The Impeachment Hearings Revealed a Lot

Published / by Stephen Chapel

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Michelle Cottie, NYT Editorial: After two weeks of public testimony, Americans should have a good sense of why an impeachment inquiry was needed.

Some good stuff. Below are selected quotes:

Despite Mr. Nunes’s fantasyland contentions that the testimony of the past two weeks has served only to expose Democrats’ “asinine,” “pitiful” attempts to “overthrow a president,” in reality the proceedings have produced a number of startling revelations, none of them exonerating the president.

The biggest bombshell came Wednesday, with the appearance of Gordon Sondland, Key takeaway: There was a quid pro quo.

Thursday brought only more grief for Mr. Nunes and other Trump defenders. As their closing witnesses, House Democrats called Fiona Hill, formerly the National Security Council’s top expert on Russia, and David Holmes, a political officer at the American Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Mr. Holmes is the official who overheard the July 26 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland in which the president quizzed the ambassador about the status of the investigations he was seeking. Mr. Holmes also recalled Mr. Sondland telling him after the call that the president didn’t give a fig about Ukraine except for the “big stuff” that directly affected him, such as the “Biden investigation.”

Dr. Hill was even more pointed with her message, which boiled down to: Republican lawmakers need to stop behaving like Russian stooges.

[Dr Hill] Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on the committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

Bribery Pure & Simple

Published / by Stephen Chapel

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Jackie Speier says impeachment testimony was a ‘piling up of more evidence.   MSNBC Hardball, Nov. 13, 2019.

Contrast Republicans twisted logic to support and defend Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories and illegal use of his office for political reasons with the clear thinking and professionalism of the people featured in the Hardball piece.

I recommend listening to the Nov 13 MSNBC Hardball video (link above). But, in my opinion, reading the transcript makes a stronger case of the illegal actions of the president. For me reading the words is more insightful than hearing the words via the video.The transcript is below:

Chris Mathews 00:00 This has been an historic and news making day on Capitol Hill where the house of representatives, held the first public hearings on the impeachment of president Trump. Democrats made the case that Trump pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political opponents using the power of his office to do so. In their debut before the American public, us ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor and deputy assistant secretary of state, George Kent, spoke clearly and authoritatively about the pressure campaign that was waged against Ukraine. They described an effort by Trump and his deputies to leverage that country into delivering the politically motivated investigations that the president wanted. And it was against that backdrop that the star witness ambassador Taylor dropped an important new revelation, a bombshell, really linking the president directly to that scheme. Just one day after Trump ask ukrainian president Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on his political opponents, a member of Taylor’s staff heard a conversation between EU ambassador, Gordon Sondland and president Trump himself. And here’s how Bill Taylor described what he heard

Bill Taylor 01:06 in the presence of my staff at a restaurant. ambassador Sondland called president Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear president Trump on the phone asking ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Mr Sondland told president Trump, the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. Following the call with president Trump, the member of my staff asked ambassador Sondland what president Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that president Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.

Rep. Adam Shiff: 01:40 I take it the import of that as he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine.

Bill Taylor 01:46 Yes, sir.

Chris Mathews: 01:46 Yes Sir. Well, that staffer identified by NBC news as David Holmes is now set to testify to impeachment investigators on that committee behind closed doors this Friday, and today’s hearing lasted five and a half hours. Republican spent their time trying to poke holes in the testimony and advance the president’s counter narrative, but the testimony from Taylor offered some troubling details for the president. Ambassador Taylor affirmed that military aid was withheld in an effort to extort Ukraine, and both witnesses suggested the action taken in Ukraine were unprecedented.

Rep. Chris Goldman: 02:21 Ambassador Taylor in your decades of military service and diplomatic service representing the United States around the world. Have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the president of the United States?

Bill Taylor: 02:40 No. Mr Goldman I have not.

Rep. Chris Goldman: 02:41 is pressuring Ukraine to conduct what I believe you’ve called political investigations, a part of us foreign policy to promote the rule of law in Ukraine and around the world?

George Kent: 02:53 It is not.

Rep. Chris Goldman: 02:55 Is it in the national interest of the United States?

George Kent: 02:58 In my opinion, it is not.

Chris Mathews: 03:01 Taylor also stood behind his text of uh, last September saying that military aid for political gain is quote crazy

Bill Taylor: 03:11 because that was so important that security was so important for Ukraine as well as our own national interest to withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with the political campaign made no sense it was, it was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.

Chris Mathews: 03:39 I’m joined now by US Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, a member of the house intelligence committee, who took part in today’s hearings [and others including Cynthia Acksne a former federal prosecutor CM]. Thank you, Congresswoman for coming on tonight. What did you make of the bombshell today that we’ve got a ear witness account now coming from David Holmes, a member the state department posted over in Kev, who heard the president talking about following up when the investigation he wanted done by Zelinsky, the president of Ukraine on Biden?

Rep. Jackie Speier: 04:12 It’s the piling up of more evidence that the president was using his office and hijacking our foreign policy to benefit his campaign for election in 2020. It’s really as Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent said, unprecedented that a president would do something like this. And it, in my mind, is grounds for calling for bribery. He is a person in his official status who is asking for something of value from another party and then withholding his office and his ability to do something unless he gets what he’s asking for. It’s quite simple,

Chris Mathews: 04:56 Cynthia and everyone else. I want your reaction to getting the notes now that the star witness today, Bill Taylor, the ambassador to the Ukraine actually has a staffer now ready to testify that he overheard the president following up on the deal he struck the extortion he set up with the president of Ukraine, more actual, real direct evidence kind of thing, right?

Cynthia Acksne, Former Federal Prosecutor: 05:17 It’s, it’s a bombshell. And the reason why it’s a bombshell is because it brings, it brings the story away from what’s going on in Ukraine and brings it to Trump. And that’s what needs to happen [because he was on the phone, CM]. Cause he was on the phone because he’s actually involved, he’s physically involved. And one thing that happened today that I thought what needed to happen more was they need to take it away from back, back, back, back, back, email, email, email, whatever, and make it, make it a story. This is, this is what this case is about. It’s about Trump trading American integrity and arms for his own political gain.

Link

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From the NYT’s a link to the Whistle-Blower Complaint.

We Are In The Twilight Zone

Published / by Stephen Chapel

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The Trevor Noah interview of Susan Rice sheds a lot of in-depth light on the latest Trump foreign policy disaster, abandoning the Kurds. Rice’s message to Trump:

“it not about I. The whole problem with Trump is it is all about I. It is not an America-First foreign policy. It is a me-first foreign policy. The United States of America had an understanding with the Kurds which he had honored for two and a half years. We worked with the Kurds. They did the fighting for us to take out ISIS. Now he has turned around and sold these guys out without consulting anybody on his national security team.  …..

Rice explains how with this move we lose credibility with allies, we abandon our efforts to fight terrorism with partners, and we have opened the floodgates for terrorism in the middle east and the rest of the world.

You can read the full 17 minute interview or skip to the 11 minute point and hear the really sad and scary stuff. The October 8 Interview

We Are In Uncharted Territory

Published / by Stephen Chapel

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In a NYT’s October 1 editorial Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017, provides a clear and credible explanation of  Vice President Biden’s efforts in 2015 to encourage the replacement of the Ukrainian prosecutor general. We are In Uncharted Territory.

The Rice editorial draws a stark national security contrast between the Obama and the Trump administrations.

President Trump, his Republican sycophants in Congress, and the right-wing media are working overtime yet again to distract and manipulate the American public. To downplay Mr. Trump’s transgressions, they are drawing a false equivalence between his July phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine and former Vice President Biden’s efforts in 2015 to encourage the replacement of the Ukrainian prosecutor general.

Read on …

Straw That Broke The Camels Back

Published / by Stephen Chapel

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It has been over a month since my last post. It is pretty clear that we have a president that is totally lawless, out of control, cares nothing about The Constitution and our Democracy. Blog posts had become pretty much a waste of time. However the latest trump event may finally get congress to take action. It also motivated me to do this post.

Sept 24 David Leonhardt was one of the first to break the news. How Impeachment Shifted. Two days prior, Sept. 22, David posted a list of Trump misdeeds, Donald Trump vs. the United States of America: Just the facts in 40 sentences.

An exert from the lead in to “just the facts in 40 sentences:”

President Trump’s latest attempt to put his own interests above those of the United States — by pressuring Ukraine’s government to help his 2020 presidential campaign — inspired me to put together a list.

It’s a list of ways that Trump has behaved like no other modern president, and it spans his corruption, disrespect for women, violation of the law and disdain for American democracy.

I deliberately avoided any traditional matter of policy — even those, such as climate change, on which I think his approach is downright dangerous. This is instead meant to be a just-the-facts catalog of how Trump has altered the presidency.

It’s only 40 sentences, and the sentences are not long. I recognize that I left out several examples — of his corruption or his racism, for example — that furthered a theme already on the list.

When you get to the end of the list, I wonder if you’ll have the same reaction that I had after putting it together: It sure seems like it’s time for Congress — both the Democratic leaders in the House and the Republican leaders in the Senate — to use its constitutional power to hold the president accountable for the harm he’s causing to the United States.

 

To Impeach or Not To Impeach

Published / by Stephen

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Robert Reich –The Real Reason For Impeachment

In today’s political climate, the question of whether or not to impeach the President of the United States is often thought of in political terms.

But there is a much deeper concern at the heart of the question.

An impeachment inquiry in the House is unlikely to send Trump packing before Election Day 2020 because Senate Republicans won’t convict him. And it’s impossible to know whether an impeachment inquiry will hurt or help Trump’s chances of being reelected.

Does this mean impeachment should be off the table? No. There’s a non-political question that Congress should consider: Is enforcing the United States Constitution important for its own sake — even if it goes nowhere, even if it’s unpopular with many voters, even if it’s politically risky?

Every child in America is supposed to learn about the Constitution’s basic principles of separation of powers, and checks and balances.

But these days, every child and every adult in America is learning from Donald Trump that these principles are bunk.

By doing whatever he could to stop the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including firing the head of the FBI, Trump told America it’s okay for a president to obstruct justice.

Goodbye, law.

By issuing a blanket refusal to respond to any congressional subpoena, Trump is saying Congress has no constitutional authority to oversee the executive branch. He’s telling America that Congress is a subordinate branch of government rather than a co-equal branch.

Forget separation of powers.

By spending money on his “wall” that Congress explicitly refused to authorize, Trump is saying that Congress no longer has any constitutional authority over spending.

Goodbye, checks and balances.

By unilaterally shuttering the government in order to get his way, Trump told us he has the constitutional right not to execute the laws whenever it suits him.

Farewell, Congress.

By directing the Attorney General, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Secretary of the Treasury to act in his own personal interest rather than in the interests of the American people, Trump is saying that presidents can run government for themselves.

Adios, Constitution.

By unilaterally threatening to cut off trade with the second-largest economy in the world, Trump is telling us he has sole authority to endanger the entire American economy. (Make no mistake: If he goes through with his threat, the U.S. economy will go into a tailspin.)

The core purpose of the Constitution is to prevent tyranny. That’s why its Framers distributed power between the president, Congress and the judiciary. That’s why each of the three branches was designed to limit the powers of the other two.

In other words, the Framers anticipated the possibility of a Donald Trump.

Fortunately, they also put in a mechanism to enforce the Constitution against a president who tries to place himself above the law and to usurp the powers of the other branches of government.

Article I, Section 2 gives the House of Representatives the “sole Power of Impeachment.” Article I, Section 3 gives the Senate the “sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

Trump surely appears to be usurping the powers of the other branches. Under these circumstances, the Constitution mandates that the House undertake an impeachment inquiry and present evidence to the Senate.

This may not be the political thing to do. But in order to safeguard our democracy, it is the right thing to do.

China Innocent, Trump Not So

Published / by Stephen

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A Currency War, Paul Krugman

At this point, China’s currency policy is actually fairly benign; if anything, its policies are keeping the renminbi stronger than it would be otherwise. Meanwhile, U.S. unemployment is low. There are plenty of things to criticize about China, but currency policy isn’t one of them. With unerring aim, the Trump administration has decided to accuse China of the one crime of which it’s innocent. Of course, this administration doesn’t have to fear setting off a trade war, since it has already done that.

Guns & White Nationalism

Published / by Stephen

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E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post
One Side is Right And One is Wrong

And when Americans are gunned down in incident after incident, when we are numbed by repeating the same sorrowful words every time, when we move within a news cycle from “something must be done” to “the Senate will block action” or “the politics are too complicated,” you know America’s democracy is failing and its moral compass is broken.

Our rancid political culture is, quite literally, killing our nation. And the problem is not caused by some abstraction called “polarization” or by “the failure of both sides to understand each other.” Those are the alibis of timid souls so intent on sounding “balanced” that they turn their eyes from the truth.

What is that truth? When it comes to gun violence and the need to confront white nationalism, one side is right and one side is wrong.

 

Quote Of The Week – Maybe The Election

Published / by Stephen

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From the San Jose Mercury News: Williamson won’t win, but to all 2020 hopefuls: Take note:

“Our problem is not just that we need to defeat Donald Trump,” she said. “We need a plan to solve institutionalized hatred, collectivized hatred and white nationalism. And in order to do that, we need more than political insider game and wonkiness and intellectual argument.”

Concerning 2020, this is one of the very best editorials and the best advice I have seen to date. Democrats take notice!