September 26, 2019


“Socialist price controls will do a lot of left-wing damage to the healthcare system. And of course we’re not going to be calling up a bill like that.” — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ruling out any action on a drug pricing bill that would call for Medicare to negotiate drug prices for a minimum of 25 medicines and target drugs that cost the American health system the most.

“He is a not a lion. He is a rabbit.” — Ali Bigdeli, a political analyst in Tehran, said of Trump.

It remains to be seen precisely how serious this IC whistleblower complaint is. Nevertheless, it’s important to bear in mind that the President of the United States is an ignorant, imbecilic, incompetent, and narcissistic sociopath, and so virtually anything is possible. — George Conway@gtconway3d

CHRIS CUOMO: “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?”
GIULIANI: “No, I actually didn’t”
[20 seconds later]
CUOMO: “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?”
GIULIANI: “Of course I did!”

"Every time Donald Trump breaks a window, congressional Republicans obediently sweep up the glass" -- @RonBrownstein — Brian Stelter@brianstelter

“The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election. Again.” — Hillary Clinton, on Twitter.

“We cannot afford to play rope-a-dope in the court for weeks or months on end. We need an answer. If there’s a fire burning, it needs to be put out. And that’s why we’re going to have to look at every remedy.” — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D- CA), quoted by Politico, on dealing with President Trump’s lawlessness.

“I went there to get dirt on Joe Biden. I got a nice straight case of Ukrainian collusion, and the minute I say ‘Biden’ the Washington press corps is going to go nuts. They’ve been covering it up for years.” — Rudy Giuliani

“If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.” — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), on Twitter.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” — Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, speaking to the U.N. General Assembly.

“Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. It couldn’t be clearer, and that’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason, pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That’s the only penalty.” — Former Gov. William Weld (R)

“Senator McConnell is going to have a hard time explaining why he wants Americans to keep being ripped off by big drug companies that are charging less for the same drugs in other countries. President Trump has said that we should be negotiating prescription drug costs ‘like crazy,’ and it’s clear that Mitch McConnell is the biggest obstacle in the way.” — Henry Connelly, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi.

“Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a US election. It couldn’t be clearer, and that’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason, pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the US code is death. That’s the only penalty.” — Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts who is mounting a long-shot challenge to Trump, to MSNBC’s Morning Joe

"I can’t tell you if it’s 100% false." -- Giuliani who earlier claimed that it was a “false story” to suggest that Trump had used foreign aid as leverage in a July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensk.

“What offends me most about the whistleblower-Ukraine-Biden story isn’t the obvious corruption of it all. It’s the way members of Team Trump assume we’re all idiots who won’t notice they’ve abruptly shifted their narrative.” — Jonah Goldberg

"Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. But the fake news doesn't want to report it because they're Democrats. If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they'd be getting the electric chair by right now. The electric chair. Maybe it's that prospect that's got him so worked up. You're all crooked as hell. Okay thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed it.” -- Donald Trump at a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, 

“I think he was excellent. I watched Rudy take apart Fredo. Fredo’s performance was incompetent, Rudy took him apart. Rudy Giuliani took Fredo to the cleaners.” — Trump praising Rudy Giuliani and mocking CNN anchor Chris Cuomo during remarks at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, referring to the journalist as “Fredo,” a pejorative reference to a weak-willed Italian American character in The Godfather saga.

She is young and he is old. She is honest and he is a habitual liar. She relies on science and he relies on nothing but his gut. Her focus is on the forecastable future, and he lives in an imaginary past. Greta Thunberg is the anti-Trump. Greta Thunberg’s world view is the opposite of President Trump’s: she sees the universe as moral; he believes that it is rotten. She believes in the concepts of right and wrong, and he is a nihilist. --The New Yorker

“Do I think Trump is a horrible person? Yes; but that’s so beyond the point. As a Republican, I hate him because he’s making us lose when we should be crushing it. It’s his stupid personality. If you were slightly less terrible, we’d be winning.” — A veteran Republican strategist, quoted by Vanity Fair.

“I think this is the most serious charge against the president, far more serious than what Bob Mueller dug or dragged up against him. If you are the President of the United States and you are making a conversation that you know your intelligence community is listening to, of course you’re not going to articulate a quid pro quo. You’ll just make the quid pro quo happen.” — Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano

Russia's state TV:
Ukrainian diplomat Vadim Triukhan cites German newspapers: "Trump won the first elections thanks to Russia and now he wants to be re-elected thanks to Ukraine."
Russian state TV host Evgeny Popov: "Well, how else could you put it? That's exactly what happened.” — Julia Davis @JuliaDavisNews

#Russia is not ready to dump Trump:
Kremlin-controlled state TV hosts throw buckets of mud on #Ukraine, insist it should investigate Biden and conclude that "Republican majority in the Senate won’t allow President Donald Trump—whom we elected— to be impeached. It’s impossible.” — Julia Davis @JuliaDavisNews

“President Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s President was like a “classic mafia-like shakedown” and “far more damning than I and others had imagined.” — House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff

“Shut up, moron! Shut up! Shut Up! You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what you’re talking about, idiot!” — Giuliani’s response to Democrat Chris Hahn, who told Laura Ingraham, “I just heard the president’s personal, political attorney say that he was directed by the State Department to go meet with the Ukraine to get evidence on the president’s political opponent.”

This week the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically, the actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today I’m announcing the house of representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I’m directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.” — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi



1. Andy Borowitz: Putin Saddened That Trump Asked Other Foreign Country to Meddle in Election

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that he was “saddened and hurt” that Donald J. Trump had asked a different foreign country to meddle in a U.S. election.

“I thought when it came to election meddling that Donald and I were exclusive,” an emotional Putin told reporters. “This feels like a betrayal.”

Putin said that when he read the call summary of the phone conversation between Trump and the President of Ukraine, “I could not believe my eyes. It was just like the conversations Donald and I used to have.”

The Russian leader said that he had considered meddling in the 2020 election to help Trump, but added, “Now I’m not so sure.”

“We had something special, but now that’s gone,” Putin said. “I feel so used.”

2. The full, rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, annotated

The call shows Trump offering no explicit quid pro quo when it comes to Ukraine investigating the Bidens. But it does include Trump emphasizing how good the U.S. government is to Ukraine and suggesting that U.S. support is not being reciprocated. Trump then asks for two specific investigations, including one involving the Bidens.

You can see annotations in yellow highlights via Genius.

3. Why an Impeachment Inquiry Now?

The national security implications of the president pressuring an embattled ally for political help threw open the door for more moderate Democrats — many of them products of the military and intelligence communities, rather than lifelong politicians — to justify their decision to pursue an impeachment case against the president despite his relative popularity in their districts. In Tuesday’s outpouring of new demands for an inquiry, national security loomed large as a rationale.

4. Democrats are stuck in a doom loop of premature polling

Democratic voters are stuck in a self-destructive loop.

The loop begins and ends with polls. Pollsters know that Democrats want to know who is the strongest candidate against President Donald Trump, so they conduct a lot of head-to-head polls matching Trump up against various contenders. The polls show that the best-known Democrats — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — are the strongest candidates against him, which likely boosts them in the polls. This makes it hard for the lesser-known candidates to get attention, which further ensures they’ll do poorly in the head-to-head polls against Trump.

The problem is that head-to-head polls at this stage in the race overwhelmingly reflect the challenger’s name recognition rather than anything that would help you predict an election outcome that’s more than a year in the future.

5. Economic divide in the US is becoming as stark as its politics

The partisan polarization of America’s economy is rapidly catching up to the polarization of its voting patterns.

Republicans and Democrats have long since separated themselves by ideology, leaving each more uniformly conservative or liberal than ever. And now a new data analysis by the Brookings Institution documents just how fast their economic fortunes have diverged as well.

That widening red-blue economic divide in turn drives the parties’ starkly different policy agendas. It helps explain why Democrats lavish more attention on education, technology and protecting immigrants, for example, while President Donald Trump and other Republicans place mining, manufacturing and border control on center stage.

“A series of genuine, penetrating shifts have been happening at warp speed through the last decade,” write Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton, both scholars at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “These shifts are massively altering the two parties’ economic identities.”

Drawn from Census and elections data, the Brookings analysis shows the extent of the change over the decade that began in 2008. Among the biggest shifts is the new geography of Congress, as Democrats offset losses in less densely-populated rural districts with gains in more densely-populated urban and suburban area.

The House Democratic majority, which represented 39% of the U.S. land area in 2008, now represents just 20%. The House Republican minority 80% of U.S. territory.

That coincides with a sharp increase in incomes and economic output for the constituencies Democrats represent in Congress. Today, the $61,000 median income of blue districts substantially exceeds the $53,000 median income of red ones, reversing the order from 2008.

But now, the Brooking scholars say, “economic trends underlie the current party divide and reinforce it.”

“The two parties talk almost entirely past each other on the most important economic and social issues, like innovation, immigration and education, because they represent starkly separate and diverging worlds,” Muro and Whiton conclude. “Not only do the two parties adhere to starkly different views, but they inhabit increasingly different economies and environments.”

6. Trump appointee Darrell Issa’s confirmation hearing held up because he couldn’t pass the background check: report

Former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was once the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, but as of Thursday, he’s no longer being considered for a position in President Donald Trump’s administration. According to Roll Call, Issa couldn’t pass the background check.

Issa was slated to appear before a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, but the White House refused to release the findings of the background checks for Issa. As a result, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Jim Risch (R-ID) agreed to “indefinitely delay former Rep. Darrell Issa’s confirmation hearing to lead the Trade and Development Agency.”

7. Democrats target over 26,000 local races to unseat Republicans

Contest Every Race, a new coalition of Democratic groups, is launching a seven-figure campaign to challenge Republican incumbents in 26,849 down-ballot local races, Axios has learned.

2020 is more than just the presidential election. Democrats are getting serious about trying to gain more power at the local level, whether through city council seats, school boards, or state legislatures.

State legislatures, which oversee everything from infrastructure to gerrymandering to abortion laws, are particularly important. State maps identifying congressional districts are set to be redrawn before the 2022 midterm elections. That means local candidates elected in 2020 will help determine future congressional battlegrounds.

8. Senate Democrats release list of climate studies buried by Trump administration

Senate Democrats released on Thursday a report outlining dozens of times the Trump administration has censored or minimized climate science across the federal government at agencies including the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also publicly released a list of more than 1,400 climate studies that Department of Agriculture researchers have published during the current administration after POLITICO reported that USDA buried its own research and failed to release its plan to study the issue. The matter is increasingly urgent for farmers and ranchers dealing with erratic and extreme weather.

The trove of studies by USDA researchers carry warnings about climate change that the government is largely not communicating to farmers and ranchers or the public. The list published includes research showing that climate change is likely to drive down yields for some crops, harm milk production, and lead to a drop in nutrient density for key crops like rice and wheat.

“These studies show how climate change is affecting crop production, disrupting how food is grown and increasing risk to communities,” Stabenow said during a press conference on Thursday. Stabenow also serves as chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the research arm of Senate Democrats.

9. As the national debt has risen, Trump officials kept saying it would fall

When Republicans cut corporate and individual taxes in 2017, they promised two things: It would grow the economy and it would not add to the national debt. Neither of those have borne out.

Not only has economic growth slowed, in part because of President Trump’s ongoing trade war with China, but the deficit has grown to its highest level in seven years, in part due to reduced tax revenue.

To counter these trends, the Trump administration has engaged in economic double-talk, including repeatedly saying, falsely, that the federal deficit — and by extension, the national debt — was falling or would fall in the future. You can watch Trump officials do this again and again — even as the debt rises — in the video.

10. Trump sues Manhattan DA to block release of tax returns

President Trump on Thursday sued Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in an effort to block New York prosecutors from obtaining 8 years of his personal and corporate tax returns from his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA. as part of its investigation into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.

This will be at least the third time Trump has sued to block the release of his tax returns. Earlier this year, the president filed a lawsuit against House Democrats and the state of New York over a law that would permit tax officials to turn over Trump's state tax returns.

Trump, his family and his company also filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank to block the bank from complying with congressional subpoenas for their business records. A federal judge in Manhattan declined their request to block Deutsche Bank, which later confirmed that it is indeed in possession of Trump's tax returns.

11. Why college students could draw new attention in 2020: Their turnout doubled for the midterms, study finds

College students across the United States more than doubled their rate of voting between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, according to a study published Thursday by Tufts University — a dramatic spike in political engagement that could draw unprecedented attention to these voters in next year’s presidential election.

The study found that 40 percent of students who are eligible to vote cast ballots last year, up from 19 percent in 2014.


“What I do find inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden at the time's son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. I, for one, find that to be concerning. And, to me, that is the issue perhaps that should be further investigated.”  — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin 


“I don't understand. So it is OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Jr. to do business all over the world, it's OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president, but while Vice President Joe Biden was vice president, his son shouldn't have been able to do business dealings?” — Jake Tapper 

13. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

SEAN HANNITY: All this talk about, well, Ukraine, it turns out Rudy Giuliani was actually approached by our State Department, to basically do an official mission. And two State Department officials specifically asking him to contact Ukraine over the election fraud issue and being a good citizen that he did it on behalf of the country.

Donald Trump’s Fox allies are rallying around him following the revelation of a whistleblower complaint regarding a promise he made to a foreign leader, suggesting that Trump is under attack by the “deep state” and defending his conduct as an example of his affinity for “the art of the deal.”

Fox & Friends co-host defends Trump “making promises” to another head of state as “The Art of the Deal.”

Hannity dismisses whistleblower complaint about Trump: “Somebody probably has a political agenda”
Sean Hannity: Maybe the anonymous intelligence agent “was listening in on something that they shouldn't have been listening in on.”

Lou Dobbs: “What are the odds” whistleblower complaint against Trump “is just pure nonsense, bunkum.” I mean, what are -- have we -- would you have -- what I'm really asking here, do you really think that the Dems have decided we are really that stupid, the media, the people of this country?

Sean Hannity suggests the Trump whistleblower committed a crime and spied on Trump. SEAN HANNITY (HOST): The big media mob bombshell Donald Trump whistleblower, Ukraine issue, yeah that kind of blew up again. As we predicted it would.

Sean Hannity on whistleblower complaint: “I have been told in no uncertain terms nothing illegal happened.”

Fox guest attacks climate activist Greta Thunberg: “She is causing and instilling fear in millions of kids around the world.” Industry-funded climate denier Marc Morano likens environmental activism to “medieval witchcraft.”

Team Trump’s 2020 strategy is Clinton Cash all over again. Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has signaled the line of attack that Trump and his political and media allies will take over the next several months to try to damage Trump’s Democratic opponent, whomever that may be. The strategy’s success depends on the help of a compliant press.

Debunking lies about Trump, Biden, Ukraine, and the whistleblower. A whistleblower complaint filed August 12 reportedly alleges that President Donald Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Now, Trump and his allies are trying to muddy the waters and turn a conspiracy theory involving Joe Biden and Ukraine into an allegation of corruption against Biden.

Trump said Biden was “bragging” about getting Ukraine prosecutor fired. Here are 14 times Hannity said the same thing. In his request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, President Donald Trump used language mimicking that of Fox News host Sean Hannity.

14. Birds Are Vanishing From North America

The skies are emptying out.

The number of birds in the United States and Canada has fallen by 29 percent since 1970, scientists reported on Thursday. There are 2.9 billion fewer birds taking wing now than there were 50 years ago.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the most exhaustive and ambitious attempt yet to learn what is happening to avian populations. The results have shocked researchers and conservation organizations.

15. New U.N. climate report: Massive change already here for world’s oceans and frozen regions

Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations.

The warming climate is already killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked.

Given current emissions levels, a number of serious effects are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A warming event caused an Antarctic ice shelf to melt in January 2016. Exclusive seismic recordings captured the sound. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Extreme floods that have historically struck some coastal cities and small island nations once every 100 years will become an annual occurrence by 2050, according to the IPCC. In addition, if emissions continue to increase, global sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century — about 12 percent higher than the group estimated as recently as 2013. Melting glaciers could harm water supplies, and warming oceans could wreck marine fisheries.

“As a result of excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the ocean today is higher, warmer, more acidic, less productive and holds less oxygen,” said Jane Lubchenco, a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The conclusion is inescapable: The impacts of climate change on the ocean are well underway. Unless we take very serious action very soon, these impacts will get worse — much, much worse.”

16. From the Late Shows

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Trump Talks to Ukraine About Biden:

Trump Pressures Ukraine to Investigate Biden & Impeachment Looms | The Daily Show:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: They Do Not Like Him Anywhere: Trump Set to Speak at U.N. General Assembly:

17. Alaska GOP scraps 2020 presidential primary, helping Trump

The party’s State Central Committee passed a rule saying a primary “would serve no useful purpose” because Republican Donald Trump is president.

18. A Record Share of Voters Dislike Trump Personally

A combined 69 percent of registered voters say they don’t like Trump personally, regardless of their feelings about his policy agenda. A record 50 percent say they dislike him personally and dislike his policies, while another 19 percent say that they dislike him but approve of his policies.

Just 29 percent say they like Trump personally, with 25 percent saying they also approve of his policy agenda and 4 percent saying they disapprove.

On this measure, the high degree of personal dislike for Trump differentiates him from his five most recent predecessors. Majorities of voters said they personally liked Obama, Clinton, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, even though they might disagree vigorously with their political agenda.

19. At 10,000 and Counting, This Company Is Flooding the U.S. With Tariff Appeals

U.S. companies have filed more than 16,000 requests for exemptions from the $200 billion tranche of tariffs on Chinese goods that the Trump administration imposed one year ago. Of those appeals, over 10,000 have come from just one company: Arrowhead Engineered Products Inc. of Blaine, Minn.

Arrowhead imports thousands of aftermarket repair parts for cars, lawn mowers, all-terrain vehicles and other items from China, which are now all being taxed with a 25% tariff that is set to jump to 30% on Oct. 15.

20. GOP allies warn vaping ban will sink Trump in 2020

Conservative leaders are circulating data to White House staff that claims adults who vape will turn on President Trump if he follows through with his planned ban on flavored e-cigarettes, Axios has learned. 

Between the lines: The data (shown below) reveals that the number of adult vapers in key battleground states greatly outweighs the margins by which Trump won those states in 2016 — and they argue it could cost him reelection.


1. John Cassidy: Trump’s Ukraine Defense Is the Same One He’s Used for Years: I Did It. So What?

To the charge that he used the power of his office to try to get dirt on a domestic political opponent, Trump’s response is the same as it was when he was accused of demolishing the friezes: Yes, I did it. So what? To charges that he dangled U.S. aid as part of a squeeze play, he says the money was indeed linked to the corruption issue, which, to him and Giuliani, meant trying to pin some discredited corruption charges on Biden.

Again, none of this should be shocking. Trump adopted the same unapologetic and defiant stance after he urged Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, after he fired an F.B.I. director who refused to give him a pledge of loyalty, and after he publicly backed Vladimir Putin over the entire U.S. intelligence community. The effort to turn the Ukraine scandal into a story about Biden is also entirely familiar. During the Russia investigation, Trump and his Republican lackeys did the same thing with their attacks on John Brennan, Robert Mueller, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Peter Strzok. Any evidence that suggested that Trump’s campaign courted Russian help, or that he attempted to obstruct the subsequent investigation, was all part of a “witch hunt” by the “deep state”—terms that have rolled out again in recent days.

Trump certainly won’t change. Right now, he’s banking on Republican cowardice and general scandal fatigue to get him through the whistle-blower story. If he manages to ride it out, he’ll go into next year’s campaign even more convinced that he can get away with anything, and even more likely to set new precedents for Presidential wrongdoing. That’s who he is.

2. Gil Cisneros, Jason Crow, Chrissy Houlahan, Elaine Luria, Mikie Sherrill, Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger: These allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect

The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it. He allegedly sought to use the very security assistance dollars appropriated by Congress to create stability in the world, to help root out corruption and to protect our national security interests, for his own personal gain. These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent. We also know that on Sept. 9, the inspector general for the intelligence community notified Congress of a “credible” and “urgent” whistleblower complaint related to national security and potentially involving these allegations. Despite federal law requiring the disclosure of this complaint to Congress, the administration has blocked its release to Congress.

This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.

If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, and we call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security.

3. Margaret Sullivan: Trump’s Ukraine-scandal strategy — counterpunch, confuse and con — depends on the media

We’ve been here before.

It’s “lock her up” all over again. It’s “no collusion, no obstruction” all over again.

It’s all the Trumpian greatest hits: witch hunt, corrupt media, deep state.

But will the media strategy that has proved so successful for President Trump — counterpunch, confuse and con — work again?

Will it be effective even now that he is under siege for what looks like a blatant abuse of power to go after a political rival?

The Washington Post broke the story last week of a government whistleblower sounding the alarm about an action of Trump’s: a phone call pressing the president of Ukraine, from which Trump is withholding aid, to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s political rival, who held a company board position there.

Trump is counting on the media — both right-wing and mainstream — to do much of the work for him as he tries to manage another crisis.

And many are falling right in line.

Fox News, of course, is the easy part. On Monday night, both Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity blasted the blame-shifting into overdrive.

Rather than treat seriously the developing news story — designated Fox truth-teller Shep Smith had done that earlier — both hosts did a U-turn and went flying down the propaganda highway.

They made it all about Joe Biden’s supposed corruption, thus broadcasting their prime-time shows from the other side of Alice’s looking glass.

Instead of snuffing out false and misleading claims, news stories give them oxygen. Then pundits come along to fan the flames — while simultaneously bemoaning what’s happened to our democratic norms.

That’s what Trump is counting on.

And why shouldn’t he? It’s worked for him every time.

4. Jonathan Chait: The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.

On July 25, President Trump held a phone call in which he repeatedly leaned on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and Paul Manafort’s prosecutors. The episode is so blatantly inappropriate even Trump’s most fervent apologists are, with a few exceptions, having trouble defending it. What they are trying to do, instead, is define this phone call as the entire scandal. Trump emphasizes that he “didn’t specifically mention the explicit quid pro quo” of military aid in return for the investigation.

That is true, as far as it goes. The quid pro quo in the call, though perfectly apparent, is mostly implicit. But the real trick in Trump’s defense is framing the call as the entire scandal. The scandal is much more than that. The call is a snapshot, a moment in time in a months-long campaign that put American policy toward Ukraine at the disposal of Trump’s personal interests and reelection campaign.

When Trump ordered military aid to Ukraine to be frozen, he went through his chief of staff and budget director Mick Mulvaney. Congress had passed the aid, and Ukraine was under military attack from Russia, a fact that made the halting of the assistance worrisome to numerous officials in two branches of government. As the Times reported, lawmakers and State Department staffers were asking why the money hadn’t gone through.

They were given cover stories: Lawmakers “were first told the assistance was being reviewed to determine whether it was in the best interest of foreign policy,” the Times reported this week. “Other administration officials said, without detail, there was a review on corruption in Ukraine, according to current and former officials. Then, as August drew to a close, other officials told lawmakers they were trying to gauge the effectiveness of the aid, a claim that struck congressional aides as odd.”

Lots of officials were involved in disseminating these cover stories to hide the fact that Trump held back the aid to leverage Ukraine to investigate Biden. One of them was Mike Pence, who told some confused officials that the aid was being held up “based on concerns from the White House about ‘issues of corruption.’” Pence knew perfectly well what this really meant — asked point blank if the aid was being held up over Ukraine’s failure to investigate Biden, he replied “as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.” In other words, yes, Ukraine needed to investigate Biden if it wanted the money..

5. Max Boot: The rough transcript is devastating. How could Trump not know that?

At least Richard Nixon had the good sense to resist releasing the “smoking gun” tape until finally forced to do so by the Supreme Court. That is because Nixon, the worst criminal to occupy the Oval Office until now, at least had a modicum of moral sense and self-awareness. He knew what he had said was wrong — he was heard plotting to use the CIA to shut down the FBI investigation of Watergate — and he realized that the tape’s release would be devastating to him.

President Trump, by contrast, is so clueless — so lacking in even the most basic sense of right and wrong — that he could actually tweet this morning: “Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President? They should, a perfect call — got them by surprise!” Suffice it to say, there were no apologies after the release of the Memorandum of Telephone Conversation (TelCon) between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. This isn’t a verbatim transcript, and it’s always possible that it was doctored in some way, but what is revealed in its five pages is deeply damaging to Trump.

“The United States has been very very good to Ukraine,” Trump tells Zelensky with an undertone of menace. “I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very.good to Ukraine.” Eager to placate Trump, Zelensky thanks him “for your great support in the area of defense.” “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” (The Javelin is an antitank missile.)

The very next words out of Trump’s mouth are: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” Quid, meet quo. Trump is explicitly tying U.S. military aid to Ukraine to Ukraine’s willingness “to do us a favor.” He then makes clear that the “us” he is referring to is not the United States of America. It is the Trump campaign.

6. Brian Klaas: Trump is pushing a fake scandal once again. Don’t buy it.

How is it possible that millions of Americans can believe in scandals that simply don’t exist?

Because of Donald Trump, Fox News, and the army of sycophants, bots, trolls and grifters that support Trump’s version of reality online, millions of Americans falsely believe that it was actually Joe Biden who did something dodgy in Ukraine. They can’t quite put their finger on it, perhaps, but something must have happened. After all, the president of the United States says so.

But there’s just one problem: That narrative is a lie. It’s not a false claim or misleading spin. It’s just a straight-up lie. The allegations against the former vice president are baseless. Nonetheless, Trump and his toadies have repeatedly and wrongly insinuated that Biden pressured a Ukrainian prosecutor to drop an investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the time. Every aspect of that claim is not just wrong; it’s a total inversion of the truth.

First, there never was an investigation into Joe Biden or his son in Ukraine. It simply never happened. It’s a figment of Trump’s imagination, a fever dream that he hopes will distract from the reality of his all-too-real scandal — a scandal that threatens to destroy his presidency.

7. Scott Martelle: Why is Trump so desperate to make California’s air more polluted?

President Trump huffed and puffed and now, finally, he’s getting on with his efforts to blow California’s house down.

Trump, who has a bizarre desire to increase air pollution in the United States, has for months threatened to withdraw California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own limits for auto emissions.

And now word comes from Washington that he is indeed seeking to revoke the waiver that allows California to set its own tailpipe emissions standards for cars and light-duty trucks, as it has done for more than five decades.

His reason? He doesn’t really have one. It’s mostly out of pique. But since the president is in California today and Wednesday raising big bucks at political fundraisers, maybe he can try to explain this in person to people whose air quality has improved because of California’s use of that imperiled waiver.

Some of this is in keeping with Trump’s anti-regulatory impulse, but also with his animus to just about anything the Obama administration accomplished. Trump unveiled plans last year not to implement tougher national tailpipe standards the Obama administration had slated for 2025, but California — which has long worked to clean its smoggy skies — refused to go along.

8. Max Burns: Trump realized that on foreign policy, there are few constraints on his power — and it may be his undoing

Trump’s opportunistic, distraction-based foreign policy is more than just a national embarrassment. It threatens American national security. An explosive new whistleblower complaint alleges Trump made inappropriate promises to a foreign leader – accusations serious enough that the Intelligence Community Inspector General found them credible and of “urgent concern.”

Recent leaks suggest Trump attempted to use $400 million in military aid allocated by Congress to pressure the Ukrainian government into fabricating a scandal around Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. If true, this represents an unprecedented deployment of state power for personal gain. That Trump has filled his White House with acting and temporary officials willing to abandon their oath of office to protect the president should concern leaders from both parties.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire – a Trump loyalist – instigated a constitutional crisis by flatly refusing to provide any details on Trump’s conversation with the foreign leader. This destructive act bought Trump the distraction he craved, but at the cost of further weakening the institutional supports that keep American democracy in working order.

Matters of urgent national security concern should never be withheld from Congress, even if the individual involved is the President of the United States. Trump’s lumbering authoritarianism forced the Democrats to finally embrace their Constitutional powers this week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had little choice after telling voters her caucus would be a bulwark between Trump and the subversion of our core national norms.

9. Dan Balz: Pelosi’s impeachment decision sets up an epic constitutional battle — and a personal one

The impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats on Tuesday can be cast as an epic battle between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Trump. More fundamentally, it is a constitutional clash that will help define the limits on presidential power, and the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.

Pelosi and Trump have circled each other from the moment she retook the gavel after a surge of anti-Trump voters knocked House Republicans out of the majority in the 2018 midterms. The president learned almost immediately that the speaker was someone with a keen sense of strategy and the tenacity to go with it. He lost their first battle, over a government shutdown, and came out of it with a clearer understanding of his chief adversary.

That shutdown battle was child’s play compared with what Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry decision has touched off. After months of hesitation and after numerous House committees were stymied in their efforts to investigate the president, Pelosi took a step that barely a week ago seemed nearly unthinkable. That of course was before anyone knew much at all about the president’s effort to force Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

There is no turning back. So much now hinges on what happens with the inquiry, though given the makeup of the Senate and the requirement of a two-thirds majority, it remains highly unlikely that the president would ever be convicted in an impeachment trial. Nonetheless, as a result of the proceedings now beginning, Trump will either be out of office by January 2021 or he will have emerged victorious, reelected to a second term in large part because of what would then, predictably, be interpreted as a gamble by the speaker that went terribly wrong.

10. Renato Mariotti: Trump Didn’t Bribe Ukraine. It’s Actually Worse Than That.

What Trump is alleged to have done is not a garden variety crime; it’s worse. It involved misusing $250 million in aid appropriated by Congress for his benefit—the kind of gross misconduct that easily clears the bar of high crimes and misdemeanors set by the Constitution when impeaching a president. Which means the best way to hold Trump accountable for that misconduct isn’t a criminal trial; it’s for Congress to impeach him.

11. George T. Conway III and Neal Katyal: Trump has done plenty to warrant impeachment. But the Ukraine allegations are over the top

Among the most delicate choices the framers made in drafting the Constitution was how to deal with a president who puts himself above the law. To address that problem, they chose the mechanism of impeachment and removal from office. And they provided that this remedy could be used when a president commits “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

That last phrase — “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” — was a historical term of art, derived from impeachments in the British Parliament. When the framers put it into the Constitution, they didn’t discuss it much, because no doubt they knew what it meant. It meant, as Alexander Hamilton later phrased it, “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” 

Simply put, the framers viewed the president as a fiduciary, the government of the United States as a sacred trust and the people of the United States as the beneficiaries of that trust. Through the Constitution, the framers imposed upon the president the duty and obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and made him swear an oath that he would fulfill that duty of faithful execution. They believed that a president would break his oath if he engaged in self-dealing — if he used his powers to put his own interests above the nation’s. That would be the paradigmatic case for impeachment.

That’s exactly what appears to be at issue today. A whistleblower in U.S. intelligence lodged a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general so alarming that he labeled it of “urgent concern” and alerted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though the details remain secret, apparently this much can be gleaned: The complaint is against the president. It concerns a “promise” that the president made, in at least one phone call, with a foreign leader. And it involves Ukraine and possible interference with the next presidential election. The complaint is being brazenly suppressed by the Justice Department — in defiance of a whistleblower law that says, without exception, the complaint “shall” be turned over to Congress. 

It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant obstruction that Mueller detailed months ago. 

Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents who might turn out to be of his sorry ilk. To borrow John Dean’s haunting Watergate-era metaphor once again, there is a cancer on the presidency, and cancers, if not removed, only grow. Congress bears the duty to use the tools provided by the Constitution to remove that cancer now, before it’s too late. As Elbridge Gerry put it at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” By now, Congress should know which one Trump is.

12. Robert F. Worth: The End of Saudi Arabia’s Illusion

The missiles that struck last weekend in Saudi Arabia did not just destroy oil tanks. They also dealt the final blow to a doctrine that has been fading for years: the belief that the United States maintains a security umbrella able to protect the oil-rich Persian Gulf states from their enemies — and, especially, from Iran.

President Trump’s miscalculations helped get us here. But the current Gulf crisis is not just about this administration and the pitfalls of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. The United States has been disengaging from the Middle East since the catastrophe of the 2003 Iraq invasion. Now that shale has made America so much less dependent on the Middle East’s oil, it is hard to imagine any American president risking significant blood and treasure to defend Saudi Arabia.

For decades, the leaders of the Gulf seemed to believe their close ties with the United States (and the billions of dollars spent on American weapons) made them almost invulnerable. They regularly urged American diplomats and generals to get tougher with their Iranian neighbor or even to “cut off the head of the snake,” as Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah put it in 2008 in encouraging the United States to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites. Saudi confidence was bolstered by memories of the 1991 Gulf war, when an American-led military coalition reversed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

But the faith in American power always blinked away some inconvenient facts. Iran’s population and military strength dwarf those of the Gulf countries, and the United States is nearly 10,000 miles away. In any conceivable war, the Gulf’s cities would be among the first targets. And unlike Iran, those cities are intensely vulnerable: A single bomb could shatter the status of Dubai as a safe hub for trade, transport and tourism.

Now the nightmare appears to be coming true. On Saturday, several volleys of Iranian missiles eluded the Saudis’ expensive American-supplied defenses, neatly puncturing oil storage tanks and facilities at two of the kingdom’s most important sites and causing global oil prices to spike. The damage was limited, but its message was not: Iran could strike the Gulf’s economic lifeline at any time.

13. Eric Lutz: “Ice Cold”: Trump Distances Himself From Netanyahu After Election

Benjamin Netanyahu is learning the hard way that Donald Trump is a fair-weather friend. The right-wing Israeli prime minister had been among the president’s few steadfast friends on the world stage; Trump, in turn, has long stood strong with Netanyahu. But after Bibi appeared to suffer a stinging loss in the Israeli elections this week, Trump did what he always does when his buds fall on tough times and can no longer benefit him personally: He distanced himself from his embattled friend, appearing to downplay a relationship that Netanyahu made central to his reelection pitch to voters.

Netanyahu, who may soon face corruption charges, is now looking at perhaps the greatest threat to his long-held power. And where is his good friend, Donald Trump, throughout all this? Watching the election closely, he said, but not exactly seeming like he’s rushing to Bibi’s corner. “Ice cold,” the Brookings Institution’s Tamara Cofman Wittes quipped of Trump’s comments.

14. Kenzie Bryant: Terrible News: Stephen Miller Reportedly Has a Human Girlfriend

No. No, no, no, no, no. Will these horrors never cease? Will we ever know a quiet night again, a time when we can slip away thoughtlessly into mild dreams? Or will we always be plagued by rumors, unknowable things that dance around the truth? Will we ever be free from the rumor that Stephen Miller has a girlfriend, that he’s sitting in the tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g someone who will kiss him back for reasons, surely? Surely there must be reasons.

Please, here, take my brain, the place where I store memories, like the time I learned that Stephen Miller has maybe had carnal relations once. I don’t want it anymore.

Miller is the forehead behind some of the Trump administration’s most cruel and unusual immigration policies to date. And so it’s a match made in hell: As spox for the DHS, Waldman ran interference on behalf of the department’s choice to engage in family separation. Miroff tweeted about the two dating on Thursday morning, and now it’s Thursday afternoon and the scourge of knowledge has not yet relented.

I suppose this is good news ultimately. It means Miller’s heart can feel something besides antipathy for other people. Though maybe that’s a big assumption too. We don’t know what their supposed relationship is like.

15. Washington Post Editorial: Trump’s outsourcing of the asylum process sets an un-American example to the world

IN ITS multipronged efforts to deter migrants from seeking asylum in the United States, the Trump administration has devised policies designed to outsource the problem, mainly to Mexico. Judging strictly by the numbers, that strategy has been effective in stanching the flow of refugees attempting to cross the southern border in flight from violence, oppression and economic hardship in Central America and elsewhere. But that apparent gain has come at a cost — to the safety and welfare of the migrants, who are preyed on in lawless Mexican border towns, and to the United States’ moral standing.

Collateral damage from the administration’s determination to turn back the northward flow of desperate people has fallen heavily on migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador forced to remain in Mexico under an administration policy adopted in January, and since expanded, as they await adjudication of their asylum claims. The program bears the antiseptic-sounding name “Migrant Protection Protocols.” In fact, it affords asylum seekers precious little protection.

President Trump, who has proclaimed this country “full,” wants out of the United States’ traditional role as a haven for asylum seekers and refugees. In doing so, he might satisfy a political agenda, but he shifts a burden to neighbors far less capable of handling it; sets a dispiriting and — we would say — un-American example for other nations in the world; and, perhaps most harmfully, deprives the United States of the sort of people who have contributed enormously to the nation throughout its history.

16. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: Why Republicans Play Dirty

The greatest threat to our democracy today is a Republican Party that plays dirty to win.

The party’s abandonment of fair play was showcased spectacularly in 2016, when the United States Senate refused to allow President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February. While technically constitutional, the act — in effect, stealing a court seat — hadn’t been tried since the 19th century. It would be bad enough on its own, but the Merrick Garland affair is part of a broader pattern.

Republicans across the country seem to have embraced an “any means necessary” strategy to preserve their power. After losing the governorship in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, Republicans used lame duck legislative sessions to push through a flurry of bills stripping power from incoming Democratic governors. Last year, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a Republican gerrymandering initiative, conservative legislators attempted to impeach the justices. And back in North Carolina, Republican legislators used a surprise vote last week on Sept. 11 to ram through an override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto — while most Democrats had been told no vote would be held. This is classic “constitutional hardball,” behavior that, while technically legal, uses the letter of the law to subvert its spirit.

Constitutional hardball has accelerated under the Trump administration. President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to divert public money toward a border wall — openly flouting Congress, which voted against building a wall — is a clear example. And the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, manufactured by an earlier act of hardball, may uphold the constitutionality of the president’s autocratic behavior.

17. Bess Levin: Trump: My Crimes Can’t Be Investigated While I’m President

As you may or may not have heard, Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns while running for president, claiming, falsely, that an audit prevented him from doing so but that the public would see them just as soon as he got the green light. Two years and 242 days after moving into the White House that, of course, has not happened. Instead, Trump has sicced his Treasury secretary, attorney general, and various personal lawyers on anyone attempting to get their hands on the information, in a manner suggesting the details within could make a person look quite bad. Typically, Trump’s attorneys have argued that such requests, like the ones from various House committees, constitute “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” or supposedly lack “a legitimate legislative purpose.” On Thursday, though, they came up with a novel new argument: It’s illegal to investigate a sitting president for any crimes he may have committed.

Thursday’s lawsuit is just one of a handful of attempts by the president to keep his totally legit finances secret. He’s also sued to block House Democrats’ demands for his tax returns and is seeking a court order to stop Congress from obtaining his New York state returns, which a recently passed law allows them to do.

Additionally, his legal team is challenging California’s new requirement that any presidential candidate must release their tax returns to get on the primary ballot. And he’s appealing orders by federal judges in Washington and New York that would let three House committees receive his records from Mazars, Capital One Financial, and Deutsche Bank, the latter of which reportedly has seen at least some of his taxes.

It’s almost as though someone has got something to hide!

18. Bess Levin: Rudy Giuliani Is Like A Bomb That Won’t Stop Exploding

Former New York City mayor__Rudy Giuliani__ should have been sent to a farm upstate where ex-mayors have room to run around in the fresh air a long time ago. Instead, he freelances as a lawyer to President Donald Trump, a gig that isn’t going too well if the events of last night—wherein he admitted to asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden hours after it was reported that the president had allegedly made an alarming “promise” to that same country’s leader—are any indication.

Appearing on CNN Thursday night, Giuliani initially insisted to Chris Cuomo that he’d never asked Ukrainian officials to investigate the former vice president (and current Democratic presidential front-runner). Then, 30 seconds later, he said that “of course” he did such a thing, like it was no big deal. “You just said you didn’t!” an astonished Cuomo replied, as Giuliani attempted to explain that there is apparently a difference between Ukraine investigating Biden and “look[ing] into allegations that related to my client, which tangentially involved Joe Biden in a massive bribery scheme.”

Rudy denying he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden followed by Rudy admitting he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden within 30 seconds of each other in this clip is just incredible to watch — Aaron Rupar@atrupar

After the clip went viral, Giuliani took to twitter in an attempt to clear things up, effectively stating that it’s completely fine and not a total abuse of power for a president to pressure a foreign leader to investigate a political rival:

A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China; being covered up by a Corrupt Media. — Rudy Giuliani @RudyGiuliani

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Giuliani has gone on TV and effectively admitted the president is guilty of something in a five-car pileup of an attempt to defend him. In January, in the heat of the Mueller investigation, the former mayor said on Meet the Press that discussions about Trump Tower Moscow were “active” throughout the 2016 election. That same month, he told CNN that if there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia “it happened a long time ago,” later stating that Trump himself never colluded with Russia but perhaps campaign aides did. And who could forget the time he insisted it was totally standard practice for a lawyer to take it upon himself to secretly pay off a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair with a client, which (1) turned out not to be the case when it came to Trump, who was fully apprised of the Stormy Daniels payments made by Michael Cohen and (2) may have contributed to Giuliani’s then-law firm deciding it was time to part ways.

19. Jason Easley: GOP Hypocrites Go Silent As Trump’s Trade War Bailout Costs Twice As Much As Obama Auto Bailout

The Trump farmer bailout is now twice as big as the Obama auto bailout and the same Republicans who criticized Obama are saying nothing to Trump.

Bloomberg reported: China hawks in Trump’s administration want Beijing to quit subsidizing strategic industries, yet that hasn’t deterred the White House from doling out billions in aid to American farmers, who have become more dependent on government money than they’ve been in years. At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion. And farmers expect the money to keep flowing: In an August survey by Purdue University and the CME Group, 58% said they anticipate another round of trade aid next year.

Republicans howled that the auto bailout was a government takeover of the auto industry and socialism, but the auto bailout turned a profit, created an additional 341,000 jobs on top of the jobs saved during the Great Recession, and led to a boom in auto sales that lasted until Trump.

Donald Trump’s trade war is a violation of conservative free-market principles, but the very hypocrites who howled socialist at Obama haven’t said a peep about Trump.

Obama’s auto bailout saved an industry during the Great Recession, while Trump’s farmer bailout is causing a farming depression.

20.  Viola Gienger: Trump and Giuliani’s Quest for Fake Ukraine “Dirt” on Biden: An Explainer

Trump and Giuliani allege, contrary to evidence, that Biden improperly pressured the Ukrainian government in 2016 to fire then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in the midst of a corruption investigation of one of Ukraine’s biggest gas companies, Burisma Group. Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, was serving on the company’s board at the time.

But the prosecutor, in fact, was the target of pressure by Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates and a host of international supporters of Ukraine, who argued he should be fired for failing to pursue major cases of corruption. And it was the widely known and publicly espoused position of the U.S. government, across a half dozen agencies, that the prosecutor’s ouster was among crucial anti-corruption measures that the Ukrainian government needed to take to move forward economically and politically. As President Barack Obama’s point man on Ukraine, Biden dutifully relayed those messages at every opportunity.

Yet Trump and Giuliani have turned that real-life scenario on its head, falsely alleging that Biden sought to corruptly influence a Ukrainian prosecutor’s decisions in his son’s favor. The Trump camp’s steady volley of tweets, interviews and supportive articles by pro-Trump authors echoes the persistent Republican accusations against Hillary Clinton related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on Benghazi, Libya, when she was Secretary of State.

At the very least, because of the complexity of the issue and the again-distant locale, the hammering on the Bidens’ roles in Ukraine could at least serve up enough disinformation to confuse American voters about what really is true. The anti-Biden campaign may be designed in no small part to make voters believe that, as disinformation expert Peter Pomerantsev has said of current-day Russian propaganda, “nothing is true and everything is possible.”

So, after years of U.S. support to strengthen Ukraine as a potential democratic example in the former Soviet Union, that country finally has a president and a majority of members in Parliament who seem serious about tackling corruption. Is the U.S. president really sending a signal now that he will turn his back on Ukraine because its new leaders refuse an American invitation to corruption?

21. Nicholas Kristof: Trump and Election Interference, Whistle-Blower Edition

Trump has been credibly accused of using the presidency to enrich himself (summits at Trump properties!), to protect himself from law enforcement (appeals to James Comey, offers of pardons!) and to punish perceived adversaries (Amazon, CNN, Andrew McCabe). Now he may have harnessed the power of the presidency to gain political advantage.

This is bombshell layered upon bombshell. On top of the initial accusation by the whistle-blower is the refusal of the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to obey federal law and relay the matter to Congress within one week.

When historians review Trump’s term, I think they will see combat between an out-of-control president and various U.S. institutions, such as the courts, the Civil Service, law enforcement, the intelligence community, the House and the news media, which generally have done a credible job of standing up for laws and norms and against one-man rule. The only institution Trump has co-opted completely is the Republican Party in Congress.

Today’s struggle over the whistle-blower may be remembered as a central battle in that epic confrontation. The core question is whether our president can get away with weaponizing the federal government to punish political opponents, or whether legal constraints and congressional oversight can keep him in line.

This is a test of our political system, and the next few months will determine whether we pass.

22. Ashley Parker: Ukraine, if you’re listening . . . How Trump tries to quell controversies by saying the quiet part out loud

“Much as he did three years ago — when he asked Ukraine, if you’re listening . . .

Much as he did three years ago — when he asked Russia to hack the emails of his Democratic rival — President Trump on Friday seemed to make a similar request of Ukraine, all but urging the Eastern European nation to investigate Joe Biden, his potential Democratic opponent.

“It doesn’t matter what I discussed, but I will say this — somebody ought to look into Joe Biden,” Trump said Friday in the Oval Office, swatting away questions about whether he had improperly attempted to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on the former vice president.

It was 2016 all over again, when Trump looked directly into the camera and exhorted a geopolitical foe to steal the emails of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, and release them to the public. 

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July of that year, referring to the trove of messages that Clinton deleted from a private email server. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

 So yes, if Ukraine happened to be listening Friday, the president’s desired outcome could not have been more clear. 

For Trump, controversial public disclosures have became almost routine, with the president saying the potentially scandalous part aloud. It is a form of shamelessness worn as a badge of protection — on the implicit theory that the president’s alleged offenses can’t be that serious if he commits them in full public view.

23. Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Rachael Bade: Trump’s Ukraine call reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility

The push by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to influence the newly elected Ukrainian leader reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility — apparently willing and even eager to wield the vast powers of the United States to taint a political foe and confident that no one could hold him back.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in my lifetime,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution who graduated from college just before Watergate. “He appears to be daring the rest of the political system to stop him — and if it doesn’t, he’ll go further.”

The effort — which came as the Trump administration was withholding financial and military support from Ukraine to help the small democracy protect itself against Russian aggression — illustrates Trump’s expansive view of executive power and what appears to be a cavalier attitude about legal limits on his conduct.

While Mueller’s investigation did not place Trump directly in the Russian conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and boost Trump’s candidacy, the president was an active participant in the Ukrainian episode, which was brought to light by an intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint.

Trump has said he did nothing improper in his calls with Zelensky or any other foreign leader, and on Saturday he derided Democrats and the media for what he dubbed “the Ukraine Witch Hunt.”

But the scrutiny surrounding the phone call has brought fresh peril to Trump’s presidency and could turbocharge the drive by some House Democrats to open impeachment proceedings.

24. Daniel Drezner: The strategic case for impeaching President Trump

“What to do? Zero-sum game theory offers some useful advice.

In zero-sum games, one actor’s gain is always the other actor’s loss. The optimal strategy to pursue in this instance is called “minimax.” A minimax strategy anticipates that the other actor will adopt the most punishing strategy possible — and, in response to that strategy, takes the course of action that minimizes the damage.

What does this have to do with Trump and the Democrats in Congress? It is safe to assume that Trump will continue to abuse the powers of the presidency as long as he is in office. The Ukraine example shows that he is not above using presidential authority for partisan gain. Furthermore, when he is not doing those things, he is pursuing other policies that harm the U.S. economy and the national interest.

Would impeachment stop any of that? No, not directly. What it would do, however, is distract the heck out of him. To say that Trump can be easily distracted would be an understatement — his short attention span occupies a healthy portion of the #ToddlerinChief thread. Sharpigate exemplified how Trump obsessed about a small thing so much that it became a more scandalous thing.

Let me be very clear: I am suggesting that the House impeach Trump for two reasons: 1. He has committed high crimes and misdemeanors; and 2. Impeachment will distract Trump from further harming the national interest.

Still, Trump is not going to stop doing what he is doing, unless he gets distracted by something else. In a zero-sum world, it is far better to have him obsess about his political survival rather than, say, nuking a hurricane. In the zero-sum political world that Trump has made, impeaching him is the best possible response strategy to his abuses of power.

25. Maureen Dowd: Trump Walks a Crooked Mile

Everyone here is keyed up for the Big One.

The One that’s going to finally bring Donald Trump down.

As soon as the news broke Wednesday night in The Washington Post that a whistle-blower had accused the president of making some sort of nefarious “promise” during a call to a foreign leader, the hive erupted.

Democrats haven’t been able to get Trump on paying off a porn star to protect his campaign. They haven’t been able to get him on being a Russian agent. They haven’t been able to get him on obstruction of justice.

But maybe this time. Maybe this was the One where all would decide that they wanted impeachment, that the president’s behavior was so outrageous that they couldn’t imagine this sleazy business guy sitting in the Oval Office playing a tinpot dictator in a tinfoil hat for another second.

So is this the Big One? We don’t know because so much has come before. But if it is? Now that would be Big.

26.  Charles M. Blow: Trump, Unrestrained

Donald Trump has discovered that the pillars of this temple we call the American democracy are weak. He’s growing ever more confident that he has the strength to topple them.

The phone call Donald Trump is reported to have had with the president of Ukraine in which he demanded that Ukraine investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, if true, is a shocking example of a president who feels invincible and unrestrained.

There is no evidence that then-Vice President Biden or his son did anything illegal. There is, however, clear evidence that Trump has broken the law — both in the conspiracies to pay off women who allege sexual affairs with him and in obstructing justice over Robert

But that doesn’t matter to this man. For him, “real” is relative. The only truth, the only thing that matters, is what you can make people believe. Facts are not absolute; they have alternatives.

This is the chief executive officer of the country, and he is single-handedly mutilating it.

The Constitution is not sufficient restraint on a lawless president, in part, I assume, because it was inconceivable that such a dishonest man would rise to the office.

Trump has tested the slim guard rails erected to constrain presidential power and behavior, and he has shown them wanting, frail and assailable. He can thwart, resist and make a mockery of attempts to hold him accountable and to coerce acceptable behavior because Washington is filled with more survivalist politicians than with selfless patriots.

27. Tim Miller: Truth, Lies, and the Nonsense Trump-Biden-Ukraine False Equivalency

Donald Trump’s great innovation as a political actor is that he discovered how to weaponize the media against the country. He realized that the media’s traditional attempt to present balance in its political coverage meant that he could do just about anything, and reporters would feel compelled to contact some source to explain how, if you squint, it might be normal and bookers would put someone on air to defend him. The idea of “balance” required the media to always present a dissenting view of Trump, no matter how egregiously wrong his actions might be.

He also realized that the media’s imperative to run down every story meant that he could always distract them from one scandal by creating another. It’s the political version of chaff: One scandal can end your presidency. A hundred of them is just white noise.

But we don’t have to continue living this cycle. We can stop playing along with it. What happened in  Ukraine, after-all, is not a game. Sometimes things are cut and dry. Sometimes one man is fighting corruption and the other guy is corrupting all of us, on purpose.

This is one of those times.