ON THE RECORD. . .
Q: What's the difference between Thunberg and Donald Trump?
A: One is an immature, inexperienced, barely able to speak English embarrassment, not deserving of a worldwide platform. The other is Greta Thunberg. — Dean Gloster@deangloster
@GretaThunberg, don’t let anyone dim your light. Like the girls I’ve met in Vietnam and all over the world, you have so much to offer us all. Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on. — Michelle Obama@MichelleObama
“It’s not a political party anymore. It’s a cult.” — 2020 GOP candidate Joe Walsh, quoted by the Quad City Times, on the Republican Party.
“It amazes me. You can catch him dead to rights, and he goes out and turns it around, and people believe it.” — Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (R), on how President Trump uses whatever he can to defend himself, even if it strains or runs contrary to the truth.
Before Donald Trump took office, the U.S. was already spending more on our military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan spend on theirs, combined. The Defense Department’s budget is now $130 billion larger than it was the day Trump was sworn in. Meanwhile, nearly 2 million Americans are still living in places that do not have running water. — Eric Levitz in Intelligencer
“I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” — Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,”
I learn nothing from Adam Schiff. I think he’s a maniac. I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man. And he lies. Adam Schiff made up my conversation with the president of the … This guy is sick. He made up the conversation. He lied. If he didn’t do that in the halls of Congress he’d be thrown in a jail. — Trump when asked what he wanted to learn from Adam Schiff during a press conference at the NATO Summit.
"I’m still trying to get my arms around the proposition that a whole bunch of conservative Republicans who’ve logged years blocking bipartisan FISA reforms are now somehow privacy hawks.” -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
“The president is supposed to set an example of trying to do the right thing. Not be a nasty little bitch. Because that’s what he is. He’s a petulant little punk. There’s not one thing that I see in him or his family, not any redeeming qualities. They’re out on the take. It’s like a gangster family.” — Robert DeNiro
If President Trump is exonerated in the Senate, if the Senate Republican majority refuses to discipline him through impeachment, he will be unbounded. I’m gravely concerned about what else he might do between now and the 2020 election, when there are no restrictions on his behavior.” — Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.)
“In relation to tariffs, it’s really been like Mr. Trump’s wild ride. It’s like somebody is holding a stone over your head. Please don’t ask me to thank you for not dropping it on my head. You shouldn’t be holding the rock over my head to begin with.” — Florida-based Basic Fun! Toys president and chief executive, Jay Foreman, who had to lay off a dozen workers recently, in part on fears that another round of China tariffs would take effect Sunday.
“I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). on the Senate impeachment trial.
Lie of the Year: Trump’s claim that the Ukraine whistleblower was “almost completely wrong.” -- PolitiFact
McConnell is the "Person of the Decade" when it comes to the destruction of democratic norms. From cynically depriving Merrick Garland of a confirmation vote for a seat on the Supreme Court to turning the Senate into a no-dissent rubber stamp for a Republican president, McConnell symbolizes the vicious partisanship of a dismal decade. -- Walter Shapiro in Roll Call.
“President Trump’s lawless obstruction of the House of Representatives, which is rightly seeking documents and witness testimony in pursuit of its constitutionally-mandated oversight role, has demonstrated brazen contempt for representative government. So have his attempts to justify that obstruction on the grounds that the executive enjoys absolute immunity, a fictitious doctrine that, if tolerated, would turn the president into an elected monarch above the law." — From an open letter by group of more than 700 historians and legal scholars urging the House of Representatives to impeach President Trump, denouncing his conduct as “a clear and present danger to the Constitution.”
Facing a historic rebuke by the Democratic-controlled House, Trump has countered with an exaggerated version of his lifelong approach to conflict, aiming to win by dividing. He has slammed his opponents in lurid language. He has urged his supporters to wage battle against those who sneer and scoff at them and their beloved president. And he has expressed zero remorse. — Marc Fisher in the Washington Post.
IN THIS ISSUE
1. Andy Borowitz: Andrew Johnson Horrified That History Books Will Mention Him in Same Sentence as Trump
THE AFTERLIFE: In a rare public statement from beyond the grave, Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth President of the United States, said that he was “horrified” that history books will now mention him in the same sentence as Donald J. Trump.
Making his first utterance since he died, in 1875, the spectral Johnson said, “As someone who has actually experienced death, I can safely say that being mentioned in the same breath as Trump is a fate worse than that.”
“I could deal with history remembering me as the first U.S. President to be impeached,” he said. “But knowing that I will now appear in the first line of Trump’s obituary is, to put it mildly, devastating.”
“What have I done to deserve this?” Johnson asked.
Although being linked with Trump for eternity was “something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” Johnson conceded that there was a silver lining to Trump’s Presidency.
“Finally, I’m no longer considered the worst President in history,” he said. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/
2. Judge stymies Trump's border wall by invoking GOP law targeting Obama
Donald Trump’s border wall is facing a surprising new legal hurdle down in Texas: an obscure legislative provision crafted by House Republicans in 2014 when the GOP was targeting then-President Barack Obama’s budget powers.
The amendment, carried forward into current law, has resurfaced with a vengeance in El Paso, Texas. U.S District Court Judge David Briones has been quoting back its words in a series of rulings against Trump’s decision to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects to expedite his wall.
As first adopted, the Republican language specifically prohibited Obama from taking any step to “eliminate or reduce funding for any program, project, or activity as proposed in the President’s budget request” until it's cleared with Congress.
The triggering event was a relatively narrow dispute in 2013 over funding for space exploration. But when they were enacted in Jan. 2014, the restrictions applied government-wide. And a year later, under full Republican control, Congress added the word “increase” alongside “eliminate or reduce” funding.
What goes around, in other words, comes around.
But what’s most remarkable is how much the legislative phrasing — aimed squarely at Obama — applies directly to the current fight involving Trump. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/14/judge-trump-border-wall-obama-084540
3. Trump’s Letter to Pelosi Protesting Impeachment
Trump’s rambling and angry letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raises a litany of complaints about her handling of the impeachment process and contains numerous falsehoods. Trump’s fact-checked letter is at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/17/us/politics/trump-pelosi-letter.html
More about Trump's false and misleading claims are at https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/17/politics/fact-check-trump-impeachment-letter-to-pelosi/index.html
4. Foiled in 2016, ‘Never Trump’ Republicans launch new super PAC in effort to oust Trump in 2020
Several prominent Republicans who have loudly opposed President Trump launched a major fundraising campaign Tuesday to try to help beat him in 2020, vowing that cold, hard cash will be more effective in blunting him than the public warnings from the failed “Never Trump” movement three years ago.
In a New York Times op-ed, the group — which includes lawyer George T. Conway and former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt — announced the formation of the Lincoln Project, a super PAC aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives and independents in swing states to tip the vote against Trump and defeat pro-Trump congressional candidates, even at risk of losing Republican control of the Senate. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/foiled-in-2016-never-trump-republicans-launch-new-super-pac-in-effort-to-oust-trump-in-2020/2019/12/17/79dc08f4-20e6-11ea-a153-dce4b94e4249_story.html
5. Pelosi threatens to delay Senate impeachment trial
Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office.
Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and
“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.” https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/18/trump-impeachment-trial-steny-hoyer-087319
6. White House further limits officials on Trump's foreign leader calls in wake of Ukraine scandal
Trump's senior aides have further restricted the number of administration officials allowed to listen to the President's phone calls with foreign leaders since his July 25 call with Ukraine's President was revealed and became the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, according to multiple White House sources.
"Nobody is allowed on the calls," a White House official said, describing the new effort to limit those with access to the calls to only the President's senior-most aides, barring some senior and mid-level career staff from listening in. "The barn door officially closed after the horse escaped.” https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/13/politics/white-house-foreign-calls-crackdown-ukraine/index.html
7. Pentagon watchdog plans to review award of $400M border wall contract to firm pushed by Trump
The Defense Department's internal watchdog plans to review a recent Army Corps of Engineers decision to award a $400 million contract for border wall construction to a North Dakota company that has been publicly and privately endorsed by members of the Trump administration, including the president himself. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/pentagon-watchdog-plans-review-award-400m-border-wall-contract-firm-n1099911
8. Trump Administration Battles New Sanctions on Russia
Matt Bevin reluctantly conceded the Kentucky governor’s race to Democrat Andy Beshear, but he’s not done wreaking havoc on the voters who rejected him. Before he formally left office, he pardoned hundreds of people, many convicted of violent and disturbing crimes. One man allegedly beheaded a woman and stuffed her body inside a pipe, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported; another is a child rapist. In one gratuitously corrupt instance, Bevin pardoned the brother of a donor who hosted a fundraiser for him in 2018. The man, Patrick Baker, had been convicted of murder. According to the Associated Press, several other Bevin pardons went to members of wealthy families. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/matt-bevin-pardons-hundreds-including-a-donors-brother.html
9. GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling
The Trump administration is quietly fighting a new package of sanctions on Russia, The Daily Beast has learned. A Trump State Department official sent a 22-page letter to a top Senate chairman on Tuesday making a wide-ranging case against a new sanctions bill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham—usually a staunch ally of the White House—introduced the legislation earlier this year. It’s designed to punish Russian individuals and companies over the Kremlin’s targeting of Ukraine, as well as its 2016 election interference in the U.S., its activities in Syria, and its attacks on dissidents. https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-administration-battles-new-sanctions-on-russia
10. Georgia Is Really Good at Making It Hard for Black People to Vote
Brian Kemp is Georgia’s governor due to one of the most controversial elections in recent memory. As secretary of state since 2010, he had eight years to winnow the electorate to his liking before November 2018, and did so by purging 1.4 million voters from the rolls, placing thousands of registrations on hold, and overseeing the closure or relocation of nearly half of the state’s precincts and polling sites. The unstated goal — though it was clear to anyone watching similar efforts by Republicans across the South — was to reduce the voting power of unfavorable constituencies: black people, poor people, students, and others. A study from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published on Friday shows just how successful these efforts were. Precinct closures and polling-site relocations in particular — which Kemp did not order, but allegedly encouraged and devised the guidelines for — prevented an estimated 54,000 to 85,000 voters from casting ballots last year, primarily by forcing them to travel much larger distances to vote. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/georgia-voter-suppression-under-kemp.html
11. Mike Bloomberg’s spending spree: $8 billion in philanthropy and tens of millions to political causes
Billionaire Mike Bloomberg has been steadily pumping tens of millions of dollars into the broader Democratic effort to defeat Donald Trump, part of a move to improve his standing in the party for his unconventional presidential campaign.
Though he has sworn off fundraising for his own campaign, he has made himself a top Democratic Party donor in just the past few weeks, quietly giving the party $625,000 to distribute to infrastructure efforts atop the $175,000 required of all candidates for access to the Democratic National Committee’s voter data. In coming days, his campaign plans to rally wealthy New York activists and donors to give more money to state parties for their programs to register and turn out voters.
Bloomberg has blanketed political committees, liberal interest groups, swing-state cities and key politicians with his money, donating more than $8 billion to philanthropy over his lifetime and hundreds of millions more to political causes. He ranks as a top donor to influential groups like the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mike-bloombergs-spending-spree-8-billion-in-philanthropy-and-tens-of-millions-to-political-causes/2019/12/14/8a9e1956-1d13-11ea-87f7-f2e91143c60d_story.html
12. We’ve seen enough: More than a dozen editorial boards call for Trump’s ment
The editorial pages of other national outlets — the New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today — have put their weight behind impeachment, along with major local papers around the country.
The list includes the Los Angeles Times, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Tampa Bay Times, the Orlando Sentinel, the Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“There may be no single, smoking gun, but there’s ample acrid black stuff rising from the White House,” the New York Daily News wrote. https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2019/12/14/weve-seen-enough-editorial-boards-weigh-impeachment/
13. The DAILY GRILL
So ridiculous. must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill! — Donald J. Trump@realDonald Trump attacking a 16-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome who was recognized as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
Shortly after Trump’s disgraceful tweet, Thunberg rewrote her Twitter bio. It now says: A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend. https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg
Thank you, Greta. If only everyone were so mature. — Karen Tumulty
Q: Why is it ever ok for an American president to ask a foreign power to investigate a political rival? Why do you think that’s ok?
GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko: “He didn’t. He didn’t do that”
Manu Raju: He did ask Zelensky
GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko: “He did not do that.” — Manu Raju@mkraju on his exchange with GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko.
Trump definitely did that. In the transcript of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump said, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.” — Jonathan Chait
Trump says in mocking voice “lieutenant colonel” Vindman, a member of his own National Security Council who raised concerns about his call with Zelensky. “He’s another beauty.” — Manu Raju@mkraju
Vindman attorney responds: “My client has seen war, and has sacrificed greatly for our country. He has said nothing publicly but for statements made pursuant to a subpoena. He deserves better than to be mocked, taunted, and bullied by the Commander-in-Chief,” per @kaitlancollins — Manu Raju@mkraju
“What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know, is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds,” he said. —The year was 1998. The president was Bill Clinton.
"It's a scam. It’s something that shouldn't be allowed and it's a very bad thing for our country. ... watched the Democrats and the committee make fools out of themselves.” — Donald Trump, who now appears emboldened to seek more foreign dirt on his political rival.
“When these Ukrainian government wanted to investigate corruption, like we all keep talking about they need to, well, they start investigating Burisma and what happens? Joe Biden says you’d better fire that prosecutor investigating corruption into Burisma or you’re not going to get a billion dollars. And six hours later that’s what happened. That’s called influence peddling that is a crime, and there is a prima facie case of that. And it’s absolutely appropriate for a president to ask about that.” — Rep. John Radcliffe (R-TX) accusing Joe Biden of felony influence peddling during the markup of Trump articles of impeachment.
Everything that Radcliffe said was a conspiracy theory and a lie. Republicans are trying to defend Trump by playing into the widely debunked Biden/Ukraine conspiracy theory. Joe Biden did not peddle influence, not did or could the vice president of the United States order a foreign country to fire a prosecutor. The prosecutor in question was corrupt, and Biden was acting on behalf of the United States and the West. There was international pressure to fire this corrupt prosecutor, but Rep. Radcliffe left that part of the story out. Republicans can’t argue the evidence, so they try to turn Trump impeachment into an indictment of Obama, or they baselessly accuse Joe Biden of felonies. -- Jason Easley.
Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!-- Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump November 2017
Amazing. Not a speck of truth here—Trump tweets he 'took a pass' at being named TIME's person of the year. — Alan Murray, Time’s chief content officer. November 2017
14. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
Fox's Mark Levin: “The next Democrat president of the United States must be impeached.”
Levin: “It's the only way we're going to stop them.” https://www.mediamatters.org/mark-levin/foxs-mark-levin-next-democrat-president-united-states-must-be-impeached
15. From the Late Shows
American Households Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/37nlTmRHvf8
A Conway Marriage Story - SNL: https://youtu.be/0B96ZM3C-h4
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Trump’s Allies In Congress Don't Care How History Will Remember Them: https://youtu.be/K7LHeV215vI
Late Night with Seth Meyers: Trump Blasts Impeachment Light at Deranged Rally: A Closer Look: https://youtu.be/nf6rJtoOL9c
16. 2020 Campaigns Throw Their Hands Up on Disinformation
Less than a year before the 2020 election, false political information is moving furiously online. Facebook users shared the top 100 false political stories over 2.3 million times in the United States in the first 10 months of this year, according to Avaaz, a global human rights organization.
The examples are numerous: A hoax version of the Green New Deal legislation went viral online. Millions of people saw unsubstantiated rumors about the relationship between Ukraine and the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. A canard about the ties between a Ukrainian oil company and a son of Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, spread widely, too.
Still, few politicians or their staffs are prepared to quickly notice and combat incorrect stories about them, according to dozens of campaign staff members and researchers who study online disinformation. Several of the researchers said they were surprised by how little outreach they had received from politicians. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/15/technology/2020-campaigns-disinformation.html
17. Trump has made 15,413 false or misleading claims over 1,055 days
As of Dec. 10, his 1,055th day in office, Trump had made 15,413 false or misleading claims, according to the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered. That’s an average of more than 32 claims a day since our last update 62 days ago.
Nearly 600 of the false or misleading claims made by the president in the past two months relate just to the Ukraine investigation.
Trump apparently believes he can weather an impeachment trial through sheer repetition of easily disproven falsehoods. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/16/president-trump-has-made-false-or-misleading-claims-over-days/
18. Trump’s impeachment is like Jesus’ crucifixion, the Salem witch trials and Pearl Harbor all rolled into one
With hours of debate to fill before President Trump is impeached and only a minute or two for each member to make an impact, there is a premium on getting your point across.
Hence, a series of vivid metaphors.
Trump got the ball rolling by comparing his treatment unfavorably to the Salem witch trials. “More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials,” he wrote.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) decided that Trump was denied even the feeble due process that Pontius Pilate granted Jesus before his crucifixion.
Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) invoked Jesus’ crucifixion — specifically when Jesus, on the cross, asked God to forgive those who had wronged him:
“So I want Democrats voting for impeachment today to know that I’ll be praying for them,” Keller said. “From the Gospel of Luke, the 23rd chapter, verse 34: And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ”
Shortly after Loudermilk spoke, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) offered his own comparison, saying Trump’s impeachment was more like Pearl Harbor. Here are his comments:
In addition to Christmas being something we celebrate, the Boston Tea Party took place in December, but also on December 7, 1941, a horrific act happened in the United States. And this one that President Roosevelt said, ‘This is a date that will live in infamy.’ Today, December the 18th, 2019, is another date that will live in infamy .…
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) offered his own vivid imagery without going for historical metaphors:
“I have descended into the belly of the beast. I have witnessed a terror within,” he began. “And I was committed to oppose the insidious forces which threaten our republic. America has been severely injured by this betrayal, by this unjust and weaponized impeachment brought upon us by the same socialists who threaten unborn life in the womb, who threaten First Amendment rights of conservatives, who threaten Second Amendment protections of every American patriot, and who have long ago determined that they would organize and conspire to overthrow President Trump.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/18/trumps-impeachment-is-like-jesuss-crucifixion-salem-witch-trials-pearl-harbor-all-rolled-into-one/
1. Brian Stelter: The right-wing roots of impeachment
How did we get here? How did Trump wind up on the verge of impeachment? Well, his sources of information led him astray. He was misinformed by the shows and sites he was watching and reading.
To be clear: His choices, what Trump did with the information — the withholding of aid money, the alleged shakedown of the Ukrainian president, the claims that it was a "perfect" phone call — that's all his own doing. Trump is responsible for what he did. But what he was hearing from right-wing media was crucial. The conspiratorial bent of his favorite talk shows was critical.
Re: Ukraine and 2016: Sean Hannity and other Trump backers took tiny bits of true information from a January 2017 Politico story titled "Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire" and blew it way out of proportion, to the point that some viewers thought Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. Hannity leaned on the Politico story for months and months — in fact, he's still talking about it, as of Sunday -- so it's no wonder why Trump harbored a grudge against Ukraine.
Re: the Bidens and Burisma: Enter John Solomon, the right-wing columnist for The Hill who worked closely with Rudy Giuliani to light the fuse of the Ukraine scandal. Trump was watching when Solomon went on Hannity in March and described a Ukrainian effort to "try to influence the United States election in favor of Hillary Clinton." We know he was watching because he tweeted about the segment. Solomon rolled out an anti-Biden conspiracy theory... the feedback loop kept looping... and it ultimately ensnared Trump.
Re: the aid money for Ukraine, according to WaPo, Trump saw an article from the right-leaning Washington Examiner titled "Pentagon to send $250M in weapons to Ukraine" and started to ask Q's about the $$.
Here's the thing: The pro-Trump media bubble did not actually help Trump. To the contrary, it led him to the brink of impeachment. https://mailchi.mp/cnn/rs-dec-16-2019?e=68d83fdfcf
2. Bess Levin: Trump Pens Deranged Six-Page Impeachment Letter, Mails It To Nancy Pelosi
Something you may have heard once or twice over the course of the last few months is that Donald Trump is facing impeachment on charges he abused the power of the presidency and obstructed Congress. Something you may also have picked up on is that he is not taking the whole thing very well, a shocking turn of events given that he typically takes slights, perceived or otherwise, in total stride. The president has raged against the impeachment inquiry as a politically motivated “witch hunt,” claimed on a near hourly basis that he’s the victim of “harassment,” called for Rep. Adam Schiff to be questioned for high treason, and suggested the U.S. execute the whistle-blower’s sources like “in the old days.”
Most recently he decided, the day before the House holds its momentous vote, to send a completely unhinged letter to Nancy Pelosi filled with dozens of falsehoods, characteristically deranged capitalization, insults, historic self-pity, and incredible claims like the one about how he’s been treated worse than “those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.” It’s the sort of document that itself makes the case that Trump is unfit for office, but which his staff, in all its infinite wisdom, apparently decided to let him put on White House letterhead and release for the world to see.
Anyway, as insane letters go, it gives Trump’s most insane letter to date—the one he wrote to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—a real run for its money. It loses points only for his failure to sign off by telling Nancy: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.” But it’s definitely up there. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/12/donald-trump-nancy-pelosi-letter
3. Washington Post Editorial: While the president rages, the world melts
As President Trump spent another week rage-tweeting, the world continued to warm, and the consequences became ever-clearer — and more alarming.
A consortium of 89 scientists released in the journal Nature on Tuesday a study showing that Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is losing seven times as much ice now as a quarter-century ago. At times, climate deniers insist that the Earth’s ecosystems are so vast that humans could not affect them as drastically as scientists insist. So try to imagine the size of these shifts: Greenland has lost nearly 4 trillion tons of ice since 1992. Scientists fear Greenland has shed nearly 400 billion tons this year alone.
Also on Tuesday, the federal Arctic Report Card found that thawing permafrost may already be emitting massive amounts of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere. As melting proceeds, microbes break down dead plants and animals previously trapped in the permafrost, releasing carbon dioxide and methane in the process. This is one of the perilous feedback loops that scientists feared, as warming promotes thawing permafrost and thawing permafrost promotes more warming. It is unclear how bad Arctic greenhouse gas releases will get, and how quickly — but this is more bad news. Even when humans finally stop pumping greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere, the legacy of humanity’s reshaping of the planet will manifest for decades and centuries.
Amid these discouraging developments, the European Union this past week formally adopted the goal of producing no net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a target scientists have counseled world leaders to meet. “Our goal is to reconcile our economy with our planet, and make it work for our people,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Imagine those words coming from Mr. Trump — or almost any Republican. Unfortunately, Americans have to look across an ocean for global leadership on one of the world’s most pressing issues. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/while-the-president-rages-the-world-melts/2019/12/14/bd297e6a-1de5-11ea-8d58-5ac3600967a1_story.html
4. Max Boot: The only principle Republicans have left is partisanship
I come before you, my friends, to defend Republicans against charges that they are unprincipled, two-faced hypocrites.
Pointy-headed coastal elitists, with all sorts of useless book learning that real Americans don’t need, have been arguing that when it comes to impeachment, the POT (that’s Party of Trump) is calling the kettle black. They accuse the Republicans of inconsistency and insincerity in ways that go far beyond a Republican member of Congress who was once arrested for drunk driving bringing up the fact that a crack pipe was once found in a car rented by Hunter Biden.
Here’s what the usual suspects — you know, the human scum, traitors and enemies of the people — are saying. They point out that Republicans fervently denounce the mythical Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and then turn around and argue that President Trump has the right — nay, the obligation — to demand Ukrainian interference in the 2020 election.
Some lightweight, very low I.Q. individuals even have the audacity to point out that the Republicans who now think that compliance with House subpoenas is strictly optional once held Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with House subpoenas. In 2012, then-Rep. Trey Gowdy (R.-S.C.) sternly said, “The notion that you could withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you’re the party in power or not in power is wrong.” This year, Gowdy is singing a different tune: “Congress as a coequal branch of government can ask for whatever they want to ask for,” the former congressman told Fox News. “Now it doesn’t mean you have to show up, and it doesn’t mean you have to talk, and it doesn’t mean you have to produce documents.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/15/only-principle-republicans-have-left-is-partisanship/
5. Eric Holder: William Barr is unfit to be attorney general
As a former U.S. attorney general, I am reluctant to publicly criticize my successors. I respect the office and understand just how tough the job can be.
But recently, Attorney General William P. Barr has made a series of public statements and taken actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office.
It’s particularly ironic in light of the attorney general’s comments this week, in which he attacked the FBI and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General — two vital components of his own department. Having spent the majority of my career in public service, I found it extraordinary to watch the nation’s chief law enforcement official claim — without offering any evidence — that the FBI acted in “bad faith” when it opened an inquiry into then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. As a former line prosecutor, U.S. attorney and judge, I found it alarming to hear Barr comment on an ongoing investigation, led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the Russia probe. And as someone who spent six years in the office Barr now occupies, it was infuriating to watch him publicly undermine an independent inspector general report — based on an exhaustive review of the FBI’s conduct — using partisan talking points bearing no resemblance to the facts his own department has uncovered.
The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him. William Barr has proved he is incapable of serving as such an attorney general. He is unfit to lead the Justice Department. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eric-holder-william-barr-is-unfit-to-be-attorney-general/2019/12/11/99882092-1c55-11ea-87f7-f2e91143c60d_story.html
6. Jonathan Chait: Report: Trump’s Ukraine Extortion Scheme Was Financed by Russians
Trump is facing impeachment primarily for abusing his power for political gain, extorting a foreign country to discredit his political rivals. The secondary aspect of the plot is that the target of his extortion is hardly random. Ukraine is the victim of Russian aggression, and Russia’s continuing incursions into Ukrainian territory is the muscle that gave Trump’s threats leverage. Trump’s domestic interests are one intended beneficiary of his scheme. The other is Vladimir Putin.
Trump and his allies insist he has actually pursued a hawkish line in Ukraine. “Mr. Trump didn’t withhold military aid to Ukraine, and even if he had he would have merely been returning to Barack Obama’s policy of denying lethal aid,” argues a Wall Street Journal editorial. “No one has done more to limit Russia’s ability to engage in mischief than President Trump,” insists Representative Matt Gaetz in a Fox News segment retweeted by the president.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors charged yesterday evening that Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump who represented him in Ukraine, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest. Which is to say, Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.
Rudy has worked as Trump’s lawyer for “free,” but Parnas paid him half a million dollars for his work. If Parnas himself was being paid by Russian sources, this means the Russians were essentially subsidizing Trump, paying for the work themselves so he didn’t have to lay out a dime of his own money. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/report-parnas-russia-ukraine-trump-impeachment-giuliani-money.html
7. Garrett Graff: Fox News Is Now a Threat to National Security
The idea that Fox News represents a literal threat to our national security, on par with Russia’s Internet Research Agency or China’s Ministry of State Security, may seem like a dramatic overstatement of its own—and I, a paid contributor to its competitor CNN, may appear a biased voice anyway—but this week has made clear that, as we get deeper into the impeachment process and as the 2020 election approaches, Fox News is prepared to destroy America’s democratic traditions if it will help its most important and most dedicated daily viewer.
The threat posed to our democracy by Fox News is multifaceted: First and most simply, it’s clearly advancing and giving voice to narratives and smears backed and imagined by our foreign adversaries. Second, its overheated and bombastic rhetoric is undermining America’s foundational ideals and the sense of fair play in politics. Third, its unique combination of lies and half-truths has built a virtual reality so complete that it leaves its viewers too misinformed to fulfill their most basic responsibilities as citizens to make informed choices about the direction of the country.
The network’s pantheon of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura In, Lou Dobbs, and the rotating couch-cast of Fox & Friends’ morning show dunces-by-choice together represent a level of ill-informed demagoguery that would make Father Coughlin and Huey Long wince.
More than simply embarrassing themselves by spouting obvious falsehoods, though, Fox News’ incendiary, fanatical rants serve to delegitimize to its viewers the very idea of a political opposition. Every Democrat is evil. Every person who disagrees with President Trump is an enemy of the state. Every career federal employee is a member of a deep state opposition.
Let’s hope that Fox News today, unlike in Orwell’s world, doesn’t manage to succeed in transforming our country from a functional democracy into an authoritarian cult. https://www.wired.com/story/fox-news-is-now-a-threat-to-national-security/
8. George T. Conway III: Donald Trump Made His Own Impeachment Inevitable
As I’ve explained at length in The Atlantic, Trump’s exceptional narcissism defines him, and it’s what makes him wholly unfit for his job. “The fundamental life goal” of an extreme narcissist, as one psychologist has put it, “is to promote the greatness of the self, for all to see.” And that’s Trump, to the point of absurdity, mendacity, even delusion: Calling reporters pretending to be “John Barron,” a fake PR man, to brag about his wealth and sexual exploits; lying about the size of his inauguration crowd; asserting that Robert Mueller’s report provided him with “complete and total exoneration” and found “no obstruction”; claiming that his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “pitch perfect” and that the whistle-blower “got the conversation almost completely wrong”—not to mention the thousands of other lies that have been cataloged over the course of his presidency. So narcissistic is Trump that he attempts not merely to con others, but to con himself, to assure himself of his greatness. Cruz again nailed it in 2016: Trump is a “pathological liar” who “doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/house-vote-impeachment-was-inevitable/603835/
9. Jonathan Chait: Hunter Biden Is the New Hillary Clinton Email Server
Biden, whose life was in a downward spiral, took a job with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which was transparently attempting to gain influence with Hunter’s father. The maneuver was unsuccessful for Burisma (which received no favorable treatment from the vice-president), fairly successful for Hunter (who received a hefty paycheck for minimal work), and has left a residue of low-grade sleaze that Joe Biden’s campaign has proven unable to scrape away. The dilemma this poses for Biden, and his party, is what — if anything — they can do about this problem.
Democrats have bitter experience with this sort of flaw. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State is an eerily similar precursor. It was a small error borne of neglect — Clinton was a technophobe in search of an easy way to keep track of her work-related devices, and ignored proper security protocol for handling State Department email by using a private server. And Trump turned the small error into a gigantic scandal, accusing her of heinous crimes and ludicrously insisting she ought to be imprisoned over them.
Trump’s most blatant security breaches make the use of a private server look trivial. Trump has routinely used a cell phone to communicate and opened himself up to private espionage — like in the now-famous case in which he talked via cell phone to Gordon Sondland, who was in Kiev, in a call almost certainly intercepted by Russia. Most of Trump’s lax security protocol is both far more serious than Clinton’s snafu, and still not on anybody’s list of the 100 worst things Trump has done in office. For that reason, reporters obviously aren’t going to give it anywhere near Clinton-email levels of attention. Nobody who voted against Clinton because they thought her emails were a major scandal is going to realize Trump’s information-security record has been worse. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/hunter-biden-is-the-new-hillary-clinton-email-server.html
10. NY Times Editorial Board: Impeach
IN THE END, the story told by the two articles of impeachment approved on Friday morning by the House Judiciary Committee is short, simple and damning: President Donald Trump abused the power of his office by strong-arming Ukraine, a vulnerable ally, holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid until it agreed to help him influence the 2020 election by digging up dirt on a political rival.
When caught in the act, he rejected the very idea that a president could be required by Congress to explain and justify his actions, showing “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance” in the face of multiple subpoenas. He made it impossible for Congress to carry out fully its constitutionally mandated oversight role, and, in doing so, he violated the separation of powers, a safeguard of the American republic.
To quote from the articles, “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.”
By stonewalling as no previous president has, Donald Trump has left Congress with no choice but to press ahead to a Senate trial. The president insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing, yet he refuses to release any administration documents or allow any administration officials to testify — though, if his assertions are in fact true, those officials would presumably exonerate him. He refused to present any defense before the House whatsoever, asserting a form of monarchical immunity that Congress cannot let stand. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/14/opinion/sunday/trump-impeachment.html
11. William Saletan: Barr Is Trying to Erase the Truth
At first, Barr seemed to be an ordinary liar. But in recent months, he has displayed a fanatical streak that suggests he might sincerely believe his fictions. “People are saying that it’s President Trump that’s shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that,” Barr opined in May. The true threat, he argued, came from Americans “resisting a democratically elected president.” In October, Barr accused “so-called progressives” of a “campaign to destroy the traditional moral order.” Last month, he denounced these same “so-called progressives,” along with a “hyper-partisan media,” for waging “a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of ‘Resistance’ against this Administration.”
This week, Barr pounced on a Justice Department report about the Russia investigation. The report, issued on Monday by the department’s inspector general, faulted the FBI’s surveillance of a marginal Trump adviser, Carter Page, but found no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions” of investigators. A normal attorney general would have welcomed this vindication of his department. But Barr works for Trump, not for law enforcement. Instead of embracing the report, he’s disparaging it, smearing the FBI, and pretending that Trump has been exonerated.
Mueller, the FBI, and the press found considerable evidence that Trump and his campaign sought to collaborate with Russia to win the election. They also found that Trump obstructed the investigation. The only reason Trump remains unindicted is that Barr declared the evidence insufficient. Now Barr is saying the evidence never existed. If he’s not delusional, he’s a liar. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/12/barr-doj-ig-russia-report-erase-truth.html
12. Aaron Blake: One America News’s Ukraine-Rudy Giuliani exposé is a stunning piece of propaganda
President Trump has pointed Republicans who believe Fox News is too fair and balanced in the direction of a relatively new cable news destination: One America News Network.
And to see the channel’s supposed exposés on former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and Ukraine, you begin to understand why.
The reports are a mélange of innuendo, slanted language, Trumpian talking points and dramatic music, without any real pretense. It’s the kind of thing that would completely look at home if it were on low-budget state TV. A sampling from the closing segment of its investigation this week:
“Democrat impeachment led by failed and frustrated screenwriter turned Hollywood congressman Adam Schiff has turned into full-blown and public investigation of an international scandal involving not Donald J. Trump, but the Bidens, the Democratic Party and our U.S. State Department.”
“an impeachment hoax that amounts to a coup”
“Some will call it treason.”
The Russia investigation moved to “target innocent people to indulge the FBI’s personal hatred for President Trump” — as it shows images of George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.
A reference to the “real whistleblowers — whistleblowers not huddling in Adam Schiff’s basement” (there is no evidence the Ukraine whistleblower worked with Schiff personally)
Calling Hunter Biden the “drug addict son” of Joe Biden
For more on the rather remarkable presentation of this investigation, watch this unbelievable video. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/16/one-america-newss-ukraine-rudy-giuliani-expose-is-stunning-piece-propaganda/
13. David Ignatius: Rudy Inc.
As the Ukraine investigation moves toward a House floor vote on articles of impeachment, the most intriguing personality may be the man who arguably set this bizarre chain of events in motion — Rudolph W. Giuliani, President’s Trump’s personal lawyer and global fixer.
Giuliani occupies a unique perch: He’s the president’s advocate, but he is snared in probes of his own actions, including reported federal grand jury subpoenas requesting information about Giuliani and his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners. He’s the man who seeks to protect Trump but sometimes seems to be digging the president deeper in a hole with his own public actions and comments.
Consequential moments such as a presidential impeachment sometimes begin with small, almost random events. That seems true of Giuliani’s entanglement with Ukraine. He had legal clients and contacts there he thought could help him and the president; month by month, Trump followed Giuliani toward the vortex of what will likely be the third impeachment of a commander in chief in American history. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/16/rudy-inc/
14. Laurence H. Tribe: Don’t let Mitch McConnell conduct a Potemkin impeachment trial
For some time now, I have been emphasizing the duty to impeach this president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress regardless of what the Senate might end up doing. Now that President Trump’s impeachment is inevitable, and now that failing to formally impeach him would invite foreign intervention in the 2020 election and set a dangerous precedent, another option seems vital to consider: voting for articles of impeachment but holding off for the time being on transmitting them to the Senate.
This option needs to be taken seriously now that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced his intention to conduct not a real trial but a whitewash, letting the president and his legal team call the shots.
Such an approach could have both tactical and substantive benefits. As a tactical matter, it could strengthen Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) hand in bargaining over trial rules with McConnell because of McConnell’s and Trump’s urgent desire to get this whole business behind them. On a substantive level, it would be justified to withhold going forward with a Senate trial. Under the current circumstances, such a proceeding would fail to render a meaningful verdict of acquittal. It would also fail to inform the public, which has the right to know the truth about the conduct of its president. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dont-let-mitch-mcconnell-conduct-a-potemkin-impeachment-trial/2019/12/16/71a81b30-202f-11ea-a153-dce4b94e4249_story.html