The Press Gets Utterly Snookered on the White House Rebranding of the Same Old Unrelenting Obstruction of Congressional Prerogatives

Yesterday, the White House sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and just some of the Committee Chairs conducting parts of an impeachment inquiry into the President, purporting to refuse to participate in that impeachment inquiry. Since then, there has been a lot of shocked coverage about how intemperate the letter is, with particular focus on the fact that White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, used to be considered a serious lawyer. There has been some attempt to analyze the letter as if it is a legal document and not instead the President’s rants packaged up in Times Roman and signed by one of his employees. A number of outlets have thrown entire reporting teams to do insipid horse race coverage of the letter, as if this is one giant game, maybe with nifty commercials on during halftime.

None I’ve seen have described the letter as what it is: an attempt to rebrand the same old outright obstruction that the White House has pursued since January.

The tell — for those teams of well-compensated journalists treating this as a factual document — might have been the addressees. While the letter got sent to Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, and Elijah Cummings, it did not get sent to Jerry Nadler, who has been pursuing an impeachment inquiry of sorts since the Mueller Report came out. The White House knows Nadler is also part of the impeachment inquiry, because even as the White House was finalizing the letter, Trump’s DOJ was in DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s courtroom fighting a House Judiciary request for materials for the impeachment inquiry. In the hearing, DOJ literally argued that the Supreme Court’s 8-0 US v. Nixon was wrongly decided.

Howell picked up on that point by pressing DOJ to say whether then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge John Sirica was wrong in 1974 to let Congress access a detailed “road map” of the Watergate grand jury materials as it considered President Richard Nixon’s impeachment.

Shapiro argued that if the same Watergate road map arose today, there’d be a “different result” because the law has changed since 1974. She said the judge wouldn’t be able to do the same thing absent changes to the grand jury rules and statutes.

Howell sounded skeptical. “Wow. OK,” she replied.

DOJ also argued that Congress would have to pass a law to enshrine the principle that this binding Supreme Court precedent already made the law of the land.

In the HJC branch of the impeachment inquiry, the few credible claims made in yesterday’s letter — such as that Congress is conducting the inquiry in secret without the ability to cross-examine witnesses or have Executive Branch lawyers present — are proven utterly false. And with the claims made in yesterday’s hearing, the Executive demonstrated that they will obstruct even measured requests and negotiations for testimony.

The Trump White House obstructed normal Congressional oversight by absolutely refusing to cooperate.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry focused on requests and voluntary participation.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry where subpoenas were filed.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry relying on whistleblowers who aren’t parties to the White House omertà.

The Trump White House obstructed what numerous judges have made clear are reasonable requests from a co-equal branch of government.

Nothing in the White House’s conduct changed yesterday. Not a single thing. And any journalist who treats this as a new development should trade in her notebooks or maybe move to covering football where such reporting is appropriate.

It is, however, a rebranding of the same old unrelenting obstruction, an effort to relaunch the same policy of unremitting obstruction under an even more intransigent and extreme marketing pitch.

And that — the need to rebrand the same old obstruction — might be worthy topic of news coverage. Why the White House feels the need to scream louder and pound the table more aggressively is a subject for reporting. But to cover it, you’d go to people like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, who already seem to be preparing to explain votes against the President. You even go to people like Lindsey Graham, who is doing ridiculous things to sustain Rudy Giuliani’s hoaxes in the Senate Judiciary Committee — but who has condemned the principle of making the country dramatically less safe for whimsical personal benefit in Syria. Or you go to Richard Burr, who quietly released a report making it clear Russia took affirmative efforts to elect Trump in 2016.

This week, Trump looked at the first few Republicans getting weak in the knees and his response was to double down on the same old policies, while rolling out a campaign trying to persuade those weak-kneed members of Congress who are contemplating the import of our Constitution not to do so.

The President’s former lawyer testified earlier this year, under oath, that this has always been a branding opportunity to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.”

His latest attempt to cajole Republican loyalty is no different. It’s just a rebranding of the same intransigence. Treating it as anything but a rebranding is organized forgetting of what has taken place for the last nine months, and journalists should know better.

88 replies
  1. paul kesse says:

    “Treating it as anything but a rebranding is organized forgetting of what has taken place for the last nine months, and journalists should know better.”

    if the past is a predictor of the future– they won’t.

    Our ‘free’ mainstream press has failed us.

  2. BobCon says:

    One of the things that’s not being reported is what, exactly, the Democrats are planning on doing. There are dribs and drabs — a hearing here, a subpoena there. But there is no hint of plan, and weirdly, there is no reporting on what that absence means.

    This relates to this post in a key way. Trump’s announced obstruction isn’t new because the House’s lack of a plan for responding to obstruction isn’t new. The press is acting like this is some new escalation, when it’s not. It is going to become increasingly apparent that Pelosi has broken the glass on the alarm but has no idea when she is going to actually pull the alarm, and more importantly, what she is going to do once she pulls it.

    She needed to be planning for this moment since it was obvious the Democrats were going to win in 2018. Instead, her only plan has been hoping Trump would never screw up. I agree that the press should be reporting this latest letter as only the latest piece of stonewalling since January, and they should also be reporting how Pelosi has been caught unprepared in the same way as she has all year.

    • John B. says:

      I don’t think Pelosi’s plan has been for the president* to not screw up. He is always going to screw up. That’s predictable as rain in April. I think the Speaker wanted to make a binary choice to either concentrate on the elections and retaining the House and getting rid of the president* through the electoral process or through the impeachment process. She clearly did not want to choose impeachment and I agree she really doesn’t know what to do now that it is here and after the president* has quite graphically played his cards for maximum resistance. She has never wanted to do both: beat him at the polls and impeach him. Frankly, I think this is how you beat him at the polls because if allowed to continue who knows what electoral BS we will have to endure. In fact, I’m guessing we can count on it…

      • BobCon says:

        She was expressly hoping that the Democrats would somehow not have to confront Trump in any meaningful way. That somehow the House Democrats could run 250 totally local races based on small scale boutique platforms that barely mentioned the GOP at all.

        That is the same delusion that has led the House leadership to be the only ones left in DC who think there is a point to pretending that there is a deal to be made with Trump and the GOP on infrastructure.

        She based her whole plan on the hope that Trump would do nothing worse than something fit for Saturday Night Live’s toothless satire. Everyone but the House leadership can see that not only is the plan as dead as infrastructure week, it was DOA.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I can’t make heads or tails of it. The country is more behind impeachment – both an inquiry and removal – than Pelosi. She is not disinterested in that outcome, she has actively fought it.

          Rather than protect her Blue Dogs – and vulnerable Republicans – from casting a vote on an impeachment inquiry, she is putting her majority and the White House at risk.

          Peasants sharpen pitch forks when they have no alternative and nothing left to lose. Ms. Pelosi is telling them, when they have no bread to eat, that if they wait until after the election, they will have brioche.

      • marksb says:

        Pelosi may be threading us through uncharted waters filled with monsters. What I think about while running with LuckyDog at dawn:
        > The Democrats are attempting to use logic, facts, and the law to counter what is clearly massive corruption at the expense of the fundamental values and laws of our country.
        > And they’re met with people who act like they are the REAL patriots, while screaming accusations cribbed from the most idiotic conspiracy theorists on the Internet.
        > While the press and media, with a few exceptions, dutifully covers it all as if both positions–logic and law, vs. absurdist fantasies designed to cover up illegal grifting–are equally valid.

        Pelosi’s ‘plan’, which I just barely glimpse if I run hard enough that my brain is infused with oxygen and endorphins, is to:
        > Slow-walk a deep impeachment process,
        > Thereby further angering the most unstable man in the country and causing him to tweet crimes and yell admissions of guilt over the noise of an idling helicopter,
        > While ramping up more authoritarian and downright evil actions,
        > And forcing the entire GOP to defend the undefendable.

        Which may be creating the perfect storm:
        > Rely on the results of the 2018 election where angry Dems actually got off their asses and voted,
        > Reveal the massive corruption and lawlessness,
        > Which pisses them off even more so that they not only vote again in 2020, but get their family and friends to vote as well,
        > Resulting in taking the White House, gaining more seats in the House, and bringing the Senate within reach.

        As a plan, it’s not particularly elegant, nor is it a Sure Thing, but it’s probably the only chance we have to save the “republic, if you can keep it.”

        • BobCon says:

          There is no plan.

          There was no reason to be surprised about Trump doing impeachable acts. There was no reason to be surprised he would respond by stonewalling — this piece points out he has been doing it all along.

          But there is still no talk of hiring the kind of staff needed to deal with a long fight. There is no hint of expanding the fight into more areas to pin down Trump even more. This is the equivalent of every naive leader who blithely proclaims it will all be wrapped up by Christmas.

          All of the talk that there was a fast track and a simple path based on Ukraine was foolish — it will continue to swell and fester.

          Sondland was not hit with a subpoena from the get go. There is no hint of how they will be responding to defiance in the courts, and that is in large part because they had no plan before this all started.

          What we will get a series of incremental reactive steps and a post-event claim that whatever vague pattern emerges from the chaos was the secret plan all along.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Pelosi and her impeachment inquiry leaders are actively ignoring the advice, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” At this point, failing to start with subpoenas is asking for delay.

          They are maintaining their go slow approach. Other examples of it: The US reaction to Turkey’s bombing of the Kurds today. The Russians waiting on the outskirts of Warsaw until the last partisan was down. Kitchener’s relief of Gordon at Omdurman, which lost both to the Mahdi. The relief of the Spartans at Thermopylae.

          Is she planning how to win, does she hope merely to endure, or just to survive?

        • BobCon says:

          The Democratic establishment thinks events can be contained and compartmentalized. They think there will be a predictable sequence of events.

          Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote Flight to Arras about his experience serving the impossibly rigid French military and how hopeless they were when events didn’t follow plans.

          Fortunately, the Democrats aren’t reeling right now, but they need to come up with a new mindset before events turn.

        • ChuckM says:

          I’m guessing the Syria/Turkey developments over the past couple days weren’t in their “predictable sequence of events”?
          What next, Dems?

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          I ‘second’ Molly’s agreement.
          And IMVHO that plan can adapt as events unfold, it has the greatest opportunity for continuing ‘the Big Reveal’ of global criminal networks, massive abuse of tax havens, the role of ‘legit banks’ in enabling all of it, and will end up — relish the irony!! — putting a whole new emphasis on ‘honest money’ as opposed to ‘bullshit-mob money and money laundering’.

          For that, we need a media that can distinguish between rebranded smoke and legitimate fire.

        • BobCon says:

          The problem is that “adapt as events unfold” is the opposite of what it is set up to do.

          There are two major constraints Pelosi is forcing on the situation — time and staffing.

          Time is already in short supply, and it is only going to get worse. This is not a criminal investigation which potentially has years to obtain evidence and develop legal arguments. There is a very small window to act, and every day that passes hurts the House’s flexibility to follow other paths.

          As far as staffing Pelosi still has not made a significant expansion of the legal staff, which Ted Lieu has characterized as tiny, or investigative staff.

          Maybe the House will get lucky and they will dig up enough dirt quickly to have a huge impact. But if they get bogged down, they are going to regret this stingy approach.

          There is simply no point in constraining the inquiry right now. Anything that can be achieved with a limited throttle can still be achieved by opening it up all the way. But throttling down now hurts future options for no discernable reason.

  3. OldTulsaDude says:

    Trump’s world is built on image and PR, and this letter looks like a further attempt to create a public furor over an impeachment vote, a vote that the LA Times is reporting may play into Republican’s hands by allowing them to argue for minority subpoena power:
    The plan may be to overwhelm the impeachment process with a circus act.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Saying the Trump admin is planning on putting on a circus act is like saying a bear plans on shitting in the woods.

      I like you’re right, but I also think they don’t have any other possible moves.

    • P J Evans says:

      They apparently believe no one remembers Watergate. Or has read the constitution, or taken a civics/government class.

      • Keith says:

        At this point the only ones that matter are the 30ish percent of citizens that make up the solid base of the Republican party and, the majority of those that vote Republican. As long as those people who happen to be in the thrall of the conman in chief remain rabidly pro dear leader the Republicans in congress will cower in fear of Trump. There is no sign of the cult breaking and I’m not sure it will ever happen insulated as they are by Fox news and Brietbart. I very much doubt that the majority of those people have read the constitution or even care about our form of government, you see they “won” and we should just get over it. Perhaps we are going about this all wrong, How can we turn Fox News against him? Huge money adds maybe?

        • P J Evans says:

          Why are you worrying about the 30% that will never change their minds about the GOP-T?
          Worry about the other 70% where there are votes to lose.

        • Rayne says:

          Unless you are prepared to develop and launch a massive deprogramming effort to undo decades of brainwashing, persuading the 30% isn’t where it’s at.

          It’s persuading the infrequent voter, the discouraged voter, the new voters to register and turn out. We already had a majority. We already know which places are the weakest links in terms of voting turnout — information collected over two elections.

          If you insist on targeting GOP voters, go after the 20 states in which GOP senators are up for re-election this term. Promote their opponents. Give voters in that state a reason to remove the old GOP corrupt do-nothings which includes Mosco Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. Get out that vote.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Keith makes an interesting point, and here’s why:

          Reading ‘The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump’, by psychologists and psychiatrists, one of the chapters that most intrigued me was an explanation of how dysfunctional leaders create fear, and maintain order via fear.

          We’ve probably all encountered a sociopath: someone who gains power by fear, but isn’t able to build trust or relationships over the long haul. If you ever see a situation like this, you will notice that the instant people are no longer afraid of them, those so-called ‘leaders’ are powerless.

          My most useful metaphor is to envision schools of salmon: it turns out that salmon have a magnetic line through the sides of their bodies; this organ helps them sense the presence and motion of others in their school, and coordinates their behavior so that they synchronize as a group, thereby offering protection to individual salmon. I think of sociopaths as people who are able to create a ‘fear-magnet’ that coordinates people who are tuned to that frequency of emotion. Once that fear-magnet is broken, those individuals feel vulnerable and exposed. But once that fear is broken, the authoritarian has no more power base — whether it’s within a family, a business, or a nation.

          To bring in another point: note George Lakoff’s work on families, notions of moral behavior, and political affiliation. Kids who grow up in ‘strict father’ households *tend* to look to external authority, like rules, and *tend* to be politically conservative.

          If you read Max Blumenthal’s (brilliant) “Republican Gomorrah”, you will gain insight into the personal, horrendously abusive childhoods of Tom Delay (whose father belted the daylights out of his kids, often in a drunken rage), and Newt Gingrich (whose stepfather also had a penchant for ‘belting him’). Blumenthal explains in case, after tragic case, a litany of abusive, horrendous childhoods of people who later became leaders in the GOP — and he offers insight into what would (psychologically) drive political activity like DeLay’s. Because of their childhoods, some people are more susceptible to the kind of fear that Donald Trump creates. Others are not.

          At the moment, I’m intrigued to see that GOP Senators Mitt Romney and Richard Burr do not appear to be afraid of Trump. I have no idea about Burr’s family, but Romney’s family is notably warm (and extensive).

          Last weekend, in a moment of epic trolling, Sen Romney tweeted a nice photo of himself, his wife, and (probably two grandkids) at a pumpkin patch. It conveyed, “Look at me, living my best life on a sunny day with my wife of many years, and two of our very large, loving family.” He did not need to tweet: “Trump…? Who dat?” Trump wasn’t even relevant.

          I wish the media would get a better sense of political psychology, as opposed to vapid gossip.

          Why on earth are so many GOP members acting like they are afraid of a money laundering egoist like Donald Trump?

          By rebranding his ranting and belligerence, Trump perpetuates his power by continuing to perpetuate fear, but he also gives cover to those members of the GOP who continue to be ‘tuned in to fear’ — and yet the media is failing to explain this very important dynamic to the American public.

          IMVHO, we need a lot more members of Congress – of both parties – spending a sane afternoon at a pumpkin patch, or at football games, away from their phones/news, and outside of the toxic fear-smoke of D.C. Maybe it would improve our politics?

          Also, our politics would improve if the media better helped explain ‘hey folks, this recent legalism is actually just trumpFear 2.0’, so that some of the smoke would dissipate, and people would come to their senses and stop being afraid.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          “Why on earth are so many GOP members acting like they are afraid of a money laundering egoist like Donald Trump?”

          Because a disgustingly large number of them took money from the Russians via the NRA, or other shady dark money. They have sold their soul’s to the Devil, and their constituency isn’t going to like it when it is found out. They won’t be joining their families in the Rapture.

          I am only being partly facetious here. A whole lotta those GOP members are from deeply fundamental religion areas and they have not been behaving like ‘Christians’.

          There are some fundamentalist leaders who have actually begun speaking out against Trump. This by Pat Robertson from yesterday for example:

        • P J Evans says:

          Pat Robertson is the perp in a whole lot of shady deals. And he backed putting that guy into the WH.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          Oh, I’m not saying any of these religious leaders have a pious leg to stand on, they just like to talk a good game. And they are very accomplished at passing the collection plate.

        • joejim says:

          I’d put effort in voters like the african american women who valiantly ousted Roy Moore, and who I hope were rewarded by being given a place at the table. That was such a robust, exciting, and critical effort, and the kind of organization and energy we need. People who are invested in civics in their bones, know the difference between right and wrong, and care enough to take a long bus trip to a poll where they are not welcome need to be noticed and supported. Its also the case that voters like those Alabama women have unique and deep knowledge on issues which are at the very heart of what ails us in domestic policy, and I want them to be given the opportunity to school us, and to see results, in their (and my own) lifetimes. So I’d go down there and to places like that and make sure they aren’t shaking their heads and wondering why they should bother. And just as a note, 65% of african americans were pro impeachment prior to the Ukraine story being publicized.

        • BobCon says:

          I think it’s interesting that it has leaked that Paul Ryan, who sits on the Fox board, has told Murdoch it’s time to dump Trump.

          I don’t take this seriously — it may be just someone trying to shiv Ryan with a fake leak, and regardless Murdoch will do whatever the hell he wants whenever he wants.

          But it’s at least a hint that the brainwashing has a crack, even if it’s hair thin. I doubt anyhing serious happens at Fox until Murdoch is gone, very possibly not even then.

        • posaune says:

          I think we’ve all probably read that Paul Ryan just bought a house in Maryland; and he owns one on the hill too. Romney just bought a house on Capitol Hill in the last month, close to the Senate office building. And Jeff Sessions is still living in his house on the Hill, too.

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t trust jack shit about Fox as long as the Murdochs own a majority stake. Lachlan is worse than his father when it comes to white nationalist bigotry. That piece in Vanity Fair felt more like somebody/ies trying to rehab their image. Like making a point that the network has been the highest rated for 17 years but without any examination why. Like not fighting for a hardcore locked-in nutbag 30% of TV audiences where the rest are competing for 70%?

          As long as they carry Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, there’s no cracks. It’s the same old fascist bullshit selling to the same authoritarian nutbags.

          EDIT: Gabriel Sherman wrote that Vanity Fair piece and I’m disappointed in him. This bit:

          … It started Tuesday when Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Smith on-air that Trump committed a “crime” by pressuring Ukraine’s president to get dirt on Biden. That night, Carlson brought on former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who called Napolitano a “fool” for claiming Trump broke the law. …

          No mention that diGenova is representing Ukrainian oligarch Firtash.

          Napolitano’s remarks about Trump wrt Biden and Ukraine:

        • BobCon says:

          Like I said, I doubt anything happens at Fox while Murdoch is still there.

          One thing I wonder about, though, is whether the Murdoch empire after Rupert is as effective as it is now. Rupert is an evil genius — I don’t have a sense if Lachlan is one. The aging of the Fox/WSJ audience is a big challenge, and I could — maybe — see new leadership royally screwing up the transition.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          This morning, CNN reporting that Drudge is ‘souring’ on Trump. Also, more psychs and MDs are raising alarms about the state of Trump’s decline.
          Good times.

          Fox is a propaganda operation, but Facebook and Twitter, IMVHO, are potentially looming disasters. Cambridge Analytica almost puts Fox to shame; when they can figure out what shampoo I buy with my debit card, then link that to my purchase locations, then link that to my political contributions…. Fox starts to look like a wee mouse in comparison.

        • Drew says:

          I gather you are referring to the views of those 30% with regard to the impeachment and Senate conviction vote. Even of that I’m skeptical. Certainly it would be a mistake for elected Republicans to double down on angering & motivating the Democratic base and those swing or even swing-ish voters who are aghast at the dishonest, corrupt and authoritarian behavior of the President. Even a replay of 2016 with higher Democratic turnout in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would flip the result.

          There comes a time, even for cowardly partisans who crave holding on to power, when being publicly associated with criminal activities is no longer a viable option. There’s an article on 538 today which points out that the collapse of Republican support for Nixon did not really start until very late in the game, about 2-3 weeks before his resignation. I fully expect most of that soft underbelly of the Republicans to hold out for a while yet. When it becomes no longer viable they will mostly jump all at once. It may not save them in their 2020 re-elections, but they will have careers ahead, and the ability to re-write the narrative of their legacy.

        • P J Evans says:

          With Nixon, it was the discovery of the tapes, and the court deciding that he had to turn them over (US v Nixon), that did it for most people.

        • Keith says:

          Actually, I was talking about the 30% in regard to the reason Republican congressmen are actively prostituting themselves to protect the hominid in the Whitehouse, namely that they can’t risk losing those people the majority of their voters by harming dear leader Trump. I feel the only reason Trump is not already on the street and under indictment is those enablers in Congress. I was wondering if there was a way to break the thrall the 30% are under by working through Fox News.

          It is also ironic isn’t it that Fox news may end up being the downfall of it’s own beloved party by propping up this abomination? One has to wonder if the GOP can survive this over the long haul.

        • Vicks says:

          I disagree, I think the diehard trump fans are cancelled out by those actively anti trump.
          Same with the Republicans that held their noses and voted for Trump; some are disgusted and some are thrilled beyond their wildest dreams.
          IMHO it is those that do not consider themselves politically active that Dems may have the best chance to make headway with.
          I think dems should consider a campaign to draw in the disinterested from both parties that builds on civic duty.
          Make the pitch as inclusive as a Trump speech is divisive including making it clear there is plenty of room for those who may be considering bolting from the dark side.
          Don’t make it about Trump, make it about who actually is supposed to have the power in this country.

    • BobCon says:

      The other piece is to push a fake controversy about a rival to drag the good side down. The recent idiocy about Warren’s pregnancy is an ominous sign that the GOP will have a lot of help from the media. So is the NY Times pushing a garbage piece by Peter Schweizer about Ukraine.

  4. Pete T says:

    Is there a (legal) rationale for asking for voluntary submission of documents and testifying instead of going the subpoena route out of the gate?

    If a house committee wants something subpoena out of the gate hold then in contempt when refused.

    What I am unsure of after that is whether that gets kicked to DOJ for enforcement or whether the courts can be engaged immediately.

    While I agree that this is just a rehash of Trump’s position all along like lipstick on a pig (apologies to the pig) get this into the courts and settle it sooner than later.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Traditionally asking nicely before issuing a subpoena has played well before judges. I think it led to shorter overall timelines than starting with a subpoena.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The strategy assumes the target generally acts in good faith. The assumption is demonstrably false with Trump.

  5. foggycoast says:

    Taken to its logical conclusion it will come down to SCOTUS ruling that Trump must turn over requested documents and people must testify and Trump saying “Make me.” The House needs now to understand how it can forcibly obtain the things it is rightfully requesting. The FBI with be between a rock and a hard place if they are ordered by a ruling to seize the materials and DOJ and Trump order them not to. What then?

    • BobCon says:

      Legal costs for individuals is one issue — if enough people are facing big legal bills for long fights, they may start deciding to cut their losses rather than hope the GOP makes good on promises to make them whole.

      Citing individuals and companies for contempt is another way. People may well decide that defying court orders isn’t worth it to their bank accounts and reputations.

      There is also the potential for a snowball effect. In a herd of sheep you don’t want to be the first to make a run for it, but you also don’t want to be the last. If the Democrats can start enough momentum to get some breaking from the herd, the rest may follow. I’m unsure the Democrats have that piece figured out, though.

      • RWood says:

        Agree that the dems need to “throw an elbow” and make an example of someone ducking a subpoena. Preferably someone who has been quite vocal in their support of trump and also caught red handed.

        Sondland would fit the bill. He’s there for no other reason than he donated to trumps campaign, plus he is sufficiently naive as a Washington outsider. Let him see the inside of a cell, wear some shiny bracelets, pose for a mugshot, and get himself forever labeled as a supporter of one of the most criminal presidents ever. Then see how fast he turns on trump.

        Its going to be Lets make A Deal for a lot of people very soon. We’re about to enter the bargaining phase of this terminal illness.

  6. PSWebster says:

    Off topic?
    Why aren’t we discussing the Mazars case? Am I reading it all wrong? It seems powerfully to undermine the BS unlimited immunity claims. Judge Victor Marrero really seems to nail it. Isn’t this the first domino to fall?

    What up??
    Also: Reuters is reporting on The missing Maltese academic at the heart of Washington intrigue which emptywheel has been reporting on.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      The case involving the subpoena of Mazars is in an investigation by the state of New York and as of yet has no bearing on presidential impeachment is my understanding.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Nothing will happen for nearly two weeks, pending the scheduled hearing at the 2nd Circuit on Trump’s appeal against the district court’s ruling.

      • timbo says:

        That’s a naive way to look at it… It’s like assuming that the action to have Barr disbarred is somehow not connected to the impeachment of Trump either…

        • bmaz says:

          There is an action to have Barr disbarred?? If so, it is a joke. There is not a one a million chance of that happening. None.

        • BobCon says:

          I assume only if he’s convicted like Libby, right? It would take some major new evidence coming out to make that happen.

  7. Vicks says:

    I’m no lawyer but as this post discussed, this letter is not a legal argument.
    It is not the start of a negotiation.
    It is the Trump White House flipping the bird at our constitution and the checks and balances specifically established to shut down king-making efforts like this.
    Pelosi and the House have the power here, they also happen to have the law on their side. A quick rewind of the corruption and cruelty of the past 18 months should make it clear that if they an inch of ground on this because of bullshit pressure like this letter it will be the beginning of the end.
    IMHO of course

    • P J Evans says:

      No, it isn’t a legal argument: impeachment is written into the Constitution as the legal way to deal with incompetent and criminal civil officials, including the president. They’re arguing that he’s a king, if not an emperor, and thus untouchable. (I’d remind them of Charles I, Louis XIV, and Napoleon.)

  8. Diggo says:

    My impression was Pelosi waiting for Trump to self-impeach. His alleged dementia symptoms have seemed apparent for a long time, perhaps coupled with side effects of alleged long term amphetamine abuse. Pelosi has seen this up close & personal. If he is indeed descending into dementia like his father, the decline escalates quickly and there’s no treatment.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Self-impeach is a contradiction in terms. Waiting for Trump to do something so foul the GOP would stop supporting him is waiting for Godot. She knows that.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Meanwhile…the NYT’s editors remain reliably in Trump’s corner. Their description of Trump’s public vow to continue illegally to obstruct Congress’s inquiry: “White House Declares War on Impeachment Inquiry.”

    The NYT obscures Trump’s criminality by making his position the “White House’s” position, which confuses legitimate policy with the desperate gambit of a criminal defendant.

    The White House does not declare war. That’s up to Congress, the branch that Trump unilaterally holds to be no longer a co-equal branch of government.

    As the Times’ headline writers know, a declaration of war marshals the citizenry behind a beleaguered leader, who needs everyone to pull together at the same time in order to save the nation. Trump is confusing himself with the state again. But his Olympian self-regard and his tactics are not new: He learned them decades ago from Roy Cohn and has used them since. He is not a dog that learns new tricks.

    Trump’s action is not new. As EW makes clear again, Trump is continuing his desperate refusal to work with other branches of government in order to protect himself from scrutiny. His blanket refusal shouts that any inquiry into his conduct, any turning over of the Trump rocks, illustrated by his bet the company attempts to avoid disclosing his tax statements, will reveal rampant impropriety and crime.

    Trump’s is the prototypical behavior of a dangerously errant president that the impeachment power was specifically designed to defend against.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Chris Cilizza tried to write a column about Hillary playing eleventy dimensional chess and really is running in 2020. He’s really out of ideas but well paid to recycle columns like MoDo, Will, Brooks, …. who all seem to be employed by the Times. What schmucks.

      Anyone see if Maggie’s come over to the progressive side yet?

      I did like the note about Nadler’s HJC omission, though, and I don’t think he or Adam Schiff is going to lay off. We also have the tax case rolling so the Syria gambit (apparently made up on the fly) must stand in for now as our “distraction du jour”

      Trey Gowdy as the white knight is also a bit of a crock, let’s all recall how he was smacked aound by HRC in eleven hours of testimony and was also (IIRC) busted by the Planned Parenthood president for misleading with charts that were apparently plagiarized.. Maybe the jumpsuit will finally match Individual-1’s “tan”.

  10. OldTulsaDude says:

    Yes, while the NYT is calling it “the White House position” Paul Waldman of the WaPo is saying this, “….the letter reads like some combination of a deeply misinformed seventh-grader’s social studies paper and a rant from Sean Hannity….”

    • P J Evans says:

      I’m tempted to email my niece the lawyer and ask her what she thinks of it. But it wouldn’t have flown in my eighth-grade class, where we read the Constitution and had to pass a test on it. (Seventh grade was world history, for us.)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think it reads more like Stephen Miller imitating Donald Trump. Cipollone probably just agreed to sign it, but that’s enough to put him on the hook.

      Joe Biden doesn’t like it either. But he needs to practice more. “We can’t not let him get away with it,” is probably not what he wanted to say.

      • P J Evans says:

        part of Biden’s problem is that he sounds like he thinks it’s still the 80s, when the two parties could still work together part of the time. He shouldn’t have forgotten the last 12 years entirely, or the decade before that.

  11. gmoke says:

    My suspicion is that Pelosi has been so very reluctant to pursue impeachment because she knows that not only Trmp will be impeached but that Pence will be too and that any activity on her end to expedite the process will be used against her when she has to assume the office of the Presidency.

    But I could most definitely be wrong. She just might be completely uncomfortable with holding a fellow politician accountable in this way, knowing that a few scrapes of the putty knife will reveal impeachable offenses for almost any person in high elected office.

    • BobCon says:

      Even if the Senate were to vote out Pence, they are under no Constitutional obligation to do so until a new VP is in place. There is a Senate rule requiring a quick trial after a House vote, but that rule can be changed by a simple majority.

      Even a politically damaged GOP that somehow feels obligated to remove both Trump and Pence would be exceedingly unlikely to let Pelosi take over.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Not really, Spiro Agnew’s crimes were completely independent of Tricky Dick’s operation. Of course, that was when the GOP could feel some shame.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        You say this as if Moscow Mitch is going to suddenly have a come to Jesus moment and do his duty. He will bring it to a vote, if it actually gets that far. But the whole process will take 20 minutes and be structured in such a way that Trump’s ample backside is protected from removal from office.

        Imagine rats cornered, not turtles.

        • Pjb says:

          I may be wrong but even though McConnell can change Senate rules, he can only do so by majority vote. I am not convinced Romney, Sasse, etc will necessarily vote to convict but I do think it likely they will require a real trial, not a 20 minute sham. Anyone an expert on Senate rules here?

        • Rugger9 says:

          Senate rule changes require 2/3s unless the “nuclear option” is used. MMMcT even acknowledged this a couple of days ago.

  12. General Sternwood says:

    So CBS released a memo that is purportedly the whistleblower’s memo after speaking with “an unnamed White House official who listened to the call” (which as I’ve argued before is likely Bolton). Two things I notice about it is that of the highlighted passages in quotation marks, both “The President urged Zelenskyy not to fire Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko” and “the President reiterated his concern that Zelenskyy was surrounded by people who were enemies of the President, including ‘bad oligarchs'” are parts of the relayed conversation that don’t appear in the summary the White House released. Here I am relying on my faulty memory, but I also did a search for both Lutsenko and oligarch on the transcript and didn’t get any hits. If so, this seems like prima facie evidence that the “transcript” released by the White House was heavily redacted — so heavily that entire points of the conversation were elided. I don’t know if this is a real document of course, but I’m curious if others see differences between the contemporaneous recounting of the conversation and the official (very short) rough transcript.

  13. P J Evans says:

    Donny is really going off the rails. He’s claiming that we don’t owe the Kurds because they didn’t help in Normandy.

    “The Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand, they’re fighting for their land. And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy, as an example. They mentioned names of different battles. But they’re there to help us with their land. And that’s a different thing. In addition to that we have spent tremendous amounts of money on helping the Kurds in terms of ammunition, in terms of weapons, in terms of money, in terms of pay.”

    • Yogarhythms says:

      I mistakenly thought because no impeachment inquiry vote the impeachment inquiry was begun egotistically. House leadership has seen a few rodeos. Earl is right “ he is not a dog that learns new tricks”. The power obtained has only inflamed. The comeuppance is biding while Congress is riding.

  14. Michael says:

    On a lighter note: The pic of tRump that Marcy chose makes me giggle anew each time I see it. First of all, I hear Leo Goetz (Joe Pesci) in Lethal Weapon II:
    “They F**K you at [an impeachment]! They F**K you at an impeachment! OK?”
    And second, I imagine raging LongTieSilver (formally LongTieOrange) biting off the end of his nasty tongue.

  15. Michael says:

    In case there any youngsters here who are fuzzy on 2000’s history, a reminder that U.S. left the Kurds of northern Iraq in the lurch when “it was all over but the shoutin'” and we were anxious to skedaddle. Ditto for the (Vietnamese) Hmongs and Laotian irregulars (an earlier skedaddle). Like misogyny, the “use ’em and forget ’em” modus has a long history.

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