October 31, 2019

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ON THE RECORD.....

“My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, [or] the destruction of the Constitution. I hope and trust that all Americans feel — and will do — the same.” — Elijah E. Cummings

Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, who pushed the Congress and country always to rise to a higher purpose, reminding us why we are here. As he said whenever he saw that we were not living up to our Founders’ vision for America and meeting the needs of our children for the future: “We are better than this.” — Nancy Pelosi 

“When we’re dancing with the angels the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” As long as he had breath, Mr. Cummings spoke out. He will be sorely missed. — Washington Post Editorial Board

“Yes, that’s what police and prosecutors do. They come to a conclusion that the person is probably guilty and then they look for evidence to either support or negate that. That’s what Congressman Schiff is doing and he’s following the rules—as frustrating as those rules are.” — Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox & Friends pointing out that Democrats are just “following the rules”— rules written by Republicans.

Those "against" Trump deserve to be called "human scum.” — White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

“Our client’s whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s efforts to solicit interference from Ukraine in the 2020 U.S. election was publicly released a month ago, and since then, speculation about the whistleblower’s identity has only increased. As each allegation in the complaint is substantiated by new witnesses, the president and his supporters remain fanatically devoted to bringing our client into the spotlight. But the reality is that the identity of the whistleblower is irrelevant.” — Lawyers Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid.

“He looks for corruption wherever he goes.” — Trump on Giuliani.


“Does he need to be so unhinged? He says the dumbest things. Yeah, there needs to be a coordinated response to everything. There needs to be a coordinated effort to just shut up.” — Republican senator venting frustration with the president’s outbursts on Twitter and in front of the White House press corps.

Since assuming the presidency, Mr Trump’s personal “liberties and freedoms” have been curtailed because he cannot visit his Scottish properties to play golf as and when he pleases. …  those who claim Mr Trump is profiting from his presidency had a “very crude,” “overly simplistic,” and “ridiculous” mindset. — Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Scotland, who is referred to by Mr Trump as the “Queen of Scotland."

“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s dead. He’s dead. Dead as a door nail.” — Trump addressing the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, while adding “another president should’ve gotten him.”

"Senate Intel is wrapping up a three-year bipartisan investigation, and we've found nothing remotely justifying the Justice Department launching a criminal investigation of the Russia probe. Mr. Barr's "investigation" has already jeopardized key international intelligence partnerships. He needs to come before Congress and explain himself." -- Senator Mark Warner @MarkWarner

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. The Borowitz Report: Lock Him Up in White House for Doing Excellent Job
2. Biggest Coal Miner Goes Bust As Trump Rescue Fails
3. Trump Ordered Mattis to ‘Screw Amazon’ Over Contract
4. Trump frustrated as White House effort to defy impeachment inquiry fails to halt witness testimony, advisers say
5. The U.S. deficit hit $984 billion in 2019, soaring during Trump era
6. Gabbard Skips Iowa Forum, Appears On Fox News Instead
7. Giuliani Probe Snowballs
8. Trump’s Turkey, Kurd, Syria Presser Was the Craziest Yet
9. Trump’s Ukraine dishonesty barrage continues. He made 96 false claims last week
10. The DAILY GRILL
11. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
12. From the Late Shows
13. Rates At Trump’s DC Hotel Spike During Republican Retreat It’s Hosting
14. Democratic Coalition ad: It’s time to impeach Trump
15. The GOP’s Nightmare Scenario

OPINION

1. Charles Sykes: Dear GOP, Some Scary Advice on How to Survive Your Impeachment Nightmare
2. Michael Scherer: Trump wages battle against impeachment with a barrage of provocations, contradictions and exhortations
3. Benjamin Hart: President Trump Is Obsessed With Stealing Syria’s Oil 
4. Eric Levitz: Rising Seas Are Going to Drown Way More Cities Than We’d Thought
5. Amanda Marcotte: Trump and Barr's big counterattack: Actually, they're still covering up the Russia conspiracy
6. Zak Cheney-Rice: Republicans Want Victimhood Without Being Victimized
7. Eric Levitz: Recapping Impeachment: Bill Taylor Returns for One Last Mission
8. Max Boot: It’s impossible to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt
9. Jonathan Chait: Trump Boasts of War Crimes in Public, Nobody Believes Him
10. James D. Walsh: ’The Force of Trump’s Lying Has Ruptured the Space-Time Continuum’: Steve Schmidt on Impeachment
11. Matt Stieb: Trump’s Press Conference Announcing the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Is Peak Trump
12. Max Boot: Baghdadi’s death could have been Trump’s finest hour. He messed it up anyway.
13. Adam Weinstein: “Blood for Oil” Is Official U.S. Policy Now

FYI

1. The Borowitz Report: Lock Him Up in White House for Doing Excellent Job

Saying that he was “incredibly moved by their support,” Donald J. Trump said on Monday that fans at Game 5 of the World Series expressed their strong desire to see him locked up in the White House for doing such an excellent job as President.

“Out of nowhere, they just started chanting,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They really want to see me locked up for another four years.”

Trump said that he was surprised by the passionate and urgent nature of the chanting directed toward him. “Despite all the things that the fake media has said about me, these people know what an amazing job I’ve done,” he said. “They really want to lock me up and never let me go.”

Noting that the Constitution allows a President to serve only two terms, Trump said, “That’s a real shame, because the way those people were chanting, I think they’d like to see me locked up for the rest of my life.”

He added that he hoped his archnemesis, former President Barack Obama, was watching the World Series on television to witness “the unbelievable support I got from that crowd.”

“Obama was President for eight years, and he never heard anyone chant ‘lock him up,’ ” Trump said. “What a loser.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

2. Biggest Coal Miner Goes Bust As Trump Rescue Fails

Robert E. Murray, the U.S. coal baron who pressed the Trump administration to help save America’s struggling miners, placed his company into bankruptcy as demand for the fossil fuel continues to weaken. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-29/biggest-private-coal-miner-goes-bust-after-trump-rescue-fails

3. Trump Ordered Mattis to ‘Screw Amazon’ Over Contract

In the summer of 2018, President Trump ordered then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, according to an upcoming book.

In the Task & Purpose review of “Holding The Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis,” a book about Mattis’ time in the Trump administration, former Defense communications director Guy Snodgrass lays out the general’s conflicts with Trump, including legal and ethical concerns over the Pentagon’s lucrative contract.

According to Snodgrass, Mattis pushed back on the request because he wanted to pursue the contract “by the book, both legally and ethically.”

On Friday, the Pentagon announced Microsoft had won the contract, a surprise victory over front-runner Amazon Web Services. Previous reports stated that Trump wanted to “scuttle” the bidding process for the deal over concerns that Jeff Bezos, a rival with which Trump has publicly feuded, could benefit from the 10-year cloud computing contract. https://www.businessinsider.my/trump-ordered-mattis-to-screw-amazon-out-pentagon-cloud-contract-2019-10/

4. Trump frustrated as White House effort to defy impeachment inquiry fails to halt witness testimony, advisers say

After weeks of dismissing the impeachment inquiry as a hollow partisan attack, President Trump and his closest advisers now recognize that the snowballing probe poses a serious threat to the president — and that they have little power to block it, according to multiple aides and advisers.

The dawning realization comes as Democrats rapidly gather evidence from witness after witness testifying about the pressure put on Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals. The president is increasingly frustrated that his efforts to stop people from cooperating with the probe have so far collapsed under the weight of legally powerful congressional subpoenas, advisers said.

In a sign of the growing realization of his potential jeopardy, Trump has brought back Jane and Marty Raskin, criminal defense attorneys who were part of his legal team during the Mueller investigation, to help him navigate the impeachment inquiry, along with his attorney Jay Sekulow and White House lawyers. Their return is a late acknowledgment, some White House advisers say, that the facts coming out are bad for the president and that both his White House and personal attorneys need to try to get in front of what else may emerge. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-frustrated-as-white-house-effort-to-defy-impeachment-inquiry-fails-to-halt-witness-testimony-advisers-say/2019/10/25/632e94b6-f5b0-11e9-8cf0-4cc99f74d127_story.html

5. The U.S. deficit hit $984 billion in 2019, soaring during Trump era

The U.S. government’s budget deficit ballooned to nearly $1 trillion in 2019, the Treasury Department announced Friday, as the United States’ fiscal imbalance widened for a fourth consecutive year despite a sustained run of economic growth. The deficit grew $205 billion, or 26 percent, in the past year.

The country’s worsening fiscal picture runs in sharp contrast to President Trump’s campaign promise to eliminate the federal debt within eight years. The deficit is up nearly 50 percent in the Trump era. Since taking office, Trump has endorsed big spending increases and steered most Republicans to abandon the deficit obsession they held during the Obama administration. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/25/us-deficit-hit-billion-marking-nearly-percent-increase-during-trump-era/

6. Gabbard Skips Iowa Forum, Appears On Fox News Instead

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s bizarre week in American politics continued Thursday night, when she skipped an appearance at LULAC’s Latino town hall in Des Moines, appearing that evening instead on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. There, she criticized House Democrats’ impeachment process, a reversal of her recent stance on the matter. https://iowastartingline.com/2019/10/25/gabbard-skips-iowa-forum-appears-on-fox-news-instead/

7. Giuliani Probe Snowballs

Rudy Giuliani’s problems keep piling up.

His responsibilities are shrinking as Donald Trump’s TV-friendly personal attorney. His efforts to dig up dirt on the president’s political opponents have landed his highest-profile client in a congressional impeachment investigation. And two of his foreign-born business associates are headed to trial on charges that are part of a broader effort by federal prosecutors eyeing Giuliani himself.

The scrutiny isn’t coming just from the previously known probes by FBI agents and the U.S. attorney’s office based out of Manhattan, according to two people familiar with the investigation. The criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington has taken an interest in the former New York mayor, too, meaning an expansion of resources that indicates the politically sensitive probe into the president’s personal attorney is both broader and moving at a faster pace than previously understood.

Giuliani’s troubles aren’t just his alone. He has turned members of the Trump team he’s worked with over the past 18 months into potential witnesses for federal prosecutors, who are trying to unravel the tangled relationships he brought to the mix in advising the president while still juggling an international consulting business that promised proximity to the White House. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/25/rudy-giuliani-justice-department-057125

8. Trump’s Turkey, Kurd, Syria Presser Was the Craziest Yet

When Donald J. Trump speaks, his message is usually easy to understand: “Trust me. I am the greatest. All good things come from me. And everything is beautiful.” That was his message 30 years ago when he was selling unbuilt condos to Soviet money launderers, and it's his core message today as president about anything from the maxed-out economy to, well, the unbuilt border “wall.”

But the actual content of Trump's remarks often is distinct from the message. Among the truncated sentences, muddled analogies, half-truths and outright lies, there may be kernels of insight into what he really has been thinking or what he's been hearing. To be sure, delving into the rhetorical muck is a little like plumbing the depths of a septic tank for lost coins, but there is something to be learned nonetheless, and Trump's remarks on Wednesday about Turkey, Syria, Kurds, and "the bloodstained sands" are a striking example. https://www.thedailybeast.com/donald-j-trumps-turkey-kurd-syria-presser-was-the-craziest-yet

9. Trump’s Ukraine dishonesty barrage continues. He made 96 false claims last week

Trump was relentlessly dishonest last week about the scandal over his dealings with Ukraine, making false claims about just about every component of the story.

Trump made 96 false claims last week, the second-highest total of the 16 weeks we've counted at CNN. He made 53 false claims last Monday alone -- a remarkable 31 in rambling comments at his Cabinet meeting and 22 more in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

Fifty-three false claims is by far the most Trump has made in any day in the 16 weeks we've tracked, beating the previous high of 41. Trump has averaged about 68 false claims per week over the 16-week period -- just shy of 10 false claims per day. https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/30/politics/fact-check-trump-96-false-claims-ukraine/index.html

10. The DAILY GRILL

The document was “an exact transcript of my call, done by very talented people that do this. It was “an exact transcript,” — Trump on Oct. 11.

VERSUS

Reporters could listen to Trump or they could read the bottom of the front page of the transcript itself, which states that it is “not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.” -- Washington Post

 

Well, thank you very much.  My fellow Americans, I greet you this morning from the White House to announce a major breakthrough toward achieving a better future for Syria and for the Middle East. It’s been a long time. — Trump’s Syria presser

VERSUS

This is pure fiction. The president is talking about an almost complete capitulation to Turkey's ambitions as it seizes Syrian territory in the name of self-declared national security. To call this a major breakthrough for a "better future" is an uncomfortable but probably oblivious echo of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin's declaration of "peace for our time" after Hitler assured him at Munich all he really wanted was a little chunk of Czechoslovakia. — Christopher Dickey in the Daily Beast

American forces defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate during the last two years. We thank the Syrian Democratic Forces for their sacrifices in this effort. They’ve been terrific. -- Trump’s Syria presser

VERSUS

Actually, it was the Kurdish-led forces on the ground with American support, mainly from the air, who defeated ISIS. Trump is thanking them the way he might thank servants before stiffing them on their salaries. As for the “others in the region,” the most important are Russia and Iran. -- Christopher Dickey in the Daily Beast

 

"Someone has got to be a guide that tells [the president] that you either have the authority or you don't, or Mr. President, don't do it. The system that should be in place, clearly — the system of advising, bringing in experts in, having these discussions with the president so he can make an informed decision, that clearly is not in place.” — Former White House chief of staff General John Kelly.

VERSUS

"I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.” — White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham 

 

“Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interests, and usually they spoke in English. Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on the story?” — Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham on Lt. Col. Vindman

VERSUS

“My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three and a half years old. Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country. For many years, life was quite difficult. In spite of our challenging beginnings, my family worked to build its own American Dream. I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics.” — From Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s opening remarks.


11. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

The House impeachment inquiry continued to take its toll on Donald Trump on Thursday as he released a 2020 attack ad … against Hillary Clinton. It’s the latest attempt by Trump to attack his favorite political foe – the woman who beat him in the popular vote by 3 million votes in 2016 – to distract from his dumpster fire presidency. https://www.politicususa.com/2019/10/25/trump-full-crazy-releases-2020-attack-ad-against-hillary-clinton.html

12. From the Late Shows

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Trump Wishes The Dems Were "Kiddingly" About Impeachment: https://youtu.be/ACJFDczhGfk

Trump Rally Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/Tw3M1x5m7h8

Weekend Update: Eric and Donald Trump Jr. on Benefiting from Trump’s Presidency - SNL: https://youtu.be/vpRV-rMHJMQ

Weekend Update: Trump Fires Back at Critics - SNL: https://youtu.be/MuOueVDDTyAc

Jimmy Kimmel Live: MASH-UP: Trump’s al-Baghdadi Speech & Obama’s Bin Laden Speech: https://youtu.be/OsBOWSjOLsE

13. Rates At Trump’s DC Hotel Spike During Republican Retreat It’s Hosting

The cost of a basic room at Trump’s DC Hotel is nearly three times its average rate on November 7th.

Conspicuously, that’s the night between Senate Republicans’ two day retreat at Trump’s Hotel. Premier” and “deluxe” rooms at the hotel—the least expensive rooms offered—cost $1,345 and $1,395, respectively, for the night of November 7th, according to searches performed on October 23rd, 25th and 28th. That’s nearly three times the average cost of the cheapest room available at the hotel, according to Google. Hotel rates are responsive to a number of factors, and it’s not uncommon for costs to fluctuate, but the contrast is stark between average rates and the rate on the night of November 7th. https://www.citizensforethics.org/trump-hotel-rates-spike-republican-retreat/

14. Democratic Coalition ad: It’s time to impeach Trump

https://youtu.be/5Bvl9coQXdQ

15. The GOP’s Nightmare Scenario

A growing number of Republicans are privately warning of increasing fears of a total wipeout in 2020: House, Senate, and White House,.

• House Republicans in swing districts are retiring at a very fast pace, especially in the suburbs of Texas and elsewhere.

• The Republican Senate majority, once considered relatively safe, suddenly looks in serious jeopardy. Democrats are raising more money, and polling better, than Republican incumbents in battleground after battleground.

• President Trump trails every major Democratic candidate nationally and in swing states — and his favorable ratings remain well under 50%.

All of this is unfolding while the economy still looks strong, and before public impeachment proceedings have officially begun. https://www.axios.com/republican-party-2020-election-wipeout-house-senate-trump-3ca4a371-cdfb-4213-9ff0-2cf058aa7537.html

OPINION

1. Charles Sykes: Dear GOP, Some Scary Advice on How to Survive Your Impeachment Nightmare

By now it should have dawned on you that there is no escape. You are going to have to render a verdict not just on Donald’s Trump’s policies, but on his personal conduct. For just the third time in U.S. history, the Senate will hold a trial on the impeachment and removal of a president.

You’ll have to vote up or down and your decision will have consequences that will linger long past this election cycle. The situation is already grim.

Short term, breaking with Trump will spark a nasty blowback. But imagine for a moment a post-Trumpian Republican Party freed from the baggage of Trumpist corruption. The choice is between a party inextricably tied to Trump, with all of his crudity, dishonesty, lawlessness and arrogance, and a party that has shown that it is capable of being a principled defender of constitutional norms.

At the end of this process, the simple narrative is likely to be that the president has abused his power, broken the law and sold out his country. You have an opportunity to hold him accountable by doing your constitutional duty. History will want to know whether you got scared and shirked it. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/10/29/gop-advice-impeachment-nightmare-trump-229885

2. Michael Scherer: Trump wages battle against impeachment with a barrage of provocations, contradictions and exhortations

As the first full month of his impeachment investigation began to wane, President Trump unleashed a rhetorical onslaught. 

He announced that his Democratic rivals are “crazy,” “hate our country” and “want to destroy America.”

He apparently called the House speaker “a third-grade politician” to her face, labeled his GOP critics “human scum,” knocked his first defense secretary as “the world’s most overrated general” and argued that the Kurdish people of northern Syria “are no angels” as they faced Turkish invasion and fears of possible genocide.

Without the luxury of undivided attention, anyone who tried to follow the bouncing ball of Trump’s hourly utterances and tweets was doomed to fail, and there is no relief on the horizon. Simply tracking the provocations, contradictions and exhortations that fill the average day of this president can be an overwhelming task.

Trump dazzles and misdirects, prods and pokes, changes topics mid-sentence and frequently offers claims that are on their face so bizarre that they demand repetition by the media, if only to be discounted. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-wages-battle-against-impeachment-with-a-barrage-of-provocations-contradictions-and-exhortations/2019/10/24/078c7d82-f43c-11e9-ad8b-85e2aa00b5ce_story.html

3. Benjamin Hart: President Trump Is Obsessed With Stealing Syria’s Oil 

There is one thing about the chaotic situation in Syria that does seem to preoccupy the president: oil. Precious, precious oil. Over the past weeks, through tweets and public statements, he has made it clear that he considers the protection of it a very high priority.

CNN reported on Thursday that the U.S. would send tanks and troops to an area of eastern Syria to reinforce Kurdish defenses guarding oil fields there. As The Guardian notes, “It is quite likely it would take more troops to deploy, maintain, supply and protect armored units in the middle of the eastern Syrian desert than the roughly 1,000 that were in the country before the Turkish invasion.”

The question of why the U.S. has the right to another country’s oil — especially as it is supposedly completely withdrawing from that country — has received surprisingly little attention amid the ongoing disaster in Syria. But the notion that American’s central goal in the Middle East is plunder of natural resources recalls conspiracy theories around the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And Trump’s current obsession with this point recalls his own sentiments about that war (which he falsely claims not to have supported). In 2013, Trump tweeted, “I still can’t believe we left Iraq without the oil.” Axios reported last year that Trump repeatedly floated the ludicrous idea to Iraq’s prime minister that the country should repay the U.S. — in oil — for the favor of having invaded it.

As the Kurds try to regroup amid the death and destruction around them, they can comfort themselves by knowing that the commander-in-chief of their erstwhile ally has his heart in the right place. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/president-trump-is-obsessed-with-stealing-syrias-oil.html

4. Eric Levitz: Rising Seas Are Going to Drown Way More Cities Than We’d Thought

Climate change will bring (and has already brought) a wide variety of menacing disruptions to human existence. Some of these are well-known and already operative, like the wildfires that have been racing along California’s freeways or the perpetual droughts that have been immiserating Mediterranean farmers. Others are more obscure, like the higher rates of interpersonal and geopolitical violence a warming climate is expected to bring (social science suggests that high temperatures make human blood figuratively boil).

But none of the challenges posed by our warming climate has loomed larger in the popular imagination than sea-level rise. With global populations and wealth heavily concentrated in low-lying coastal cities, humanity has been preoccupied by the prospect of the oceans reclaiming the high points of our civilization. And for good reason: The best available models suggest that 37 million people currently live in places that will be below high tide by 2050 — in an optimistic low-carbon-emissions scenario.

Or rather, that’s what such models suggested before this week. On Tuesday, a new study revealed that those alarming statistics — which had gotten so many of us all worked up about our favorite cities’ impending doom — were wildly inaccurate.

The actual impacts of sea-level rise are going to be much, much worse. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/rising-seas-are-going-to-drown-more-cities-than-wed-thought.html

5. Amanda Marcotte: Trump and Barr's big counterattack: Actually, they're still covering up the Russia conspiracy

As the New York Times reported late Thursday, the Justice Department, which Barr took over after Trump ran out previous Attorney General Jeff Sessions for failing to fully evacuate himself of all remaining traces of integrity, has opened a criminal investigation into the origins of the Russian investigation run by Mueller.

Remember this: Mueller uncovered a vast Russian conspiracy that pulled off something the Watergate burglars never could. Russians or their allies successfully stole information from Democratic Party officials that was used to bolster conspiracy theories that eventually cost the Democratic nominee the election. Mueller also discovered that Trump knew about this conspiracy, encouraged it publicly, and attempted to get involved but apparently failed —probably because the Russians concluded he was unreliable, and involving him was more trouble than it was worth. Mueller also discovered that Trump conducted a lengthy campaign to cover up the Russian conspiracy, resulting in a list of 10 incidents that, if Trump were not protected by his office, could result in federal charges of obstruction of justice.

Just because the Mueller investigation is over doesn't mean Trump's efforts to cover up for Vladimir Putin's campaign against democracy have ended. On the contrary, the obstruction of justice campaign has expanded. Now, under the guidance of Barr, it's being run by the Department of Justice itself. https://www.salon.com/2019/10/25/trump-and-barrs-big-counterattack-actually-theyre-still-covering-up-the-russia-conspiracy/

6. Zak Cheney-Rice: Republicans Want Victimhood Without Being Victimized

On Wednesday morning, a group of Republican lawmakers stormed the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or “SCIF,” where members of the House Oversight, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committees were deposing a witness as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Led by Representative Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman seen previously peddling the conspiracy theory that George Soros is bankrolling migrant caravans from Central America, between 25 and 30 of them occupied the room for several hours in protest, with several asking to be arrested. (None of them were.)

The absurdity of Gaetz & Co.’s posturing was recognized immediately as it unfolded on Wednesday. When GOP Representative Mark Meadows walked past Democrat Jamie Raskin that same afternoon, Raskin quipped to him, “Good to see you! Haven’t seen you since you became a Freedom Rider!” Democrat Eric Swalwell wrote on Twitter, “I’ve always thought telling my children I served with civil rights icons like John Lewis & Elijah Cummings would be the highlight of my time in Congress. But now, I can share the time Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, & Steve King sat in an air-conditioned SCIF and ate pizza for 5 hrs.” The disconnect is indeed ironic. But it should also be taken seriously as a crucial tool for sustaining conservative politics. The public understanding of past civil-rights protests — particularly those against Jim Crow — is that they were righteous crusades against injustices imposed downward by the powerful. But today’s Republicans have found a much easier and more convenient work-around toward the illusion of the same rectitude: Protest like you’re powerless while keeping all the power. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/republicans-scif-protest-and-the-politics-of-victimhood.html

7. Eric Levitz: Recapping Impeachment: Bill Taylor Returns for One Last Mission

All great works of drama feature a memorable, show-stealing pair of clowns — your Rosencrantzes and Gildensterns, your Vladimirs and Estragons. In the drama of Ukraine-gate (a.k.a Ukraine-ghazi, a.k.a. Uncle Rudy’s Wild Ride), the questing couple whose artful failures reveal the icy abyss deep in the heart of human existence is the Ukrainian-Floridian lawyer duo Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Parnas and Fruman are the kind of guys you call “entrepreneurs” with very raised eyebrows; the kind of guys who scheme to sell liquified natural gas to a Ukranian state-owned energy company; the kind of guys, in other words, who are perfect informal associates of President Trump’s informal diplomatic channel in Ukraine. Through big-dollar donations to the GOP — and payments to Rudy — the allegedly Russian mob-affiliated Parnas and Fruman secured clout with congressional Republicans, and meetings with Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at Mar-a-Lago. They used that influence to push for the firing of Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (whom they deemed insufficiently cooperative in advancing their business goals), and advertised their ties to Trump when trying to sell Ukranian energy executives on the merits of their gas deal. Meanwhile, they did the president a solid by imploring Ukranian prosecutors to investigate Joe Biden.

Throughout this time, by the way, Parnas is posting photos of himself hanging out with Rudy and Trump to Instagram, making it, uh, not particularly credible when Trump says, “I don’t know them. I don’t know about them. I don’t know what they do.” For future reference, if you’re an Eastern European natural-gas entrepreneur who has a personal note of thanks from the president, post it to Stories, not the grid.

Alas, Parnas and Fruman couldn’t move their gas. And in pursuit of that ill-fated deal, they allegedly illegally funneled millions of dollars to former Texas Republican congressman Pete Sessions’s reelection campaign, which recently got them arrested on campaign-finance violation charges. Whoops! http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/impeachment-recap-lev-parnas-igor-fruman-and-bill-taylor.html

8. Max Boot: It’s impossible to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt

When previous administrations took controversial steps, there was a general assumption, even among critics, that they were acting in what they believed to be the public interest. When this administration makes contentious decisions — such as awarding a $10 billion Pentagon contract to Microsoft instead of Amazon, or probing the origins of an investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — the presumption of goodwill has been replaced by a presumption of ill will and illegality.

If that sounds harsh, you haven’t been paying attention. Trump’s relations with Ukraine show how he operates. There is now overwhelming evidence — not least from the president’s own mouth — that he held up military aid to Ukraine and a meeting with Ukraine’s president over a demand that Ukraine manufacture dirt on former vice president Joe Biden and information clearing Russia of 2016 hacking. This would be not just an impeachable offense but, as Philip Zelikow of the University of Virginia argues, an attempt to solicit a bribe in violation of federal law. But wait — there’s a second layer of corruption too! Trump delegated Ukraine policy to his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, who was trying to drum up business in Ukraine with two shady characters who have now been arrested. Giuliani’s own business practices are under investigation by federal prosecutors.

This seaminess is entirely in character for a president who was surrounded by felons (his previous personal attorney, his first national security adviser and his former campaign chairman); lied about his payments to an alleged mistress in apparent violation of campaign finance laws; engaged in pervasive obstruction of justice to stymie an investigation into his campaign links with Russia; continues to do business as a property manager and developer around the world; lies 22 times a day; and even falsified a weather map to show that he was right about a hurricane. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/26/its-impossible-give-trump-administration-benefit-doubt/

9. Jonathan Chait: Trump Boasts of War Crimes in Public, Nobody Believes Him

Over the last two and a half years, the once-vast space between Donald Trump’s authoritarian vision of the presidency and the effective powers at his disposal has slowly collapsed. Trump used to wistfully pine for an Attorney General who would protect the president’s personal interests and even cover up his actual crimes, and now he has William Barr. He used to call for American foreign policy as a weapon of plunder, and now he tells the country he has done exactly that.

After telling an audience of police chiefs that the United States would not be a “policeman in this case of two countries that haven’t gotten along for centuries,” but we’re keeping the oil. “I’ve always said that. Keep the oil. $45 million dollars a month.”

As a candidate, Trump used to routinely riff on his desire to use American military to steal resources from smaller countries. “I would take the oil,” he would insist about the Iraq War. “In the old days, you know, when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils. You go in. You win the war and you take it,” he would say.

This course of action is indisputably an international war crime, and probably a violation of American law as well. The entire basis for American alliances is the notion that the U.S. acts as a liberal superpower safeguarding global security within the framework of international law. There may be some dispute as to the proper boundaries of this authority — the Iraq War is a case where the U.S. stretched its authority to enforce the truce terms of the first Gulf War beyond the point that most U.S. allies could accept — but it was undertaken in the name of enforcing a U.N. weapons of destruction agreement. Sending troops in order to seize foreign resources is literally the policy method of Genghis Khan and Hitler. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/trump-keeping-oil-war-crimes-syria.html

10. James D. Walsh: ’The Force of Trump’s Lying Has Ruptured the Space-Time Continuum’: Steve Schmidt on Impeachment

There is an argument to be made that he is the most consequential president since FDR, because he is systematically unraveling, at an extremely fast pace, the U.S.-led global order that was architected by FDR, built by Harry Truman, and maintained from Eisenhower through Obama. And everywhere around the world, all of the countries and all of the groups that we don’t want to see winning on the field of geopolitics — Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Russia, Turkey — are advancing while American interests are retreating.

He has completely remade the American presidency through his debasements of its traditions. He has pitted the country against each other in a cold civil war and he is the first president purposefully who, with each and every utterance, he seeks to incite and divide as opposed to unifying around core principles. He is attacking and degrading our institutions and the concepts of the rule of law that are necessary for the maintenance of the constitutional republic from within. He is utterly infidelitous to his oath to preserve, protect, and strengthen the Constitution of the United States. That makes him, not a clown and a joke, but a dangerous and profoundly consequential figure. I caveat “consequential” by saying it’s not a celebratory statement — it’s one of alarm. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/steve-schmidt-on-trump-impeachment-2020-and-howard-schultz.html

11. Matt Stieb: Trump’s Press Conference Announcing the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Is Peak Trump

The president, who appears to relish violet rhetoric, personal boasting, the defeat of his enemies, and the simplicity of a good vs. evil narrative, announced on Sunday morning that U.S. special forces had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northwestern Syria on Saturday. With such a natural lining up of his interests, Trump turned the event into a spectacle, even promoting the press conference on Twitter the night before.

Anytime President Trump speaks for 48 minutes straight, the appearance is going to get pretty unhinged — which, on Sunday, began about 90 seconds in, when he described the ISIS leader “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” to the back of a tunnel in his compound, where he detonated a suicide vest as he was surrounded by three of his children. The president, who did little to hide his enjoyment in the moment, said that “it was just like a movie.”

Trump seemed to pursue a strategy of dehumanizing al-Baghdadi, the terrorist responsible for the Yazidi genocide, systemized sex slavery within ISIS-controlled territory, and the deaths of thousands in the region. “He was a gutless animal,” Trump said, later adding that “he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying.” He employed one of his frequent, if incoherent, jabs at al-Baghdadi, claiming that he “died like a dog.” In a bizarre piece of symmetry, as Trump degraded the terrorist, he elevated a military canine involved in the raid: “Our K-9, as they call it — I call it a dog, a beautiful dog, a talented dog — was injured and brought back, but we had no soldier injured … We had nobody even hurt. That’s why the dog was so great.”

Trump also took the occasion of his administration’s greatest national-security victory to date to celebrate himself. After explaining the Islamic State’s achievement in recruiting disaffected young men online, he complimented the terrorist organization: “You know, they use the internet better than almost anybody in the world, perhaps other than Donald Trump.” Then came a blur of sentences imaginable only by the president himself: “And what they’ve done with the internet through recruiting and everything — and that’s why he died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming and crying. And frankly that’s something that should be brought out.”

He also found a way to weave in a few historical retellings, claiming that “if you read about the history of Donald Trump, I was a civilian. I had absolutely nothing to do with going into Iraq and I was totally against it.” That’s a standard Trump lie, though the next one was new to the canon: “I wrote a book. A really very successful book. And in that book, about a year before the World Trade Center was blown up, I said there’s somebody named Osama bin Laden, you better kill him or take him out, something to that effect, he’s big trouble … And I’m saying to people, take out Osama bin Laden, that nobody ever heard of.”

President Trump was certainly aware of the moment looming from eight years ago — when President Obama more professionally announced the death of bin Laden — and maturely claimed that his terrorist death outdid that of his predecessor. “This is the worst ever,” he said. “Osama bin Laden was very big but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center. This is a man who built a whole — as he would like to call it — a country, a caliphate. And was trying to do it again.”

Dehumanizing enemies, claiming to upstage Obama, celebrating details of war like they existed only on television — the press conference seemed to hit peak Trump by the end, though his campaign soon added to the performance. Hours later, Trump was fundraising on the death of al-Baghdadi, making it doubtful that he will take the advice he gave during the 2012 election, when he suggested people stop congratulating Obama for the death of bin Laden. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/10/trumps-deranged-conference-on-death-of-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi.html


12. Max Boot: Baghdadi’s death could have been Trump’s finest hour. He messed it up anyway.

President Trump has a preternatural ability to turn any occasion, no matter how solemn or important, into a ridiculous, risible spectacle. He did it again Sunday in announcing the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. When he began to ad-lib about what happened near Idlib, Syria, he treated the world to his usual blend of braggadocio and bluster — dishonest and distasteful in equal measure.

A president who has never heard a shot fired in anger reveled in Baghdadi’s last moments, even claiming “he died like a coward … whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” Trump could not possibly have heard “whimpering and crying” on the overhead imagery because there was no audio, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointedly refused to confirm those details.

Most likely Trump made up the vivid details about Baghdadi’s last moments, just as he made up his claim that he alone called for action against Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. “And I’m saying to people, take out Osama bin Laden, that nobody ever heard of,” Trump recounted. In reality, a ghostwritten book bearing Trump’s name, which came out in 2000, included a brief mention of bin Laden — already a world-famous terrorist who was being hunted by the U.S. government — but did not suggest killing him. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/28/al-baghdadis-death-could-have-been-trumps-finest-hour-he-messed-it-up-anyway/

13. Adam Weinstein: “Blood for Oil” Is Official U.S. Policy Now

In a vacuum, you might imagine that a populist nationalist president—a man who brands himself as a swamp-drainer and has been helpfully described by pundits as a “dove”—would argue that oil is not so precious as to be worth sending armed Americans overseas to “secure” its sources in perpetuity. But we are not in a vacuum; we are in Trump’s world of stupidity, avarice, and transactionality.

When asked if the Baghdadi operation—which was complicated by Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from northern Syria—gave him second thoughts about that withdrawal, he said it was about the oil. https://newrepublic.com/article/155507/blood-oil-official-us-policy-now

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