Day 1050 – More Passion, Less Comity

Thursday was a volatile day for Democrats.  Joe Biden lost his cool at a rally when an audience member absurdly accused him of arranging his son Hunter’s activities in the Ukraine.  And Nancy Pelosi struck back at a Sinclair Broadcast Group (extreme right wing partisan) “reporter” who tried to characterize her as hating Trump.  It’s easy to get angry at Trump and anyone enabling or defending him.  And it’s easy to feel exhausted by the constant stream of scandal and malfeasance coming from Trump and his regime.  But we should ask our leaders in Congress the following question: “Where is the outrage?”

I’ve certainly seen our political leaders talk about Trump is grave tones, and many seem disturbed and concerned.  But Trump’s transgressions are so lethal to our Democracy that the public-facing criticism from Democrats in Congress seems far too academic and clinical.  Republican Jim Jordan is a disingenuous hypocrite, but he’s effective in communicating to his conservative base because he always speaks in the tone of rage.  Clinton’s email scandal!  The impeachment witch hunt!

We need our progressive leaders not only to be outraged at Trump’s corruption, but also outraged at the Republican party’s response.  When liars like Jordan and Nunes spew their latest conspiracy delusion in a House hearing, the Democrats can’t treat it like business-as-usual.  They need to characterize their opponents in much stronger terms.  They need to point out the hypocrisy and lies and delusions for what they are.  They need to play old clips of Republicans justifying the Benghazi hearings and voice their outrage that the same Republicans don’t seem to care that their vile president wants to be an Emperor. They need to call into question the patriotism of a party that will ignore corruption and the rule of law while appeasing Putin and easing sanctions on Russia.  They need to say very plainly that tolerating corruption in the White House is unAmerican.  Which is exactly what the Republicans would do, even if it weren’t applicable.  But in the case of Trump, it’s not only applicable but plainly obvious.  Trump has taken dozens of actions that the Republicans would have impeached a Democratic president for.

For example, Trump conspired with Michael Cohen to break campaign finance law by paying off a porn star to keep her affair with Trump quiet.  He obstructed justice multiple times, according to the Mueller probe.  He declared a non-existent emergency to thwart the will of Congress and build his border wall.  As president, he asked China to investigate the Bidens.  He betrayed our Kurdish allies to appease a Turkish tyrant. And so on.

Outrage is often defined by anger, but it doesn’t have to be.  Anger usually comes with a loss of control or composure.  But when outrage is expressed with energetic disgust and passion it can be supremely effective.  Our leaders can’t afford to make impeachment a purely intellectual exercise.  As Professor Pamela Karlan said in her testimony to the House two days ago about Trump’s Ukraine conduct, “wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office?”  The impeachment process has to appeal not only to the head but to the gut.  “You Republicans know in your heart that this president is a disgraceful stain on our nation.  You know he’s crooked and unfit for office, and you say so behind closed doors. But you’re willing to jeopardize our Democracy for the craven pursuit of power by publicly supporting him.  You know in your gut he’s dirty, that he lies and cheats, but you keep supporting him anyway.  It’s shameful and unpatriotic.”

When gutter-dwelling hypocrites like Rep Matt Gaetz wail at a House impeachment witness for the “outrage” of referencing Barron Trump’s name in a hearing, our leaders should turn directly to Gaetz and say, “You call the witness mean for mentioning a child’s name, yet you support a president who admits to being a ‘pussy grabber,’ who calls people ‘crooked’ and ‘low-IQ,’ who harasses private citizens from the Oval Office, who calls other nations ‘shit-holes’ and mocks women for ‘bleeding’ and calls them ‘pigs,’ who throws around the term ‘treason’ like a third-world dictator, who cages immigrant children and betrays allies who died by the thousands fighting for us against ISIS–moral bankruptcy is not a good look Mister Gaetz.”

Politics is more emotional than intellectual.  If opponents of Trump increasingly engage on an emotional level–disgust and passion rather than anger–they will be far more effective in persuading voters that they must vote Trump out in 2020.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1049 – You Know In Your Gut

The House Judiciary Committee, Chaired by Rep Jerry Nadler, began impeachment hearings yesterday.  They began with testimony from four constitutional scholars, three who seemed to support impeachment and one who did not.  It was clear from the testimony that the framers of the Constitution designed impeachment for exactly the situation we’re in.  Trump’s actions in Ukraine were precisely the type of abuse of power our founders feared would corrode our Democracy.  Despite Republican whining that Trump didn’t do anything wrong, Stanford Professor Pamela Karlan gave the most powerful and brilliant example of why Trump should be impeached:

Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for–what would you think if that president said, “I would like you to do us a favor.  I’ll meet with you and I’ll send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.” Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, that he betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process?  I believe that the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here.

We all know in our gut that Trump is corrupt and dishonest and unfit for office. And his abuse of power was so obvious that House Republicans failed to defend him on the facts or the evidence.  Instead they clung to the pathetic notion that his actions aren’t bad enough to warrant impeachment.  But as the example above shows, his betrayal of our nation was profound.  And this doesn’t even address his complete obstruction of Congress in failing to answer any subpoena, essentially putting himself above the law.

We find ourselves facing Tyrant Trump and the Vichy Republicans.  They would rather shatter all norms, abuse the rule of law, and spit on the Constitution than give up power.  They are willing to sell our Democracy down the river for some tax breaks and (at least) two Supreme Court justices.

The 2020 election should scare the crap out of all of us.  Because as bad as the Supreme Court is now, if Trump gets four more years we will lose that court for generations.  If we haven’t already, we will lose a woman’s right to choose.  We will lose any attempt to hold big business accountable for polluting or poisoning.  We will lose any chance to enact common sense restrictions on guns.  And we will lose any chance of meaningful action on climate change–if we haven’t already passed a catastrophic tipping point.

In case you didn’t hear, Trump was laughed out of this week’s NATO summit.  He left early in a bitter rage because a group of leaders including Macron, Trudeau, and Johnson were recorded disparaging Trump and laughing at him.  Because that’s what Trump has sown.  He has made himself a laughingstock on the world stage, and our nation with him.  His crass, ignorant bluster fools nobody in the world but his domestic cult of followers.  And now the western nations are pulling away from us because they know Trump is weak, and a fool.  They know he is owned by Putin, for whatever goddamned reason.  Thanks to a sleazy, lying con-man from Queens, our American luster is fading.

We have less than a year to take actions to help vote this dangerous buffoon out of office.  It’s a raging emergency.  The impeachment hearings highlight what a corrupt and cancerous president Trump is, and also what a challenge it will be to fight against his unscrupulous and unprincipled cult, especially the morally bankrupt politicians that support him at any cost.  It’s not melodramatic to say that our nation’s future hangs in the balance.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1048 – Lowering The Boom

The House Intelligence Committee released its impeachment inquiry report last night detailing their investigation into Trump and their conclusions.  The report declares that Trump “compromised national security to advance his personal political interests,” and concludes that “The President’s actions have damaged our national security, undermined the integrity of the next election, and violated his oath of office.”

Conservative Rick Wilson said this on Twitter last night:

“Read the report.  That’s all I can say.

It’s absolutely brutal.”

The report describes three important areas of offense:

1. A broad, months-long effort by many members of the Trump administration–and others, including Rudy Giuliani–to press Ukraine to assist Trump’s re-election.  There were three separately impeachable elements in this section.

  • Asking Ukraine to help him interfere in the 2020 election.
  • Dangling a meeting at the White House to extort cooperation.
  • Withholding US Military Aid to extort cooperation.

2. A broad effort by the Trump White House to obstruct Congress in its efforts to investigate the Executive Branch.  Trump ignored or denied every subpoena and every request for documents or testimony despite at least one Federal Judge deciding that the House inquiry was entirely legitimate and a vital part of Congressional oversight. The obstruction effort made it more difficult for Congress to find out exactly what happened with Trump’s minions in Ukraine, and to confirm evidence already in the Committee’s possession.  No other president has so fully stonewalled and obstructed the power of Congress as Trump, not even Richard Nixon.

3. Efforts by Trump to obstruct justice from the Mueller report, including multiple instances of potential obstruction that Mueller refused to characterize, leaving the task to Congress.

The Impeachment report fittingly ends with quotes from Republican Senators about how bad and damaging Trump’s actions have been for our nation.  It’s important to note that the report adds many details that haven’t been previously disclosed, including phone records and other transcripts provided under subpoena from parties outside Trump’s influence (phone companies, etc.).

It’s also come to light that Republican Devin Nunes, who is the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, had phone conversations with indicted goon Lev Parnas–a Giuliani associate–about Ukraine, but never disclosed these conversations to the committee.  In other words, he was a fact-witness in the investigation but failed to disclose it, and should at the very least have recused himself from the investigation.  Nunes has become the latest Republican to get caught up in Trump’s dirty dealings, and it couldn’t happen to a more disingenuous, malignant, and unAmerican force in Congress than lickspittle Nunes.

In all of this, Trump has been tantrum tweeting and making ranting comments from his trip to France for a NATO meeting.  He called Rep Adam Schiff a “maniac” and “a deranged human being,” which is yet another instance of Trump projecting his own defects on somebody else.  But as Trump feels more pressure his desperation and rage are sure to grow.  This is a dangerous time in America, when Democrats in Congress are trying to hold a tyrant accountable for his transgressions while morally bankrupt Republicans turn their backs on facts and the rule of law, hiding instead in a deceitful fantasyland that the Fox propaganda machine continues to prop up.

The House Judiciary Committee will surely forward articles of Impeachment to the entire House, and when it goes to a final floor vote there are impeachment actions planned around the country in support, so stay tuned and get ready to mobilize.  We may not be able to push many Senators to ultimately vote for impeachment but a large show of outrage will go a long way to convince other Americans that Trump’s actions were profoundly unAmerican and worth of his removal from office.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1047 – Barr Adds To His Disgrace

The corruption continues.  According to the Washington Post, Attorney General William Barr will dispute Trump’s own Inspector General, who will apparently report that the FBI had enough information and probable cause to begin an investigation into members of Trump’s presidential campaign before the 2016 election.  In other words, the genesis of the Mueller report was legitimate and warranted according to Trump’s own Inspector.

But that conclusion goes against Trump’s fantasy of a “hit job” and a “witch hunt” and a “hoax”.  So how will our Attorney General respond?  He reportedly plans to dispute the conclusion of Trump’s own Inspector General.  Why? Because he doesn’t care about our nation, he doesn’t care about the rule of law, and he doesn’t care about the health or legitimacy of law enforcement agencies like the FBI.  It’s clear that William Barr only cares about protecting a corrupt and likely criminal president from embarrassment and potential impeachment–at any cost.  Barr is willing to go down in history as a boot-licking sycophant and scoff-law in service of a tyrant with a fragile ego whose delusional claims about a witch hunt must be supported and cheered on, even if it means shredding the Constitution.

Two developments from yesterday’s headlines highlight how malevolent and noxious the Barr Justice Department has become within the cult of Trump.

First, the Justice Department from the time of Watergate has agreed that Congress can have access to the grand jury proceedings of a Special Counsel, especially for use in an impeachment hearing.  And so the House has been trying to get access to the grand jury testimony from the Mueller investigation.  But yesterday the Barr Justice Department went to court to argue that despite decades of settled policy and a prior willingness to disclose, they now believe Congress should NEVER get grand jury material from any Special Counsel investigation.  Why? Apparently the Mueller material makes Trump look even more guilty than he already does, and some of the grand jury testimony might actually bolster an obstruction of justice charge from one of the House committees.  Barr will contort his department and the law as far as he must to protect a corrupt president.

Second, a Federal Judge yesterday denied the government a stay on the previous order for former White House Legal Counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress.  McGahn was hoping to put off his testimony as long as possible while a higher court considered his appeal.  But Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson decided to lift the stay and force McGahn to testify.  Justice Brown hammers the DOJ in her written opinion.  Here are a few select quotes:

“DOJ’s harm contention also seems especially dubious under the particular circumstances of this case… (…) DOJ’s argument that the Judiciary Committee will not be meaningfully harmed by a stay of this Court’s Order pending appeal seems disingenuous, and therefore, is unpersuasive. (…)  DOJ’s argument here…strikes the court as an unacceptable mischaracterization of the injury at issue.”

This is how a Judge tells a litigant that their legal arguments are trash.  Words like dubious, disingenuous and mischaracterization all share the same association with dishonesty.  So the Judge is telling the DOJ that their arguments are dishonest and in bad faith, which is a horrible state of affairs for the nation.  When our Department of Justice is inept, or corrupt, or both, our Democracy is in trouble.

It still seems unlikely that Trump will ever be removed from office by Congress but if the impeachment process shows clearly and convincingly that Trump violated the constitution and the spirit of of his office, it could drive a few thousand moderate voters out of his camp–and that’s all we need in places like Wisconsin to send Trump packing.

So remember to vocally support the legitimacy of the impeachment hearings (notes on social media to our elected Federal reps are always effective) and to reject the bogus Kremlin fantasy that the Ukraine had anything to do with the 2016 election hack.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1046 – Trump Earned Impeachment

The corrupt GOP can’t stop itself from helping Putin’s Russia.  Almost every Trump policy (or lack of policy) seems to benefit Russia, and many of Trump’s scandals revolve around issues that benefit Russia.  When Trump suggests that Ukraine hacked our election, the lie takes pressure and focus off of Putin.  Yet over the weekend Republicans in Congress helped push this bogus and totally debunked narrative.  Many of them acknowledged that our Intel community’s assessment of Russian election interference was correct, yet many, including Rep Kennedy from Louisiana, said that Ukraine also hacked us.  The GOP remain unable to present evidence–since none seems to exist–yet they stick with the phony claim in order to muddy the waters around impeachment.

Republicans in Congress also spend a lot of time attacking the impeachment process–a process Trump earned.  They can’t refute the facts that so clearly point to an abuse of power by Trump–including Trump’s own words from the Ukraine call summary–so they try to destroy the legitimacy of the inquiry.  But the inquiry has been properly conducted from day one, as a Federal Judge already decided.  And the subpoenas that Trump and his administration failed to comply with were properly issued.  And this is where Republicans might have their biggest problem.

Obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense.  It was one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.  And it goes to the very heart of the separation of powers and congressional oversight that our democracy demands.  If Congress loses the power to investigate, it ceases to be a co-equal branch of government, and ceases to be able to fulfill its constitutional rule.  Yet every single request made of the Trump White House by the House of Representatives has been stonewalled.  There has been no co-operation whatsoever.  Rather than get a judge to try to compel the White House to comply–a process that could take years–the impeachment inquiry will simply deem the White House failure to comply as a grave and separate impeachable offense.  And this leaves Republicans with only one defense–that the subpoenas themselves were not legitimate.  It’s absurd and insulting to anyone with half-a-brain, yet this seems to be the Republican plan to defend Trump.

As the impeachment process moves forward, our response as activists must be two-fold.  We must reject as ridiculous the Kremlin-backed fairy tale that Ukraine had anything to do with 2016 election interference, and we must affirm and support as legitimate the impeachment process, which sprang from Trump’s own damning and incriminating dialog with Ukraine President Zelensky:  “I would like you to do us a favor, though!”

We don’t need reminders of what a destructive and dangerous wrecking ball Trump has been in the White House, but we received yet another over the weekend.  The Trump administration announced that its judicial nominations will no longer include an evaluation by the American Bar Association.  It’s Trump’s way of obscuring the fact that so many of his judicial picks have been profoundly and disastrously unqualified for the bench.  The less the public knows about the nominees’ lack of fitness, the more easily Trump can nominate partisan hacks who will do his bidding rather than uphold (or even comprehend) the law.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/us/politics/white-house-american-bar-association-judges.html

It’s another sickening debasement of an important governmental check and balance, and another example of corruption and deceit from the crooked Trump regime, the least transparent administration in modern history.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out office.”

 

Day 1041 – It’s Clear: For Aid, A Favor

Here’s what you need to know about news affecting the impeachment inquiry.

1)  It was reported yesterday that two officials in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) resigned earlier this year over concern about aid being withheld from Ukraine.  This disclosure underscores the internal strife and confusion that Trump’s decision to withhold aid caused in his own administration.

2)  It was confirmed yesterday that when Trump finally decided to release the withheld aid to Ukraine, he had recently been made aware of the whistle-blower complaint. In other words, the timing looks like Trump released the aid only because he knew his Ukraine extortion scheme was about to be reported to Congress.

3)  Emails and other communications from Mick Mulvaney and others in the Trump White House were ordered by a Federal judge to be released to a watchdog group, and they show wide concern within the White House and Trump administration about Trump’s withholding aid to Ukraine. Officials were fearful that Trump’s actions might be illegal, and many were concerned that there was expressed rationale for the policy.  These communications reinforce the notion that Trump’s actions were widely known and debated, adding weight to the impeachment testimony by Gordon Sondland that “everybody was in the loop” in the Trump White House.

The evidence is clear that Trump violated his oath and the public trust by withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of Biden.  Many Republicans say his actions were bad but didn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense.  But if so, what would rise to that level??  If we let Trump recruit foreign governments to interfere in our elections without penalty, will it ever end, and will it damage our democracy?  If we let Trump stonewall Congressional subpoenas without penalty, how will Congress ever be able to hold the Executive Branch accountable?  Republicans who allow this behavior are complicit in the lasting damage it causes, and can never again claim to care about law and order or the Constitution.

In local news, today is the day Dutchess County is supposed to have counted all the absentee ballots and certify the 2019 election.  Several close races hang in the balance, so watch the local news sources to see if the final results are ready to be published.

ITFIO wishes all in Dutchess County, NY-19, and New York State a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.  We’re thankful for your readership and activism.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

NOTE: I’ll be traveling and won’t post again until Monday, Dec 2.  Cheers…

Day 1040 – Judge Says McGahn Must Testify

Trump suffered a devastating legal loss yesterday.  A Federal Judge ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn, whose name came up more often in the Mueller report than any other member of Trump’s cabinet, must honor a House subpoena and testify before Congress.  McGahn will likely appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court but it’s not clear that they will consider his case.  The ruling by US District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson went out of its way to destroy the Trump team’s rationale for preventing McGahn’s testimony:

Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings. This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

She went on to write:

Today, this Court adds that this conclusion is inescapable precisely because compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law. That is to say, however busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires. Fifty years of say so within the Executive branch does not change that fundamental truth. Nor is the power of the Executive unfairly or improperly diminished when the Judiciary mandates adherence to the law and thus refuses to recognize a veto-like discretionary power of the President to cancel his subordinates’ legal obligations. To the contrary, when a duly authorized committee of Congress issues a valid subpoena to a current or former Executive branch official, and thereafter, a federal court determines that the subpoenaed official does, as a matter of law, have a duty to respond notwithstanding any contrary order of the President, the venerated constitutional principles that animate the structure of our government and undergird our most vital democratic institutions are preserved.

One of the House committees considering articles of impeachment against Trump is looking at the Mueller report’s detailing of Trump’s obstruction of justice, so it’s stands to reason that they may want McGahn to testify in their investigation.

The Supreme Court yesterday granted a temporary stay to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, allowing them to withhold Trump’s taxes from Congress while the SCOTUS considers whether to accept the lower court’s ruling or issue its own.  It’s a good bet that the SCOTUS will take a look at the case, but on an accelerated schedule.  If so, it seems likely that the House has a very good case.

The fallout continued yesterday over Trump’s firing of Navy Secretary Spencer, and it was reported that Trump wants pardoned SEAL Gallagher to appear at his campaign rallies.  So it’s important we keep in mind what Gallagher was accused of doing.  He was put on trial for the unnecessary killing of an injured young Muslim detainee, and then posing for selfies with the dead body.  He was also accused of other transgressions while on the front lines.  He was a sniper and was allegedly so fond of shooting civilians indiscriminately that his own squad sabotaged his sniper rifle.  It was also alleged that, for no good reason, he shot a girl in a flower print dress.  It was also alleged that, for no good reason, he shot another civilian, an old man.  But a jury of Marines acquitted him of the killings and found him guilty of taking a picture with a corpse, which the Navy frowns upon.  It’s likely that the prosecution didn’t have enough hard evidence to prove its case, but Gallagher’s fellow SEALs were the ones who turned him in and testified, which says a lot about the severity of their concern in the context of a warrior culture that treats whistle blowers like shit.

So Trump wants Gallagher at his rallies, which simply bolsters an observed fact: Whatever choice or decision he faces, Trump always takes the most vile, cruel, sadistic, reprehensible, vengeful, mean-spirited, destructive, dishonest, unscrupulous, immoral and/or self-serving course he can envision in that moment.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”