Halloween Ends and Odds

Happy Halloween! I don’t know what the kids in the photo are up to, but I bet they’re having fun!

The House impeachment resolution passed, 232 to 196. The “yes” votes were all Democrats. Two Dems voted no — Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Update: No-longer-a-Republican Justin Amash voted “yes” with the Dems.

California is on fire, and Trump hasn’t said a word. I checked his Twitter feed this morning and also announcements and releases from the White House. Nada. This may be just as well; when he does say something he’ll probably blame the fire on Democrats.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, is one of the scariest people in Washington. He is such a toxic piece of work he is persona non grata even among Senate Republicans, which is why he remains acting director. A Senate that would confirm a ham sandwich to a judicial bench as long as it’s a conservative ham sandwich probably would not confirm Cuccinelli, especially not to an even bigger position.

Republican senators are warning President Donald Trump that he cannot legally appoint immigration hard-liner Ken Cuccinelli to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The White House and DHS lawyers, however, are continuing to work on a controversial end run around a federal law that prohibits Cuccinelli from serving as an acting secretary. It would likely face an immediate court challenge as well as the ire of members of his own party.

“The White House would be well advised to consult with the Senate and senators before they take any decisive action that might be embarrassing to Mr. Cuccinelli or to the White House itself,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who called the attempt to fill the top role at the department without Senate confirmations a “concern.”

Putting aside the question of how big a wackjob Cuccinelli must be to be a concern to John Cornyn — it seems to me this is not the time for Trump to be pissing off the senators who will be sitting as his jurors, probably in a few weeks.

Yesterday Cuccinelli confessed to the House Oversight Committee that he was responsible for attempting to end the program that deferred deportation of immigrants who are being treated for life-threatening illnesses.

The man who spearheaded the Trump administration bid to ramp up deportations of ailing migrants was asked Wednesday to look one despairing father in the eye, and tell him whether to abandon his sick child in the United States, or take her home to die.

But all acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Ken Cuccinelli could do was glance at Nicolas Espinosa of Ecuador, whose U.S.-born daughter Julia, 7, suffers from a rare disorder that has already cost her much of her intestine.

The heartless bastard told the committee he hadn’t bothered to learn anything about individual cases when he sent out letters giving people 33 days to get out of the country.  He blamed Congress for not passing a law clarifying why such people should have deportations deferred. Note that Cuccinelli is an anti-abortion absolutist who wants all abortions banned with no exceptions. No doubt he claims to be “saving babies.” But as far as he’s concerned babies already born and in intensive care units can be tossed out with the trash. If Cuccinalli does become acting head of DHS, he may once again attempt to terminate the program, and its beneficiaries.

Finally, we come to how hard White House staffers work to avoid confusing President Trump. Steve Benen writes,

Earlier this week, Donald Trump published a tweet suggesting he’d “never even heard of” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top expert on Ukraine on the White House National Security Council. At first blush, that didn’t make any sense: how could the president, who’s been deeply engaged on U.S. policy toward Ukraine for months, not know his own top Ukrainian expert?

It turns out that an entirely different person had been briefing Trump on Ukraine, and Trump was under the impression that person was his “top Ukrainian expert.” Lt. Col Vindman had not been allowed to brief the “president” on anything, even though he was the real expert on Ukraine and the other guy is not known to have any expertise on Ukraine at all. The other guy, Kashyap Patel, was a longtime staffer of Rep. Devin Nunes who joined the White House staff in February; in what capacity no one seems to know.

Apparently this guy Patel has been feeding Trump wackjob conspiracy theories rather than actual intelligence on Ukraine. Worse, nobody in the White House had the guts to go in and explain to Trump that Patel doesn’t know Ukraine from ukuleles and that his real Ukraine adviser was Lt. Col. Vindman.

It’s an amazing dynamic, which helps shed new light on just how dysfunctional Trump’s West Wing is. If the National Security Council’s top Ukrainian expert briefed the president, Trump might have become “confused” – not by the information Vindman was sharing, but by the fact that the president was under the impression that an entirely different person was the White House’s top Ukrainian expert.

That other person, Kashyap Patel, is an acolyte of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, and according to Vindman, Patel “misrepresented” himself to Trump in order to help guide the White House’s policy toward Ukraine.

No wonder the president has “never even heard of” Alexander Vindman. If he’d walked into the Oval Office and introduced himself as Trump’s top Ukrainian expert, the president would’ve wondered what happened to the other guy.

This is high-level, inmates-in-charge-of-the-asylum dysfunction. I’ve been in offices like that, where the staff spent a large part of their time managing the boss’s psychological state. It’s exhausting.

And just think — by next Halloween, it will be almost time for the general election. Boo!

Tomorrow’s House Vote on Impeachment

Tomorrow the House is expected to vote on the protocols for moving forward into a public phase on impeachment. This needs only a majority vote, so I assume it should pass.

Tierney Sneed writes at TPM that the protocols give Trump considerable due process privileges.

The President’s lawyers would be able to respond to the presentations related to the probe given to the House Judiciary Committee. They may also be able to cross-examine witnesses in the Judiciary Committee and raise objections to the evidence being presented in those proceedings. Additionally, under the procedures, the President may offer evidence or request other testimony for the proceedings, but whether such evidence is “necessary or desirable to a full and fair record in the inquiry,” will be up to the committee.

But here’s the catch:

A provision in the package says that if the President “unlawfully” refuses “to make witnesses available for testimony to, or to produce documents requested by” the committees currently leading the impeachment probe, the House Judiciary Committee chairman will have the right to deny the due process procedures outlined in the procedures.

Hah. Here’s what else you need to know, by Li Zou at Vox:

The resolution outlines five key aspects of these procedures:

  1. The Intelligence Committee will release public transcripts of private depositions that it’s held with different witnesses, including potential redactions of sensitive information.
  2. When the House moves to public hearings for the impeachment inquiry, both the chair and ranking members of the Intelligence committee will be able to ask witness questions. The staff counsel on both sides will also have up to 45 minutes each to ask questions.
  3. House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee will have the ability to request subpoenas of witnesses and documents, though they will need the approval of the Democratic Chair or majority on the panel in order for their requests to go through. This is consistent with past impeachment inquiries.
  4. The Judiciary Committee is in charge of advancing articles of impeachment, or charges, if those are brought.
  5. The president and his legal representation will be able to participate in the Judiciary Committee impeachment proceedings. This includes the ability to make their case and offer evidence, request documents, cross-examine witnesses and object to testimony.

These protocols are in line with how such hearings have been conducted in the past. Note that ranking members may ask questions. Republicans are not shut out. Although to listen to them, they are. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise blasted the proposed protocols as a “Soviet-style process” that “continues to deny the White House an opportunity to participate in this process.” Which is not true, but typical.



The Establishment(s) Versus the People

There’s an interesting dialogue between Frank Rich and Alex Carp at New York magazine. It starts out looking at panic in the Republican ranks about impeachment but finishes by looking at panic in the Democratic ranks about a possible Warren or Sanders nomination.

After a flashback to the slow collapse of Senate Republican support for Nixon in 1974, Carp says,

In the case of Trump, there’s no reason to expect that Senate Republicans will turn on him incrementally. Mitt Romney and retiring House members like Francis Rooney of Florida aside, they’ll mostly remain loyal — or in the case of Susan Collins and her Vichy ilk, in hiding — until the dam breaks. As to what might break the dam, it’s worth recalling the experience of H.R. Haldeman, the Nixon chief of staff who served 18 months in prison for Watergate crimes. In his 1978 memoir, The Ends of Power, he wrote: “The cover-up collapsed because it was doomed from the start. Morally and legally it was the wrong thing to do — so it should have failed. Tactically, too many people knew too much. Too many foolish risks were taken. Too little judgement was used at every stage to evaluate the potential risk vs. the gains. And when the crunch came, too many people decided to save their own skins at whatever cost to the president or anyone else.” …

…Another factor will be the public impeachment hearings that Republicans have been demanding. The concept of Be Careful for What You Wish For will be ratified once again when those hearings do arrive in as soon as three weeks.

I’m not going to predict that a dam will break and the Senate will convict Trump — more likely, he will not be convicted and will stay in office. But I honestly don’t think it’s impossible that many Republicans will decide to cut Trump loose if the hearings are as bad for Trump as I think they might be.

Then Rich and Carp discussed recent reports of Democratic donors and officials in despair over the contenders — especially Warren and Sanders — for the Dem nomination. See especially this New York Times story,  Anxious Democratic Establishment Asks, ‘Is There Anybody Else?’. Carp again:

For months now — well before the start of debate season — nearly every Democrat I know has repeated some version of the same lament, “I can’t believe it but Trump is going to win again.” …

… What’s most disturbing about the Hail Mary stratagems being tossed out to the press by jittery professional Democrats is the notion that Hillary Clinton might be the “moderate liberal” savior to enter the race if Joe Biden vacates that slot. (Nor has she firmly shut the door on such a scenario.) Just because Clinton has lately become more free-spirited and jokey in her Twitter account does not mean that she’ll be anything other than the cautious, focus-group-tested candidate she’s been throughout her political career, or that she’ll galvanize those parts of the Democratic base (young voters, people of color) that failed to turn out in sufficient numbers last time. In 2016, Trump won in part because of his cynical exploitation of a widespread, and bipartisan, rejection of both the Bush and Clinton Establishments. If there’s a groundswell anywhere beyond Wall Street for their return, it’s a better-kept secret than his tax returns.

“In 2016, Trump won in part because of his cynical exploitation of a widespread, and bipartisan, rejection of both the Bush and Clinton Establishments.” Yes, and I think a lot of what we’re seeing now is a tug of war between the old Establishments and the voters who want anything else but the old Establishments.

The difference, though, is that with the Republicans it appears the Trump anaconda has swallowed the old Establishment wholesale, and there is nothing left of it. Charles Blow wrote,

There is no separation between the Republican Party and Donald Trump. In fact, Trump killed the old Republican Party and now he alone animates the zombie party that lurched forward after its death.

This is Trump’s army. And he is warning his congressional generals, the lawmakers who protect and defend him, that there will be no defections, lest the army turn on them.

At least since August, Trump has been tweeting his stratospheric approval rating among Republicans every few days. That is less about informing than warning. This message is to Republican politicians, those who will hold his fate in their hands as the impeachment process unfolds, to stay in line and toe the line.

And, indeed, that might save him from removal from office. Senate Republicans who were once stalwart members of the Establishment don’t have a party to fall back on. What is left of the old Republican party if Trump is gone? What could be reconstituted from the corpse? It’s really hard to say right now.

The problem is that many years ago the Republican Establishment got hooked on winning elections by feeing red meat to the base. They forgot how to do much else except throw red meat to the base. Big money supporters set up think tanks like Heritage and media outlets like Fox News that did nothing but grow red meat and feed it to the base, keeping them loyal. But eventually the base ate the Establishment, too.

The Democrats, though, are in a different place. Dems have a golden opportunity right now to remake the party into something that will dominate U.S. politics for decades. The question is, do they have the will and the guts to do it?

Biden, Warren, and Sanders remain in the top three in the polls. Harris and Buttigieg are next. Yang is above 5 percent in a couple of polls that might be outliers. These candidates are followed by everybody else in a lump, but there are those in that lump who have a following.

Even with a strong field, lots of people are making lots of declarations about who can’t win. The Establishment wing — and Never Trumpers who want the Dems to nominate a centrist — are quite certain neither Sanders nor Warren can win. Eric Levitz writes,

A specter is haunting “pro-business Democrats” — the specter of change they can’t believe in.

With just over three months until Iowa gets caucusing, Elizabeth Warren is their party’s front-runner. She’s running neck and neck with Joe Biden in the polls — and Biden’s campaign is living hand-to-mouth. The former “senator from MBNA” is losing to a democratic socialist at the fundraising game. And time seems to be depleting Biden’s (always limited) verbal skills even faster than it’s draining his campaign coffers. Meanwhile, the most viable alternative for “Leave Billionaires Alone” Democrats seems to be a college-town mayor with fewer black supporters than Donald Trump. As of this writing, betting markets now put the odds of blue America nominating either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders in 2020 at over 50 percent.

Davos Democrats are nonplussed. Each night, consultants of a certain age toss and turn through dreams of George McGovern.

The Establishment is nervously talking about drafting Michael Bloomberg, Deval Patrick, Eric Holder, John Kerry … maybe even Hillary Clinton. But as Levitz says,

If Kamala Harris and Cory Booker aren’t connecting, why would a slapdash Patrick or Holder campaign hit the mark? … The idea that the primary electorate would eagerly support a garden-variety moderate Democrat (who boasts no special connection to Barack Obama) if only they had more than a dozen such candidates to choose from, is manifestly absurd.

The energy, the passion, the tweeting, the small-donor fundraising are on the progressive side and mostly going to Warren and Sanders. The Establishment was no doubt counting on Biden to cruise to an easy win, and he may yet be the nominee. But that looks less certain with every passing day. See Olivia Nuzzi, The Zombie Campaign: Joe Biden is the least formidable front-runner ever. Will it matter?

There is no reason why we must believe that neither Warren nor Sanders can win, btw, except that the establishment says they can’t. And some Sanders supporters are certain Warren can’t win because she’s a woman, but there’s no way to know that until she runs. l do not for a moment believe that Hillary Clinton lost only because she was a woman.

There are even some who question whether the Establishment wants to win if the nominee is Warren or Sanders. Sure, they’d love to replace Trump with Biden or a reasonable facsimile thereof. But Warren or Sanders? Ryan Cooper:

It’s not hard to see what moderates are concerned about, but it’s got nothing to do with beating Trump per se. It is all about advancing their own political agenda, and maintaining their comfortable grip on the Democratic Party’s levers of power, as it always has been. …

… I am very confident that none of the Democratic power brokers currently looking for a moderate dark horse to save them from a Warren or Sanders presidency are honestly concerned about electability. They are looking down the barrel of candidates who would try to sharply raise taxes on the rich, and disrupt the comfortable revolving door between the party and the private sector. If one’s C-suite chair is sufficiently padded, the prospect of President Sanders is just as bad as a second Trump term, if not worse.

Cooper shoots big holes in the deeply held belief that Democrats lose if they move too far left; do read the whole thing. For years it has been Democratic conventional wisdom that they must not run someone who is too far left, because George McGovern. But that election was nearly 50 years ago. A lot has changed in both the electorate and the political landscape. And as Ed Kilgore argues, there were all kinds of reasons why McGovern lost in a landslide to Nixon that had nothing to do with McGovern’s alleged “leftiness.” But McGovern’s loss planted a big, fat paradigm in everyone’s head that has slowly stunted and strangled the Democratic Party ever since. Time to let it go.

Katrina vanden Heuvel writes that the Dem establishment is right to be panicked.

Party elites claim the desire for alternatives isn’t motivated by ideology, but rather sincere worries about the electability of a progressive left nominee. As former Obama adviser David Axelrod told the Times, “There is genuine concern that the horse many have bet on [Biden] may be pulling up lame and the horse who has sprinted out front may not be able to win.” It is fair to question how genuine those electability concerns are, however, with polls, fickle as they can be, showing Sanders and Warren trouncing President Trump in head-to-head matchups.

The truth is that establishment angst is being driven, above all, by power — and moneyed Democrats who can feel their grasp on power in the party slipping. Big donors may be willing to pay more in taxes under a Democratic president, but they seem unwilling to abide the loss of access or influence over the party’s direction that a Sanders or Warren presidency would bring. Indeed, as Nation correspondent Jeet Heer writes, “The real source of anxiety among the donor class is surely not about the viability of Warren or Sanders but rather the precarious position of wealthy contributors in the Democratic coalition.”

See also Paul Waldman, Democrats Need to Get Over Their Impostor Syndrome.

Universal Health Care: We’re Already Paying for It. We’re Just Not Getting It

David Atkins writes at Washington Monthly that “how will you pay for it?” is the new “but her emails.” He writes,

…an enormous amount of the media debate in the 2020 election will focus on how the Democratic nominee intends to pay for priorities like healthcare and climate change mitigation. Even as the Republicans blow ever-bigger holes in the national budget without the slightest concern for how they will be paid for.

This underscores the common but utterly wrong belief that a “conservative” Republican administration will not go as crazy with spending as happens with those profligate Democrats. But, of course, “spending” isn’t the only issue with the federal budget; there’s also “receipts,” meaning taxes, which Republicans keep cutting.

And there’s the matter of what the spending is spent on.

Meanwhile, Trump and the GOP have blown open a nearly $1 trillion dollar deficit hole, a 26% increase from 2018 despite benefiting from an economy that is running at full tilt by traditional metrics. They’ve done this mostly through a combination of giant tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, as well as through huge increases to the military budget and handouts to make up for Trump’s self-inflicted trade war.

None of this Republican spending was paid for, any more than the Reagan tax cuts were, or the Bush tax cuts, or the invasion of Iraq, or any of the other federal largesse Republicans have doled out over the decades to wealthy corporations, shareholders, military contractors, fossil fuel interests and industries disproportionately benefiting their rural/exurban white male base. …

… It seems that only Democrats actually have to figure out how to pay for budget priorities. Money spent on warfare abroad and obscenely wealthy interests at home requires no sacrifice or justification, but every cent spent on the basic dignity and welfare of the majority of the citizenry must be balanced and accounted for. No political system can function fairly when only one side is forced to pay for its priorities. Yet the notion that Democrats alone must shoulder this burden is such a deeply ingrained conventional wisdom in America that when newer progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently began to challenge it, it came as a shock to the entire discourse.

The “how will you pay for it” question gets applied to all manner of progressive proposals, such as free college education and the Green New Deal. But it’s especially outrageous when applied to Medicare for All or any other plan for universal health care, because the fact of the matter is we’re already spending enough, as taxpayers and individuals, to give everybody in the nation excellent health care. We’re not getting what we’re already paying for. We’re getting ripped off.

Jordon Weissman wrote in Slate recently:

In 2019, the average price of health insurance rose above $20,000 for families that obtain their coverage through work. That’s according to the latest survey of employer benefits from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that premiums increased by 5 percent for the second year in a row.

Much of that cost was invisible to workers, who only paid $6,015 directly toward their own premiums on average (up 8 percent from the year before). Employers footed the rest.

These numbers are grotesque. Insuring a single family for a year costs almost as much as a Honda Civic. This fact should be a subject of daily outrage, and it probably would be if more workers realized just how much of their compensation is devoured by the cost of health care. After all, every dollar a company pays to Aetna or Cigna is a dollar it might otherwise be able spend on salaries and wages.

And yet, I don’t think these stats alone quite capture the full absurdity of the situation we now find ourselves in. Thanks to the escalating costs of employer-based health insurance, Americans are already paying enough to fund a European-style welfare state. Instead, we’ve settled for a system where, if you’re not careful, the emergency room might charge you $629 for a Band-Aid.

The $629 Band-Aid story came from the experience of nervous, first-time parents who took a toddler with a cut on her finger to the emergency room. The child required a swipe of antiseptic and a band-aid. The bill came to $629. But the hospital wasn’t exactly price-gouging for fun. The cost of keeping an ER open 24/7 is largely underwritten by grotesque overcharges on bills, most of which are paid by insurance companies. And so the cost of insurance goes up to cover the overcharges.

People who complain that they don’t want to pay for other people’s health care need to understand they are already doing so. It’s just a matter of how.

From WaPo, a few days ago:

The topic of Medicare-for-all was front and center — again — during Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. Moderators were particularly interested in how its supporters, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would pay for it. Specifically, would it require raising taxes on the middle class?

To some economists, the question is moot: Americans already pay a massive “tax” to fund health care, they say. It just happens to go to private insurance companies, rather than the federal government.

And, of course, the private insurance companies have to make a profit, which they often do by denying care, and the very poor with no insurance are practically cut off from health care entirely.

In theory, one can avoid the “tax” by not buying insurance. But if you do really really need medical care, you’ll either be saddled with unimaginable debt or do without and die. The notion that the poor receive “free” treatment from emergency rooms is a lie. Hospitals that receive federal reimbursements have to stabilize a critically sick but uninsured person brought to them, but the bill will still be owed, and if it can’t be paid the cost is covered by the overcharges.

And, in the meantime, rural hospitals are closing, especially in states that didn’t expand Medicaid, because they don’t serve a big enough patient base to cover costs of staying open, an example of When Free-Market Capitalism Doesn’t Work. This puts lives at risk. However, judging by the ads on the teevee there is plenty of help for well-insured men with crooked weenies.

I don’t mean to trivialize the discomfort and distress caused by crooked weenies, but it’s an example of how money chases profits more than need. We can’t keep hospitals open; we apparently can’t provide adequate prenatal care to a lot of women and suffer abnormally high infant and mortality rates compared to other industrialized nations. But, by damn, Endo Pharmaceuticals has a patent on a drug for weenie crookedness, and they can spend millions on television ads to spread the word and rake in the big bucks. Your health care system at work.

For many years the United States has spent more per capital on health care than any other nation, yet those other nations manage to provide comprehensive health care for all its citizens, and we do not. Although those other countries provide comprehensive health care in many different ways, the one big difference is that we’re the only nation that still relies on for-profit health insurance companies to manage a large part of the spending.

The Big Lie that underlies much of the “debate” on spending for health care is the assmption that the cost of a Medicare for All or similar program would be all new money. $30 trillion over ten years? OMG! But $30 trillion over ten years is less than we’re spending now. We would be taking the money we’re already spending, remove the price gouging, overcharges, and waste, and apply it where it is needed. And what is needed will be paid for.

This is really not hard to grasp. Perhaps the next time Liz Warren is asked about whether she will raise taxes on middle-class people to pay for Medicare for All — how will you pay for it? — she should turn that around and ask about the costs of paying for the system we already have.

UPDATE: My new book is on sale this week!

Bill Barr’s Gift to Trump

The Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into itself smells like panic. It has been widely noted that no one can tell what crime is being investigated. It’s broadly assumed that Barr is either using a phony criminal investigation as a distraction from impeachment or, worse, is using a phony criminal investigation as a means to purge the “deep state” of Trump enemies. And this may be just a way to placate Trump, who is no doubt so consumed with white-hot rage he is liable to set fire to the White House.

And let us also resolve that Bill Barr spend eternity in a deep, dark pit. Greg Sargent:

Barr is at the nexus of everything. Trump told the Ukrainian president to contact Barr to help carry out his corrupt scheme. His acting chief of staff sought to legitimize it by connecting it to the Justice Department’s review of the special counsel probe’s origins. Ambassador Gordon Sondland apparently discussed another version of that same idea.

The Justice Department keeps denying Barr’s connections to the Ukraine scheme. But this pattern suggests there might be more overlap than we know. On top of all this, Barr’s Justice Department tried to keep Trump’s Ukraine plot buried by advising against the transmission of the whistleblower complaint about it to Congress, and by declining to investigate its charges.

What’s more, we don’t know what, exactly, Barr is criminally probing right now.

Barr is traveling the world to validate an absurd conspiracy theory holding that the Russia investigation originated in a U.S. “deep state” effort to set up the Trump campaign.

Given Barr’s apparent willingness to place law enforcement at Trump’s political disposal, it’s very possible Barr’s designs are maximally nefarious. But one can also imagine the criminal probe is of some intermediate matter. Marcy Wheeler runs through a few such possibilities, none of which appears all that serious.

See also Nancy LeTourneau, Trump Needed a Distraction. Barr Gave Him One.

Update: This just happened:

A federal judge on Friday said that the U.S. Justice Deparment must turn over to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee normally secret grand jury material collected as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Judge Beryl Howell repeatedly noted that the House is conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which could be assisted with the material assembled by Mueller’s probe.
The judge dismissed arguments by Trump supporters in and outside of Congress that the House’s impeachment inquiry is illegitimate because the House has not held a formal vote to authorize such a probe.

The GOP’s Lose/Lose Trap

Hugh Hewitt — not someone I usually quote — accidentally said something true this morning. Or, at least, Hewitt’s headline writer wrote something true — If Republicans don’t stand by Trump, they risk losing their base forever

I warn you, don’t read Hewitt’s column if you are feelng the least bit out of sorts. Hewitt’s denial of reality is extraordinary, even by Hewitt standards. He claims no quid pro quo has been established — do keep up, Hugh — and, anyway, there’s nothing wrong with quid pro quos. The Louisiana Purchase was a quid pro quo. Seriously.

But let’s consider the basic claim, that the GOP must stand by Trump or lose the support of its base. Let’s imagine an extraordinary circumstance nobody expects, in which a substantial number of Republicans throw Trump under the bus and remove him from office. Would the base abandon them? I think the 30 percent or so who strongly approve of Trump in poll after poll probably would, yes. I think those people identify with Trump more than they identify with the Republican Party. And that is a substantial portion of the Republican base; more people than actually self-identify as Republican, in fact. And I don’t think they would accept President “Milquetoast Mike” Pence as a substitute.

However, if the Republican Party doesn’t declare some independence from Trump, pretty much everyone else on the planet will abandon them.That 30 percent isn’t enough to keep them in power. It’s lose/lose.

At Washington Monthly, James Bruno writes that Republicans want someone to come and save them from Trump and the trap the Republian Party finds itself in.

Its lawmakers are either enthralled to Trump out of naked fear, or they are waiting for a savior to free them from their servitude to a madman. In the process, they’ve utterly lost their way, and are now unanchored in any coherent ideology. Instead, they are hell-bent on self-destruction.

But, so far, the few who have stuck their necks out to offer themselves as an alternative have been ignored.

Mitt Romney sorta, kinda tried to step into Godot’s shoes, but for some reason, he just doesn’t take. The Utah senator’s recent criticism of the president’s Syria policy and Ukrainegate was not picked up in a major way by his GOP Senate colleagues. Trump responded by calling Romney a “fool.” The one-time GOP presidential nominee seems to realize he is talking into the wind. “I don’t believe I’m leading a wing of the party,” he readily admitted. “Because there’s no wing that’s very large that is aligned with me.”

Apart from Romney, senators John Cornyn and Rob Portman only meekly called into question Trump’s pressuring of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. On the House side, Francis Rooney  declared that he was open-minded on impeachment. The next day, he announced his retirement.

There’s some heavy-duty pressure going on there.

As many are pointing out today, Republicans have reached the point at which they are sidestepping — or lying about — the allegations against Trump and instead complaining about the process. For example, what’s with the secret hearings?

Well, what about them? Closed-door hearings are entirely within House rules. Republicans have held them in the past. As far as impeachment is concerned, remember that for Nixon the attorney general appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Watergate conspiracy. That public Senate hearings into Watergate were going on at the same time may have blurred public memory of the more closed investigation. For Clinton, the House didn’t conduct its own investigation but instead relied on the much-leaked work of special prosecutor Ken Starr. Like it says here,

Independent counsel Ken Starr conducted his probe of President Clinton using a grand jury, which by law conducts all its business behind closed doors. In Watergate, special counsel Leon Jaworski also used a grand jury to collect evidence that he eventually transmitted to Congress during its impeachment inquiry. Much of the legal work analyzing the evidence collected by Mr. Jaworski’s prosecutors was done behind closed doors by congressional lawyers.

Several of the key players in Watergate did end up testifying publicly in front of the Senate Watergate committee, but that was a separate investigation from the House impeachment inquiry.

But the Ukraine scandal didn’t inspire Trump’s boy Bill Barr to do anything, so the investigations are being carried out entirely by the House. And the rules say they can be as secret as they wannabe, and can function as a grand jury if they want to. When they get to the step of drawing up articles of impeachment, then it will all go public, at which time Republicans will find some reason to be opposed to public hearings, I assume. But the point is that, as I’m sure you realize, all the complaints about process are bogus.

Miz Lindsey Graham, arguably Trump’s most craven and shameless supporter, has introduced a resolution to the Senate condemning the House hearings as a violation of due process for holding interviews behind closed doors.

The measure calls on the House to hold a floor vote that would formally initiate the impeachment inquiry, provide Trump with “with due process, to include the ability to confront his accusers, call witnesses on his behalf, and have a basic understanding of the accusations against him that would form any basis for impeachment,” according to a summary released by his office.

It also calls on the House to provide members of the minority with the ability “to participate fully in all proceedings and have equal authority to issue subpoenas and other compulsory process.”

I would like to hear expert commentary into why this would or wouldn’t be an extraordinary interference by the Senate of the House’s business. I question whether the House has to give a hoo-haw what the Senate thinks about its procedures. And it seems to me that Graham is calling for the House to skip the grand jury/ investigation phase and go right to the trial phase, thereby stopping the House from investigating. See also Lindsey Graham Introducing Resolution to Permanently Attach Lips to Trump’s Ass by Bess Levin at Vanity Fair.

Charles Pierce:

In one half of the Capitol, citizens lined up solemnly to pay respects to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, lying in state in a corridor right outside the chamber of the House of Representatives. At the same time, in the other half of the building, increasingly ludicrous White House castrato Senator Lindsey Graham was holding a performative press conference regarding a stupid senatorial resolution condemning the process by which the House was roasting El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, and if the confluence of those two events doesn’t prove that The Great Whoever has the red ass for humanity, I don’t know what more you need.

Do read Pierce’s entire post. You’ll be glad you did.

Republican Riot

Today a mob of Republican House members stormed the House secure hearing room and halted today’s scheduled hearing. Among the mobbers were Steve Scalise, Steve King, Louie Gohmert, Andy Biggs, Bradley Byrne, Mark Walker, Mo Brooks, and Debbie Lesko. The others are yet to be identified.

I’m hearing reports that Trump knew about and approved the riot in adance. I will link to something as soon as I find something linkable.


The group walked into the restricted area en masse, and chants of “let us in” were heard from outside.

A shouting match ensued between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and some Democrats in the room as Schiff left to consult with the Sergeant at Arms, according to Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who witnessed the scene.

At one point, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, started to collect the Republicans’ phones, appearing to realize having the electronics there was a bad idea, Connolly said.

Gohmert, one of Trump’s top defenders, used the opportunity to rail against what he described as injustice toward the president. Many Democrats sat watching, not wanting to engage.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper had been scheduled to testify this morning ‘about the mechanics of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine and the fallout from the White House’s decision to withhold it for several months over the summer,” WaPo says.  The hearing was to have been held in a specially protected room known as a SCIF. SCIF stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It’s an enclosed area  used for processing sensitive information, so there is restricted access, no cell phones or recording devices allowed, etc.

By noon, several of the protesting members had apparently tweeted from inside the SCIF, a security breach. The area is tightly restricted to allow lawmakers to review sensitive material without the risk of surveillance, and cellphones are prohibited.

“Reporting from Adam B. Schiff’s secret chamber,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) wrote just before noon, two hours after Cooper’s testimony was scheduled to begin. Biggs stated that about 15 Republican lawmakers remained in the SCIF at that time.

Schiff’s staff declined to comment on whether Cooper’s testimony would be canceled for the day, given the disruption.

Marcy Wheeler:

Twenty-some Republican Congressmen are staging a repeat Brooks Brother riot to stall the ongoing impeachment proceeding….

… In short, a bunch of Republican Congressmen are staging a faux riot in order to prevent DOD from telling Congress how the White House prevented them from following the law that prohibits the White House from withholding funds without a good reason that they share with Congress.

As I’ve said, even these men’s former colleague, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, has admitted this is a crime. …

… There could be no more symbolic self-emasculation than this faux riot. And yet, over twenty men apparently are willing to trade away their own power like this.

It has been robustly predicted that once Trump’s defense had fallen apart, Republicans would respond by attacking the impeachment process. The predictions were on the money. What this is going to do to the inquiry going forward I do not know, but obviously these goons cannot be allowed to get away with this.


Here’s Your Quid Pro Quo

I will write more tomorrow, but by all accounts Trump’s defense has been, um, challenged.

As in blown out of the water.

William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a long-respected career diplomat, confirmed that the aid for Ukraine appropriated by Congress had indeed been frozen by Trump, with the intention to extort campaign help from Ukrainian President Zelensky.

The top American diplomat in Ukraine on Tuesday gave impeachment investigators a vivid and impassioned account of how multiple senior administration officials told him that President Trump blocked security aid to Ukraine and refused to meet the country’s leader until he agreed to publicly pledge to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

In testimony to impeachment investigators delivered in defiance of State Department orders, the diplomat, William B. Taylor Jr., sketched out in remarkable detail a quid pro quo pressure campaign on Ukraine that Mr. Trump and his allies have long denied. He said the president sought to condition the entire United States relationship with Ukraine — including a $391 million aid package whose delay put Ukrainian lives in danger — on a promise that the country would publicly investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his family, along with other Democrats, in an effort to incriminate his adversaries.

His account implicated Mr. Trump personally in the effort, citing multiple sources inside the government. Those include a budget official who said during a secure National Security Council conference call in July that she had been instructed not to approve the security assistance for Ukraine, and that, Mr. Taylor said, “the directive had come from the president.”

See Taylor’s opening statement here.

The Republicans will double down on complaining about the process, I’m sure.

Stuff to Read

My new book got its first review. Here’s another place to pre-order it.

A former speechwriter for Gen. Jim Mattis has a new book out called Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon With Secretary Mattis. Here’s an excerpt describing a Pentagon meeting with Trump, who comes across as a pentulant toddler, as you might imagine.

It probably would have been better if Mattis himself had written such a book, but the professional military guys have a deeply held aversion to being politically partisan. Some of them even choose to not vote:

By not voting, I am walking in the boot prints of our greatest officers: George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Patton, to name a few who didn’t vote while in uniform, and those of the modern era that tread the same path — David H. Petraeus, Martin Dempsey and, by all appearances, Mark A. Milley, the current Army chief of staff. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is an especially instructive case, because he faced the grimmest temptation to tamper with the election of 1864 during the Civil War. And yet, crucially, Grant chose not to vote.

These giants lived in different times, but they all agreed: Military officers shouldn’t vote in national elections. As a profession, we’d do well to follow their lead. I know I will.

Maybe they should get a little more political now.

Why Trump Dropped His Idea to Hold the G7 at His Own Hotel. In brief, he heard from a great many Republicans that they weren’t going to defend his little plan to goose profits at his golf resort. Today he’s whining that he’s the victim of a “phony” emoluments clause. He also claims sole credit for containing ISIS:

“ISIS was all over the place … It was me…who captured them,” Trump told reporters at a cabinet meeting Monday in the White House. “I’m the one who did the capturing. I’m the one who knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits.”

And it was him that let them get away, I hear. What a guy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to put together a governing coalition, which means — well, I’m not sure what it means. You can read about it here. Maybe when the dust clear someone else will be prime minister. Or Netanyahu may stick around. It’s convoluted.

This week in the House: The upcoming testimony lineup.