of a criminal organization in 2017, according to journalist Monica Bergamo in her column in Folha de S.Paulo.  

Two of the main figures of the presentation will be the sons of Jair Bolsonaro: Councilman Carlos and Deputy Eduardo.   

Joice Hasselmann is yet to list office staff she would receive to feed social media with what she says are fake news.  

Joice, a right-wing deputy who was once one of Jair Bolsonaro’s top allies, including holding the position of government leader in Congress, will urge CPMI to break the secrecy of more than 1,000 pages that would spread lying or manipulated news on social networks.

Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey

President Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) take part in a joint press conference during Erdogan’s visit to the White House on Wednesday.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

After welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the opening day of public impeachment hearings for a second visit to the Oval Office, President Trump did something highly unusual for such encounters: He invited a select group of Republican senators to join the two leaders’ meeting.

Trump’s decision to invite fellow Republicans only from the GOP-led upper chamber of Congress was telling. Bipartisan legislation and resolutions condemning Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion of northern Syria (three days after Trump removed U.S. forces from that area) have abounded on both sides of the Capitol, but only the Democrat-held House of Representatives has actually voted on and passed such measures.

On Oct. 16 — the same day that Trump announced sanctions against Turkey for its Syria incursion — every member of the House GOP leadership voted in favor of a bipartisan resolution opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area invaded by Turkey and calling on Erdogan to end military action there immediately. The measure passed 354-60, with only Republicans voting against it.

Trump then dropped the sanctions for Turkey’s incursion after one week, citing a cease-fire agreement worked out between Turkey and Vice President Pence.

The House was not swayed. It responded Oct. 29 with the Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act. PACT, as the bipartisan measure was dubbed, calls for sanctions against high-ranking Turkish officials and a State Department estimate of the net worth of Erdogan and his family members.

“These sanctions are specifically designed to target the Turkish officials and institutions responsible for the bloodshed in Syria without senselessly hurting the Turkish people,” House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said in a floor speech preceding the 403-16 vote that passed the measure. “After all, it is Erdogan—not the Turkish people—that is responsible for this horror. Erdogan is an authoritarian thug.”

House Republicans joined in the condemnation of Turkey’s leader. “We’re sending a message to the Erdogan government that the U.S. will hold them liable for their actions,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. “If he does not want to act like a NATO nation, then his government will feel the repercussions of such decisions.”

The PACT floor action took place the same day the House infuriated Turkey by holding the first full chamber vote ever to condemn as “genocide” the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago by Ottoman Turks. Again, the vote was overwhelmingly lopsided in favor, 405-11.

For decades, Turkey had successfully lobbied Congress to prevent such a vote characterizing that killing of Armenians as genocide.

“When I was ambassador to Turkey 15 years ago, there was a very deep well of public support for Turkey in the United States and particularly in the U.S. Congress, and that really doesn’t exist very much anymore,” says Eric Edelman, who served as the top U.S. diplomat in Ankara during the George W. Bush administration. “I think that the Turks have counted for some time on the personal relationship between [Erdogan and Trump] to get them out of the deep trouble they’re in in the Congress.”

Turkey’s acquisition in July of Russia’s S-400 air defense system crossed a line for many lawmakers. The Russian system is not only incompatible with NATO military equipment — it is designed to shoot down advanced aircraft such as the F-35 stealth fighter jet, 100 of which Turkey had planned to acquire as a partner in the international consortium building the Lockheed Martin warplane.

For choosing Russia’s S-400 over Raytheon’s Patriot surface-to-air missile system, Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 consortium and training of its pilots to fly the stealth fighter at U.S. military bases was suspended.

But lawmakers are demanding further punishment for Turkey’s defiance. The House’s PACT measure designates Ankara’s acquisition of the S-400 system as a “significant transaction” with Russia’s arms industry. That would automatically oblige the Trump administration to impose on Turkey 5 of 12 sanctions listed by the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.

Under that law, it’s actually up to the executive branch to determine if a “significant transaction” has occurred. Because the Trump administration has failed to do so, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced a privileged resolution in the Senate obliging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make such a determination within 30 days of the resolution’s passage. Such a rarely used privileged resolution could bypass the Foreign Relations Committee and would have to be voted on by the full Senate, where it would not need the 60 votes usually required for final consideration.

“The administration is breaking the law by ignoring this provision [of CAATSA] and kowtowing to Ankara,” Menendez said last week on the Senate floor. “Turkey must be sanctioned for the S-400 system, and it should happen today — otherwise, it will send a global message that we are not serious about sanctioning significant transactions with the Russian military.”

It appears unlikely the privileged resolution will sway Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Do we know what the political impact such sanctions will have inside Turkey?” McConnell asked late last month on the Senate floor. “Will they weaken President Erdogan or rally the country to his cause? Do we know the impact sanctions will have on U.S. companies?”

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Edelman sees further sanctions, which could limit U.S. arms sales to Turkey, as problematic. “It’s a little bit awkward to be saying we’re going to sanction you because you’re buying Russian military equipment, we don’t want you buying Russian military equipment,” he says, “and so the punishment is you’re not allowed to buy American military equipment.”

The U.S. has been the source of nearly two-thirds of Turkey’s imported weapons of war, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“If you go back over the last few decades, Turkey is one of the major importers of U.S. weapons,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “A huge proportion of their arsenal comes from the United States.”

But efforts in both the House and Senate to curtail arms sales to Turkey, which hosts several key U.S. military bases, have failed to gain much traction in a Congress where most lawmakers have significant numbers of defense contractors in their home states.

The peril of pushing too hard on placing U.S. weapons off limits to Turkey is that Turkey may go shopping elsewhere, says Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“If the current trends continue — more sanctions or an absolute ban on weapons sales to Turkey — then Turkey pivots and buys all of its arms from Russia and other suppliers,” says Gordon, who oversaw Turkish affairs in the Obama White House. “And then the strategic relationship within NATO is really broken.”

Turkey’s relationship with Congress may already be broken. Not so much, though, at the Trump White House.

Author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

‘Anonymous’ author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

USA TODAY

The anonymous official who has written a scathing account of the presidency of Donald Trump suggests the president might refuse to leave office even if convicted in impeachment hearings or defeated narrowly in the 2020 election – and says Trump is preparing his followers to see either outcome as a “coup” that could warrant resistance.

“He will not exit quietly – or easily,” the author, self-described as a senior administration official, writes in A Warning, a book that builds on an explosive op-ed by the same unnamed author last year. USA TODAY obtained an early copy of the book.

“It is why at many turns he suggests ‘coups’ are afoot and a ‘civil war’ is in the offing. He is already seeding the narrative for his followers – a narrative that could end tragically.”

From ‘Anonymous’:Read key excerpts from inside Trump White House on Putin, Pence, Hillary

As the House of Representatives prepares to open public impeachment hearings Wednesday, the book also says that Trump ordered aides more than a year ago to pursue a “deliberate and coordinated campaign” to obstruct an impeachment inquiry and other congressional investigations. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he is considering obstruction of Congress as a possible Article of Impeachment.

The book’s author is identified only as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” and its forthcoming publication has created a firestorm over both its depiction of a dysfunctional president and the decision by the writer to remain anonymous.

Cover of "A Warning" by an anonymous senior Trump administration official.

“The coward who wrote this book didn’t put their name on it because it is nothing but lies,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

Many of the disclosures echo news stories that have portrayed the president as impulsive, sometimes uninformed and regularly willing to defy established norms. There is already no shortage of books by Trump critics, including former FBI director James Comey and others who have served in his administration, that raise questions about the president’s fitness for office.

But The New York Times op-ed in 2018 and the new book, being published next Tuesday by Twelve, have commanded enormous attention because the author had an inside view, often participating in small White House meetings where crucial decisions were made.

The author portrays himself or herself as sharing some policy views with Trump and initially having a positive if wary view of the possibilities of his presidency.

The author says the intended audience for A Warning isn’t those who closely follow politics but rather those who don’t, particularly voters from across the country who were drawn in 2016 to Trump’s promise to shake up the establishment.

Dropping Pence from the ticket?

The book says that Trump “on more than one occasion” discussed with staffers the possibility of dropping Vice President Mike Pence before the 2020 election.

“Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley was under active consideration to step in as vice president, which she did not discourage at first,” the author writes, saying some advisers argued that putting Haley on the ticket would help the president bolster his support among female voters.

In an interview Friday with USA TODAY, Nikki Haley dismissed out of hand the suggestion that she might replace Pence. In her new book, With All Due Respect, Haley offers a generally positive portrait of Trump, and the president rewarded her with a friendly tweet urging his millions of followers to buy a copy.

Pathway of impeachment:How it works, where we are

“Anonymous” depicts Trump as impatient, immoral, cruel, even dangerous as he rejects the limits placed on presidents by Congress and the courts.

As the 2018 midterm elections approached, the book says, the White House counsel’s office began to develop a “contingency plan” to shield the administration if Democrats gained control of Congress, and with that the ability to launch investigations and issue subpoenas. New lawyers were hired and internal procedures revamped, the author writes.

“The goal wasn’t just to prepare for a barrage of legislative requests,” the book says. “It was a concerted attempt to fend off congressional oversight. When Democrats finally took the House, the unspoken administration policy toward Capitol Hill became: Give as little as possible, wait as long as possible. Even routine inquiries are now routed to the lawyers, who have found unique ways to say “We can’t right now,” “Give us a few months,” “We’re going to need to put you on hold,” “Probably not,” “No,” and “Not a chance in hell.”

Trump impeachment inquiry:Early findings and how Republicans are opposing them

The author says the administration’s refusal to comply with congressional requests and even subpoenas “go beyond standard practice and have turned into a full block-and-tackle exercise against congressional investigators across an array of Trump administration controversies.”

On the president’s actions with Ukraine, now the heart of the impeachment inquiry, the author writes that the idea Trump was trying to battle corruption abroad – rather than gain some partisan political advantage at home – was “barely believable to anyone around him.”

But the book provides no significant new information or insights into that episode.

‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards

The author’s agent, Matt Latimer, said the author didn’t take an advance payment for the book and plans to donate a substantial amount of the royalties to nonprofit organizations that encourage government accountability and an independent press.

Among other allegations, the book says:

  • Several top advisers and Cabinet-level officials last year discussed a mass resignation, “a midnight self-massacre,” intended to call attention to what they saw as Trump’s questionable and even corrupt behavior. “The idea was abandoned out of fear that it would make a bad situation worse.”
  • If a majority of the Cabinet called for Trump’s removal under the rules of the 25th Amendment, Pence would have been willing to go along with them. But the author provides no evidence to back up that assertion, and Pence in recent days has strongly denied it.
  • Trump told officials that, if they took illegal actions on his behalf, he would give them presidential pardons. “To Donald Trump, these are unlimited ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards on a Monopoly board.”
  • Trump was “particularly frustrated that the Justice Department hasn’t done more to harass the Clintons.” The president suggested to his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, that he might “un-recuse” himself from the Mueller inquiry into Russian election interference, presumably so he would feel free to order a more aggressive inquiry into Trump’s 2016 opponent. “You’d be a hero,” the president told him.