Russia

Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Potpourri v7.0 – Shutdown Edition


Reading time – 4:06; Viewing time – 5:34  .  .  .

It is the bright, fresh practice of the Senate of the United States of America to formally abandon all activity if the President of the United States might not like what the Senate would do. Of course, this is in stark contrast to times past when Congress was held to be a separate and equal branch of government. Now, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has seen the wisdom of abdicating Congressional responsibility. You can expect more acts of Senatorial disappearance as the shutdown continues or really any time it’s politically expedient.

Note that Senator McConnell is still under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak and didn’t appear to be available for comment.

Everyone knows that McConnell has stated that he won’t bring a bill to the floor of the Senate to resolve the government shutdown issue unless he knows the president will sign it. But, why is that? Try this.

A vote to open government without funding Trump’s wall is a most precarious thing for Republican senators. If they do that they will have turned their backs on Trump’s campaign promise and, correspondingly, on their constituents who voted for Trump. Senators will feel their fury in their next primary. It will be ugly and they know it.

If, on the other hand, those senators vote against reopening government, each one will immediately feel the fury of every government worker in their state, as well as the fury of the workers’ families and their friends, independents who can spell “empathy” and all Democrats in their state. That fury will be brought to every election s/he will enter for the rest of their life and they will have to resign from the Senate and become a lobbyist for Big Pharma or a defense contractor.

That’s why McConnell won’t bring a bill to reopen government to the floor for a vote if he thinks Trump will veto it. These days it’s very hard to be a Republican.


Here’s how to get the government reopened without spending billions on a useless wall designed solely for Trump’s ego. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team should offer this to Trump and announce it to the public at a press conference:

  1. Immediately reopen all of government.
  2. Immediately pay all back wages both to workers who were forced to work without pay and to workers who were furloughed.
  3. Trump will deliver a personal, hand-written note to each federal worker, written in bold Sharpie, saying, “I know I hurt you. I apologize and promise I’ll never do that again.” Okay, that isn’t going to happen. It’s just snark. I do feel better now.
  4. Funding will be provided for a bi-partisan blue ribbon committee to generate a plan to bring border security and immigration policy into the 21st century, including recommendations for permanently dealing with the DACA kids and the other 11,000,000 undocumented in the US now. The plan is to be submitted to Congress and the president within 9 months of committee inception. It is to include no recommendation tor a wall except where a wall will actually enhance border security and is to be of appropriate construction. No need for a wasteful “big, beautiful wall.”
  5. Congress is to draft a bill following the committee’s recommendations, as adjusted or amended by Congress, and vote on that bill within 6 months.

Note that Congress won’t be starting from scratch because there were efforts at immigration reform not long ago.

The beauty of this plan is that the if the president rejects it he will be telling everyone that he really doesn’t support border security or immigration reform; he only supports what makes him look like a tough guy and doesn’t care about America or Americans. There will be substantial pressure on him to agree to this plan.

Plus, the president can claim a victory, as there will be some amount of wall that will be constructed. And he can claim fiscal prudence, too, since whatever wall is recommended will likely cost a lot less than $5.7 billion and a whole lot less than the projected $59 billion for a complete Trump wall. Everyone wins.


Perhaps you recall President Trump bravely declaring, “There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.” Regardless, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign off on the sanctions imposed on Russia and some oligarchs for their hacking our 2016 election.

Then in December 2018 when Congress was on holiday break he had his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, dump in Congress’ lap a plan for sanctions removal. They had just 30 days to vote to stop that action and far fewer once congressmen and senators were back in DC. The House voted to stop the sanctions removal with a strong bipartisan showing. The Senate wimped out, falling two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Every one of those nay voting senators knows that Russia is a bad actor. Every one of them knows that Russia hacked our election and deserved those sanctions. And 43 of them voted to lift the sanctions.

Someone please tell me where those brave men and women store their spines when they go to DC.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What’s Next


Click me for a larger view

Reading time – 4:45; Viewing time – 6:48  .  .  .

I’ve been wondering about the important actions we should expect from the 116th Congress.

Adam Schiff (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has promised a real investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 election. That will be in stark contrast to the investigation led by committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA and Chief Trump Weenie). Under Nunes’ chairmanship, all efforts to actually investigate were thwarted by Nunes. Perhaps this time we’ll get some truth about what happened and who’s responsible. The committee might even investigate Russia’s meddling in our 2018 election. They could generate some ideas about how to protect our nation. That would be refreshing.

There are other committees which will have to start their work anew because of Republican obstruction for the past two years. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Do you suppose he’ll be able to find anything worthy of investigation?

Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD)* will chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Looking at the mess he’s facing, Cummings said, “The oversight job after two years of Donald Trump is like coming upon a 73-car pileup on the highway.” Read this for context. The chief issue soon to be before us, though, is impeachment.

Trump has laid his obstruction of justice and his violations of the emoluments clause in plain sight. That’s plenty of reason to start an impeachment action. It seems likely, though, that there won’t be enough courage in the Republican controlled Senate to convict our presidential perp. Finding enough starch in Republican spines may have to await the Robert Mueller report, recently predicted to arrive in February. That’s when things will become even more weird.

Trump has made Matthew Whittaker the acting attorney general, which may compromise justice. For a long time Whittaker has gone out of his way to criticize and attack the Mueller investigation. There’s no question about his prejudice. Whittaker is anything but an honest broker. Further, he has refused the direction of the Justice Department Ethics Committee to recuse himself from the Mueller inquiry. Democrats have promised to call for Whittaker’s removal from office in January, but that won’t fix this problem.

That’s because Trump has nominated William Barr to be attorney general and Barr is similarly negative toward the Mueller investigation. He is another less than honest broker. Clearly, Trump is stacking the deck to avoid justice. He’s making it questionable whether Mueller’s report will ever see the light of day or whether our government will take action. If you believe in a nation of laws and not of men, this situation should send shivers up your spine.

Democratic leadership has determined that keeping Trump’s malfeasance in the news, death by a thousand cuts over the next two years, will help Democrats in the 2020 elections. The problem with that is that it means that no impeachment efforts will be made and Trump will remain in office for another two years. Decide for yourself what two more years of Trump’s self-serving, ignorance-based chaos will do to our country and to the world.

Decide, too, what it would mean for our country if Trump is removed from office and Mike Pence becomes President. This is the same guy who Indianans were turning out of office in 2016 because of his radical beliefs and complete disregard for the truth. Picture him as president, recommending “pray away the gay” treatment for our LGBTQ citizens. He did that when he was governor of Indiana. That ought to send shivers up your spine, too.

That leaves us with no good option for our next two years, so we have to choose the least bad solution. Here’s how to do that.

There is room for debate about the proper role of the federal government, but everybody believes that ensuring the safety and security of our nation is its primary job. For guidance on this, read Gen. Jim Mattis’ resignation letter. Note his clarity about standing with our allies and opposing those who would do harm to us or our allies and how important that is for our national security.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote:

“.  .  .  Mr. Trump himself — has dealt the death blow to effective policy making. The president couldn’t care less about facts, intelligence, military analysis or the national interest. He refuses to take seriously the views of his advisers, announces decisions on impulse and disregards the consequences of his actions. In abandoning the role of a responsible commander in chief, Mr. Trump today does more to undermine American national security than any foreign adversary.”

We are substantively less secure now than we were two years ago. So, too, are our allies, the nations Trump has effectively told we will not stand with in case of trouble. These are the same nations who stood with us following 9/11, the only time in the history of NATO that Article 5 has been invoked. That’s the “collective defense” section of the NATO charter.

Which leads back to the question of impeachment and whether we can tolerate two more years of Trump’s hands on the reins. He’s a suck up to Putin, who is nuclear sabre rattling and rapidly expanding Russia’s military capabilities right now. He’s invading neighboring countries with impunity. Trump refuses to speak against that or take any action. At the same time, Trump is abandoning our friends like it’s just another of his divorces. He makes decisions based solely on what’s good for himself, not what’s best for our country.

I’m much less interested in what’s good for Democrats in 2020 than I am for what is best for our country. As bad as Pence may be, we need to get rid of Trump before he can do yet more damage. Besides, Pence may get caught up in the Mueller sting along with Trump and his family. That would bring about the very worst nightmare for members of the Republican Freedom Caucus: President Pelosi.

I’m thinking of running for president and will make the highlighted text my campaign slogan. Think it’ll work? Click the pic for a larger version.

For more on this read Sheila Markin’s report, How Trump Ends.

  • *Rep. Elijah Cummings was erroneously listed as representing South Carolina in the video post. He represents the 7th District of Maryland and I extend my apology for the error. JA

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Irony


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 4:53  .  .  .

Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Republic of China during the Second World War and was our ally in fighting the Japanese. In the Chinese civil war following WWII Mao Zedong’s army won and Chiang and his army retreated from mainland China to the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan. Throughout the period we remained an ally of Chiang and saw Mao as our enemy, both because the enemy of our friend is our enemy, and because Mao’s Chinese were godless Communists bent on world domination like their Soviet neighbors.

When Stalin died in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. We didn’t like him or the Soviet Union and they were a far greater threat than was China because of their military might and their belligerence. Indeed, Khrushchev was famous for criticizing our capitalism, saying that the Soviet Union would sell us the rope used to hang us. He also said, “We will bury you.”

We saw the Chinese and the Soviets as godless Commies and nobody railed more or louder against them than our Republicans. They fashioned themselves as the ones with the heavy starch in their spines, the true defenders of our nation and the foremost opponents of Communism. Republican Richard Nixon made his reputation railing against Communists. But then some odd things happened.

Nixon the Commie hater was in the midst of making the Watergate affair as bad as it could be and off he went to Communist China to sip ceremonial drinks with the very people he had spent decades vilifying. The primo anti-Communist began the process of normalizing relations with Communist China. It was amazing irony.

Ronald Reagan spent decades waving the red, white and blue and vilifying the hammer and sickle and when it was his turn to fight the Cold War he did it by increasing our military spending 43% in peacetime, including development of the B-1 bomber. That forced the Soviet Union to increase their military spending to keep up with us. At last they couldn’t do it any longer and, effectively, we spent them into bankruptcy.

At the same time Reagan established a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, even as he implored Gorbachev to, “Tear down this wall.” Reagan bankrupted the Soviets, made friends with their leader and won the Cold War without firing a shot. No irony here. Then it came back.

It was left to Republican George H.W. Bush to put the final nail in the Soviet coffin. But a Soviet KGB agent named Vladimir Putin wasn’t at all happy about what had happened and vowed to return Russia to its former self-imagined greatness.

Fast forward to 2015 and Putin’s Russia had figured out how to infiltrate American culture to bend America his way. The U.S. intelligence agencies are unanimous and clear about Russian hacking, propaganda, cyber-infiltrating, as well as human infiltration into our elections, our government and our society.

We’re learning of Russian infiltration of the Second Amendment thumping NRA and what is likely to be found to be tens of millions of Russian dollars filtered through the NRA to get Trump elected.

What the Russians have done is very bad and very threatening. What we have done is far worse.

Under this Republican president we have done nothing to stop the Russians. Trump has refrained from everything he might have done to restrain Russia and has lauded praise on Putin whenever he could. And even those aren’t the worst things that have happened.

Our Republican Congress has done nothing to get to the root of the Russian invasion and, indeed, they’ve done everything they could to block congressional investigations into it. This Republican Congress has done absolutely nothing to prevent yet more Russian meddling. They have put no checks on this president and his Russia enabling, nor any requirements for action to stop the hijacking of our democracy.

Get that these are Republicans, the self-described stalwart defenders and protectors of our nation. They’re the chest-puffed strong ones and they’re allowing Khrushchev’s threats to come true.

The irony is stunning. The cowardice in the face of a clear and present danger is appalling.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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