The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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.


The Commentariat -- September 21, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "President Trump began his weekend defending his 'perfectly fine and routine' conversation with the Ukrainian president in which he reportedly asked the foreign leader to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. In his tweets, Trump references his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but makes no mention of whether he brought up Biden during the conversation. Instead, he blames the news media for its coverage of the story.... He later tweeted that the news was an extension of the 'witch hunt' carried out by Democrats, his frequent reference to the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and firing of James B. Comey as FBI director.... Trump's comments echo a defense first laid out Thursday night by his personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who argued that the president could ask a foreign leader anything he wanted and that the real story was related to Biden's pressuring the Ukrainian government in 2016 to fire its top prosecutor who at the time happened to be investigating a company in which Biden's son, Hunter, had a stake." ~~~

     ~~~ There are Hill stories here and here.

Tom Nichols in the Atlantic: "The president of the United States reportedly sought the help of a foreign government against an American citizen who might challenge him for his office. This is the single most important revelation in a scoop by The Wall Street Journal, and if it is true, then ... Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office immediately.... If this in itself is not impeachable, then the concept [of impeachment] has no meaning. Trump's grubby commandeering of the presidency's fearsome and nearly uncheckable powers in foreign policy for his own ends is a gross abuse of power and an affront both to our constitutional order and to the integrity of our elections.... The story may even be worse than we know. If Trump tried to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage, as reporters are now investigating, then he held Ukrainian and American security hostage to his political vendettas.... There is no spin, no deflection, no alternative theory of the case that can get around the central fact that President Trump reportedly attempted to use his office for his own gain, and that he put the foreign policy and the national security of the United States at risk while doing so."

Mark Chediak & Brian Eckhouse of Bloomberg: "Today, renewable energy is so cheap that the handouts they once needed are disappearing.... Electricity generation and heating account for 25% of global greenhouse gases. As wind and solar demonstrate they can compete on their own against coal- and natural gas-fired plants, the economic and political arguments in favor of carbon-free power become harder and harder to refute. 'The training wheels are off,' said Joe Osha, an equity analyst at JMP Securities. 'Prices have declined enough for both solar and wind that there's a path toward continued deployment in a post-subsidy world.'... The cost of wind power has fallen about 50% since 2010. Solar has dropped 85%. That makes them cheaper than new coal and gas plants in two-thirds of the world, according to BloombergNEF." --s


"Treason, Bribery, or Other High Crimes," Ctd.

** Julian Barnes, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump repeatedly pressed his Ukrainian counterpart in a call to talk with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had been urging the government in Kiev for months to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his family, according to people briefed on the call. Mr. Trump's desire for a Ukrainian investigation of Mr. Biden ... is part of the secret whistle-blower complaint that is said to be about Mr. Trump and at least in part about his dealings with Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter.... Mr. Trump ... has made no secret of his desire for Kiev to investigate the Bidens, repeatedly raising it publicly. But questions have emerged about whether Mr. Trump's push for an inquiry into the Bidens was behind a weekslong White House hold on military aid for Ukraine. The United States suspended the military aid to Ukraine in early July, according to a former American official. Mr. Trump did not discuss the aid in the July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and Kiev did not learn of the suspension until August...." (Also linked yesterday.)

... the revelation that Trump pressured a foreign government to investigate one of his political rivals appears to be a textbook abuse of power. -- Aaron Rupar of Vox (linked below)

** Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump pressed the leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden in a call between the two leaders that is at the center of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint, according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump used the July 25 conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the recently elected leader to more aggressively pursue an investigation that Trump believed would deliver potential political dirt against one of the president's political adversaries, the people said. One source familiar with the contents of the exchange said that Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that had been pledged to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo in that call.... The revelation that Trump pushed Zelensky to pursue the Biden probe, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, represents the most detailed account so far of the president's conduct that prompted a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower action against the president." (Also linked yesterday.)

** Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump reportedly pressured the president of Ukraine during a July phone call to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky roughly eight times to work with his personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on the matter. The president's contacts with Ukraine have come under intense scrutiny after a whistleblower filed a complaint related to Trump's communications with Ukraine." (Also linked yesterday.)

John Haltiwanger of Business Insider, citing the WSJ story: "'He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know' whether there was any basis to allegations the former vice president worked to protect a Ukraine-based gas company with ties to his son, Hunter Biden, a person familiar with the matter told the Journal." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: The assertion that Trump pressured Zelensky "roughly eight times" suggests to me that the reporters' source was working off a transcript of the Trump/Zelensky conversation. This also suggests that the source may hold a high-level job.

Josh Dawsey, et al., of the Washington Post: "When President Trump spoke on the telephone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in late July, the Ukrainians ... were waiting on millions in stalled military aid from the United States, and Zelensky was seeking a high-priority White House meeting with Trump. Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart that his country could improve its image if it completed corruption cases that have 'inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA,' according to a readout of the call released by Kiev. What neither government said publicly at the time was that Trump went even further -- specifically pressing Ukraine's president to reopen a corruption investigation involving former vice president Joe Biden's son, according to two people familiar with the call.... Days after the two presidents spoke..., Rudolph W. Giuliani met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue. One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had Biden's son Hunter on his board. Another was an allegation that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 election.... New revelations about the dual channels of pressure on Ukraine -- one from the president and one from his personal attorney -- are fueling questions about whether Trump used his office to try to force a foreign country to take actions damaging to his political opponents." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Ukraine had already "investigated" & rejected claims that then-Vice President Biden had acted improperly in regard to his son's business interests there, so Trump's repeatedly pressuring President Zelensky to "work with Giuliani" was a transparent attempt to get Zelensky to authorize a fake investigation that drew conclusions coinciding with Rudy's false condemnation of Biden. P.S. Trump called Zelensky on July 25, 2019. That was the day after Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Apparently Trump thought the 2016 "Russia thing" was over & now he could start seeking foreign assistance in his 2020 campaign. And even though the source for the WSJ & WashPo stories claims Trump offered no quid pro quo, Trump had put a hold on U.S. aid to Ukraine, Trump also repeatedly told Zelensky that a successful Ukrainian investigation of "corruption"/Biden would improve U.S.-Ukraine relations. IOW, "Nice little country you got there, Zelensky. Wouldn't want anything to happen to it."

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump declined to say Friday whether he had discussed Joe Biden or his family during a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that has drawn intense scrutiny, but he told reporters that 'someone ought to look into' the former vice president.... Asked Friday if he had discussed Biden with Zelensky, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, 'It doesn't matter what I discussed.'... 'I don't know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it's a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party,' Trump said." (Also linked yesterday.)

Quint Forgey of Politico: "Trump's latest comments are also likely to heighten speculation that the conversation reportedly detailed in the complaint referred to his July 25 phone call with recently elected Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump told reporters he did not know whether that call was the subject of the whistleblower complaint." (Also linked yesterday.)

Aaron Rupar of Vox: "... Donald Trump's initial public comments about revelations that his conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are the subject of a whistleblower complaint regarding possible abuse of power were incoherent in multiple respects.... He attempted to suggest that the whistleblower in question had political motives by describing them as 'a partisan' -- even though he later said he doesn't know who he or she is. He insisted the conversations he had with Ukrainian officials that are now under scrutiny were 'totally appropriate' and 'beautiful,' and later said he can't remember them. He said he hadn't read the whistleblower complaint, but then in the next breath claimed 'everybody's read it, they laugh at it.' And [he] ... said 'it doesn't matter what I discuss' with foreign leaders.... Trump then turned his fire on ... the media. 'Our media has become the laughingstock of the world,' Trump said, before going on downplay the entire scandal as 'another media disaster' and insulting the assembled reporters. 'The media of our country is laughed at all over the world now. You're a joke, he said."

If these reports are true, then ... It means that he [Trump] used the power and resources of the United States to pressure a sovereign nation -- a partner that is still under direct assault from Russia -- pushing Ukraine to subvert the rule of law in the express hope of extracting a political favor.... Such clear-cut corruption damages and diminishes our institutions of government by making them tools of a personal political vendetta. At minimum, Donald Trump should immediately release the transcript of the call in question, so that the American people can judge for themselves, and direct the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to stop stonewalling and release the whistleblower notification to the Congress. -- Joe Biden, in a statement, Friday

Tal Axelrod & Juliegrace Brufke of the Hill: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the Trump administration on Friday to release a whistleblower complaint..., saying the complaint raises 'grave, urgent concerns for our national security.' 'We must be sure that the President and his Administration are conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people, not the President's personal interest,' Pelosi said in a statement." Mrs. McC: Pelosi does not mention impeachment in her statement. ~~~

~~~ ** Tom Scocca of Slate: "Someone should do something." In which the author suggests what someone might write to point "out the terrifying mismatch between the ever-increasing speed with which our political system is falling apart and the slow trudge toward November 2020, when the Democratic Party hopes that voters will do what current elected Democratic officials will not do and take action to remove our visibly degenerating president from office." ~~~

Many people including me are frustrated by the timidity of the Democrats. This is a smoking gun, people. If this doesn't warrant an impeachment inquiry, nothing does. But ... Timidity is bad, but it pales compared with the outright corruption of Republicans, who are clearly OK with actions that are precisely what the founding fathers feared, and the reason impeachment is possible[.] -- Paul Krugman, in tweets, Friday

~~~ George Conway & Neal Katyal in a Washington Post op-ed: The framers "believed that a president would break his oath if he engaged in self-dealing -- if he used his powers to put his own interests above the nation's. That would be the paradigmatic case for impeachment. That's exactly what appears to be at issue today.... It appears that the president might have used his official powers -- in particular, perhaps the threat of withholding a quarter-billion dollars in military aid -- to leverage a foreign government into helping him defeat a potential political opponent in the United States. If Trump did that, it would be the ultimate impeachable act. Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment and removal with his relentless attempts, on multiple fronts, to sabotage the counterintelligence and criminal investigation by then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to conceal evidence of those attempts.... The current whistleblowing allegations, however, are even worse.... It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended.... Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents...." The Raw Story has a summary of the op-ed here. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie Note to Nancy: Wouldn't it be ironic -- and not in a good way -- if the House refused to impeach Trump for abuse of office, and he won re-election because he used his office to force so many countries or domestic entities to "find" and publicize all kinds of fake improprieties the Democratic presidential nominee was supposed to have committed.

MEANWHILE. Rachel Bade, et al., of the Washington Post: "Republicans responded with a collective shrug to explosive news that an intelligence official had lodged a complaint with the inspector general about President Trump's communications with a foreign leader, the latest example of GOP lawmakers falling in line. Rank-and-file Republicans on Friday repeatedly dodged questions about a whistleblower allegation that a 'promise' Trump made to a foreign leader jeopardized national security. Some even went so far as to dismiss the complaint as politically motivated -- even though they hadn't seen the full details of the allegation. 'It's not like we haven't seen this movie before: Democrats come out, they're all spun up, [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff makes all kinds of statements, and then when the facts come out, whoa, different story!" said Trump-ally Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He compared the latest allegations to claims that Trump worked with Russia to win in 2016. 'This seems to be the same kind of deal.'" Mrs. McC: Yes, Jimbo, yes it does. ~~~

You will never see the attacks stopped. The left will not give up because they cannot even accept the fact that they lost. -- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), on Fox "News," Friday ~~~

~~~ Darren Samuelsohn, et al., of Politico: "To the president's defenders, [the scandal is] just another case of media bias and an angry anti-Trump cabal inside the government lashing out -- what's the whistleblower's agenda? And so what if the president pressured foreign leaders to root out potential corruption? 'It looks to me like another deep state attack,' Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a top Trump booster, said Friday morning on Fox News. 'We have seen this over and over and over in this administration from anonymous sources deep inside the bureaucracy.'... Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) suggested in an interview Thursday on C-SPAN that the entire claim could be fake.... Almost every time a controversy emerges that seemingly imperils Trump's presidency, the same playbook unfolds. Amid angry calls for impeachment, Trump’s allies largely sidestep a debate over the event itself, cast blame elsewhere and start rationalizing the president's behavior. Countless times already, it's worked as an effective counterattack that gives Trump cover as he defends his norm-busting behavior."

We're maybe hours from learning the promise Trump made and to which leader, less than 24 from him calling it fake news, two days away from Republicans being 'troubled,' three away from the WH admitting the story is true but Trump was 'joking,' four from the GOP falling into line. -- Brian Beutler, in a tweet Wednesday night

Step 1. "Learning to which leader Trump talked." This is only a half-check, because we don't know the promise Trump made & we're not sure Zelensky was the only foreign leader to whom Trump made inappropriate overtures.

Step 2. Trump's "calling it fake news" within 24 hours.

Step 5. "The GOP falling into line" (it seems they have skipped right over Step 3 -- "being 'troubled'" -- & gone directly to Step 5

Anna Nemtsova of the Daily Beast: "Ukraine is ready to investigate the connections Joe Biden's son Hunter had with the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings, according to Anton Geraschenko, a senior adviser to the country's interior minister who would oversee such an inquiry. Geraschenko told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview that 'as soon as there is an official request' Ukraine will look into the case, but 'currently there is no open investigation.' 'Clearly,' said Geraschenko, 'Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.'... But Geraschenko spoke [last week,] before the appearance of a Washington Post story on Thursday that implied that an intelligence-community whistleblower may have reported the untoward quid pro quo was put forth directly by Trump in a phone call with Ukraine's recently elected president last July." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Andrew Kramer of the New York Times has background from Ukraine's POV. "... for months now in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, the government of the neophyte president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been grappling with unwelcome political pressure by associates of Mr. Trump.... A former adviser to Mr. Zelensky, Serhiy Leshchenko, said in an interview. 'It was clear that the Zelensky team doesn't want to interfere in American politics,' Mr. Leshchenko said. 'They were very angry about this issue.' Mr. Leshchenko and two other Ukrainians, all of them young, Western-leaning politicians and veterans of the 2014 revolution, said in interviews that Mr. Giuliani's efforts created the impression that the Trump administration's willingness to back Mr. Zelensky was linked to his government's readiness to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump's allies." (Also linked yesterday.)

Annie Karni & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "In a television appearance on CNN Thursday night, Rudolph W. Giuliani ... appeared to acknowledge that Mr. Trump had tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joseph R. Biden, Jr.... During the exchange, Mr. Giuliani said he had no idea whether Mr. Trump spoke with the Ukrainian president about Mr. Biden, or Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. But if he did, Mr. Giuliani said, 'he had every right to do it.'" ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Karni & Haberman discuss whether Giuliani's off-the-wall appearance was part of a strategy or just crazy-talk. I'm going with "strategy" based on Giuliani's assertion -- one he trots out for every Trump scandal -- that "he had every right to do it." Giuliani is a lawyer; his assertions therefore -- at least to Trumpbots -- carry the weight of law. If a member of the bar asserts that Trump was within his rights, then either he is correct or he has a valid argument he is right. Giuliani would say the same thing if Trump shot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and Trumpbots would see that as permission to embrace Trump's right to premeditated or indiscriminate murder. "He has every right to do it" is akin to the argument Trump's other lawyers made this week in the the New York tax records case: Trump cannot be investigated. He is above the law. They will make the same arguments should Trump leave office alive: he cannot be investigated or indicted for crimes committed while in office.

AND Tom Llamas & Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News review Trump & Rudy Giuliani's efforts to smear Joe Biden regarding Biden's effort to actually reduce corruption in Ukraine. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: And remember this flashback to June 2019. ABC News: "Asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office on Wednesday whether his campaign would accept [damaging] information [about a political opponent] from foreigners -- such as China or Russia -- or hand it over the FBI, Trump said, "I think maybe you do both.' 'I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening,' Trump continued. 'If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] "we have information on your opponent" -- oh, I think I'd want to hear it." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Jonathan Chait: "... the whole plot has been sitting in plain sight, a gigantic scandal that has confounded the media and the opposition in part through its very nakedness. In recent days, a seemingly new scandal materialized: reports of an intelligence whistle-blower encountering disturbing conduct by President Trump, and having his complaint quashed in apparent violation of the law. The complaint turns out to be related to the Ukraine scandal.... We have known since last spring that Trump, working through Giuliani, is pressuring Ukraine to supply dirt on Joe Biden.... The allegation against Biden is totally baseless." Chait lays out the evidence hiding in plain site, including earlier insane admissions from Giuliani & a more oblique one from pence.

** Pankaj Mishra in a Guardian op-ed: "Anglo-American lamentations about the state of democracy have been especially loud ever since Boris Johnson joined Donald Trump in the leadership of the free world. For a very long time, Britain and the United States styled themselves as the custodians and promoters of democracy globally, fighting a great moral battle against its foreign enemies. From the cold war through to the 'war on terror', the Caesarism that afflicted other nations was seen as peculiar to Asian and African peoples, or blamed on the despotic traditions of Russians or Chinese, on African tribalism, Islam, or the 'Arab mind'. But this analysis ... did not prepare its audience for the sight of blond bullies perched atop the world's greatest democracies. The barbarians, it turns out, were never at the gate; they have been ruling us for some time." Read on. Here's a pithy observation: "In the next few days, [India's PM Narendra] Modi will address thousands of affluent Indian-Americans in the company of Trump in Houston, Texas. While his government builds detention camps for hundreds of thousands Muslims it has abruptly rendered stateless, he will receive a commendation from Bill Gates for building toilets." (Also linked yesterday.)

Let's Go to the Videotape. Rosalind Helderman & Colby itkowitz
of the Washington Post: "A New York City judge has ordered that President Trump sit for videotaped testimony in a lawsuit brought by protesters who say they were assaulted by Trump's security guards during the 2016 campaign. The Bronx-based judge, Doris M. Gonzalez, wrote that Trump's testimony is 'indispensable' to the trial, which is scheduled to begin Thursday. She wrote he must therefore be examined by videotape before then, though Trump is likely to ask for a delay. The protesters argue Trump, his campaign and business should be held liable for the actions of security guards who were working for the company. They say, even if Trump didn't directly order the guards to act, he had control over their actions because they were his employees and his campaign trail rhetoric gave them the impression that violence would be condoned." The NBC News story is here.

Lolita Baldor & Robert Burns of the AP: "The Pentagon on Friday announced it will deploy additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as President Donald Trump has at least for now put off any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attack on the Saudi oil industry. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters this is a first step to beef up security and he would not rule out additional moves down the road. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more details about the deployment will be determined in the coming days, but it would not involve thousands of U.S. troops." ~~~

~~~ Scott Horsley of NPR: "The Trump administration ordered new economic sanctions against Iran Friday in response to the attack last weekend in Saudi Arabia. The sanctions target Iran's central bank and its sovereign wealth fund. 'This is very big,' said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 'We've now cut off all sources of funds to Iran.' The move comes less than a week after an attack on a Saudi oil facility that temporarily cut off nearly 6% of the world's oil supply. While Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for that attack, the administration suspects Iran was behind it."

Another Step Forward in the Trump "Screw the Refugees" Program. Colleen Long & Astrid Galvan of the AP: "The United States on Friday signed an agreement that paves the way for the U.S. to send many asylum-seekers to one of the world's most violent countries, El Salvador. But both countries must first take necessary legal actions and implement major border security and asylum procedures before it would go into effect, according to a draft copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press. The deal is the latest ambitious step taken by the Trump administration to lean on other nations -- many of them notoriously violent -- to take in immigrants to stop the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border." Mrs. McC: Accompanying the story is a photo of acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan cooly signing the agreement condemning untold numbers of would-be refugees. His heart is made of stone.

Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "Anxious about their future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, masses of young people poured into the streets on every continent on Friday for a day of global climate protests. Organizers estimated the turnout to be around four million in thousands of cities and towns worldwide. It was the first time that children and young people had demonstrated to demand climate action in so many places and in such numbers around the world. They turned out in force in Berlin, where the police estimated 100,000 participants, with similar numbers in Melbourne and London. In New York City, the mayor's office estimated that 60,000 people marched through the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan, while organizers put the total at 250,000. By the dozens in some places, and by the tens of thousands in others, young people demonstrated in cities like Manila, Kampala and Rio de Janeiro. A group of scientists rallied in Antarctica.... Demonstrations in North and South America will be the culmination of a day of global strikes that began almost 24 hours earlier as morning broke in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 100,000 protested in Melbourne as the protests began, in what organizers said was the largest climate action in Australia's history.... In Mumbai, children in oversize raincoats marched in the rain. Thousands turned out in Warsaw, the capital of coal-reliant Poland.... Roughly 100,000 demonstrators showed around the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on a bright but unseasonably chilly day in Berlin.... Rarely, if ever, has the modern world witnessed a youth movement so large and wide, spanning across societies rich and poor, tied together by a common if inchoate sense of rage." (This is an update of a story linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ The Guardian has a liveblog here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Dan De Luce & Mosheh Gains of NBC News: "The Pentagon is fighting against proposals by White House officials to drastically cut the number of refugees allowed into the U.S., and has called for reserving visas for Iraqis who risked their lives working for U.S. troops, according to five people familiar with the plan. In internal discussions, the Defense Department has expressed opposition to any further reductions to the current annual ceiling of 30,000 for refugee admissions, which already is at a historic low for the 40-year-old U.S. refugee program, the sources told NBC News. Defense officials also proposed setting aside about 6,000 slots specifically for Iraqi applicants who worked for U.S. troops as interpreters or in other jobs.... The Pentagon has emerged as the lone voice in internal debates defending the traditional role of a refugee program overseen by the State Department, an unusual twist that reflects the administration's aggressive stance on immigration and refugees. The Pentagon's stance is at odds with White House senior adviser Stephen Miller -- the architect of the president's sweeping crackdown on immigration -- and his allies at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, who are all proposing deep cuts or even a halt to refugee admissions for the next fiscal year starting in October." (Also linked yesterday.)

Burgess Everett of Politico: "The Senate [Mrs. McC: that is, Senate Republicans] is essentially outsourcing its legislative duties to a divided White House and the whims of ... Donald Trump, as it makes its first sustained attempt at overhauling gun laws in years.... 'First time ever in history when the president sets the agenda every day when he tweets at 4 in the morning,' said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is retiring at the end of the year and saw his work on an immigration bill fall apart last year after Trump came out against it.... The new reality also underscores how cautious the Republican-controlled Senate is under Trump, particularly as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks to defend his majority and a presidential election approaches." (Also linked yesterday.)

Presidential Race 2020

It should be noted that many of the linked stories filed under "'Treason, Bribery, or Other High Crimes,' Ctd." are also about the 2020 presidential race.

A Fine Coda. Joe Anuta of Politico: "Mayor Bill de Blasio's presidential campaign is over, but concerns over his fundraising practices linger on. An official with the Federal Election Commission sent a letter to the mayor's presidential campaign, which ended Friday, highlighting a problem that has been the subject of multiple Politico reports and two formal complaints from watchdog groups. In a July public filing, the de Blasio camp noted a $52,852 debt owed to the NY Fairness PAC, a state political action committee controlled by the mayor. The campaign had argued that this was a permissible loan from one organization to another. But the FEC's senior campaign finance analyst, Robin Kelly, wrote this week that the practice is not allowed by campaign finance rules. Such transfers are capped at $5,000 per election cycle, Kelly's letter said, meaning the campaign took more than ten times the permissible amount from the state PAC and spent it on travel and advertising. Kelly mandated that the campaign refile an amended report by late October that corrects the transfer, and noted that an audit of the campaign may follow. The campaign repaid the loan Thursday, the day it received the FEC's letter, spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg said."

Reader Comments (8)

There is a new documentary that came out yesterday: "Where's My Roy Cohn? Here's a piece about the film:

The Modern Machiavelli Who Predicted Trump's Rise:

When Cohn was finally disbarred, speaking as character witnesses on Cohn's behalf were William Safire, Barbara Walters and William Buckley but Trump was a no show for this man with whom he had relied on for years––doing his mob-like dirty work. Rumor has it that Trump did give him a pair of diamond cuff-links ( just the thing to sport around in jail) but they turned out to be fake. When it finally dawned on Cohn that his idol was made of stone he said this:

"I can't believe he's doing this to me––Donald pisses ice water."

Fast forward and another "I'd take a bullet for him" sucker is spending time in jail but at least he took his revenge.

And now we are where we are––and those who continue to defend him will finally understand that there is no loyalty here–-there is only what suits the boss–-period. And when he goes down, they will go down with him––she says optimistically.

The mass Climate Change marches warm my heart. Got pictures of my granddaughters in Germany holding up their posters during the march there.

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe

A refresher course on the Biden-Ukraine connection.

Having forgotten some-most of the details, I needed one this AM.

More of a "full exoneration" than the Mueller report, but aspects of the Joe-Hunter-Ukraine arrangement don't look great. Joe says he never talked to his son about the Ukraine gas company directorship. He probably should have. Something to the effect: No son, this does not look good. Find another job.

Too bad it's all probably too long and too complicated for a Trumpbot to read or remember.

It also strikes me that without this background in the foreground, even tho' the Pretender is catching deserved flak for his heavy-handed self-dealing in the guise of diplomacy, every time the story is in the news it re-creates the impression that there really is Ukrainian dirt to be had on Biden.

Though there was little to nothing to them, all those claimed security lapses and missing emails certainly had an effect.

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

P.S. @AK: I was so moved by your mention of "Tea at the Palaz of Hoon" yesterday. What a perfect poem to bring up because Stevens is using the self and the mind as a point of stability in a world teeming with questions and uncertainty. Perfect!

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe

Two Parties: All Traitors.

The Doomsday clock is approaching midnight. There’s very little time to act at this point. If Nancy Pelosi thinks voters will do her job for her, she’s 100% wrong.

The Orange Menace’s approval rating keeps inching up, not down. Millions of people just don’t care and many others assume that if Trump really was a traitor, he’d have been impeached by now. A dozen October surprises won’t help. Trump has survived them all with the help of his Party of Traitors and an incompetent and weak press.

Pelosi’s inaction is virtually guaranteeing that a criminal monster will get four more years to jackhammer the republic into rubble and make off with as much loot as he and his crime family can carry off. Democrats seem constitutionally incapable of action. It’s beyond sinful.

At this point it appears that both sides are controlled by a party of traitors. If Democrats stand by with fire hoses turned off as Republicans burn the place to the ground, what else can you say?

Somewhere the founders, and the millions who have given their lives for the idea of America, are weeping.


September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Could this be why she's waiting?

In American political jargon, an October surprise is a news event deliberately created or timed or sometimes occurring spontaneously to influence the outcome of an election, particularly one for the U.S. presidency. The reference to the month of October is because the date for national elections is in early November. Wikipedia

C'mon Nancy, look at the calendar!

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

So what's Pelosi's game here? Can she really be so out of touch that she thinks the public win turn against Democrats in the election because of impeachment hearings? Surely not. That's absurd. And if they don't have enough votes to pass impeachment in the House because of feckless Democrats, then we're all fucking doomed becaused the Democratic party is nearly as worthless as the Republicans we spend so much time railing against.

I want to think her and Nadler are playing a horrible version of good cop/bad cop, with Nancy playing down the prospects while Nadler gets the goods, and then the Dems pounce. But they have to know they're look like total goons at this, while Drumpf and the GOP get even more brazen in their quest to achieve autocratic dreams.

And @Marie makes a great point about the post-Drumpf period, wherein he'll never face the music and skate on all charges, setting us up for a second-coming of an even worse abuser of executive branch privelege, guided by the myopic visions of a certain Bill Barr.

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

I long have blamed Republicans for 90% of "what's wrong with Washington," but right now both parties are abrogating their Constitutional duties to impeach & convict a lawless president*. Republicans are doing so to hang on to power, and Pelosi is doing the same thing, but the "power" she's holding onto are the "power" of a couple of dozen seats that might return to voting for Republicans if their newly-minted Democratic members of Congress are too inept to explain to voters why Trump should be impeached. Very thin gruel, Nancy. And a really idiotic strategy.

September 21, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie


It does seem the Pretender presidency is a litmus test. Blue or red, with very little in between. And a test not just for the nation but for its purported leaders.

If democracy is so delicate, if those who claim to hold its ideals in the highest regard cannot summon the wit or will to shout clearly and loudly what's happening to the nation, we might as well kiss our already receding democracy goodbye.

If any of my advice were to be listened to--and I don't expect it will be--I would hammer on the democracy thing, day and night because the health of American democracy is at the center of everything that's happening.

What the R's stand for is universally undemocratic, everything from blatant voter suppression to their refusal to exercise their constitutional obligation to rein in the would-be despot who leads their party to their installation of judges whose decisions show far more regard for corporate than personal rights.

Not only that, but the R's stance regarding gun ownership, healthcare, abortion, taxes and wages don't poll well, except among the party's adherents. Nowhere do they represent the wil of the people.

In short, it is evident we are being governed by a minority: That's the message which ought to be shouted from the rooftops, every day from now until next November. The few are ruling the many and if we don't do something about it now, we may never be able right the ship of state.

Use climate change as a metaphor. You think that what's happening to democracy isn't real because it's happened slowly over time? Drip, drip, drip, Greenland melts, suddenly the Arctic Ocean doesn't freeze over in the winter and the democracy we once valued is not just sick but dead.

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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