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Day 1018 – Please Vote Tomorrow

If you haven’t voted already, please vote tomorrow in our local elections.  Local races matter, especially in the era of Trump.  As long as Republicans retain political power they will continue to deny Americans decent healthcare, common sense gun control, environmental protections, educational support, reproductive freedom, and more.  These aren’t just national issues–they can be attacked and degraded at a local level, especially in the areas of funding and zoning.  Our local politicians can also build support and momentum for our national reps.  Use your power and vote!

Award-winning journalist and best-selling author Kurt Eichenwald posted a long tweet yesterday on Trump’s Imperial presidency that’s worth sharing and considering as we approach 2020.  It’s a worst case scenario, but we should all be aware of what a worst case could look like:

For those who don’t understand the fragility of American democracy in the hands of an unscrupulous autocrat – a scenario never imagined possible by the Founders under our Constitution – the cancellation of elections is quite simple and arguably legal. Which is why I fear for 2020. It all comes down to presidential emergency powers. They are poorly defined in the Constitution and under law. They are enormous and Trump clearly has been told that – remember how trump keeps saying he can do *anything* under the Constitution. Back when there was Japanese internment, Justice Robert Jackson wrote of this power in his dissent that it “lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.” We have already seen Trump do this without consequence to override congress to pay for his wall. Nothing can stop him because he said “emergency” and there is nothing to stop him.

So, it’s October 25, 2020. Polls show that trump is going to lose in a landslide. He announces a national emergency – we have evidence ”that millions of illegal aliens are conspiring to vote and undermine our democracy. Therefore, I am declaring a national emergency, suspending elections until this corruption is weeded out.” And that’s it. People can sue, but his powers are broad enough and his corrupt judiciary would have to knock it down. And even if it did, there is nothing in the Constitution that says he has to abide by the ruling. Just the courts own interpretations. He can argue that Marbury v Madison does not apply in emergencies, and who can stop him? Ok, now suppose the people take up arms or Does anything but acquiesce. Trump can declare this an insurrection and suspend habeas corpus, meaning they can lock up anyone they want. Lincoln did this and while it stretches the Constitution – the section on habeas corpus appears under article one, but never says who has the power to suspend and Trump can simply say, as Lincoln did, I have that power. He also has the authority to shut down the internet or all communications. While technically the electors are supposed to cast ballots, they can’t without an election victor. And without an electoral vote, The president cannot be removed. This is all legal. And does ANYONE believe, given he know this, that Trump won’t CONSIDER doing it? A man who publicly stated in 2016 that he might not accept the outcome of the election who, with the approval of the GOP, declared his opponents as traitors, demanded the imprisonments of political adversaries, declared the press to be the enemy of the people, has spoken longingly of never leaving office, who is besties with every autocrat and hates every democracy. Yes, as Justice Jackson said, the president – in this case trump – has a loaded gun and we have to simply trust that he won’t use it or that the republicans will join democrats to stop him. And I do not believe for one second that they will say whatever rationale for the “emergency” that trump cooks up is bogus. Just like they talked about evil hordes who didn’t exist coming into the United States, they have been saying those same hordes are voting. And they’ll say it when Trump suspends elections so FOR GODS SAKE stop the nonsense of raging over whether there is a public option or Medicare for all as a primary voting issue, or whether someone is a “corporate democrat” or a “socialist”. None of that matters this time. We are IN this position because idiots did not recognize what was at stake in 2016, played silly games about “both sides are equally bad.” This is the same game that was played in the German federal elections in 1932, where people voting for the “can’t win” candidate gave enormous power to Hitler just three years later, Hitler declared a national emergency, dissolved the legislature and called for new elections. And soon after that, the “protest” candidate and his supporters were locked up. Can’t happen here? I never thought it could. Then again, I never thought that any political party would ever support an imperial executive and usurpation of power by a president declaring he is above the law.  The GOP has shown that, if they can make an argument, no matter how irrational or false, they will justify anything the bottom line: bad stuff could be coming. It is not outside the realm of possibility. It would not even be illegal or unconstitutional. And it will end the great American experiment in democracy. But rich people will do very very well.

(Ellipses removed, bold emphasis mine)

Just to lighten the mood, Trump was in NYC on Saturday night to attend an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match at Madison Square Garden and upon being announced as he entered the arena a chorus of boos clearly outweighed the cheers.  Trump surely thought he would be facing a friendly crowd, so he was humiliated for the second time in a week at a large sporting event. Whenever he leaves his protective bubble he incurs the wrath of the general public.

The Republican party has been hijacked and dragged into the sewer by Trump.  It may never recover, but if we don’t vote Republicans out of power we may never get a second chance.  Trump is an authoritarian and if the GOP never holds him accountable our republic is in trouble, as Eichenwald’s essay warns.  We need to treat every election, both national and local, as a life or death challenge.  Please vote tomorrow and urge your like-minded friends to vote too.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” if he isn’t removed first.

Day 1015 – Extortion Is Not OK

The House passed an impeachment resolution yesterday, outlining the rules and procedures of the impeachment process going forward.  The rules are more favorable to the president than the rules under the Clinton and Nixon impeachments, yet the Republican cult spent their day whining and wailing about the process, arguing that because the investigation started before a formal vote, the entire enterprise was illegitimate.  Of course, a federal judge already opined that the process was fine and that the House has broad powers to investigate.  Meanwhile more witnesses testified yesterday, corroborating that Trump demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine.

The picture has become crystal clear.  Trump and his toadies shook down a foreign government to force them to produce a public display of dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for US aid and access.  This fact has moved beyond dispute.  Republicans are left with making the claim that abuse of power of that sort doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.  Yet it’s exactly the kind of nightmare scenario our nation’s founders were trying to protect against by enabling the removal of a corrupt president by impeachment.

Entertainer Rob Reiner yesterday tweeted a good encapsulation of the situation:

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Chairman Adam Schiff noted last night that the impeachment committee will begin releasing transcripts of their recent secret depositions, perhaps as soon as the next day or two.  It was also reported that the public phase of the hearings could begin within two weeks.  So we will see publicly soon what the investigators have been hearing in private.  It’s a foregone conclusion that public opinion only has one way to move once the public hearings start–farther away from the president.  As much as impeachment is a risky move for the Democrats, it’s significantly more perilous for the Republicans.  If they make a mockery of the proceedings, it will only hurt their brand.  And if the facts come out clearly and convincingly, it will also devastate their case.

If you haven’t voted in our local elections yet, please make time to do so.  The Trump era has taught us that local civic engagement and elections are crucial to a healthy democracy and have a huge impact on our daily lives. You can vote on election day, next Tuesday, or vote early today, Saturday and Sunday. Here’s a link to times and places:

http://www.dutchesselections.com/Early%20Voting.pdf

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” if he isn’t removed first.

Day 1014 – Impeachment Accelerates

Speaker Pelosi is scheduled to bring the impeachment inquiry authorization to the House floor today, outlining the official process going forward.  The momentous vote is occurring as a parade of Trump administration officials continue to visit the House impeachment committee’s closed depositions, apparently giving strong testimony corroborating earlier witness testimony while adding damning new evidence of a conspiracy in the White House to extort Ukraine.

One former Trump official with potentially damaging information is John Bolton, who has now been officially summoned to testify to the impeachment inquiry, though it’s not yet clear that he will appear without a fight.  As Lawrence O’Donnell noted last night on MSNBC, Bolton has a strong financial incentive to avoid public testimony.  It’s been reported that Bolton is writing a book about his time in the Trump White House, and anything he discloses to Congress and the public will lose much of its value as an element of his tell-all book.  Sad that our political future could rest on the greed of the recipient of a lavish book deal.

A lot of polling has been conducted lately to gauge public reaction to impeachment, and one of the more interesting polls came out two days ago.  A Grinnell College National Poll found that “81 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of evangelical Christians and 87 percent of voters living in rural areas agreed that it was unjust for a U. S. politician to ask other countries’ governments for help to win an election.”  The impeachment process is about to enter a public phase and if the evidence of Ukraine extortion is compelling, it could convince some Trump voters that he indeed committed an unforgivable act.

In other big news, Twitter announced yesterday that it will no longer accept paid political ads.  Rather than try to police ads for content and attempt to determine what is true or false, Twitter decided to reject the entire enterprise and avoid controversy. The move will certainly cost the company ad revenue, but it’s also great PR and will give the company bragging rights.  It might also draw more users to Twitter who are fed up with the blizzard of political ads still allowed on Facebook.  Of course, the pressure is now greater on Facebook to follow suit and stop political advertising.  But Mark Zuckerberg may be too greedy, inflexible, stubborn or prideful to consider changing course.  We will see.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” if he isn’t removed first.

 

 

Day 1013 – Release The Ukraine Transcript

Trump has been lying constantly about the release of his infamous Ukraine phone call, describing it as a verbatim transcript when in fact it’s a summary that his own people produced. The original whistle-blower claimed that Trump asked Ukraine for help with dirt on Joe Biden eight times on that call even though the summary only shows a presumably sanitized version of it happening once.  But once was enough.  It was, in effect, an outrageous confession of abuse of power by the president.

The content of the real call transcript remains a mystery, but we learned more about it yesterday.  Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, senior member of the National Security Council, was on that call and testified about it yesterday to the House impeachment inquiry–the first witness who was actually on the call.  At the time, Col Vindman was so alarmed by the substance of Trump’s demands of Ukraine that he notified his superiors.  Now, the desperate and morally bankrupt GOP are trying to smear Vindman, a decorated combat veteran, because his testimony adds more damning corroboration of Trump’s vile abuse of power, as well as clarification.  Vindman testified that the summary left out a few crucial details of the actual call, apparently to make the president look better. Vindman tried to have the actual phrases included in the summary but was overruled.  In other words, the actual call transcript is something investigators–and the public–should demand, as it contains additional incriminating evidence of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office and his nation.

Team Trump’s attempt to smear Vindman, a decorated war veteran and patriot, are being met with resistance from Democrats as well as a few old-school Republicans like Wyoming Rep Liz Cheney, all  supporting Vindman and beating back any bogus criticism.  There is simply no action, insult or smear too low for the Trumpers when the power of the presidency is on the line, and that simple fact reveals who they really are.  Trumpers have no morals or principles, no values or scruples–they are simply prostitutes to power who will do anything to win.  To them, sanctimony is nothing more than an occasionally useful facade.

Let’s keep resisting Trump, and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” if he isn’t removed first.

 

Day 1012 – Make Time To Vote

One week from today is election day and it’s important that everyone get out and vote.  Local elections matter for a variety of important reasons.  They impact our local zoning regulations, certain local revenue streams, and local schools and hospitals.  Local elections also create momentum and boost morale for national elections, giving the winners a media bullhorn to promote policy and other candidates.

New York has made it much easier to vote by authorizing and organizing early voting around the state.  Every day this week there will be early voting sites open in every county where voters can go to cast their vote at their convenience.  Here’s info on early voting in Dutchess County:

Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that the House will vote on an impeachment resolution this Thursday, raising the stakes and making official what has been underway already in the House.  This is an example of national politics that reaches us on a local level. Rep Delgado went on record supporting the inquiry and national Republican groups continue to push their voters to call Delgado and urge him to vote against an impeachment inquiry, characterizing the inquiry as a “witch hunt” and a “fraud” despite the fact that Trump himself admitted to abusing his power.

Politicians are empowered by public support and outcry.  It’s important that Rep Delgado continue to get calls of support from us on impeachment, and it’s also important to support Delgado and the impeachment inquiry on social media.  Republicans live in a Fox Network bubble and don’t always know exactly what Trump is accused of doing.  But when Trump goes to a World Series game and is roundly booed and jeered, it shows that a huge portion of America are horrified and outraged by Trump, which draws attention and might put a few cracks in the Fox media bubble, especially when local activists follow up with facts.

Please make time to vote, and recruit your friends to vote.  It’s important, and it’s good practice for the day we get a chance to “vote his ass out of office.”

REMINDER – There’s a fundraiser for Democratic candidate for Dutchess County Executive Joe Ruggiero at Tomas Tapas in Wappingers Falls TONIGHT at 6:30pm.

Day 1011 – A Legitimate And Proper Inquiry

It’s tempting this Monday morning to focus our attention on the killing of ISIS leader Baghdadi, or the predictably vulgar, self-absorbed and unpresidential comments by Trump, or the looming criminal investigation of the Mueller investigators by corrupt AG William Barr. But some of these, if not all of them, were designed to distract us from the truly disgraceful Ukraine scandal that continued to mushroom last week.

Republicans have been unable to defend the substance of Trump’s Ukraine scandal. After all, Trump’s phone transcript of the Ukraine call was essentially an admission of guilt.  Instead, Trump enablers have been attacking the impeachment process, bum-rushing the deposition room, whining about transparency, and claiming that for the impeachment process to be legitimate, it must be authorized by a House vote.

On Friday, many of these issues were addressed in a ruling by a federal judge.  Judge Beryl Howell responded to a request by the House Judiciary Committee to release the grand jury testimony of the Mueller report in service of the impeachment inquiry.  In her decision Judge Howell destroyed Republican complaints about the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry and authorized release of the Mueller testimony.  Here is the fascinating core of her 75 page decision (minus her citations):

DOJ and Representative Collins state that the “impeachments of Presidents Clinton and Andrew Johnson were investigated in multiple phases with each phase authorized by the House’s adoption of resolutions.” Even were this statement accurate, which it is not, the manner in which the House has chosen to conduct impeachment inquiries encompasses more than past Presidents and no sound legal or constitutional reason has been presented to distinguish the House’s exercise of impeachment authority for a President from the exercise of such authority more generally. Indisputably, the House has initiated impeachment inquiries of federal judges without a House resolution “authorizing” the inquiry. Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry. In the case of President Johnson, a resolution “authoriz[ing]” HJC “to inquire into the official conduct of Andrew Johnson” was passed after HJC “was already considering the subject.” In the case of President Nixon, HJC started its investigation well before the House passed a resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry. In the case of President Clinton, the D.C. Circuit authorized the disclosure of grand jury materials to Congress on July 7, 1998, even though no impeachment resolution had yet been adopted and was not adopted by the House until four months later. While close scrutiny of the historical record undercuts that justification for the “House resolution” test proposed by Representative Collins, the more significant flaw with this proposal is as follows: while this test may address political legitimacy concerns, which are best resolved in the political arena, no governing law requires this test—not the Constitution, not House Rules, and not Rule 6(e), and so imposing this test would be an impermissible intrusion on the House’s constitutional authority both to “determine the rules of its proceedings” under the Rulemaking Clause, U.S. CONST., Art. I, § 5, cl. 2, and to exercise “the sole power of Impeachment” under the Impeachment Clause…

In other words, the impeachment process used by the House is lawful and proper.  Furthermore, other impeachments proceeded without first receiving a House authorization or resolution first.

So when Republicans make grandiose claims about the process (“unlike any other,” “against precedent,” “so unfair!”) they are lying and trying to fool gullible voters.

The more we learn about Trump’s shadow campaign to influence Ukraine for his own personal benefit, the more sleazy and unAmerican it looks.  And we haven’t even heard any public testimony yet.  When that happens, expect public opinion to sway even further against the worst president ever.  It’s already so bad that when Trump visited the World Series Game 5 last night and his picture showed on the giant screen, the crowd erupted in boos.  The next inning, pockets of the crowd chanted “lock him up!”  It was an epic humiliation.

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

REMINDER – There’s a fundraiser for Democratic candidate for Dutchess County Executive Joe Ruggiero at Tomas Tapas in Wappingers Falls tomorrow at 6:30pm.

Day 1008 – Resist Molinaro

Local elections are less than two weeks away, on November 5th, and we need to focus on what we can do to help Democrats.  But important national news continues to break daily.  Last night it was reported that the Department of Justice under William Barr has started a criminal investigation of its own Russia investigation.  It’s been a conspiracy theory among the radical right-wing since the beginning of the Russia probe that the genesis of the probe was somehow illegitimate, was somehow a “deep state” conspiracy to hurt Trump, and that Russia never hacked or undermined our election.  In fact, AG Barr has been flying around the world talking to intelligence agencies of various allies looking for dirt on the Mueller probe.  This fact alone confirms that Barr is a corrupt partisan serving Trump rather than an official of justice for the nation.  But the news of an investigation into the Russia investigators reeks of partisan payback directed by Trump himself.

Barr has become a profoundly dangerous man.  The fair administration of justice is the backbone of Democracy, and while our justice system isn’t perfect, it’s still the most important institution upon which everything else depends.  When it’s corrupted, when the authorities persecute citizens not based on facts or evidence but to settle grudges and gain political advantage, our republic is at grave risk.  It’s bad enough that Barr lied to the American people in his dishonest summary of the Mueller probe and lied to Congress during sworn testimony.  It’s even worse that he didn’t recuse himself from the Russia probe.  That he might not recuse himself from the Ukraine scandal is enough to get him disbarred in New York, according to the New York Bar Association.  But to place public servants in legal jeopardy for doing their jobs just to mollify the rage of a corrupt president is scandalous and yet another reason that Barr is unfit to serve as the Attorney General and deserves to be impeached.

It’s anyone’s guess what Barr and the DOJ are contemplating in this criminal probe, and it might be merely a fig leaf to temporarily distract from the mushrooming Ukraine scandal, leading nowhere.  But it might also drag our nation down an ugly path.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Dutchess County features one of the most high-profile election contests in New York State this year, the race for County Executive between Republican incumbent Marc Molinaro and Democratic challenger Joe Ruggiero.  While Molinaro is considered by some to be a moderate, his voting record while in the State Assembly paints a picture of an extreme right-wing conservative.  The New York State Democratic Committee has seized upon this fact with a new ad running during prime-time TV.  Here’s the text of the ad:

Donald Trump is attacking New York rights, our values, and our economy.  And now Trump is running his puppet Marc Molinaro for county executive of Dutchess County.  Molinaro is anti choice and as an Albany assemblyman he voted five times against equal pay, voted against an assault weapons ban, voted against access to affordable healthcare, voted against marriage equality, and Molinaro even supported Trump’s tax plan that raises New York State property and income taxes as much as thirty percent.  A Trump mini-me for Dutchess County?  No way, no how.

It’s clear that Molinaro doesn’t reflect the views or values of a majority of the residents of Dutchess County.  So it’s important that we try to replace him with a better representative, Joe Ruggiero.

Joe is holding a telethon event this Saturday, details below.

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On Monday the 29th there will also be a fundraiser in Wappingers Falls, details below.

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There is still time for volunteers and activists to have a big impact on this race.  With a historically unpopular president causing chaos and scandal in Washington, the sense of frustration and outrage among independent and left-leaning voters is at an all-time high.  We need to harness that frustration and anxiety to elect better leaders and we can start with this coming local election.  It’s never been more important.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office,” if he isn’t removed first.