Sunday Morning Mulling:
- Schiff has reached an agreement with the whistleblower to testify before Congress.
- We should be extremely mistrustful of Nancy Pelosi in this impeachment process. If Pelosi so narrowly defines this impeachment inquiry (as Mueller did his investigation) that it only covers Ukraine, we should not only demand more, but demand that she resigns as speaker. If the leadership of the Democratic party refuses to investigate Trump’s financial crimes, we should seriously investigate why. I suspect that if serious investigations begin on financial misdealing, it will catch up Democrats, especially Democrats in leadership positions. I personally don’t care.
- As just one example of why we shouldn’t trust Nancy Pelosi, Friday she said on Morning Joe that she prays for Trump regularly and that she hopes for some kind of religious revelation for Trump. We don’t need prayer; we need action to hold a corrupt President and administration and Republican party to account. I am not content to wait until Trump has some kind of religious experience. And, this is not just about getting Trump out of office. We have to demolish the whole lot of them.
- Lindsay Graham, according to press reports, has taken campaign money from Russian sources. This should be investigated and talked about in the media. I hear conversation after conversation where hosts and panelists ask each other why Lindsay Graham did a complete turn around on Trump. None of them will point out the obvious blackmail potential that this financial information reveals. Why won’t the media talk about this?
- I hear the same repeated questions about why William Barr would involve himself in such a trashy and corrupt administration. Because Barr himself is trashy and corrupt. People like Mitch McConnell and William Barr have been waiting decades for somebody like Trump to come along. Barr auditioned for the job by making clear, in writing, that he was willing to construct the legal arguments that would support authoritarianism. He (and McConnell) looked at Trump and said: That’s my guy. Let’s go.
- Along the same lines, Nancy Pelosi said on Morning Joe that Barr had “gone rogue.” No, he has not gone rogue. He has been rogue for decades as has the Federalist Society. They are both dangerous. Similarly, Barr hasn’t, as many on television claim, been “dragged into” this scandal. He is part of it, up to his arrogant eyeballs.
- One of the things I fear about the outcome of this impeachment, especially led by Pelosi, is that the upper echelons of this administration will be rehabilitated and brought back into the political process. The elite will argue that people like Barr just “went rogue” temporarily, and that others were “dragged” into this. No, they made decisions all along the way to be a part of this.
- One of the things that has made me crazy about reading the opinions about Maguire and his testimony is the repeated genuflecting to his “service” and his military career and how sorry everybody feels for him. He is a coward. He made the decision to run to the White House with a complaint ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE. What a toady, what a disgrace to his uniform, but we are supposed to feel sorry for him. I don’t have one ounce of sympathy for anybody near this administration.
- KellyAnn Conjob and her husband are playing a game, a cynical game and I have no use for either of them. They are making sure that they protect their cushy lifestyle no matter what happens to Trump. They are trash and deserve to be treated as such.
- People like Neal Katyal who write articles with Conway are naïve at best. They are part of why we wound up with Trump and why we have a long way to go to repair the damage that Trump, et. al. have done. People who are willing to subvert democracy are not, cannot be, your friends. They are our enemies and should be treated as such.
- As far as I can tell, Alexandra Chalupa (the woman Ken Vogel has called a “Democratic Operative,”) did everything in her limited power to try to warn the American government that Trump was connected with the Russians and that Manafort was a Russian asset. Nobody would listen to her. Ken Vogel evidently tried his own smear tactics on her for reasons I do not understand. For Devin Nunes to drag her name into the Intelligence Committee Hearing so she can be subjected to more death threats is unconscionable.
- According to news reports today, Manafort tried to weasel his way into McCain’s campaign, but McCain was alerted by someone in the NSC about Manafort’s sleazy connections. McCain cancelled the contract with him.
- There is a fascinating thread on Twitter at the moment about Manafort’s connection to a company that was involved in analyzing the voting data from Ohio. The thread is that the data from part of Ohio was diverted through a server in Tennessee owned by Manafort and Rick Davis. That’s all I know, but it’s fascinating. I think that eventually they will come out with evidence that the vote in 2016 was directed manipulated in certain districts. That’s the reason Manafort was giving information to the Russians about polling in specific areas.
- Please remember that Mueller mentioned the fact that Manafort gave this data to the Russians, but said he couldn’t prove that Mueller had any criminal intent in passing this information along. (Just because he walked into the bank with guns and bags that doesn’t mean he was going to rob the bank.) This one fact illustrates that Mueller was part of the coverup of all this. He was hired to do exactly what he did, an investigation that was so limited in scope and that gave the benefit of the doubt (no matter how ridiculous) to the Trump family at every turn, it was all but meaningless. Mueller is part of the coverup.
- Finally, Joaquin Castro has called for an investigation into whether Jared Kushner shared intelligence information with bin Salman that led to the killing of Khashoggi. That comes under the category of, well, of course.
My final advice is: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
House Intelligence Committee Hearing
- The dreadful Nunes, started off the hearing for the Republicans by calling a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee “information warfare.” He claimed that the Democrats on the committee had enlisted the mainstream media in their effort to impeach Trump.
- When Nunes started talking I knew that the Republicans were going to stonewall this. They were going to try to claim that black was white. They were going to take the stance of saying: Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?
- Nunes hit all the talking points – that the whistleblower complaint was “hearsay evidence,” that the whistleblower had a “political bias,” that this was “another Steele dossier,” that this hearing was going to destroy the whistleblower process. “They want a public spectacle,’ said Nunes.
- Nunes also claimed that the hearing should not even have been conducted in public. The Republicans believe that everything should be dealt with behind closed doors, especially if it involves a Republican.
- Nunes accused the Democrats of wanting to “create a media frenzy.” Then, Nunes went on to claim that the Democrats were “colluding with the Russians” and that he had examples of Democrats “doing the same thing.”
- He claimed that Biden bragged about extorting the Ukrainians to fire the former prosecutor.
- Nunes even dragged in Andrea Chalupa, accusing her of providing dirt on Trump and his associates. As if that weren’t enough, he also dragged in Nelly Orr and accused the Democrats of tying to get nude photographs (God forbid) of Trump. Where that came from I have no idea. My guess is that there are such photographs out there and the Republicans are trying to lay down a cover story to blame that on the Democrats.
- Nunes called the meeting of the committee a “grotesque spectacle” and then proceeded to act as if he were choking up with outrage.
- Later in the hearing, Nunes congratulated Maguire for being part of a “charade of legal word games.” But it was Maguire himself who started the legal word games by contesting and arguing with every question the Democrats asked.
- Maguire spent ten minutes trying not to admit that he had gone to the White House with the whistleblower complaint before he went to the Justice Department.
- Finally, Nunes warned the Director of National Intelligence to be careful what he said. Everything you say will be “used and spun.” They just can’t get enough of the mafia talk.
Some additional notes about Maguire
- Maguire disingenuously claimed that he supported “Congressional oversight.” Evidently not since instead of turning over the complaint to the appropriate Congressional committee as required by law, he turned tail and ran directly to the White House and then to the Justice Department.
- Maguire repeated the typically tortured legal argument provided to him by Bill Barr, that the allegations involved executive privilege and therefore he had to go to the White House. Additionally, the argument goes, because the allegations involved nobody from the intelligence community (a lie in itself) it didn’t fit under the Whistleblower Protection Statute.
- Maguire claimed it wasn’t for him to say how the President could conduct foreign policy. Nobody asked him to. He was simply required by law to turn over the complaint to the Congress and he did not do so.
- Maguire claimed that he was not authorized to waive executive privilege for the White House. Shiff asked him if the White House had ever claimed Executive Privilege. Maguire answered: “They were working through the executive privilege procedures.” This is typical of Maguire’s answers throughout the hearing.
Lest we forget:
- There are other records that were transferred to the high security server. What’s in those documents and transcripts?
- Nancy Pelosi says she prays for Trump. She hopes he has a revelation from God. Who is this designed to appeal to?
- Maguire remained silent while the whistleblower was being accused of being partisan and relying on hearsay information.
- If the IG hadn’t informed Congress about the existence of the WB complaint, we wouldn’t know about it. It’s not thanks to Maguire.
- The White House was aware of the existence of someone in the CIA objective to Trump behavior before the official whistleblower complaint was filed.
Fox News has evidently threatened to remove Shepherd Smith from the air if he criticizes Tucker Carlson again. Read the article by Gabriel Sherman.
I listened to almost every minute of the testimony of Joseph Maguire, Acting DNI. I say almost every minute because in the middle of his testimony my male cats (five of them) not only caught a snake in the garage and mutilated him, they then dragged the wretched being through the kitty door and into the main house. Fortunately, the poor victim was only a rat snake, but the intentional, pre-meditated homicide caused considerable frenzy and alarm.
These are a few of my observations about Maguire:
- In his opening statement, Maguire tried mightily to play for sympathy and lenience by publicly detailing his long military career and pointing out the fact that after working in a private sector job, he went to work for a charity. All of it was self-serving, self-dramatizing and irrelevant to the matter at hand.
- In the self-dramatizing category, Maguire, for example, said that when he took off his uniform for the last time, it was the first time in years nobody in his family was wearing the “cloth of the nation.” Now, maybe this is a common expression among military people, but to me it sounds like trying to literally cloak yourself with pretentions to some kind of priesthood.
- Maguire’s appeal to amnesty on the basis of his military record not surprisingly fit right into the themes used by the Republicans on the Committee. Several of the Republicans implied that it was outrageous for the committee to be questioning someone who had such a distinguished military career. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Military service does not absolve you of responsibility, nor does it make you beyond question. The Republican certainly didn’t think John Kerry’s military service made him beyond smearing. Nor did Donald Trump think John McCain was beyond smearing.
- Related to this convenient fit between Maguire’s opening statement and the Republican talking points, it was obvious that Maguire had been coached. He used the same amoral tactics of obfuscation taught to right-wing operatives. You can see this illustrated any time one of them comes on cable news. He refused to directly answer any of the questions asked by the Democrats. When asked a clear question, he gave the answer to another question, or just blabbed on and on about something else without ever addressing the question. Even if he was going to eventually agree with the substance of a question, he would rephrase what was asked rather than give a yes, no answer.
- In fact, Denny Heck (D. Washington) agreed on MSNBC with Chris Hayes that Maguire’s testimony was “part of the cover up.” “He contorted himself to rationalize his position,” Heck added, but it was part of the cover up.
- One answer will give an indication of how convoluted Maguire’s testimony was and his determination to avoid directly answering any question from the Democrats. When asked by Schiff whether he knew if Giuliani had a security clearance, Maguire said: “I am neither aware or unaware of whether or not Mr. Giuliani has a security clearance.”
- Further, in his testimony, Maguire repeatedly denied that he failed to supply the Committee with the complaint. Instead, he said that he “delayed” providing it. This reminds me of embezzlers who often claim that they “borrowed” the money.
- Maguire also tried mightily to elicit sympathy for himself by whining about his short time on the job. I’m sorry, but this won’t work. It’s like saying: “I’m sorry I ran under fire, but I had just taken command of the company.”
- He also claimed an extraordinary level of ignorance about what was going on around him. He seriously claimed that he 1) did not know whether Giuliani had a security clearance, 2) did not have any idea what Giuliani was up to (the only thing he knew came off the television) and 3) that he never had a discussion with Trump about Ukraine. What exactly was the Director of National Intelligence doing?
- And, after spending a great deal of time in his opening statement touting his military credentials, he demonstrated a shocking attitude toward his own responsibilities. He said that when confronted with a difficult decision, he immediately ran to the White House to ask for their advice on how he would proceed. He kept using over and over the rationale that what he did was “prudent.” Not wise, not just, not responsible, not right, but “prudent.” Well, I suppose it’s always prudent to go to your boss and find out what he wants you to do and do it, but that’s not exactly what the military says it teaches its members to do. Maguire’s Military Rules: When the going gets tough, hide behind your superiors.
- Maguire also demonstrated his courageous attitude about doing his job by saying that he believed that Dan Coats didn’t know anything about the whistle blower’s complaint. He testified that had Coats told him about the complaint, he wouldn’t have taken the job. That’s like saying: If I had known how hard this battle was going to be, I wouldn’t have accepted the command.
- At another point, Maguire spent ten minutes trying not to answer a straightforward question from Adam Shiff about whether he contacted the White House or the Justice Department first about the whistle blower complaint. After trying for ten minutes to not to say he contacted the White House first, he finally admitted he contacted the White House first.
- Maguire also claimed that ‘ANY’ conversation he had with the President was confidential and privileged, refusing to acknowledge even when pressed by Schiff that executive privilege does not shield illegal acts. Maguire places himself squarely with Barr and the Federalist society in claiming absolute privilege to any communication with the president.
- Barr and the Federalist Society have long provided legal sounding but unhinged legal reasoning to legitimate authoritarian and fascist government. That’s exactly what they did for Maguire.
- Maguire had a law in front of him that said the DNI “shall” provide the complaint to Congress. He didn’t do so, instead, sought advice on how to interpret the word “shall” from the subject of the complaint, the White House.
- I too think that Maguire’s testimony was part of the cover-up and Maguire is not any credit to the military or what it professes to believe in or teach.
The Washington Post is reporting that Pelosi will announce an impeachment inquiry this afternoon. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is at the Atlantic Festival laughing and making jokes and coy statements about impeachment. I will never forgive her for this.
As David Jolly pointed out this morning, any inquiry should include William Barr and Mick Mulvaney.
As a reminder of where we are as a nation, Trump gave a speech this morning to the UN in which he appeared drugged. He slurred words, had difficulty reading the teleprompter, snorted and sniffed like he had just had a hit of cocaine. As someone on Twitter remarked: I have heard people make more animated deathbed confessions. The media followed this extraordinary performance with the narrative that Trump had given a “subdued” performance. This unwillingness to call reality reality is what helped get us Trump. It will also be what helps Trump and the Republicans maintain control.
Dig in your fingernails.
Afternoon: 20 September 2019
The Wall Street Journal (Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz) is reporting that in a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, Trump pressured the president “about eight times” to work with Rudy Giuliani on an investigation of Biden. This “according to people familiar with the matter.”
Quote from the Article:
“He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” if his lawyer’s assertions that Mr. Biden acted improperly as vice president were true, one of the people said. Mr. Trump didn’t mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine on the call, said this person, who didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on any investigation.
John Heilemann, on Nicolle Wallace, noted that this article most probably came from Trump sources and with the framing that the White House wanted to establish. They offered the “around eight times” to get it in the news stream, but are setting up the frame that there’s no wrongdoing because there was no “quid-pro-quo.” In an afternoon tweet, Elizabeth da la Vega (former federal prosecutor) makes the same point.
This is a fascinating example of what looks like the White House selectively leaking information to the media while framing the story in a way that is advantageous to them. It is all fascinating.
It’s the most riveting political drama ever and the stakes are THE WHOLE WORLD.
- Seth Abramson is tweeting that the Ukrainian President said on September 13 that the U.S. not only released $250 million in military aid, but also extended another $140 million. What was that for?
And on other topics:
- MSNBC is reporting that Netanyahu is to be indicted.
- August 12, 2019. An employee within the intelligence community, detailed to the White House, filed a whistleblower complaint. This person witnessed or became aware of an act that was so egregious that s/he felt compelled to file a formal complaint, risking his/her career.
- The press reported that the complaint involved a phone call between Trump and a foreign leader. The conversation involved a “promise.”
- Ned Price, interviewed on MSNBC, remarked that even though Trump has been careless about divulging classified information in the past (for example, to the Russians in the Oval office) this instance seemed to him not likely to be a matter of carelessness, but “closer to betrayal.”
- Various commentators noted that the whistleblower could only have had access to a phone call or the transcript of a phone call if s/he was highly placed. They noted that there were not very many people in the circle of people who would have had access to this information.
- The Trump administration had limited the number of people who had access to the transcripts of phone calls with foreign leaders because of embarrassing information that leaked about such conversations in the past (such as the conversation with the Australian PM).
- In line with the Whistleblower Protection Act, the complaint was filed with the Inspector General (IG) of the intelligence services.
- The IG considered the complaint to be “credible and urgent” and therefore passed it along to the Director of National Intelligence as he is required by law to do.
- The IG deemed the complaint to be credible and determined that it should be passed along to Congress.
- Whistleblower complaints are routinely passed to Congress even those not deemed to be credible by the IG.
- The Director of National Intelligence, Dan McGuire refused to comply with a Tuesday (September 18, 2019) deadline and pass the complaint on to the Congress.
- In a statement issued on September 20, 2019 Nancy Pelosi wrote: “We will continue to follow the facts and explore every possible option…” Right, and that’s all they will do.
Relevant Time Line.
- July 25, 2019. Trump as conversation with President of Ukraine (Volodymyr Zelensky). He later (9/20/19) characterized the call as “beautiful.”
- After the call, the Ukrainian president’s office gave a readout that said that the two talked about “investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A.” (ABC News)
- July 29, 2019. Trump announces that Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats will resign in August. (WP)
- July 31, 2019. A phone call was initiated by the White House to Putin. The White House put out information that the call had involved a discussion about assistance with Siberian wildfires. According to Ned Price, interviewed by MSNBC, the Kremlin released information that the discussion had been about the reestablishment of bilateral relations between Russia and the U.S. This phone call was two weeks before the whistleblower complaint.
- August 2, 2019. US withdraws from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
- August 8, 2019. Trump announces Joseph Maguire would take the role of DNI as acting. He bypassed Sue Gordon who had been Coat’s second in command. Gordon would resign.
- August 12, 2019. Whistleblower files complaint.
- September 9, 2019 Letter from DNI IG, Michael Atkinson to House Intelligence Committee. The letter noted that the complaint rose to a level of “urgent concern” and “appeared credible” enough to warrant congressional notification. (ABC News)
- September 13, 2019. Shiff subpoenas Maguire to compel him to disclose the whistleblower complaint.
- September 17, 2019. Maguire says he will not testify or hand over the complaint. Shiff says that Maguire told him he couldn’t “because he is being instructed not to, that this involved a higher authority, someone above.”
- September 19, 2019. Atkinson is scheduled to brief members of the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door session.
- September 20, 2019 Lindsay Graham threatens the whistleblower saying that he will go to prison.
- September 20,2019. Trump denies knowing the identity of the whistleblower, but says that the person is a “partisan.” He adds that this means that it’s a person from “the other party.” He calls the controversy “just another political hack job.” He suggests that somebody should look into Biden. A quote from a White House briefing: “It doesn’t matter what I discuss, but I will say this: Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement, because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he’s not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case,” Trump asserted. “So somebody ought to look into that. And you wouldn’t, because he’s a Democrat. And the fake news doesn’t look into things like that. It’s a disgrace.” ABC News
- The whistleblower now has an attorney.
And, lest we forget, this week…
- NBC News reported that William Barr “strongly endorsed” a 2017 book accusing colleges and universities of unfairly punishing male students accused of rape.
- Jamie Raskin appeared on Chris Hayes to talk about Trump passing information to a foreign leader and the fact that the Justice Department was preventing whistleblower information from being passed to Congress as is specified in the law. When introduced, Raskin sat staring into the camera with a big grin on his face. Is there not one person in public life who takes their job seriously? Raskin also insulted our intelligence by claiming that the Democrats were doing their jobs and holding Trump accountable.
The Last Word, 20 September 2019
Constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, discusses the federal court filing by Trump’s lawyers today. Lawrence O’Donnell asks Tribe if the President’s lawyers are correct that the President cannot be investigated.
Tribe responds: “…the position that his lawyers were taking today in the federal court filing is even more extreme than that. They have taken the position that the President’s company cannot be investigated…that the whole state proceeding must be stopped..”
“…when the judge has to finally rule on this outlandish claim that you cannot investigate criminality….the judge will have the obligation…to dismiss the case…”
Trump’s lawyers are arguing that Trump, his minions and his company cannot be investigated for any act while he is President.
Tribe calls this an “absurd argument” and “astonishing.”
“That cannot be the law in the United States,” says Tribe.