Tuesday, November 19, 2019

ROUND TWO

This week's big schedule for impeachment testimony
Kurt Volker Appears to Have Lied to Congress 

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/volker-will-testify-he-was-out-of-the-loop/
Volker Will Testify He Was Out of the Loop

The House is investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller


Yes, of course Ukraine felt pressure from the U.S. to force them to announce investigations -- and the U.S. knew they did

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/ap-ukraine-felt-trump-admin-pressure-and-us-officials-knew-it

Sondland implicates Mulvaney and Perry
Trump is furious with Sect'y of State Mike Pompeo for hiring some of the people who are now testifying against him. Trump thinks Pompeo should "reign them in"

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/trump-turns-on-pompeo/

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-pompeo-tensions-impeachment-inquiry-testimonies 

More: https://www.axios.com/mike-pompeo-marie-yovanovitch-impeachment-defend-d98e7133-e08b-4954-9dc5-20af71e19c5d.html
Pompeo again declines to defend diplomats embroiled in impeachment 

Trump likes to call the staffers who testify against him "Never Trumpers," which suggests they are part of the group of Republicans who opposed him during the campaign. It's not necessarily true, but it is meant to discredit their evidence -- because one of the current impeachment ploys is to challenge the motivations of witnesses, when you can't refute their testimony

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/impeachment-witness-never-trumper-trump

[NB: Or, as one commentator put it: "You can only believe people who support me!"] 

Now this: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/cnn-trump-suggested-having-impeachment-witnesses-fired
CNN reported on Monday night that Trump, ever fixated with loyalty, has suggested having Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Pentagon official who currently serves on the National Security Council, and Ambassador Bill Taylor fired after both provided key testimony on Trump’s attempt to manipulate U.S. relations with Ukraine for political gain. Unnamed sources told CNN that White House aides warned Trump against forcing out the witnesses, advising that doing so would be seen as retaliation. . . . 

Ron Johnson, who is vying for the title of biggest hypocrite in the Senate (boy, does he have competition, though) takes up the narrative . . .

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/sen-ron-johnson-paints-key-impeachment-witness-as-possibly-anti-trump 
The Republican senator described a meeting he, Vindman, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, and then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker had with newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky  . . . In the letter, Johnson cast doubt over whether Vindman’s assertion was in line with Trump’s stance on U.S.-Ukraine relations. “I raise this point because I believe that a significant number of bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch have never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style and his intrusion onto their ‘turf,'” the Wisconsin Republican wrote. “They react by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office.” “It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile,” he added. 

A moment of clear thinking: it wasn't the whistleblower who "started" the investigation -- it was witnesses to the July 25 phone call, and other events, who had DIRECT KNOWLEDGE of what was going on, and who were alarmed enough to talk to him

https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/11/18/the-conflict-between-the-gops-hearsay-and-whistleblower-defenses/

No, Giuliani and his mob gang weren't FIGHTING corruption in Ukraine -- they were PART of it

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/18/1900304/-Giuliani-and-gang-are-under-investigation-for-efforts-to-replace-Ukraine-gas-and-oil-company-CEO

The David Holmes testimony about overhearing a phone call between Trump and Sondland has Trump defenders very concerned

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/gop-lawmakers-shaken-by-overheard-phone-call/

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/david-holmes-transcript-sondland-trump
READ: Interview Of Embassy Aide Who Heard Trump-Sondland Call 

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/ukrainians-came-to-understand-how-to-get-military-aid/
David Holmes, a senior political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, testified that Ukrainian officials “came to understand what was required” in order to get military assistance and a meeting with President Trump, the Washington Post reports. . . .

[NB: Yes, I am sure they did.]

A second interview is also released

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/read-state-dept-official-points-to-pompeo-in-yovanovitch-ouster
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Rudy Giuliani when deciding not to issue a statement in support of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, according to testimony from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale released Monday evening. Hale told the House Intelligence Committee in a Nov. 6 deposition that Pompeo ordered the State Department not to issue a statement in support on Yovanovitch in March 2019, as The Hill columnist John Solomon published false attacks on the then-sitting U.S. ambassador in Kyiv. . . .

One of Devin Nunes's hacks sues the press for reporting that he is a hack

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/nunes-protege-now-at-white-house-sues-politico-over-impeachment-stories
Kash Patel . . . claimed Politico undertook a “malicious effort” to “target and destroy the stellar career and reputation of a dedicated attorney.” . . . Patel alleged in the rambling, harshly worded suit that Politico and Bertrand conspired with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, via “real-time” leaks from the chairman, to knowingly publish false and defamatory information about him. . . . [read on]

In other investigation news . . .

The new GOP defense on impeachment (version 8.0) is that Trump did nothing wrong. But 70% of the public don't believe that

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/big-majority-think-trump-was-wrong-on-ukraine/

What would you do to a juror who says this BEFORE a trial even starts and BEFORE all the evidence is even known?

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/18/1900393/-Moscow-Mitch-can-t-imagine-a-scenario-in-which-he-abandons-Trump
Soon-to-be juror Moscow Mitch McConnell is guaranteeing an acquittal. "I can't imagine a scenario under which President Trump would be removed from office with 67 votes in the Senate," he said . . . 

[NB: This is like when he said, Of course we ignored Obama's Supreme Court nominee just before an election, but would rush through one for Trump: it is openly admitting the cynicism and corruption of the GOP majority. He is admitting that NO MATTER WHAT THE EVIDENCE, they will acquit him.]

More shamelessness from McConnell: https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2019/11/all-republicans-want-is-little-civility.html 
Bemoaning the country’s lack of civility, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that both sides of the political spectrum need to defuse the anger surrounding political discourse. Speaking in his home state of Kentucky, the Republican leader said the country needs to “learn how to behave better, how to be able to disagree without anger.” [read on]

Trump's "gravest abuse of power"? How do you rank order a list?

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/11/trump-amazon-bezos-defense-cloud-washington-post-pentagon-scandal.html

ANOTHER whistleblower

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-tax-audit-interference-whistleblower-complaint-irs-grassley-wyden
Two senators are reportedly reviewing an Internal Revenue Service whistleblower complaint related to the annual audit of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence . . . [A]n IRS whistleblower filed a complaint in July alleging that a person in the Treasury Department was attempting to interfere with the annual audit of the President and vice president. . . .

In other news . . .

Trump met with the head of the Fed, who he has been pressuring for months to overstimulate the economy so Trump can brag about big growth numbers going into 2020. After the meeting, their accounts diametrically differ

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-powell-meeting-interest-fed
“Just finished a very good & cordial meeting at the White House with Jay Powell of the Federal Reserve. Everything was discussed including interest rates, negative interest, low inflation, easing, Dollar strength & its effect on manufacturing, trade with China, E.U. & others, etc.

Finally, Chair Powell said that he and his colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee will set monetary policy, as required by law, to support maximum employment and stable prices and will make those decisions based solely on careful, objective and non-political analysis.” [read on] 

Trump's quids for North Korea aren't enough to get him the quos he wants

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/18/1900352/-North-Korea-says-it-will-no-longer-gift-Trump-with-the-Kim-Jong-Un-meetings-he-craves

Trump gives a huge gift to Netanyahu

https://www.axios.com/pompeo-israel-settlements-west-bank-illegal-6b7e954b-3058-4c7f-b881-2cb16e1badb1.html
Pompeo announces U.S. will no longer view Israeli settlements as illegal

More: https://www.vox.com/world/2019/11/18/20971153/trump-israel-settlements-west-bank-pompeo-illegal 

https://www.axios.com/trumps-settlements-announcement-democrats-republicans-e1e280e0-fa8b-49e7-80f4-c45b218d6d38.html

[NB: By the way, what has Trump done since impeachment started to bite? Added an evangelical to his WH staff; pardoned troops suspected of war crimes that even the military didn't want to see pardoned, and now pandering to conservative Jews and evangelical Christians, again. He's touching all the bases of his hard core support, just when he needs them.]

The Cesspool

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/republican-national-committee-trump-ambassador-nominee-doug-manchester_n_5dd2b8b2e4b02947481b71e0
Republican Party Solicited $500,000 From Trump Ambassador Pick

More: https://www.vox.com/2019/11/18/20970842/ronna-mcdaniel-rnc-doug-manchester-ambassador-bahamas-trump
New investigation suggests Republicans took ambassadorial pay-to-play to new levels 

[NB: They don't even pretend to try to hide it, do they?] 

Now we have a NEW story for why Trump went to the hospital -- the classic sign of a lie falling apart. It wasn't an "early" health physical after all

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trumps-physician-calls-surprise-walter-reed-visit-a-planned-interim-checkup/
President Donald Trump's physician said Monday that the president's surprise visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday was not a sign of ill health, but was instead part of a "routine, planned interim checkup." . . . "Due to scheduling uncertainties, the trip was kept off the record."

Video indicates that Trump was rushed to the hospital

Watch: https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/watch-apparent-rush-take-trump-walter-reed

More: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-made-a-mysterious-unscheduled-hospital-visit-heres-what-we-know 

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/18/20970407/trump-walter-reed-hospital-trip-explained  

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/11/18/yes-its-ok-to-speculate-on-the-presidents-health-071399
We know our president’s health is not optimal. By his own doctor’s assessment, he’s obese—at a reported weight of 243 pounds and 6 feet 3 inches tall, giving him a body mass index of 30.4. His 2018 coronary calcium CT scan rendered a score of 133, which means he has a common form of heart disease and is at moderate risk of having a heart attack in the next three to five years, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta reported. Other doctors told the New York Times that Trump’s elevated LDL levels indicate poor cardiofitness. The fact that the only serious exercise Trump gets is stepping out his golf cart to swing a club further encourages us to worry. . .

By the way, just for the record: Trump IS NOT 6' 3". Alex Rodriguez is 6' 3"


[NB: Just one more lie told by his physicians. Which makes his obesity index even worse.]

Why should we believe their account of Trump's hospital visit when they have lied about EVERY ONE of his health exams up to now?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/11/17/we-need-second-opinion-presidents-health/ 

More: https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/trumps-visit-to-walter-reed-did-not-follow-protocol/ 

Another battleground state, Wisconsin: time to purge the voting rolls!

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/lawsuit-could-purge-234k-from-wisconsin-voter-rolls/

Is Elizabeth Warren's attempt to please both pragmatists and progressives pleasing neither?

https://www.axios.com/warrens-path-to-medicare-for-all-26cced95-4642-46ca-a8b5-2c639cc99eec.html

Another promise Warren made that she's forced to reconsider

https://www.businessinsider.com/elizabeth-warren-wont-hold-fundraisers-big-donors-2019-2
[Feb 25, 2019] Elizabeth Warren says she won't hold fundraisers or reserve special time for big donors

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/18/big-democratic-donors-elizabeth-warren-2020-071333
[Nov 18, 2019] Elizabeth Warren prohibits special access for big donors — but her campaign treasurer and another close ally are organizing wealthy supporters for Warren behind the scenes while she rips on the rich. 

Moderates are on the rise in the Democratic race -- or, as one headline puts it, "The left sees an establishment plot to take down Warren, Sanders"

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/18/how-moderates-are-seizing-the-moment/

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/18/warren-sanders-establishment-plot-2020-071322

[NB: I don't know how this is going to play out, and as I keep saying not a single real vote has been cast yet. But it is ridiculous for Sanders and Warren supporters to feel that they are somehow entitled to the nomination. Politics is a fight to win, and what is happening within the Dem primary is a gentle tea party compared to what they would face from Trump and the Republicans. If you can't win here, you can't win there.]

Bonus item: Fair and balanced coverage of both sides of the impeachment issue

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Monday, November 18, 2019

BANQUO'S GHOST

What Bolton knows 

https://www.axios.com/john-bolton-trump-ukraine-aid-meeting-cbf90e0f-cd24-4865-904b-2ad4b871aab2.html
Former White House national security adviser John Bolton met privately with President Trump in August in an effort to convince him to release nearly $400 million in frozen military aid to Ukraine, former National Security Council official Tim Morrison told impeachment investigators last month . . . Morrison testified that Bolton emerged from the meeting and simply said that Trump was "not yet ready" to release the money. Bolton also warned Morrison not to get involved with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — who communicated to Ukrainian officials that the aid would be released if they announced investigations into Joe Biden and the 2016 election — and to "make sure the lawyers are tracking."

Trump's defenders make a big deal that representatives from Ukraine are unwilling to say that they felt pressure or coercion from the U.S.  What do you expect them to say? They have a gun to their heads

The Republicans have an impossible case to make

https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/chris-wallace-shreds-steve-scalises-anti
During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Wallace grilled Scalise about reports that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was heard saying Trump only cared about things that benefit him, like an investigation into Biden. 

Wallace pointed out that Trump "never mentions the word 'corruption'" in either of his telephone calls with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky but he did mention Joe Biden and his son.
"What he talks about is investigations," Wallace explained. "Investigations of the Democrats, possible interference in 2016, investigations into the Bidens."
Scalise complained that none of the impeachment witnesses who have testified in public hearings were on the calls with Trump and Zelensky.
"That's not true for Gordon Sondland," Wallace said. "Gordon Sondland met directly with the president a half dozen times." "Doesn't that blow a hole in the president's defense?" Wallace asked.
"The president's defense is that those things didn't happen," Scalise said of pressure put on Ukraine. "There were only two people who participated in that phone call, President Trump and President Zelensky... the bottom line is he got the money."
"A dozen people listened in on the phone call," Wallace interrupted. "They are career foreign service officers. These are people who worked in the Trump administration."
"The inspector general said the whistleblower had political motivations," Scalise said.
"We're not talking about the whistleblower," Wallace replied. "I'm asking you about these people who worked for the Trump administration, who worked on the National Security Council or worked for the vice president's office."
"The foreign minister of Ukraine just came out two days ago to clear some of this up," Scalise remarked.
"He incidentally was not on the call either," Wallace chuckled. 

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/chris-wallace-accuses-gop-rep-steve-scalise-of-very-badly-mischaracterizing-impeachment-testimony

The new defense strategy: Trump did NOTHING wrong

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/17/republicans-shift-defense-of-trump-again/
 
https://www.axios.com/inside-republicans-defense-strategy-for-week-2-of-impeachment-hearings-ad010a28-e1ae-4c38-80a4-0c7bc593a92e.html

The attack on the whistleblower continues. Senator Ron Johnson -- himself implicated in the Ukraine mess -- says that disclosure of the corrupt Trump/Giuliani scheme "weakened" U.S./Ukraine relations. Which of course has it exactly backwards

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/republican-ron-johnson-whistleblower-us-ukraine_n_5dd15b80e4b029474818f42a
“One thing that I want to point out is the damage that’s being done to our country through this entire impeachment process,” Johnson said.  “You know, it’s going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a candid conversation with a world leader because now we’ve set the precedent of leaking transcripts,” he added.  . . . “By the way, those individuals that leaked this, if their interest was a stronger relationship with Ukraine, they didn’t accomplish it,” Johnson continued. “Having this all come out into public has weakened that relationship ― has exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.” . . . “This would have been far better off if we had just taken care of this behind the scenes,” Johnson said. 

[NB: Where do you start with this idiocy? The "leak" of the transcripts CAME FROM TRUMP. And if the whistleblower complaint hadn't come forward, Trump would still be blackmailing Ukraine -- it was ONLY the public disclosure of that complaint that made him back down on releasing the military aid. Finally, Johnson seems to be saying that the revelation of corrupt dealings is the problem -- not the corrupt dealings themselves. I know the Repubs are in a tough spot but, I mean, come on, REALLY?]

Background: https://theweek.com/speedreads/874774/gop-sen-ron-johnson-keeps-popping-key-aspects-trumps-ukraine-scandal
GOP Sen. Ron Johnson keeps popping up in key aspects of Trump's Ukraine scandal 

Chuck Todd Confronts GOP Senator: You Blame ‘Everybody’ but Trump on Ukraine Scandal
 
In other investigation news . . .

Gordon Sondland told other Trump officials about the extortion plot against Ukraine

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/17/sondland-kept-officials-apprised-of-ukraine-push/ 

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/impeachment-hearings-when-gordon-sondland-stepped-in-things-went-really-off-the-rails
Ukrainian officials arrived at the White House on July 10 expecting something approaching normal. They were in Washington for a scheduled meeting with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton with a plan to propose a new path for U.S.-Ukrainian relations under the umbrella of energy and security cooperation. All seemed to go well—until U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stepped in. “That’s when things really went off the rails,” one person in the room said. It’s been widely noted in testimonies by multiple House impeachment witnesses that Sondland interrupted the conversation between Bolton and the Ukrainians when he suggested that the Kyiv officials open investigations into Hunter Biden and the gas company he worked for if they wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to land a White House meeting with Donald Trump.

Bolton immediately cut the get-together short, witnesses said, in an attempt to save what had until then been a normal meeting. But what’s been less clear—until now—is what happened moments later, when Sondland guided the Ukrainians into the White House’s Ward Room. Three individuals familiar with the conversation described what happened next. Sondland continued to not just relay, but demanded ferociously, that the Ukrainians open the Biden investigations, saying it was the only chance for Washington and Kyiv to develop any further meaningful relationship, two individuals with knowledge of Sondland’s overtures said. Sondland raised his voice several times in his attempt to persuade the Ukrainian officials sitting across from him, including Andriy Yermak, a close aide to Zelensky, and Zelensky’s then-national security adviser Oleksandr Danylyuk. One individual told The Daily Beast that Sondland “got very emotional,” adding that “there was lots of yelling.” Another individual called the meeting “erratic” and said the Ukrainians began to ignore Sondland and instead turned to Fiona Hill, who ran the National Security Council’s Russia desk at the time, for clarification on Washington’s messaging.

Trump calls one of VP Mike Pence's top aides a "Never Trumper"

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/17/trump-pence-aide-williams-never-trumper-071330

[NB: You know, there's a word for it when you imagine a nefarious world of people all conspiring to get you.]
 
How impeachment is polling, so far
In other news . . .

Trump is lying about his hospital visit

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1195931893998456832
"Visited a great family of a young man under major surgery at the amazing Walter Reed Medical Center. Those are truly some of the best doctors anywhere in the world. Also began phase one of my yearly physical. Everything very good (great!). Will complete next year."

[NB: First, he didn't go in order to visit a young man facing surgery, or his family. Also note "Also." And he can't possibly know at this stage if his physical results are "very good (great!)" yet.

The image is fake, by the way!]

Cult watch: In Fox World, Trump is "almost superhuman"

https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/foxs-jeanine-pirro-heaps-praise-trump-hes  

The Cesspool

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-hotel-eric-washington-emoluments-walter-shaub_n_5dd1d2cfe4b01f982f0427b7
Trump Retweets Son Eric’s Promo Of Their D.C. Hotel 

As usual, Trump gives a massive build-up to the importance of a state election he hopes he can influence, but as soon as he fails he never mentions it again

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/17/trump-suffers-louisiana-loss-071300 

Another Trump concession to North Korea -- and still nothing to show for it

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/us-south-korea-exercise-north-korea_n_5dd144cee4b0d2e79f8e63cb 

Trump defends Biden (sort of): https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-unexpectedly-defends-biden-after-north-korea-attacks-top-dem-rival 

The Russians may have influenced the Brexit referendum in the UK

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/17/u-k-report-could-not-rule-out-russian-interference/

Trump reverses himself on flavored e-cigarette ban

https://www.axios.com/trump-flavored-e-cigarette-ban-backflip-report-978ee03d-f31a-48ba-9f84-21dc5430bcf5.html
It's the latest "chaotic" policy reversal following a dramatic declaration by the president to the contrary . . . . Trump reversed his decision because of concerns that owners of e-cigarette stores and their customers "might hurt his reelection prospects." . . . He also "feared" it "would lead to job losses"

A different Iowa poll

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/17/iowa-remains-tight/
A new CBS News/YouGov poll in Iowa finds Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden leading the Democratic field with 22% each, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 21% and Elizabeth Warren at 18%. . . .
 

***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 (http://pbd.blogspot.com) 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.***

Sunday, November 17, 2019

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Gordon Sondland's testimony next week just got a lot more interesting. It's been apparent all along that he is covering up his direct conversations with Trump, disclosing the absolute minimum he can get away with. He has already had to "correct" his testimony once, to avoid a charge of lying to Congress, and now he will have to do it again in light of the bombshell Holmes revelation about that Kiev restaurant phone call ("Trump doesn't give a shit about Ukraine, He only cares about the investigations"). 

Will he flip to protect himself? He can implicate Trump directly in the extortion/bribery scheme: remember, he was the ambassador to the EU, not to Ukraine -- but Trump wanted a loyalist (and not a career diplomat, who would know better) to put the screws to Zelensky. Now we will find out just how much of a "loyalist" Sondland is

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/sondlands-testimony-continues-to-crumble/
Sondland’s Testimony Continues to Crumble

https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/david-holmes-testimony-will-make-gordon
David Holmes' Testimony Will Make Gordon Sondland's Hearing VERY Interesting

The David Holmes report is about much more than that phone call

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-holmes-prepared-testimony-is-a-way-bigger-deal-than-expected
The Holmes Prepared Testimony Is a Way Bigger Deal Than Expected

Another thing we need to learn about: The plan to withhold funds for Ukraine already allocated by Congress was in itself illegal -- and Trump couldn't get the professional staff in OMB to go along with it. So he put a political hack in charge (sound familiar?) who would do what he wanted

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/budget-official-to-testify-today/
“The first official from inside the White House Office of Management and Budget to break ranks and testify in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump will appear for his closed-door deposition Saturday morning, offering insight into the decision to delay military aid to Ukraine” 

More: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/16/mark-sandy-testimony-impeachment-inquiry-071263
Officials who have already appeared before investigators — including Laura Cooper, who oversees Russia and Ukraine policy at the Pentagon — have testified that a senior OMB official announced the hold on aid during a secure video conference on July 18, setting off a scramble within the State Department, Pentagon, National Security Council and Joint Chiefs of Staff as officials sought to learn why the hold had been placed. All of those departments and agencies had already signed off on the military aid, with OMB as the lone exception, outraging national security officials who argued the security assistance was critical to protect U.S. interests in the region and to help Ukraine fend off Russian aggression to its east. . . . [read on]

Why?

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/quote-of-the-day-2406/
“I do wonder why it was necessary to smear my reputation.”
          — Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

Here's why: https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2019/11/why-it-was-necessary-to-smear-her-by.html
Notice that Trump had not felt the need to give career diplomats William Taylor and George Kent the same treatment on Wednesday. But Yovanovich, a woman, a smart, accomplished one at that, was a target of opportunity to be put in her place. Somewhere under his heel. Why was it necessary to smear her instead of simply dismissing her? Because even as President of the United States Trump is a small-minded man of low intelligence with an inferiority complex the size of Manhattan. He self-medicates his insecurity by demeaning everyone around him, or by browbeating them into demeaning themselves ... Capable women threaten him. As a misogynist too, naturally he felt a need to smear her ... I noticed someone from another country, I think, using Adam Serwer's "cruelty is the point" to describe Trump's actions. That understanding has gone global ...

Nancy Pelosi is on fire

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nancy-pelosi-donald-trump-insecurity_n_5dcfbd39e4b01f982f024ecb
“Of course, presidents appoint ambassadors, but people don’t insult people, especially when they’re giving testimony before the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi continued in the interview. “I think even his most ardent supporters have to honestly admit this is the wrong thing for the president to do,” she said. Pelosi also stressed the significance and weight of a president’s words. Trump “should not frivolously throw out insults, but that’s what he does. I think part of it is his own insecurity as an imposter. I think he knows full well that he’s in that office way over his head. And so he has to diminish everyone else.” 

Trump's tweets "did damage" to his support

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-advisers-reaction-yovanovitch-attacks
President Trump’s advisers and allies didn’t get the heads up before he launched attacks against ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Friday morning while her public testimony in the House impeachment probe was underway . . . His attacks were swiftly met with backlash, which included accusations of witness tampering and noted how he didn’t react to the public testimony of acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and top State Department official George Kent the same way.  According to a Saturday morning report in the New York Times, Trump’s tweets raised new doubts among the President’s advisers and allies, given the upcoming public testimonies next week of eight witnesses over the course of three days. The Times reported that Trump did not get approval for his Friday tweets targeting Yovanovitch with top White House aides prior to posting them. Privately, Trump’s advisers admitted that his tweets had done damage. . . .

Even on Fox: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/16/1899819/--This-whole-hearing-turned-on-a-dime-The-Trump-catastrophe-even-Fox-News-couldn-t-ignore
Trump's witness bullying was a bombshell most Fox anchors would have ignored on any other day. But because House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff stopped the hearing to read Trump's tweets and ask Yovanovitch if she wanted to respond, Trump's intimidation became part of a hearing Fox was already covering. "This whole hearing turned on a dime when the president tweeted about her real time," noted Fox anchor Brett Baier. "That enabled Schiff to then characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering with the witness, which is a crime. Adding essentially an article of impeachment real time." In other words, Trump singlehandedly authored another article of impeachment. Wow, now that is some stunning straight talk on Fox. Fox News analyst and former Clinton investigator Ken Starr told viewers Trump had clearly not been advised by counsel to send such a tweet. "Extraordinarily poor judgement," Starr remarked. "The president frequently says, 'I follow my instincts.' Sometimes we have to control our instincts, so obviously I think this is quite injurious." . . .  

More proof that pressure on Ukraine started well before the July 25 phone call

https://www.thedailybeast.com/gordon-sondland-spent-months-messaging-ukrainian-officials-on-whatsapp-before-july-25-call-wapo
According to sources cited by The Washington Post late Saturday, Sondland was busy texting on WhatsApp with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during his trip to Kyiv in late July . . . Sondland is said to have used the messaging app for discussions with other Ukrainian officials as well, for months both before the July visit and after, according to the Post. It was not immediately clear who else was included on the messages. Those messages have apparently evaded scrutiny in the impeachment probe, as the State Department has reportedly refused to turn them over despite a subpoena from the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees. Sondland, who is said to have told another top official he was placed “in charge” of Trump’s dealings in Ukraine despite the country not even being part of the EU, also met one-on-one with Yermak during the same visit, with a State Department aide testifying that he was barred from attending the meeting as a note-taker.  

Trump lied about Lev and Igor

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2019/11/trumps-double-oh-zeroes.html
Here's Trump saying last month of Parnas & Fruman, "I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do." CNN now reports Trump met privately w/them late last year & tasked them with pressuring the Ukrainian govt to investigate the Bidens . . . 

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-alleged-russian-mobsters-in-trump-worlds-orbit-a-dirty-dozen
The Alleged Russian Mobsters in Trump World’s Orbit: A Dirty Dozen 

The ridiculous, widely discredited excuse that Ukraine interfered in our election in 2016

https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/11/16/gop-accuses-trump-of-lying-to-mueller-in-latest-defense-against-impeachment/

More: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/facts-gop-claims-ukraine-2016-surface-week/story

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/08/ukraine-interfere-elections-testimony-068095 

Impeachment and "tribal epistemology"

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/16/20964281/impeachment-hearing-epistemic-crisis
Back in 2017, I wrote a piece speculating that the Mueller hearings might bring America’s epistemic crisis to a head. That crisis involves Americans’ growing inability, not just to cooperate, but even to learn and know the same things, to have a shared understanding of reality. We have sorted ourselves into polarized factions living in different worlds, not just of values, but of facts. . . . I wondered what might happen if Mueller offered clear, incontrovertible evidence of Trump’s guilt. Would the right wing be able to prevent its members from ever finding out? What if the truth was revealed but it had no power, no effect at all, because half the country had been walled off from it? What if there is no longer any evidentiary standard that can overcome our polarization?

As it happened, the hearings didn’t play out that way. . . . Now we may experience the stress test that Mueller never produced: whether the right can shield itself from plain facts in plain sight. Unlike Mueller’s report, the story behind the impeachment case is relatively simple: Congress approved military aid for Ukraine, but Trump withheld it as part of a sustained campaign to pressure Ukraine into launching an investigation of his political rival Joe Biden’s family. There’s a record of him doing it. There are multiple credible witnesses to the phone call and larger campaign. Several Trump allies and administration officials have admitted to it on camera. Trump himself admitted to it on the White House lawn. . . . It’s just very, very obvious that he did it. It’s very obvious he and his associates don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. And it’s very obvious there is something wrong with it. . . It’s a clearly impeachable pattern of action, documented and attested to by multiple witnesses, confessed to multiple times, in violation of longstanding political precedent and a moral consensus that was, until 2016, universal. Compared to Mueller, that is a much more difficult test of the right’s ability to obscure, distract, and polarize. . . . [read on]

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/john-harwood-rips-republicans-hypocrisy
Joy Reid sought comments from CNBC correspondent John Harwood today about why the Republican party has strayed so far from its Reaganite principles. . . . HARWOOD: Well, here's the thing, everything other than core visceral tribalism has been boiled away. That's what this is. Let's set aside for a second the fact that what Hillary Clinton was accused of doing with a private, unsecured email is like a little anthill compared to the Empire State Building of this operational security nightmare. But what is plain from all of this testimony is, we know the answer -- he did it. All of this evidence, this huge accumulation of evidence from highly credible witnesses over and over and over shows us that what we saw initially on that summary of the Trump/Zelensky call is, in fact, what happened. He pressured Volodymyr Zelensky, a vulnerable new leader of a country at war with Russia, under attack from Russia, he pressured them to get an investigation of the Bidens. . . .

Trump calls Adam Schiff "Schitt" -- and other highlights of presidential communication

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/trump-rages-against-impeachment-probe/  

Trump is rushed to Walter Reed hospital for an unannounced visit. The WH describes it as the beginning "portions" of his annual physical exam, a few months early. That sounds like B.S. to me -- but it raises the question, If Trump has a serious medical problem will we ever learn about it?

https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/16/politics/trump-annual-physical-walter-reed/index.html

Another Democratic governor win in a deep-red state, despite Trump making a personal plea to win it for him

https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-bel-edwards-defies-trump-opposition-to-win-re-election-in-louisiana
“I really need you … to send a message to the corrupt Democrats in Washington,” Trump told voters at a rally in Bossier City on Thursday . . . “So you’ve gotta give me a big win, please. OK?” Trump said. 

In other investigation news . . .

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/11/16/public-impeachment-hearing-historian-roundup-071249

More: https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2019/11/16/why-gordon-sondlands-testimony-matters-487688
These facts remain: Republicans have not been able to change the arc of the story Democrats are building. They’ve been able to muddy the waters, a bit, but the facts remain: the president was focused on an investigation into the Bidens, the aid was withheld and the president’s personal lawyer was running around, trying to dismantle the career of the ambassador to Ukraine, smearing her publicly and forcing her to return to Washington before the appointed time. . . . 

Two more transcripts released

https://www.axios.com/read-transcripts-tim-morrison-jennifer-williams-impeachment-4a869e68-78d2-48c4-ba83-69fd84731be2.html
Tim Morrison, the National Security Council's Russia and Europe director, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. . . . “The testimony released today shows that President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky immediately set off alarm bells throughout the White House ... following the September 1 meeting between President Zelensky and Vice President Pence, Mr. Morrison confirmed that Ambassador Sondland informed one of President Zelensky’s top aides that American military aid was conditioned on the investigations. Mr. Morrison informed John Bolton of the meeting and was told by Mr. Bolton to go see the lawyers, which he did. “Ms. Williams testified that the President’s requests were ‘unusual and inappropriate’ and shed light on ‘possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold.’ She also confirmed, like Lt. Col. Vindman, that the Ukrainian President specifically mentioned ‘Burisma’ during the call, even though the White House call record does not reflect that. Importantly, Ms. Williams also testified that in mid-May, President Trump instructed Vice President Pence to cancel plans to attend President Zelensky’s inauguration before the date for the inauguration had been set. “We look forward to the public testimony of both of these officials.”

More: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/16/sondland-said-he-was-acting-on-trumps-orders-aide-told-investigators-071275
Tim Morrison, a top White House national security aide, told impeachment investigators that Gordon Sondland — a U.S. ambassador at the center of the Ukraine scandal imperiling Donald Trump’s presidency — claimed to be acting on Trump’s orders, and was regularly in touch with him. . . . 

Fox World's blatantly misleading excuse for "news coverage"

https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/fox-news-impeachment-hearing-video-omits
Although Fox News posted its video on YouTube with the title, “Trump impeachment hearing Day 2 - Ambassador Yovanovitch,” a hugely important chunk of the hearing, which just happened to be the part with her opening statement and the most important Democratic questions, is not included. . . .
AG William Barr is embarrassing himself

https://twitter.com/thehill/status/1195573352771006464
"Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they call 'The Resistance' and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver to sabotage the functioning of the executive branch."

[NB: It's called our two-party system, Mr. Barr. One party gains power and the other starts planning how to get it back. Do you REMEMBER when Mitch McConnell greeted the historic election of Barack Obama by immediately saying his goal was to make him a one-term president? And why is Barr even giving this speech? Was he ordered to do it? This is a purely political matter, not a legal one -- and it is, of course, one of Trump's favorite rally lines: Impeachment is trying to undo YOUR vote for me in 2016!] 

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/16/1899932/-Bill-Barr-s-authoritarian-speech-to-the-Federalist-Society-sparks-sharp-criticism
Bill Barr's authoritarian speech to the Federalist Society sparks sharp criticism

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/william-barr-impeachment-federalist-society-speech_n_5dd0775fe4b0294748185c6c
Attorney General William Barr’s latest extreme defense of Donald Trump has triggered a wave of calls for his impeachment — and disbarment. . . .

In other news . . .

The Cesspool

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/15/trump-resort-was-last-minute-add-in-g7-search/
“Secret Service agents had identified four U.S. sites as finalists for next year’s Group of Seven summit — but then they were told to add a new finalist: President Trump’s Doral resort . . .” 

More: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/19/donald-trump-doral-out-g-7-following-criticism-lawmakers/4014702002/
In announcing the Doral pick . . . White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney described the resort as "the best place" to host the leaders of the world's most industrialized economies. Mulvaney tried to head off criticism about the propriety of using one of the president's properties, saying it was well suited for the summit. . . .

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/17/mulvaney-trump-ukraine-white-house.html
“It was almost like they built this facility” to host the G-7, Mulvaney said at the White House briefing, echoing comments he said came from another official whom he did not name. . . .

[NB: I can't imagine who that might be. . . .] 

"Drain the swamp" was never about ending corruption. It was about killing the careers of everyone who is not a Trump loyalist -- even dedicated professionals who are good at their jobs. That's why many government departments are hollowed out and unable to fulfill their duties

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2019/11/ive-been-saying-for-years-that-drain.html  

Trump pardons more war crime offenders. The military doesn't want him doing that

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/15/trump-issues-pardons-in-war-crimes-cases/ 

More: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/16/20967889/trump-war-crime-pardons-white-house-gallagher-lorance-golsteyn
The Washington Post has reported that some senior Pentagon officials tried to convince Trump to change his mind on the pardons because they feared it would undercut the power and reputation of the military justice system. And they are not alone in their concern — many military experts and former officials in the military seem to agree that offering these three members of the military a pardon could cause lasting institutional damage. . . . [read on]

How many new miles of Trump's Wall™ have been built? Go ahead, guess

https://crooksandliars.com/2019/11/surprise-zero-miles-trumps-wall-has-been 

Cult watch

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-cult-rules.html
Craig Silverman, a former chief deputy district attorney in Denver and current radio host on the conservative 710 KNUS, was taken off the air midshow Saturday after replaying an old interview clip in which he expressed hesitations about President Donald Trump. . . .

Another judge rules for fair voting, in Florida

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/judge-declares-florida-ballots-unconstitutional/ 

And in North Carolina: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/11/15/1899654/-North-Carolina-GOP-enacts-new-congressional-map-but-litigation-remains-likely-to-continue

Elizabeth Warren starts to sound more like a realist about Medicare for All, which is good. So now Bernie (mildly) criticizes her

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-elizabeth-warren-medicare-for-all-national-nurses-united_n_5dcf2ea2e4b0294748174d48
“I will let Senator Warren speak for herself, but this is what I believe,” he said . . . He explained that he does not see any value in deferring a confrontation with the private insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies that will stand in the way of a single-payer system. “That’s a fight that’s going to have to happen,” Sanders said. “I will engage that struggle on day one of my administration, not put it off for several years.” 

More: https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/elizabeth-warrens-backup-backup-health-plan/
Elizabeth Warren’s Backup Backup Health Plan 

https://politicalwire.com/2019/11/16/has-warren-found-safer-ground-on-health-care/
“Warren’s progression on health care through the course of the campaign has taken her from a position of flexibility to one of seeming inflexibility — at least until Friday. Over a period of months, she walked herself into a place that many Democrats feared could make her chances of winning a general election more, not less, difficult. Whether Friday’s turn alleviates those worries remains to be seen.”

An earlier poll had Pete Buttigieg ahead in Iowa, but it might have been an aberration. Now another one shows him with a sizeable lead

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/16/buttigieg-busts-out-to-first-place-in-iowa-071294
Bonus item: Can this marriage be saved?

https://www.thedailybeast.com/kellyanne-conway-blows-up-at-cnns-wolf-blitzer-for-saying-there-are-issues-with-her-marriage
Kellyanne Conway Blows Up at CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for Saying ‘There Are Issues’ With Her Marriage

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/11/george-conway-tells-people-kellyanne-conway-in-cult.html
As impeachment hearings heat up, the relationship between George Conway and his wife Kellyanne Conway have “become increasingly distant,” writes Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair. A Republican who speaks frequently with George Conway claims that he “tells people she’s in a cult.” . . . Rather than confront them, the couple appears to largely ignore their differences of opinion and act as if they don’t exist. . . . George Conway’s constant attacks on the administration don’t just bother his wife though. It seems Donald Trump himself is not too happy with the situation and has blamed Kellyanne for the situation: “George gets all his power from you,” he reportedly told her recently. The situation is so bad that Jared Kushner is pushing for Kellyanne Conway’s ouster but so far Trump doesn’t seem convinced.

https://thehill.com/homenews/media/467383-reporter-posts-heated-phone-call-with-kellyanne-conway
A tense phone conversation between a reporter for the Washington Examiner and White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway was published by the newspaper on Thursday.   In the conversation, Conway objected that a story written by the reporter, Caitlin Yilek, mentioned that her husband George Conway is a fierce critic of President Trump on Twitter. . . . I just am wondering why in God’s earth you would need to mention anything about George Conway’s tweets in an article that talks about me as possibly being chief of staff,” Conway said  . . .“Why is it relevant here? George’s position is what?” . . . “Let me tell you something, from a powerful woman. Don’t pull the crap where you’re trying to undercut another woman based on who she’s married to. "He gets his power through me, if you haven’t noticed," Conway said. "Not the other way around. . .”

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