Thursday, November 14, 2019

Trump Impeachment Update: Moving Forward on His Wanton Abuse of Power, Extortion, and Bribery In the Face of the Immovable GOP Cult

Time for a Trump impeachment update …

Let's start with a quotable paragraph by the inestimable Charles Pierce:

Make no mistake. If the hearings on Tuesday were a criminal trial, the jury wouldn’t have been out long enough to order lunch. The President* of the United States ran a cheap-assed, third-rate shakedown of the new president of an embattled ally for the purpose of enlisting the new president of the embattled ally in the ratfcking of the 2020 election. Both of those are crimes.

Putting them together is a third crime.

(I'm going to return a few times to this Pierce piece below.)

Yesterday, Nov 13th, 2019, marked the start of the public phase of the House of Representatives formal impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump -- the deeply deranged and damaged human being who occupies the office of President of the United States for an assortment of historical tragedies, the sort that seem to define our reality -- on the grounds of wanton abuse of power via a mob-like blackmail racket he tried against Ukraine.

That racket involved illegally withholding nearly $400 million in Congressionally-approved military aid for Ukraine in its internal war with Russian-backed separatists -- in order to advance his own personal political interests and contrary to American foreign policy objectives. Let's not forget that part.

Quoting Charles Pierce again:

This case is absurdly simple. Compared to Iran-Contra, it’s a game of ColorForms. As has been his wont for his entire life, the president* found a vulnerable victim to fleece. In this case, the victim happened to be an ally being bullied and attacked by a regime for which the president* still maintains a mysterious sweet tooth. In pursuit of this latest scam, the president* abused the powers of the office for which he otherwise doesn’t have any more respect than a dog has for a fire hydrant.

To his credit, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff organized a well-executed hearing with a much more effective format. He did so despite the grotesquely polarized nature of our political climate due to the cult-like quality of the Republican Party and its defend-Trump-at-all-costs approach that is a sort of nihilistic, corrupted end state of its evolution over the past 40 years.

Slate's Jim Newell had this piece before today's hearing about why the House Democratic leadership structured the public phase of impeachment as it did -- to include why it is going through Schiff's committee rather than the Judiciary Committee, where Jerry Nadler can't control the GOP clowns and freaks that are on his committee. He also explains the GOP strategy: Create as much of a vitriolic political fight as possible to sow dissension and division.

Or as Charles Pierce subsequently described the GOP actions:

In the main, the Republicans declined to ask questions, choosing instead to spool out their fathomless catechism of delay tactics, half-truths and utter bullshit.

The later is why the GOP hurriedly put a figure as hyper-partisan ridiculous, not to mention personally compromised, as Jim Jordan on the Intelligence Committee. Their strategy is to kick up as much diversionary black smoke as possible in order to keep any wavering Republican types in line -- maybe 15% of the larger, fixed 35% of the country who blindly worship this Neon Fake Jesus.

It helped enormously that the two main witnesses -- U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George P. Kent -- were such compelling witnesses.

Taylor was arguably the biggest star, and not just because of his stellar military and diplomatic career to include his voluntary service as a decorated Vietnam War veteran and subsequent years serving the United States internationally up to his current position, but just his entire bearing and dignity.

The two career diplomats came across as visitors from a Washington that doesn't seem to exist anymore:

Old School High Society Washington of a half century ago.

What's more, House Majority Legal Counsel Daniel Goldman performed admirably while his Republican counterpart, House Minority Counsel Robert Castor (per Charles Pierce, "sound[ing] as though he'd taken the gig three minutes before the hearing began") -- perhaps because of the material he had to work with -- was reduced to asking questions about Hunter Biden and whether or not he speaks Ukrainian.

On Friday, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will testify. She was forced out as a result of Rudy Giuliani and the rouge gangster-like operation he was running on behalf of Trump. The campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch involved ugly smears and not-so-subtle threats of physical harm that resulted in her quick departure from the Ukraine.

The big event will be next week when the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland testifies since he is up to his eyeballs in this thing -- and has not only changed his story but was revealed in Ambassador Taylor's testimony to have had a phone conversation in a very public place (a restaurant) in Kiev (Kyiv?) with Trump himself about "the investigations," which is euphemism for what Trump really wanted.

The whole Ukraine situation centered on getting new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a politically-driven investigation into the Bidens on the basis of "corruption" involving a fired Ukrainian prosectuor and Hunter Biden's position on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings in order to hurt his father, former Vice President Joe Biden, in his 2020 presidential run.

Yes, that's really Zelensky -- a reality show comic actor during a TV show stint in which he played the President of Ukraine.

It also involved a bunch of rightwing swamp fevered conspiracy horseshit about Ukraine having been responsible for the hacking of DNC emails in the 2016 via the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike and how it was somehow involved in the DNC server being in Ukraine -- that is, blaming Ukraine for what Russia did.

This is all horseshit as it has been conclusively shown to have been a Russian government-backed operation done to sow discord while helping Trump -- whose encouragement, tacit or active, was the entire reason for the DOJ (Mueller) investigation. That mess likely couldn't be legally proven -- even if Mueller had wanted to charge Trump -- because no key characters would ever flip.

By contrast -- and this is key -- the Ukraine mess, which occurred during Trump's presidency, necessarily involved multiple elements of the current U.S. Government bureaucracy -- and that, thankfully, simply couldn't work the way it is currently configured. Trump, of course, is incapable of grasping that fact since in his mind, he IS the United States Government.

Specifically, Trump ordered the military aid withheld until President Zelensky had committed to an investigation into "corruption" -- a Trump code word for "dirt on the Bidens" and support for the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory. It was this Trump extortionary blackmail that was the basis of the whistle-blower complaint.

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo site has this article indicating just how close we came to Zelensky announcing -- on CNN, quite likely in an interview with Fareed Zakaria -- that such an investigation was underway. It was less than 24 hours and possibly just several hours away.

Being the cult enthralled to Trump that it is, the Republican Party's defenses of its current, deranged Messiah are all over the place. Below are listed briefly the main, incoherent defenses directly related to the matter at hand (there are others that are farther afield).

* Trump (and the GOP's) psychotic fixation on the identity of the whistleblower -- a fact that is now totally irrelevant since everything he said has been totally corroborated -- with implicit threats of violence against him and his family from Trump himself, as these Sept 29 tweets from the Deranged Orange Mobster himself reveal (and which should have gotten him kicked off twitter):

* The fact that none of the witnesses so far are "first hand" as if Trump himself, Pompeo, or Mulvaney are going to show up and corroborate any of this. In fact, Trump has invoked a sort of Divine Monarch absolute privilege and are ignoring multiple Congressional subpoenas.

* The phrase "quid pro quo" doesn't literally appear in the actual White House partial transcript of the July 25th call with Zelensky that Trump ordered release and therefore it wasn't really a quid pro quo (this is gibberish).

* Zelensky himself has said he felt no pressure because, well, all blackmail victims dependent on a much stronger party for protection are going to say that.

* The "process" has been unfair to include having had a closed session -- except the process is fully public and during the closed portion, which both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings featured, the Repubs were in attendance -- except when storming the secure room in a pizza lunch "sit in." This process argument is one that Lindsay Gay Graham (R - Gay) was going on and on about this two weeks ago.

* The most recent Lindsey Gay Graham (R - Gay) approach: Trump failed to get the goods from Ukraine and the aid started flowing. Well, you don't need to successfully commit a planned crime to be guilt of that crime and the aid only started flowing after the story broke.

Lindsey Graham's hypocrisy on this matter is literally immeasurably. He's a grotesque little toady.

* The fact that the Senate under the fucking amoral reptile Mitch McConnell won't convict Trump -- wholly irrelevant since this impeachment proceeding, only the fourth one in U.S. history, is a necessary condition for holding Trump accountable for his crimes, if not in actual deed (yeah, the syphilitic madman may win reelection thanks to the usual combination of shit), then for the sake of history.

Yes, we get it: 35 percent or so of the country -- in electorally advantageous places -- will NEVER, EVER turn on their beloved Messiah Trump for whatever malevolent, fearful, or lunatic reasons, and so the GOP as a party -- which is led a perpetual rightwing agitprop machine that gins up aforementioned 35 percent of the country -- will never turn on Trump to include House and most Senate Repubs.

This brings us to the Devin Nunes' approach, which is to claim all kinds of byzantine and fantastic "Deep State" conspiracy theories from the putrid rightwing swamp that goes well beyond the Fox News to include hate radio, social media with its Russian provocateurs, American crazies, and overall internet open sewer. But let's not go down that rabbit hole.

For a deconstruction of the Devin Nunes' approach this Jonathan Chait piece on his opening statement.

Devin Nunes in his natural configuration …

Because of tweets such as this, Devin Nunes is pursuing a quarter of a billion dollar lawsuit against his "mom" and his "cow." That's right. I'm sure he'll get one of those Federalist Society federal judges to go along with it. 


About the sick state of today's Republican Party, I'd like to quote a bit from this new piece in The Atlantic by Peter Wehner (link embedded): The Exposure of the Republican Party.

That the president acted the way he did should surprise exactly no one, given his disordered personality and Nietzschean ethic, his pathological lying and brutishness and bullying, and his history of personal and professional depravity. The president is a deeply damaged human being -- and therefore a deeply dangerous president.

But what was on display on Capitol Hill on Wednesday was not simply an impeachment inquiry into an unscrupulous president; it was the on-going, deepening complicity and corruption of the party he leads.

What makes the Trump era so unusual isn’t partisanship and political tribalism, which have been around for much of human existence. It is the degree to which the transgressive nature of Trump -- his willingness to go places no other president has gone, to say and do things that no president before him has done -- has exposed the Republican Party.

There is hardly a pretense any more regarding what the party, and the right-wing media complex, are doing.

They are driven by a single, all-consuming commitment: Defend Donald Trump at all costs. That is the end they seek, and they will pursue virtually any means necessary to achieve it. This from the party that once said it stood for objective truth, for honor and integrity, and against moral relativism.

Catalyzed by the rightwing media ecosystem, this cult-like devotion to Trump arises from the GOP "base" …

It is the same "base" (well, more radicalized) that worshipped George W. Bush and canonized Ronald Reagan after the fact; the same base that is forever looking for messiahs to save them. It's sad and pathetic in equal proportions.

On the role of the rightwing media and the complicity of the GOP pols in all this, I'd like to call attention to this piece by Washington Post op-ed columnist Jennifer Rubin on the role of Trump's enablers both on Capitol Hill and rightwing media: The gatekeepers are the worst of all.

Ms. Rubin has been a powerful, eloquent voice -- herself a Never Trump Republican following a previous incarnation as a Mitt Romney disciple -- for the past three years denouncing this Trump freak show. If I can put it another way, Ms. Rubin has been nothing less than a gem in this putrid Trump open sewer.

And with that, I will end this entry. My next planned entry will be over the weekend, but it probably won't a political-themed posting. I need to space these apart a bit more since, in the end, whatever is going to happen will happen no matter what I write.


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