Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs, Part 22

Listening to the impeachment hearings at the House Judiciary Committee, it really is extraordinary to recognize the extent of the hypocrisy of the Republican members. If you were coming to this debate for the first time, their arguments might sound reasonable on their face. But they are not. Let’s examine their arguments, and the responses to them.

That Trump said do “Us” a favor instead of do “Me” a favor

The Republicans want us to believe that it makes a difference that on the call Trump said do “us” a favor instead of do “me” a favor. They want us to believe that the “us” here refers to the United States and that Trump was genuinely concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

This argument would be completely laughable if it hadn’t been advanced as a serious argument.

The “us” here clearly refers to Trump’s administration (or the “royal we”). Trump isn’t concerned about corruption in Ukraine, he isn’t even concerned about corruption in the United States. Hell, he isn’t even concerned about corruption in the Trump organization, unless it’s the question of how to be better at being corrupt. Just the other day the Trump Foundation was required to pay $2 million in penalties for the misuse of funds just last month.

That Ukrainian President Zelenksy denies that he was pressured

The GOP argues that Zelensky really didn’t feel any pressure because he’s said so in interviews and in public. Unfortunately, this is like arguing that a battered wife is telling the truth when she says in court that her husband did not threaten to do her harm.

She has to go home again and deal with her husband after the court hearing is over.

Zelenksy still has to deal with Trump as long as he’s President. And he doesn’t want to get involved in US domestic policies.

Are we saying that Zelenksy is lying when he says that he felt no pressure. Yes, we’re saying it. Not because he’s a bad man, but because he’s the moral equivalent of an abused wife.

That President Trump is not being charged with a specific crime under Federal Law

The GOP seems to think that it matters that Trump is not being charged with bribery under the federal code. But there is no requirement that Trump be charged with a federal crime. Various constitutional scholars have made clear that the “high” in high crimes and misdemeanors refers to the high office of the President. The Congress are not federal prosecutors, and do not need to prove a federal crime.

Clinton was impeached for perjury, but the perjury he engaged in was clearly about a consensual affair that he had not wanted to admit to his wife. It did not involve an abuse of his office, and yet the Republicans were happy to impeach him.

Vandalizing a US postal mailbox is a federal crime, punishable by a fine of up to $250,000. But no one is suggesting — as one of the members pointed out — that Trump would be impeached if he were found to have vandalized a US postal mailbox. That is because it would not impact his duty as President.

But trying to rig an election by having a foreign country create a fake investigation is the essence of the abuse of power.

That the Mueller Report did not Recommend Charging Trump with a Crime

The GOP seems to think that it’s important that the Mueller report did not recommend that Trump be charged with a crime. But the Mueller report did not recommend that only because they bought into an Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the Department of Justice opining that a sitting President cannot be indicted.

On the other hand Mueller’s team provided evidence of ten different instances of Trump’s obstruction of justice, and practically begged the Congress to impeach Trump for these transgressions.

Personally, I wish that the Mueller instances of obstruction would have been included in the Articles of Impeachment.1 But the Democratic leadership, for better or worse, decided to focus the impeachment narrowly on narratives that they thought that the American people would understand.

I’m not about to second-guess Nancy Pelosi at this point, but I do wish that the Mueller information had been included. It would clearly make for much longer hearings, however.

That President Trump released the Military Aid to the Ukrainians

The GOP seems to think it’s significant that the President eventually released the hold on the military aid to the Ukrainians. But he did not do that until after the Whistleblower came forward and after it became obvious that his pressuring of the Ukrainians was going to become a major issue.

President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that he wanted “No Quid Pro Quo”

Again, the GOP seems to think it’s significant that the President Trump, in a September 9, 2019 phone call, told the Ambassador that he wanted “no quid pro quo” from the Ukrainians. But again, this conversation did not take place until after the whistleblower came forward and after it became obvious that his pressuring of the Ukrainians was going to become a major issue.

That President Zelenksy did not announce the requested investigations

The GOP seems to think that it’s significant that President Zelensky never announced the requested investigations. The problem with this argument is that Zelensky’s administration was in active negotiations with Kurt Volker, Trump’s Special Envoy to Ukraine, about how to word the announcement of the investigations, and he had agreed to make the announcements on CNN when the agreement was derailed by the revelations from the whistleblower.

That the Minority was not granted a Day to Call in Witnesses

The GOP are angry that they were not granted an entire day to call witnesses so that they could distract from the Trump impeachment. Even though nothing in the rules requires the Majority to grant that.

Who are the witnesses they wanted to call?

Witnesses having to do with Hunter Biden and Burisma.

Of course, they could have investigated Hunter Biden and Burisma while they were in the majority, which was recently as October of 2018. Hunter Biden was appointed to the Burisma board in 2014. And while Hunter Biden’s sitting on the Board does not smell good, the issue has already been looked at by others, and there is no evidence of illegality or wrongdoing.

So, they’re mad that the Majority won’t allow them to begin an entirely separate and irrelevant investigation.

That Hunter Biden’s alleged corruption exculpates the President

The false allegation that Hunter Biden is corrupt would, in the GOP’s view, exculpate the President from wrongdoing. In other words, the President would have been correct in asking Ukraine to investigate him and therefore, it could not have been a pressure campaign. Well, there are two problems with this argument:

First, Hunter Biden is not under investigation, and there is no credible evidence to suggest that he should be under investigation. (At best, the GOP is alleging that Hunter Biden didn’t deserve the salary he received from Burisma, but if that were a crime, we’d have to indict half the CEO’s in the United States.)

Second, Trump wasn’t interested in an actual investigation of Hunter Biden, he was just interested in an announcement of an investigation so that he could insinuate wrongdoing and smear Joe Biden with it.

Congress should wait for cases to complete their circuits through the Courts

President Trump has famously refused to cooperate with the Congressional impeachment inquiry in any way. The House has filed multiple law suits relative to the President’s refusal to cooperate in the inquiry, an the GOP seems to think that these cases have to run through the entire appeals process, before Congress can act on it.

The problem with this argument is that — with a few exceptions related to Executive Privilege2 — all of the well-established case law is against the President, and all of the decisions that have come down so far, have come down against the President. Trump is clearly trying to run down the clock and simply keep the Congress from impeaching him before the 2020 election.3 In fact, United States v. Nixon establishes that the House has the sole power of impeachment and the Senate the sole power of trial. The Congress does not need the approval of any court to exercise it’s constitutional powers.

That the Evidence against Trump is “Wafer Thin”

The GOP has been arguing — quoting law professor Jonathan Turley — that the evidence against Trump is “wafer thin” and that there is not enough direct evidence of a quid pro quo to impeach him.

The problem with this argument is that Trump has refused to make available all the members of his administration who have the direct evidence that the GOP seeks. One cannot reasonably refuse to provide evidence and then argue that the President can’t be impeached because there is not enough evidence.

In addition to which, there is plenty of evidence already. Some 400 pages of it (and that’s not even including the Mueller report).

In Summary

The GOP has some very clever members, and those clever members are making some very clever arguments. If you were first coming to this debate without any background, the arguments made by the GOP could sound quite reasonable.

But when you look between the surface, it becomes clear that the GOP arguments are specious at best.

– They want to have it both ways. They want to argue that Trump can refuse to cooperate and then argue that there isn’t enough evidence.

– They want to distract, by making this an investigation about Hunter Biden rather than Donald Trump.

– They want to claim that no crime was committed because Trump was caught in the middle of the act and did not have time to complete it.

One has to look underneath the surface to recognize how cynical these arguments are on the part of the GOP.

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The Trouble with Polling in 2016 that may (or may not) occur again in 2020

There was a New York times article published the other day headlined Four Problems With 2016 Trump Polling That Could Play Out Again in 2020. The four problems were identified as:

  1. “Weighting” by education (or not giving enough weight to uneducated voters)
  2. “Shy” Trump voters (or voters who did not want to admit in 2016 that they voted for Trump).
  3. Counting who’s voting (or undercounting voters who traditionally don’t vote)
  4. Many late-deciding voters (or late deciders mostly breaking for Trump).

For various reasons, I don’t think this is going to be as much of a problem in 2020. Here are my reasons:

  1. By now it’s well-known that the less educated the voter, the more likely they are to vote for Trump. The pollsters can now account for this is they extrapolate from their smaller samples to predict for the population at large.
  2. Voters are no longer “shy” about admitting that they voted for or support President Trump. The “FU” President and his “FU” administration have won a wide swath of admirers who clearly love the fact that the President and his administration have given their collective middle finger to liberals and progressives. I think far fewer respondents will have trouble admitting that they love the Trumpelthinskin this time around.
  3. All signs point to there being a gigantic voter turnout for this upcoming election. Some of that may depend on who the Democrats nominate, but there should be a huge swell of anybody-but-Trump voters coming out. And Trump’s base is likely to come out for him as well. Pollsters should assume that there will be lots of people going to the polls.
  4. If you don’t have an opinion about President Trump by now, you must have been lobotomized sometime in the last few years. That was not necessarily the case, in 2016, where there were a lot of people in the “give him a chance” category. Those people should have an opinion by now as to whether he deserves another chance.

One thing is clear. If you’re a progressive and you know anyone in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, better urge them to get out to vote. Those are the states that are going to decide the 2020 election. And Trump is competitive in all of them.

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The Impeachment Process is not going to change the mind of Most Americans

National Public Radio recently reported on an according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that confirms what I think most of us already know: impeachment process is not going to change the mind of most Americans.

  • Overall, 65% of poll respondents said “no” when asked the question, “Can you imagine any information or circumstances during the impeachment inquiry where you might change your mind about your position on impeachment?”
  • Overall, when asked the question of whether “Based on what you’ve heard or read, has the testimony and evidence presented during the impeachment inquiry made you more likely to support impeachment, the number among poll respondents was 47% in favor and 41% saying they were less likely to support impeachment.
  • Overall, when asked whether “A whistleblower within the intelligence community filed a complaint about the contents of a call President Trump had with a foreign leader. Do you think the identity of the whistleblower should be protected,” the number of poll respondents answering in the affirmative was 56%, while 39% thought his name should be revealed.

Count me as those Americans whose minds is unlikely to be changed. In part that’s because I’ve already done a lot to inform myself, and I think the evidence is already overwhelming that Trump tried to shake down the new government of Ukraine to get them to investigate the Bidens (and more importantly, to announce publicly that they were investigating the Bidens).

But I do think that the witnesses that the Democrats have paraded up to the Committee hearing room have been good witnesses. And yes, I have been watching. They’ve been composed, they have not been defensive, and they have answered questions clearly.

And under oath.

As I’ve noted previously, the witnesses with “first hand” knowledge that the Republicans (allegedly) would like to have appear in front of the Committee have all been blocked from appearing by Donald Trump.

The President has, of course, teased the possibility that he might appear in front of the Committee himself. But he then quickly withdrew that suggestion to say that he might answer questions “in writing.”

That’s not going to work.

In writing he can study the questions and have his attorneys answer the questions for him.

No, we would need that lying malignant narcissist live and under oath, where he would almost certainly perjure himself.

Good luck waiting for that to happen.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs, Part 21

Given the hysteria about Hillary Clinton’s emails, it was highly amusing to hear David Holmes‘ description of the now infamous phone call that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland had with President Trumpelthinskin on July 26, 2019.

Let’s look at the details of this particular phone call:

  • It took place at a restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine, a country which is notorious for engaging in (and being proficient at) cell phone hacking.
  • The call took place on the outdoor patio of this restaurant, where conversations could be easily overheard.
  • The call took place on an Ambassador Sondland’s unsecured cell phone.
  • President Trumpelthinskin bellowed so loudly into his end of the phone that Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear, where Holmes could easily hear the conversation.
  • President Trumpelthinskin spoke specifically about the investigation against the Bidens that he wanted the Ukrainians to perform.

So, did the “lock her up” crowd that still hasn’t gotten over Hillary Clinton’s private email server have anything to say about this?

I don’t even have to answer the question, do I?

The silence, as they say, is deafening. So much for the Republicans alleged concern about the security of the United States.

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Republican talking points, and the way to Respond to Them

In listening to the Trump impeachment inquiry, it’s become obvious what the Republican’s defense of Trump is going to look like. Their eleven (or so) talking points can be summarized and easily defended.

  1. That the Impeachment inquiry is just a part of the Democrats attempt to overturn the 2016 election results.
  • While there are some Democrats who wanted to impeach Trump from the start of his Presidency — based on the overwhelming evidence that Trump was colluding with the Russians long before he was elected — most Democrats (including the leadership under Nancy Pelosi) waited until Trump forced their hand by trying to extort Ukraine. It was the whistleblower’s allegations that began the inevitable march towards impeachment proceedings.
  1. That Republicans are not being offered due process in the hearings.
  • The procedures being used in the hearing are essentially the same procedures that the Republicans wrote for the investigations into Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email server. On top of which, the Republicans have been given just as much time as the Democrats to question witnesses. The only thing the Democrats have not allowed is for the Republicans to call witnesses (like Hunter Biden) who clearly have nothing to add to the investigation of President Trump’s behavior.
  1. That Hunter Biden should be subpoenaed by the Committee.
  • The Republicans want to subpoena Hunter Biden because they want to have a separate investigation of his activities — unrelated to the Trump impeachment inquiry — but Hunter Biden’s behavior has already been investigated, and there is no evidence that Hunter Biden engaged in any illegal conduct.
  1. That the whistle-blower should be subpoenaed by the Committee.
  • The Republicans only want to expose the whistleblower so that he can be punished, and to discourage other whistleblowers from coming forward. Everything the whistleblower alleged has already been confirmed in the impeachment inquiry, so — given that the whistleblower did not have first hand knowledge — there is nothing he could contribute to the factual narrative that has not already been discussed. I thought the Republicans wanted to hear from people with first hand information.
  1. That Trump did not say the magic words “Quid Pro Quo.”
  • The Republican seem to think that it’s a problem that President Trump was not heard saying the magic words “quid pro quo” when he clearly required that the Ukrainian’s should announce an investigation into the Bidens publicly, as well as on an American news channel, before the military aid to Ukraine should be released. But people don’t talk that way. When someone extorts money from you, they generally don’t tell you, “I’m extorting you.” When they hold you up with a gun, they don’t have to say “this is an armed robbery” in order for it to qualify as a crime.
  1. That it’s significant that President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that there was “no quid pro quo.”
  • The Republicans seem to think that it’s significant that President Trump told Ambassador Sondland — in answer to his question of what the President wanted from Ukraine — that he wanted “nothing, no quid pro quo!” But the President said that only after the whistleblower had already come forward, and the media had already reported on the allegations of the quid pro quo.
  1. That President Trump is interested in corruption in Ukraine.
  • This is completely laughable, it’s so ridiculous. President Trump is not even interested in corruption in the United States. Trump has repeatedly been quoted as saying that he “does not give a shit” about Ukraine, and it was clear to everyone that the only thing he cared about was getting the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.
  1. That other countries have had a hold placed on their military aid.
  • While other countries (such as Lebanon) have had holds placed on their military aid, this has never been to secure their cooperation in an investigation of political opponents of the President. In point of fact, the issues of corruption that Trump was supposedly concerned about had been addressed earlier in the year, when Ukraine had been certified in May by his own State Department to have made enough progress on issues of corruption to satisfy Congressional requirements.
  1. That the Committee should be investigating Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.
  • This is a complete red herring. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Ukrainians meddled in the 2016 election. As Fiona Hill pointed out, this is a Russian talking point and a Russian effort to deflect focus away from their own meddling in the 2016 election.
  1. That Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election is a hoax.
  • The entire first half of the Mueller report is devoted to proving that the Russians meddled in the 2016 Presidential election, and the Republicans have no evidence to counter the findings of the Mueller report on this issues.
  1. That nothing was found against President Trump during the Mueller investigation.
  • This is also completely untrue. In point of fact, Mueller found 10 specific ways in which Trump obstructed justice. He also decided, based on the legal opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice, that Trump could not be indicted while he was a sitting President. On the other hand, Mueller’s team was able to secure the indictment and conviction of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Maria Butina, and Roger Stone, as well as the indictment of 13 additional Russian citizens and entities.

It’s also noteworthy that back in 2016 Trump asked the Russians — right on live TV — to investigate Hillary’s email server and (as we now know) the Russians obliged a day later. Now, in 2019, Trump was trying to get another country (Ukraine) to screw with another of his political rivals (Joe Biden) for the 2020 Presidential election.

So clearly, President Trumpelthinskin has not learned a bloody thing from the 2016 election. Or, if he’s learned something, it’s that illegal interference from foreign countries works! It is so obvious by now that this guy thinks he’s completely above the law, and that the law will never catch up with him.

Maybe he’s right, but as Bibi Netanyahu is learning right now, maybe he’s not. The fat lady has not sung yet, if you know what I mean.

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It’s Interesting to see where Republicans are trying to take the Impeachment Inquiry

Well, it’s nice to see where Republicans are trying to take the impeachment inquiry on day #3 of the public hearings.

  1. They’re still trying to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
  2. They’re still trying to out the whistleblower.
  3. They’re trying to question the patriotism and judgment of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

The response to these efforts need not be complicated.

  1. Joe and Hunter Biden are not under investigation in this inquiry. The behavior of Donald Trump is. Others have looked into the Biden’s relationship to Burisma and Ukraine, and while there are certainly issues of appearance of conflict of interest, there is no “there” there.
  2. Under the laws of the United States, the whistleblower should not be outed, and since (by his own admission) he has no first-hand knowledge, he would not be able to contribute much to the debate regardless.
  3. Lt. Col. Vindman is not responsible for the fact that the new Ukrainian regime — apparently impressed with both his qualifications and bearing — offered him the position of Minister of Defense, an offer that he never entertained.

Sorry Republicans, you’re going to have to do better than this.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs, Part 20

Last week at the House Intelligence Committee hearings on impeachment, the Republicans were whining about several things:

  • That the witnesses who were being brought in to testify mostly had second hand (or hearsay) information.
  • That some witnesses were first testifying behind closed doors.
  • That the rules of the Committee did not allow the President to have “due process.”

So, in quick response to that, it should be noted:

  • The witnesses were mostly providing second hand information because President Trump has blocked all of the witnesses who have first hand knowledge from testifying.
  • The Republicans also complained when the doors were opened and the witnesses were allowed to testify publicly and in front of TV cameras.
  • The House Intelligence Committee is essentially using the same rules that the House Republicans used when investigating Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email server.

You just cannot please these people.

Even Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano has admitted, on Fox News, that the rules being used are essentially the ones that the Republicans wrote back when they had the gavel.

Note to Republicans: you can’t establish a set of procedures and then complain when the other team uses the procedures that you set up.

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It Wasn’t Witness Intimidation, but it was definitely an Attempt at Bullying

On Friday of last week the House Intelligence Committee brought in former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of the impeachment inquiry. She was a very clear and composed witness.

In response the President of the United States, the Twittler in Chief, tweeted the following:

Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff tried to make out that this was “witness intimidation.” I don’t think it was witness intimidation. Witness intimidation is more like, “I know where your children go to school” or something where there is at least an implied threat.

This was just plain bullying, one of President Trumpelthinskin’s favorite activities (his wife’s “be best” campaign notwithstanding).

Of course, blaming the ambassador because things have not gone well in Somalia is just plain stupid. Like Trump claiming that his daughter Ivanka created 14 million jobs.

Still, on the Democratic side we have to be careful not to become hysterical. There’s enough evidence of Trump’s trying to extort the Ukrainians to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden that we don’t have to add witness intimidation to the pile.

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Republican defense of Trump impeachment: the Crime was Not Completed

The first day of impeachment hearings on Wednesday weren’t exactly riveting television, but there were certainly some interesting moments. One of those was watching New York Representative (and GOP rising star) Elise Stefanik sum up the impeachment hearings this way:

For the millions of Americans viewing today, the two most important facts are the following:

No. 1, Ukraine received the aid.

No. 2, there was, in fact, no investigation into Biden.

Ahem. So their argument is that there is no problem because the crime was not completed?

The first difficulty with this argument is that the crime would have been completed but for the intervention of the whistleblower, the one that the Republicans are so desperate to unmask.

Turns out that Ukraine received the embargoed military aid a day or two after the whistleblower did his thing.

Also, if you try to kill someone and don’t succeed, it’s not like you get off scott free. Instead of it being murder, it becomes attempted murder.

I thought everyone knew that.

In any case, just about the only moment of merriment all day was provided by Vermont representative Peter Welsh, who said this in response to Republican Representative Jim Jordan’s demand that the whistleblower — the one who “started it all” — be required to testify before the committee:

I’d say to my colleague, I’d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.

Let’s see what kind of merriment today’s hearings might produce. LOL!

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Democrats are panicking more than they should about whether they can win in 2020

There was an interesting article in the Boston Globe today entitled Doubts about 2020 field send Democratic party elites, donors scrambling to find a savior.

The Democrats are panicking, yes they are.

  • Michael Bloomberg? Lots of money but no charisma at all.
  • Deval Patrick? Loads of charisma but a mediocre manager (and I’m not sure America is ready for another black President so soon). 1

Yes, it’s not the world’s strongest field.

  • Biden is not Obama.
  • Warren is probably too far left.
  • Sanders is a protest vote.
  • Buttigieg is very young, inexperienced, and also very gay.

Still, as Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania points out, in head-to-head national polls, the top Democratic candidates in the running beat Trump.

I’d like to see a Biden-Warren ticket, with Biden maybe offering to be a one-term President. Just a thought.

I posted something on Facebook about this today, and it generated a lot of debate.

In any case, don’t freak out yet, my fellow progressives. It’s still all about the electoral college, and I don’t see Trump winning all five of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida a 2nd time, which he would have to do to be re-elected. Suburban women may still save us all.

There is no savior out there. We have the candidates that we have. Some of the candidates that could have caught fire — Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — did not catch fire. But it is, one must concede, a narrower race than it should be.

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