February 6, 2020

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ON THE RECORD.....

“The president seems to be emulating a French king who said, ‘L’etat, c’est moi.’ ‘The state, it’s me.” No, Article II does not say you can do whatever you want. The Constitution does not say that. ... I don’t know how they can retain their lawyer status in the comments that they are making.I just pray that the senators will have the courage and the ability to handle the truth instead of blocking the truth from themselves in the decision, and from the American people.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi aptly outlined the stakes.

“In my view, they kind of leave themselves open to a lot of criticism. It seems it was half a trial.” — Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly weighing in on the lack of witnesses during the impeachment proceedings.

The White House's Middle East plan is "a great deal" and if Palestinians reject it, “they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.” — Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner

“If the president does something that he thinks will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” — Alan Dershowitz, a celebrity lawyer and constitutional law professor, whose assertion amounted to an argument that even if all of Democrats’ impeachment allegations are true — that Mr. Trump was, in fact, seeking election advantage when he demanded that Ukraine investigate his political opponents — it would still be OK.

“I like that he is here. I strongly believe we have a chance to deliver the state’s 38 electoral college votes to the Democratic nominee. But it won’t happen of its own accord. It’s going to take a massive level of organizing and a significant investment. … The fact that he’s willing to do that bodes very, very well for the state, and may bode well for his candidacy.” -- Beto O’Rourke praising Michael Bloomberg.

If you look at this like a ten-story condominium building, we were only in the Ukraine room, and when you turn on the lights, you saw rats everywhere. Who knows what's going on in the Turkey room, or the Saudi room, or the Russia room, and so, yes. We have a duty to protect our country, and explore further what claims John may have, and what other dealings this president may have been involved in, and we're not gonna stop just because the Senate didn't do their job. --  Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

“So actually in the Constitution of the United States (if) they are found guilty of being a socialist member you either go to prison or are shot. They’re enemies of the free state. What do we do with our enemies in war? In Vietnam, (Afghanistan), all those. What did we do?” — Montana State Rep. Rodney Garcia (R) saying he believes the U.S. Constitution calls for the shooting or jailing of those who identify as socialists.

“It’s Missouri you stone cold idiot.” — Former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, responding to Trump'a post-game tweet congratulating the City Chiefs… saying they “represented the Great State of Kansas.”

"Can you trust the president? The short, plain, sad, incontestable answer is no, you can’t. You can’t trust this president to do the right thing, not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. You just can’t. He will not change, and you know it. A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way. Is there one among you who will say, ‘Enough’? Truth matters to you, and right matters to you.You are decent. He is not who you are.” — From Representative Adam Schiff's closing remarks.

“I’m not running against the other Democratic candidates. I’m running to beat Donald Trump.” — Michael Bloomberg

“Trump’s travel bans have never been rooted in national security — they’re about discriminating against people of color .They are, without a doubt, rooted in anti-immigrant, white supremacist ideologies." -- Senator Kamala Harris on the Trump administration ban on immigration from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

“The real state of the union: a nation divided by an angry, out of control president. A White House beset by lies, chaos and corruption. An administration that has failed the American people. It doesn’t have to be this way. Next year we can have a leader who brings people together, solves problems and gets results. Mike Bloomberg will get it done.” -- Michael Bloomberg's new ad tied to the SOTU address.

"Absolutely, 100%. I would have no problem with him doing it. In fact, I'd have a problem with him not doing it. I think he would be saying that Joe Biden can get away with selling out the United States, making us a fool in the Ukraine.” — Rudy Giuliani saying the president should not back away from investigating Joe Biden.

“Just because we’ve impeached the president does not mean his schemes have stopped. He continues to be a one-man crime wave.” — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary and Oversight committees.

“Yeah, go f--- your mother, you son of a b---- cause I’m gonna f---ing blow your brains out you f---ing piece of s--- mother, f-----, you’re a f----ing piece of s---” -- Peter Meister, a 52-year-old registered sex offender, drunkenly left this threatening voicemail at Rep. Schiff’s Washington, D.C. office after watching Fox News and googling the congressman’s phone number.

"Just about everything in terms of American and global history seems new to Trump. From his confounding man crush on Vladimir Putin to his nuclear saber-rattling with North Korea, Trump has created more fear than hope—and hope is an essential element of presidential leadership. He comes to the office warped by self-absorption, conceit, and a narcissistic certitude that he is always right while the rest of the world, unless it is busy flattering him, is wrong, even hostile. Without historical context, without humility, without empathy, he's what the author of the book of Proverbs had in mind when he warned that pride goeth before a fall." — Jon Meacham

"He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech. What we heard last night was a disgrace.’— Nancy Pelosi to House Democrats.

“Mind-blowing stat: 48 Senators who voted to convict Trump represent 18 million more Americans than 52 Republicans who voted to acquit” — Ari Berman

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the president from office. The results of this Senate court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgment of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the president’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong. — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the only Republican senator to vote Wednesday to convict president Trump on the impeachment charge of abuse of power.


IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Florida Offers To Help Iowa Count Votes
2. Fact-checking Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address
4. Trump curbs immigrants from 6 nations in election-year push
5. West Virginia governor urges unhappy Virginia counties to secede and join his state
6. Wilbur Ross Says Coronavirus Will Be Good for U.S. Jobs
7. Trump's impeachment created two Democratic superstars
8. Woman who says Trump raped her seeks his DNA
9. Bloomberg Proposes $5 Trillion in Taxes on the Rich  and Corporations
10. The DAILY GRILL
11. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
12. ’The center of the orbit’: Endangered Republicans go all-in on Trump
13. Romney not welcome at CPAC after impeachment witness vote
14. Climate Models Are Running Red Hot, and Scientists Don’t Know Why
15. Trump’s Super Bowl Ad Ranked Last
16. Bloomberg Plans to Double Ad Spending After Iowa Caucus Problem
17. Nate Silver: Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process
18. From the Late Shows

OPINION

1. John Stoehr: Donald Trump's 'Gothic' Speech
2. Jonathan Chait: Trump Cites Sole Triumph: Rebranding Obama’s Economy As His Own
3. Gabriel Sherman: “It’s Payback Time”: With Acquittal Certain, Trump Plots Revenge On, Impeachment Enemies
4. Susan B. Glasser: Alan Dershowitz For The Defense: L’état, C’est Trump
5. Robin Wright: Trump Unveils The “Giveaway Of The Century” On Middle East Peace
6. Maureen Dowd: Trump, Unrepentant and Unleashed
7. Jonathan Chait: The Republican Cover-up Will Backfire. The House Can Keep Investigating Trump.
8. John Cassidy: New Reports Show That Trump’s Economic Promises Were Empty
9. Chris Coons: Trump’s expanded travel ban is a grave foreign policy mistake
10. Megan McArdle: Four things Democrats need to understand about beating Trump
11. Bess Levin: Mike Bloomberg Loving What This Iowa Caucus Debacle Has Done For His Candidacy
12. Paul Waldman: The time has come to kill the Iowa caucuses
13. Bess Levin: Report: Trump Is Melting Down Over Bloomberg Ads About His Weight
14. Sarah Ellison: From the Archive: The Enablers

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Florida Offers To Help Iowa Count Votes

Calling the delay in the release of the Iowa caucus results “a threat to democracy,” the state of Florida has offered to help Iowa with the vote-counting process.

Harland Dorrinson, a spokesman for Florida’s official electoral commission, said on Tuesday morning that “Florida stands ready and willing to restore credibility to Iowa’s vote-tabulation procedures.”

Dorrinson added that Katherine Harris, Florida’s former secretary of state, was eager to “roll up her sleeves and clean up Iowa’s mess.”

“Just say the word, Iowa, and Katherine Harris will be on the next plane out,” he said.

For their part, Iowa Democratic Party officials said that they were already making great progress in counting the caucus results, and that early returns indicated that a white person had won. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

Video: Andy Borowitz explains why Donald Trump’s impeachment is a precious moment to be treasured, and reveals what secrets lurk behind closed doors at The New Yorker.

2. Fact-checking Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address

Trump’s State of the Union speech once again was chock-full of stretched facts and dubious figures. Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them.

The 31 false statements, in the order in which he made them, are at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/04/fact-checking-president-trumps-2020-state-union-address/

3. Trump administration reveals it's blocking dozens of emails about Ukraine aid freeze, including President's role

The Department of Justice revealed in a court filing late Friday that it has two dozen emails related to President Donald Trump's involvement in the withholding of millions in security assistance to Ukraine -- a disclosure that came just hours after the Senate voted against subpoenaing additional documents and witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, paving the way for his acquittal.

The filing, released near midnight Friday, marks the first official acknowledgment from the Trump administration that emails about the President's thinking related to the aid exist, and that he was directly involved in asking about and deciding on the aid as early as June. The administration is still blocking those emails from the public and has successfully kept them from Congress. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/01/politics/trump-ukraine-aid-emails-omb-justice-department/index.html

4. Trump curbs immigrants from 6 nations in election-year push

The Trump administration announced Friday that it was restricting immigrants from six additional countries that officials said failed to meet minimum security standards, as part of an election-year push to further clamp down immigration.

Officials said immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain visas to come to the United States. But it is not a total travel ban, unlike President Donald Trump’s earlier effort that generated outrage around the world for targeting Muslims.
Trump signed a proclamation on the restrictions Friday; they go into effect Feb. 21

The announcement came as Trump tries to promote his crackdown on immigration, highlighting a signature issue that motivated supporters in 2016 and hoping it has the same effect this November. The administration recently announced birth tourism restrictions, is touting the sharp decline in crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and citing progress on building the border wall. https://apnews.com/cc950f2201d17f6e49311ae1909ebb1c

5. West Virginia governor urges unhappy Virginia counties to secede and join his state

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) encouraged Virginia counties unhappy with the Democratic-controlled government in Richmond to secede from the state and join his.

“If you’re not happy where you’re at, come on down,” Justice reportedly said at a Tuesday press conference with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. “If you’re not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or anywhere you may be. We stand strongly behind the Second Amendment, and we stand strongly for the unborn." https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/480381-west-virginia-governor-urges-unhappy-virginia-counties-to-secede-join

6. Wilbur Ross Says Coronavirus Will Be Good for U.S. Jobs

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox News the coronavirus — which has killed 170 in China and infected more than 7,700 people — “will help” to bring jobs to the United States because companies will be moving operations away from impacted areas.

Said Ross: “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.” https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1222863896882679808

7. Trump's impeachment created two Democratic superstars

Sitting shoulder to shoulder on the Senate floor as they argue for the president’s removal from office, two men, Adam Schiff of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, have been catapulted to the front of the nation's consciousness, to the top of the Democratic Party and have become the fulcrum for speculation about a host of prominent positions both in the House and beyond. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/30/impeachment-jeffries-schiff-109249

8. Woman who says Trump raped her seeks his DNA

Lawyers for a woman who accuses President Donald Trump of raping her in the 1990s are asking for a DNA sample, seeking to determine whether his genetic material is on a dress she says she wore during the encounter.

Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s lawyers served notice to a Trump attorney Thursday for Trump to submit a sample on March 2 in Washington for “analysis and comparison against unidentified male DNA present on the dress.”

Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump in November after the president denied her allegation. Her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, then had the black wool coat-style dress tested. A lab report with the legal notice says DNA found on the sleeves was a mix of at least four people, at least one of them male.

Several other people were tested and eliminated as possible contributors to the mix, according to the lab report, which was obtained by The Associated Press. Their names are redacted.

While the notice is a demand, such demands often spur court fights requiring a judge to weigh in on whether they will be enforced.

The White House and Trump’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. https://apnews.com/0475983f6c1e40628d2a3058e270a747

9. Bloomberg Proposes $5 Trillion in Taxes on the Rich  and Corporations

Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York unveiled a plan on Saturday that would raise an estimated $5 trillion in new tax revenue from high earners and corporations, a proposal that would almost certainly raise his personal tax bill but is less aggressive than those from his most liberal rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The proposal includes a repeal of President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for high earners, along with a new 5 percent “surcharge” on incomes above $5 million per year. It would raise capital gains taxes for Americans earning more than $1 million a year and maintain a limit on federal deductions of state and local tax payments set under the 2017 law, which some Democrats have pushed to eliminate.

For high-earning owners of businesses that are not organized as corporations, it would repeal a tax deduction granted by the Trump tax cuts — and it would partially repeal Mr. Trump’s income tax cuts for corporations, raising their rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. Before 2017, the top corporate rate was 35 percent. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/us/politics/michael-bloomberg-tax-plan.html

10. The DAILY GRILL

The Trump plan is “the deal of the century.” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 

VERSUS

This plan is “the latest example of this administration’s snake oil diplomacy—packaging useless ideas and trying to market them as innovative. Having spent three years punishing Palestinians and distancing U.S. policy from any realistic positions that might lead to peace, the administration has unveiled a plan that Palestinians will justifiably reject, thus giving the administration an opportunity to support annexationist actions by Israel.” — Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt.

 

“He was impeached, and there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call. I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.” —  Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

VERSUS

“It was a perfect call.” — Trump when asked about Collins’s contention that he had learned a lesson during impeachment. The president insisted that he had done nothing wrong.

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

On January 29, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released her plan to push back against disinformation that has seemingly taken over the internet in recent years. That same day, a CNBC headline suggested Warren had proposed “criminal penalties for spreading voting disinformation online.” The headline ultimately snowballed into a right-wing media smear accusing Warren of plotting to criminalize political beliefs with which she disagrees. https://www.mediamatters.org/elizabeth-warren/how-cnbc-headline-describing-elizabeth-warrens-plan-fight-disinformation

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton and other key conservative media figures manufactured and spread a false smear about voter registrations, previewing how right-wing media plan to spread disinformation to sow doubt and confusion throughout the 2020 election cycle. https://www.mediamatters.org/tom-fitton/how-tom-fitton-and-conservative-media-spread-debunked-voter-fraud-disinformation-about

12. ’The center of the orbit’: Endangered Republicans go all-in on Trump

Many of the most endangered Republicans have concluded that fully embracing President Trump is their only credible path to victory in November, rallying to his side in the final days of the Senate impeachment fight and indulging his most controversial actions and statements.

At-risk Republicans — including those in battlegrounds such as Arizona, Colorado and Georgia — are calculating that a strong economy and an energized pro-Trump base will be enough to carry the party as it works to retain the White House and its Senate majority in 2020, according to interviews and private discussions with more than a dozen Republican senators, Senate aides and veteran strategists and officials.

More broadly, most Republicans have also largely jettisoned plans to break ranks with Trump to woo independents and suburban women, who turned on the party in 2018 and helped hand the House to Democrats. This political positioning is driven in part by their view that Democrats are again poised to nominate a uniquely vulnerable presidential standard-bearer weighed down with ideological or establishment baggage.

“There’s nothing in the middle of the road other than dead possums and yellow lines,” said Will Ritter, co-founder of Poolhouse, a center-right ad agency. “Like no other president before, Republican voters want you to wrap yourself around Trump. There is no upside to doing any distancing.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-center-of-the-orbit-endangered-republicans-go-all-in-on-trump/2020/01/31/154b2b38-4376-11ea-aa6a-083d01b3ed18_story.html

13. Romney not welcome at CPAC after impeachment witness vote

CPAC's host chair announced that Sen. Mitt Romney will not be invited to this year's conservative conference in the aftermath of Romney's vote to hear additional witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/31/romney-cpac-impeachment-110143

14. Climate Models Are Running Red Hot, and Scientists Don’t Know Why

There are dozens of climate models, and for decades they’ve agreed on what it would take to heat the planet by about 3° Celsius. It’s an outcome that would be disastrous—flooded cities, agricultural failures, deadly heat—but there’s been a grim steadiness in the consensus among these complicated climate simulations.

Then last year, unnoticed in plain view, some of the models started running very hot. The scientists who hone these systems used the same assumptions about greenhouse-gas emissions as before and came back with far worse outcomes. Some produced projections in excess of 5°C, a nightmare scenario. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-03/climate-models-are-running-red-hot-and-scientists-don-t-know-why

15. Trump’s Super Bowl Ad Ranked Last

USA Today measured which Super Bowl commercials people liked best. President Trump’s came in dead last. https://admeter.usatoday.com/results/2020

16. Bloomberg Plans to Double Ad Spending After Iowa Caucus Problem

Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor whose campaign is fueled by a multibillion-dollar personal fortune, conferred with advisers on Tuesday morning about the muddled results in Iowa. Encouraged by the murky outcome, Mr. Bloomberg authorized his campaign team to double his spending on television commercials in every market where he is currently advertising and expand his campaign’s field staff to more than two thousand people. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/04/us/politics/michael-bloomberg-campaign-ads.html

17. Nate Silver: Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process

Maybe there will eventually be a decent-sized Iowa bounce despite all of this. But there’s a good chance that the candidates who did well in Iowa get screwed, and the candidates who did poorly there get a mulligan. To repeat: There’s very little importance in a mathematical sense to who wins 41 delegates. Iowa is all about the media narrative it produces and all about momentum, and that momentum, whoever wins, is likely to have been blunted. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/iowa-might-have-screwed-up-the-whole-nomination-process/

18. From the Late Shows

Impeachment Fantasy Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/ZxIIv6uQY6k

Weekend Update: End of Impeachment Trial - SNL: https://youtu.be/1CjEYNueezw

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner’s Middle East “Peace Plan” | The Daily Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9kHPIYLrec

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: According To Alan Dershowitz, Anything Trump Does Is Legal If It's Done In Pursuit Of His Reelect…: https://youtu.be/cXXPRImhn_E

Colbert's LIVE Monologue Following Trump's 2020 State Of The Union Address: https://youtu.be/M22BGRnD1MA

OPINION

1. John Stoehr: Donald Trump's 'Gothic' Speech

After watching last night two hours of Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, the word “gothic” keep ringing in my ears. It wouldn’t stop. His address was a perversion of morality, an inversion of common sense and a glorification of pettiness and barbarism.

For the benefit of racist white people, Trump said he was good for black people. He took credit for Barack Obama’s successes while blaming Obama for his failures. He said he was fighting for inclusion, democracy and justice even as he undoes them. He said children should be free even as he allows them to be caged. He warned white voters not to trust Democrats. They will take your Social Security and Medicare before giving it to “criminal aliens” bent on murdering you and destroying the United States.

On and on it went. It was a nationally televised gaslighting session aiming to dislodge our trust in reality, in ourselves and in democracy. It was punctuated only by cynical and cheap sugar highs (“made for TV moments”) in the form of a scholarship for a young boy, a medal for Rush Limbaugh and a surprise appearance for a military wife missing her husband. https://stoehr.substack.com/p/donald-trumps-gothic-speech

2. Jonathan Chait: Trump Cites Sole Triumph: Rebranding Obama’s Economy As His Own

Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address was organized around one main lie: “If we hadn’t reversed failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not be witnessing this great economic success.” Almost everything the president said flowed from that premise. And yet it is obviously, almost indisputably false.

He shrewdly reversed his rhetorical posture, having previously disparaged it as a wasteland of hopelessness, and immediately boasted of the prosperity his election had ushered in. Public confidence in the current state of the economy surged within days of the election, driven entirely by Republicans, who now had permission to admit Barack Obama’s socialist debt spree had not, in fact, turned the United States into a basket case. The rapidity of the turnaround shows how little relationship it had to any policy accomplishment.

The truth is Trump’s economy is about as good overall as the one Obama left him. The main difference is that he has borrowed a lot more money, and he and his wealthy friends are skimming a lot more off the top. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/02/trump-cites-sole-triumph-rebranding-obamas-economy-as-his.html

3. Gabriel Sherman: “It’s Payback Time”: With Acquittal Certain, Trump Plots Revenge On, Impeachment Enemies

With Senate Republicans on track to acquit Donald Trump on Wednesday, Washington is bracing for what an unshackled Trump does next. Republicans briefed on Trump’s thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries. “It’s payback time,” a prominent Republican told me last week.

“He has an enemies list that is growing by the day,” another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. “Trump’s playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment.”

Several sources said Bolton is at the top of the list. Trump’s relationship with Bolton was badly damaged by the time Bolton left the White House in September. Trump has since blamed his former national security adviser for leaking details of his forthcoming memoir that nearly derailed the impeachment trial by pressuring Republicans to call witnesses. In the book Bolton reportedly alleges Trump told him directly that Ukraine aid was tied to Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/02/trump-plots-revenge-on-bolton-impeachment-enemies

4. Susan B. Glasser: Alan Dershowitz For The Defense: L’état, C’est Trump

An hour into the Senate trial of Donald John Trump on Wednesday, the emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz came to the floor to answer a question from a former Harvard law student, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas. In theory, it was a question that went to the heart of the impeachment case against Trump, about the President’s imposition of a quid pro quo on military aid to Ukraine and whether his motivations mattered. Dershowitz had something larger and more profound to say, however: Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it.

For more than a week, House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump have argued that the Senate’s failure to convict him would make Trump an unaccountable leader; in effect, a dictator or a king. When Dershowitz spoke, it was as if he completely agreed with them. Two days earlier, Dershowitz had told senators that Presidential “abuse of power” should not be considered an impeachable offense under the Constitution. On Wednesday, he took that further—much further. “If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment. Really?

Trump has already said that he considers himself empowered by Article II of the Constitution “to do whatever I want.” Video of this extraordinary moment has been played, repeatedly, by House managers in the trial. They clearly saw it as a damning statement made by a power-grabbing President—and then the President’s counsel, in effect, endorsed Trump’s power grab on the floor of the Senate. So long as Trump believes himself to be acting in the national interest, Dershowitz said, he can do whatever he wants. If the past three years have taught us anything, it is that Trump is a President who is comfortable conflating his own interest with the national interest. L’état, c’est Trump. https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/alan-dershowitz-for-the-defense-letat-cest-trump

5. Robin Wright: Trump Unveils The “Giveaway Of The Century” On Middle East Peace

Three years after he said that peace in the Middle East was “not as difficult as people have thought,”  Donald Trump unveiled a lopsided plan that gives Israel much of what it has long sought and imposes daunting requirements that the Palestinians must meet before negotiations can even begin. The President described his plan, orchestrated by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as “the last opportunity” for a Palestinian state. Yet it fails to address many of the problems that led to the collapse of earlier peace initiatives. The plan calls for a two-state solution, but largely in name only. It grants Israel’s long-standing demands on settlements and borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees. Israel will have the right to annex parts of the West Bank that it now occupies, significantly reducing and further dividing Palestinian territory. It gets control of Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital. And it will assume security control over the entire West Bank, the Jordan River Valley, and Jerusalem. The Palestinians will be left with a proto-state that is physically divided, economically challenged, and possibly not viable as a modern country. Trump’s plan also lacks diplomatic energy—with no formal mechanism to get the two sides together—or any sense of urgency, since it offers a vague four-year window for the Palestinians to complete a long list of preconditions just to talk with Israel.

The conflict between Israel and the Arabs—now in its seventy-second year—is one of the world’s longest. The Trump plan will probably let it rumble on for another four years, with ominous implications for all countries in the volatile Middle East—and, quite possibly, to the benefit of no one. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/trump-unveils-the-giveaway-of-the-century-on-middle-east-peace

6. Maureen Dowd: Trump, Unrepentant and Unleashed

The Republican Party has now lost whatever control they could exert over this president, any oversight they could have. It’s gone. The state of the union is there is no union. How can there be, when one side is petrified of their Godzilla?”

Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat, dismissed Republicans as “a cult of personality” around Trump.

“This trial in so many ways crystallized the completely diametrically opposed threats that Democrats and Republicans see to the country,” Murphy told The Times’s Nicholas Fandos. “We perceive Donald Trump and his corruption to be an existential threat to the country. They perceive the deep state and the liberal media to be an existential threat to the country.

“That dichotomy, that contrast, has been growing over the last three years, but this trial really crystallized that difference. We were just speaking different languages, fundamentally different languages when it came to what this trial was about. They thought it was about the deep state and the media conspiracy. We thought it was about the president’s crimes.”

As with so many other pivotal moments in modern history, Republicans wanted to win, not look for the truth. And history, God help us, is written by the winners. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/opinion/sunday/trump-impeachment-trial-witnesses.html

7. Jonathan Chait: The Republican Cover-up Will Backfire. The House Can Keep Investigating Trump.

Toward the end, the impeachment trial’s strategic purpose narrowed into an obsessive quest to produce evidence. Democrats have defined victory not as removal, but as winning a procedural vote to allow more testimony, especially by John Bolton. The House managers have designed their arguments not to reinforce Trump’s guilt but to underscore the need for more testimony. They seem to have given little attention to the question of whether such a victory would actually serve their larger strategic purposes at all. Republicans may have succeeded in blocking all new evidence and driving toward the rapid conclusion they seek, bu the tactical victory may well become a strategic defeat.

If the several days that have passed since the Bolton revelation have proved anything, it is just how uninterested Republicans are in holding Trump to account for his misconduct. Initially, even Trump’s staunchest supporters conceded that pressuring Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals would be, if true, unacceptable. (Lindsey Graham: “very disturbing”; Steve Doocy: “off-the-rails-wrong.”) As evidence of guilt accumulated, their denial that this unacceptable conduct took place narrowed to a tiny, highly specific claim: No witness testified that Trump personally ordered them to carry out a quid pro quo. Bolton is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

It is probably for this reason that Republicans have fallen back to a quasi-legal argument offered by Alan Dershowitz: Even if true, abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. While Dershowitz’s reasoning is ahistorical, legally absurd, and opens the door to aspiring strongmen, it signals the party’s determination to acquit Trump regardless of the facts. Democrats hoped to persuade four Republicans to allow new evidence, and thus to extend the trial for perhaps a few weeks, prove Trump’s culpability even more thoroughly than they have. But this would only proceed to a partisan vote to acquit. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/01/senate-impeachment-trial-evidence-bolton-cover-up-trump-ukraine.html

8. John Cassidy: New Reports Show That Trump’s Economic Promises Were Empty

The core of Donald Trump’s platform is that his policies have produced what he touts as “The Greatest Economy in American History!” The truth is very different. By enacting a huge tax cut, in late 2017, that was heavily slanted toward corporations and the rich, Trump and the Republicans gave the economy a temporary boost—in 2018, it grew at an annual rate of 2.9 per cent—that has now faded.

In the fourth quarter of last year, G.D.P.—the broadest measure of activity in the economy—expanded at an annual rate of 2.1 per cent, the new report from the Commerce Department showed. Taking 2019 as a whole, G.D.P. grew at 2.3 per cent. These growth rates are nowhere near the four-per-cent growth that Trump promised in 2016. Instead, they are in line with the average growth rate since 2000, which is 2.2 per cent. And this ho-hum outcome has only been achieved at a tremendous cost. The federal government is now running an enormous budget deficit and accumulating vast amounts of new debt, which will burden taxpayers for decades to come. After three years of Trump’s Presidency, in fact, the United States is starting to look like one of his highly indebted business ventures.

This year, the new report from the C.B.O. says, the deficit will be about a trillion dollars. Ten years from now, it will be roughly $1.3 trillion. Numbers like these are so big that they are hard to take in. The way economists make sense of them is by comparing the dollar amount to the level of G.D.P., much like a family might compare its mortgage to its income. If you do this, you can see just how out of whack with history the Trump Presidency really is.

Just last week, I pointed out that the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, will need to debunk Trump’s claims about the economy. These latest economic reports provide plenty of material to work with. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/new-reports-show-that-trumps-economic-promises-were-empty

9. Chris Coons: Trump’s expanded travel ban is a grave foreign policy mistake

President Trump and his administration often justify their national security policies by posing a false choice to the American people: that we can either keep America safe or preserve our fundamental values.

That was Trump’s core message in January 2017 when he banned travel to the United States by people from seven Muslim-majority countries, and it’s the message we heard today — three years later — when the president announced that he’s expanding the ban to immigrants from six more countries: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

The truth, though, is that this policy does not make us safer; in fact, it does the opposite. It does not help us fight terrorism, combat extremism or secure democracy around the world. It has senselessly separated thousands of U.S. citizens from their families. It reinforces Trump’s message that we should fear refugees and our immigrant neighbors, and it fuels already growing division and intolerance here at home.

The United States is strongest when we are a welcoming country capable of attracting talented people from all over the world. We’re safer when we do, too. That’s why dozens of national security experts oppose the current ban and why I have strongly opposed it since Trump proposed it during the 2016 campaign.

The United States has been a beacon of hope and freedom to the world for generations because we’ve built our foreign policy and immigration policies on our values, not on fear. Now is not the time to change that. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/01/31/trump-travel-ban-chris-coons-oped/

10. Megan McArdle: Four things Democrats need to understand about beating Trump

 Everyone has Trump on the brain. Candidates explain, at great length, why they are the one whom Trump fears most in the general election. At question time, the audience offers likely Trump attacks and demands a detailed plan to counter them.

Despite having listened to those questions, they might not understand the biggest problems they face:

The economy isn’t as bad as Democrats think. When the 2019 gross domestic product growth figures came out, the media treatment was generally glum, and rank-and-file Democrats seemed almost cheery. Why, growth was only 2.3 percent for the year! Darn those trade wars! Surely now voters will realize what a disaster Trump is. Reality check: In 2011, GDP grew only 1.6 percent; it grew at 2.2 percent in 2012. Yet President Barack Obama still got reelected — with an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, instead of the 3.5 percent we now enjoy.

Trump is a good public speaker. Trump, by contrast, sounds like … well, actually, he sounds a lot closer to how most people talk than a “good” public speaker. He speaks in short sentences and uses a small vocabulary. He makes up names for stuff to aid listener memory. He repeats himself. He digresses at random.

Voters aren’t paying much attention to impeachment. It obviously isn’t even a top issue for the attendees at Democratic campaign events — which means it’s definitely not going to move independents or Republicans. Maybe it should. But “should” doesn’t win elections.

The Democratic field is extraordinarily weak. Consider that FiveThirtyEight currently considers Joe Biden the most likely nominee — even though he dropped out of previous primaries before Michael Dukakis and Hillary Clinton, two of the least charismatic candidates in living memory. Both ultimately lost general elections.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that any of them would be a better president than Trump. But for all the reasons I’ve listed above, I’m less than sure that any of them will get the chance to prove me right. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/01/31/what-democrats-need-understand-beat-trump/

11. Bess Levin: Mike Bloomberg Loving What This Iowa Caucus Debacle Has Done For His Candidacy

“This is the best-case scenario.”

Since jumping into the Democratic primary last November, Mike Bloomberg has spent more than $300 million of his own money in what many have viewed as a vain attempt to win the nomination. Among those people thinking the three-time mayor has little-to-no shot? Up until recently, apparently Bloomberg himself! According to the Washington Post, in the wake of Monday night’s Iowa disaster, the billionaire “authorized his advisers Tuesday morning to double television spending for his own presidential campaign, as his advisers have become more bullish on his odds of success.” In other words, the more than a quarter of a billion dollars spent up to this point was primarily for the purposes of making Donald Trump’s life hell and proverbial shits and giggles. But now that Daddy Warbucks actually thinks he has a chance, he’s cranking the money spigot to full-blast. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/02/mike-bloomberg-iowa-caucus-disaster

12. Paul Waldman: The time has come to kill the Iowa caucuses

The best thing about the 2020 Iowa caucuses is that it may be the end of the Iowa caucuses.

In fact, if we take the long view, we should be celebrating the debacle that occurred Monday night. As a longtime venomous critic of the Iowa caucuses, I couldn’t be happier.

To catch you up: Someone thought it was a good idea to have workers at each caucus report in their results on a brand-new app that hadn’t been tested, with the predictable result that the whole thing melted down. Then they couldn’t get through on the phone either, and now we still don’t know who won.

Even the idea of winning was made more complex this year, as the state party decided to report three sets of results: the initial vote totals, the final vote totals (after supporters of candidates who failed to reach 15 percent in each caucus were reallocated) and the winners of delegates to the state convention, which is the “real” result.

About that 15 percent rule: If you tuned in to cable news and watched correspondents running around middle school gyms explaining that one candidate’s supporters didn’t reach the threshold of viability and so had to find another candidate, you probably asked, “What’s the point of that?”

It’s a good question. Why on earth should a candidate who gets 14 percent of the vote in a given precinct get zero votes when the results are tabulated? How is that supposed to be democratic? https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/04/time-has-come-kill-iowa-caucus/

13. Bess Levin: Report: Trump Is Melting Down Over Bloomberg Ads About His Weight

As you may have heard, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg recently got into the Democratic primary with one goal: to troll the shit out of Donald Trump. Oh sure, he’d like to be the nominee, but more than that, Bloomberg has been spending hundreds of millions of his own money to drive the president insane. And thus far, it appears to be working! Last month, the New York Times reported that despite Bloomberg’s relatively low polling, he’s managed to get under Trump’s skin much more than, say, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, and Trump is apparently “pricked” by Bloomberg’s massive ad buys and anti-DJT messaging, including spots targeting his treatment of military leaders. And if the events of the last 24 hours are any indication, it’s been $200 million (and counting!) well spent.

Fueled by an alleged, though totally believable, anger over Bloomberg ads targeting his “girth,” Trump spent Sunday attacking “Mini Mike” on Twitter, declaring the three-time mayor “fake news,” a loser, out to get Sanders, and, most damningly, short:

Not content to let the president spin his wheels, Bloomberg’s campaign shot back via his national press secretary, Julie Wood, who said in a statement: “The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan.” Later that day, Bloomberg himself responded: “I will stand on my accomplishments of what I’ve done to bring this country together and get things done. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I stand twice as tall as he does on the stage, on the stage that matters.” https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/02/donald-trump-mike-bloomberg-feud

14. Sarah Ellison: From the Archive: The Enablers

Blame for the ongoing destruction wrought by the Trump administration will always attach to Donald Trump. But Trump cannot help himself. He is a pathogen, doing what pathogens do, and as surprised as anyone to have found himself replicating in the nation’s bloodstream. Equal blame will attach to a small group of experienced and seemingly rational politicians who knew exactly what Trump was like; who had cause to loathe and distrust him; who understood firsthand that he knew nothing about government and did not care to know anything; who could see clearly that he was dangerous, brutal, and corrupt; and who nonetheless decided, after occasional protests, to help him achieve and hold power. These are people who have been repeatedly belittled and mocked by Trump, who have sometimes been forced to voice their disgust at his words and actions, and who—for reasons that range from ambition and fear to denial and moral blindness—not only have declined to stand in his way but continue to prop him up. One or more of them may ultimately decide to defy him, but nothing will absolve them of the damage already done.

The Trump administration may last for months or it may last for years. There will be crises and catastrophes. A corrosion of values and spirit has already set in. The outside world pulls away. John Boehner, the Republican former Speaker of the House, now retired and fortified with tobacco and Merlot, has called Trump “a disaster.” Donald Trump will suffer his own grim fate in the eyes of historians, but it will come with an asterisk: he is a profoundly damaged human being with no true understanding of his capacities, his emotions, his ignorance, his job, or the fundamentals of human decency.

His enablers will get no asterisk. They will be treated with the special contempt reserved for those who acted knowingly and cravenly, with eyes wide open. https://archive.vanityfair.com/article/2017/8/the-enablers

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