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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 5, 2019

Donald Trump Is a Clear and Present Danger to the 2020 Election

The report released on Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee begins with a powerful indictment: “The impeachment inquiry,” the first sentence says, “uncovered a monthslong effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.”

Mentions of the “2020 election” and the president’s re-election campaign can be found scattered throughout the 300-page document. The core message comes through loud and clear: The harm here is not a historical one. This report warns of a future harm: that an American president used his enormous power — and may use it again — to compel a foreign country to alter the outcome of the next presidential election.

We are faced with a direct threat that is unfolding before our eyes. If left unchecked, the president’s abusive behavior stands as a clear and present danger to the future of our democracy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as much on Thursday when she announced that the House Judiciary Committee would begin drafting articles of impeachment. “The facts are uncontested,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit, at the expense of our national security.”

Our criminal law has three main goals: to punish a person who has broken the law, to stop that person from causing a current harm and to deter future harm. It is the last goal, and the importance of preventing future wrongdoing, that resonates so clearly in the work of the Intelligence Committee. And it is through Article I of the United States Constitution, which establishes impeachment as the mechanism for holding the president of the United States accountable for criminal conduct or other wrongdoing, that this goal can be achieved.


December 5, 2019

Rep. Duncan Hunter Shows no Signs of Resigning Despite Pleading Guilty to Campaign Finance Charges

Representative Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) has not indicated that he will leave his seat in the House after he pleaded guilty on Wednesday to campaign finance violations.

Hunter had long criticized the investigation against him as a “witch hunt,” but announced on Sunday that he would change his stance and plead guilty. Hunter and his wife, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in June, were accused of using $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for family vacations to Hawaii, plane tickets for their pet rabbit, and other personal expenses. Both face a possible sentence of eight to fourteen months in jail.

“I failed to monitor and account for my campaign spending. I made mistakes, and that’s what today was all about,” Duncan told reporters on Tuesday after his guilty plea. He said he wanted to avoid a trial “for my kids. I think it would be really tough for them.”

However, the congressman has not yet discussed resigning from the House with minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.). Hunter refused to answer Politico on Wednesday when they asked whether he planned to resign.


He's probably planning on drawing a government paycheck as long as he can. Wouldn't surprise me if he tried to keep his seat until the new Congress is sworn in.

December 4, 2019

Republican squawking can't distract from Democrats' key points in hearing

The impeachment process has moved from fact-finding in the House Intelligence Committee to the consideration of articles of impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee. By definition, this is a process in which we are not likely to learn anything new about the underlying facts, but we might learn something about the Republicans’ strategy and ability to mount a cogent defense.

In general, Republicans were predictably incoherent and loud (why must Georgia Rep. Douglas A. Collins scream?), but failed to stop Democrats from making their key point: The evidence produced by the Intelligence Committee, as the three law professors called by Democrats laid out, more than meets the standard for high crimes and misdemeanors and bribery. As events played out Wednesday morning, a few moments stand out.

First, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) made clear in his opening remarks that Democrats have not foreclosed the possibility of voting on articles that encompass activity outside the Ukraine scandal. “Of course, this is not the first time that President Trump has engaged in this pattern of conduct,” he said of the attempt to engage Ukraine in our election. “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in a sweeping and systematic campaign of interference in our elections. In the words of special counsel Robert Mueller, ‘the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome.’”

Nadler noted that “the president welcomed that interference” once he was president. He added: “On July 24, the special counsel testified before this committee. He implored us to see the nature of the threat to our country: ‘Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our elections is among the most serious. ... [This] deserves the attention of every American.' Ignoring that warning, President Trump called the Ukrainian president the very next day to ask him to investigate the president’s political opponent.” In short, the Russia case was the predicate for inviting Ukraine to interfere, and the Ukraine scandal demonstrates that Trump will continue to solicit foreign help and to obstruct Congress unless impeached and removed.


December 4, 2019

"Trump was pissed": Rudy Given FOX Time-Out After "Insurance" Diss

For more than a year, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been part of a chorus of West Wing advisers telling Donald Trump that he needs to fire Rudy Giuliani. “Most people around Trump have tried to say Rudy is not a positive,” a former West Wing official recently told me. Trump ignored their criticism and stood by his personal lawyer, even when Guiliani gave erratic interviews that often required messy walkbacks. “He liked him on television,” the official said.

But as Giuliani’s legal woes mount, Trump is coming around to his advisers’ view that Giuliani is a liability, three Republicans close to the White House told me. The relationship has grown so strained that Trump has even directed Giuliani not to appear on Fox News, a Republican briefed on the conversations said. (A Fox source said Giuliani has declined producers’ requests to appear on the network in recent days). “Rudy is cut off from Fox News,” the Republican told me. One Republican close to Trump put it this way: “We had to do something, we don’t want Rudy out there. Every time he talks it’s bad for Trump.”

The turning point seems to be Giuliani’s Fox News interview on November 23 in which he claimed to have an “insurance policy” in case Trump throws him overboard. “Trump was pissed,” a source told me. Giuliani tweeted that his comment was “sarcastic” and later called Trump to apologize. The next day, the news broke that Giuliani associate Lev Parnas had turned over tape recordings of Trump and Giuliani to Congress. Then, on November 27, the New York Times reported that Giuliani tried to land business deals in Ukraine at the same time Trump assigned him to conduct a shadow foreign policy campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Trump, sources said, was furious. “Trump hates when people make money off working for him,” a second former West Wing official said. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment. But a person close to Giuliani said that he is not worried about the federal investigation into his Ukraine work and that his relationship with Trump is as close as ever. “Trump is not mad at him,” the source told me. “Who are Trump’s defenders? You got Gingrich, Giuliani, and Huckabee. Rudy’s critics would love nothing better than for Rudy to disappear.” When I asked about the insurance policy, the source said: “Everything Rudy has is a benefit to the president.”


December 4, 2019

NATO Leaders Challenge Trump to Spell NATO

LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—This year’s summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began on a discordant note, on Tuesday, after the other twenty-eight nato leaders challenged Donald Trump to spell nato.

At a preliminary gathering of the leaders, Trump demanded that the other member nations increase their cash contributions to the alliance, prompting Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to issue the unexpected and unwelcome spelling challenge.

“We’ll be happy to give more to nato, Mr. President, if you can spell nato,” she said, drawing raucous applause from the other leaders.

Handing Trump a pencil and a yellow legal pad, Merkel watched as he struggled to spell the word correctly, crumpling page after page in the effort.

After several failed attempts, Trump finally offered up a drawing of several stick figures standing in a row and asked for “partial credit.”

When the other nato leaders rejected his request by a 28–0 voice vote, Trump stormed out of the room, vowing never to return.

In a joint communiqué, the nato leaders said that they were looking forward to spending the rest of the summit watching the impeachment hearings.


December 4, 2019

The Intelligence Committee's report is a triumph

Some observers of the impeachment hearings conducted under the auspices of the House Intelligence Committee bizarrely concluded that the proceedings lacked “pizzazz.” While that is a ridiculous metric for evaluating an inquiry into gross misconduct by the president, no one will find the report on those hearings and on other evidence boring. It’s got pizzazz to spare.

First, the nuts and bolts from the executive summary:
President Trump’s scheme subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign. The President demanded that the newly-elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, publicly announce investigations into a political rival that he apparently feared the most, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election. To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary.

Those facts have yet to be contradicted. We have Trump’s own words on the July 25 rough transcript (“do us a favor though”), diplomat David Holmes’s account of the president pressing Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about “investigations," the hold on nearly $400 million in aid, Trump’s public statements inviting China and Ukraine to weigh into the election and the testimony of multiple career civil services that Trump outsourced his scheme primarily to Rudolph W. Giuliani, who publicly bragged that he was talking about Biden with Ukrainians.

What is new are the call records showing ongoing communications between Giuliani and the Office of Management and Budget (which ordered the hold on aid) and, stunningly, between the ranking Republican member of the Intelligence Committee (and conspiracy monger) Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.) and indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. Nunes therefore becomes a fact witness, and his efforts to disrupt the hearings and toss out one red herring after another begin to reek of self-interested obstruction of the committees work.


December 3, 2019

Trump Is the Founders' Worst Nightmare

Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”

It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.

The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”

Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.


December 2, 2019

Trump campaign denies press credentials to Bloomberg News

Source: BBC

After Mr Bloomberg's official entry to the 2020 race last week, Bloomberg said it would stop critically covering the Democratic presidential candidates.

But the outlet said it would continue to investigate US President Donald Trump's administration.

Mr Trump's campaign called the Bloomberg decision proof of "bias".

"Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events," said Mr Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, in a statement on Monday.

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50637380

December 2, 2019

Deal Alert: Guy Probably Carrying Enough To Buy 'Death Stranding' PS4 Pro Bundle If You Stick Him Up

Attention gamers! Here’s a deal that’s just too good to pass up. This guy with a nice suit passing 35th and Claremont Ave. is probably carrying enough on him right now to buy the Death Stranding PS4 Pro bundle if you stick him up.

Move fast on this, though. This isn’t a deal you want to miss.

This incredible bundle, which includes a copy of Hideo Kojima’s new masterpiece as well as a custom 1TB PS4 Pro system and a Death Stranding-themed Dualshock 4 wireless controller, normally retails for $399.99. But for a limited time, you’ll be able to have it for what this rich-looking dude probably carries on him in cash every day if you just swing around a tire iron and maybe make him fear for his life a little.

If you’ve been holding off on taking the plunge on this ambitious and experimental new adventure game, it’s unlikely you’ll get a better value than this. This guy’s jacket appears to be real Armani and he seems pretty nervous. Frankly, you probably don’t even need to get up close and personal to threaten him. You might be able to get away with just sticking your finger in your jacket pocket and claiming it’s a gun!

December 2, 2019

Nadler calls Trump's bluff

When the House Intelligence Committee held depositions of key witnesses, President Trump’s lawyers cried: “Unfair! Secret hearings!” In fact, a slew of Republicans had the right to ask questions, though some chose not to attend. When the hearings moved to a public phase, the White House hollered: “Unfair! Trump’s lawyer isn’t present!” When the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), invited Trump’s lawyers to attend, the response was: “Unfair! We’re not coming!”

What is unfair is that Trump and his lawyers have given up any semblance of fidelity to facts, have smeared distinguished witnesses, attempted to intimidate the whistleblower (and put his or her safety in jeopardy), hurled baseless accusations at House Democrats investigating presidential wrongdoing and, worst of all, obstructed Congress by refusing to produce documents and blocking critical witnesses from testifying.

The New York Times reported on a letter from Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, declining to show up but reserving the right to participate later on: “The refusal to send lawyers Wednesday continues a pattern of stonewalling by Mr. Trump, who has sought to block witnesses and documents, as he and his allies call the proceedings ‘deranged’ and a ‘witch hunt.’”

There is no mystery as to what is going on here. Trump has no facts to put forth and no valid constitutional argument that bribery (specifically mentioned in the Constitution) and obstruction fail to meet the standard for impeachment. (As the Lawfare blog puts it, “There is every reason to believe that the drafters of the Constitution had in mind a scope that easily encompasses Trump’s conduct. ... The transcript [of the July 25 call] makes clear that Trump tied together the request for a personal favor with the delivery of military aid. But even if he had not made such a direct connection, this sort of corrupt use of public office to obtain a private benefit fits squarely within the definition of bribery when the Constitution was written.”)


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