ON THE RECORD. . .
These were memorable moments, but not as memorable as the abject submission to Trump and Trumpery that the elected Republicans displayed throughout. When historians look back on this day, that is surely what they will find most notable, and tragic. — John Cassidy in the New Yorker.
Dear Mr. President, …In the spirit of respecting our Constitution, I invite you to deliver your State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 in the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi inviting Trump to deliver the State Of The Union potentially during his impeachment trial.
“The party that lost the election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results by other means.” — Vladimir Putin calling the U.S. impeachment process “far-fetched.”
A Denver talk radio host was fired after he said he wanted a "nice school shooting" to interrupt coverage of "the never-ending impeachment..." — ABC News
Video of Trump in 2014 saying what being impeached would do to Obama: "He would be a mess. He would be thinking about nothing but. It would be a horror show for him. It would be an absolute embarrassment. It would go down on his record permanently.” — andrew kaczynski@KFILE
“The Constitution provides for impeachment and removal to protect us from officials, including presidents, who are unable or unwilling to distinguish between the common good that government is supposed to serve and their own narrow interests. Though he has done some good things in office, Trump is just such a president. Congress should act accordingly.” — Ramesh Ponnuru writing in National Review.
“Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places. Let’s start protecting our voters. We know where they are… Let’s start playing offense a little bit. That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.” — Justin Clark, one of Trump’s top re-election advisers telling influential Republicans in Wisconsin that the party has ‘traditionally’ relied on voter suppression to compete in battleground states but will be able to ‘start playing offense’ in 2020 due to relaxed Election Day rules, according to an audio recording of a private event obtained by the Associated Press.
“It might not be fair, but none of the successes, achievements and triumphs you’ve had in public office — whatever bills you’ve passed, hearings you’ve chaired, constituents you have had the privilege of helping — will matter more than your actions in the coming months. President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.” — Jeff Flake to his former Senate Republican colleagues
The idea that Trump was actually representing the country, not himself, when he asked Ukraine to investigate his political rivals is almost insulting. Not only was Trump representing himself when he asked a favor, Trump only represents himself. The idea of representing the country — the entire thing, not just the part that supports him — is utterly foreign to Trump. — Jonathan Chait
“If they think I committed a crime, they’re out of their minds. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I know how not to commit crimes.” — Rudy Giuliani, in an interview with New York Magazine, on being investigated by the Southern District of New York.
“Trump is psychologically, morally, intellectually, and emotionally unfit for office. His inability to follow normal decision-making protocols has created chaos in our foreign policy and put our country at risk. We can only hope Congress impeaches and removes him so we have a choice between two adults in 2020.” — Former Rep. David Trott (R-MI) in a letter to the editor of The Atlantic.
McConnell has presided over absolutely destroying Senate norms, from Merrick Garland to killing legislative debate. The Senate is no longer what it was, and the people of this country are gonna have to be the ones politically to put pressure on this dysfunction and say we want unity, we want stuff to get done, we want you to quit the partisan food fight.” — Former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
“She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people who voted for me and the Republican Party… She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country.”— Trump lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats involved in his impeachment after a teleconference in which he exchanged holiday greetings with members of the military stationed around the globe.
“Santa understands the vital role coal has and will continue to play in human flourishing. Accordingly, he has called for coal-shaming to end and in an effort to start this trend, he will be leaving a lump of ‘beautiful, clean coal’ in the president’s stocking. Regardless of their naughty or nice status, all little boys and all little girls deserve a brighter, healthier and more prosperous future and the path for that starts with a reliable, safe and clean source of energy.” — Mandy Gunasekara, who previously served as a senior official in Trump’s EPA, saying that the myth about “coal in the stocking” of a bad children is just propaganda from the renewable fuels industry.
IN THIS ISSUE
1. Andy Borowitz: Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans
Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.
The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.
“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”
More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/
2. Tilting at Windmills
While Trump was mocking the Green New Deal to attendees of the Turning Point USA conference Saturday, he turned his attention to wind power.
“I never understood wind,” Trump said, according to Mediaite. “I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody. I know it is very expensive. They are made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none, but they are manufactured, tremendous — if you are into this — tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right?”
“So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spewing into the air, right spewing, whether it is China or Germany, is going into the air,” the president added.
“A windmill will kill many bald eagles,” Trump continued. “After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off, that is true. By the way, they make you turn it off. And yet, if you killed one, they put you in jail. That is OK. But why is it OK for windmills to destroy the bird population?” https://www.mediaite.com/trump/trump-attacks-windmills-in-speech-to-conservative-group-i-never-understood-wind/
3. Trump touts Putin’s speaking out against his impeachment
Late Friday night, minutes before deplaning in Florida for the holidays, President Trump retweeted a link to an article in which Russian President Vladimir Putin defended him against impeachment.
“A total Witch Hunt!” the president tweeted at 10:30 p.m., as he shared a 36-hour-old Associated Press tweet that read: “BREAKING: Russian President Vladimir Putin says U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment is far-fetched and predicts the U.S. Senate will reject it.”
Trump’s boasting of Putin’s support comes a day after The Washington Post reported that White House advisers feared Trump’s belief that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for interfering with the 2016 election was spurred by conversations Trump had with Putin.
Trump’s critics responded to the tweet, expressing exasperation more than incredulity.
“Putin is a dictator who jails opponents, kills opponents, invades neighbors, interferes in democracies’ elections, etc. I don’t think an American president should be buddying with him. I wonder if Trump defenders are ever (secretly) embarrassed by this stuff. I hope so,” wrote Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at the right-leaning National Review.
At his annual end-of-the-year news conference on Thursday, Putin was asked about Trump’s impeachment. He called the charges “completely fabricated reasons.”
Popular Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Soloviev gave an impassioned defense of Trump on his evening show, raising his voice several times in a discussion with Atlantic Council expert Ariel Cohen. “I can’t understand for what reason [Democrats] don’t like Trump,” Soloviev said. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-touts-putin-speaking-out-against-his-impeachment/2019/12/21/7f23baf2-2404-11ea-a153-dce4b94e4249_story.html
4. Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Winter Vacation Pushes Taxpayer Golf Tab Above $118 million
Donald Trump has pushed his taxpayer-funded golf tab past $118 million on his 26th visit to Mar-a-Lago, his for-profit resort in Palm Beach, Florida, with a Saturday visit to his course in neighboring West Palm Beach.
The new total is the equivalent of 296 years of the $400,000 presidential salary that his supporters often boast that he is not taking.
And of that $118.3 million, at least several million has gone into Trump’s own cash registers, as Secret Service agents, White House staff and other administration officials stay and eat at his hotels and golf courses.
The exact amount going into Trump’s pocket cannot be determined because the White House refuses to reveal how many Trump aides have been staying at his properties when he visits them and the administration will not turn over receipts for the charges incurred. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-golf-again-mar-a-lago-118-million_n_5dfe5f85e4b05b08bab65fad?998
5. Hundreds of ‘pink slime’ local news outlets are distributing algorithmic stories and conservative talking points
An increasingly popular tactic challenges conventional wisdom on the spread of electoral disinformation: the creation of partisan outlets masquerading as local news organizations. An investigation by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School has discovered at least 450 websites in a network of local and business news organizations, each distributing thousands of algorithmically generated articles and a smaller number of reported stories. Of the 450 sites we discovered, at least 189 were set up as local news networks across ten states within the last twelve months by an organization called Metric Media. https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/hundreds-of-pink-slime-local-news-outlets-are-distributing-algorithmic-stories-conservative-talking-points.php
6. Pentagon’s Policy Chief Under Fire as Senior Officials Head for the Exits
Three years into U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, the Pentagon is bleeding senior policymakers faster than it can replace them, an exodus that many current and former defense officials largely blame on a toxic work environment created by John Rood, the Defense Department’s top policy official. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/18/pentagon-policy-chief-john-rood-under-fire-senior-officials-leave/
7. Under secret Stephen Miller plan, ICE to use data on migrant children to expand deportation efforts
The White House sought this month to embed immigration enforcement agents within the U.S. refugee agency that cares for unaccompanied migrant children, part of a long-standing effort to use information from their parents and relatives to target them for deportation, according to six current and former administration officials.
Though senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services rejected the attempt, they agreed to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to collect fingerprints and other biometric information from adults seeking to claim migrant children at government shelters. If those adults are deemed ineligible to take custody of children, ICE could then use their information to target them for arrest and deportation.
The arrangement appears to circumvent laws that restrict the use of the refugee program for deportation enforcement; Congress has made clear that it does not want those who come forward as potential sponsors of minors in U.S. custody to be frightened away by possible deportation. But, in the reasoning of senior Trump administration officials, adults denied custody of children lose their status as “potential sponsors” and are fair game for arrest.
The plan has not been announced publicly. It was developed by Stephen Miller, President Trump’s top immigration adviser, who has long argued that HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement is being exploited by parents who hire smugglers to bring their children into the United States illegally. The agency manages shelters that care for underage migrants who cross the border without a parent and tries to identify sponsors — typically family members — eligible to take custody of the minors. https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/under-secret-stephen-miller-plan-ice-to-use-data-on-migrant-children-to-expand-deportation-efforts/2019/12/20/36975b34-22a8-11ea-bed5-880264cc91a9_story.html
8. U.S. Envoy to Ukraine Asked to Step Aside Ahead of Pompeo Visit
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor was instructed by a top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hand over responsibilities for his post just days before Mr. Pompeo plans to visit the Ukrainian capital.
That timing countered earlier suggestions that Mr. Taylor’s precise departure date was predetermined, and will allow Mr. Pompeo to avoid meeting or being photographed with an ambassador who has drawn President Trump’s ire for his testimony in the congressional impeachment inquiry, according to this person and to Ukrainian officials. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-envoy-to-ukraine-was-asked-to-step-aside-ahead-of-pompeo-visit-11576715785
9. Former White House officials say they feared Putin influenced the president’s views on Ukraine and 2016 campaign
Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides: Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House.
After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.
The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”
Allegations about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 race have been promoted by an array of figures, including right-wing journalists whose work the president avidly consumes, as well as Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer. But U.S. intelligence officials told lawmakers and their staff members this past fall that Russian security services played a major role in spreading false claims of Ukrainian complicity, said people familiar with the assessments. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/former-white-house-officials-say-they-feared-putin-influenced-the-presidents-views-on-ukraine-and-2016-campaign/2019/12/19/af0fdbf6-20e9-11ea-bed5-880264cc91a9_story.html
10. Trump speaks at swank GOP fundraiser, his DC hotel profits
Donald Trump took the stage in the ballroom of his luxury hotel in Washington on Saturday night, just days before an impeachment vote, to rail against his political rivals as a crowd of high-dollar Republican donors and party activists cheered.
In the weeks leading up to the invitation-only event, advertised rates for a standard room at the Trump International Hotel surged to as high as $6,719 — more than a dozen times the posted price for rooms on other weekends.
Even at the sky-high prices, the website for Trump’s hotel indicated last week that all 263 guest rooms and suites were booked.
Ethics watchdogs have long pointed to Trump’s landmark D.C. hotel, housed in a leased federal building just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, as emblematic of how the president mixes his elected office with his family’s business interests. https://apnews.com/baf440eb06883e4e6b5badebcecdec0c
11. The DAILY GRILL
A far left magazine, or very “progressive,” as some would call it, which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years, Christianity Today, knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather.....have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President. No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again! — Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
The man who just yesterday derided a dead American hero and his widow; who cheated on his third wife with a porn star while she was at home caring for their newborn; who separates children from parents; want you to believe Christianity Today knows nothing about being Christian. — Morten Øverbye@morten
"The number 3 House Democrat, James Clyburn, just said this about President Trump: 'Hang him!' This hatred and anger is out of control," the Trump campaign's "war room" tweeted along with a video clip from Clyburn's Thursday interview with CNN's John Berman on "New Day," which you can watch here: https://twitter.com/NewDay/status/1207654179633803266
Clyburn did use the words "hang him," but this was not a call to hang Trump or anyone else. Rather, Clyburn was saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments in favor of Trump's acquittal on articles of impeachment, in advance of a Senate trial, have shown that McConnell is "not going to be impartial" in running the proceedings -- just as if it would show bias if someone with the "reverse" perspective had said in advance of a trial, "Let's give him a fair trial and hang him.’"https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/20/politics/fact-check-trump-campaign-clyburn-hang-him/index.html
12. Rep. Matt Shea expelled from GOP caucus after investigation finds he engaged in domestic terrorism
House Republican leaders expelled state Rep. Matt Shea from their caucus Thursday after an independent investigation found the Spokane Valley lawmaker’s role in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016 amounted to “an act of domestic terrorism against the United States.”
The findings of the four-month investigation are detailed in a 108-page report that was delivered to rank-and-file members of the House on Thursday. Leaders of both parties called for Shea’s resignation and said the findings had been forwarded to the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office.
“He absolutely should resign,” said Republican Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, of Yelm. “His role as a House Republican is over.”
Shea responded with characteristic defiance, writing on Facebook late Thursday: “Like we are seeing with our President this is a sham investigation meant to silence those of us who stand up against attempts to disarm and destroy our great country. I will not back down, I will not give in, I will not resign. Stand strong fellow Patriots.” https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2019/dec/19/rep-matt-shea-engaged-in-domestic-terrorism-during/
13. Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’
Deforestation and other fast-moving changes in the Amazon threaten to turn parts of the rainforest into savanna, devastate wildlife and release billions of tons carbon into the atmosphere, two renowned experts warned Friday.
“The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we,” Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, both of whom have studied the world’s largest rainforest for decades, wrote in an editorial in the journal Science Advances. “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.”
Combined with recent news that the thawing Arctic permafrost may be beginning to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at an accelerating pace, it’s the latest hint that important parts of the climate system may be moving toward irreversible changes at a pace that defies earlier predictions. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/top-scientists-warn-of-an-amazon-tipping-point/2019/12/20/9c9be954-233e-11ea-bed5-880264cc91a9_story.html
14. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
Tucker Carlson labels children separated from their parents at the border “people who have no right to be here.” https://www.mediamatters.org/tucker-carlson/tucker-carlson-labels-children-separated-their-parents-border-people-who-have-no
Tucker Carlson: Bernie Sanders “knows that his party hates people like him.” https://www.mediamatters.org/bernie-sanders/tucker-carlson-bernie-sanders-knows-his-party-hates-people-him
Lou Dobbs: “It will be century after century of veneration for this president.” https://www.mediamatters.org/lou-dobbs/lou-dobbs-it-will-be-century-after-century-veneration-president
In 2019, Fox took climate change denial to insane new levels even as global temperatures reached record heights, natural disasters wreaked havoc, and youth environmental activism led millions of people in protests around the world. Even if you just look at news of the past few weeks, Australia is on fire, the oceans are running out of oxygen, and the Amazon rainforest is at a “tipping point.” https://www.mediamatters.org/climate-deniers/fox-news-year-climate-denial-and-conspiracy-theories
15. From the Late Shows
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Rudy Giuliani Returns From His Conspiracy Tour Of Ukraine: https://youtu.be/i1JlLV3WvX8
Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse of Trump Supporters on Impeachment | The Daily Show: https://youtu.be/IRFKFexoBdc
PBS Democratic Debate Cold Open - SNL - YouTube: https://youtu.be/142DfJ4Ch1U
1. David Remnick: Trump’s Impeachment and “Impeachment Lite”
There was a time, not so long ago, when Lindsey Graham recognized, and said publicly, that Trump was “unfit for office”—and when Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and so many other Republicans in Congress recognized Trump for the moral vacuum that he is. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, once called Trump “a terrible human being.” Rick Perry, his Secretary of Energy, saw him as a “barking carnival act” and deemed his candidacy “a cancer on conservatism.” Ted Cruz called him a “pathological liar” and “utterly immoral.” They used to care. But things have changed.
At the same time, nearly every loyalist who leaves the Trump White House—James Mattis, Gary Cohn, H. R. McMaster, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, et al.—comes clean, on or off the record, about despising Trump. They describe in detail the President’s countless acts of duplicity and incompetence. Only fearful, humiliated ex-Trumpers in need of campaign support, such as Jeff Sessions, who is again running for the Senate in Alabama, abase themselves and speak of his virtue. Nikki Haley, who seems intent on being Trump’s successor (or perhaps Mike Pence’s replacement on the ticket), refers to Trump as “great to work with” and “truthful”; in 2016, she said that he was “everything a governor doesn’t want in a President.”
In other words, when it comes to Trump, everyone knows. As the Republican caucus members fell into line on Wednesday, they revealed themselves. No one defended Trump on the merits, on the facts—not with any conviction or coherence. Who came to praise his character or values? No one. Instead, there were only counter-accusations, smoke-bomb diversions about procedure, ill will, and even talk of the President’s martyrdom. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/trumps-impeachment-and-impeachment-lite
2. Mark Galli in Christianity Today: Trump Should Be Removed from Office
To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?
We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html
3. Susan B. Glasser: The House’s Sad, Predictable, Partisan, and Historic Impeachment of Donald Trump
Trump’s impeachment was mostly just another crazy, divisive moment in his crazy, divisive Presidency—an inevitable day, a predictable day, a partisan day, a long day, and, in the end, a historic day. There was rage, real and feigned. There were speeches, dozens and dozens of them. When I arrived on Capitol Hill in the morning, it was a bright, sunny day, and before going into the Capitol I watched as a protester toting a “Criminal in Chief” sign chased after the Republican Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s loudest television surrogates, begging to talk to him. “I’m not even trolling you!” she said breathlessly. But, of course, nobody really wanted to talk to anybody. Gaetz did not stop to talk to the protester, at least not that I saw. Inside the Capitol, the members did not really talk to one another, either, despite the hours of debate. The vote was set; the outcome was known; the country was divided.
Minutes after Pelosi banged down the gavel on his impeachment, the President was onstage in Michigan, musing out loud about the late, legendary Michigan representative John Dingell looking up from hell as his wife, Debbie Dingell, voted with the Democrats to impeach. Trump will never say that he is sorry, and his supporters will never demand it of him. On the House floor, Barry Loudermilk, a little-known Trump devotee from Georgia, actually claimed that Trump was being treated worse than Jesus had been by the Roman prefect who ordered his execution. This was laughable, but in some ways the Republicans were almost all Barry Loudermilks on Wednesday, endorsing an array of fanciful excuses for the President that were just as implausible, if not so comically ahistorical. It was McCarthyism, a day that would live in infamy, like Pearl Harbor, they said. Trump never demanded that Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Trump is a noble anti-corruption crusader.
The fight now heads to the Senate, where the Republican majority is expected to offer another all but unanimous G.O.P. vote to acquit Trump, following a trial that has little prospect of featuring a single witness. Pelosi, in fact, hinted, on Wednesday night, that she is not ready to send over the articles of impeachment just yet; “we’ll see,” she said, whether Republicans in the other chamber are really ready to have a fair trial. But, whenever a Senate trial happens, it’s certain that Trump will claim complete and total vindication from it, and that Democrats will blame Senate Republicans for failing to hold him to account. With the result in so little suspense, Washington has been consumed in recent days by the politics of this presumed outcome, reading the latest batch of polls as if they were runes from the future that can reveal how this all plays out in the 2020 election. But that is, as yet, unknowable. For now, what the polls show is exactly what Wednesday’s impeachment debate showed: the stubborn, unyielding reality of a country divided, of an America whose views are fixed about Trump and about everything else. https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/the-houses-sad-predictable-partisan-and-historic-impeachment-of-donald-trump\
4. Philip Bump: To avoid removal, Trump needs senators representing only 7 percent of the country to support him
“Consider, for example, that it requires 67 votes in the Senate to oust Trump from office. That means that only 34 votes are needed to preserve his position. Even if he were deeply unpopular, if Trump maintained support from senators in 17 states, he could keep his job. Meaning, in the most extreme scenario, that he could be impeached but not removed from office if senators from the 17 least-populous states — representing only about 7 percent of the population — decided to stand by him.”
Again assuming a party-line vote, white Americans would be about as likely to be represented by a pro- as anti-impeachment senator. Black Americans, though, thanks to the density of the black population in Southern states, would be much more likely to be represented by a anti-impeachment senator. Overall, 6 in 10 nonwhite Americans in our poll supported impeachment.
In the Senate, things don’t line up as neatly. Again assuming a party-line vote, white Americans would be about as likely to be represented by a pro- as anti-impeachment senator. Black Americans, though, thanks to the density of the black population in Southern states, would be much more likely to be represented by a anti-impeachment senator. Overall, 6 in 10 nonwhite Americans in our poll supported impeachment. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/19/avoid-removal-trump-only-needs-senators-representing-percent-country-support-him/
5. George Conway: Republican senators run the risk of being shamed by Trump himself
In his unhinged letter Tuesday, President Trump accused House Speaker Nancy of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” A few days earlier, he accused Democrats of “trivializing impeachment.”
If anything has cheapened or trivialized the process by which Trump was impeached, it was House Republicans’ refusal to treat the proceedings with the seriousness the Constitution demands. Unable to defend the president’s conduct on the merits, GOP members of the House resorted to deception, distortion and deflection: pretending that Trump didn’t ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival; claiming that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election; and throwing up all manner of silly assertions of procedural unfairness.
Trump’s written tirade to Pelosi shows that, even as he is being impeached, he still has no idea why — and thus no idea what his presidential duties require. He hasn’t learned his lesson, and never will.
And that is the ultimate point Republican senators who care about their legacies should consider: They run the risk of being refuted and shamed on the pages of history not just by the evidence — but by Trump himself. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-conway-republican-senators-run-the-risk-of-being-shamed-by-trump-himself/2019/12/18/1fb19698-21de-11ea-a153-dce4b94e4249_story.html
6. Peter Baker: A President Impeached, and a Nation Convulsed
For the most unpredictable of presidents, it was the most predictable of outcomes. Is anyone really surprised that President Trump was impeached? His defiant disregard for red lines arguably made him an impeachment waiting to happen.
From the day he took office, Mr. Trump made clear that he would not abide by the conventions of the system he inherited. So perhaps it was inevitable that at some point he would go too far for the opposition party, leading to a historic day of debate on the House floor where he was alternately depicted as a constitutional villain or victim.
The proximate charge as Democrats impeached him for high crimes and misdemeanors on party-line votes Wednesday night was the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to help him against his domestic political rivals while withholding security aid. But long before Ukraine consumed the capital, Mr. Trump had sought to bend the instruments of government to his own purposes even if it meant pushing boundaries that had been sacrosanct for a generation.
Over nearly three years in office, he has become the most polarizing figure in a country stewing in toxic politics. He has punished enemies and, many argue, undermined democratic institutions. Disregarding advice that restrained other presidents, Mr. Trump kept his real estate business despite the Constitution’s emoluments clause, paid hush money to an alleged paramour and sought to impede investigations that threatened him.
His constant stream of falsehoods, including about his dealings with Ukraine, undermined his credibility both at home and abroad, even as his supporters saw him as a challenger to a corrupt status quo subjected to partisan persecution.
Mr. Trump, in his divisiveness, is the manifestation of a nation fracturing into warring camps and trying to define what America is about all over again, just as it did during Reconstruction, during the era of Vietnam and Watergate and during the rise of a new form of angry partisanship at the dawn of the information age.
“In each of these impeachments, they are not taking place during periods of quietude,” said Jay Winik, a prominent historian and author of “The Great Upheaval” and other books on pivot points in United States. “In a sense, what we’re seeing is a cap coming off a simmering volcano. We see it with each of these presidents — we see it with Johnson, we see it with Nixon, we see it with Clinton and we see it now with Trump. These impeachments are emblematic of periods of profound transition.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/18/us/politics/president-impeachment-history.html
7. Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman: Fear and Loyalty: How Donald Trump Took Over the Republican Party
Just under four years after he began his takeover of a party to which he had little connection, Mr. Trump enters 2020 burdened with the ignominy of being the first sitting president to seek re-election after being impeached.
But he does so wearing a political coat of armor built on total loyalty from G.O.P. activists and their representatives in Congress. If he does not enjoy the broad admiration Republicans afforded Ronald Reagan, he is more feared by his party’s lawmakers than any occupant of the Oval Office since at least Lyndon Johnson.
His iron grip was never firmer than over the last two months, during the House inquiry that concluded Wednesday with Mr. Trump’s impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. No House Republican supported either article, or even authorized the investigation in September, and in hearing after hearing into the president’s dealings with Ukraine, they defended him as a victim of partisan fervor. One Republican even said that Jesus had received fairer treatment before his crucifixion than Mr. Trump did during his impeachment.
Perhaps more revealing, some G.O.P. lawmakers who initially said Mr. Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine was inappropriate later dropped their criticism. People close to Mr. Trump attributed the shift both to his public defense of the call as “perfect’’ and to private discussions he and his allies had with concerned lawmakers.
This fealty hardly guarantees Mr. Trump re-election: He has never garnered a 50 percent approval rating as president and over half of voters tell pollsters they will oppose him no matter who the Democrats nominate.
But the shoulder-to-shoulder unity stands in contrast to Democrats at the moment, with their contentious moderate-versus-liberal primary that was on full display in Thursday night’s debate. And it is all the more striking given Mr. Trump’s deviations from longstanding party orthodoxy on issues like foreign policy and tariffs.
Interviews with current and former Republican lawmakers as well as party strategists, many of whom requested anonymity so as not to publicly cross the president, suggest that many elected officials are effectively faced with two choices. They can vote with their feet by retiring — and a remarkable 40 percent of Republican members of Congress have done so or have been defeated at the ballot box since Mr. Trump took office.
Or they can mute their criticism of him. All the incentives that shape political behavior — with voters, donors and the news media — compel Republicans to bow to Mr. Trump if they want to survive. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/21/us/politics/trump-impeachment-republicans.html
8. Michael Linden: After two years, Trump's tax cuts have failed Americans
This month marks the two-year anniversary of President Trump's major legislative accomplishment: his rewrite of the tax code. As we head into the election year, you can bet that taxes and the economy will be topics of debate. President Trump will, no doubt, want voters to give him credit for his tax law, which he promised would lead to more investment, more jobs, higher wages and faster growth.
But none of those promises have been fulfilled. From a purely economic standpoint, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has been an enormous flop.
Let's start with jobs. Has the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created millions of new jobs, as was promised? In a word, no. In the four years prior to the passage of the GOP tax law, the economy added an average of 213,000 jobs each month, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the nearly two years since the law passed, average job creation has actually declined by an average of 11,000 per month.
The White House promised that the tax cuts would result in an annual wage increase of $4,000 per household. Again, not even close. In the two years since the law passed, wage growth, after accounting for inflation, rose only slightly, from 1% to just under 1.4% per year for nonsupervisory workers, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That difference — even if it were fully attributable to the tax cuts — amounts to less than $400 for a full-time worker. So much for your $4,000 raise.
We have been told, over and over again, that tax cuts for the rich are good for the overall economy. However, there's not much solace to be found in gross domestic product either. In the four years before the law passed, real GDP grew by an annual average rate of about 2.4%, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the nearly two years since, the GDP growth rate has inched only slightly higher to an annual average of 2.5%. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/20/perspectives/trump-tax-cuts/index.html
9. Jonathan Chait: Trump Believed Ukraine Conspiracy Because ‘Putin Told Me’
Trump’s impeachment has focused primarily on his demand for an investigation of his political rival. But Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine began as an effort to vindicate the conspiracy theory that Putin had apparently persuaded Trump to believe. Trump asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to locate the server the Russians claimed Ukrainians had smuggled away and hid.
More important, Trump allegedly directed the activities of Lev Parnas, a partner of Giuliani. Parnas was paid a million dollars by a notorious Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. On behalf of Parnas’s company, a Republican donor paid Giuliani, who represented Trump for “free.” And Giuliani, astonishingly, is still at it. After returning from another trip to Ukraine, where he met with a series of notorious Russian-allied figures, Giuliani has made his case on conservative network OANN and met with Trump, who in turn vouched for him and his work.
Proving criminal conspiracies in court is hard — especially when some of the suspects reside in a hostile foreign country, and even more so when the investigation’s principal subject has the power to pardon witnesses who withhold cooperation. The Mueller investigation failed to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia, but Trump is working to spread Russian-originated propaganda and he handed this work off to figures who were paid by Putin allies. Whether you describe this relationship as a conspiracy or simply an alliance, it is very much ongoing. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/trump-putin-told-me-ukraine-conspiracy-russia-impeachment.html
10. Joyce White Vance: Trump May Be Acquitted in a Senate Impeachment Trial. That's Not the Same as Being Exonerated
As they discuss the trial with the judge, the prosecution learns the usual rules won’t apply. It won’t be able to put on any evidence at trial to support the allegations against the defendant. None of the witnesses it interviewed will be permitted to testify. None of the withheld information will be available. And although newly discovered evidence suggests that the defendant may have asked some of his friends to help him carry out the robbery, it won’t be admitted, and witnesses that the prosecution has requested to testify about that won’t be permitted to testify.
Also, some of the jurors have already committed to vote for the defendant. They will still be permitted to participate and vote in the trial.
Of course, this could never happen in our criminal justice system. But apparently, it can in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump. That’s because under the Constitution, the Senate (or at least the party that holds a majority in it) gets to make decisions about more than just the facts. https://time.com/5754646/impeachment-senate-trial/