The Wires

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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Tuesday
Oct152019

The Commentariat -- October 16, 2019

Presidential Race 2020

Democrats Squabbling. Alexander Burns & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts faced a sustained barrage of criticism from her Democratic rivals at a presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday, tangling with a group of underdog moderates who assailed her liberal economic proposals, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared to fade from the fray after parrying President Trump’s attacks on his family.The debate confirmed that the primary race had entered a new phase, defined by Ms. Warren’s apparent strength and the increasing willingness of other Democrats to challenge her.... Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., insistently charged Ms. Warren with evading a 'yes-or-no' question on how she would pay for a 'Medicare for all' health care system, while Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota cast parts of Ms. Warren’s platform as a 'pipe dream.' Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas branded Ms. Warren’s worldview as overly 'punitive.'”

Marc Caputo & Nolan McCaskill of Politico: “The frontrunners — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanderstangled over healthcare, while other candidates looking to make their mark went after Elizabeth Warren. Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke clashed over guns. The one issue that united all the candidates was impeachment. Here are the key moments of Tuesday's debate.... Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard and O’Rourke all went after Warren in the first half of the debate on issues ranging from her support to Medicare for All, trade deals and automation, a wealth tax and foreign policy. Warren held her own, notably speaking nearly twice as much as the next candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the first hour of the debate. But she also got some assistance from Sen. Cory Booker, who warned that the attacks were only benefiting Trump’s reelection campaign. 'We’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president, and how we talk about each other in this debate actually really matters,' Booker said. “I’ve had the privilege of working with or being friends with everybody on this stage, and tearing each other down because we have a different plan, to me, is unacceptable. I have seen this script before,' he added. 'It didn’t work in 2016, and it will be disaster for us in 2020.'”

Eric Levitz of New York: "At the Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio — his first major campaign event since taking illBernie wasn’t just his old, bizarrely sharp and energetic-for-a-septuagenarian self. He was better, crisper, and funnier than before. The hoarse voice that plagued Sanders on the last episode of this (wretched) TV show was gone. A new perspective on the fragility of this life — and the preciousness of every opportunity to mitigate the suffering of other human beings — had, presumably, taken its place. Or maybe Bernie just got a good night’s sleep Monday. Either way, he turned in his finest debate performance of the cycle thus far."

A good place to get a gauge of debate reactions is to scroll down New York's Daily Intelligencer. Mrs. McC: As far as I can tell, there no way to capture the moment, so if it interests you, look at it now, as it will slowly disappear behind newer stuff.

This President* is caging kids on the border and letting ISIS run free. -- Julian Castro, during the debate

~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay, I'm voting for Elizabeth Warren. She just said, during the debate, so more-or-less ad-lib, "The data show...." ~~~

~~~ The New York Times is liveblogging the debate here. The page has a live video feed of the debate.

Ryan Lizza in Politico Magazine: "The Democratic National Committee sent an urgent alert on Monday to every presidential campaign aimed at avoiding a repeat of the cybersecurity fiasco the party suffered at the hands of Russia and WikiLeaks in 2016.... The full archive of DNC Tech’s missives to the presidential campaigns ... reveal a party struggling to combat the continued onslaught of the twin threats faced by the Democratic Party: cyber penetration from state actors abroad and the spread of disinformation about its top presidential candidates by Donald Trump and his allies at home.... During Tuesday’s debate, the DNC will use a software tool called Trendolizer to track trending disinformation."

Jeff Cox of CNBC: "... Donald Trump looks likely to cruise to reelection next year under three different economic models Moody’s Analytics employed to gauge the 2020 race. Barring anything unusual happening, the president’s Electoral College victory could easily surpass his 2016 win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, which came by a 304-227 count. Moody’s based its projections on how consumers feel about their own financial situation, the gains the stock market has achieved during Trump’s tenure and the prospects for unemployment, which has fallen to a 50-year low. Should those variables hold up, the president looks set to get another four-year term. The modeling has been highly accurate going back to the 1980 election, missing only once."

Trump, Inc. -- Fall of the Consigliere

Kyle Cheney & Andrew Desiderio of Politico: “Donald Trump's impeachment blockade has collapsed. The president's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill — the first White House official to cooperate in Democrats' investigation of the Ukraine scandal — has sketched for lawmakers a trail of alleged corruption that extends from Kiev to the West Wing. In dramatic testimony on Monday, she roped in some of Trump's top advisers as witnesses to the unfolding controversy. And on Tuesday, a senior State Department official, George Kent, appeared on Capitol Hill to testify about his knowledge of the episode.... As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, a growing number of witnesses this week will describe their own role in the controversy, even as the White House has vowed not to engage with House Democrats’' illegitimate' impeachment effort.... Despite the series of breakthroughs, Democrats will still face resistance from the White House to some of their high-level requests. When asked whether Trump's budget office planned to comply with a Tuesday subpoena deadline for documents, a senior administration official did not say, instead pointing to a White House letter last week that deemed the House impeachment probe 'unconstitutional.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ Nicholas Fandos & Ken Vogel of the New York Times: “The procession of high-ranking witnesses to the House’s impeachment inquiry continued apace on Tuesday, as George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of Ukraine policy, arrived on Capitol Hill to face questions from investigators about his knowledge of the widening Ukraine scandal. Mr. Kent, who appeared behind closed doors despite the State Department directing him not to do so, raised concerns to colleagues early this year about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, according to people familiar with Mr. Kent’s warnings. As far back as March, they said, Mr. Kent was pointing to Mr. Giuliani’s role in what he called a 'disinformation' campaign intended to use a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear targets of the president.... Mr. Kent’s appearance followed an emerging pattern. According to officials familiar with the investigation, the State Department directed Mr. Kent not to appear and sought to limit his testimony. The House Intelligence Committee then issued a last-minute subpoena ordering him to appear, and he complied.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ ** Paul Kane, et al., of the Washington Post: “Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney organized a meeting this spring in which officials determined to take Ukraine policy out of the traditional channels, putting Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker in charge instead, a top State Department official told lawmakers Tuesday. George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, told House investigators that he was instructed to 'lay low,' focus on the five other countries in his portfolio, and defer to Volker, Sondland and Perry — who called themselves the 'three amigos' — on matter related to Ukraine, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) told reporters Tuesday. The meeting, which Kent told lawmakers took place on May 23, according to Connolly, was just days after the administration recalled Marie Yovanovitch from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.... [Rudy] Giuliani [has] accused Yovanovitch and Kent, formerly the No. 2 ranking diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, of trying to protect the Bidens from an investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors.... Giuliani and a columnist for the news outlet the Hill had alleged earlier this year that Yovanovitch provided a 'do not prosecute list' to Ukrainian officials to protect the Bidens and other allies. But Kent, according to the documents, told his colleagues that the list was phony, pointing to incorrect name spellings that longtime officials like Yovanovitch and himself would never have gotten wrong, he said.” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump is reportedly unhappy with Mulvaney because Mulvaney has not managed the pushback to the impeachment inquiry to Trump's satisfaction. But we can see why Trump has not fired Mulvaney: Mick is at the center of the scandal, and you can bet he ran the Ukraine scam at Trump's direction. ~~~

     ~~~ Jeremy Herb & Manu Raju of CNN: "State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent told lawmakers on Tuesday that he had been told by a supervisor to lie low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine undermining US foreign policy, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior member of the House Oversight Committee." The CNN report echoes the WashPo report linked above. ~~~

~~~ BUT Dese Guys Are Still Tough Guys:

     ~~~ Leigh Caldwell of NBC News: “Vice President Mike Pence’s office said Tuesday it will not comply with a request from the House to turn over documents related to ... Donald Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. In a letter to the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, Pence counsel Matthew Morgan called the request part of a 'self-proclaimed impeachment inquiry,' noting that the House of Representatives has not yet taken a vote to open the inquiry and asserting that the request was part of a process that 'calls into question your commitment to fundamental fairness and due process rights.'” ~~~

     ~~~ Michael Warren & Evan Perez of CNN: "The Office of Management and Budget also does not plan to turn over the documents that impeachment committees subpoenaed, a spokeswoman said, pointing to a letter earlier this month from White House counsel Pat Cipollone saying it speaks for OMB as well. The White House letter slammed the impeachment investigation as 'constitutionally illegitimate' and made clear the administration does not plan to cooperate." ~~~

      ~~~ Allan Smith, et al., of NBC News: "Rudy Giuliani won't comply with a congressional subpoena as part of the House impeachment inquiry into ... Donald Trump, an attorney for Giuliani told House investigators in a letter on Tuesday.... Jon Sale, Giuliani's attorney for the subpoena, wrote that the former New York City mayor 'will not participate because this appears to be an unconstitutional, baseless and illegitimate "impeachment inquiry.'" Sale called the subpoena 'overbroad, unduly burdensome, and seeks documents beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry.'" ~~~

     ~~~ Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News: “Rudy Giuliani dared House Democrats to take him to court Tuesday, declaring he won’t comply in their 'abomination' of an impeachment inquiry despite facing a subpoena over his shady campaign to find political dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. Having decided to not cooperate, the ex-mayor said he has parted ways with his attorney, Jon Sale, for the time being, claiming it would be 'silly to have a lawyer when I don’t need one.' However, Giuliani said he may rehire Sale if Democrats hold him in contempt over his refusal to cooperate with the subpoena, which requests documents and testimony on his Trump-endorsed attempts to strong-arm Ukrainian officials into investigating unfounded corruption claims about Biden’s family before the 2020 election.”

~~~ Bob Brigham of the Raw Story: “Former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. 'A grand jury has issued a subpoena related to Manhattan federal prosecutors’ investigation into Rudy Giuliani, seeking documents from former Rep. Pete Sessions about his dealings with President Trump’s personal lawyer and associates, according to people familiar with the matter,' the newspaper reported. 'The subpoena seeks documents related to Mr. Giuliani’s business dealings with Ukraine and his involvement in efforts to oust the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, as well as any interactions between Mr. Sessions, Mr. Giuliani and four of Mr. Giuliani’s associates who were indicted last week on campaign-finance and conspiracy accounts, the people said,' The Journal explained.” ~~~

     ~~~ ** "Primary Focus." Scott Lemiuex of LG&$ points to this from the WSJ report: "Mr. Giuliani is the primary focus of the subpoena, the people said. Mr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing and said he has had no indication his actions are being investigated by prosecutors."

Mrs. McCrabbie: Surely Trump is about to dump Giuliani. Giuliani is the focus of a grand jury subpoena. He's intimately involved with the comically inept international fraudsters (and current jailbirds) Lev & Igor, even to the point of taking $500K from them, probably in laundered money. The whistleblower and three State Department officials all have fingering him as the prime driver of the Ukraine conspiracy. He's the perfect fall guy. Indeed, it isn't even implausible for Trump to "blame Rudy." I mean, the guy did it.

Rudy Brought Lev to State Funeral. Matt Berman of BuzzFeed News: “Rudy Giuliani was photographed with his now-indicted Ukrainian associate Lev Parnas at former president George H.W. Bush's state funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, last December, a high-profile event that drew former presidents and world leaders. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and George H.W. Bush's son, said the Bush family didn't intend for Parnas to be there. Parnas 'was not invited,' Bush told BuzzFeed News in an email. 'Rudy was and it is likely that he was Rudy’s guest. Disappointing.'” ~~~

~~~ Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: “Rudolph W. Giuliani privately urged President Trump in 2017 to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, a top priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to multiple former administration officials familiar with the discussions. Giuliani, a Trump ally who later became the president’s personal attorney, repeatedly argued to Trump that the U.S. government should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition on anonymity.... [Giuliani's] earlier attempts to persuade the president to turn over the Turkish cleric represent another instance in which he appears to have been pushing a shadow foreign policy from his perch outside government.... Trump appeared receptive to the idea, pressing his advisers about Gulen’s status, the people said. One former senior administration official recalled that Trump asked frequently about why Gulen couldn’t be turned over to Turkey, referring to Erdogan as 'my friend.' Administration officials were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea....” The New York Times story is here. ~~~

~~~ Matthew Chapman of the Raw Story: “On Tuesday, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York announced charges against a Turkish bank for fraud, money laundering, and a scheme to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran. 'As alleged in today’s indictment, Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials,' said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. 'The bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme....' These charges come as new scrutiny falls on Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was convicted of bribery as part of the Halkbank scheme. Rudy Giuliani previously acted as counsel for Zarrab and, at his urging in 2017..., Donald Trump tried to get then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to relay to the Justice Department not to pursue the case. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also leaned on both Trump and former President Barack Obama to drop the Halkbank investigation.”

Julian Barnes, et al., of the New York Times: White House lawyers have begun “a fact-finding review ... seeking to understand White House officials’ actions around Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.... The lawyers’ inquiry centers on why ... deputy White House counsel John A. Eisenberg placed a rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets.... Mr. Eisenberg has said he limited access to the transcript over concerns about leaks.... Mick Mulvaney, has encouraged [the review].... The existence of the review also threatens Mr. Trump’s narrative that his call with Mr. Zelensky was 'perfect.' Instead, the review underscores the evidence that he bent foreign policy to his personal advantage by pressing Mr. Zelensky to open investigations that could damage his political opponents.” Mrs. McC: A supposed "fact-finding review" inside this White House -- a notorious fact-free zone -- seems less like a fool's errand than like some kind of ruse to cover up some kind of wrongdoing in an environment where wrongdoing is the modus operandi.

Manu Raju, et al., of CNN: "Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she will not hold a full House vote for now to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry into ... Donald Trump, a step Republicans and defenders of the President have demanded. 'There's no requirement that we have a vote so at this time we will not be having a vote and I'm very pleased with the thoughtfulness of our caucus with the path that we are on,' Pelosi said in news conference Tuesday evening, following a meeting with her caucus. Pelosi is not fully ruling out such a vote, a congressional aide confirmed to CNN, leaving her with the option to do so in the future, but she is not moving on it right now. She delivered this message to her caucus in their ongoing closed-door meeting Tuesday before speaking to reporters. 'We're not here to call bluffs. We're here to find the truth, to uphold the Constitution of the United States,' she added Tuesday. 'This is not a game for us. This is deadly serious, and we're on a path that is getting us to a path to truth and timetable that respects our Constitution.'" ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: To my mind, holding such a vote is making an unnecessary & ill-advised concession to a mobster. Such a vote would not make Trump & Cippolone suddenly decide that impeachment proceedings are no longer "unconstitutional" & they then bend over backwards providing documents & sending the Mulveneys & Pompeos & Giuianis to the Hill to testify their black little hearts out. But if the House must hold a vote for some other reason, why not a voice vote?

Two Plots with the Same Aim:

Trump's Russia-First Agenda. Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: “Whether by chance or by design, the foreign policy crises involving Syria and Ukraine ... have a common element. In each case, President Trump has taken action that has had the effect of helping the authoritarian leader of Russia.... Russian forces are now operating between the Turkish and Syrian militaries, helping to fulfill Moscow’s main aim of shoring up its alliance with Syria and the Russian military port housed there — an outcome Russian President Vladi­mir Putin has sought for years. And without lifting a finger, Putin was able to extend leverage over Ukraine, the fragile democratic neighbor he would like to control more directly, as a result of Trump’s treatment of the country’s popular new leader. Trump’s actions in Syria and Ukraine add to the list of policy moves and public statements that have boosted Russia during his presidency.... Trump has publicly questioned the usefulness of NATO ... as well as the utility of the European Union, a political and economic alliance Putin would love to weaken. He recently advocated that Moscow be allowed to rejoin the Group of Seven, a few years after it was kicked out of the group of leading world economies following its invasion of Crimea. Trump has also disputed, at times, the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost his candidacy, and he only reluctantly signed a bill imposing sanctions on Russia for the transgression after weeks of resisting the measure, which he called 'seriously flawed.'” ~~~

~~~ Jonathan Chait elaborates on how Trump carried off the Ukraine leg of his scheme to help Russia: "Trump had to turn over his Ukraine policy to an outside, Russian-paid lawyer because it repelled almost the entirety of his own administration’s foreign-policy staff. Trump’s refusal to support Kiev and release the military aid voted by Congress appalled and alarmed numerous White House advisers, many of whom saw the extortion play as not only misguided but outright criminal.... It hardly requires a nefarious conspiracy to explain why Trump has done something stupid. That outcome is, as a social scientist would put it, overdetermined. Still, the juxtaposition is quite striking. Trump is currently enduring a domestic crisis (the Ukraine scandal) and a foreign one (the Syria debacle). One of these crises — green-lighting a Turkish invasion of Syria — had no plausible connection to his own political self-interest. Both have transpired because Trump took reckless and self-destructive actions that happened to follow the course of action Russia desired." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Chait says that greenlighting the Turkish attach on the Kurds had no political upside. But I think Chait is underestimating Trump's Russia-First obession & how it fits into his re-election scheme: "bringing the troops home" would be a 2016 campaign promise he can claim he is fulfilling. Obviously, the more Trump turns his back on the world & undermines the U.S.'s influence, the better it is for Putin. Putin might as well have written Trump's campaign platform & "administrative" agenda.

Carlotta Gall & Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "Russia said on Tuesday that its military units were patrolling territory in northern Syria vacated by the Americans following the withdrawal ordered by President Trump, underscoring the sudden loss of United States influence in the eight-year-old Syria war."

Yuliya Talmazan, et al., of NBC News: "The Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria is compounding an already dire humanitarian situation and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes, according to human rights monitors. According to U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the Turkish offensive began on Oct. 9. The agency said they continue to receive additional reports of people on the move, so the actual number of displaced could be higher. The Kurdish-led authority said Tuesday more than 275,000 people have been displaced, Reuters reported."


Ann Marimow
of the Washington Post: "A federal appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit claiming that President Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his hotel in downtown Washington. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed to rehear the lawsuit, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District, which was dismissed over the summer by a three-judge panel of the court. The brief order set oral arguments before a full panel of judges for Dec. 12 and essentially gives the novel lawsuit, which tests the anti-corruption emoluments provisions of the Constitution, a second chance."

The Trumpeefenokee Swamp. David Mora of Columbia Journalism Investigations in ProPublica: "At the halfway mark of ... Donald Trump’s first term, his administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made, welcoming a total of 281 lobbyists on board, a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis shows. With a combination of weakened rules and loose enforcement easing the transition to government and back to K Street, Trump’s swamp is anything but drained. The number of lobbyists who have served in government jobs is four times more than the Obama administration had six years into office. And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for."

Paul Krugman didn't much care for Bill Barr's speech, delivered at Notre Dame Law School last week, on the evils of secularism. "It seems almost beside the point to note that Barr’s claim that secularism is responsible for violence happens to be empirically verifiable nonsense.... William Barr — again, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, responsible for defending the Constitution — is sounding remarkably like America’s most unhinged religious zealots.... I seriously doubt that Barr, whose boss must be the least godly man ever to occupy the White House, has suddenly realized to his horror that America is becoming more secular. No, this outburst of God-talk is surely a response to the way the walls are closing in on Trump.... Trump is ... taking shelter behind bigotry — racial, of course, but now religious as well."

BBC News: "David Connors, 30, and his wife Eileen, 24, say they are being held in Pennsylvania with their three-month-old baby and are 'traumatised'. They say they were driving with family members on 3 October when, to avoid an animal, they veered onto a small road. A police officer then pulled them over, told them they were in the US state of Washington and arrested them." The Washington Post story is here. Mrs. McC: Yes, our taxpayer dollars are being spent to send these dangerous animal-lovers across the country & locking them up for nearly two weeks. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Monday
Oct142019

The Commentariat -- October 15, 2019

For Your Evening Viewing Pleasure. Matt Stieb of New York: "Tuesday night marks the fourth [Democratic presidential] debate on the primary calendar — meaning there’s only eight more of these gauntlets to go in the Democratic primary race.... Hosted by Otterbein University near Columbus, Ohio, the festivities will start at 8 p.m. ET and drag on until 11 p.m.... Co-hosted by CNN and the New York Times, the debate will be available for streaming — without requiring a cable-provider log-in — at CNN.com, the New York Times mobile app, and on Facebook."

Afternoon Update:

Carlotta Gall & Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "Russia said on Tuesday that its military units were patrolling territory in northern Syria vacated by the Americans following the withdrawal ordered by President Trump, underscoring the sudden loss of United States influence in the eight-year-old Syria war."

Yuliya Talmazan, et al., of NBC News: "The Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria is compounding an already dire humanitarian situation and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes, according to human rights monitors. According to U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the Turkish offensive began on Oct. 9. The agency said they continue to receive additional reports of people on the move, so the actual number of displaced could be higher. The Kurdish-led authority said Tuesday more than 275,000 people have been displaced, Reuters reported."

Nicholas Fandos & Ken Vogel of the New York Times: “The procession of high-ranking witnesses to the House’s impeachment inquiry continued apace on Tuesday, as George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of Ukraine policy, arrived on Capitol Hill to face questions from investigators about his knowledge of the widening Ukraine scandal. Mr. Kent, who appeared behind closed doors despite the State Department directing him not to do so, raised concerns to colleagues early this year about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, according to people familiar with Mr. Kent’s warnings. As far back as March, they said, Mr. Kent was pointing to Mr. Giuliani’s role in what he called a 'disinformation' campaign intended to use a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear targets of the president.... Mr. Kent’s appearance followed an emerging pattern. According to officials familiar with the investigation, the State Department directed Mr. Kent not to appear and sought to limit his testimony. The House Intelligence Committee then issued a last-minute subpoena ordering him to appear, and he complied.”

Kyle Cheney & Andrew Desiderio of Politico: “Donald Trump's impeachment blockade has collapsed. The president's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill — the first White House official to cooperate in Democrats' investigation of the Ukraine scandal — has sketched for lawmakers a trail of alleged corruption that extends from Kiev to the West Wing. In dramatic testimony on Monday, she roped in some of Trump's top advisers as witnesses to the unfolding controversy. And on Tuesday, a senior State Department official, George Kent, appeared on Capitol Hill to testify about his knowledge of the episode.... As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, a growing number of witnesses this week will describe their own role in the controversy, even as the White House has vowed not to engage with House Democrats’' illegitimate' impeachment effort.... Despite the series of breakthroughs, Democrats will still face resistance from the White House to some of their high-level requests. When asked whether Trump's budget office planned to comply with a Tuesday subpoena deadline for documents, a senior administration official did not say, instead pointing to a White House letter last week that deemed the House impeachment probe 'unconstitutional.'”

BBC News: "David Connors, 30, and his wife Eileen, 24, say they are being held in Pennsylvania with their three-month-old baby and are 'traumatised'. They say they were driving with family members on 3 October when, to avoid an animal, they veered onto a small road. A police officer then pulled them over, told them they were in the US state of Washington and arrested them." The Washington Post story is here. Mrs. McC: Yes, our taxpayer dollars are being spent to send these dangerous animal-lovers across the country & locking them up for nearly two weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ben Hubbard & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: “Syrian government forces streamed into the country’s northeast on Monday, seizing towns where they had not stepped foot in years and filling a vacuum opened up by President Trump’s decision to abandon the United States’ Syrian Kurdish allies. Less than a week after Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria with Mr. Trump’s assent, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, considered a war criminal by the United States, has benefited handsomely, striking a deal with the United States’ former allies to take the northern border and rapidly gaining territory without a fight. In addition to Mr. al-Assad, Mr. Trump’s decision to pull United States forces out of the way has also quickly redounded to the gain of Russia and Iran, as well as the Islamic State, as the American retreat reconfigures battle lines and alliances in the eight-year war.”

James LaPorta & Tom O'Connor of Newsweek: "The U.S. military has begun a hasty exit from Syria's northern city of Manbij, and is set to help Russia establish itself there amid a Turkish attempt to defeat Kurdish-led, Pentagon-backed fighters at the strategic location, Newsweek has learned. The U.S. was scheduled as of Monday to officially withdraw from Manbij within 24-hours, leaving the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces behind as two rival factions — the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents opposed to it — sought to seize control of the strategic location. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, 'having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly.'" Mrs. McC: Pretty remarkable: the U.S. military is relying on Russian military because Trump.

of Task & Purpose: "Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that ... Turkey's incursion has led to 'the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees.'... Turkey's Islamic proxies are freeing ISIS fighters from unguarded prisons, Foreign Policy reporter Lara Seligman brought to light on Monday.... Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that he suspected it was the Kurds who were intentionally freeing ISIS fighters as part of a ploy to win U.S. support again. 'Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved,' the president tweeted, without providing any evidence. 'Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly.'"

Spencer Ackerman & Christopher Dickey of The Daily Beast: "The retreat of U.S. forces in Syria away from the Turkish invasion is having a downstream effect benefitting the so-called Islamic State. The American surveillance aircraft that had been watching ISIS are now watching their own troops. Protecting the remaining U.S. forces in Syria is now the priority for the U.S. drones and manned aircraft overhead, according to a knowledgeable U.S. official who was not permitted to speak to reporters. It’s a mission of necessity now that the remaining hundreds of American servicemembers in Syria have come under attack from the army of their NATO ally[.]" --s

If I ever catch you sneaking a piece of chocolate cake, I'll tell you not to. -- Mom, warning toddler with chocolate smeared all over his face ~~~

~~~ Seung Min Kim & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: “The Trump administration called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to implement an immediate cease-fire in northern Syria and imposed sanctions against Turkey on Monday in response to its military aggression, as the situation on the ground continued to deteriorate after President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces. Vice President Pence announced that he and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien would lead a delegation to Turkey in the 'immediate future' in an effort to end the violence in the region that has increasingly become a political problem for Trump at home.” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: As Fred Kaplan writes (post linked below), "The sanctions will have little if any effect, and certainly not quickly enough to matter — except to show even authoritarian leaders who make detestable deals with Trump that they can’t trust him to keep his word with them either."

Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The Islamic State flag has been raised once more and the last vestige of US credibility as a reliable partner lies crushed under Turkish tank tracks. It has arguably been the worst seven days for US foreign policy since the invasion of Iraq.... The speed of the unravelling has been breathtaking.... Trump, increasingly unmoored, convinced of his own 'great and unmatched wisdom', is just improvising, calling foreign leaders and making decisions affecting millions of people." --s

** David Sanger of the New York Times: “President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State. Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an 'off-script moment' with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists. But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.” (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: This is certainly the most scathing assessment of any president or President* I have ever seen from the news side of the New York Times. ~~~

~~~ digby embeds a bunch of Trump's Monday Twitter vomit re: his huge Syria-Turkey decision, then paraphrases, "In other words, it's nothing but a shithole country and I don't care what happens to any of them unless they put money in my pocket (or have some kompromat.)" Mrs. McC: Of course this isn't what Trump actually wrote so I guess digby should be impeached or something. ~~~

Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, making light of his abandonment of the Kurds ~~~

~~~ ** Fred Kaplan of Slate: “President Trump didn’t make a 'mistake' in pulling troops out of northeastern Syria last week, as many have charged. It’s what he has long wanted to do. The mistake was not understanding — and, more to the point, not caring about — the consequences. Trump’s fateful phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6, giving him the green light to cross the Syrian border and crush the Kurds without U.S. resistance, did more than any single act has ever done to demolish the post-WWII global order and isolate America from the rest of the world. This, again, has been Trump’s goal since he entered the White House.... Trump ... doesn’t realize that America’s might and wealth depend, in large measure, on the cooperation it receives from others — either offered or coerced — in pursuing its interests around the world.... It’s worth emphasizing, over and over, that the Turkish invasion wasn’t an unforeseen side effect of Trump’s withdrawal; it was an explicit part of the decision. The official statement that the White House released on Oct. 6 made this clear: Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation....'... Now, surprised that even the most loyal Republicans are lambasting him for the withdrawal, Trump is saying that he never intended for Turkey to send in troops....”

Marisa Fernandez of Axios: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke Monday to discuss bipartisan efforts to overturn President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria and sanction Turkey for its military offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Dan Spinelli of Mother Jones: “... a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing [will be held] Thursday with two State Department officials and a rash of unhappy members from both parties eager for answers. In a break from the normally staid titles of congressional hearings, this one is titled 'The Betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish Partners: How Will American Foreign Policy and Leadership Recover?', a sign that it could be far more explosive than a normal House oversight meeting, with representatives from both parties likely to ask tough questions of the Trump officials. The session will focus on Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds, who have become targets of the Turkish military after fighting Islamic State terrorists alongside the United States for the past five years. Later that morning, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are scheduled to privately brief Senate Armed Services Committee members on “the situation in Syria and the wider region.”

Trump -- The Impeachment Inquiry, Ctd.

New York Magazine welcomes "impeachment season" with several related stories. Jonathan Chait lays out the "(full) case" for Trump's impeachment. Gabriel Debenedetti describes Nancy Pelosi's strategy & tactics." (Also linked yesterday.)

Trumpy-Dumpty's Stonewall Is Falling Down:

Felicia Sonmez, et al., of the Washington Post: "Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is expected to testify behind closed doors on Wednesday, according to two officials working on the impeachment inquiry. The testimony of McKinley, who resigned his position last week, could shed light on Pompeo’s actions and how they have affected the State Department.... [at 6:30 pm ET Monday] Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper is expected to appear in closed session on Friday, the officials said." (This report is part of a liveblog.) Update: CNN's story is here.

I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up. -- John Bolton, to Fiona Hill, on what to tell White House lawyers ~~~

~~~ Peter Baker & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday. Mr. Bolton got into a sharp exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani ... to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to testimony.... Mr. Bolton instructed Fiona Hill, the senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council that Mr. Giuliani was working with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on a rogue operation with legal implications, Ms. Hill told the investigators, according to two people familiar with her closed-door testimony." This is a substantial update of a story linked yesterday. The story since has been updated again to add more details of Hill's testimony, based on sources present at the hearing. The NBC News story is here.  ~~~

~~~ Bob Brigham of the Raw Story: “Acting White House chief of staff MicK Mulvaney was implicated by a former top National Security Council official during nine-hours of congressional testimony, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The newspaper reported, 'In her testimony, she detailed a July 10 meeting she attended with senior Ukrainian officials, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, and other U.S. officials in which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, raised the issue of the investigations....' 'People in the room took the comments to refer to an investigation that could implicate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, the people said. Both [Fiona] Hill and Mr. Bolton left the meeting with concerns about what had transpired, and Ms. Hill said Mr. Bolton instructed her to talk to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg,' the newspaper’s sources said. 'Sondland also appeared to be coordinating his efforts with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Ms. Hill testified, the people said...,” The Journal noted." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: The meeting Hill recounted took place in July. Remember that the WashPo reported Oct. 12 that "Sondland appears poised to say that he and other diplomats did not know that the request to mention Burisma was really an effort to impugn the reputations of Biden and his son Hunter, who had served as a Burisma board member. Sondland contends that he didn’t know about the Biden connection until a whistleblower complaint and transcript surfaced in late September.” Right.

~~~ Karoun Demirjian, et al., of the Washington Post: "Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, told impeachment investigators on Monday that Rudolph W. Giuliani ... ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump, according to a person familiar with her testimony.... In a closed-door session that lasted roughly 10 hours, Hill told lawmakers that she confronted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about Giuliani’s activities which, she testified, were not coordinated with the officials responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy.... And in a sign the impeachment inquiry is widening, investigators were discussing whether to question John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, according to people familiar with the matter. Bolton was Hill’s direct superior at the NSC." ~~~

~~~ Manu Raju, et al., of CNN: "Fiona Hill ... raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani's role in US foreign policy toward Ukraine, telling lawmakers on Monday that she saw 'wrongdoing' in the American foreign policy and tried to report it to officials including the National Security Council's attorney, according to multiple sources.... Hill additionally told lawmakers about what she described as a rogue operation carried out by US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney..., [a] source said. A separate source said Hill ... [testified that] Sondland and Trump 'were in direct contact.'... This source said Hill said the contacts between Trump and Sondland went beyond the discussion about texts exchanged between Sondland and other American diplomats in Ukraine that have been made public.... Hill also told lawmakers that she was not part of Trump's July call with Zelensky.... Another source said she had not been involved in planning for the specific call on July 25. By the time the call took place, Hill had left the National Security Council." ~~~

~~~ Cristina Marcos & Mike Lillis of the Hill: “Democrats asserted that [Fiona] Hill corroborated what they described as a concerted effort by Trump allies who were pushing for the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens to remove Yovanovitch from her post in May. 'Rudy Giuliani has clearly been a leading force for the administration in defining a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine. There was an official foreign policy, which was attempting to counter corruption in Ukraine,' said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).... 'So you had two foreign policies that were working completely against each other.'... Democrats said Hill’s testimony only bolsters the allegations that Trump and those in his closest orbit had pressured foreign officials to tarnish a domestic political adversary for the purpose of boosting his reelection chances next year. They also characterized her as a highly credible civil servant — one Republicans would have difficulty discrediting. 'Her recall of meetings and content and who was there, with such specificity, was in some ways extraordinary,' Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) ... said afterward.... Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) predicted that the transcripts would be released eventually. In the meantime, Heck said, Trump and his allies 'are darn lucky these weren't public.'”

This morning we see further evidence that Adam Schiff's clown show of an impeachment proceeding continues. Adam Schiff lied when he said that he & his team had not had contact with the whistleblower. He lied when he read a false transcript into the record. -- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), after getting kicked out of a closed-door hearing ~~~

When the final history of this historical malignancy is written, this argument that Schiff's comic paraphrase of the president*'s guilt-laden telephone call was a 'false transcript' is going to be reckoned as one of the dumbest things they ever got the MAGAs to swallow, much less one of the dumbest chunks of pure mendacity ever to emerge from Congress. -- Charles Pierce

~~~ Charles Pierce: "On Monday morning, Fiona Hill, the administration*'s former Russia expert, came to Capitol Hill to testify in closed session to the House Oversight and Intelligence Committees regarding the president*'s attempt at running a protection racket on Ukraine. [Matt] Gaetz [(R-Breathalyzer)] is a member of neither committee, but he showed up anyway, obviously as a mole on behalf of Camp Runamuck. Acting perfectly within the rules of the House, the committees threw his truckling ass out. Gaetz immediately found a bank of microphones in front of which to drive the nails into his own palms. 'It's not like I'm on the Agriculture Committee,' Gaetz moped. Good thing, too, since he apparently could be outsmarted by produce." ~~~

~~~ Josh Lederman, et al., of NBC News: "The White House tried to limit what Fiona Hill, who until August served as ... Donald Trump's top Russia analyst, could say to Congress in its impeachment inquiry, correspondence between her lawyers and a White House deputy counsel shows. The letters, obtained by NBC News, illustrate that while the White House did not try to block Hill from testifying, it did tell Hill’s lawyers about four areas that could potentially fall under executive privilege.... Monday morning, via an emailed letter from White House Deputy Counsel Michael Purpura to Hill's attorney Lee Wolosky, the White House wrote back and generally dismissed most of the arguments by Hill’s lawyers.... Hill, the source said, raised concerns [during her testimony] about Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine and also spoke in support of ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch." Mrs. McC: Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) told Lawrence O'Donnell that Hill's testimony did not seem to be circumscribed by the White House's efforts to limit the topics on which she could speak. ~~~

~~~ CNN: "Attorneys for ... Donald Trump's former top Russia adviser argued in a letter sent on Sunday that no executive privilege issues were in play for her testimony, citing potential 'government misconduct' as one reason for their decision." A full copy of the letter from Fiona Hill's attorney to White House lawyers is embedded. Mrs. McC: Translation: Your boss engaged in corrupt acts, so you're screwed.

Asawin Suebsaeng & Sam Stein of the Daily Beast: "In the course of casual conversations with advisers and friends, President Trump has privately raised suspicions that a spiteful John Bolton ... could be one of the sources behind the flood of leaks against him, three people familiar with the comments said. At one point, one of those sources recalled, Trump guessed that Bolton was behind one of the anonymous accounts that listed the former national security adviser as one of the top officials most disturbed by the Ukraine-related efforts of Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney who remains at the center of activities that spurred the impeachment inquiry."

Matthew Chapman of the Raw Story: "On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani is having his banking records scrutinized as part of the federal criminal investigation into his dealings in the Ukraine. The report says that prosecutors are also looking into his work for a city mayor in the country. The WSJ report is here. A CNN summary of the WSJ story is here. ~~~

~~~ Lev & Igor Paid Rudy Half-a-Million. Karen Freifeld & Aram Roston of Reuters: “Rudy Giuliani, was paid $500,000 for work he did for a company co-founded by the Ukrainian-American businessman arrested last week on campaign finance charges, Giuliani told Reuters on Monday.... Federal prosecutors are 'examining Giuliani’s interactions' with [Lev] Parnas and ... Igor Fruman, who was also indicted on campaign finance charges, a law enforcement source told Reuters on Sunday.... According to an indictment unsealed by U.S. prosecutors, an unidentified Russian businessman arranged for two $500,000 wires to be sent from foreign bank accounts to a U.S. account controlled by Fruman in September and October 2018. The money was used, in part, by Fruman, Parnas and two other men charged in the indictment to gain influence with U.S. politicians and candidates, the indictment said.” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: I definitely have not emphasized this last point, and I should have: Lev & Igor got at least some of the money they dumped into Trump's & other GOP campaigns from "a Russian businessman." This sounds an awful lot like Russia "meddlng in the 2018 midterm & 2020 presidential elections."

Katherine Faulders & Benjamin Siegel of ABC News: "House Democrats are seeking to interview White House budget director Russell Vought on Oct. 25, according to a copy of the letter to the Office of Management and Budget​ obtained by ABC News, the latest sign that they are increasingly focused on the withholding of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine as part of their impeachment investigation. Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, would be among the most senior administration officials called to appear before Congress in the Ukraine probe, though multiple sources told ABC News that the White House is likely to block their appearances before the committee, as they have vowed not to cooperate with the Democrats' investigation.... The committees investigating the matter have also sought interviews with several Pentagon officials, along with Michael Duffey, an associate director of national security programs at OMB, according to requests obtained by ABC News."

Daniel Lippman of Politico: "American Media, Inc. and the National Enquirer shredded sensitive Donald Trump-related documents that had been held in a top-secret safe right before Trump was elected in 2016, according to fresh allegations made in a new book by journalist Ronan Farrow. During the first week of November 2016, the book alleges that Dylan Howard, who was then editor in chief of the National Enquirer, ordered a staff member to 'get everything out of the safe' and that 'we need to get a shredder down there.'" --s


About That U.S. China Trade "Deal." Fred Imbert
of CNBC: “China wants another round of talks before signing what ... Donald Trump called last week the first phase of a trade deal between the two nations, a source told CNBC’s Kayla Tausche on Monday.... Bloomberg News first reported the news and said in its report that China also wants the U.S. to scrap a tariff hike scheduled for December. China and the U.S. held trade talks in Washington last week that ended with Trump saying both sides reached a 'very substantial phase one deal.' As part of that deal, China will address intellectual property concerns raised by the U.S. and buy $40 billion to $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products.... But while Trump characterized the talks’ outcome as a success, Chinese state media said 'substantial progress' was made. Also, it did not call phase one a 'deal' while making little mention of the agricultural product purchases.” Mrs. McC: IOW, Trump lied; there was no agreement. He needed a win, so he invented one. (Also linked yesterday.)

Brooke Seipel of The Hill: "Several mountain climbers have reportedly scaled a wooden replica of ... Trump's steel border wall that was built to disprove Trump's claims that a portion of the wall is 'impossible to climb.' Rick Weber — a 75-year-old retired engineer, and active rock climber — built a replica of an 18-foot tall section of border wall in Kentucky earlier this month, inviting mountain climbers to compete to see who could climb it the fastest.... As of Friday, Oct. 11..., numerous people have already scaled the replica wall, including an 8-year-old girl.... Another climber, 29-year-old Erik Kloeker, made it over the wall in approximately 30 seconds during a demonstration for reporters. He later climbed the wall a second time while also juggling." --s

The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatever ... in the rights of religion..., beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against the trespasses on its legal rights by others. -- Former Secretary of State James Madison, letter to a Christian minister

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. -- Former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association

I learned how to lead ... through ... an experience with God and my own personal faith in Christ. -- Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, excerpt from text of a speech, as delivered, posted on the State Department's .gov Website ~~~

~~~ Savannah Behrmann of USA Today: “A recent speech about 'Being a Christian Leader' by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was promoted on the State Department’s homepage Monday, and has been met with criticism that it potentially violates the principle of separation of church and state enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The speech was delivered at the America Association of Christian Counselors on Friday in Nashville, Tennessee. Pompeo touts Christianity throughout the remarks, describing how he applies his faith to his government work, referencing God and the Bible during the entirety of the speech. The remarks, posted and promoted on the department's homepage, begin with Pompeo, America’s top diplomat, saying he wanted to 'use my time today to think about what it means to be a Christian leader.'...” ~~~

     ~~~ One unintentionally funny part of Pompeo's speech: "... now I have the incredible privilege to serve President Trump as his 70th Secretary of State." Trump regime turnover is even higher than we realized. ~~~

~~~ Mike Berardino of the Indianapolis Star (Oct. 11): "U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Friday decried what he saw as a concerted attack on religious freedom perpetrated by state governments that use laws as a 'battering ram to establish moral relativism.' In a 37-minute speech at the University of Notre Dame’s law school...., Barr also claimed that 'over the past 50 years, religion has been under increasing attack' in the U.S." 

Presidential Race 2020. Victoria Thompson, et al., of ABC News: "... Donald Trump continues to fill his Twitter feed and campaign speeches with attacks on Hunter Biden over his foreign business deals, the former vice president’s son defended the ethical implications of his private ventures in an interview with ABC News, but conceded taking a misstep in failing to foresee the political implications on his father’s career.... Hunter Biden reiterated that he never discussed his foreign business dealings with his father...."

Natasha Bertrand & Daniel Lippman of Politico: “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been hosting informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker in recent months to discuss issues like free speech and discuss partnerships. The dinners, which began in July, are part of Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by ... Donald Trump and his allies over alleged 'bias' against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies.”

Resistance. Phil McCausand of NBC News: "Nearly one year ago, the Trump administration fired a panel of more than two dozen scientific experts who assisted the Environmental Protection Agency in its review of air quality standards for particulate matter. Now, as the EPA prepares its report on those standards later this month, 20 of those scientists met independently to prepare the release of their own assessment of current air pollution levels, with a focus on the particles from fossil fuels that can make people sick.... This group of scientists, engineers and researchers have formed a nongovernmental committee called the Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel." --s

Jillian Ambrose of the Guardian: "The world’s rising reliance on fossil fuels may come to an end decades earlier than the most polluting companies predict, offering early signs of hope in the global battle to tackle the climate crisis. The climate green shoots have emerged amid a renewable energy revolution that promises an end to the rising demand for oil and coal in the 2020s, before the fossil fuels face a terminal decline. The looming fossil fuel peak is expected to emerge decades ahead of forecasts from oil and mining companies, which are betting that demand for polluting energy will rise until the 2040s." --s

Beyond the Beltway

** Ohio. Nicholas Casey of the New York Times: "When Ohio released a list of people it planned to strike from its voting rolls, around 40,000 people shouldn’t have been on it. The state only found out because of volunteer sleuthing.... Few people had expected a problem at that scale.... This year, a group of elected officials in the state, mostly all moderate Republicans, tried to answer the concerns with an experiment of their own: Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the government released the full list of those to be removed this summer, and gave the list to advocacy groups. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors." For instance, Jen Miller, director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, discovered she was among those the state's list of inactive voters; she says she voted three times in the past year.

Texas. Elizabeth Chuck & Tim Stelloh of NBC News: "The Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who fatally shot a woman while she was babysitting her nephew over the weekend has been charged with murder. Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Correction Center and later released on $200,000 bond, according to jail officials. Fort Worth Police Sgt. Chris Daniels acknowledged the outrage that the killing of Atatiana Jefferson, 28, had sparked.... The arrest came just hours after Dean's resignation from the police force. Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said during a press conference earlier that he intended to end Officer Aaron Dean's employment, but that Dean tendered his resignation first."

Way Beyond

U.K. Alexander Smith of NBC News: "Monday marked the state opening of Parliament, a formal procession where the government set out the legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary term.... The Queen's Speech was delivered by Queen Elizabeth II — although the speech itself is actually written by the government as a way to announce its policy agenda. 'My Government's priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union on 31 October,' she said, reading the government's words. 'My Government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation.' In reality, [PM Boris] Johnson does not have enough power in Parliament to achieve any of the aims, however — meaning the U.K. is almost certainly headed for an election soon." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ CNN here and the Guardian here are liveblogging updates. (Also linked yesterday.) 

Sunday
Oct132019

The Commentariat -- October 14, 2019

Late Morning Update:

** David Sanger of the New York Times: “President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State. Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an 'off-script moment' with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists. But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.” ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: This is certainly the most scathing assessment of any president or President* I have ever seen from the news side of the New York Times.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia and Europe adviser, headed to Capitol Hill on Monday morning where she is prepared to testify that she and other officials objected strenuously to the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine, only to be disregarded.... Ms. Hill will be the first person who worked in the White House to be deposed by House investigators.... The White House has not attempted to stop Ms. Hill from testifying, according to the person familiar with her account, but White House lawyers have exchanged letters with Ms. Hill’s lawyer about precedents regarding the confidentiality of presidential communications." Mrs. McC: According to news accounts this morning, the House issued Hill a subpoena today; whether or not this was because the Trump administration tried to quash her testimony was not clear.

New York Magazine welcomes "impeachment season" with several related stories. Jonathan Chait lays out the "(full) case" for Trump's impeachment. Gabriel Debenedetti describes Nancy Pelosi's strategy & tactics."

About That U.S. China Trade "Deal." Fred Imbert of CNBC: “China wants another round of talks before signing what ... Donald Trump called last week the first phase of a trade deal between the two nations, a source told CNBC’s Kayla Tausche on Monday.... Bloomberg News first reported the news and said in its report that China also wants the U.S. to scrap a tariff hike scheduled for December. China and the U.S. held trade talks in Washington last week that ended with Trump saying both sides reached a 'very substantial phase one deal.' As part of that deal, China will address intellectual property concerns raised by the U.S. and buy $40 billion to $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products.... But while Trump characterized the talks’ outcome as a success, Chinese state media said 'substantial progress' was made. Also, it did not call phase one a 'deal' while making little mention of the agricultural product purchases.” Mrs. McC: IOW, Trump lied; there was no agreement. He needed a win, so he invented one.

U.K. Alexander Smith of NBC News: "Monday marked the state opening of Parliament, a formal procession where the government set out the legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary term.... The Queen's Speech was delivered by Queen Elizabeth II — although the speech itself is actually written by the government as a way to announce its policy agenda. 'My Government's priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union on 31 October,' she said, reading the government's words. 'My Government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation.' In reality, [PM Boris] Johnson does not have enough power in Parliament to achieve any of the aims, however — meaning the U.K. is almost certainly headed for an election soon." ~~~

~~~ CNN here and the Guardian here are liveblogging updates.

~~~~~~~~~~

Complete Capitulation

The New York Times is live-updating developments at the Syria-Turkey border. At about 6 am ET, the headline is "Assad's Army Moves into Border Town."

Charlie Savage, et al., of the New York Times: “The American military was unable to transfer about five dozen 'high value' Islamic State detainees out of Kurdish-run wartime prisons before the Pentagon decided to move its forces out of northern Syria and pave the way for a Turkish-led invasion, according to two American officials. In the same area on Sunday, hundreds of Islamic State sympathizers escaped from a low-security detention camp in the region, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the Turkish ground invasion and the accompanying strikes. Both developments underscored the pandemonium unleashed by President Trump’s sudden decision to order American troops to evacuate part of the Syrian region bordering Turkey.... Mr. Trump claimed last week that the United States had taken out the worst ISIS detainees to ensure they would not escape. But in fact the American military was able to take custody of only two British detainees.... As the week progressed and Kurdish casualties mounted, the onetime American ally ... grew increasingly angry at the United States.... The Kurds refused ... to cooperate in permitting the American military to take out any more detainees from the constellation of ad hoc wartime detention sites for captive ISIS fighters.” Emphasis added. Update. The AP story is here.

** U.S. Moves Out, Syria Moves In. Liz Sly, et al., of the Washington Post: "Syrian government troops began moving toward towns near the Turkish border Sunday night under a deal struck with Syrian Kurds, following a chaotic day that saw the unraveling of the U.S. mission in northeastern Syria.... The announcement by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that they had reached an agreement with the Iranian- and Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad further undermined the prospect of any continued U.S. presence in the country. The deal will bring forces loyal to Assad back into towns and cities that have been under Kurdish control for seven years." ~~~

     ~~~ Christopher Dickey & Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "Brett McGurk, who resigned as the presidential special envoy to the coalition against ISIS last December, told The Daily Beast on Sunday that such a move by the Syrian Kurds was predictable under the circumstances. Even last year, when McGurk was still serving, Kurdish leaders in Syria were telling the Americans that if support for them and deterrence against a Turkish attack was not going to continue, they needed to make a deal with the Assad regime and Russia for protection."

Chas Danner of New York has a good recap of developments as of Sunday evening ET.

Julian Barnes & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Sunday that President Trump ordered a withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria, a decision that will effectively cede control of the area to the Syrian government and Russia, and could allow a resurgence of the Islamic State. Mr. Esper, appearing on both Fox News and CBS News, said that American troops, mostly Special Operations forces, would move south but not leave the country in the face of Turkey’s incursion into the section of Syria controlled by Kurdish forces, a group of fighters trained and backed by the United States government. The Pentagon has slow-walked previous orders by Mr. Trump to evacuate from Syria, to protect its Kurdish partners and hold the ground it took back from the Islamic State. But Mr. Esper’s comments Sunday indicated that this time Mr. Trump’s drawdown order was being acted on with haste.... Mr. Esper said the Pentagon expected Turkish forces to annex even more territory than originally estimated." This is confirmation of reports linked earlier yesterday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ Seung Min Kim & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: “President Trump’s order to withdraw essentially all U.S. forces from northern Syria came after the commander in chief privately agitated for days to bring troops home, according to administration officials — even while the Pentagon was making public assurances that the United States was not abandoning its Kurdish allies in the region. The officials, granted anonymity to describe internal deliberations, described Trump as 'doubling down' and 'undeterred,' despite vociferous pushback from congressional Republicans.... Behind the scenes, Trump has tried to convince advisers and lawmakers that the United States is not to blame for Turkey’s military offensive.... But experts — and many Republicans — say otherwise.” Mrs. McC: According to the report, all this had no effect because Tucker Carlson & Lou Dobbs.

~~~ Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: “President Trump faced bipartisan criticism Sunday for his decision to order a withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, with one congressional Republican denouncing the move as 'weak' and a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman warning that it will 'diminish the character of our great nation.' Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, announced that both chambers are readying a joint resolution urging Trump to reverse his decision.The developments came on the same day that Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper announced the planned withdrawal of virtually all U.S. forces from northern Syria in the face of a Turkish military offensive targeting Kurdish fighters in the region. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran who was a pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan, was among the most vocal members of the president’s party to condemn the move.”

Committee to Protect Journalists: "The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the Turkish air strike on a civilian convoy that killed journalist Saad Ahmed and injured at least four other reporters. At about 4:15 pm today, a Turkish airstrike hit a civilian convoy traveling between the northern Syrian towns of Qamishli and Ras al-Ain, killing Ahmed, a Syrian Kurdish reporter for the local news agency Hawar News (ANHA), according to ANHA Director Alan Roj and Editorial Director Delshad Judy, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. At least four other journalists from local news outlets were also injured in the attack, according to news reports and sources who spoke to CPJ. According to a report by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, five other civilians were killed in the strike."

Humeyra Pamuk of Reuters: “The United States is looking into reports that a Kurdish politician and captured Kurdish fighters were killed in northeastern Syria amid Turkey’s offensive, a State Department spokesman told Reuters on Sunday, adding that Washington found the reports disturbing.... 'We find these reports to be extremely troubling, reflecting the overall destabilization of northeast Syria since the commencement of hostilities on Tuesday,' the spokesman said in an email.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Eric Schmitt, et al., of the New York Times: “... with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies. 'They trusted us and we broke that trust,' one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. 'It’s a stain on the American conscience.' 'I’m ashamed,' said another officer who had also served in northern Syria. And the response from the Kurds themselves was just as stark. 'The worst thing in military logic and comrades in the trench is betrayal,' said Shervan Darwish, an official allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.... As the Americans pulled back, the Kurds moved north to try to reinforce their comrades fighting the offensive. The American soldiers could only watch from their sandbag-lined walls. Orders from Washington were simple: Hands off. Let the Kurds fight for themselves. The orders contradicted the American military’s strategy in Syria over the past four years, especially when it came to the Kurdish fighters, known as the Y.P.G., who were integral to routing the Islamic State from northeastern Syria.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Paul LeBlanc & Jake Tapper of CNN: "A retired four-star Marine general on Sunday bluntly criticized ... Donald Trump over the ongoing Turkish military offensive in northern Syria, saying, 'There is blood on Trump's hands for abandoning our Kurdish allies.' Gen. John Allen, the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS under the Obama administration, told CNN the unfolding crisis in Syria was 'completely foreseeable' and 'the US greenlighted it.'"

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Looks as if Trump is getting worried about Republican support. Shortly after patting himself on the back for his "very smart" move greenlighting Turkey's assault on Kurdish regions, he tweeted this: "Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey. Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) Update: The WashPo story by SMK & Dawsey linked above confirm my earlier supposition: Republicans privately had been pushing Trump.

Carlotta Gall & Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "Hundreds of relatives of Islamic State fighters fled a Kurdish-run detention camp on Sunday morning after Turkish airstrikes hit the surrounding area, deepening the crisis prompted by the Turkish-led invasion of northern Syria. The escapes came hours before the United States military said it would withdraw its remaining troops from northern Syria in the coming weeks, despite a likely resurgence of the Islamic State amid chaotic efforts by Turkish-led troops to wrest the region from Kurdish control. A Kurdish official also said that the flag of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had been raised in the countryside between the camp in the Kurdish-held town of Ain Issa and the Turkish border, another indication of how the Kurdish authorities were losing control of a region they had freed from the extremists only months ago." This is confirmation of reports linked earlier yesterday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Joshua Posaner of Politico: "Turkey's military offensive in Syria threatens to destabilize the region and boost ISIS, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a phone call Sunday.'The chancellor spoke in favor of an immediate end to the military operation,' said Ulrike Demmer, a spokesperson for Merkel, adding that the Turkish leader had requested the call. The call came after Berlin moved to suspend some arms exports to Turkey on Saturday after Ankara launched an offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria last week following ... Donald Trump's withdrawal of troops from the region.... EU foreign ministers are meeting early this week ahead of a summit of heads of state, with both sessions set to address the situation in Syria." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

What Trump Has Wrought. Vladimir Isacenkov of the AP: "From Syria to Ukraine, new fault lines and tensions are offering the Kremlin fresh opportunities to expand its clout and advance its interests. The U.S. military withdrawal from northern Syria before a Turkish offensive leaves Russia as the ultimate power broker, allowing it to help negotiate a potential agreement between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Kurds who were abandoned by Washington. And in Ukraine, where the new president saw his image dented by a U.S. impeachment inquiry, Russia may use the volatility to push for a deal that would secure its leverage over its western neighbor."

Mrs. McCrabbie: A pundit (and I wish I could give the person credit) said on MSNBC last week that the real reason Lindsey Graham was so upset about Trump's abandonment of the Kurds was that Trump had failed to consult him first. So this from Felicia Sonmez's WashPo report linked above tends to confirm that opinion: “Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who had previously called Trump’s decision on Syria 'the biggest blunder of his presidency,' praised the president Sunday for offering his support for sanctions on Turkey. 'Good decision by President @realDonaldTrump to work with Congress to impose crippling sanctions against Turkeys outrageous aggression/war crimes in Syria,' Graham tweeted.... Earlier Sunday, Trump had tweeted that he was dealing with Graham 'and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey.'”

Mrs. McCrabbie: So many have feared "what Trump would do in an international crisis," when the more likely eventuality was "what international crisis Trump would cause." We have one answer now; the longer he remains in office, the more certain it is there were be more. safari asks today, "What fresh hell will Monday bring?" The implication of his question is that whatever it may be, there will be fresh hell.

Trump, Inc. -- The Criminal Enterprise, Ctd.

Washington Post Editors: "... President Trump’s corruption in Ukraine was not limited to his pressure for politicized investigations that could help his reelection campaign. We now know that the president’s unjustified firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May advanced the interests of two businessmen who made large contributions to his political campaigns ... and did business with his personal lawyer.... According to reporting by The Post and other news organizations, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two emigres from the former Soviet Union with checkered financial histories, made $630,000 in contributions to Republican candidates and political action committees beginning in 2016." ~~~

~~~ MEANWHILE, "Putin Changes the Channel on Ukraine." Michael Bennetts of Politico: "... when ... Vladimir Putin declared this month that Kremlin-funded television channels should give Ukraine a break..., [his] that Kremlin-funded television channels should give Ukraine a break, underscored a thaw in relations between the two former Soviet states since Volodymyr Zelenskiy ... came to power in Ukraine in May. Last month, in a long-awaited development, the two countries exchanged dozens of prisoners, including 24 Ukrainian sailors seized by Russia during a naval clash in the Black Sea. And then, on October 1, Ukraine agreed to hold elections in its war-torn eastern regions controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists. It’s a move that could bring an end to a five-year conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people and displaced another million."

Alayna Treene of Axios: "... documents obtained by Axios show how Democrats are taking the impeachment inquiry in two tightly focused directions: Ukraine and obstruction of justice.... There are new temptations for Democrats to broaden the scope of their inquiry after developments last week including President Trump's gift to Turkey, new questions about coordination with the Chinese over Hunter Biden, and the dramatic airport arrests of two of Rudy Giuliani's associates with Eastern European backgrounds and their indictments on campaign finance violations. But ... if the document request for Trump's former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, reviewed by Axios, is a road map for what Dems plan to ask Trump administration officials this week — and committee sources tell me that it is — then the inquiry remains focused on Ukraine and has not yet branched out into other countries." Treene lists "some of the key areas of interest to the committees, as outlined in their Oct. 9 letter to Hill," & the link is to the full docs request to Hill.

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: “Donald Trump’s secretary of defense said on Sunday the Pentagon would cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry, while cautioning that Trump may try to restrict his disclosure of information. Mark Esper said in two interviews his department would work to comply with a subpoena from committees seeking records relating to the withholding of US military aid to Ukraine.... But Esper warned on Fox News Sunday that Trump and other officials may yet create complications for the compliance before Tuesday’s deadline for him to respond. 'I don’t know what restrictions we may have internally in regard to releasing them,' Esper said. 'The White House has a say on the release of documents as well.'” Mrs. McC: I find it hard to believe that Esper will stand up to Trump on Ukraine when he didn't stand up to him on the Kurds -- a life-and-death blunder. I'd like to be wrong.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: “Ever since former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker handed over those text messages, President Trump’s defenders have pointed to one of them as supposedly exonerating Trump. 'Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,' Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told another diplomat. 'The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s [sic] of any kind.' This text has been a linchpin of the Trump Ukraine defense. But on Saturday night, the linchpin broke.... Sondland will ... indicate that he was merely relaying Trump’s defense, which he had discussed with the president on a phone call before the text message[.]... This is remarkable stuff, especially considering that Sondland, unlike the two diplomats he was conversing with in those text messages, was a big-time Trump donor.... Sondland’s impending testimony sounds like that of a man covering his own backside and knowing his apparent defense of Trump could quickly fall apart upon further examination.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Nahal Toosi of Politico: “Current and former career U.S. diplomats say Trump has handed far too many ambassadorial posts to unqualified candidates, many of whom were political donors with thin diplomatic resumes and little respect for the U.S. Foreign Service. Some say it’s time to rethink, if not cap or outright bar, political appointments for ambassadorships. 'It is out of whack under Trump,' said Dana Shell Smith, a former career Foreign Service officer who served as the U.S. ambassador to Qatar. 'These ambassadorships are being seen as the spoils, as opposed to being very serious jobs that act in the interest of the country.' Most modern presidents have given roughly 30 percent of U.S. ambassador postings to political appointees, with the rest drawn from career government ranks.... As of now, nearly 45 percent of his ambassador picks — people who have been confirmed or are awaiting confirmation — are political appointees, one database shows.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Maggie Haberman & Annie Karni of the New York Times: "For 24 hours last week, Trey Gowdy, the former South Carolina congressman best known for leading congressional investigations of Hillary Clinton, was the new face of President Trump’s outside legal defense and a symbol of a streamlined effort to respond to a fast-moving impeachment inquiry. A day later, the arrangement fell apart, with lobbying rules prohibiting Mr. Gowdy from starting until January, possibly after the inquiry is over. Now, according to two people familiar with events, Mr. Gowdy is never expected to join the team. And Trump advisers are back to square one, searching for a different lawyer.... Several [Trump aides] pointed fingers at Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, suggesting he had botched the rollout." The story goes on to report what-all happened in the "botched rollout." One upside: Gowdy lost his paid gig at Fox "News" in the wake of the annoucement he would be working for Trump. Mrs. McC: I suppose Gowdy will be back on air shortly now that he's not an official frontman for our Top Mobster.

Allan Smith of NBC News: "Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that it was wrong for ... Donald Trump to call on China to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in the Texas Republican's most direct rebuke of the president yet. Asked on CBS's 'Face the Nation' whether Trump's comments were 'appropriate,' Cruz said 'of course not. Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it's not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections,' he said.... Host Margaret Brennan then asked if it was improper for Trump to ask Ukraine to probe the Bidens.... 'Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections,' Cruz said. 'That's true for Russia. That's true for Ukraine. That's true for China. That's true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections....'... Cruz added that it would make 'sense for [Rudy] Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already invited Giuliani to do so." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ MEANWHILE. Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday hit Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for his coverage of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine's president that is at the center of the House's impeachment inquiry. 'Somebody please explain to Chris Wallace of Fox, who will never be his father (and my friend), Mike Wallace, that the Phone Conversation I had with the President of Ukraine was a congenial & good one,' Trump tweeted. 'It was only Schiff’s made up version of that conversation that was bad!' he added." Mrs. McC: I know many of you think it doesn't matter whether or not Trump believes his own B.S., but I think he does believe "it's all Adam Schiff's fault," and I think Trump's amazing facility for deluding himself is an essential ingredient in furtherance the problems he causes. This coping mechanism may appear to work for him, but it a plague upon the nation. ~~~

     ~~~ Michael Grynbaum & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Fed up with the coverage on his favorite cable news station, President Trump ... telephoned the chief executive of Fox News, Suzanne Scott, and let loose. In a lengthy conversation, Mr. Trump complained that Fox News was not covering him fairly.... The president has rarely been satisfied with the adulation he receives from the network’s prime-time and morning opinion shows. Instead, he often fixates on any hint of criticism, deeming the network ungrateful for the high ratings that he attributes to himself." The Hill has a summary report here.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Brittany Shammas of the Washington Post reports on WSMV Nashville reporter Nancy Amons' interview of Mike Pompeo, embedded here Saturday. Mrs. McC: It really is delicious when a reporter gets the best of a bully like Pompeo who goes out of his way to avoid situations where he might get substantive questions.


Jackson Diehl
of the Washington Post: "The uproar in Washington over President Trump’s corruption in Ukraine and malfeasance in Syria has obscured a broader story. In little more than a month, virtually every other foreign policy initiative the Trump administration has pursued has imploded — thanks mostly to the president’s increasingly unhinged behavior.” Diehl ticks of the catastrophes: the Afghan-Taliban summit at Camp David that didn't happen; the failed “'maximum pressure' campaign against Iran”; Kim Jong-un's refusal to accept an "interim" nuclear deal.  “... there isn’t [a common thread], other than Trump’s mounting erraticism.... But the carnage of Trump’s foreign policy likely isn’t over yet.”

Michael Schmidt & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: “A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.... The video, which includes the logo for Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, comprises a series of internet memes. The most violent clip shows Mr. Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man opening fire inside the 'Church of Fake News' on parishioners who have the faces of his critics or the logos of media organizations superimposed on their bodies. It appears to be an edited scene of a church massacre from the 2014 dark comedy film 'Kingsman: The Secret Service.' The disclosure that the video was played shows how Mr. Trump’s anti-media language has influenced his supporters and bled into their own propaganda.... A spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign said ... 'That video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence.'...” ~~~

~~~ David Cohen of Politico: “The White House Correspondents’ Association on Sunday night condemned 'a video reportedly shown' at a pro-Trump event held at a Trump resort in Miami that depicted graphic violence against journalists and various political figures.” Cohen also summarizes the NYT story linked above.

Nancy Gibbs in a Washington Post op-ed: "What if the president wants out? There’s much about the job he never liked, which is one reason he spends so much time watching TV rather than actually doing it.... He has claimed so often to love being president that it’s easy to think he protests too much.... Trump escapes the frustration of failing to accomplish his agenda by not having ever had one, beyond his continued exaltation.... Resigning is out; that’s for quitters. Defeat in 2020 is worse; losing is for losers. But being impeached and removed from office is the one outcome that preserves at least some ability to denounce the deep state and the quislings in the Senate who stabbed him in the back, maintain his bond with his tribe, depart the capital and launch a media business to compete with the ever more flaccid Fox News.... With a choice of bad options, impeachment doesn’t look so bad, and gets you home to your gilded tower sooner. Assuming, that is, that you don’t think you can just burn the Constitution to the ground and be the last one standing." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Every time I'm away from the news for several hours, I open up my computer & hope to see the bold headline, "Trump Resigns." I really do, even though I know any headline involving Trump is apt to be news of another abomination. If Gibbs' thesis is right, I'll have to count on Mitch & Lindsey & Ted to make my fantasy come true.

Presidential Race 2020. Charles Blow of the New York Times: “At a campaign rally in Minnesota, Trump said of Joe Biden: 'He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.'... The insult invokes a fear and disdain that white racists have had throughout American history: The subjugation of the white man to the black one.... The white supremacists see ... the subjugation of Biden ... to the black man ... as a particular kind of racial betrayal and racial subjugation that can never be made normal.... That is why Obama stays on the tip of Trump’s tongue.... The racism is coded, received, without the burden of delivery.” Mrs. McC: I was surprised that Trump didn't say "kiss his black ass," but Blow's explanation clears that up: "black ass" is understood in Trumpland. American black English has always employed a lot of code words designed to escape the understanding of white listeners. The irony is that now it is white racists who have to use coded language to appear socially acceptable to the larger population. I'm sure the racists resent that constriction of their freeedoms.


Matthew Green of Reuters: “Almost 400 scientists have endorsed a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing governments to take rapid action to tackle climate change, warning that failure could inflict 'incalculable human suffering.' In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne. Wearing white laboratory coats to symbolize their research credentials, a group of about 20 of the signatories gathered on Saturday to read out the text outside London’s century-old Science Museum in the city’s upmarket Kensington district.”