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Hometown: NY
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Current location: Florida
Member since: Mon Sep 6, 2004, 09:54 PM
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Journal Archives

Dahlia Lithwick: Trump Can't Outrun This One


Trump Can’t Outrun This One
Every Trump scandal follows a playbook. With Ukraine, the playbook finally might not work.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Oct 03, 20197:51 PM


Just two days ago, Trump was being clobbered in the media for trading military aid to Ukraine for their promise to cook up some oppo research. Today he is openly calling on China to do the same, because if he’s doing it in public, it must be OK. Two days ago, Mike Pompeo was openly denying involvement in that phone call. Now he’s proud of it. Attempts to shame the un-shameable slide right off the plate. That pattern: deny it, continue to do it secretly, then do it openly, is the entirety of the Trumpian rinse cycle. It is by way of that pattern that Trump persuaded millions of Americans that locking children in cages without soap is acceptable, or that declining congressional subpoenas is permissible and just. Elapsed time and flagrant lies have so far had the desired effect. Monday’s scandal becomes Friday’s meh. And so, he’s spinning the message that inviting foreign powers to interfere with American elections to harm his electoral opponents is normal. It’s really just a smart thing smart people do all the time, and Republicans should come along for the ride. Thursday’s bombshells dream of becoming Friday’s meh.

Indeed, Trump’s minions are now openly circumnavigating the globe, enrolling and coercing foreign interference in elections in service of a conspiracy theory too extraordinary to be comprehended, much less explained. (It’s explained here). And in a week or two, the hope is that inviting and indeed bribing foreign allies into participating in election- stealing, while undermining one’s own domestic intelligence apparatus, will seem rather benign. What Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats appear to be doing here, is attempting to outrun the normalization cycle.

Maybe this time feels different because, well, they are exceptionally bad at this one. Or maybe it feels different because the bombshells are coming from whistleblowers and Inspectors General who have been silent until they couldn’t be. Or maybe it feels different because no matter how you spin it, the president appears to be losing his shit. But maybe it just feels different because this time Donald Trump looks weak and pathetic. It’s not like the other un-scandals, when he didn’t pay his taxes and told people he was smart, or when he treated women like garbage and told people he was sexy, or when he profited from the businesses from which he refused to divest himself and told people he was just too fantastic a businessman, or even when he destroyed the lives of immigrants and asylum seekers and told people he was tough.

No, this time, even as he admits to the impeachable act and says it’s what smart people do, he mostly looks nuts. He looks like a desperate man chasing an imaginary enemy—not his political opponent but his opponent’s son—around the globe, firing ambassadors, plotting with Paul Manafort, shaking down the Australians and the Italians and begging the Chinese to get in on the action, all because he’s hell-bent on destroying a political opponent who isn’t even his opponent yet. He’s twisted and bent the State Department and the Justice Department and the Republican Senate into confederates in what’s emerged as the saddest little snipe hunt in the world. He’s ripping up the carpeting on constitutional democracy for, well, an imaginary grudge.

The Ukraine scandal may stick to him, and not simply because the president cannot seem to outrun it, but because even if he finally catches up, begging Australia and China to help him steal another election doesn’t have the look of a winner. It’s small, and weak. This time, maybe, bragging about that doesn’t help.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 08:52 PM (2 replies)

Scoop: Trump letter dares Pelosi to hold vote on impeachment inquiry


Scoop: Trump letter dares Pelosi to hold vote on impeachment inquiry
Alayna Treene, Margaret Talev1 hour ago

The White House is planning to send Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter as soon as Friday arguing that President Trump and his team can ignore lawmakers' demands until she holds a full House vote formally approving an impeachment inquiry, 2 sources familiar with the letter tell Axios.

Why it matters: By putting in writing the case that Trump and his supporters have been making verbally for days, the White House is preparing for a court fight and arguing to the public that its resistance to Congress' requests is justified.

Trump wants to force House Democrats in vulnerable races to be on the record if they favor pursuing impeachment, these sources tell us.

Republicans also say the minority party can exert more influence over hearings and other aspects of an inquiry once it is formalized with a vote.

By calling this an inquiry without holding a vote, Pelosi and the Democratic committee chairmen are having it both ways, one official said. "They want to be a little bit pregnant."

Worth noting: While a letter to Pelosi and the committee chairmen had been drafted, it had not been finalized or signed as of Thursday night.

Behind the scenes: Several White House lawyers spent a good chunk of their Thursday reviewing the language in the letter, expecting that it could find its way before a judge.

Meanwhile, Pelosi maintains that there "is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry," as she stated in a Thursday letter to the House's Republican Leader, Kevin McCarthy.

"For several decades, impeachment investigations have frequently been conducted without a full vote,” Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne told Axios.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 08:39 PM (9 replies)

Joe Conason: Smearing Joe Biden, 2016 Style


Campaign 2020 Editor's Blog White House
Smearing Joe Biden, 2016 Style
Joe Conason October 2, 2019


Like the defamation of Clinton, this assault on Biden can be traced to a book by right-wing author Peter Schweizer, which is filled with shady innuendo and short on factual reporting. Back in May 2015, Schweizer published Clinton Cash, a volume of half-baked investigations featuring the claim that Clinton, as secretary of state, engineered the sale of U.S. uranium deposits to Uranium One, a Russian-backed company, in a deal to enrich Clinton Foundation donors. In fact, Clinton had nothing to do with that trivial deal, which was approved as a matter of Obama administration policy and approved by both the Treasury Department and the Pentagon.


Providing the research, publicity, and most likely money for both Schweizer books was the Government Accountability Institute, a mysterious tax-exempt outfit located in Florida and financed by wealthy, ultra-right, mostly anonymous donors. Now that former GAI chairman Bannon is gone, Schweizer continues to run the same playbook as 2016, with multiple appearances on Fox News and across the media echo chamber of the Republican right. What appears to be different this year is the attitude of the mainstream press, which so far has proved less prone to manipulation.

Fortunately for Biden, no cozy media arrangements with Schweizer have distorted the coverage of the Ukraine story. Instead it is Giuliani spearheading the bogus charges against the Democratic frontrunner. The former New York mayor’s frequent, hysterical appearances on television have done little to advance his cause and much to discredit his conspiratorial assertions.

But the right-wing propaganda machine will nevertheless grind on. As Matt Gertz of the liberal watchdog group Media Matters warns: “Giuliani will continue to dribble out details from Schweizer’s book, working in additional inferences and data points he’s gathered. He will become Fox News’ assignment editor and a frequent presence on its airwaves. The network’s ‘news’ team will rush to chronicle and flesh out his allegations, providing fodder for its ‘opinion’ hosts, who will use the results to denounce on a nightly basis the entire Democratic Party as crooked.”

That a presidential campaign led by Donald Trump and his grifting family has no standing to accuse anyone else of corruption won’t discourage his cult followers on the far right. This election will again test whether media outlets can resist their self-defeating tendency to “balance” truth with falsehood — and whether they will avoid the kind of journalistic failures that boosted the most corrupt presidential candidate in American history.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 07:31 PM (5 replies)

As Trump Complains of Ukraine Favoritism for Biden Child, Scotland Rejects Eric Trump Scheme...

October 3, 2019 3:02PM ET
As Trump Complains of Ukraine Favoritism for Biden Child, Scotland Rejects Eric Trump Scheme to Enrich First Family
Trump is against influence peddling through the children of elected officials as long as they’re not his own kids
By Tim Dickinson

When it comes to denouncing the practice of enriching the children of elected officials, Donald Trump is casting stones from inside a glass house. As Trump rails each day against the business deals that Hunter Biden allegedly benefitted from as son of the vice president, he is counting on America to forget that his daughter Ivanka, a senior adviser in his administration, is profiting from the Trump International Hotel — a den of open influence-peddling in Washington — or that his sons are the top executives of the Trump Organization, the profits from which benefit the president personally.

Just perhaps, what Trump is really mad about is that his kids are not winning the kind of rich deals abroad that he feels should accrue to the scions of the president of the United States.

The latest failure? Scotland has rejected Eric Trump’s pitch to develop luxury housing around the Trump Turnberry golf resort. President Trump has long bragged about his golf resorts as development deals, insisting in 2016, “I have the right to build thousands of homes” on his European golf properties.


Rep. Elijah Cummings, head of the House Oversight committee, has raised constitutional red flags over this practice in a letter to the Defense Department: “Given the President’s continued financial stake in his Scotland golf courses, these reports raise questions about the President’s potential receipt of U.S. or foreign governments’ emoluments in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” he wrote, “and raise other serious conflict of interest concerns.”

But for Trump, conflicts of interest are for other people. The most shameless man ever to occupy the Oval Office has no compunction about decrying the business deals of other politicians’ children, even as he and his own kin profit off the presidency. In fact, the president has openly suggested that the interests of the Trump Organization are the same as the foreign-policy interests of the United States and its top allies.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 05:07 PM (7 replies)

Does Trump Want to Sandbag the Economy?


Does Trump Want to Sandbag the Economy?
by Robert Kuttner
October 3, 2019


Now, just to make things worse, Trump is launching a new trade war with … wait for it … Europe.

Washington has had a long-running trade dispute with the Europeans over their creation and subsidy of Airbus. Europe has long maintained that American aircraft manufacturers benefit from a hidden subsidy from the Pentagon, which was the source of technology and purchases that gave Boeing an immense head start. Trying to sort all of this out definitively is like counting angels on the head of a pin.

But yesterday, the World Trade Organization gave Trump the green light to impose retaliatory tariffs on Europe. So Washington plans to impose $7.5 billion of duties on aircraft, food products, and other goods.

You can be sure that the EU will retaliate, slowing trade further. This is on top of the hundreds of billions in U.S. tariffs already imposed on China.

What is it with this guy? Does he want to sink his own presidency and chances for re-election? Well, you might try such search terms as Ukraine, treason, civil war, and impeachment, and that old favorite, certifiably insane.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 04:51 PM (4 replies)

Robert Reich: The Real Lesson of Ukraine-Gate


The Real Lesson of Ukraine-Gate
Trump will do anything to win in 2020.
by Robert Reich
October 3, 2019

Amid the impeachment furor, don’t lose sight of the renewed importance of protecting the integrity of the 2020 election.


States must upgrade all election machinery and equip them with paper ballots that can be audited. Facebook and YouTube must devote more resources to protecting against malicious foreign trolls and bots.

All of us will need to be vigilant.

Over the last two and a half years, Trump has shown himself willing to trample any aspect of our democracy that gets in his way—attacking the media, using the presidency for personal profit, packing the federal courts, verbally attacking judges, blasting the head of the Federal Reserve, spending money in ways Congress did not authorize, and subverting the separation of powers.

Trump believes he’s invincible. He’s now daring our entire constitutional and political system to stop him.

The real value of the formal impeachment now underway is to put Trump on notice that he can’t necessarily get away with abusing his presidential power to win reelection. He will still try, of course. But at least a line has been drawn. And now everyone is watching.

Regardless of how the impeachment turns out, Trump’s predation can be constrained as long as his presidency can be ended with the 2020 election. If that election is distorted, and if this man is reelected, all bets are off.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 04:47 PM (1 replies)

David Corn: House Dems So Focused on Ukraine That They're Overlooking Another Impeachable Offense


House Democrats Are So Focused on Ukraine That They’re Overlooking Another Impeachable Offense
It’s an allegation that Trump committed a stunning act of betrayal.
David Corn

This is the way things work now: Donald Trump is credibly reported to have given aid and comfort to an enemy that attacked the United States—and this allegation, several days later, is not part of the news cycle or the scandal that is fueling the impeachment drive on Capitol Hill. The story of the most profound betrayal a president can commit has vanished from the national discourse. And that is partly because of the Democrats.

Last Friday night, the Washington Post published a stunning article reporting that during an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then–Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that Trump was unconcerned about Moscow’s attack on the 2016 presidential election. Trump noted the Russians that their assault on the United States was no big deal because the United States did the same in other countries, according to three former officials. It was at this meeting that Trump, as had been previously reported, revealed highly classified information to his Russian visitors and said that his firing of FBI chief James Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him. Yet Trump’s comments dismissing the importance of the Russian attack—which, according to the US intelligence community, was mounted in part to help Trump win the White House—now stands as the most significant moment of that gathering, where Trump and the two Russians were photographed smiling.

The Post noted that after this discussion, White House officials took steps to keep Trump’s comments from becoming public, and limited distribution of a memo summarizing the conversation to only a few officials with the highest security clearances. The memo was kept from officials who normally would have access to this sort of report. (The newspaper also reported it was unclear whether the memo was hidden in the supersecret White House server, as were documents related to those Trump interactions with Ukraine that are now the subject of the impeachment inquiry.)

It has long been assumed that Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was in keeping with Trump’s stated desire to get past the 2016 election and Russia’s interference. But Trump telling the Russians he did not care about the attack goes much further. That would mark a dereliction of his primary duty as president: to protect the nation. The US intelligence community, the report of special counsel Robert Mueller, and two congressional investigations (led by Republicans) have each declared that Moscow covertly waged extensive information warfare against the United States to subvert American democracy. Yet here was Trump sending a message to the foreign adversary that staged this attack that he was indifferent about it—that Russia could get away with it and perhaps do so again. Certainly, Moscow could have read Trump’s I-don’t-care comment as an invitation for future underhanded intervention.


Perhaps zeroing in on the Ukraine scandal and Trump’s moblike abuse of power is the practical decision for House Democrats and investigators. It’s new; it’s manageable. It’s not muddied up the way the Trump-Russia controversy has become (due to the years-long disinformation campaign mounted by Trump and his cultists). Yet this means Trump is being let off the hook for a monumental act of perfidy. Consider this: The president of the United States, according to this report, essentially countenanced an attack on the United States. What could warrant impeachment more? But this story comes and then it goes. Only in the era of Trump would a possible act of treason on the part of the president be considered a second-tier matter and become lost in the swirl of tweets and other outrageous misdeeds.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 04:40 PM (14 replies)

White House Hints at U.S. Probe of Biden


White House Hints at U.S. Probe of Biden
October 3, 2019 at 3:01 pm EDT By Taegan Goddard

The White House sent out its general-public newsletter “with a very conspicuous line buried in a series of talking points on the rapidly escalating scandal that has President Trump on the verge of an impeachment vote,” the Daily Beast reports.

From the newsletter: “This year, President Trump has asked Ukraine to fully cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his family in Ukraine.”

“No such investigation into the Bidens has been publicly announced, and neither the DOJ nor the White House responded to inquiries about the statement. But then, at some point… the version on the White House website was quietly edited. It now says that the president ‘has asked Ukraine to fully cooperate with any Justice Department investigation into the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his family in Ukraine.'”
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 03:36 PM (6 replies)

Historians on Trump: We've never seen anything like this


Historians on Trump: We've never seen anything like this
Opinion by Elizabeth A. Cobbs, Kyle Longley, Kenneth Osgood and Jeremi Suri
Updated 4:28 PM ET, Wed October 2, 2019

"Editor's note: Elizabeth A. Cobbs is the Melbern Glasscock Chair in American history at Texas A&M University and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Kyle Longley is the Snell Family Dean's distinguished professor of history and political science at Arizona State University. Kenneth Osgood is a professor of History at the Colorado School of Mines. Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The views expressed here are theirs. Read more opinion on CNN."


It is rare to get such a real-time look at presidential conversations with foreign leaders. As historians of US foreign relations, collectively we have read many thousands of similar documents from past presidents. We have also listened to audio tapes of conversations between presidents and their international counterparts. In our numerous books on presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama, we have examined how American leaders conduct US foreign policy — the good, bad, and ugly. Nothing really surprises us anymore.
Until now.

Trump's documentary record differs dramatically from his predecessors. A worrisome thread runs through each conversation. Trump appears laser-focused on his own fortunes to the exclusion of the national security of the United States. Unfortunately, this is part of a larger and startling pattern of Trump promoting his personal agenda ahead of the nation's interests.

Many examples exist. When speaking with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, Trump concentrated on soliciting help to discredit a political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. Missing was any discussion of US national interests. Trump never mentioned the shared US-Ukrainian goal of containing Russia's ambitions, a cornerstone of the relationship. Instead, he pushed a personal agenda — and Zelensky responded by bragging about staying at a Trump property, to the financial benefit of America's president.


No one knows if Congress will decide that these actions rise to level of impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors." We do know history will judge them harshly, because Donald Trump is not fulfilling the most solemn duty of every president: to protect the nation's security.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 08:04 AM (26 replies)

Los Angeles, a City Known for Its Freeways, Is About to Plant a Shit Ton of Trees

Los Angeles, a City Known for Its Freeways, Is About to Plant a Shit Ton of Trees
The effort starts with its first-ever forest officer.
Jackie Flynn Mogensen

Los Angeles, the sprawling city of freeways, thinks its future depends on trees. And it may be right: Research shows trees improve air and water quality, store carbon, and can even reduce stress. All these benefits don’t seem to be lost on Mayor Eric Garcetti, who in late April announced his version of a Green New Deal for the city. Among other measures, he mandated that every new city-owned building be all-electric, established a goal to phase out styrofoam, called for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and, crucially, tasked the city with the goal of planting a whopping 90,000 trees by the end of 2021. “With flames on our hillsides and floods in our streets,” Garcetti said in a press release at the time, “cities cannot wait another moment to confront the climate crisis with everything we’ve got.”

The ambitious tree-planting project falls under the purview of Rachel Malarich, the city’s forest officer—a job that was just created in August to “oversee the growth of Los Angeles’ urban forest” as part of Garcetti’s Green New Deal. An arborist with more than a decade of experience in urban forestry, Malarich was appointed just days before the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that emphasized the role of trees and forests in combatting climate change. The project will grow what’s already the largest urban forest in the country, making what happens in Los Angeles an important model for other cities looking to go green.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Oct 3, 2019, 07:46 AM (8 replies)
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