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Ignoring Fiona Hill's warnings, Trump echoes Russian propaganda


Ignoring Fiona Hill’s warnings, Trump echoes Russian propaganda
11/22/19 12:58 PM—Updated 11/22/19 02:26 PM
By Steve Benen

Yesterday, Dr. Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council, implored Republicans to stop echoing propaganda created by the Kremlin to undermine the United States and help Moscow. “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interest,” she testified.”


TRUMP: You know, it’s very interesting. They have the server, right, from the DNC, Democratic National Committee, you know.

KILMEADE: Who has the server?

TRUMP: The FBI went in and they told them, get out of here, you’re not getting – we’re not giving it to you. They gave the server to Crowdstrike, or whatever it’s called, which is a country – which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company? Why?

DOOCY: Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?

TRUMP: Well, that’s what the word is. That’s what I asked actually in my phone call, as you know.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, we already know that everything the president said about this conspiracy theory is both wrong and crackpot nonsense. There is no ambiguity: the claim Trump keeps peddling, publicly and to national audiences, is just crazy. Even White House officials have urged the president not to believe it. He doesn’t care.

But it’s not just factually incorrect. In the shadow of the impeachment inquiry, it’s also an example of Trump asking people to believe a discredited claim, that is, in Fiona Hill’s words, “being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

Or put another way, the American president is helping advance Kremlin propaganda intended to hurt the United States.

Indeed, Trump wouldn’t let it go. “Don’t forget, Ukraine hated me,” he added this morning. “They were after me in the election. They wanted Hillary Clinton to win.”

I don’t honestly expect the president to have watched Fiona Hill’s testimony, and he obviously wouldn’t read a transcript if it were handed to him. But there’s probably room for a public conversation about why Trump seems so eager to stick to the Russian script Hill urged officials to avoid.
Posted by babylonsister | Fri Nov 22, 2019, 09:11 PM (1 replies)

Newspaper From Devin Nunes' Hometown Receives Letters From People Around The Country...


Newspaper From Devin Nunes’ Hometown Receives Letters From People Around The Country That Send A Clear Message After His Performance During Impeachment Hearing
Andrea Thompson
by Andrea Thompson 3 hours ago
3 hours ago

Over the course of the public impeachment inquiry hearings these past two weeks, the entire Republican party has effectively made complete asses out of themselves. However, no one hit the fuckwit nail on the head quite like GOP Rep. and former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes did.

While all of the GOP Reps. present during the hearings were clearly grasping at straws during their statements and lines of questioning — often resorting to hairbrained, right-wing conspiracy theories and baseless, shameful attacks against the witnesses — Nunes made a point to really crank the crazy up to 11, spending the majority of his allotted time rambling about nude photographs of the president. As though any of us wanted that mental image.

As a result of his behavior throughout the hearings, the Fresno Bee, a local newspaper from San Joaquin Valley where the GOP rep. is from, received and published a sudden influx of letters from people all across the nation who witnessed Nunes’ antics over the course of the hearings. And according to Fresno Bee’s Marek Warszawski, there was a considerable “absence of pro-Nunes sentiment.”


Cynthia Lover of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. wrote, “After watching all of the impeachment hearings I am amazed that the good people of California ever felt that Devin Nunes is someone they wanted representing them in Congress.”

Bill Adelman of Galt, California said, “It is apparent Mr. Nunes has become a perfect example of someone who puts his political party’s positions over his country. More shameful, Mr. Nunes’ allegiance seems to lie with a leader who is either so inept, corrupt or both, instead of upholding our country’s Constitution and laws.”

“The Oath of Office of US Congressional Representatives promises, in part: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic … that I take this obligation freely … so help me God,” read the letter by Jack Stevens of Boise, Idaho. “Nunes’ own Oath promises loyalty only to the Constitution of the United States. America’s Constitution does not even suggest that Nunes should be loyal to the president. Nunes promised ‘So help me God.’ Is Nunes keeping his promise to God?”

“I am from Georgia, not California, but I just wanted to drop a quick note to you and your readers: What were you thinking when you sent Devin Nunes to Congress as your Representative? Have you no sense of shame? Try to do better at the next election,” penned Dick Marti of Tifton.

Warszawski stated that these letters prove that Devin Nunes is “more polarizing than Brussels sprouts.”

Frankly, he’s about as gross as Brussels sprouts, too.
Posted by babylonsister | Fri Nov 22, 2019, 08:38 PM (4 replies)

DOJ watchdog expected to say FBI erred, but absolve top leaders of anti-Trump bias: report

DOJ watchdog expected to say FBI erred, but absolve top leaders of anti-Trump bias: report
By Olivia Beavers - 11/22/19 05:35 PM EST

A Justice Department watchdog is expected to strongly criticize FBI officials for being careless in their pursuit of obtaining wiretaps on a former Trump campaign aide during the start of the Russia probe, but not find they were acting with a bias toward President Trump, The New York Times reported Friday afternoon.

But the highly anticipated report from the Department of Justice inspector general (IG) is also expected to say top agency leaders did not act with a bias toward against President Trump in terms of how they undertook the probe.


And while the Times reports that Horowitz will sharply rebuke the top brass at the FBI over their handling of the counterintelligence probe — which was examining whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia— his investigation did not find that anti-Trump bias among senior leaders like former FBI director James Comey, deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok influenced the investigation.

While the report, set to be publicly released Dec. 9, appears to confirm long-held GOP allegations that officials did not follow the proper protocols in obtaining the Page FISA warrant, the report also disputes their allegations that individuals like Comey, McCabe and Strzok acted on biases towards the president.

Horowitz's report also debunks claims that the so-called Steele dossier compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele was used by officials to launch the investigation, as well as allegations that some of the information came from the CIA officials.


Posted by babylonsister | Fri Nov 22, 2019, 08:11 PM (3 replies)

Defying Trump, Navy Secretary backs effort to revoke tridents from Eddie Gallagher and other SEALs

Defying Trump, Navy Secretary backs effort to revoke tridents from Eddie Gallagher and other SEALs
Steve Scherer, Reuters
November 22, 2019 at 06:12 PM

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said on Friday a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct should face a board of peers weighing whether to oust him from the elite force, despite President Donald Trump's assertion that he not be expelled.

"I believe the process matters for good order and discipline," Spencer told Reuters, weighing in on a confrontation between Trump and senior Navy officials over the outcome of a high-profile war-crimes case.

A military jury in July convicted Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of illegally posing for pictures with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter but acquitted him of murder in the detainee's death. Gallagher also was cleared of charges that he deliberately fired on unarmed civilians.

Although spared a prison sentence, he was demoted in rank and pay grade for his conviction, which stemmed from a 2017 deployment in Iraq.

Last Friday, Trump intervened in the case, ordering the Navy to restore Gallagher's rank and pay and clearing the way for him to retire on a full pension.

But Navy brass notified Gallagher, 40, on Tuesday that a five-member panel of fellow Navy commandos would convene on Dec. 2 to review his case and recommend whether he is fit to remain in the SEALs.



Posted by babylonsister | Fri Nov 22, 2019, 07:50 PM (4 replies)

Joe Conason: The Evidence That Trump Concealed


The Evidence That Trump Concealed
Joe Conason
November 22, 2019


Now Republicans insist that the whistleblower must testify, along with Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and miscellaneous others of dubious relevance. But if they are truly concerned about discovering what part the president played in this fiasco, there is a long list of real witnesses and documents they could demand. It is the same list of witnesses and documents withheld by the White House. And the president himself, having claimed that he wants to testify, has ripped away the fig leaf of executive privilege.

So if the Republicans want more substantial and direct evidence, they should demand the testimony of Mike Pompeo, who has been implicated in the scandal by the testimony of his own subordinates including Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Pompeo allegedly instructed State Department personnel to cooperate in the machinations of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s henchman on Ukraine. For that matter, they should also demand to hear from Giuliani himself under oath, who claims to be a Trump attorney but has made no court appearances on behalf of the president.

If the Republicans want firsthand proof of who ordered the suspension of military aid to Ukraine — at least until Zelensky promised to smear Biden on cable TV — they should insist on sworn testimony from Mick Mulvaney. The acting chief of staff told the Office of Management and Budget, which he continues to oversee, to withhold that vital assistance from Kiev, without any further explanation, and it did. Surely the Republicans want to know who gave that order.

If the Republicans need additional evidence that Trump pushed this “drug deal,” as former national security adviser John Bolton dubbed the Ukraine bribery and extortion scheme, then they must join the Democrats in urging Bolton to step forward with the truth. Bolton has always been a dubious figure, dating back to his efforts to help the Reagan administration cover up the Iran-contra scandal. But his failure was cast into sharp relief by the words of Fiona Hill, the former White House Russia expert who spoke up courageously in her own testimony. Like Bill Taylor, George Kent, David Holmes and the other witnesses who came before the committee, she did her duty.

“I believe that those who have information that the Congress deems relevant have a legal and moral obligation to provide it,” said Hill. She was morally and legally right, of course — and her simple statement should shame every official, both in Congress and the executive branch, still aiding Trump’s obstruction.
Posted by babylonsister | Fri Nov 22, 2019, 06:27 PM (4 replies)

Trump's Senate Impeachment Defense Will Be to Put Joe Biden on Trial

Mods, this is here because it's specifically about impeachment, not just Biden. If I'm wrong, I'm sure you'll let me know.


Trump’s Senate Impeachment Defense Will Be to Put Joe Biden on Trial
By Richard L. Hasen
Nov 22, 2019
12:57 PM


There’s every reason to believe Trump will try to mount an extended attack on Biden as part of his defense in a Senate trial. Someone familiar with the Trump camp strategy told Politico that “they want some kind of factual affirmative defense on the merits,” and Trump himself on Friday said, “I want a trial.” It appears the affirmative defense would be that Trump pressured Zelensky because he was worried about corruption coming from the Bidens, and not because he was seeking dirt on a political rival. (This is almost laughable.)

According to the New York Times, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is already laying the groundwork for this defense. Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking evidence to sully the Bidens:

In the letter, Mr. Graham asked for documents and communications with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son Hunter Biden, officials from the Obama administration and former President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine. The list suggests that Mr. Graham envisions a defense of Mr. Trump that focuses on shifting attention away from Mr. Trump’s conduct and onto the issue of whether Hunter Biden’s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president was appropriate.

A trial of Biden or CrowdStrike in the Senate could be a Trump victory, or it could be a morass for Senate Republicans. Remember that the whole point of pressuring Ukraine was not to get the government there to actually do an investigation but only to announce an investigation. The goal was not to get at the truth but to open up a line of attack on the man Trump saw as his most dangerous rival. Trump was banking on the premise that it could be enough to sully someone’s reputation repeatedly through public attacks rather than to have to produce actual evidence to harden public opinion. Days of Senate hearings in which Trump lawyers lay out a case against Joe Biden or CrowdStrike will presumably get wall-to-wall coverage from major news outlets, further amplifying Trump’s lies against Biden and efforts to blame Ukraine and rehabilitate Russia for the 2016 election interference campaign.

Now some moderate senators like Maine’s Susan Collins may balk at such a defense, but they really have very little control here. Just like a criminal defendant, Trump gets wide latitude to launch his defense. It seems unlikely that the chief justice would shut down an attempt by Trump to present evidence supposedly going to his state of mind in pressuring Ukraine. Trump’s state of mind is crucial in determining whether he abused his power and acted corruptly.

It’s already clear that Trump will try to use the Senate trial to his political advantage. The strategy is a gamble, but it could pay off. Conviction takes a two-thirds vote, which would mean near three dozen Republican senators joining the Democrats to convict, an outcome that would not be possible if the vote were held today. In the likely event that Trump is acquitted after sullying Biden, the president will take a victory lap and perhaps turn to new ways to curry foreign interference in the upcoming 2020 elections. It will still ultimately be up to American voters to determine if they will side with those presenting evidence of the president’s abuse or with those peddling Trump’s false conspiracy theories.
Posted by babylonsister | Fri Nov 22, 2019, 04:19 PM (5 replies)

Prosecutors Investigating the Trump Organization Zero In on Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg

Prosecutors Investigating the Trump Organization Zero In on Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg
Weisselberg is one of the Trump Organization’s longest tenured employees and is now co-running the business. He escaped federal prosecution for the Stormy Daniels payments but is now a focus of an investigation by Manhattan’s district attorney.
by Peter Elkind Nov. 21, 10:51 a.m. EST

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s criminal investigation of the Trump Organization is scrutinizing the actions of one of the president’s oldest and most trusted deputies, ProPublica has learned.

The focus on Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, a 72-year-old accountant now running the business with Trump’s two adult sons, stems from his involvement in arranging a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump (which Trump has denied).

Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, or SDNY, contended that the Trump Organization had improperly booked reimbursements for the hush-money scheme as “legal expenses,” with the aid of sham invoices. They granted legal immunity to Weisselberg and later closed their 18-month investigation with the guilty plea of one Trump associate, Michael Cohen. But Weisselberg’s immunity deal applied only to federal proceedings.

Now Vance’s state grand jury is examining whether Weisselberg, among others — and even the Trump Organization — should face state criminal charges for falsification of business records, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Neither Weisselberg nor the Trump Organization responded to requests for comment. Vance, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

A handful of lawyers and investigators from Vance’s office, led by Chris Conroy, chief of the DA’s major economic crimes bureau, traveled to the federal minimum-security prison camp in Otisville, New York, on Oct. 30 to meet for the third time with Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter. Much of the discussion involved Weisselberg.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Nov 21, 2019, 07:12 PM (7 replies)

David Corn: An Impeachment Witness Shows How Republicans Are Helping Putin


An Impeachment Witness Shows How Republicans Are Helping Putin
And the testimony indicates that Russia’s attack still poisons US politics.
David Corn

It’s all about Russia. Or mostly.

The fifth day of the House impeachment hearings on Thursday brought two consummate policy professionals to the witness stand. Each had a clear tale, from different perspectives, of the Trump-Giuliani operation to circumvent normal national security channels to muscle Ukraine into announcing the launch of investigations of Joe Biden and his son’s activities in Ukraine and of the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine intervened in the US election in 2016.

David Holmes, a top foreign service officer serving in the US embassy in Ukraine, recounted the months-long effort on the part of Rudy Giuliani and Ambassador Gordon Sondland to squeeze a “Burisma-Biden” investigation out of the Ukrainians. He noted, “It was made clear that some action on a Burisma-Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.” Former senior National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill, a Russia expert, recalled how she and her boss, John Bolton, the national security adviser, saw Giuliani’s outside-channel scheming as a problem that could blow up. Once again, witnesses who had a front-row seat to the Trump-Giuliani production told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump was leveraging the power of his office—preventing a White House meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and withholding nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine—to generate political dirt that could taint a political rival and absolve Moscow.

Their stories boosted previous testimony and further undermined the Republicans’ contention that there was “no linkage,” as committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has often bellowed. (When I asked him on Thursday if he still believes there was no “linkage,” he grimaced and walked past me.) But what made this hearing different from the previous sessions was that a witness went after a major Republican talking point—and demolished it. And she essentially accused Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the senior Republican on the committee, and his GOP colleagues of being useful idiots for Vladimir Putin.


Hill and Holmes were impressive witnesses who patiently and carefully recalled what they saw and heard. Their testimony showed that Trump and his irregulars did lean on Ukraine to produce information that could clear Russia of interference in the 2016 election and help Trump survive the election of 2020. But unfortunately for Hill—and the nation—the day confirmed her worst fears. Republicans demonstrated they would keep on advancing Putin-friendly false narratives, undermining and disregarding government professionals, and questioning the truth. The session revealed not only that Trump had corrupted US national security policy for his own personal advantage, but that there is a bigger problem: The Russian operation that worked in 2016 continues to poison US politics.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Nov 21, 2019, 06:57 PM (2 replies)

Trump says he won't allow Navy to punish SEAL who posed with dead body

Trump says he won't allow Navy to punish SEAL who posed with dead body
By Ryan Browne, CNN
Updated 1:15 PM ET, Thu November 21, 2019

(CNN)President Donald Trump has once again weighed in on potential disciplinary action against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, appearing to override a Navy decision to initiate a review that could result in him being stripped of his status as a SEAL.

The Navy's review could have led to Gallagher's expulsion from the elite warfare community, according to officials directly familiar with the matter.

"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!" Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

The Trident Pin, which is worn by Navy SEALs, is awarded following their completion of an intense qualification course and symbolizes membership of the elite military community.

Asked about Trump's tweet, a spokesperson for the US Navy referred all questions to the White House. Defense officials have previously told CNN that the Pentagon does not necessarily view tweets as orders and it is unclear if an official order has been received at this time.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Nov 21, 2019, 05:23 PM (4 replies)

A Warning to Republicans on Fiona Hill


A Warning to Republicans on Fiona Hill
November 21, 2019 at 9:05 am EST By Taegan Goddard

Banjamin Wittes: “This is a good opportunity to say a few words about Fiona Hill, who has been a Brookings Institution colleague for many years. Fiona is a formidable person—a first-rate mind with genuine and unusual expertise in Russia policy.”

“She was not a Trumpist, in any sense, which made her decision to go into the administration a matter of some surprise among her colleagues. For a serious Russia hand to serve in Trump’s NSC was, after all, quite a leap. I am sure that Fiona has had to make compromises as a result of the contradictions inherent in that decision. (Imagine being a serious Russia person on the NSC during and after Helsinki, for example).”

“But it should be impossible to dismiss Fiona’s testimony as that of a Never Trumper. This is someone who was not a career bureaucrat who was willing—to the confusion of much of her professional cohort—to go into government in a political role to serve under Trump on Russia.”

“One other thing—a warning to the cocky Republican member who may try to be patronizing or think he or she is gonna have a good C-SPAN moment at Fiona’s expense: Fiona is smarter than you. She knows more. And she is impatient with idiocy. You are likely to embarrass yourself.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Nov 21, 2019, 10:58 AM (29 replies)
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