Category Archives: Congress

Instant Analysis: Impeachment Hearing Day Two

I’m on record as disliking hot takes but since consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, here are my hot takes on Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony:

—> Masha mashed it. Her opening statement was compelling. She’s soft-spoken, which meant that people had to listen carefully. I’m not sure if Jim Jordan has ever listened to anyone in his benighted life. He certainly didn’t listen to the molested wrestlers at Ohio State.

The Ambassador was as impressive as GOPers were unimpressive. Their questions were confusing as well as confused. Nutty conspiracy theories are hard to follow. I’m talking to you Devin Nunes. Don’t have a cow, man.

—> I tweeted my thoughts on Yovanovitch’s opening statement:

—> The  morning break taken by Chairman Schiff was exquisitely timed. It allowed him to describe Trump’s odious AM tweet as witness tampering. It was surreal to watch Yovanovitch respond in real time. Here was my reaction:

—> Republican counsel Steve Castor is lucky that he’s on the Insult Comedian’s side. He’s boring and sleepy-eyed, which means that Trump would call him Sleepy Steve. I’d almost rather hear Gym Jordan. Almost.

—> Congresswoman Elise Stefanik seemed to be auditioning for a slot on either The Real Housewives of New Jersey or New York but given her demeanor, she’d  be a  better fit with Tre, Melissa, and the Gorga gang:

Now that I think of it, Jim Jordan is the Juicy Joe of the GOP caucus.

I hope you’re not scarred for life by that image but it has to be said, uh, shown.

—> Committee Republicans were a tad less flamboyant today. I think the Insult Comedian’s nasty tweet put a damper on their theatrics. Besides, Masha is a cool customer and GOPers failed to get under her skin. Chris Stewart under one’s skin? What a creepy thought and image; much worse than Joe Giudice’s tattooed torso.

—> Whistleblower, whistleblower, whisteblower.

In other news, Roger Stone was convicted on seven counts today. So far, Trump still admits to knowing him but this cannot be too far in the future:

I wonder if he and Rog have had any perfect phone calls? Everything he does is perfect, after all. The last word goes to Badfinger:

Instant Analysis: Impeachment Hearing Day One

I saw most of today’s hearing. Here are my takeaways:

—Nancy Smash was right to make the intelligence committee and Chairman Adam Schiff the tip of the impeachment spear. He was unflappable even in the face of moronic provocations by the Republican minority. He ruled on their sporadically dumb motions and moved on.

—I might rather have a beer with George Kent (I’ve heard he’s very funny offstage) but Bill Taylor is an impressive and formidable man. He reminds me of the small c conservatives who used to be common until Newt, W, the Tea Party, and Trump dumbed the GOP down.

Taylor reminded me of my father’s friend Paul Haerle who was a San Francisco super lawyer and California Republican Chairman from 1975-77. He ran afoul of the right wing of his party for supporting Ford over Reagan in 1976, resigned the next year, and focused on lawyering.

A quick personal story: I worked as a paralegal on the plaintiff’s side of a massive anti-trust case for a few years. It involved accusations of price fixing by Kaiser and other cement companies. I worked on the document production at Kaiser cement HQ in Oakland with another young paralegal with whom I shared a mutual disdain.

Anyway, the jerk-alegal and I were present to shuffle papers for a deposition. Paul Haerle was there representing the cement overlords. My nemesis glared at me, but his face fell as I addressed his big boss:

PA: “Hello Mr. Haerle. I’m Peter, Lou Athas’ son. We’ve met before.”

PH gave me a big smile and said: “Great to see you again. I miss your dad. Haven’t been to our Kiwanis club for a while. Give him and your mother my regards.”

PA: “Will do, sir.”

PH: “When you talk to your mom, tell her I’d love to eat her delicious Greek cookery again.”

My nemesis’ head looked like it was about to explode. He was not invited to dinner at my parents’ house. Paul Haerle was, and a good time was had by all.

That was quite a digression even for me. I’ll try and do better; not that y’all believe that.

—Neither Taylor nor Kent fell into any Republican traps. They insisted that they were fact witnesses and that it was up to Congress to deal with impeachment. I was relieved that none of the GOPers called Kent a “bow-tie motherfucker.” I guess none of them heard Omar call Brother Mouzon that on The Wire.

—Jim Jordan was there: unjacketed and unhinged. He seems to think that talking really fast and loud will dazzle the witnesses. They were emphatically undazzled by the second-rate wrestling coach. Jim Jordan to the rescue? Not even close.

—The GOP’s defense of Trump is ridiculous. Just because the crime was not perfected doesn’t make it legal. The only reason aid to Ukraine was not withheld is that Congress intervened.

—Democratic counsel Danny Goldman rocks. He showed why Schiff opted to have a genuine trial lawyer handle much of the questioning. Much like when Law & Order‘s Adam Schiff had Jack McCoy do likewise. You didn’t think I’d pass a chance to make that joke again, did you?

—Finally, a point of order from the sensible party on the Tweeter Tube:

I did not know that. Unlike House Republicans, I learn something new every day. I’ll remember that the next time I order Chicken Keev.

The last word goes to ELP:

 

Jim Jordan To The Rescue?

In their infinite wisdom, the House Republican leadership have decided that only one member (tool?) can save the day:

House Republican leadership is looking to load up the Intelligence Committee with some of President Donald Trump’s top defenders, including Rep. Jim Jordan, as the panel has become ground zero for impeachment.

“If Democrats are going to turn Intel into the impeachment committee, I am going to make adjustments to that committee accordingly, for a short period of time,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO.

McCarthy is well known as one of the most sycophantic Trumpers of all so this move isn’t shocking. What’s shocking is that McCarthy spoke in a complete sentence, which is something the incoherent House Republican leader isn’t known for. Who among us can forget his “untrustable in Hungria” remarks in 2015?

Since his glory days as a nattering nabob of negativism, McCarthy has become the Insult Comedian’s favorite ventriloquist’s dummy. He shares a last name with Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy but is more like Mortimer Snerd who put the dumb in dummy:

In addition to turning a blind eye to sexual abuse while a wrestling coach at Ohio State, Jim Jordan is best known for hectoring witnesses as a member of the House oversight and judiciary committees. The Politico article describes him as “one of Trump’s best attack dogs.” It’s the only kind of dog the Insult Comedian likes. They should check Jordan for rabies, he’s known to froth at the mouth and go full metal unjacketed.

Another thing Jim Jordan is known for is never wearing his suit jacket. I’m uncertain if he appears unjacketed to show off his manly biceps or because he’s always spoiling for a fight. In either event, it makes him look as ridiculous as he really is as does the internet’s pet name for the former wrestler, Gym Jordan. I do, however, like his almonds…

When I first heard that Jim Jordan was coming to the rescue, an old song popped into my head, Jim Dandy To The Rescue. It was originally recorded by an R&B artist, LaVern Baker. But the version that fits Jim Jordan is this one:

Jim Jordan was born to play creepy redneck BOA frontman, Jim Dandy Mangrum, even though Jordan is NOT a dandy, but we’re changing the title to Jim Jordan To The Rescue in any event. Just visualize Kevin McCarthy in a red fright wig screeching “Go, Jim Jordan, Go.” It’s a winner, I tell ya.

I hope you’ll forgive me for that earworm but sometimes I cannot help myself. I have a cold or otherwise I’d write some new lyrics for that venerable tune. Instead, I’ll just go, Jim Dandy, go.

The last word/meme goes to the anti-hero of the day, the one and only Buckeye bozo Jim Jordan as he goes full metal unjacketed:

Bayou Brief: Inside The Pocket Of A Clown

My latest column for Bayou Brief is online​. I borrow a Dwight Yoakam lyric for the title, Inside The Pocket Of Clown.

The clown in question is President* Pennywise. Inside his pocket is the mendacious minority whip from Metry, Steve Scalise.

The column was written before Scalise’s bizarre “Soviet impeachment” speech. Uh, Steve, impeachment is part of our British inheritance. There was no such thing as “Soviet impeachment.” They were not big on trials after Stalin’s death.

In the post Stalin era, the procedure was to pronounce sentence then execute the accused immediately. Sometimes by firing squad but more likely than not by a gunshot to the back of the head in the courtyard of the KGB’s Lubyanka Prison. If you’d watched The Americans, you’d know that.

I also adapted Michael F’s Pennywise image for the piece:

Thanks, man.

The last word goes to Dwight Yoakam:

Our Politicians and Pundits Know Nothing About Politics

This was dumb:

This was dumber:

This has got to be some kind of peak dumbass but what fresh hell will today bring?

I mean, honest to Cheeto Christ, it is astonishing how many of these people are listened to on politics when they don’t understand politics very well.

Take Pete up there, for whom I will enthusiastically vote should he be our nominee, and who has unquestionably the best spouse in the entire race. He’s just saying what he thinks he needs to say, which is that he likes a moderate, because moderation is good, and middle of the road is good, and nothing too extreme is good, and the things Everybody Knows are true. He’s doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do, because he’s supposed to do it, and he’s not thinking about Kennedy’s actual decisions or what they mean, he’s thinking about how he sounds, which is Reasonable.

The goal of all our politics, and the past 36 hours of civility garbage inspired by the World Series crowd booing the orange motherfucker, is to make us all feel Reasonable and Good. And that involves Two Sides Respecting Each Other, and Listening, and blah blah fucking blah de fuckity blah.

What a fucking stupid puppet show. What a goddamn embarrassment, a parade of supposed adults on TV and at podiums talking about how it’s beneath us all to upset anyone. What a fucking load. We’re adults and if we can’t disagree without getting heated oh, the fucking earth will just cave right in, won’t it? God forbid anyone raises their voice, or our fragile bodies might just utterly collapse.

I mean do we hear ourselves, middle class white people of mine, with our book clubs and our tote bags and our declarations of friendship for war criminals? Do we hear our selfish screaming need for comfort not only in life, not in where or how we live, but in our goddamn CONVERSATIONS? Do we hear how absolutely chickenshit we sound? “Oooh, I don’t want to, like, ARGUE with you.” Well guess fucking what, we live in a democracy, so if you’re gonna open your cakehole and yell “blue lives matter” at me I’m gonna give you the hiding you so richly deserve.

We don’t get to create this society and then get out of defending and justifying it because doing so is really hard. Land hard and roll, motherfuckers, because if you want to live like this you’d better be ready to own it in the face of the strenuous objections of the people you’re stomping on to do so. You don’t like to watch the president get booed at a baseball game, well, there’s a really easy way to get out of that happening and it’s don’t elect a fucking cheeto-faced fascist who everyone hates.

It’s really not hard. Give up civility as a goal. We’re almost to the holidays, hell, make it a resolution. Civility is not the meaning of things. If people are nice to each other and keep dying, how does that help anyone? We have a limited time on this planet and your comfort isn’t our priority, shit is on fire.

And if you’re not loaded for bear, don’t show up for the hunt, because once upon a time you might have been able to get away with this stuff because nobody wanted to argue. We want to argue now, and we should.

A.

Frat Boy Tantrum In The House

Both Michael F and I have already commented on the Brooks Brothers Riot reenactment staged by approximately 30 House GOPers. They’re the worst of the worst: Steve King was there, Matt Gaetz was the ringleader, and pizza was delivered to a secure room. Holy security breach, Batman.

Keeping terrible company was the Gret Stet of Louisiana’s own Steve Scalise, House GOP Whip and a man who aspires to be Speaker of the House. What House? Animal House? I’ll have more about Scalise in my Bayou Brief column next week.

The most disturbing aspect of this political tantrum was pointed out by Wired’s Brian Barrett:

So when Gaetz and House minority whip Steve Scalise and their merry band of lawmakers literally barge into a SCIF—they finally left after a five-hour standoff—they’re not just causing a fuss. They’re making a mockery of national security and to a lesser extent putting it at risk. Especially the congressmen who, as numerous outlets have reported, brought their smartphones into the room.

“A SCIF is designed and regulated to be a secure space—and that means keeping out electronic devices that malicious actors can exploit to conduct surveillance,” says Joshua Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. “Bringing those into such a space can cause real national security vulnerabilities. Doing so for a political stunt potentially sacrifices security for partisan points.”

Remember when national security was the GOP’s calling card? It was a major reason they won 5 of 6 presidential elections between 1968 and 1988. Now they’re the pizza party party led by a president* who is Putin’s puppet. Reagan weeps.

Dim Florida Trumper Matt Gaetz has clearly seen too many action movies. He even got his name on the gossip site TMZ:

Gaetz compared his move to the Spartans in the the 2006 movie, “300.” Seriously, you gotta see how pumped he was — we fully expected him to shout, “This … is … Washington!!!”

Apologies for the exclamation points in triplicate, that was the gossip rag, not me. It does, however, point out how juvenile and jejune this frat boy tantrum was.

Gaetz may think that he’s Gerard Butler in 300 but there’s a more apt cinematic analogy:

That’s Gaetz’s DUI mugshot paired with John Belushi as Bluto in Animal House. Apologies to Belushi’s fans and family but Bluto and Matty are peas in a pod. TOGA. TOGA. TOGA.

This stunt was a noisy attempt to distract attention from the devastating testimony of Ambassador William Taylor, which, in a sane world would have led to calls for President* Pennywise’s resignation. This is not a sane world, alas.

If Bill Taylor is so horrible, why did Secretary of State Pompeo personally ask him to go to Ukraine? The GOP’s only answer was a frat boy tantrum in the House. It’s a gross process argument that insults the public’s intelligence; much like Trumpism and Teabaggery.

Allow me to put my lapsed lawyer hat on again. In the impeachment process, the House is like a grand jury and impeachment is like an indictment. They’re at the evidence gathering stage right now: taking depositions to nail down witness testimony. This same process was used by the dread Trey Gowdy during the BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI investigation. It was followed by public hearings. House Democrats are walking in Trey’s footsteps as it were. There will be public hearings, which are akin to a preliminary hearing in the criminal justice system. It’s an imperfect analogy but it’s mine, all mine.

The Senate is the trial court in the impeachment process. Senators sit as jurors and Team Trump will have the right to present a likely ludicrous defense. They should skip the “president* is above the law” argument. It’s not going to fly with lawmakers. It will be much harder to argue process in the Senate and it’s all Republicans have left in their ongoing quest to defend the indefensible.

Back to the House: if 30 is an accurate count of how many House GOPers pitched a frat boy tantrum the other day, that means 167 members did not participate. I hope they’re suitably mortified by this stunt. So much for dignity and decorum. They’re all Bluto now:

Finally, I watched MSNBC yesterday as Elijah Cummings’ body lay in state. The dignified and solemn behavior of House Democrats stood in stark contrast to the petulant antics of Matt Gaetz, Steve Scalise, and their epic frat boy tantrum. Dignity and decorum are still alive and well even in the era of Trump.

Bush Era Flashbacks

 

Image by Michael F.

Athenae wrote an excellent piece the other day reminding us of the similarities between the last two Republican presidents. The arrogance and incompetence of the Bush presidency is being whitewashed by people who worked for him before joining the punditocracy. W had better manners and used his inside voice more often than the Insult Comedian but his administration was only marginally less mendacious than the Trump regime.

Two things happened today that gave me Bush era flashbacks. First, President* Pennywise gave his very own Mission Accomplished speech. He’s taking credit for a fragile cease fire imposed by Turkey and Russia, declaring victory, and pretending to withdraw from the Middle East. In fact, American troops are being shuffled to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. I was under the impression those were Middle Eastern countries.

Second, House Republicans are staging 2019’s version of the infamous Brooks Brothers Riot of 2000. The only difference is that Roger Stone stage managed the assault of the assholes in Miami. This time around it’s the Gret Stet’s own Steve Scalise. Roger couldn’t make it: he’s awaiting trial.

I don’t mind the Congressional stunt. It’s a noisy process argument and you know what I think of process arguments: THEY’RE LOSERS. It’s what happens when you defend the indefensible.

Another thing Bush and Trump have in common is that both lost the popular vote and were elected because of the archaic electoral college, which has always been a bad trip. It’s time for it to go.

Flashback Wednesday has been a bad trip. Bummer, man.

The last word goes to CSNY: we have all been here before.

 

 

Does Pierre Delecto Speak Esperanto?

The news cycle is relentless. Impeachment looms as witness after witness confirms the whistleblower’s account and contradicts that of the White House. If, that is, we can figure out what their current line is. It keeps shifting befitting a shifty administration. House Democrats are going big: they now think there’s a chance to remove Trump and are crafting impeachment articles designed to draw Republican votes in the Senate

Our first segment is about one of the GOPers who might vote aye on at least one article.

Meet Pierre Delecto: Willard Mittbot Romney has a secret Twitter identity. It was ferreted out by Slate’s Ashley Feinberg and confirmed within 36 hours by the Mittbot himself. The pseudonym makes sense: Willard did his mandatory LDS mission work in France. Mais oui.

We know Willard speaks French. Here’s the burning question: does Pierre Delecto speak Esperanto? Does anyone? In this case, it’s vital if he wants to trade tweets with Trump’s Defense Secretary, Mark Esperanto. His real name is Mark Esper but his boss called him that in a subsequently deleted tweet. Does the president* know Esper’s name or not? Enquiring minds want to know. It’s a pity that David Pecker is now persona non grata at the White House. That ferret could surely ferret this fact out.

Willard Mittbot Romney is the ultimate weathervane politician and the wind is blowing against Trump even among GOPers. He’s bulletproof in Utah for two reasons: he “saved” the Salt Lake Olympics and his family were with Brigham Young when he arrived in Utah. Am I certain that he’ll blow away from Trump? Not at all: the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. Watch the weathervane:

Deep State Throat Clears His Throat: The Trump administration official who wrote the anonymous NYT op-ed has tentatively popped their head above the parapet. They have a book deal but plan to remain anonymous. Fuck you. Deep State Throat. Courageous diplomats are endangering their careers by testifying against Trump and you want to remain anonymous?

Deep State Throat is a pussy; he/she/it should grab themselves.

Tweets Of The Day: I try to never quote anti-Trump Republicans because I mistrust them and their ilk. There’s an exception to every rule: the best response to Trump’s lynching whinge came from from a former RNC chairman.

What’s next? Will Trump compare his “mistreatment” to the Holocaust? It’s hard to tell how low the stupid fucker will sink. He certainly “don’t know much about history.”

Uh Oh, Canada: How does a pundit spend their Monday night? Watching the Canadian election returns on C-SPAN-2, that’s how. The CBC does a good job explaining things to semi-low information viewers, which is what I am when it comes to politics in the frozen north.

Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberal Party lost 20 seats but still ended up with the most seats in parliament and will form a minority government. I love how the districts are called ridings. It makes me want to “ride my pony, get on my pony and ride.

The good news out of Canada is that the far right took a shellacking. Between the Liberals, Greens, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois, parties of the center-left and left got over 60% of the popular vote.

The last word goes to a musician who ticks two boxes in this post, Randy Bachman the B of BTO. Why? He’s Canadian and a Mormon convert:

The Week In Stupid Trumper Tricks

President* Trump is on a roll. He’s done a lot of stupid shit this week even for him. He was the one who tweeted the Pelosi picture with the caption “Nervous Nancy’s Unhinged Meltdown,” when he was the one who had the meltdown. What a lame decision, lame nickname, lame everything. Like Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men, the Insult Comedian cannot handle the truth. Apologies to Jack Nicholson.

The meltdown occurred when the Speaker, quite correctly, pointed out that the Putin regime is the beneficiary of the impulsive and stupid policy shift in North Syria:

Today’s stupid Trumper trick was the announcement by acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, that the G-7 *will* be held at Trump Doral in Miami. Are they that stupid? Is Trump that greedy? Those were rhetorical questions, of course they are.

One more thing. Why the hell is Mulvaney still acting Chief of Staff? The position doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Is he acting out or acting up?

This week’s final stupid Trumper trick was the release of the letter Trump sent to Turkish President Erdogan. It was so OTT nutty and semi-literate that reporters were skeptical that it was real. The White House confirmed its authenticity. Dipshits.

One wonders what Erdogan thought of this incoherent epistle. It was probably some Turkish variation on, “I’m gonna get you, sucka.”

The last word goes to the Kaiser of Chaos with the last two sentences of the Erdogan letter: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.”

An exclamation point was withheld to protect the guilty.

Lock Them Up?

During a crisis there’s always the temptation to fight fire with fire, especially when the executive branch is trying to burn the government down. It’s tempting to say “lock them up” when an executive branch official under “orders” defies a congressional subpoena. But however appealing the idea is, it’s always wise to look before leaping into what could turn out to be a ring of fire.

I pride myself on my knowledge of Congress and its history. That’s why I’ve been telling people that Congress lacks the power to arrest contemnors and must rely on referrals to the Justice Department to enforce contempt citations. We all know how that would go with Bill Barr in charge. Those contempt citations would disappear into a black hole and become part of Barr’s contemptible cover-up.

It turns out I was wrong about the whole arrest power thing. Here’s how Cornell Law professor Josh Chafetz explains it in a New York Times op-ed:

The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors — as the person in violation of the order is called — especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official. Neither house of Congress has arrested anyone since 1935, but it was not uncommon before that point (and was blessed by the Supreme Court in 1927).

There are some major problems with the superficially appealing notion of Congress resorting to its power of inherent contempt. Let me list the defects:

First, any power that has not been exercised in 84 years is suspect. It opens the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority. Just because Congress has this power doesn’t mean they should set the dial on the Wayback Machine to 1935 and dust it off. The mere thought makes me sneeze. Achoo.

Second, they do not have facilities to house contemnors (my new favorite word) and the US Marshal Service is unlikely to be willing to transport people to the nearest federal slammer. Their big boss is the Attorney General who is the Contemnor-in-Chief’s henchman.

That means that contemnors would have to be held in empty offices, the mail room, or subway tunnels. This would look ad-hoc and improvised as well as opening the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority that could undermine the growing popularity of the impeachment inquiry. Why create martyrs? Especially when the other side is adept at playing the victim card. It’s one of the few things they do well.

Third, invoking inherent contempt gets us bogged down in another procedural argument that will lead to litigation. Political junkies, lawyers, and Senators may like procedural arguments but the public hates them. Procedural arguments are not only boring, they’re losers. We should stick to the substantive arguments in favor of impeachment and removal instead of discussing process. Hell, I’m a political junkie and my eyes glaze over when process is the subject of the day.

As emotionally satisfying as it would be to see Don McGahn, Rudy Giuliani, Hope Hicks, and other miscreants frogmarched to the pokey, it’s a loser in the court of public opinion and impeachment is a political process. Just because the Insult Comedian lacks impulse control does not mean his opponents should follow suit.

Adam Schiff’s big picture strategy of folding contempt of Congress into the articles of impeachment is a wise one. We already have the smoking gun: the White House memo describing the Trump-Zelensky call. Getting bogged down in procedural arguments will slow things down and make the fog of scandal even denser. There’s already too much denseness in Washington as is.

My answer to the rhetorical question posed in the title is a resounding NO. Democrats should be the smart party, let the Republicans be the stupid party. They’ve earned the title.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

 

Larry Tribe On Impeachment

It may sound presumptuous to call the distinguished Harvard Law professor by his nickname but, as I explained in 2017, I cannot help myself. It’s down to one of my law school professors who was one of Tribe’s greatest admirers. I called him Con Law:

One of the names Con Law dropped was Laurence Tribe. He never called him by either his full name or title and surname, he was always Larry Tribe. Con Law turned both names into a multi-syllabic pronunciation extravaganza. There would come a point in most classes that I’d nudge a friend and whisper, “here IT comes.” The IT in question was a Larry Tribe name drop; usually about how they’d discussed an issue and agreed on it. It was Con Law and Larry Tribe against the world, y’all.

Now that I’ve made this about myself, it’s time to get to the point of this exercise. Larry Tribe has written a typically elegant and persuasive op-ed about impeachment for USA Today.

Tribe’s core argument is that, given Trump regime stonewalling, the House should move quickly to write and vote on articles of impeachment. He concludes the piece thusly:

The impeachment power was envisioned by the Founders as an emergency mechanism, one to be deployed in the event of grievous and continuing harm to the nation caused by an abuse of the power entrusted by voters to a high officer of the republic. Donald J. Trump is Exhibit A of what those who designed our Constitution had in mind. They believed they had provided the device we might one day need to preserve constitutional democracy. Yet with each day’s passing, as the walls close in ever more tightly, Trump grows ever more desperate and dangerous.

His more than shameful capitulation to Turkey and abandonment of our Kurdish allies is a case in point. Indefensible on its own terms even though not in itself impeachable, it illustrates what this cornered man might do to distract as the constitutional system blocks his every available exit. Every day he’s allowed to stall, evade justice and remain in power, the country is in still graver danger.

The House must move expeditiously to vote for articles of impeachment based on President Trump’s already evident “high crimes,” including abuse of power and obstruction of justice, even as it pursues the truth through relentless investigation that resorts as needed to the still independent judiciary.

Make sure that you read the whole piece.

A quick addendum. Cracks are appearing in the once solid wall of Republican support for Trump in the Senate, so the House should send over multiple articles to give wavering GOPers the chance to vote for at least one.

Turtle Watch

Image by Michael F.

Mitch McConnell is the most cynical and ruthless politician in the country. In fact, he’s the most cynical and ruthless American politician since Tricky Dick. The latter has been on everyone’s mind as the impeachment process explodes. Me, I’m on Turtle watch.

McConnell has been taciturn the last week. He’s popped his head out of his shell on procedural matters but has yet to defend the content of the Trump-Zelensky phone call.

Trump is in full panic mode. The Turtle never panics. He’s a cold-blooded reptile. Unlike his president* he looks before he leaps. He’s staring into the abyss right now, which is why he’s been quiet.

When impeachment was brought up after the Mueller Report was released, the Turtle implied that a trial wasn’t mandatory if the matter landed in his lap. Do Turtles have laps? That’s an existential question for which we don’t have time.

The other day, McConnell said that the Senate would have to hold a trial. Coming from another politician, it would have struck me as a gratuitous comment. Unlike his president* the Turtle speaks when it’s in his self-interest. He doesn’t just talk to talk.

In addition to being cynical and ruthless, the Turtle is patient. He likes to assess the landscape before making a move. It’s what he’s doing right now. His time as an ugly reptilian Tammy Wynette appears to be at an end. He’s not going to stand by his man forever, not if it bites him in the ass.

There are cracks in the wall of GOP senate support for the Kaiser of Chaos. They like being in the majority. The Turtle is the most powerful Majority Leader since Lyndon Johnson. He likes power and will do whatever it takes to protect it. He also does not want to have his finances and those of his wife investigated. If he loses his majority or his seat, that will likely happen.

I hesitate to predict anything in such a fluid political environment, but Mitch McConnell does not want to lose his majority. If he thinks President* Pennywise could cost him his majority, he’ll knife him in a heartbeat.

As of this writing, the Senate will not vote to remove Trump BUT the situation is fluid and subject to change. That’s why I’m on Turtle watch.

The Latest Trump Dignity Wraith

I watched the first 2 1/2 hours of Admiral Maguire’s testimony. It was a sad spectacle to watch a man with such a distinguished service record jump on hand grenades to protect a president* who would stab him in the back without any hesitation.

Like so many others in this administration, Maguire confuses his oath to protect the constitution with an oath to protect President* Pennywise. Maguire is just the latest in a long line of Trump dignity wraiths. His testimony was not only cringe inducing, it was in clear violation of the first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

The notion that you should clear a complaint with persons mentioned in it defies logic. Trump and Barr are discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint yet they had a say in its release. Unbe-fucking-lievable. Why didn’t Maguire run it by Rudy Giuliani while he was at it?

The high point of the hearing was when Illinois Democrat Mike Quiqley set up a devastating inquiry about Rudy by discussing how arduous the security clearance process is. The artist formerly known as Mayor Combover does not have a security clearance but seems privy to all sorts of secrets, which he, in turn, blabs about on television.

I must admit that the Republicans on this committee are not as stupid as House Judiciary Committee GOPers. There’s no Gym Jordan or Louis Gohmert Piles on the Intelligence Committee. Of course, Devin Nunes claimed that Democrats are hunting for “nude pictures” of Trump. Nobody other than the Insult Comedian himself wants to see such pictures. I’m certain he would find them “perfect and beautiful” like his phone conversation with the hapless Ukrainian president.

Finally, committee Republicans made a big deal over Democrats “destroying” Maguire’s reputation. If that happened this morning, it was political suicide, not murder. Anyone who gets involved with Trump gets slimed; even retired Navy Seals with impeccable records. Maguire is just the latest Trump dignity wraith. He won’t be the last.

If the Admiral wishes to escape the well-deserved obloquy heaped on past Trump dignity wraiths, I have some unsolicited advice: Retire, Maguire.

Impeachment: Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?

The post title is a paraphrase of a short story title. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? was written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1966 and tells the story of a young woman who is seduced and devastated by the devil incarnate, Arnold Friend. Sound familiar? Arnold Friend is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Arnold Friend. Believe me.

The situation is as fluid as mercury in an outmoded thermometer and may have shifted as I wrote this post. It’s what happens when you have a president* who changes his story every few hours. It’s why nothing he says should ever be believed. If he says it’s raining, you need to step outside and splash about in a puddle.

Here’s how I summed up the state of play yesterday afternoon:

As First Draft readers know, I’ve been for impeachment forever BUT I’m aware of the perils and pitfalls of the path we find ourselves on. It’s not a time for high-fiving and spiking the ball. This is some serious, solemn shit, y’all.

Nancy Smash’s announcement is the culmination of months of investigation that was thwarted by Trump regime stonewalling. The process was already under way but the dam broke this week and it’s another self-inflicted wound by an incompetent and idiotic president*. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

I have thought all along that if we reached this point the House leadership wanted to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Speaker Pelosi has been leery of risking the majority on impeachment as she was willing to do to pass the ACA in 2010. While I’ve disagreed, I understand her motives: this will not result in the removal of President* Pennywise. I’m alarmed that many people do not seem to understand this.

WaPo foreign policy columnist David Ignatius has a succinct explanation for why this move was imperative:

Why is this more than just another Trump vs. Democrats mud fight? Because the Ukraine issue is about compromising U.S. national security — and direct pledges to allies — for the president’s personal political gain. That’s what’s so outrageous about Trump’s alleged push to get dirt on his potential 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, in a July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Not for the first time, Trump was putting himself above his country.

Trump isn’t even bothering to deny the basics. He confirmed Tuesday that he had held up delivery of a promised $391 million in military aid for the Ukrainians in mid-July, before his call to Zelensky. Trump claimed he wanted to pressure “Europe and other nations to contribute to Ukraine.” Trump had suggested Sunday that in the July call he had urged Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s work for a Ukrainian gas company.

The call was made the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony before Congress dampened enthusiasm for impeachment. Trump felt bulletproof so he overplayed his hand. It’s what he’s done his entire life. That coupled with his fatal inability to STFU made impeachment inevitable.

Impeachment was at death’s door until Trump reanimated it like a bizarro world Victor Frankenstein. It’s called pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks, Donald.

The administration is making a show of turning over documents to the intelligence committees. Does anyone trust this White House to turn over an honest transcript of the call? I would hope not. Besides, according to the whistleblower, the call is not the only reason for this crisis.

I think the process will move faster than most others do. The articles of impeachment almost write themselves. It will be interesting to see if cracks develop among Republican members of Congress. At some point, the politician’s instinct for self-preservation is bound to kick in. Of course, I’ve been saying that for years. Stay tuned.

Finally, there is no legal requirement for the House to send impeachment to the Senate, which will not remove Trump from office. I’d let it sit there like a loaded gun without a Senate trial or vote. Ending the process in the House would have the virtue of denying the Insult Comedian a victory lap. That would drive Trump nuts; make that nuttier.

The Return Of The Kavanaugh Mess

Last fall, I devoted much of my blog-tention to the Kavanaugh Mess. I wrote some 20 posts about it and even created a category devoted to all things Justice Bro. I’d effectively retired the category until today when it roared back to life like the monster in Son Of Frankenstein.

The New York Times broke the latest Kavanaugh story in an op-ed which is an offhand way to do it. The headline was on the squishy side, but the story was not:

There was additional agita about the story but I’d rather beat up on Republicans than the NYT today so read this TPM piece to be fully informed on the latest mishigas.

The details of the correction and tweet deletion aren’t important. What’s important is that this story reaffirms that Kavanaugh committed perjury during his confirmation testimony. Josh Marshall re-posted this tweet from last year to reinforce the point:

Lying may be commonplace in the Trump era, but it shouldn’t be rewarded with a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. The Republican response contains no surprises. It’s best summed up by this meme:

Where do we go from here? We know that Justice Bro will not resign and that his colleagues are unlikely to pressure him to do so. Justice Thomas lied at his confirmation hearing as well and he’s been a Supreme for 28 years.

Impeachment is popular in many quarters including among Democratic presidential candidates. While I’m favor of impeaching the president* in what would be a symbolic act, I’m not inclined to support a move against Kavanaugh when there is NO CHANCE of his removal from office. 17 members of the current Senate are unlikely to admit they screwed the pooch on the Kavanaugh confirmation and vote to remove him.

Impeachment is an arrow that should be kept in the quiver until the Democrats control the Senate and White House along with the House. It may happen sooner than many think.

Sometime soon, I’ll share my 1980 In 2019 theory but right now it’s underbaked and I don’t want to post it until there’s the possibility of a Hollywood handshake. That’s Paul Hollywood of Great British Baking Show fame, not the town in Southern California. Who wants to hear the dread phrase soggy bottom?

I agree with everyone who is outraged by the return of the Kavanaugh Mess. BUT I think we should resist smart and focus like a laser beam on ousting the Kaiser of Chaos and Moscow Mitch. As much as Kavanaugh deserves to be impeached, it should wait until there’s a chance for removal or perjury charges to be filed. The earliest possible date is January 2021. Mark your calendars.

Repeat after me: revenge is a dish best served cold.

Finally, please support annual fundraiser to keep the stuff and nonsense flowing. Click here for the details from the Boss Lady.

Hey Congress, Do Something

I just: 

During the goal celebration after he scored in today’s D.C. United-Philadelphia Union match, Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya picked up a pitch-side microphone and said into it,“Hey Congress, do something, now! End gun violence!”

“Congress” isn’t going to do shit. THE DEMOCRATS have been passing bills and urging action since THE DEMOCRATS banned assault weapons in the first goddamn place. Republicans are holding hearings about how anime porn makes you violent or something, this morning, about how mental illness is to blame, like my crazy ass can shoot you with a trigger lock on. Hey Congress. Are you kidding me.

If you want “Congress” to do something, what you really want is REPUBLICANS to do something. To pass the bills in the Senate that Dems have passed in the House. To support the prevention of gun violence through common sense shit like “let us perhaps not give you a gun if you hit your wife” and “until you can legally smoke and be drafted no ammo for you,” like really radical stuff there, chief.

I don’t want to bag on this sportsball fellow who I never heard of until this moment and don’t know at all, because what he’s saying — that “Congress” needs to act — is what he’s been told by our irresponsible, lazy, clueless, cowardly national press, led by the nose by Republican partisans and pundits. “Congress” is the problem, “government” is broken, and once more and for all the marbles BOTH SIDES ARE TO BLAME.

By refusing to name and shame Republicans for this, by perpetuating the myth that somehow our government just magically polarized its own damn self, by never once naming and shaming the assholes who are responsible for every single day of gridlock since 2010 (straining to remember who was president then, and what that might have had to do with this) they’ve made sure that while both sides are not equally at fault, they’re equally blamed.

Shit, even supposedly smart people get this wrong. Jon Stewart came and lambasted “Congress” for not protecting 9/11 first responders, as if Mitch McConnell wasn’t holding up the bill. Every goddamn totebagger on the planet, who listens to NPR and thinks Trump of course is just the worst, will still shake their head and lament the lack of civility and comity in “government” as if the Tea Party rallies never happened.

As if Sarah Palin never said Obama “palled around with terrorists.” As if those Purple Heart Band-Aids appeared by magic.

People get this wrong, and get frustrated and angry at the wrong people, because they’re never told in plain language what the holdup is or who is causing it. They’re enraged at inaction and the perception of paralysis without knowing why there’s no action, no movement. They feel powerless because they can’t exercise power without knowledge, and the information the press could be providing them about who is blocking gun law reform would give them power.

It would also upset some wingnut screamers and Very Reasonable Sensible People, which I guess is what really matters.

For God’s sake, though. Asking “Congress” to do something about this when half of Congress would love to do something about this is just enraging. Half of Congress and 2/3 of the country wants to move on this, and instead of saying, “you could if not for these six people” we’re watching TV shows about how everything is terrible but nothing can ever change.

A.

Final Thoughts About Muellerpalooza

I decided to write a followup to yesterday’s instant analysis post in order to flesh out my thoughts about Muellerpalooza. When I say instant analysis, I mean it. I wrote the post in under 35 minutes with as little reference as possible to what others are saying and thinking. Shorter Adrastos: I try to avoid punditry pollution at all costs. Hence what amounts to a sequel. I’m uncertain if there’s method in my madness or madness in my method. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

On a human level, I feel badly for Bob Mueller this morning. The expectations for both the investigation and the man himself were impossibly high. People hoped he would somehow save us from Trump. That was not his job: he’s a professional prosecutor not a resistance messiah. It was preposterous, indeed delusional, to expect a nearly 75 year old man to be something or someone that he is not. He did what he said he would do.

Upon diving into the pundit pool, I was struck by the age-ism of much of the commentary. Yes, Mueller looked old, tired, and querelous but his performance was hindered by the restrictions placed on him by the DOJ and the format of the hearings. He was repeatedly roasted by Republicans for his inability to answer certain questions when their attorney general is the one who tied his hands. Bill Barr is good at cover-ups in a way that Tricky Dick was not.

Other than Chairman Nadler, Judiciary Committee Democrats were there to be on teevee, not to get at the truth. I had hoped that professional staff would ask most of the questions. They asked none.

The Intelligence Committee hearing was better because members knew the facts and Mueller was both more alert and responsive to their inquiries. Committee Democrats did much less grandstanding and asked fewer questions that they knew would not be answered. They kept it snappy, which was why the second act was better.

Much of the criticism of Mueller involved the dread word optics. Many pundits were upset that Mueller was button-downed and reserved as opposed to flashy. It’s who he is. Many of the same pundits decry politicians for their lack of authenticity. Bob Mueller is a work horse, not a show horse. Anyone who expected impassioned speeches or a Perry Mason moment was kidding themselves.

Too much of the discourse over the Mueller Report has dwelled in cloud cuckoo land. There are villains aplenty but federal prosecutors are not comic book super heroes. Team Mueller’s job was to produce a report within the onerous constraints placed on them by the Justice Department. They did their job to the best of their ability and produced a report that many of their critics have not and will never read. Bob Mueller was never going to go rogue. It’s not who he is.

The discussion of impeachment has been equally fantastic in the original meaning of the word. I am firmly on the record as favoring impeachment but I understand the political calculations of House Democratic leaders, which have little to do with gumption or guts. In 2010, Speaker Pelosi decided that the ACA was worth losing the majority over. In 2019, she does not think that impeachment is worth losing the majority over. I disagree but her calculation is based on cold-blooded logic, not a lack of intestinal fortitude. Repeat after me: real life is NOT like a comic book movie.

Finally, Democrats should never have expected Robert Mueller to save us. That was not his job. He came out of semi-retirement at the age of 73 to serve his country again. We have to save ourselves.

The last word goes to the Beach Boys:

Repeat after me: real life is NOT like a comic book movie.

Instant Analysis: Muellerpalooza

It’s been a long day. The morning show got off to a promising start with Chairman Nadler’s strong opening but the rest of it was muddled. Judiciary Committee Republicans are deeply stupid. In fact, they’re as stupid as Louie Gohmert Piles and Gym Jordan. The latter still insists on not wearing his suit coat. I suspect he thinks he’s dazzling us with his pecs. He is not.

Morning Muellerpalooza was a snoozer. The witness looked tired and out of practice. He reminded me of a once great pitcher who has lost his fastball and is trying to get by on guile and control.  I’m uncertain if his frequent refrain of “can you repeat the question?” is a delaying tactic or a sign that he needs a hearing aid. The man is nearly 75, after all.

Here’s how I summed up Muller’s style on the Tweeter Tube:

Solicitors do the office work whereas barristers try cases. Mueller is not a trial lawyer, he’s a grind who didn’t grind enough this time around. There were times when he looked uncertain about the facts of his case. Holy bad staff work, Batman.

For those of us who have read the report, there was little new in the morning but things were better in the afternoon session chaired by Adam Schiff. He’s one of the best communicators on the current political scene. As much as I hate to say it, Intelligence Committee GOPers are not as stupid as their Judiciary counterparts. It made things less painful.

As to the substance, Mueller confirmed that:

  • DOJ rules against indicting a president made a huge difference to his case.
  • Trump’s written answers were not entirely truthful. The reason they did not subpoena him was two-fold: time constraints and the fact that they had sufficient evidence.
  • Russian interference in our electoral process is what really matters. Bobby Three Sticks was actually animated when discussing it.
  • He does NOT take politics into consideration when hiring people. For Mueller, it’s about competence, not ideology. Holy crap, I just quoted Dukakis. A 1988 flashback is invariably a bad trip, man.

The hearings were neither a triumph nor a disaster. The “optics” weren’t great but the fact that Mueller stayed above the fray was a major plus as was his insistence that this investigation is not a witch hunt. The only pointy hats I saw in the room were worn by GOPers.

I’m uncertain where we go from here politically. All I know for sure is that I need a nap after arising so early.

A List of Things Mueller Will Not Say Tomorrow

“He’s definitely a criminal.”

“You should impeach him.”

“He deserves to die in federal prison.”

“You have my permission to try to get rid of him.”

“I promise if you do so Reasonable People Like Myself will not get upset in any way.”

“No Republicans will say mean things about you if you just do this the right way.”

I mean honestly: 

Republicans, with their control of the Senate, could protect Trump if Democrats in the House were to impeach him.

In fact, Trump and supporters have sometimes seemed to goad their opponents in the House to proceed with impeachment, confident the effort would ultimately fail to oust the president. A fizzled attempt would amount to another inoculation for Trump, in this view, and a rebuke to Pelosi.

These are the positions on the battlefield as Mueller enters. Will his appearance on Wednesday alter them?

I think we are quite possibly putting a lot of pressure on Robert Mueller that is not his to carry, and I say this rooting quite firmly for him to say all those things up there ending each one with “motherfucker.” If there’s anything about the past 20 years of Republicans I’ve learned it’s that nobody should put money on them discovering either shame or responsibility no matter what gets said in a hearing room. Richard Clarke put paid to that. Shit, Gerald Ford put paid to that.

We should also dispense with the idea that anything Mueller’s going to say will cause anyone in the national press to do anything differently. They’re going to report that there is one side that says this about what Mueller said, and one side that says another, and they will pat themselves on the backs for not letting Democracy Die in Darkness and then all go drink together. There’s not gonna be anything big enough, like Mueller could get up there tomorrow and say that he witnessed Donald Trump murder people in the Oval and we’d still have to hear WHAT ABOUT TED KENNEDY HUH? like idiots. This is our portion of the suffering.

So, given those fucking givens, what are we left with? Same thing we’ve always got. Fight ’em any way we have to until we can’t. We can keep calling Nancy to impeach the sumbitch and we can keep putting our bodies in the streets every day and we can keep blockading the doors of ICE HQ and we can keep pounding every drum we have but we can’t make this happen without making it happen.

Let’s not expect Robert Mueller to make it any easier tomorrow. How in God’s name is he supposed to? He did his job. He provided the report, he did the investigation, that Nancy is scared and Mitch is a treasonous turtle fuck is not his burden to carry. He’s not gonna save us. We were only ever gonna save ourselves.

A.

Impeach the Cabinet First

Starting with Elaine: 

According to the Politico report, questions about ethical conflicts center on the number of grants DOT has approved for projects in Kentucky, many of which could benefit McConnell politically as he hits the campaign trail for his 2020 reelection bid in the southern state.

Chao has helped greenlight at least $78 million in grants for construction projects in Kentucky, Doherty and Snyder write. Additionally, she helped designate a special go-between that worked with McConnell’s office on Kentucky-related projects:

It’s a win-win-win scenario: Mitch has to defend his wife’s double-dealing instead of running for re-election, she IS ACTUALLY AWFUL, and it doesn’t have the baggage presidential impeachment has. She’s an actual confirmed secretary and not some “acting” schlub who got shoved in there when the real guy got am-scrayed.

Like here’s the thing with yelling at Nancy to impeach Trump. Shit, she needs to, because the only thing a bully understands is a good hard punch to the face (AOC and Omar and Tlaib and Pressley get this, btw), but it’s not her only option.

She can censure him every day. She can impeach his entire cabinet starting with Mrs. Turtle up there. It’s a target-rich environment and Trump’s not the only Chaotic Evil to hit. Take them out one by one and the GOP has to scramble to defend them all instead of focusing on OUR GLORIOUS PRESIDENT like they are now.

A.