Stuff to Read About Impeachment

ABC News has an audio tape of Trump screaming that Marie Yovanovitch must be “taken out.” Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were present at whatever event was taped. I’m seeing other news sources saying the tape was leaked by Fruman.

David Graham, The Atlantic: Republicans Are Making a Kafkaesque Argument.

If nothing else, the tape shows, again, how much evidence we still haven’t seen about the Ukraine affair. And it underscores the elaborate, slippery dance that Senate Republicans are performing. First, they vote against gathering new witnesses and evidence at the start of the impeachment trial. Second, they complain that Democratic managers are offering no new evidence. Third, they say that it is pointless to call witnesses who might provide new evidence, because the White House will simply block them. In Trump’s Washington, Kafka seems quaint.

Charles Pierce:

It is possible that the president* was suggesting Parnas treat Yovanovich to a nice dinner and a movie, but I doubt it.

It is here where we all should remember that, if he had wanted to, the president* could have fired and/or recalled Marie Yovanovich himself and not given any reason at all. He’s the president*. He can do that. Of course, there would have been gossip, and some inconvenient news coverage, and Yovanovich likely would have made a lot of noise, but there would have been no doubt that the president* was within his rights to do what he did.

Instead, because he left his guts somewhere in Queens, he had to get Rudy Giuliani and his band of Volga Bagmen involved, which ultimately forced every one of them, including the president*, to lie and obstruct Congress and, thereafter, lie about how they obstructed Congress. They are the Gang That Couldn’t Obstruct Straight. So now it is clear that both Parnas and Igor Fruman, his partner in sleaze, have flipped like circus acrobats, and god alone knows what else will come out. Who knows how many tapes exist of the president* proposing who knows how many crimes? I would think, given recent developments, the president*’s relationship with Saudi Arabia might be a target-rich environment.

This may be the best column Dana Milbank ever wrote — John Roberts comes face to face with the mess he made.

Roberts’s captivity [as the impeachment judge] is entirely fitting: He is forced to witness, with his own eyes, the mess he and his colleagues on the Supreme Court have made of the U.S. political system. As representatives of all three branches of government attend this unhappy family reunion, the living consequences of the Roberts Court’s decisions, and their corrosive effect on democracy, are plain to see.

Ten years to the day before Trump’s impeachment trial began, the Supreme Court released its Citizens United decision, plunging the country into the era of super PACs and unlimited, unregulated, secret campaign money from billionaires and foreign interests. Citizens United, and the resulting rise of the super PAC, led directly to this impeachment. The two Rudy Giuliani associates engaged in key abuses — the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the attempts to force Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents — gained access to Trump by funneling money from a Ukrainian oligarch to the president’s super PAC.

Gabriel Sherman writes at Vanity Fair that Trump is unraveling.

Trump’s circle is waking up to the notion that impeachment is a serious drag on his campaign. “Impeachment is drowning out all his accomplishments,” a Republican insider said. But impeachment is only one aspect of the problem. Inside the campaign there is an intensifying debate between Trump and his advisers about whether the campaign should run on base-incitement issues like immigration or a moderate-appealing message about the economy that could win back suburban voters. “They’re all trying to get Trump to run on general election issues and not get caught up in side issues,” a source close to the campaign said. “But Trump is focused on other stuff and going after [Joe] Biden.” …

… Meanwhile, Trump has been in a particularly foul mood as impeachment drags on. Trump recently told some Republicans that he decided to say “fuck it” and kill General Qasem Soleimani, according to a source briefed on the conversation. Trump’s mood has the West Wing bracing for a new round of staff turmoil. According to sources, Trump is unhappy with Kushner’s recent Time cover story, which showed Kushner posing solemnly inside the magazine’s iconic red border. One source said there is speculation inside the West Wing that Trump may rein in Kushner by bringing in Kushner antagonist Chris Christie to replace acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. According to one source, Kushner, perhaps realizing the problems the cover could cause, lobbied Matt Drudge not to link to the article.

During hours of arguments, on Thursday afternoon and late into the night, that were meant as a prebuttal to Trump’s forthcoming defense, the House managers sought to anticipate and undercut the arguments of the President’s lawyers. The best witnesses they called were all the President’s men. The managers presented video clip after video clip demolishing the President as a mere parrot of Russian propaganda, who repeated Russian-inspired falsehoods about the 2016 campaign and his Presidential rival Joe Biden, even as he withheld crucial aid to Russia’s enemy, Ukraine. There was “no information” to support Trump’s insistence that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election; it was “completely debunked,” a “fictional narrative” divorced from anything having to do with U.S. foreign policy or its national interest. Trump’s accusers were not #NeverTrump Republicans or Democrats. They were senior officials in the Trump Administration. It was devastating.

Glasser also writes that many Republican senators became excited at the mention of Biden. It turns out they were thinking this would give them an opening to subpoena Biden. Then some of them probably remembered they weren’t to allow witnesses, because Trump and McConnell want the trial over by the end of January. Can’t stomp on the SOTU, you know.

Republican Premeditated Ignorance

The term “premedicated incompetence” was coined by a woman I worked with back in the 1970s. It designated the phenomenon of college-educated men who could not figure out how to load a dishasher if there happened to be a woman handy.

Something like that is going on with Senate Republicans. Instead of refusing to learn how to load a dishwasher, they are refusing to listen to the arguments and evidence against Trump. It is clear they are determined to get their sham of a trial over with asap so that they can vote to keep Trump in office. To do that, they have to remain ignorant.

But why? Trump’s unfitness for office isn’t going away. More evidence will be made public, much of it sooner rather than later. Watchdog groups and investigating journalists are finding new documentation of Trump’s corruption all the time. There is even a remote chance we’ll get to see Trump’s tax returns and other financial records before the November election.

“The truth is going to come out,” Rep. Adam Schiff said to the Senate. “The only question is: Do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?”

And we know the answer. It is no. Greg Sargent writes,

GOP senators who vote against subpoenaing new witnesses and documents run the risk that more damning revelations will come out after any such vote, and after their inevitable acquittal. This could allow those revelations to be hung around their necks, as examples of what they sought to help Trump cover up.

But it’s now clear we’ve been looking at this from the wrong angle. The truth, plainly, is that in this scenario, the fact that the votes on evidence and acquittal will come before any future revelations is a feature of doing it this way.

That’s because a vote for acquittal (which, again, is inevitable) before more damning revelations are unearthed is politically less costly than a vote for acquittal after any such revelations.

Yes, future revelations will stand as evidence of what GOP senators covered up. But that’s still politically less risky, from their perspective, than taking the chance that new evidence could be still more damning than what’s already known, and that they’d have to then acquit at that point.

Clearly, if you think acquittal is your only option, but you know deep down the SOB is guilty, you might as well stay ignorant of the evidence. You’re better off that way, even. So some day when even the PBS News Hour crew is wailing about Trump’s violations of the Constitution, Senate Republicans can claim that the House managers of the trial just didn’t make their case.

Except they pretty much did make their case. What I have seen and heard this week allows no room for doubt that Donald Trump abused the power of his office to manipulate the 2020 election.  Tom Scocca:

The figurative gutters of Fifth Avenue are awash in blood and spent shell casings. What the Senate cameras recorded was a day-long showdown between reason and brute force. Schiff and the other impeachment managers have all the facts and principles on their side. The president’s defenders had nothing to counter them with but nonsense and lies. Nonsense, lies, and 53 votes.

Adam Schiff’s speech yesterday was especially brilliant. Were Republicans listening?

See also More Than One-Third of GOP Senators Reportedly Left Room During Schiff’s Speech.

So, here we are.

My understanding is that Trump’s lawyers may begin their presentation as early as Saturday. (Per Senate rules, during an impeachment the Senate meets six days instead of five.) One suspects they will have much less to say than the House managers did. When Trump’s lawyers are done, Senators may submit questions in wiritng that will be reviewed by the Chief Justice. He will decide which ones will be asked. Sixteen hours are allotted for questions.

When questions have concluded, the Senate will have a brief (four hours tops) debate about whether to call witness or acquire documents. If Republicans vote as a block to nix witnesses and documents, there will be nothing left but the final vote. So the “trial” might be over by the end of January, which is what Trump and McConnell want.

I suppose we can still hold out hope that at least three (the Chief Justice would break the tie) Republicans will choose to vote for witnesses, which at the very least would draw the trial out past the scheduled SOTU address. But I’m not holding my breath.

The Evil of Political False Equivalence

Last week WaPo published an op ed by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein called Five Myths About Bipartisanship that’s worth reading. I just want to quote a little bit here —

The bipartisanship that was common in the House through the mid-1970s began to fray as racial and cultural differences came to define the increasingly polarized and competitive parties. Partisan polarization began with these shifts in the coalitional bases of the parties, but Republicans, because of their increasingly homogeneous positions on race, religious traditionalism and other cultural issues, had more incentive to move right than Democrats had to move left. In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich and his allies fomented tribalism, using the House ethics process as a political weapon and uniting the GOP into a parliamentary-style opposition party. They had important and vocal allies in partisan media, starting with Rush Limbaugh and talk radio. Much the same happened a bit later in the Senate, where McConnell turned the filibuster into a weapon of mass obstruction and got his party to unite against every Obama initiative.

Today, Republicans are one of the most extreme (even radical) conservative parties in the democratic world, with no members in the House and arguably barely one in the Senate who would qualify as moderates or traditional conservatives, while Democrats look like a traditional center-left party. Though the “Squad” of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib receives much attention, a breakdown of voting records shows that the Democratic caucus is populated by more moderates than leftists. The asymmetric nature of this polarization makes bipartisanship almost impossible.

The radicalism of the Republican party has been normalized because our news media are stuck in both-siderism, or being so averse to taking sides that reporting is skewed to achieve false equivalence. This is a long-standing problem that has gotten worse in the era of Trump. See, for example, Aaron Rupar at Vox, NPR’s sanitizing of Trump’s Milwaukee rally shows how he’s broken the media.

By almost any standard, President Donald Trump’s rally on Tuesday evening in Milwaukee was a bizarre affair. The president went on a lengthy tirade about lightbulbs, toilets, and showers; touted war crimes; joked about a former president being in hell; and said he’d like to see one of his domestic political foes locked up.

I tried to capture some of the speech’s disconcerting oddness in my write-up of the event. In many ways, the remarks the president made were typical of him. And that provides the media with a challenge: Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.

But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal.

A brief report about Trump’s Milwaukee speech that aired Wednesday morning on NPR illustrates this phenomenon. The anchor’s intro framed Trump’s at times disjointed ramblings as a normal political speech that “ranged widely,” and the ensuing report (which originated from member station WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio) characterized his delivery as one in which he “snapped back at Democrats for bringing impeachment proceedings.”

“Trump was taking on Democrats on their own territory,” the reporter said, when in reality Trump heaped abuse on them, for instance, suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden is experiencing memory loss. …

… On Twitter, Georgetown University public affairs professor Don Moynihan noted that NPR’s report about the rally “mentioned specific topics like Iran and impeachment but carefully omit the insane stuff. This is one way the media strives to present Trump as a normal president.”

Right now, every American’s hair should be on fire in outrage over the blatant obstruction of justice and rape of the Constitution being conducted by the Republican Party to help Donald Trump evade justice. There is nothing normal or standard about any of it. This trial is a nightmare.

I don’t have to tell you that only the Democrats are trying to engage in a trial. I don’t know what you’d call what the Republicans are engaged in, but it isn’t a trial. One by one, the House managers make a factual, documented presentation, and all Trump’s lawyers present are lies and ridicule. They have no factual rebuttals. But they don’t need any; the Republican majority will vote as a block to protect Trump.

Jonathan Allen:

Rather than rebutting hours of evidence presented by House Democratic impeachment managers, White House lawyers opted to repeat Trump’s attacks on the process and the disjointed set of rejoinders he’s delivered to Democrats in public.

“If you can’t even rise to the challenge of trying to defend your client,” NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner said on NBC News Now, “it becomes painfully obvious that the emperor has no defense.”

But the emperor doesn’t need a defense. He owns a majority of the jury.

Get this — Trump, in Devos, bragged about how successfully he obstructed justice.

President Trump said he’s happy with the way the impeachment trial is going thus far because his administration has not released “materials” that would hurt his cause.

“When we released that conversation all hell broke out with the Democrats,” Trump said. “Because they said, ‘Wait a minute, this is much different than [what Adam Schiff] told us.’ ”

The president continued, “So, we’re doing very well. I got to watch [the impeachment trial] enough. I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

But most news media soldier on trying to present the impeachment trial as a normal trial and Republicans’ behavior as normal behavior, because if they tell the truth the American public might not be able to handle it. Heads would explode. They’ve been too well conditioned to believe all of this is normal and one party is just as bad as the other.

And this brings me to what Charles Pierce wrote — I Don’t Understand Why There Aren’t Thousands of People Protesting the Senate Trial.

Frankly, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get an anesthetized citizenry off its ass and realize what a threat the country is facing in having a criminal idiot as a chief executive, a guy who has put every part of the republic up for sale, and for cheap. (The latest? In the middle of a trade war with China, the president*’s business operation was teaming up with a state-owned Chinese company to build a golf course.)

I, myself, have run out of patience with people who can abide this dangerous foolishness—whether those people are elected Republican senators, timid Democratic politicians, wishy-washy journalists, or the great, massed, unmoving American public, which now has proved that it will tolerate just about anything except sign-stealing in baseball and a bad decision on The Bachelor.

If I were younger and healthier I’d be in Washington already. My marching days are over, I suspect. But where are younger people? I’m rather tired of having OK Boomer thrown in my face by people who can’t bother to vote or demonstrate. At least, back in the day, we could give the establishment fits. And we didn’t have the Internet to help us organize.

And the wimpy news media that won’t present truth have been an issue going way back. Remember Media Whores Online? It’s been gone for nearly 20 years, I believe.

In conclusion, false equivalence is killing America. It’s got to stop.


The Republican Show Trial

I am not watching the trial, mostly because I literally don’t have the stomach for it. Yesterday I had a colonoscopy and upper GI endoscopy, and while I’ve been assured I don’t have colon cancer, my insides are otherwise a bleeping mess. I’m still feeling a bit wobbly. Aging ain’t for the weak.

Anyway, I understand that Republicans voted unanimously to block a request to subpoena White House documents. That seems to me to kill the fantasy that there might be a few “reasonable” Republicans who would support a fair trial.

If you have anything to say about the doings so far, please feel free to comment. I’ll write more tomorrow.

McConnell’s “Kill Switch”?

Some right-wing media claim that McConnell’s proposed impeachment trial rules will include a “kill switch.” This claim appears to have originated with this tweet by the utterly worthless Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

The wingnuts say this is to keep Rep. Schiff from turning the trial into a “circus.” Oh, like Nunes and Jordan disgracefully behaved during the intelligence committee hearings? Schiff doesn’t do that.

Axios reports

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would leave room for President Trump’s lawyers to move immediately to dismiss the impeachment charges if they so choose, according to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. …

The big picture: Trump endorsed on Twitter the idea of outright dismissalof the charges against him. It could be an opportunity for some of Trump’s closest Senate Republican allies to register their contempt for the case that House Democrats marshaled against the president — even if the motion is doomed to fail.

It could also serve as a break-glass option if the trial took a turn and Trump’s allies felt they needed a mechanism to bring about an abrupt end to the trial.

In other words, if the trial is really going against Trump, McConnell and Trump’s clown-shoe legal “dream team” will try to pull the plug.

Rightie news coverage is claiming this is necessary because of the flagrant disregard for propriety exhibited by Democrats during the House hearings. Apparently, Demcrats were seen to breathe and occasionally speak, which isn’t allowed. Steve M quotes a large part of Breitbart’s reporting of the “switch,” so you can read it there; I won’t link to Breitbart. And then he adds,

This is such messaging overkill that there’s no excuse for being surprised at the Republicans’ next move — although highly paid mainstream journalists and pundits will be surprised anyway. Much of the Senate GOP, along with the White House and the right-wing media, is about to declare that virtually everything the House managers do is a flagrant violation of law, common sense, and the Constitution. Once this happens, even alleged moderates such as Mitt Romney and Susan Collins will join in the fauxtrage — and you can forget a successful vote to call witnesses or allow further documentary evidence to be considered. The plan is to say that the behavior of the Democrats was so out of bounds that the only way to conclude the process fairly is a vote to dismiss the charges — and that will happen.

I haven’t quoted every word of the Breitbart story, but these excerpts are representative — the impropriety of what Democrats did in the House is presented as a given; not one example of an inappropriate act is cited. Republicans know that most Americans have no idea what’s proper and what isn’t under these circumstances. The GOP will take advantage of this ignorance to smear the Democrats — unless a way is found to counter their phony protests. And I’m not sure what that would be.

McConnell also wants tight control on television coverage of the trial:

Journalists are up in arms about new restrictions on their movement inside the Capitol, which they say will prevent them from easily interviewing lawmakers about the proceedings. The rules, negotiated by Republican Senate leadership, have yet to be written down, causing confusion among reporters and the Capitol Police expected to enforce them.

Even sedate C-SPAN is aggrieved, calling on the Senate to allow its television crews to document the trial, instead of the government-controlled cameras that — as was the case during Bill Clinton’s trial 21 years ago — will limit what viewers see and hear inside the Senate chamber. …

…Instead of unfettered access to the hallways and corridors surrounding the Senate chamber — a tradition for decades — journalists will be confined to roped-off pens as senators come and go from the trial. Walk-and-talk interviews with senators, a staple of congressional reporting made famous by TV shows like “The West Wing,” will be curtailed.

You’d think they were afraid of something getting out they don’t want the public to know.

Regarding the vote to allow witnesses — Democrats in the House are saying that if Republicans block witnesses, they will hold new hearings and call new witnesses. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who really need to be heard from will not come unless physically forced to do so.

It’s said that Trump is anxious to get the impeachment trial over with before the State of the Union speech on February 4. There is also reporting that the bleeping moron is genuinely baffled why he’s being impeached.

Donald Trump has appeared “distracted” by the impeachment trial that begins on Tuesday, according to a source close to the White House who speaks to the President regularly.

“Why are they doing this to me,” the source quoted Trump as saying repeatedly, telling people around him this weekend at Mar-a-Lago that he “can’t understand why he is impeached.

Yeah, he may really be that stupid.

No Heroes Will Save Us

WaPo is running an excerpt from the book A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America that shows us what happened when the adults in the room tried to explain foreign policy to the Creature. The Joint Chiefs and other top military brass were there.

Mattis, Cohn, and Tillerson and their aides decided to use maps, graphics, and charts to tutor the president, figuring they would help keep him from getting bored. Mattis opened with a slide show punctuated by lots of dollar signs. Mattis devised a strategy to use terms the impatient president, schooled in real estate, would appreciate to impress upon him the value of U.S. investments abroad. He sought to explain why U.S. troops were deployed in so many regions and why America’s safety hinged on a complex web of trade deals, alliances, and bases across the globe.

All of this went right over Trump’s empty head. Skipping to the end of the meeting …

“I want to win,” he said. “We don’t win any wars anymore .?.?. We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we’re not winning anymore.”

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.

Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

Here was Cadet Bone Spurs insulting a room full of officers who had fought real wars and had given their lives to national defense. They were devastated, the text says. Do read the whole thing if you haven’t already. The only one who talked back was Rex Tillerson, who flat-out told Trump he was wrong. Flat lot of good that did.

Now, let’s skip to what Paul Waldman wrote about this:

… one thing their account makes clear is that there are only two kinds of people in Trump’s orbit: the utterly morally compromised, and the slightly less but still profoundly morally compromised. …

…Reading this account, one is tempted to honor Tillerson for his courage in standing up to the president. The story recounts that others thanked the secretary of state for doing so, and he did it again at a subsequent meeting.

But here’s what Tillerson didn’t do. He didn’t call a news conference to announce that he was resigning and explain that he could not in good conscience work for a president who had such dangerous ideas about how to wield power and held the military in such contempt. Instead, he stayed on the job for another eight months — until Trump fired him.

And ever since, Tillerson has been practically silent. So too has Mattis, who stayed in Trump’s employ for nearly two years, then resigned and sealed his lips shut. We’ve heard stories about how Mattis tried to calm Trump down or, at times, simply ignored the president’s more erratic orders, such as the time Trump called him after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack and said “Let’s f—ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f—ing lot of them.”

It’s certainly a good thing that Mattis, like others in the administration, at times quietly kept Trump from acting on his most abhorrent impulses. But Mattis chose not to take an extraordinary opportunity — and still makes that choice.


One of the central values of the American military is that they are subservient to civilian authority, and civilian authority is personified in the Commander in Chief. So exposing the POTUS as a monster would be extraordinarily difficult thing for them, no question. But more difficult than, say, storming Normandy Beach?

Further, the Right would publicly eviscerate them, no doubt. They’d be subject to vicious  scorn and ridicule for the rest of their lives. Their right-wing friends would disown them. But these are not stupid men (and they are pretty much all men). Surely they see that something is terribly wrong that cannot be allowed to continue. Yet they stay silent.

And who is talking? A mid-level mobster named Lev Parnas. And Parnas is talking, he says, because he felt disrespected by his former colleagues who didn’t defend him when he was indicted. Plus, he is afraid of Bill Barr.

“They’re trying to scare me into not talking,” Parnas said of officials in the Justice Department, adding that “My wife is scared. My kids are nervous.”

He’s not waiting around to be asked to testify in court. He’s showing the world everything he’s got. They can’t shut him up if he’s already talked.

Parnas, who is free on bond, described a tense meeting in jail with his former lawyer John Dowd, who also represented Trump. According to Parnas, Dowd and Kevin Downing visited Parnas in jail to try to talk him out of cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry.

“Were they telling you to sacrifice yourself to protect the president?” Maddow asked.

“That’s the way I felt,” Parnas replied, adding that he told the two lawyers, “If you don’t get out of here right now, something bad is going to happen.” He then fired them. His current lawyer, Joseph Bondy, was at his side for the interview.

Well, you take what you get. The logical step for the Trumpers is to try to undermine Parnas, but so far all they’ve come up with is to deny knowing him …

Parnas also released a video showing himself and Trump together at some function at Mar-a-Lago.

The Right appears to be falling back on the “so what?” defense.

It has long been obvious that Republicans would ultimately converge on this final defense of President Trump: Even if he did everything he has been accused of doing, and perhaps a lot more that we don’t know about, it’s absolutely fine!

We now have a particularly ugly preview of what this defense may look like, as Trump’s Senate trial gets underway. On Sean Hannity’s Thursday night show, former Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus said:

Sometimes the best defense is the ‘so what’ defense. If everything the Democrats said is true, it’s still not impeachable. If everything Lev Parnas said is true, it’s still not impeachable. That’s what this is about.

Hannity endorsed the argument. Parnas is the former accomplice of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani who just revealed explosive details about Trump’s scheme to extort Ukraine into doing his dirty political deeds.

See also

Last week on Fox, Brit Hume said the quiet part loud when trying to explain the GOP senators’ actions:

Just for the sake of discussion. If John Bolton comes in and he says: “Yep the president wanted the Bidens, and he withheld the aid for a time to try and get that done”—I don’t think that adds anything to the sum of our knowledge. I don’t think very many senators are going to say that they think Trump did that or that he’s guilty of that but I think most of them think that he did.

Okie dokie then.

The weird thing about this is that Hume seems to think that by admitting that GOP senators privately know the president pressured a foreign government to launch a sham investigation against his political rival, he’s providing cover for the senators rather than revealing their dishonesty.

There are two kinds of Republicans now. The worst of them believe that any dirty, underhanded, unlawful thing Trump does to get re-elected is righteous, because otherwise liberals will win. And that is unthinkable, because … well, because. The rest of them know that Trump is guilty and depraved but don’t turn on him because doing so would destroy the careers and connections they’ve spent a lifetime cultivating.  And they’re afraid of Trump.

Patriotism? What’s that?

Chief Justice Roberts probably doesn’t want to go anywhere near this. He’ll want to appear to be nonpartisan, but in our current political landscape that isn’t possible, and no matter what he does, he will piss off a lot of people. He’s expected to defer to the will of the Senate in all things. However, in the case of a 50-50 vote, he’s the tie-breaker, not the Vice President. Oh, I bet he’s hoping there’s no 50-50 vote.

Steve M found a tweet about a woman who caucused for Sanders in 2016, then voted for a Trump. She supports Medicare for All but plans to vote for Buttigieg, and if Buttigieg isn’t nominated she plans to vote for Trump again. Yes, this woman is a flaming idiot, and I would dearly love to smack her. But here’s the point —

It’s politics as lifehack. She’s looking for One Weird Trick that will solve all of America’s problems. Revolution! MAGA! A gay millennial! The only surprise is that she’s not supporting Andrew Yang, the ultimate lifehack candidate.

There will be no one wierd trick that will fix our politics, folks. There is no magic wand, no magic bullet. There’s not even a Magic Candidate. Even if your favorite candidate is elected president, the policies that person is promising won’t get through Congress intact. Even if a minority in Congress, Republicans aren’t gong to come to their senses and behave like normal people by 2021. And there will be no heroes who will come forward to save us from Trump and stop his re-election. We have to do that ourselves.

What a Damn Mess

I guess the Senate is now a courtroom.

This morning, before Chief Justice Roberts had been sworn in, the Government Accountability Office released a judgment that Trump broke the law when he withheld aid from Ukraine.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision says. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

The White House quickly rebutted the charge, criticizing the agency’s decision as an “overreach” and an attempt to insert itself into the “media’s controversy of the day.”

The White House “complied with the law at every step,” White House Office of Management and Budget acting director Russell T. Vought wrote on Twitter. He also criticized GAO, saying the agency’s “opinion comes from the same people who said we couldn’t keep National Parks open during the shutdown” 12 months ago.

Regarding the national parks — just because you got away with something doesn’t prove it was legal.

If you missed Rachel Maddow’s interview of Lev Parnas last night — boy howdy, talk about throwing people under the bus. Trump, Giuliani, and Pence went first, followed by Bill Barr and Devin Nunes. Part 2 is tonight. Charles Pierce:

Let me be perfectly clear. I would not buy an apple from Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s running buddy in the Ukraine and (apparently) a former unofficial emissary from El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago. He is indeed under federal indictment. All of this is true now that he’s doing this very odd media tour as The Man Who Kept Receipts. I wouldn’t let him park my car.

But I believe most of what he’s been saying.  …

…  I’d say that, by and large, he’s been dealing straight with his interviewers, although Charlie Savage’s cautions on MSNBC Thursday morning are well-taken. On the events for which he already has provided documents, he seems to be telling the truth, and much of what he said were backed up by previous witnesses like Bill Taylor and Fiona Hill. He did crack open a new line of inquiry when he told kindly Doc Maddow that holding up the military aid was, in fact, the second quid pro quo demanded by the administration*. The first, he said, involved a visit that Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to make to Ukraine that was cancelled, according to Parnas, when Ukraine held off on investigating the Bidens as the White House demanded. This also seems completely consonant with what we already know.

Parnas strikes me as a guy who ain’t falling on any damn sword for anybody. This stuff is going to continue to trickle out, and not just from Parnas. If the Senate refuses to allow witnesses and documents and voters to keep Trump in office, that won’t change.

Ironically, the government of Ukraine did announce an investigation today — of allegations that Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance. Heh.

Everything Happening All at Once

There’s a quote often misattributed to Einstein that says time is what keeps everything from happening all at once. I think time may be breaking down. Everything is happening all at once.

About last night’s debate, before we move on to the juicy stuff — First, Pete Buttigieg annoyed the hell out of me. He was even more annoying than Tom Steyer, who actually said a few sensible things this time. Mayor Pete needs to take his Republican talking points on health care and stuff them someplace.

Regarding the hoped-for Sanders-Warren smackdown, I’ve been ignoring it because it seemed to me the whole flap could be attributed to miscommunication combined with the exhaustion and burnout that must happen during a long campaign. People who wanted reasons to hate one or the other candidate have been riding it hard on social media, but as I like them both the so-called controversy just annoys me. But not as much as Pete Buttigieg annoys me.

And I miss Andrew Yang and Cory Booker. Oh, well.

Other than that, I think everyone did okay. Probably no minds were changed. But see also Does CNN have it in for Bernie Sanders? by John Judis at TPM.

As the Dem candidates were taking the stage last night, other Dems were opening a big ol’ can of whoop-ass on Donald Trump, in the form of the Lev Parnas papers. As Greg Sargent wrote today, the Parnas papers prove beyond doubt (except, of course, to Republicans) that Rudy G. was in Ukraine as Trump’s personal attorney, with Trump’s approval, to make a deal for dirt on Joe Biden. This pretty much shreds any pretense that Trump was acting in U.S. interest and not his own.

Part of the deal was, explicitly, to get Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch fired because she was in the way of Rudy’s various machinations. The campaign against Yovanovitch was outrageous and sinister; some marginal character named Robert Hyde even claimed to be tracking her movements. Why, to assassinate her? But this opens up the question — what did SecState Mike Pompeo know about this? Rep. Eliot Engel, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told Greg Sargent that his committee would be investigating this.

Waldman continued,

As part of the impeachment inquiry, Democrats had subpoenaed the State Department for documents that could shed light on any knowledge that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had of this ongoing campaign, on Giuliani’s communications with the State Department about it, and on efforts by Trump and other henchmen to pressure Ukraine more generally.

The State Department defied this subpoena, and Pompeo just blew off a request that he testify to the Foreign Affairs Committee about Trump’s Iran policies. The State Department is responding to journalistic inquiries with radio silence…

…Democrats will simply have to go on an investigative war footing that will continue after the impeachment saga, and it is likely to produce new revelations. …

An official involved with the impeachment inquiry says more documents are coming from Parnas soon. Meanwhile, there will be extensive investigative media digging that will almost certainly establish more about what, precisely, Giuliani ordered done on Trump’s behalf.

As Charles Pierce says, I Don’t Think the Lev Parnas Texts Are the Last Hound to Be Unleashed. I can’t believe that the State Department was completely in the dark about what Rudy was up to.

Senate Republicans must realize that time is not on their side. More crap will be raining down on their heads throughout the election year of 2020. Some of them may be considering allowing a bit of daylight to come between themselves and Trump. This may affect the Senate vote over witnesses at the trial.

Speaking of which — the House impeachment trial managers are chosen, and the House has voted to send the articles of impeachment on to the Senate. Amber Phillips explains who the managers are and why Pelosi chose them.

Meanwhile, the Russian government resigned so that Putin can consolidate power. And Australia is still burning.

Update: Then this happened

The State Department abruptly canceled two classified congressional briefings Wednesday that were supposed to focus on embassy security and the U.S. relationship with Iran, Capitol Hill aides said, infuriating lawmakers and staffers seeking answers on the fallout from President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a senior Iranian general.

The cancellations also coincide with the release of documents suggesting that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had put the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under surveillance — an issue that touches on both embassy security and the president’s impeachment.

“Staff are furious,” a House aide said about the scuttled embassy security session. “This briefing is required by law every month, and today’s was the most important we’ve had scheduled in a long time. The State Department has given us no explanation whatsoever.”