Friday, October 18, 2019


So, now it's known: Trump put OFFICIAL UKRAINE POLICY into the hands of his personal lawyer, and directed formal government officials to work with and through him
Sondland Throws Trump Under the Bus
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, criticized President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, saying he was “disappointed” in the president’s efforts to have Rudy Giuliani interfere in foreign affairs. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was being paid by one of the recently indicted Ukrainian-American businessmen who were helping him dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Trump sees as his chief political rival . . . “Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine.”
Gordon Sondland provides critical testimony to impeachment inquiry

Trump Directed Perry To Call Giuliani To Learn More About His Ukraine Concerns
How The President’s Lawyer Became Our Shadow Secretary Of State

[NB: Remember when Paul Manafort said he was "working for free" as Trump's campaign manager. That just meant he was being paid by somebody else. I think we are going to find out the same thing about Rudy Giuliani.

Let's pause to think about this. When the president's personal lawyer is conducting foreign policy, he only has one interest -- what is in the best interests of his client. OF COURSE he was trying to do things that would help Trump politically, not the nation. This is a rather obvious point that isn't getting enough attention. It isn't just that he has no formal position or role to be conducting foreign policy, it's that his very aims are compromised.]

ACTING Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney goes 'way off message
White House’s Mulvaney admits there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine . . . Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has a message for those concerned that President Donald Trump held up military aid to Ukraine until they moved to investigate a conspiracy involving the 2016 U.S. election – “Get over it.” In speaking with reporters Thursday at the White House, Mulvaney acknowledged Trump held up Ukraine aid partly for political reasons. “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” he added. 

[NB: Let's unpack this very carefully. In light of the recent testimony by State Dept folks, it is no longer possible to claim there was NO "quid pro quo." So Mulvaney is admitting a quid pro quo with Ukraine to investigate the 2016 election -- this is the fringey "CrowdStrike" server issue. He was NOT admitting a quid pro quo about the Biden investigation. Apparently he thinks that a backwards looking investigation to help Trump politically is a lesser admission than a forwards looking investigation to help Trump politically. Here we see a new line of defense: there was a quid pro quo, just not THAT quid pro quo.]


THEN. . . later . . . he tries to walk it all back
Officials close to Trump were infuriated by Mick Mulvaney's quid pro quo comments. One Trump adviser said Mulvaney did "far more damage" than Sondland's testimony. "He literally said the thing the president and everyone else said did not happen." [read on]
A few hours after confirming a quid pro quo between a conspiracy theory pursued by President Donald Trump and military aid allocated for Ukraine, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reversed himself. “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he said in a statement released by the White House. That’s the opposite of what he said a few hours earlier on Thursday. . . . “Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump. . . .”

Misconstrue? A reporter SAID TO HIM "To be clear, what you described is a quid pro quo" -- and he agreed
Here's the craziest thing about that crazy letter Trump sent to Turkish President Erdogan
Every once in a while, some event offers a clarifying reminder of the president’s poor judgment . . . As soon as the letter was published, professional diplomats and historians said they had never seen something so amateurish from a U.S. president. But what really underlined Trump’s problem for me wasn’t that he wrote an incompetent letter to follow up on what seems to have been an incompetent phone call. . . . No, what really got to me was that Trump distributed copies of this letter to congressional leaders when they showed up at the White House for a briefing. Think of it. Even if the letter had been perfectly normal, what Trump was handing them was an Oct. 9 request to Erdogan to halt his invasion — a request that Erdogan has, as we’ve seen, totally ignored. Trump was bragging about what he considered to be a sign of his own brilliance without realizing that it was instead evidence of abject failure. [read on]

More on the letter:
Turkish president "thoroughly rejected" Trump's "tough guy" letter, threw it in trash 

VP Pence and Sect'y of State Pompeo went to Turkey to make a deal. Such a deal!
Trump Gives Turkey Exactly What It Wants, Claims Victory . . . President Donald Trump has a preferred approach to international diplomacy: Step 1. Turn a long-running problem into an acute crisis with his rhetoric. Step 2. Strike a deal that ends the crisis he caused but not the underlying problem. Step 3. Claim victory for solving the problem. . . . [read on]

Pence announces full U.S. capitulation to Turkey
“The cease-fire agreement reached with Turkey by Vice President Mike Pence amounts to a near-total victory for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who gains territory, pays little in penalties and appears to have outmaneuvered President Trump,” the New York Times reports. “The best that can be said for the agreement is that it may stop the killing in the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. But the cost for Kurds, longtime American allies in the fight against the Islamic State, is severe: Even Pentagon officials were mystified about where tens of thousands of displaced Kurds would go, as they moved south from the Turkey-Syria border as required by the deal — if they agree to go at all.” 

The "cease-fire" is already collapsing
“Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while, then people find out how tough the fighting is,” he told supporters at his campaign rally in Dallas. “Sometimes you have to let them fight like two kids in a lot, you gotta let them fight, and then you pull them apart.”

The U.S. BOMBS ITS OWN ABANDONED MILITARY BASES to prevent them and their war materiel from falling into Turkish hands

Lindsey Graham has become Trump's prime enabler. Is he starting to wonder about what he is encouraging? 
The golf-and-politics alliance between President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham frayed Wednesday over Syria, with the South Carolina Republican threatening to become the White House’s “worst nightmare” unless more is done to protect Kurdish fighters against Turkish attacks. Trump, in turn, suggested Graham focus on his job leading the Senate Judiciary Committee and reminded him who’s in a position to threaten whom. “I am the boss,” Trump said. . . .

Exactly. What Graham may not have fully appreciated is the fact that the president effectively sees him as an employee. 

China reminds Trump who's really in charge of their trade negotiations
China threatens ‘strong countermeasures’ if Trump signs bill supporting Hong Kong rights

Trump wants an immigration hawk in charge of DHS -- he clearly plans to make this, and the Wall™, the center of his 2020 campaign

In investigation news . . .

The cover-up is collapsing
Trump is still telling people not to testify, except no one is listening to him 

There was never any doubt that Trump would choose his own Doral resort as the site of the next G-7. Add this to the emoluments charge
Fox’s Judge Napolitano: G7 at Trump Doral Is as ‘Profound a Violation’ as ‘One Could Create’
MULVANEY: "Again, anticipating your questions, how is this this is not emolument violation? Will the president profit from this? The president pretty much made it very clear since he got here, he doesn't profit from being here. He has no interest in profiting from being here."

[NB: Except. . . .  when he does.]

Trump also wants to invite Putin, unilaterally turning the G-7 back into the G-8

[NB: Of course he does!]

Are people using insider info about Trump's actions to make fortunes in the stock market? (thanks to DK for the link)
“There Is Definite Hanky-Panky Going On

In other news . . .

Here's the real source of tension between Pelosi and Trump: he CANNOT STAND women who stand up to him. We have seen again and again his special venom for women (and his special term for them, "nasty"). Pelosi is a thousand times smarter and more savvy than he is, and she knows how to get to him. And she is winning this showdown
“I think now we have to pray,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters . . . after what she described as "a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.” [read on]

Trump’s “Nervous Nancy” tweet shows his problem with powerful women

Pelosi makes that viral photo her new Twitter header: a single woman in a room full of men, standing up to the president 

Another clue, if he was willing to take it, that Trump had not showed the world how Pelosi had lost it came from a former Republican Senate aide who tweeted, “That would happen to be a woman standing up and asserting herself at a table full of men. I understand such a scene may cause a meltdown but I assure you it's not on Speaker Pelosi's behalf” and “HOW CAN A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT be so bad at this I have to speak up for Nancy Pelosi? I mean, really.” It’s starting to look like this is a lesson Trump cannot learn: When a meeting between him and Pelosi falls apart, she always comes out looking better than he does.   

"All Roads Lead to Putin": Pelosi explains what triggered the meltdown. 

Former Sect'y of Defense General Jim Mattis responds to Trump's insults 
“I’m not just an overrated general. I’m the greatest, the world’s most overrated” He added: “I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me And you do have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories.”

Could the Trump gang's treatment of the bereaved UK family get any more insensitive and brutal?
Said without irony, it seems
“When you’re the father and your son’s entire career is dependent on that, they own you.”
          — Donald Trump Jr., quoted by the Washington Post, suggesting Hunter Biden only had business opportunities due to his father’s name.  

I have concerns about all the current Dem candidates right now. But I REALLY have concerns about Elizabeth Warren: Medicare for All is a losing political issue

Bonus item: Andy Borowitz is hilarious -- watch the video (thanks to AG for the link)

***If you enjoy Progressive Blog Digest and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

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Thursday, October 17, 2019


Trump gave Turkey the green light to invade Syria and attack the Kurds, then threatened -- in his typically empty bloating way -- that he would "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if they did it. Well, sure enough, they did it (as anyone knew they would) and despite some tough talk about "sanctions," Turkey doesn't give a damn what Trump says now. He gave them what they wanted

[Oct 7] Trump threatens to 'totally destroy and obliterate' Turkey's economy

Erdogan, who’s phone call with Trump precipitated the crisis, added that he’s heard the talk about a proposed ceasefire, but he doesn’t care. “They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We will never declare a ceasefire,” the Turkish leader told reporters. As for the threat of possible U.S. sanctions, Erdogan went on to say, “They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions.”  To a very real extent, these are humiliating circumstances for the United States: a high-ranking American delegation is on its way to a NATO ally, only to learn before arriving that our ally’s president doesn’t see the point in talking to them.
Turkey Tells Trump to Get Lost . . . [T]he US has no influence in Syria anymore. Turkey does. Russia does. Syria itself does. But not us.
Many US troops express ‘disgust’ with Trump’s calamitous Syria policy
Trump told 6 falsehoods about Syria in 4 minutes

Now we see the letter Trump wrote to Erdogan pleading/threatening him not to attack the Kurds. This is not a parody, folks -- this is what our president sent to another head of state (still waiting to find out if it was written in crayon)
Dear Mr. President:

Let's work out a good deal! You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will. I've already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.

I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.

History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!

I will call you later.  

[NB: Is it any wonder that Erdogan ignored this? It is beyond embarrassing.]

More of Trump's thoughtful, serious leadership
“Syria and Turkey can fight… They’ve got a lot of sand over there. There’s a lot of sand that they can play with.”
           — President Trump
[Trump] went on to say his decision was “strategically brilliant.” [read on]

President Trump addressed Turkey's invasion of Syria in the Oval Office on Wednesday, telling reporters that the Syrian Kurds — who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS — are "not angels," and that the Syrian government and Russia will protect them. . . . "[O]ur soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now. But the Kurds know how to fight, and as I said, they're not angels. They're not angels. ... Syria probably will have a partner of Russia, whoever they may have. I wish them all a lot of luck."

[NB: Yes, that's right. Trump is openly ceding influence to Russia in a critical part of the world, because "it has nothing to do with us." Russian troops are occupying US bases that we abandoned. And we ask for the thousandth time -- what would Trump and the Republicans be saying if Obama had allowed this to happen? And no, the Kurds are not safer -- what the HELL is he talking about? Is he trying to protect them or not?]

The House passed a resolution condemning Trump's disastrous Syria policy, 354-60. 129 Repubs, including the entire leadership, voted for it

Meanwhile, just when things seemed to be calming down with the Senate GOP leadership, Trump attacked Lindsey Graham, who responded by strengthening his criticisms of the Syria policy
Trump attacks Lindsey Graham for criticism of Syria policy
Graham Threatens To Become Trump’s ‘Worst Nightmare’ In Escalating Feud

Trump brags constantly that he is "bringing our troops home" from the Middle East. That's a lie -- the overall number is going UP significantly. It's just a question of where they are deployed
On Ukraine, can we just pause for a second -- a private citizen, hired as "the president's personal attorney" (though we still don't know who's actually paying him), with no formal government role, was not only driving foreign policy initiatives with Ukraine, he was forcing out people WITH formal government positions and responsibilities who got in his way
Giuliani’s apparent ‘shadow foreign policy’ gets him into more trouble [read on]
A top State Department official told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was instructed to “lay low” after he criticized the White House’s utilization of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to interact with Ukraine . . .
“New details from Kurt Volker’s closed-door interview indicate Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, was deeply conflicted about whether to take the job because of concerns about Rudy Giuliani’s shadow involvement . . . Taylor was also worried that Trump might be willing to trade away Ukraine’s interests as part of a grand bargain with Russia.”
Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told impeachment investigators that he resigned because he was upset that the Trump administration had wrestled Ukraine policy away from career diplomats . . . “McKinley’s testimony was the latest in a string of accounts given by top career diplomats and administration officials to impeachment investigators about how experts were sidelined as the president pursued his own agenda on Ukraine.”
[I]t’s increasingly clear that the Ukraine scandal wasn’t a momentary decision by Trump, or even something simply cobbled up between Trump and his personal attorney. A dedicated effort was made to sideline longtime State Department officials, remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, stall aid moneys for Ukraine that had already been approved by Congress, and bring in an entire team of experience-free figures appointed by Trump. All of it for the purpose of turning Ukraine into a propaganda source. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were willing to destroy top officials at the State Department, blow away decades of work in upholding the rule of law, and sabotage the relationship between the United States and an ally. And even if they had been successful, the payoff would have been only another stab at a claim that has long been debunked. The lack of judgment demonstrated in the whole affair seems nothing short of monstrous. . . . [read on]

YES, there was a quid pro quo

Trump praises Giuliani, while making it very clear that the whole Ukraine thing was Rudy's idea -- why, Trump barely even knew anything about it
“So Rudy saw that, I can tell you, Rudy Guiliani, because he was very, very incensed at the horrible things that he saw as are many people,” he continued. “So Rudy was seeking out corruption. I think there’s nothing wrong with seeking out corruption.” When asked if Giuliani operated as a foreign agent, Trump demurred. “I don’t know what he did. You have to ask Rudy those questions. Don’t ask me. . .” 

Foreign agent?
On the Potential Viability of Foreign Agent Charges for Rudy Giuliani 


Pssst! Rudy is in BIG trouble

The parade continues
Kurt Volker testimony revealed depth of concerns about Giuliani
Gordon Sondland was identified as a risk to national security, but nothing was done about it
Former senior adviser testifies to how Pompeo damaged State Department to score political points

In investigation news . . .

The Trump gang says they are initiating their own investigation of the infamous phone call with Ukraine. But of course they don't actually mean "investigate"
The White House has launched its own fact-finding inquiry into the handling of the infamous July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky . . . Many White House aides believe the probe is more of an effort to find a scapegoat for the scandal that’s erupted around the call . . .

A few days ago, the Sect'y of Defense said, "We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress [subpoena] . . . We will do everything we can to comply." Now we have their answer. I'll bet you know what it is

The Trump tax documents that we do have reveal a pattern of misconduct
In New Tax Documents, Trump’s Cooking the Books on Two Manhattan Properties Looks a Lot Like Fraud

“Certainly, if I were sitting in a prosecutor’s office, I would want to ask a lot more questions,” said Anne Milgram, a former attorney general for New Jersey . . . [read on] 

Feds Nab Fourth Defendant In Case Against Giuliani Pals At JFK Airport In New York 

In other news . . . 

Trump had a meeting with congressional leaders in which he personally insulted the Speaker of the House and had a "meltdown." So they walked out

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the meeting wasn’t a “dialog” it was a “diatribe.”
Trump unleashed a “diatribe” against Pelosi, calling her a “third-rate politician,” and suggested that because some ISIS members were communists, she’d “probably like that.”

Trump's version
"Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her “upstairs,” or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!"

Listen: she had no reason to sit there and take his insults. This is the Speaker of the House and the most powerful woman in politics. He can treat her with respect, or he can go suck eggs
“Trump accused Democratic leaders of sympathizing with communists in Syria and slammed Pelosi as ‘a third-rate politician,’ before ripping a series of targets including Jim Mattis, his own former Pentagon chief. While Trump also makes clear that he doesn’t care much for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), it’s Pelosi who clearly angers the president most — a fury that has only grown since Democrats launched their fast-moving impeachment inquiry of Trump.”

Sounds like Trump had a pretty foul day. Good
President Trump on Wednesday called his former Defense secretary James Mattis "the world's most overrated general" during a tense meeting with lawmakers on the situation in Syria. . . . During the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) read a quote from Mattis's appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press," where he warned that "ISIS will resurge" if the U.S. does not keep the pressure on in that region. Trump cut Schumer off, according to two Democratic aides, and said that Mattis was "the world’s most overrated general." "You know why? He wasn’t tough enough," Trump said, according to the aides. "I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month." 

There's a whole lot of crazy going on in Trump's head right now. Here are some highlights . . .
A GOP official in California told Axios' Margaret Talev: "The needle on the Batsh*t Crazy Meter may have gone past the red zone today."

Trump confirmed that Turkey holds 50 U.S. nuclear weapons. It's an open secret, but he's not supposed to say that

Another new poll shows that a clear majority want Trump impeached and removed from office. Can we hold the election RIGHT NOW please?  

He just says s--t
President Donald Trump couldn’t keep his predecessor’s name out of his mouth on Wednesday . . . The President predicted that the report would mention the usual suspects in his “deep state” conspiracy theory (former FBI officials James Comey, Peter Strzok, and Andrew McCabe), then he bizarrely floated former President Barack Obama as one of the culprits. “Let’s see whether or not it’s President Obama,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not they put that in.” Trump then baselessly claimed Obama was behind the “corruption of the 2016 election” again during a press conference with Mattarella after their meeting. “There was a lot of corruption. Maybe it goes right up to President Obama,” Trump said. “I happen to think it does.”

[NB: And. . .  and. . .  and. . . show us the birth certificate![]

A nice little video find: Trump saying "I like nepotism" 

Nepotism, huh?
Here is a list of people who have criticized Hunter Biden of Nepotism in the last 24 hours . . .
Hunter Biden admitted the obvious in his ABC interview. Would the Trumps, Rand Paul or Ronna McDaniel do that?

The WH Press Secretary told us that Trump "strongly condemns" the deeply disturbing snuff video that shows him shooting and stabbing his political enemies. Uh-huh, sure. I think we know what Trump does when he actually strongly condemns something -- a million tweets and repeated criticisms to the press -- but after three days he still hasn't said a single word about it
Violent Video Was Product of Right-Wing Provocateurs and Trump Allies 

We've been following the heartbreaking story of the wife of a US diplomat who, driving on the wrong side of the road in the UK, struck and killed a bicyclist. Then she fled the country. Now Trump, in his most sensitive modality, tries to force a reconciliation with the kid's parents

"And that can happen. You know, those are the opposite roads. That happens. I won't say it ever happened to me, but it did. When you get used to driving on our system and then you're all of a sudden in the other system, where you're driving — it happens. Have to be careful."  

Trump still thinks that his most important legacy will be building the Wall™

Trump has issued four vetoes intended to help Saudi Arabia, and two vetoes to redirect funds to the border in defiance of Congress' wishes. [read on]

Yes, it is a cult
“Republicans have for a long time been called racist, fascist, sexist and greedy. And I think that’s why they support Donald Trump.” [read on]

BREAKING NEWS: Civil Rights icon and giant of Congress Elijah Cummings passes away
The veteran Democratic representative chaired the powerful House Oversight Committee investigating President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Elizabeth Warren doesn't want to talk about how she's going to pay for "Medicare for All." That's a big problem, and bad politics -- because eventually she WILL have to say, and when she does it will look like she's been hiding it
It’s a simple answer. Everyone knows it: Taxes would almost certainly have to go up on middle-class families, even if Warren is right that their overall costs would go down. She knows it, too. She’s just decided not to say it. . . . On the campaign trail, the Massachusetts senator has presented herself as the truth-teller, the straight-talker, the one who can break down complex economic ideas and bring non-progressives along. Now, just as she’s started to get the attention from competitors and the press that comes from leading public polls, she’s insisting on talking in circles. In politics, there’s little more dangerous than moments that undermine a candidate’s core image . . .

A contrary view:

I Hate to Admit the Moderates are Right About Medicare-for-All
The Urban Institute, a center-left think tank highly respected among Democrats, is projecting that a plan similar to what Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders are pushing would require $34 trillion in additional federal spending over its first decade in operation. That’s more than the federal government’s total cost over the coming decade for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined, according to the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections. . . . [read on]
“Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said that it is studying a range of options for paying for ‘Medicare for All,’ leaving open the possibility that the presidential candidate may ultimately diverge from Sen. Bernie Sanders on how his sweeping health care plan — which Warren has endorsed — would be paid for,” CNN reports. 

[NB: It is a good thing that she is re-examining her proposal. If she's smart she will back off the mandate that forces people off their current coverage, too.]

Warren defends her "wealth tax"

Biden calls Warren and Sanders promises a "con"

Biden's cash crunch

In case you have been wondering who AOC and "the Squad" were going to endorse for president, it's Bernie (and not Warren or Harris). Which I guess goes to show that once again class trumps gender and race

Bonus item: A student pointed this out to me -- an interesting website that publishes multiple versions of current news stories, labeled by political slant. I like the idea, though I am concerned that many stories marked "left" are not really left, but just factual, whereas the "right" versions are obviously tilted. The two cases are not really symmetrical. But then, of course, I suppose one could say that's just the point

***If you enjoy Progressive Blog Digest and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***