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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
September 28, 2019

How a conservative columnist helped push a flawed Ukraine narrative

Back in March, the Hill newspaper published a series of stories and interviews that seemed, at the time, to be mainly of interest to foreign-policy wonks.

John Solomon, the paper’s executive vice president, interviewed Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, who alleged a startling conspiracy: that law enforcement officials within his country had leaked damaging information in 2016 against Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, to help Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Lutsenko also floated suggestions that Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was cooperating with the scheme to help Clinton and undermine Trump’s campaign. The ambassador, Lutsenko alleged, was “interfering in his ability to prosecute corruption cases” and had even given him a list of defendants that he would not be allowed to prosecute, Solomon wrote.

Solomon’s piece urged “a serious, thorough investigation” of Lutsenko’s claims.
The story touched off a brushfire within the conservative media, in which Solomon is a prominent figure, but stayed largely out of mainstream view.


September 28, 2019

Chief accused of slamming black teen's head into door: Trump is 'last hope for white people'

A former New Jersey police chief standing trial for allegedly slamming a black teenager’s head into a door jamb reportedly called President Trump “the last hope for white people” before the 2016 election.

“I’m telling you, you know what, Donald Trump is the last hope for white people, cause Hillary (Clinton) will give it to all the minorities to get a vote,” said Frank Nucera Jr., former chief of Bordentown Township, according to NJ.com’s reporting of a transcript displayed at trial this week. “That’s the truth! I’m telling you.”

Nucera, 62, is charged with a hate crime, deprivation of the suspect’s rights and making false statements to the FBI in connection with the September 2016 arrest of an 18-year-old black man.

Two officers were escorting the handcuffed teenager from a hotel into a police car when Nucera approached the teen from behind and slammed his head into a metal door jamb, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New Jersey.


September 28, 2019

Trump's fate is in the hands of Fox News

With impeachment gathering steam, the fate of President Trump is in the hands of a single institution. Not the Senate, though that’s the body established by the Constitution to make the ultimate decision to remove a president. I’m thinking of Fox News.

Ordinarily, I’m skeptical of the power of media organizations — even Fox News. Though it is the most-watched cable (shall we say) “news” channel in the United States, its average primetime viewership of about 2.5 million people is less than 1 percent of the nation. The audiences for MSNBC and CNN are typically even smaller. Most Americans have better things to do with their evenings than to be harangued about politics.

However, those Fox News viewers punch far above their weight in one regard: They are the core of any hard-right primary challenge that might be waged against an incumbent Republican senator. I believe based on conversations with knowledgeable Republicans that Trump is neither popular nor admired among the Senate majority, but he is feared, therefore tolerated. The fear stems from his firm grip on that Fox News-viewing core and the belief that he could turn the core into an incumbent-crushing machine.

To the extent that Trump’s grip begins to loosen, the fear will begin to lift and the president’s Senate firewall will begin to crumble. That’s how I figure it, and I think Trump might be making a similar calculation, because his Twitter feed has been peppered lately with his annoyance at Fox News over various perceived acts of hostility. He might believe that he can maintain his standing solely through his unmediated tweets, regardless of Fox News. But I don’t think he really wants to find out.


September 28, 2019

Florida's governor starts Presidential Protection Fund

If you get emails from The Republican Party of Florida, you may have received a personal email with a message from Florida's governor Ron DeSantis.

The email reads: "When I served in Congress, I fought back against the Democrats' witch hunts every single day. I refused to let them overturn the 2016 election and erase your vote from history. Now that Democrats are officially moving to impeach our duly elected president, my duty to protect him isn't over.

"As Governor of Florida, I want the president to know that we have his back in this fight 100 percent, so today I'm issuing the Presidential Protection Fund to fight back against this disgusting attempt to overturn a legitimate U.S. elections."

The email requested donations.


September 26, 2019

Trump is on track for a level of defeat in California not seen since the Civil War

Source: LA Times

President Trump lost overwhelmingly in California in 2016, and 2020 could be even worse, putting him on track for the poorest showing by a Republican presidential candidate in the state since the Civil War, a new poll finds.

Just 29% of likely California voters say they plan to vote for Trump, compared with 67% who say they do not, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, conducted for the Los Angeles Times.

Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton by 30 points in 2016, and the state’s voters have moved further from his party since then. The administration has fought California officials on a host of issues involving immigration, healthcare and the environment, among other things — all topics on which Trump’s positions are unpopular in the state.

In the 2018 midterm election, Republicans lost seven contested congressional seats in the state, including in onetime GOP strongholds in Orange County.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-09-25/trump-california-unpopular-poll-2020-election

This is very bad news for California Republicans, even if Trump isn't on the ticket next year.
September 26, 2019

House Intel Committee meeting now starting on C-SPAN

Adam Schiff now speaking. He said the chair reserves the right to terminate the hearing at any time -- probably as a warning to the Republicans he's not going to let them turn the meeting into a circus.

September 26, 2019

Trump is pushing a fake scandal once again. Don't buy it.

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

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

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

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


September 26, 2019

The White House's Ukraine memo destroys Giuliani's attempts to frame the State Department

The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been claiming the State Department was the main driver behind his suspicious dealings with Ukraine’s leaders over the past few months. But the newly released White House rough transcript on President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirms Giuliani’s narrative is completely false.

Over the past few days, Giuliani has repeatedly insisted that the State Department asked him to meet with Zelensky’s advisers, whom he asked — as he admits — to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden and investigate how Paul Manafort’s Ukraine-related crimes were exposed in 2016. On Monday, Giuliani actually said he was on a mission from the State Department when he met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, in Madrid in early August.

“The State Department called me and said, would I take a call from Mr. Yermak,” he told Fox News’s Sean Hannity. “I was put together with Mr. Yermak. I talked to him. He gave me enormously important facts. I conveyed them all to the State Department. Unlike the media lies, fake news, I wasn’t operating on my own. I was operating at the request of the State Department.”

Last week, Giuliani told the Hill’s John Solomon the State Department actually “urged” him to talk to Yermak and that he reported back to two senior U.S. diplomats. “All of this was done at the request of the State Department,” he said. On Tuesday night, Giuliani claimed the State Department asked him to meet with Yermak “to facilitate a meeting between the president and Mr. Zelensky, to help them do that.” (Trump met Zelensky and several other world leaders this week in New York.) Giuliani named Ambassador Kurt Volker, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine, as the State Department official who reached out.


September 26, 2019

The Trump-Zelensky readout is a devastating indictment of our president

The memorandum on President Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a devastating indictment of the U.S. president. In it, Mr. Trump presses the neophyte Ukrainian leader to join with his personal lawyer and the U.S. attorney general in investigating his potential opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. He does so after underlining the support the United States provides for Ukraine and after complaining that Ukraine has not adequately reciprocated.

Mr. Trump and his amen chorus claimed Wednesday that there was no “quid pro quo” in the call. In fact, the memorandum — a partial transcript compiled from the notes of aides — strongly suggests otherwise. Mr. Trump first makes a request for a political investigation in direct answer to Mr. Zelensky’s statement that Ukraine wants to buy more U.S. antitank missiles. “I would like you to do us a favor though,” Mr. Trump says, “because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

An even more explicit exchange comes when discussion turns to Mr. Zelensky’s top priority at the time, which was obtaining a firm commitment to a meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House. The Ukrainian leader felt he needed a Washington visit to show his country and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin that he would continue to have U.S. support against Russian aggression, but Mr. Trump had been stalling in granting a date. Toward the end of the call, Mr. Zelensky raises the subject of a visit, then reiterates that “I also want to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation.”

Mr. Trump, who knew very well what Mr. Zelensky wanted, responds: “Good. .?.?. I will tell Rudy [Giuliani] and Attorney General [William P.] Barr to call. Thank you. Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call.” The implicit trade-off could hardly have been more clear.


September 26, 2019

It Has Begun

It is truly wondrous and arresting to see the Constitution in action, to see its ultimate tool — impeachment — employed, to see this mechanism that the drafters of the document must have considered an 11th-hour alternative be called up out of necessity.

It is not a thing to be celebrated. It is a thing to be soberly considered. It is a sign that the character and behavior of the target — in this case the president — is being searched for deficiency (in this case already demonstrated) and the American electorate has been betrayed.

This is a funeral; it is not festive.

Still, it is awe-inspiring and reaffirming to see politicians put what is right above that which might be risky, to stand on principle in an area consumed by political expediency.


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