Gordon Sondland’s impeachment testimony was beyond damning. Will it matter?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Editorial: Gordon Sondland’s impeachment testimony was beyond damning. Will it matter?

U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has emerged as a key figure in the House impeachment inquiry.
(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA/Shutterstock )

Even before Gordon Sondland testified publicly Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry, investigators had assembled a persuasive if circumstantial case that President Trump abused his power to prod Ukraine to conduct investigations that would benefit Trump politically — just as the unnamed whistleblower contended. But Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, strengthened that case immeasurably with his testimony, which had added weight because he is a Trump political appointee who can’t be accused of being part of a sinister “deep state.”

The events Sondland recounted dovetailed with what previous witnesses had revealed. He testified that there was indeed a “quid pro quo” involved in Ukraine policy: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would not get the coveted White House visit he was promised unless he announced investigations into a Ukrainian energy company for which former Vice President Joe Biden’s son served as a director and into a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. In an important revelation, Sondland said he also concluded from all he was hearing that, as surely as “two plus two equals four,” U.S. security aid was being held up as well in order to pressure Ukraine into announcing those investigations.

There was more: Sondland made it clear that Trump had expressly directed him and other U.S. officials to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who has agitated for a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens and who was Trump’s emissary on the demand for a quid pro quo. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland testified. “Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt.”

Finally, Sondland testified that his efforts and Guiliani’s weren’t the result of a rogue foreign policy. Instead, he said, important officials in the administration — including Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — were “in the loop” about the pressure campaign.

What emerges from his testimony and that of other witnesses is an all too believable picture of a foreign policy process hijacked by the president’s willingness to use the powers of his office to benefit his domestic political interests.

Republicans on the Intelligence Committee argued that Sondland’s testimony wasn’t a smoking gun because he couldn’t cite any conversation in which Trump had told him that there was a quid pro quo. The president himself pointed reporters to a Sept. 9 telephone call in which Trump, Sondland testified, told him that “I want nothing” from Ukraine and forswore any quid pro quo. But that call took place after the whistleblower complaint was filed, and on the same day Congress announced an investigation of whether there was a quid pro quo. The timing of Trump’s denial makes it suspect, to say the least.

Moreover, the idea that Trump wanted nothing from Ukraine conflicts with what remains the most incriminating evidence against the president: the reconstructed transcript of the president’s July 25 telephone call with Zelensky in which, after noting that “we do a lot for Ukraine,” Trump suggested that Ukraine “do us a favor.” He asked Zelensky to investigate a conspiracy theory linking Ukraine to hacked Democratic emails and suggested that he talk with Atty. Gen. William Barr about rumors that Biden as vice president had forced the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor widely viewed as corrupt in order to protect Hunter Biden. Both ideas emanated from discredited Ukranian sources, some of whom have since recanted the allegations that Giuliani had fed to Trump.

Significantly in light of Sondland’s testimony, Trump in that call said it “would be great” if Zelensky would speak to Giuliani.

An array of witnesses, including Sondland, have provided the larger context in which that conversation — which Trump has defended as “perfect” — must be viewed. The fact that the administration has blocked the testimony of witnesses in close contact with Trump, such as Mulvaney or former national security advisor John Bolton, is outrageous. Trump himself should testify, as he suggested this week he might.

But let’s be clear. Even without such testimony, the House committee has pieced together a plausible and damning narrative, and Trump’s defenders are forced to rely on utterly incredible arguments. They include the laughable idea that Trump might have a principled objection to corruption in Ukraine (or anywhere else) and the “all’s well that ends well” defense: The administration ultimately released the aid for Ukraine — after the whistleblower complaint was filed and Congress started looking into the delay.

The testimony will go on, and some point the House may decide that Trump’s abuse of power justifies the extraordinary step of impeachment. But even if the president is impeached, the servility of congressional Republicans makes it unlikely that he would be convicted by the Senate and removed from office before the end of his term. That means his corrupt and chaotic presidency must be brought to a merciful end next year, at the ballot box.


Vote To Federally Legalize Marijuana Planned In Congress

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

 

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Vote To Federally Legalize Marijuana Planned In Congress

A key congressional committee plans to hold a historic vote on a bill to end the federal prohibition of marijuana next week, two sources with knowledge of the soon-to-be-announced action said.

The legislation, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and set aside funding to begin repairing the damage of the war on drugs, which has been disproportionately waged against communities of color.

Those programs—such as job training and legal aid for people impacted by prohibition enforcement, loans for small cannabis businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and efforts to minimize barriers to licensing and employment in the legal industry—would be paid for with a new federal five percent tax on marijuana sales instituted under the bill, and some of them would be administered by a new Cannabis Justice Office in the Department of Justice.

The proposal, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, would also provide for resentencing and expungement of records for people previously convicted of cannabis offenses and would shield immigrants from being denied citizenship status over marijuana.

Today In: Business

It currently has 55 cosponsors, all but one of whom are Democrats.

A Senate companion is being led by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 presidential candidate, though it has not yet been scheduled for action in the GOP-controlled chamber.

Wednesday’s planned Judiciary Committee vote on the far-reaching cannabis reform legislation—which hasn’t yet been officially listed but is expected to be announced on Monday—comes about two months after the full House overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill to increase marijuana businesses’ access to banks.

Politico reported on Saturday that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who is not a member of the panel, vaguely mentioned upcoming committee consideration while speaking at a conference in Southern California.

The congresswoman reportedly didn’t clarify that the legislation would be formally “marked up,” or voted on, a detail that sources shared with Marijuana Moment in recent days. A Judiciary Committee spokesperson hasn’t responded to several inquiries about the pending vote.

The planned action on the bill, which would also block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances over marijuana use, follows a hearing a Judiciary subcommittee held in July that examined the connection between marijuana legalization and racial justice.

The markup will provide the opportunity for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to file amendments to the bill, and could shed further light on an emerging divide between cannabis reform supporters who feel it is essential to address past drug war harms and equity in the cannabis industry immediately and those who believe it makes more sense to advance more limited, states’ rights-focused legislation that could stand a better chance of advancing through the Senate and to President Trump’s desk.

Those tensions surfaced both during the Judiciary hearing this summer as well as in the lead up to the House floor vote on the cannabis banking legislation. Some pro-legalization groups went so far as to ask leadership to delay the scheduled vote on the financial services bill because they took issue with what is seen as an industry-focused proposal moving ahead of one containing restorative justice provisions such as the MORE Act.

In response to those concerns, top Democrats such as Nadler and House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) pledged that while they were moving ahead with the banking vote, they also saw the importance of following up by advancing more comprehensive cannabis legislation.

Advancing the MORE Act or a similar rescheduling proposal through committee and onto the House floor would make good on that pledge.

It’s less certain how the Senate would react to House passage of a far-reaching bill to end federal marijuana prohibition. Some advocates believe that only a more modest proposal to exempt state-approved cannabis activity from federal prohibition stands a chance in the Republican-controlled body.

That bill, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, would not formally deschedule marijuana under the CSA and doesn’t include measures aimed at ensuring equity in the legal industry for communities most harmed by the drug war.

President Trump has voiced support for the less far-reaching bill, which is led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

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I’m a 15-year veteran of the cannabis law reform movement, and I know where to look to spot the most interesting legalization developments. I’m the editor of the cannab…

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Republican Matt Bevin concedes defeat in Kentucky governor’s race

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Republican Matt Bevin concedes defeat in Kentucky governor’s race

(CNN)Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin conceded defeat on Thursday to Democratic state Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people,” Bevin said at a news conference.
The concession comes after Bevin requested all 120 counties in the state recheck the results from last week’s gubernatorial election. That re-canvass showed Beshear still leading over Bevin.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement that Beshear received 5,136 more votes than Bevin.
“I’m not going to contest these numbers that have come in,” Bevin said Thursday.
“I truly wish the attorney general well as the next governor of this state as he assumes these responsibilities,” Bevin said. Bevin said his team has already been working with Beshear’s and that he expects a smooth transition.
“I love the fact that we’re blessed to live in a nation where things do transition in ways that much of the world wishes they had,” he said.
Beshear said at a news conference he appreciated Bevin’s concession, which he noted came quickly after the re-canvass.
“The race is now officially over,” Beshear said, “which means we can look forward and we can move forward.”
Beshear was elected attorney general of Kentucky in 2015 and is the son of Steve Beshear, Bevin’s predecessor.
The governor-elect tweeted: “It’s official – thank you Kentucky. @GovMattBevin and his team have already begun a smooth transition. It’s time to get to work!”
A Democratic victory in Kentucky, a state Donald Trump carried by 30 percentage points in the 2016 election, could be seen as an ominous sign for the President heading into his 2020 reelection bid. The result shows that Trump wasn’t able to carry his preferred candidate over the finish line. Bevin had the strong backing of the President, and Trump held a rally in Lexington, Kentucky, the night before the election.
Bevin, elected governor in 2015, has faced backlash for seeking to undercut the state’s Medicaid expansion and calling teachers “selfish” and accusing them of a “thug mentality” when they protested after he threatened to cut their pensions.
Bevin requested a re-canvass after the results from last week’s election showed Bevin trailing Beshear by more than 5,000 votes.
The re-canvass began on Thursday morning. Unlike a standard recount of votes, a re-canvass is a reprint of the receipts from voting machines to check for reporting or clerical errors. After ballots are scanned, the machine tabulates those votes and prints out a receipt with the total.
During the re-canvass, those receipts were reprinted and checked again to make sure they were reported properly. It’s not uncommon for some clerical errors to occur during the initial vote tabulation.
Kentucky law does not allow for a recount in a gubernatorial general election, but a campaign may request a re-canvass of the votes with the secretary of state. There is no threshold or margin requirement for a re-canvass.
Bevin previously told CNN affiliate WKYT: “It’s not likely to change a lot numerically, but you have to go through this as a first step … to make sure the numbers that were written down and communicated are accurate.” He said his office is also preparing for Beshear to assume the governorship.
“There are very good odds, he could be the next governor — no question about it,” Bevin told WKYT. “Right now, he is numerically ahead and would seemingly be the next governor, and if that is corroborated and held up through this process, I’ll be his number one cheerleader.”
Representatives from both political parties and the media were allowed to be present for the re-canvass.

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.

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’.

Survey: 54 percent of Americans support Trump impeachment inquiry

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS)

 

Survey: 54 percent of Americans support Trump impeachment inquiry

A majority of Americans endorse House Democrats’ decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Trump and his administration’s dealings with Ukraine, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

The survey, which was released on Thursday, found that 54 percent of Americans support the impeachment inquiry, while 44 percent oppose it. The figure represents a 4-point increase in support from a similar survey in September.

That survey, which was conducted before details about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky surfaced, showed that Americans were split on impeachment, with 50 percent supporting an inquiry and 50 percent opposing.

Nine percent of respondents who voiced opposition to the inquiry last month now approve the House’s impeachment inquiry, according to Pew. Democrats make up a significant chunk of the respondents who shifted their opinion in favor of an impeachment inquiry.

Thirty-five percent of those respondents identified as Democrats, while 26 percent identified as leaning Democratic. Twenty-percent classified themselves as Republican-leaning, with 10 percent identifying as Republicans.

Just 4 percent of respondents who favored an impeachment inquiry last month now oppose it. Meanwhile, 85 percent respondents’ opinions on the impeachment inquiry have remained the same since September.

The findings come as the Trump administration faces mounting scrutiny over the president’s interactions with Ukraine, which are now at the heart of a formal impeachment inquiry. The inquiry largely stems from a whistleblower complaint filed within the intelligence community that accuses the White House of a broad effort to pressure a foreign nation into investigating 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Public opinion appears to be split as to whether Republicans and Democrats will be fair during the inquiry. The Pew survey found that just 43 percent of Americans believe the GOP will be somewhat or very fair and reasonable during the inquiry. Just 47 percent of respondents said the same of Democrats.

A slew of recent public opinion polls have shown Americans are becoming more receptive to impeachment. A Gallup poll released Wednesday showed that 52 percent of Americans endorse impeaching and removing Trump from office.

The Pew survey was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 13 among a population of 3,487 U.S. adults. The margin of error is 2.2 percent.

 

Former Trump Organization executive says she expects President Trump will resign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Former Trump Organization executive says she expects President Trump will resign

New York (CNN Business)A former Trump Organization executive says she thinks President Donald Trump may resign rather than face possible removal from office by impeachment.

“He does a lot of things to save face,” Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization vice president, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources Sunday.
“It would be very, very, very bad for him to be impeached,” Res said. “I don’t know that he’ll be found guilty but I don’t know that he wants to be impeached. I think that’s what this panic is about. And my gut [instinct] is that he’ll leave office, he’ll resign. Or make some kind of a deal, even, depending on what comes out.”
Res said she was hesitant to share her opinion, because “I could very well be wrong.”
But Res has first-hand experience working with Trump. She was the construction engineer on some of his key projects, including Trump Tower, and she is the author of “All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction,” which partly chronicles her time working for the President while he ran his company.
She has been critical of Trump in recent years, including during the 2016 campaign, when she said he wasn’t fit for office.
Her comments come as the impeachment inquiry over Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president intensify. House Democrats on Friday subpoenaed the White House as part of the investigation into Trump. And on Sunday, the lawyer for the first intelligence whistleblower to come forward with accusations concerning Trump and Ukraine said he is now representing a second whistleblower regarding the President’s actions.
The inquiry has sent Trump into a tweet storm in recent days, defending himself and denouncing both Democratic lawmakers and critics within his own party.
Res said she is not surprised by Trump’s reaction.
“He was always very quick to react, he never responded to anything, always reacted to it and got very, very angry,” Res said. “He had this notion that everything that happened that was bad was directed at him, like they were after him, people were after him.”
She said there have, however, been some elements of the Trump campaign and presidency that she wouldn’t have expected, saying his behavior has gotten worse than when she worked for him. Res was surprised to see reports that Trump told Russian officials he was unconcerned about the country’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election because, she said, “that was a stupid thing to say and I never thought of him as stupid.”
But most of the time, Res said the President is still the Donald Trump she knew while working for him for over a decade.
“This is Trump — I say Trump Squared because he’s had, since I knew him, many, many years of fame and fortune and getting richer and now he actually does believe he’s a stable genius and he does believe he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and so far it looks like he can,” she said. The president famously said during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would not abandon him.
As for Trump’s fitness for office, Res said she agrees with George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who published a piece in The Atlantic earlier this week saying Trump is unfit for office.
“I thought that when he was running for office,” Res said. “And not necessarily for the mental reasons that you talk about but because he didn’t have the experience, you know, lots of different things.”

Senator Chuck Grassley’s defense of whistle blower is better late than never

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Chuck Grassley’s defense of whistleblower is better late than never

Chuck Grassley deserves credit for stepping up to the plate.

Grassley, the veteran Republican from Iowa, has for decades been the Senate’s foremost advocate for and defender of government whistleblowers. For nearly a week, though, some of us have wondered why Grassley remained silent as President Trump and his supporters repeatedly and harshly castigated the whistleblower who catalyzed the current Ukraine-related controversy. The silence continued even as the president urged that the whistleblower lose the identity-protection ordinarily due someone in his position.

Grassley made up for his silence today. He criticized Trump for the attacks, and said the whistleblower “appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected.”

At somewhat greater length, Grassley continued:

“No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country. When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones. It’s just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy. Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.”

Grassley is entirely right, on all counts. The protocols call for the inspector general of the agency in question to determine the validity of the whistleblower’s status and the credibility of the information offered. In this case, the inspector general for the intelligence community, a Trump appointee, determined that the whistleblower status was indeed merited. We since have seen that most of the key information he offered was indeed accurate.

We also have seen Trump suggest that the whistleblower is a “spy” who should suffer “big consequences.” This is chilling. For anyone in a senior position in government to threaten retaliation against a whistleblower is almost always a significant violation of the law. For the president to do so, with the vast powers of his office, is more than a little sinister.

That’s why it is so important for someone with Grassley’s Senate seniority, credibility, and reputation for probity to speak up. The whistleblower’s information will stand or fall on its own merits, without any need to know who the whistleblower himself is, much less threaten him. The entire point of whistleblower statutes is to protect those who want to report malfeasance without reprisal, especially reprisal from the most powerful man on the planet.

Trump Is Dangerously Unfit To Be President

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Trump’s Twitter tirades about treason and civil war reveal a dangerously unfit president

Lies, nonsense, and a threat to arrest his opponents in Congress.

President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, rarely a scene of what you’d call appropriate content, has kicked things up a notch ever since the beginning of a formal impeachment inquiry into his apparent effort to hold up military aid to Ukraine in search of dirt on political rival Joe Biden.

Over the past several days, the self-proclaimed “stable genius” has been on a nonstop Twitter binge, lying about what’s going on in Congress, lying about what happened in Ukraine, and escalating his inappropriate conduct by threatening the country with a civil war and threatening his enemies in Congress with criminal charges.

He also posted a rapid-fire set of Fox News clips, complaining furiously about a brief moment of Fox content that displeased him.

The Ukraine scandal is about one specific area of policy, but it’s a window into the inherent problem with having a president in office who so routinely expresses inappropriate ideas. And the scandal breaking through is merely causing him to express more and more of them.

Trump retweeted a bot that inserts “shark” into Trump tweets

The Ukraine story is damaging to Trump not necessarily because it’s the worst thing he’s done as president. But the assistance to Ukraine that Trump imperiled is something many Republicans favor, and the facts of the case are so plain that it has slightly punctured the bubble of right-wing alternative facts that normally shields the president from criticism.

That makes Trump particularly vulnerable to mildly critical commentary like what Fox News host Ed Henry offered on Sunday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends. Fortunately for Trump, radio host Mark Levin was also on the air ready to go to bat with arguments like, “What crime was violated? It’s not illegal. The question is whether Biden did something illegal. The president didn’t do anything illegal.”

Trump was so incensed by Henry that he or a staffer went to search Twitter for any random person criticizing Henry or praising Levin, including a number of “egg” accounts with no avatars, real names, or reputation, and few followers.

One of these accounts, @BulldawgDerek, has been “temporarily restricted” by Twitter due to “unusual activity” — normally a euphemism for violating the site’s rules.

Trump retweeted, all told, 20 posts on the subject, including one calling Henry a “lying shit head” and one by a bot account Trump But About Sharks whose gimmick is that it rewrites Trump tweets to make them about sharks.

This is mostly funny rather than revelatory.

It is, however, a reminder that the president of the United States spends his time watching television and getting mad online rather than working on any of the innumerable policy issues that fall into his portfolio. That’s not news, but it is significant since one of the White House’s key talking points on impeachment is that somehow impeachment — rather than the president’s laziness — is stopping Congress from getting things done.

Trump keeps lying about Congress

A Saturday tweet calling an arbitrary subset of Trump’s political enemies “savages” attracted attention because there’s something fishy about his decision to single out Jewish and nonwhite members of Congress for criticism.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Can you imagine if these Do Nothing Democrat Savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC Plus 3, and many more, had a Republican Party who would have done to Obama what the Do Nothings are doing to me. Oh well, maybe next time!

73.7K people are talking about this

A more banal but significant aspect of this tweet is Trump’s effort to label the congressional opposition as “Do Nothings.”

Both parties’ congressional campaign committees have polling that indicates the public is frustrated with Congress’ lack of progress on policy issues and therefore have adopted strategies centered on blaming the other party for inaction.

This theme recurs in recent Trump tweets on subjects ranging from China to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to nothing in particular, all of which repeat the phrase “Do Nothing Democrats.”

Under the circumstances, it’s worth emphasizing that this is simply false. House Democrats have passed a lot of bills, including conceptually ambitious legislation to curb corruption in politics and begin to address climate change along with a host of smaller measures. They’ve passed legislation on background checks for gun buyers, tried to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, tried to extend nondiscrimination rules to LGBTQ people, and tried to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. The reason these bills — and measures addressing prescription drug pricesinsurance for people with preexisting conditions, and consumer protection in financial services — aren’t going anywhere is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t bring them up for votes.

It isn’t even that these bills are being defeated in the Senate. McConnell is aware that these are popular measures, and he doesn’t want to make his members cast unpopular votes against them. Consequently, Republicans have simply refused to let them come to the floor, even while pretending to be mad that Democrats are too busy with impeachment to legislate.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!

51.1K people are talking about this

By contrast, Senate Republicans are not passing popular bills featuring conservative ideas to address problems. Not because they’re too busy with impeachment, but because they don’t seem to have any.

And Trump himself can’t stop tweeting about Ukraine, even though he also can’t offer any real defense of what he did.

Trump has a lot of dishonest thoughts on Ukraine

Monday morning, Trump alleged that some mysterious individual “changed the long standing whistleblower rules” as part of what is presumably a conspiracy to bring Trump down.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!

51.1K people are talking about this

This is a reference to a badly misinformed article which ran over the weekend on the perennially dishonest conservative site the Federalist, which alleged that “Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge.”

The main factual problem with this article is that nothing of the sort happened. It is true that the whistleblower form was changed in August shortly before the submission of the Ukraine report, but the earlier version of the form contained no prohibition on the use of second-hand information. That the Federalist article is incorrect has not prevented the claim from being widely rebroadcast by everyone from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the president’s attorneys Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani. It is, however, completely false.

What’s more, despite Trump’s multiple tweets referring to the whistleblower as “fake” or alleging he had only “SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION,” we now know unambiguously that the substance of the report was true. The White House’s own summary of the call shows Trump complaining that although “the United States has been very good to Ukraine,” he “wouldn’t say it’s been reciprocal necessarily.”

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asks for Javelin missiles, Trump replies, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with the leader of one country asking the leader of another country for something in exchange for military assistance — that’s diplomacy. But what Trump asked for were political favors (and perhaps exculpate the Russian government from responsibility for hacking the Democratic National Committee), not actions designed to advance American interests.

That’s the essence of the complaint, and Trump clearly did it. The only question is whether one sees that as right or wrong. But in responding to the misconduct, Trump is engaging in new forms of misconduct.

Trump is threatening his enemies with prison

Last Friday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff opened a hearing with a satirical parody of Trump’s gangster-like conduct.

The analogy between the way Trump discusses illegal activities and the way movie gangsters talk has been widely made, everywhere from CNN to the Canadian magazine Macleans, largely because the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen specifically described it as his normal means of doing business.

But Trump, because he’s a deeply dishonest person, has taken to characterizing Schiff’s parody as a deliberate fabrication that should prompt a criminal investigation.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Rep. Adam Schiff totally made up my conversation with Ukraine President and read it to Congress and Millions. He must resign and be investigated. He has been doing this for two years. He is a sick man!

62K people are talking about this

It’s not a crime to say things the president doesn’t like — even things that aren’t necessarily proven — and there’s a specific clause of the Constitution guaranteeing members of Congress absolute immunity from prosecution from anything they do on the floor of either house in the Capitol. That constitutional provision does, however, include an exception for treason, which someone must have told Trump. By Sunday night, Schiff characterizing his actions in a way Trump didn’t like was elevated to an act of treason, and Trump called for his arrest.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..

39K people are talking about this

Trump then reiterated Monday morning that he’s not kidding around. He wants police officers to arrest a member of Congress for criticizing him.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?

56K people are talking about this

The typical response to this kind of blatantly inappropriate order from Trump has been to simply not carry out his directives. Then conservatives quietly assure liberal and centrist journalists that people shouldn’t blow Trump’s bluster out of perspective because these things don’t actually wind up happening.

The Ukraine call, however, reveals not just inappropriate conduct but the fundamental inadequacy of this line of thought as a response to Trump. Members of Trump’s administration have been trying, since Inauguration Day, to steer him toward something approaching a normal conservative Republican approach to Russia.

But as Trump’s former top Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert explained over the weekend, it’s been impossible to dissuade Trump from propagating a baroque conspiracy theory involving Ukraine and an IT security company called Crowdstrike, whose CEO Trump wrongly believes is Ukrainian.

Trump really did delay the delivery of congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine, and during his one-on-one talks with the Ukrainian president he linked that aid to both the Crowdstrike theory and the effort to dig up dirt on a political rival. With the regular institutions of the American government ill-disposed to try to carry out Trump’s corrupt approach to Ukraine, he got Rudy Giuliani to run a “shadow foreign policy” on his behalf.

In other words: There are limits to what can be accomplished by slow-walking an unfit president’s requests. Schiff probably won’t be brought up on treason charges. And Trump probably won’t follow through on his threats to unleash a civil war. But over time, a determined president does tend to make things happen.

Responsible officials made a good-faith effort to stonewall Trump’s Ukraine agenda. But those officials either left office (Bossert, Secretary of Defense James Mattis) or were removed (former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch), and Trump’s plan was put into place. In response, Trump displays no contrition but instead accelerates his lying and inappropriate demands. And the only viable solution is for him to stop being president.


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Hundreds of ex-national security officials support impeachment inquiry into Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Hundreds of ex-national security officials support impeachment inquiry into Trump

This is what the whistle blower complaint says 02:40

Washington (CNN)More than 300 former national security officials have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, arguing the President’s actions in regard to Ukraine are a “profound national security concern.”

“President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference into our democratic processes,” a statement signed by the officials and dated Friday reads. “That would constitute an unconscionable abuse of power.”
The statement was released by the National Security Action, an advocacy group formed in 2018 by two former national security advisers in the Obama administration to oppose Trump’s foreign policy.
The bulk of the statement’s signees are former Obama officials, but the list also includes officials who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Former officials of the intelligence community, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Security Council staff are among the signers.
“As national security professionals, many of us have long been concerned with President Trump’s actions and their implications for our safety and security,” the statement read. “Some of us have spoken out, but many of us have eschewed politics throughout our careers and, as a result, have not weighed in publicly.”
“The revelations of recent days, however, demand a response,” they added.
One of the signers, former US Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, said Friday on CNN’s “Newsroom” that he feels this letter is unique because of its timing. “What we’re trying to say in this letter is that it is now time to begin the impeachment proceedings. Personally, I think the President should be removed from office because he’s shamed the country and he’s tried to hold himself above the law,” said Burns, a longtime Foreign Service officer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump over the allegations that he attempted to pressure a foreign leader for personal political gain.
A White House transcript of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showed that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 candidate, and Biden’s son. The rough transcript also raised questions of whether Trump offered a quid pro quo over military foreign aid to Ukraine for dirt on a political rival. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
The July phone call was included in a whistle blower complaint publicly released Thursday. In the complaint, the whistle blower alleged Trump abused his powers to “solicit interference” from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election, and the White House took steps to cover it up. Trump has denied that there was any wrongdoing.
“If we fail to speak up — and act — now our foreign policy and national security will officially be on offer to those who can most effectively fulfill the President’s personal prerogatives,” the former officials said in their statement.
“We do not wish to prejudge the totality of the facts or Congress’ deliberative process,” they said, adding, “At the same time, there is no escaping that what we already know is serious enough to merit impeachment proceedings.”