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Member since: Mon Sep 6, 2004, 09:54 PM
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House Democrats ponder expanding impeachment probe after Sondland 'game changer' testimony

House Democrats ponder expanding impeachment probe after Sondland 'game changer' testimony
Tom LoBianco
2 hrs ago


“Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson described the testimony as a “smoking gun,” and Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee called it a “game changer.”

Kildee said it was time for Democrats to think about expanding their probe: “We should at least call the witnesses he indicated were in the loop. That would include Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Pompeo, for sure.”

Sondland’s testimony added a flash of drama to impeachment hearings that, until Wednesday, had been fairly dry — filled with incredible detail of Trump’s efforts to coax an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but lacking the high drama that Sondland provided.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat and scion of the Kennedy family, said Sondland’s testimony made clear that Democrats can’t let officials like Pompeo, Mulvaney and Pence off the hook.

“There’s very few of my Republican colleagues who are disputing the facts of this case. Like, none. And if there were any, I think they’re going to have an awfully hard time doing so after what we just heard from Ambassador Sondland,” Kennedy told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

“In my view, what happened here is a textbook case of extortion, and I think that anybody who conspired with the president to engage in this criminal act should be looked at as well,” said Rep. Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Nov 21, 2019, 10:15 AM (3 replies)

Trump campaign attacks Buttigieg during Democratic debate

Trump campaign attacks Buttigieg during Democratic debate
Pete Buttigieg
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and "Black Voices for Trump" sent coordinated mass emails during the Democratic debate Wednesday attacking Mayor Pete Buttigieg for his record on race and policing in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

Why it matters: As Axios' Jonathan Swan reported on Sunday, top Republicans are taking Buttigieg seriously as a potential general election candidate after his breakout poll in Iowa and his rise in New Hampshire. Several top Trump advisers have raised concerns that Buttigieg is more talented than Joe Biden and that he will be harder to brand as a leftist radical than Sens. Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Nov 21, 2019, 12:53 AM (3 replies)

The Ukraine Quid Pro Quo Case Is Getting Close to Mike Pence and He's Not Happy


November 20, 2019 12:54PM ET
The Ukraine Quid Pro Quo Case Is Getting Close to Mike Pence and He’s Not Happy

Pence insists that a conversation about arms-for-investigations, detailed in sworn testimony by ambassador Gordon Sondland, “never happened”
By Tim Dickinson

Mike Pence would very much like to be excluded from the Ukraine narrative.

The Vice President is contradicting sworn impeachment testimony from European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland, who on Wednesday claimed he had raised concerns with Pence in September that U.S. military aid for Ukraine was being withheld, pending political investigations demanded by President Donald Trump. On a late July phone call, Trump had personally demanded a “favor” of president Volodymyr Zelensky: That Ukraine investigate the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory, alleging Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election, as well as vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

The disputed conversation with the Vice President is one of many bombshells included in Sondland’s testimony on the Ukraine quid-pro-quo, conditioning both a White House meeting with Zelensky and the release of $400 million in military aide to Ukraine on committing publicly to the investigations. The ambassador claims the scheme was directed by Trump, through his attorney Rudy Giuliani, with the knowledge of many top ranking officials in the administration, including Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. “Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland testified. “It was no secret.”

Referring specifically to the vice president’s knowledge of the quid pro quo, Sondland testified under oath about a September 1st meeting with new Ukrainian president Zelensky that Pence attended on Trump’s behalf. Sondland recalled: “I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.” This sidebar conversation with the Vice President preceded Zelensky bringing up the topic officially: “During the actual meeting, President Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence,” Sondland testified. “The Vice President said he would speak to President Trump about it.”

Responding to Sondland’s allegation, Pence is strenuously disputing the sworn account. Pence chief of staff, Marc Short, released a statement insisting that the conversation between Pence and Sondland “never happened.”


The questions about what Pence knew and when did he know it were already ripe. The Vice President has portrayed himself as being as being at arms length from the quid quo pro scheme former National Security Adviser John Bolton derided as a “drug deal.” Sondland’s disputed testimony casts doubt on Pence’s claims to be in the dark, and increases the chances that the man first-in-line to succeed Trump may have to worry about his own political fate in a Senate impeachment trial.
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 09:53 PM (8 replies)

The Rude Pundit:Impeachment Hearings: Random Observations on Republicans Getting Kicked in the Taint


The Rude Pundit
Proudly lowering the level of political discourse
Impeachment Hearings: Random Observations on Republicans Getting Kicked in the Taint


4. The picture of President Trump that came through today is of an out-of-touch idiot who has listened to Rudy Giuliani, another out-of-touch idiot, both of them sharing delusions of conspiracy theories. And when people in the intelligence, national security, and foreign policy communities tried to tell Trump that the batshit allegations about Ukraine and the DNC server or the Bidens are batshit, Trump told them to fuck off and put Giuliani in charge, sending him on a mission to confirm the batshit allegations, eventually bribing Ukraine to almost join him in the delusion pool before all this shit was revealed by the whistleblower and confirmed by the multiple officials who have testified.

Seriously, this is like Trump sending people to search for Barack Obama's birth certificate, except now he gets to do it with the power of the Oval Office and the purse of the United States behind him.

5. Let's give the final word to Democratic Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who finally came about as close to losing his shit at Republicans as he has so far. In his closing remarks today, he pointed out that Republicans don't give a shit what Trump did. "Their objection is that he got caught," Schiff said. Then, getting more intense, he continued, "Their objection is that someone blew the whistle...their defense is that, well, he ended up releasing the aid. Yes! After he got caught. That doesn't make this any less odious."

I think things are going to get even more odious as Republicans start throwing everything at the hearings to see if something will derail the train that Schiff is driving straight at Trump.

(Note: You might think Trump's not really insane and is using the conspiracy theories as a cover for malevolence. I'd say that if he were truly that smart, he'd know to keep this shit quieter. )
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 08:19 PM (4 replies)

The question is no longer whether Trump did it -- it's whether he'll get away with it


The question is no longer whether Trump did it — it’s whether he’ll get away with it
by Jeffrey C. Billman
November 20, 2019

He did the thing.

There's no question he did the thing.

Everything that's happening now — the theatrics and distractions, the media analyses and pundit fulminations, the nitpicking and obfuscations, now the open witness tampering — is noise, a spectacle that will elicit more heat than light and should only reinforce what any clear-eyed person who's been paying attention already knows.

He did the thing.

That is, extortion
: President Trump held up nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine — money to help that country fight Russian-backed separatists — to force Ukraine's government to announce investigations into Joe Biden and a conspiracy theory to undermine the intelligence community's conclusion that the Russians worked with Wikileaks to help Trump's 2016 campaign.


At the end of this sturm und drang — after the inevitable impeachment, after the trial in the Senate, after the avalanche of bullshit that will flood our news feeds — the only question that will matter is whether Republican senators have the courage to rebuke the president and his propagandists, whether they'll acknowledge the corruption staring them in the face, whether they'll place themselves on the right side of history or submit fully to the rising tide of authoritarianism consuming the Republican Party.

Having watched events unfold last week, and for the last three years, I fear I know the answer — even though they, too, know he did the thing.
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 07:46 PM (1 replies)

Border activist Scott Warren acquitted of harboring immigrants who crossed US-Mexico border

Border activist Scott Warren acquitted of harboring immigrants who crossed US-Mexico border
Associated Press
3:54 pm
November 20, 2019

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on the trial of a border humanitarian charged with immigrant harboring (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

A jury in Arizona has acquitted an activist on charges he illegally helped two migrant men from Central America evade authorities.

Scott Warren was charged with harboring for his role in providing shelter to the men who had crossed the border illegally in January 2018.

The trial was the second for Warren, who maintained he was fulfilling his mission as a humanitarian when he provided basic medical care to the men.

He allowed them to stay at a camp run by volunteers who rescue migrants in desert.

A jury in June deadlocked on charges against him in the first trial.

Prosecutors contended Warren knowingly broke the law by allowing the men to stay at the camp.

They said Warren gave them directions to help them avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint.


Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 07:41 PM (0 replies)

Why Hasn't Rudy Giuliani Been Disbarred Yet?

Why Hasn’t Rudy Giuliani Been Disbarred Yet?
Acting as an attorney is a privilege. Where’s the evidence that Giuliani has earned that distinction?
By Scott Pilutik
Nov 20, 20193:10 PM

Even before he replaced Michael Cohen as President Donald Trump’s doomed fixer, even before these impeachment proceedings began, lawyers were asking why Rudy Giuliani was still calling himself an attorney. He regularly inflicted real carnage on the legal profession with every televised appearance accompanied by the “Attorney” moniker beneath his bobbing, bug-eyed head, arms flailing as he apoplectically railed about unfounded conspiracies and contradicted himself seconds later. Lawyers are often many things at once, but Giuliani’s TV clownery falls well outside the definitions you’ll find in the ABA guide, or New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which both describe the attorney’s role as one of advising, counseling, representing, drafting, negotiating. More sagacious—less salacious—public spectacle.

Then Giuliani joined the president’s personal legal team, assuming a role that so perverts the legal profession that the question is no longer Why is Giuliani still calling himself an attorney?, but rather, Why hasn’t Giuliani been disbarred already?

In service of the president, Giuliani outsourced dirt-digging to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. In early October, both were indicted in part for their role in ginning up a nonsensical basis to oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, which cleared the way for Giuliani’s even dirtier work in Ukraine: lobbying Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to publicly announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden and Burisma, presently the central issue of the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry. Despite being as key a witness as a witness can be, Giuliani has refused a House subpoena to discuss his role, calling the impeachment inquiry “unconstitutional, baseless, and illegitimate.”

Besides facing a potential obstruction charge stemming from his refusal to participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry, Giuliani’s Ukrainian misadventure is now the subject of three seemingly related federal investigations, covering various aspects of his relationship to Parnas and Fruman, his failure to register as a foreign agent, potential campaign finance violations, and his own business ties in Ukraine. There’s also a counterintelligence investigation to discover what role foreign governments have had in influencing Giuliani’s conduct. Former national security adviser John Bolton’s characterization of Giuliani as a “hand grenade” that would blow everyone up is looking less like hyperbole and more like an understatement each day. Giuliani is the second biggest elephant in the congressional hearing room next to Trump: physically absent but omnipresent, whether it’s George Kent testifying to Giuliani’s “campaign of lies” or Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker claiming to have attempted to coax Giuliani off the roof of particularly ludicrous conspiracies. In Wednesday morning’s impeachment hearing, Sondland seemingly spoke for the entire bus now parked atop the president’s attorney: “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani.”


Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 06:42 PM (4 replies)

Bernie Voted for Obamacare. That Didn't Make Him a Sellout.

Bernie Voted for Obamacare. That Didn’t Make Him a Sellout.
by Harold Meyerson
November 19, 2019

One of the oddities of the ongoing Democratic debate about how the United States can get to universal health coverage—an achievement every other nation has somehow managed to pull off—is that no one ever asks the presidential candidates about their fallback positions. But if American history has any lessons to offer, it’s that major social and economic reforms always get enacted piecemeal, over time. And so when questioning the current crop of presidential aspirants as to the plans they’ll put forward, we also need to know their criteria for accepting or rejecting the halfway-house health coverage policies likely to emerge from Congress.

Social Security, for instance, was first enacted in 1935, but in order to get it through Congress, FDR had to accept the limitations that Southern senators and congressmen (all white) put on it. Same story with the federal minimum wage, first enacted in 1938, which pointedly excluded agricultural and domestic (and for a time, even retail) workers from the list of beneficiaries.

In the 1940s, when Harry Truman proposed national health insurance, paid for by federal tax dollars, it sank like a stone. A decade and a half later, Lyndon Johnson got half a loaf—Medicare and Medicaid, federally paid health coverage for seniors and the poor—through Congress. As you’ve doubtless noticed, we’ve made some progress toward getting the other half, but we’re still working on it.

Given the lack of anything like consensual support—not just in the nation, but in the Democratic Party itself—for Medicare for All, how should supporters of Medicare for All (like myself) respond? The most sensible course is to push for the most we can get, which, if we have a Democratic president and Congress in 2021, should be along the lines of taxpayer-supported Medicare for anyone over 50 or under 26, raising the income threshold for eligibility for those between 26 and 50, allowing individuals still not eligible to buy into the plan, and allowing employers to buy in for their employees as well. Such a plan would mark a massive expansion of the public responsibility for Americans’ health care; it would be, in André Gorz’s phrase, a non-reformist reform.

If that was the most that a President Bernie Sanders could get out of Congress, would he accept it? Given that he voted to establish the Affordable Care Act and voted repeatedly against Republican efforts to repeal it, of course he would. Would Elizabeth Warren accept it? The timetable she unveiled last week actually featured an initial plan fairly close to the one I just outlined.


Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 06:38 PM (2 replies)

David Corn: Donald Trump's No-Quid-Pro-Quo Defense Is Crushed. The GOP Didn't Get the Memo.


Donald Trump’s No-Quid-Pro-Quo Defense Is Crushed. The GOP Didn’t Get the Memo.
Gordon Sondland’s dramatic testimony bolsters the Democrats’ case for impeachment.
David Corn

What do you do when your whole world falls apart? That is, what do you do when you say there was no quid pro quo, but a credible witness declares there was?

That was the bombshell testimony delivered by Gordon Sondland, the Republican hotelier who earned himself a US ambassadorship by donating $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee. In a dramatic appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Sondland made it clear that Trump had set up a pay-to-play-ish foreign policy operation. It’s not complicated: When Sondland and other US officials encouraged Trump to work with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump expressed contempt for Ukrainians and said, “Talk to Rudy.” When they talked to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, Giuliani told them that before the Ukrainians could get a much-desired phone call and sit-down with Trump, Kyiv had to announce the opening of political investigations that Trump wanted. And Sondland and his colleagues, trying to salvage the US-Ukraine relationship, then spent months working with the Ukrainians to try to make this deal happen.


The Republicans just could not bring themselves to accept reality. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) declared that the hearing was based on “speculation, presumption, and opinion.” He noted that Sondland had no evidence that Trump blocked the security assistance to pressure Zelensky. (Sondland testified that his direct knowledge of a quid pro quo related only to that possible White House visit for Zelensky.) Jordan did not repeat his no-linkages mantra. Perhaps that would be a denial too far. But he reprised another favorite refrain: The military aid was eventually released, so there was no quid pro quo. Jordan did not mention that the assistance was released after the White House learned of the whistleblower’s complaint and Congress began an investigation. “Yes, they got caught,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said at the hearing in response to Jordan.

Overall, the Republican effort was sad. True, Trump, Fox News, and other conservative media highlighted Sondland’s testimony that he had received no direct quid-pro-quo order from Trump. But one key feature of this scandal is that Sondland did not have to receive such instruction from the guy at the top. Trump had set up a situation in which he did not need to explicitly command his underlings to squeeze the Ukrainians. That was Giuliani’s job. The Republicans may be inching toward a throw-Rudy-under-the-bus position. But before they arrive there, they are kicking up the-Ukrainians-did-it dust, sticking with their absurd claims that Trump was motivated by a concern for corruption and the possible misuse of US assistance, obsessing over the whistleblower who started the Ukraine scandal, and insisting the real scandal is about the Bidens.

“I want to get back to the facts,” Nunes said after Sondland was questioned by the Democrats. The facts, though, are not on his side—or Trump’s. Sondland drew a damning big-picture portrait that corroborated what’s already known: Trump exploited his office in an attempt to gather political ammo that could influence the 2020 election and that could clear him of the Russia taint. During a break in the hearing, I asked Nunes, “What do you think so far? You said there was no quid pro quo. Sondland said there was.” Nunes glowered at me and said nothing.

Update: Shortly after I filed this story, Jordan walked past me in the committee room. “Do you still think there was no quid pro quo?” I asked. Without pause, he shot back: “No quid pro quo.” And he kept on walking.
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 06:27 PM (2 replies)

Busted Mike Pence Just Fell Into The Democrats' Trap On Impeachment


Posted on Wed, Nov 20th, 2019 by Jason Easley
Busted Mike Pence Just Fell Into The Democrats’ Trap On Impeachment

Gordon Sondland testified that Vice President Mike Pence knew about the Ukraine plot weeks before the Trump/Zelensky phone call.

Here was the exchange:

Q: Now, in this email to secretary Pompeo, you reference a trip to Tripoli. Ultimately the vice president went on that trip?

Sondland: That’s correct.

Q And that was the conversation that you talked about, or you testified earlier to, where you said that we really need to get these investigations from Ukraine in order to release the aid in the pre-meeting?

Sondland: That’s correct.

Q: And vice president pence just nodded?

Sondland: He heard what I said.

Q: And didn’t respond in any way?


The Pence team responded with an extremely parsed statement:
Kambree Kawahine Koa
JUST IN- VP Pence chief of staff statement contradicting Sondland's impeachment hearings testimony:

“Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened."
12:02 PM · Nov 20, 2019·Twitter for iPhone

Pence is claiming that the conversation never happened.

House Democrats already set this trap by asking Sondland at the testimony if the meeting was held with a group of Americans? Sondland said that it was, which means that there are witnesses besides Pence and Sondland to this conversation.

When Trump is running a scam, Mike Pence always seems to be near.

Sondland’s testimony has implicated the whole upper level of the White House in the Ukraine plot.
Mike Pence isn’t going to save the Republican Party. The Vice President is going down with the ship.
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Nov 20, 2019, 02:55 PM (2 replies)
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