BREAKING: The First Amendment Is Part of Something Called the Constitution

There’s been a weird phenomenon during the Trump presidency, where journalists and media organizations loudly defend one small part of the Constitution — the one that benefits them personally, the First Amendment — but seem to believe it would be partisan to defend the Constitution and rule of law more generally.

That’s been evident for some time, as news outlets treat the White House arbitrarily revoking credentials as a major news story but treat Trump’s flouting of other limits built into the Constitution as a big old partisan game.

That, to me, is the real problem with this widely panned Jonathan Allen piece deeming yesterday’s impeachment hearing boring. It wasn’t quite so bad as this Reuters piece in the same vein; unlike Reuters, NBC eventually did get around to telling readers about the most shocking news from the hearing, that Gordon Sondland got on an unsecure line to call the President the day after the July 25 call and learned that the only thing Trump cared about was the investigations into his political opponents.

NBC included that news, but placed it in paragraph 17, then dismissed it as a “footnote,” without explaining that this means Sondland got caught, for the second time, lying in his sworn statement to Congress.

Taylor did create a stir when he told the committee one of his aides overheard an ambassador at the center of the story, Gordon Sondland, talking to the president about Ukraine on the phone. Afterward, Sondland told the staffer that Trump cared more about getting Ukraine to open investigations into Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter than about any issues that mattered to the Ukrainians.

But that served as more of a footnote than a headline.

Thirteen paragraphs before he buried the lead, however, Allen pitched yesterday’s events this way, as a measure of whether Democrats had achieved their goal of ousting the president.

But at a time when Democrats are simultaneously eager to influence public opinion in favor of ousting the president and quietly apprehensive that their hearings could stall or backfire, the first round felt more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than opening night for a hit Broadway musical.

Allen did that in a piece where he emphasized that witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent spoke from their “nonpartisan roles in government,” and judged that “Republicans poked no real holes in witness testimony.”

In other words, he did that in a piece where he conceded that nonpartisan experts had presented evidence that Trump had improperly tried to extort political benefits from Ukraine by withholding duly appropriated funds. Allen deemed this hearing to be a battle between Democrats and Republicans in a piece where he conceded that the evidence presented showed that President Trump committed a crime, bribery, that the Constitution explicitly says merits impeachment.

Yes, it is the case that not one Republican took a stand for the Constitution yesterday. Even more embarrassing, not a single Republican took a stand to defend their own Constitutional authority, the power of the purse, which Trump also violated when he withheld funding without explaining to Congress why he did so, a violation of the Impoundment Act that Mick Mulvaney has already confessed was a crime.

That seems newsworthy to me, for any journalist whose ability to be one relies on the limits on authority enshrined in the Constitution.

Don’t get me wrong, Allen is not alone in treating support for the Constitution — except, of course, the part journalists have a vested interest in, the First Amendment — as a partisan spat. It’s a general feature of reporting during the Trump Administration that the press picks and chooses which parts of rule of law they will both-sides, and which they will fiercely defend as an unquestioned value.

Just 15 minutes into this hearing, well before poor Jonathan Allen got bored and tuned out, Adam Schiff reminded of when,

Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of country America was to become. ‘A Republic,’ he answered, ‘if you can keep it.’ The fundamental issue raised by the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump is, can we keep it?

That’s what Adam Schiff said this hearing was about. Not ousting the President. But keeping our Constitutional government.

If the facts were in dispute, this might be fairly deemed by jaded journalists like Allen a partisan attack.

But the facts are not in dispute, as he himself agrees. Which means he utterly mistook the two sides in this matter, in pitching it as a fight between Democratic and Republican strategists. It’s not. It’s a fight between those defending the Constitution and the Republican party.

104 replies
  1. Mitch Neher says:

    Excerpted from the Jonathan Allen piece linked in EW’s original post above:

    “It’s clear this is going to be a battle of narratives and messages,” Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis said. “Based on Day One, if the goal was to present a clear and easy-to-follow narrative, neither side did a stellar job. We need to stop presenting this like a foreign policy class — this needs to be about making a clear case about what the president did wrong, again and again. That narrative is getting lost.”

    I watched yesterday’s hearing. It was not a foreign policy class. What Trump did wrong–abuse the power of his office for personal benefit at the expense of our national interest and in violation of the public trust–was repeatedly hammered out at yesterday’s hearing. If the goal was to present a clear and easy-to-follow story, then the goal was scored and repeatedly underscored–strike that–highlighted.

  2. skua says:

    I’m wondering if reporters like Allen are seeing what they want to see, telling us what they want us to see, or is their reporting a combination of what they see and what they want us to see.

    Or to take another perspective, “Are they ignorant, dishonest or a combination of both?”

    • BobCon says:

      Osita Nwanevu had a great piece on the sickness at the heart of political reporting:

      What he says about political reporting about elections also applies to the impeachment:

      “Speculation about what voters might think or might decide about the candidates and how they might fare in the elections in question still seems to occupy much more space in our papers and take up much more time in television news than straightforward coverage of what we firmly know about them”

      What is particularly galling is that the political press refuses to report on unquestionable truths — Trump lying under oath, breaking the law, violating the Constitution — on the grounds that there is some narrow grounds for considering these truths as speculation. And yet they have completely free rein to wildly speculate about future outcomes based on tiny shreds of selectively chosen evidence, because, well, they feel like it.

      Nwanevu quotes Jay Rosen on “savvy” and Rosen hits the nail on the head. The DC politics beat is filled with rotten people:

      “In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane. Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.) ”

      Read all of Nwanevu’s piece. It’s a great diagnosis.

      • dimmsdale says:

        Thanks for linking Nwanevu’s piece, off to read it now. The thing that infuriated me the most about the third-string-drama-critic reportage is that it’s (Imo) performative–a bunch of pampered show ponies putting on capers for each other and their editors/producers. It’s also type of self-reassurance in which the perpetrator gazes into the mirror, finds themselves SO much better than the material they’re reviewing, AND the ‘actors’ who are putting it up (a typical third-string-drama-crit malady). It’s really insufferable, it’s a pose, and it’s hurting the country.

      • GKJames says:

        Interesting. But “savvy” about what? Is it access to people in high places? Is it a business model that, through the “both sides do it” formula, insists on not excluding the 63 million pairs of eyeballs that might click on a link?

        • BobCon says:

          “Savvy” is an artificial social construct. It is a tautology. To be savvy is to be savvy. It bears as much connection to reality as a pair of high fashion boots bears to what you need to protect your feet walking down slushy NY City winter streets and sidewalks.

          Of course, as EW points out in this piece, this kind of artificial concept can be crushed. The myopic solipsism of the political media, inwardly focused on a tiny sliver of the Constitution, will be torn apart if they don’t recognize the entire concept of the rule of law is smashed.

          A theoretical respect for the press protections of the First Amendment means nothing if the 4th Amendment is gutted, if Article II becomes supreme over Article I, if the right wing judges decide to rule on ad hoc whims. These are means for the enemies of the DC press to crush them, and all of the Jonathan Allens stupidly think they’re immune because they’re part of the club.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I suspect that being “savvy” is a way to become a member of the same crowd that journalists are supposed to cover. It’s like being invited to a cocktail party at Peggy Noonan’s every night.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          Jon Lovett has pointed out for a while that the current media and social media climate makes everybody a pundit, even the public: it’s not enough to have an opinion on things, but you have to have a meta-opinion on the optics or “how it’ll play.” It’s not enough to want to elect somebody, but instead you have to consider “electability.” It’s as if everybody is required to frame their beliefs as if they’re in a cablenews panel or writing a take.

        • orionATL says:

          or, like too many, e.g., n(yt wyt)imes/wapoop reporters and their editors, as if they were politically asceptic historians looking back on a history of 100 yrs past and thoughtfully writing it up when they are, in fact, in the middle of a historic debacle in american democracy. a debacle i will add that, though it is never put this way, is almost entirely due to a persistent flow of misinformation provided the citizenry by our medias’ “fair and balanced” misreporting on the factual, political, moral, and legal behavior of our politicians and the covert goals of some of these politicians’ supporters.

        • orionATL says:

          rightwing hustlers:

          think media corporation operators rush limbaugh, rupert murdoch, roger Ailes, bill o’reiley, sean hannity, tucker carlson, andrew breitbart, john solomon, jerome coursi, alex jones, et al.

          making real good money off of republican rubes while twisting american politics into a koch bros pretzel.

        • skua says:

          From the cited article, “… “savvy” reporting that prizes the identification of disingenuous political tactics…. “.

          ” savvy” appears to be a focus on the strategy and tactics used in political conflicts rather than an ethically or legally focussed analysis.

          Savvy reporting appears to be founded on the view that politics is better reported on in similar ways to professional sports, and that electors have similar needs from news reports as sports fans.

          This contrasts with the view that electors need information on; what public policy issues have been raised, what the various candidates have said about these issues, what relevant experience and training the candidates or their advisors bring to their understanding of the issues, and the views a range of experts from known political camps have on the issues. And that it is the proper role of political reporting to provide such information.

        • timbo says:

          As the pseudo-journos poses wear thin, you can see Trump gaining support by pointing this out publicly and consistently, positioning himself as being a better source of understanding and power. Trump is replacing our tattering institutions with his own personality. It’s sad to see how few in the TV news rooms actually acknowledge the danger, sadder still that even those who do see it and acknowledge it don’t seem to know how to use disinfecting truth to counter it.

    • Anvil Leucippus says:

      Hanlon’s razor – “Never attribute to malice which can be adequately explained by stupidity”

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      “Which means he utterly mistook the two sides in this matter”

      He mistook nothing. The corporate press is trying to present impeachment hearings as a petty dispute between political parties, with the “most entertaining” party winning.

      The malignant, delusional, treasonous and criminal Trump is just another reality show contestant to the media, and they’re exclaiming and wondering if he’ll be voted off the island.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Gordon Sondland – an entitled, well-schooled, well-lawyered billionaire employed as a diplomat to the United States’ second largest trading partner – got caught committing two major felonies: lying to Congress twice.

    A US Attorney ought to do something about that. The Sec’y of State should suspend and investigate him, or, more typically, force his immediate resignation. It would be reckless not to. Those would be good avenues for journalists to pursue.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I agree, and which USA would do the deed would be a good question to ask, since that person would have to buck the Palace and AG Barr in particular. Recall how Shrub removed all of the USAs who wouldn’t play ball to file cases against Ds culminating in the case regarding David Inglesias (IIRC) who was cashiered for his (protected by law) reservist service without consequence so it’s not a trivial thing. The good news is that there are some who would, given the various charges filed recently, and I will go out on a limb here and speculate that Sondland’s bus is on its way since he clearly is a liability for the Palace now. That will point in favor of charges and fairly soon.

    • pjb says:

      I am understanding from the coverage that Sondland has not testified to the fact of the July 26 unsecured cell phone call he initiated to Trump from a public space. I know the Taylor aide who overheard it will testify in closed door depo tomorrow. I am interested to hear from anyone with a view as to how to force Sondland in his public testimony on Wednesday to concede the truth as to what Trump said on the call.

      Not to be too cheeky, but couldn’t we just ask the Ukranian security services for a recording? The President says they owe us a favor.

      • Fran of the North says:

        The other option would be for bro Vlad to provide us with one. They’ve got to be sniffing the ends and everything in between of the electromagnetic spectrum in Ukraine.

  4. Tom says:

    Rather than lacking pizazz, I found the presentations by Taylor and Kent to be absorbing and highly informative. I came away with a far better understanding of what has been going on in Ukraine after listening to these two distinguished and honourable gentlemen. As for Devin Nunes and the overheated Senator from Ohio, Jim Jordan, whenever they opened their mouths to speak it was obvious they were just a couple of partisan pizazz-holes and that’s when I took my pee breaks.

  5. Rita says:

    I didn’t watch the whole hearing but did watch much of it.

    And I watched some of the analysis afterwards.

    The critiques largely depend on the frame of reference. Those, like Chuck Todd, who see everything through the lens of the horse race of politics saw a hearing with Democrats making a prosaic presentation in contrast to the histrionics of the Republicans, while giving short shrift to the content, except for the bombshell. The legal pundits tended to look at the hearing like a criminal trial and determined that as an opening argument, it lacked the punchy story that would grab the jury. The security analysts were horrified at the obvious breach of security when Gordon Sondland called Trump on a cellphone from a restaurant in Kiev.

    I thought Nicolle Wallace and Chris Matthews did a pretty good job of framing the analysis where it should be: on the outrageous abuse of power, the national security implications, and the implications for the country if such a gross abuse of power is unchecked.

    What the testimony and depositions reveal is, in some ways, straightforward and simple. The Trump Administration was withholding aid to an ally and conditioning that aid on politically motivated investigations. Either Trump authorized it or his deputies acted on their own. Either Trump is culpable or too incompetent to be President.

    But there are many threads that should be followed. My favorites are the apparent black ops operation that Giuliani was running, with the help of John Solomon and Fox News, and the question of why Trump had such a negative view of Ukraine. Fiona Hill’s deposition is tantalizing on both issues, although Kent and Taylor touched on both issues.

    • timbo says:

      It’s more than that. This is yet another test of the federal bureaucracy itself. The Trumpers are clearing the bureaucracy of roadblocks to Trump’s fascist agendas. The DP has finally taken notice as >their own political viabilityis actively threatenedreading the transcripts< is to be shunned… the DP needs to start hammering on GOP House members for not bothering to be engaged enough to consider the facts here.

  6. scribe says:

    Beg to differ a bit, EW.

    The core problem rising to the surface, the part pertaining to 1A and journos’ vigorous defense of it in all its panoply of forms and applications which you correctly point out, is twofold. First, that neither party is particularly friendly to the Constitution when they want to do things with or through government. Second, that they immediately run to screaming “Constitutional Crisis” whenever they aren’t getting what they want, or when they want to stop the other side from doing something the other side wants.

    (NB: I’ve been hearing about one Constitutional Crisis after another since my law school days, more than 30 years ago. It’s always something.)

    In other words, each party’s problem is not with the existence and use of the whip (on someone, usually either the population at large or some designated unpopular minority du jour) but rather that they are not the ones wielding it.

    I have not been following the impeachment proceedings lo these many months, more out of my conclusion that Pelosi was such a craven and cynical coward that she really didn’t want to find Trump guilty of anything out of a desire, shared by Democrats of most stripes, that they’d like to rule by decree just like Trump is trying to and impeaching him over it would set a precedent limiting that decretal power. What she’s really hoping for is to string this out long enough to hobble the Republicans in the election next year, either by making lots of free publicity or having them devote time to this instead of campaigning or both. The Washington press, who you castigate above, have long since sussed this out alongside the sure knowledge that whatever trial takes place in the Senate will almost certainly result in a Trump win.

    So, they give the hearings something more than “nothing to see here. Move along.” But not much.

    I just wish the press would take seriously all the rest of the Bill of Rights. Even half so seriously as they take 1A. But I’d also like to hit the Powerball, and both “likes” seem about equally likely to happen. Sadly.

    What we could – and should – be having is a good debate over some core Constitutional principles. On the one hand, there is the President’s plenary power over foreign affairs. On the other, Congress’ power over the purse. Unfortunately, a decade and a half ago Pelosi let sail the ship carrying the argument over the power of the purse when she let GW Bush get away with violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act in relation to the conduct of the War on Terror, the War in Iraq, torture (recall the Anti-torture Treaty?), Black sites, GITMO etc. ad nauseam. Before she took back the gavel riding in on a progressive-fed wave election of 2006, she came right out and said she was taking impeachment off the table. That set a precedent, one which I believe she will be unable to reverse. (It also cost the Dems a few marginal seats by depressing enthusiasm for putting the same Corporatocrats in charge.)

    And, of course, you remember Obama killing any investigation, let alone prosecution, for torture with his “looking forward, not backward” remark, omitting of course the truth that ALL criminal prosecutions are necessarily “looking backward”.

    Yes, asking a foreign government to investigate an American (political rival or not) for alleged violations of a foreign country’s laws is at best a touchy business. We do it all the time with Colombian drug lords, international arms merchants (e.g. Bout) and money launderers and no one thinks twice about it. (Similarly, trading information to another country about possible crimes against that country’s laws is regularly done.) Twisting a foreign government’s arm to goad them to do something (or refrain from it – e.g. “Mr. Havel, you can do business with Frank Zappa or with the United States of America. Your choice.”) is also at best a touchy business. Foreign relations are, at core, a barter economy because there is neither some Daddy or Judge to strike the balance between countries and their interests, and because most of what passes for international law is really custom informed by the relative power status and arrangements of the respective countries. It’s a business one could consider as ugly, nasty, dirty and so on, but it is what it is. And what it is, is a marketplace.

    That doesn’t mean I approve of what was done or may have been done here. But the diplomats strike me more than a bit shocked to find gambling going on at Ricks after spending careers at the tables.

    Two final notes: Trump and his friends are arguing he’s entitled to full 5th and 6th Amendment rights, as well as to call witnesses in the House proceedings. I take no position on that. But, this interesting article which I saw right before stopping by here ( ) indicates both Clinton and Nixon were afforded substantial elements if not the full scope of 5A and 6A rights during their respective proceedings. If this is so, and again I take no position on the question, that would indicate a “gloss” of precedent on the Constitution which would have to be respected lest the current proceedings degenerate into a show trial. Either Madison or Monroe (I can’t recall which offhand) was pretty clear on that, and once those precedents creating the gloss are set, they’d darned well better be respected.

    Finally, I look forward to watching my Stillers tonight. At Cleveland. Looks like Stillerwetter – low 30s at game time but, sadly the wind looks to be coming off the land and not the lake so not much chance of snow.

    • David B Pittard says:

      Perhaps I misread you, but I would note that leverage used in foreign relations for the purposes of advancing the interests of our nation is distinctly different from leverage used for purposes of advancing the political interests of the president.

      • scribe says:

        There are very few people who can shape reality to their whim. the President of the United States is one of them.

        By way of example, politics being the “art of the possible”, what the President says is possible or impossible becomes possible or impossible. We saw that with the “public option” floated as an alternative to the insurance-selling program commonly called Obamacare: Once President Obama declared (through underlings, IIRC) that a “public option” was impossible, it was immediately impossible. And all the screaming and arguing on the Left (and Right) for the public option only prolonged the play. It didn’t change how it came out.

        Similarly, the only person whose definition of the “national interest” that really counts, is the President. If a President declares that the national interest is served by having the 4th Thursday in November be Thanksgiving Day, we all wind up eating turkey and pumpkin pie. And if a president decides that the national interest is best served by whacking Osama Bin Laden in his Pakistani hideaway rather than snatching him back to the US from said hideaway to stand trial, be convicted and executed in a prison death chamber, then we get extrajudicial killing rather than the judicial system grinding out the same result: a dead bin Laden. Only without the cleansing effect (on our national honor, if nothing else) of doing it in court in full view of the world.

        You and I can both disagree with any president’s definition of what is or is not in the national interest, but our disagreement doesn’t count for much. It’s not our job to define “the national interest”.

        Frankly, I wouldn’t be spending time impeaching Trump for mucking around in Ukraine and trying to trash Biden through his son. Biden and the other Dems are doing a fine job of that; Deval Patrick is the second corporatocrat to start his presidential campaign this week. At this rate each of the Corporate Dems will get two votes in each primary: their own and their spouse’s.

        Rather, if I were in charge of impeachment I would be looking at the way Trump’s words and actions have undermined the good order and discipline of the military by his repeated pardons of servicemembers convicted of crimes that are war crimes, and especially his interference in the chain of command to bollux ongoing cases against alleged or convicted war criminals, and deliberately undermining the authority of the officers between him and those individuals, whose job it was and is to provide a disciplined fighting force. He has generated and empowered some of the most egregious insubordination since in-military protests against Vietnam, 50 years ago.

        But I’m not in charge.

      • bmaz says:

        Yeah, Katherine, I am not sure that is fair. Scribe, whether we always agree or not (mostly yes, not always), has been with us since we even started the Emptywheel blog. He is neither a “bothsider” nor a “whatabouter”, that statement flies in the face of a very long history, and is not fair.

        That said, and heartily meant, I take issue with the thought that Trump’s supporters’ invocation of the 5th and 6th Amendments is any kind of close call, for it is not. It is fucking crazy. For starters, that applies solely to government criminal prosecutions, and Congressional impeachment is not that, especially the earliest of fact finding efforts. And Steve Calabresi is a right wing lunatic extremist, and both his original column, and “update” at the Daily Caller are beyond idiotic and intellectually duplicitous. In case you are not aware, Calabresi was literally one of the founding voices of the Federalist Society back in the 1980’s, and remains, along with Len Leo, arguably its premier architect to this date. He is a dogmatic and extremist asshole, and his arguments as to the current impeachment make the term “dishonest” seem too tame.

        I’ll close that Scribe is not wrong that there are better, and even more fundamental issues that are being neglected in Pelosi and Hoyer’s headstrong rush to be done with “impeachment” at rocket speed. It is insane, and they are derelict.

        • scribe says:

          A couple points.
          1. Whether or not one agrees with Calabresi, one can either address the 5A and 6A arguments on their merits, or not. I agree impeachment is not a criminal proceeding (even though it’s triggered by the allegation of high crimes or misdemeanors); there was an article the other day which I can’t presently find detailing where full-blown 5A and 6A rights don’t obtain and it was persuasive.

          OTOH what does have to be addressed and, if not addressed gives the President’s backers (or whatever they are) grist for their mill, is the question of whether, and to what extent, Presidents Clinton and Nixon were afforded 5A and 6A rights and privileges during their respective impeachment hearings and trials.

          Let me be clear: I don’t know one way or the other whether there is any merit to such a claim. But it has to be addressed objectively.

          Reduced to its essence (keeping it simple especially for those whose discernment has been dulled by bloodlust and hatred): if today’s proceedings do not give today’s president the same level of 5A and 6A rights and privileges which were afforded in the two most recent prior presidential impeachment proceedings, whatever the level of such rights and privileges were, then the people running today’s proceedings open themselves up to a legitimate complaint that they are treating today’s president differently, and worse, than the two prior presidents.

          Exacerbating the issue and making for an unforced a fortiori argument helping today’s president, would be the fact that in running the most recent impeachment proceeding today’s president’s party may have given President Clinton greater rights and privileges than may be being afforded today’s president (by President Clinton’s party).

          So, the point is: when it comes to 5A and 6A privileges either treat every president at least as well as the one(s) before him, or open yourself up to and make legitimate the charges of witch hunts and show trials. You might argue that the Constitution does not support, or require, that. But that overlooks the reality of the “gloss” on Constitutional provisions accumulated by practice and precedent. “We’ve done it this way in the past” carries a lot of weight, especially in a town like Washington where “what goes around comes around” is often the only check on gutting the other party’s fellow.

          2. Foreign relations. It’s truly amazing how people get blinded by partisanship. The fact is, in the field of foreign relations is a barter marketplace. Yes, there are treaties and rules and such, but those codify the rules of the marketplace.

          What Trump may have done relative to Ukraine (proofs are still open) was … well, I’ll just say I might run out of negative adjectives to describe it, and I have a big vocabulary. Shortsighted is just the beginning. It’s also a reflection of what he is – a New York real estate hustler who thinks pretty much only of the immediate moment. And because he never developed a wide network of subordinates to handle things – be that out of mistrust, a feeling only he could do it the way he wanted it done, alienating good employees being a shitty boss or some combination of them – he wound up doing it himself. By comparison, the 2 Bushes, Clinton and Obama all had their people do the dirty work. James Baker reminding Tariq Aziz in Switzerland prior to the Gulf War that America had used nukes in war and Iraq using chemical weapons would be a very bad idea. By any stretch, that’s pretty extortionate conduct – use weapons you have (and have used) and we’ll turn you into a radioactive parking lot. Similarly, telling Vlaclav Havel to choose between dealing with Frank Zappa (advising the Czechs on transition to democracy and capitalism) and dealing with the United States is pretty hardball. Cooperate with us, against your first choice, or watch your country’s economy implode. (Note I picked on 2 Republican-administration examples, just to avoid whataboutism and bothsidesism charges. I didn’t have to.)

          This kind of thing goes on all the time. It’s known as hardball.

          Yes, it’s tawdry – especially in the present instance. But our legal attaches (really, FBI branch offices in our embassies) communicate with foreign countries’ prosecutorial and police forces about violations of foreign countries’ criminal laws. Every day. I have little doubt they’d rat out American citizens if the Feebs deemed it in the US’ interests. And foreign countries do the same. Yes, all the countries have limits on how far they will go to rat out their own people. Those are often derived from their local experience and history. But they cooperate. It’s just another marketplace.

          And in that kind of barter economy, Trump is at home.

          3. And now for a little bothsiderism. The Trump Derangement Syndrome on display now is at least as fulminating and destructive of sanity as the Clinton Derangement Syndrome or the Obama Derangement Syndrome. I recall an office Christmas party back in the late 90s – 1998 during the impeachment, IIRC – when one of the other guests, a distinguished older gentleman, feeling a bit of alcohol, broke down weeping at the idea of a politician lying – LYING! – and going unpunished. And a short while later his equally distinguished wife, a librarian or something by trade, her tongue freed by some holiday cheer, confided in me just how much she longed to see some liberals killed.

          I mean, enough is enough. Take a deep breath. Take another. Go for a walk around the block (or further) and burn off some of the nervous energy. In most places around the country, it’s a beautiful late autumn. Your being wrapped up in the emotion and minutiae of partisan politics will do you no good. They’re not listening to you. Watch some football, tonight and definitely on Thanksgiving. You can count on someone crapping in the punch bowl by bringing up politics over the turkey. Don’t let it be you. Wrestle over the Astros and their sign-stealing ways. Or Cheatin’ Bill and his Cheating Cheaters of Cheatertown.

          4. I’ve been here since the days of The Next Hurrah, through the time at Firedoglake, and all the time here. I’d like to think I’m a voice of sanity.

          5. I’m closing out mourning today. My beloved car of the last 7 years, a wondrous turbocharged sedan with 24 years and 220,000 miles (more or less) on the odo, still getting 28-30 mph highway, heated leather and the interior looking like it’d just come off the line, next to no rust and all systems working well went down the road on a flatbed today. Off to the auction, totaled after a tree limb fell on the windshield and roof. She was a great car. I hope someone with skills, tools and desire buys her and keeps her from the crusher.

        • bmaz says:

          Scribe – Jesus fucking christ. Get a grip. I tried to support you in the face of adversity. And here you come with run on bullshit proving the original commenter exactly right.

          “Let me be clear: I don’t know one way or the other whether there is any merit to such a claim. But it has to be addressed objectively.”

          What a load of shit. You are well aware that the criminal protections embodied in the 5th and 6th Amendments do not apply to civil cases, much less impeachment under long established House rules. Pretending that it is an open question is laughable.

          Your point number (2) is also vague and, frankly, beyond compelling.

          (3) Screw your holier than thou “Trump Derangement Syndrome”. What another total load of fucking shit.

          (4) You have indeed been here that long, and are a cherished voice. Your efforts today are NOT the voice of any self claimed “sanity”, but is the voice of protection for extremist Republican ignorance, duplicity, fascism and bullshit.

          (5) I am sorry to hear about your car. I remember well discussions with you when you bought it. It sounded like a solid choice then, and I am happy to hear you got such long and good use of it. RIP. I truly hope you find a similarly rewarding replacement.

        • orionATL says:

          katherine is exactly right.

          this is scribe at his most “bothsidesism” and cynical – and senseless. here his writing mimics the press incompetence we are discussing as part of the serious problem this democracy faces now. if, after two years of trump fronting for the rightwing republican destruction of corporate regulation (clean air, clean water) and our 80-yrs-building security net (soc security, medicare) for the common man, one can not tell the difference between the two parties despite some common, simple, overt similarities, then one can become part of the flood of misinformation, disinformation. scribe here is part of that unhelpful, nihilist flood.

    • alfredlordbleep says:

      In a quick lookup of the Anti-Deficiency Act I stumbled on this law review article (2009) by T.D. Peterson which caught my eye since I’m a hanger-on interested in “core constitutional” issues. (not to mention the history of the Boland Amendment which in some respects is dual to the march of Trump on the Ukraine)

      In spite of this authority, or perhaps indeed because of Congress’s great power, the executive branch has sought ways to circumvent congressional control over the federal purse and achieve its own ends outside of the will of Congress. Most famously in recent years, the Reagan Administration sought to avoid the Boland Amendment—a congressional restriction on aiding the Nicaraguan Contras—through the use of funds obtained from the covert sale of arms to Iran.

      Peterson warns us, in effect, on the accession of somebody like Brazen Barr in his discussion of remedy at the hands of the Department of Justice

      Finally, in Part III, this Article examines the ability of the judicial and legislative branches to oversee the Department’s settlement practices and concludes that, as a practical matter, there is little the other branches can do to protect Congress’s appropriations authority from concerted efforts to use the Department’s settlement authority to circumvent Congress’s control over the appropriations process. As a result, the Department must commit to a set of principles to guide settlements that will help to ensure that the Department respects the constitutional preeminence of Congress on the appropriation of funds from the Federal Treasury.

      Protecting the Appropriations Power: Why
      Congress Should Care About Settlements at the
      Department of Justice T D Peterson

  7. SomeGuyInMaine says:

    These hearings are historic. That is undisputable.

    If a journalist can’t find a way to write about historic events in a compelling way, me thinks the fault lies with the journalist not the history being made.

      • SomeGuyInMaine says:


        However, it’s not even close to a boring story. It important, historic, nuanced, and fascinating.

        It being treated as juvenile partisan squabbling and gossip, where who gets over on who is more important that what the heck happened and the potential serious long run consequences of what happened and is happening right now.

        It’s like reading a TV review of Hogan’s Heros as if that’s a suitable substitute for the actual events and consequences of what happened in WWII.

        Facts and principals seem to be on the run. I hope they make a comeback. Soon.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think there’s a writer’s analog to the claim that a good actor can thrill an audience by reading the phone book.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Some writers might find impeachment proceedings boring because their bosses want it to be boring. For them, change and accountability can be terrible things to let happen.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The WH has no clue who Trump calls on insecure cell phones? I suppose it’s too much to ask that the Democrats add willful and systematic violation of the PRA to Trump’s articles of impeachment. Updating that Act and adding real teeth to it is another item on the Dems’ to do list.

    • timbo says:

      Do US intelligence services have a clue? Because I’m betting the Chinese, Russians, Israelis, etc, etc may well have said clues.

  9. bokeh9 says:

    Perhaps cynically and definitely sadly, I’m not optimistic. I don’t believe media “news” is about content any more than breakfast cereal is about nutrition. (Setting aside Trump TV and the like, which is definitely about propaganda.) These media are a collection of commercial products, marketed for ratings and mouse clicks with “Breaking!” banners like “New and improved!” and “Wait! There’s more!!” With free shipping. I’ve followed Marcy since Jane Hamsher’s shop or before, but for me, it’s more of an academic exercise. And I’m retired.

    • Francine Fein says:

      “….I’ve followed Marcy since Jane Hamsher’s shop or before, but for me, it’s more of an academic exercise. And I’m retired.” Me too. I have to add that I’ve learned so much from this blog — not just from Marcy and Bmaz and Rayne and Ed — but especially from the informed commenters, which also give me hope.

      • bmaz says:

        Bokeh9 and Francine Fein, thank you for being around for the duration. It seems like forever now, doesn’t it? It is better with a community to discuss and suffer through it with though, and this is a very good one thanks to you and all the great commenters.

      • bokeh9 says:

        Francine: Paradoxically, I’m cynical and sad but also hopeful too. I have a nine-year-old granddaughter who’s a better person than I am.

        • bmaz says:

          But that is the deal, isn’t it? We are all mostly old enough to ride it out as we age out. But I have a 24 year old daughter, and hope to have grandchildren before time is up. That is what protecting the Constitution and democracy is about. It is the future we leave, not just us.

        • bokeh9 says:

          Bmaz: Just saying, I’m less hopeful about constitutions and democracies and Vonnegut’s glaciers than granddaughters.

        • bmaz says:

          The granddaughters are going to need those things though. It is our generation’s job to see that they have them.

        • bokeh9 says:

          Now I’m curious. How can you preserve the Constitution and Democracy within a media bouillabaisse prepared primarily from privilege, greed, ignorance, and grievance and delivered by mass media driven exclusively by profits? What reaches the majority in that kind of environment?

          I wish I could be more hopeful on scales greater than families.

        • BobCon says:

          I think one of the duties of every reporter who interviews right wingers on the climate crisis is to get them on the record about how they think their kids and grandkids will be judging them in thirty years.

        • Badger Robert says:

          I suppose I was too mean, but I did have to ask my daughter about her two sons, my grandsons, will they grow up in a democratic country?

  10. klynn says:

    Constitution v Violation needs to be the framing of any piece covering the Impeachment hearings. Any GOP vs Dems reporting is a failure to uphold justice and enables obstruction.

    Marcy, thank you. It made me think that a media panel evaluating journalism coverage of the hearings should be developed and post a daily list of media pieces upholding the Constitution and those fueling a political war that feeds killing democracy.

  11. RS says:

    There is someone I know that frustrates me because they are deep into the centrist, “both sides [of the political spectrum] are corrupt” way of thinking. Despite calling themselves a Democrat, this person will usually complain about the Democrats and how they have “lost their way” far more often than they’ll call out Republicans for their contempt for the rule of law.

    After reading this piece (which, as always, is great), it occurs to me that the “both sides are equally bad” narrative may not completely be my friend’s fault. It may instead be that when you have a corporate media that doesn’t report the news as news but simply presents bland, “both sides are equally valid” coverage, it breeds this sort of thing.

    Of course, I’m not calling for a more partisan media. Quite the opposite: I’m calling for a media that reports the news instead of reporting one side’s talking points because it’s afraid of being called “biased”.

    • vvv says:

      FWIW, I find that a little “both sides are equally valid” kowtow can get a listen and mebbe even a little consideration of the real point I’m trying to make. I find this particularly helpful with my elders and would-be betters (I am 59, but just a liberal, see). It’s not necessary with peers or even my kids (22 and other other just turned 21 the other day.) I see it as a regrettably useful tool in the box.

  12. CCM says:

    My thought is the problem with journalism is the rampant anti-intellectualism of our country. Imagine if reporters analyzed a story using the full array of facts and utilized a political theory, clearly stated. Or used deep reading or narrative methods like Marcy. Or the full history of the subject, in our country compared to others. Americans would yawn. Editors would get out the red pen. Reporters seem to have the goal of getting on opinion TV which requires the juicy 30 second sound bite. As Jonathon Stewart said, politics as WWE wrestling. So Marcy’s analysis is akin to complaining about a poor flip off the high rope. Sorry. Do come here to enjoy the thinking of my fellow nerds, but recognize that is who we are.

    • Tom says:

      I’m about halfway through reading “The Stories of John Cheever”. The stories are mainly set in the suburbia of the northeastern U.S. during the postwar/Cold War period when Cheever was writing. I’m struck by the presence of characters who, for example, argue at a school meeting that teachers should spend more time teaching the Biblical explanation of Creation, not the scientific one, or who protest at taxes being spent to build a public library. I tend to think of those opinions as having a more recent vintage, but obviously not.

    • P J Evans says:

      The anti-intellectualism is really deep-rooted in the US. It’s been around for a couple of centuries.

  13. P J Evans says:

    E J Dionne, comparing yesterday’s hearing to those for Watergate:

    Well, yes. But we were a far more open-minded and less partisan country back then. There were many more moderate and liberal Republicans, as well as more openness to the other side’s views — and no Fox News and no right-wing talk-radio empire.

    He seems to have forgotten what it was really like. The GOP was, even then, forcing out members who were farther left than Nixon, and screaming about liberals being enemies. (He should look up Pete McCloskey’s campaigns in 1972.)

  14. Glacier says:

    Re: ‘A Republic,’ he answered, ‘if you can keep it.’

    Ben apparently did foresee a day when the president, Senate majority and DOJ would conspire and unite to oppose Congress — and as it is, it’s likely the Senate will be the tool used to destroy The Republic.

  15. Areader2019 says:

    “felt more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than opening night for a hit Broadway musical.“

    I have read people slam the press for avoiding the issues, and doing theater criticism. This guy is literally doing theater criticism.

  16. harpie says:

    Pelosi says “BRIBERY”…a word that is in the Constitution.
    8:06 AM – 14 Nov 2019

    Pelosi says the “devastating testimony” yesterday corroborated evidence of “bribery”
    Pelosi: “The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery” “What I am saying is what the President has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I’ve said it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery”

    …to which Adam Parkhomenko responds:
    8:12 AM – 14 Nov 2019

    Hope she said this with some kind of laser or pyrotechnic show happening behind her so the press didn’t get bored.

      • harpie says:

        Here’s the link to the article:
        AP source: 2nd US official heard Trump call with Sondland

        […] The second diplomatic staffer also at the table was Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv. A person briefed on what Jayanti overheard spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter currently under investigation. […]

        • Chaparral says:

          Good link. It will be interesting to see what that testimony brings. Suriya Jayanti knows where it’s at. She was(is?) stationed at the US embassy in the Ukraine as an Economics Officer and Cyber Unit chief.

          She was the fist point of contact for Dale(no relation) Perry’s report of the Houston meeting where Parnas, Furman, and Sargent disclosed the Naftogaz scheme. “Dale Perry told the AP he was so concerned about the efforts to change the management at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he reported what he had heard to Suriya Jayanti, a State Department foreign service officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focuses on the energy industry.

          He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov’s account, dated April 12, which was shared with another current State Department official.”

          There is an FOIA request for pertinent documents.

          Being ranking embassy economic staff on the ground, it is likely she was present when just after Zelensky’s inauguration he was pressured to replace the Naftogaz board by Perry, Volker, and Sondland, as reported in the previous article.

          This was a few days before they were officially appointed by Mick Mulvaney as the ‘three amigos’ in charge of American Ukrainian policy.

          With the right questions, Ms Jayanti could have some very interesting things to say.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      Pyrotechnics would not be enough as there is no longer a separation of journalists/politicians; now, everyone is either a celebrity or an oligarch. We live in the world of Huxwell, Brave New 1984.

  17. 200Toros says:

    Thinking back on yesterday’s hearings, I wonder why, whenever a Repub rolled out the lie about “it’s not about the Biden’s, it’s about KORRUPSHUN”, the Dems didn’t just roll tape of trump standing on the WH lawn asking both Ukraine and China to investigate Biden for him.”See, it IS about the Biden’s, your Dear Leader says so!” Would have been perfect. Maybe saving it for later?

  18. Ed says:

    Yes! It’s maddening. How many pieces written about which side is winning the “messaging” as opposed to the obvious fact Trump is guilty – of this and much worse – and that anyone with the tiniest amount of critical thinking knows it.

  19. timbo says:

    To see this problem even more clearly, simply review all the TV news coverage for any talking-heads talking about the fact that lawful Congressional subpoenas have been ignored by every major department of the Federal government. As long as they “free press” need not mention that, they’re happy as clams? It’s truly shocking how low the standard of news and concern for the rule-of-law has fallen. It’s kind of like all the news programs are being told not to cover anything “controversial” like GOP operatives and hacks ignoring and flouting the law. Watching the “equal timers” too is disgusting. There is no “equal time” if you believe that the Congress has the right to subpoena Federal offices and officers to appear before it. What we see here is that the powerful, the plutocrats and oligarchs, wannabe or otherwise, are in control of most media outlets in this country. They’re only hiring editors and managers that ignore the dangers of not reporting straight facts when it comes to political figures in the US.

    Trump mentioned the other day that the main-stream media all seem to be like a cult “full of fake news!” And it seems that he’s about got that right. Most of the TV journalists have turned into followers of their own words without regard to the effect it has on the rest of us, the dangers that their repetitive nonsense, the narcissism that many in the press engage in constantly, daily, hourly, their smug claims of providing an “equal voice to everyone” presents to our democracy. Most of their ongoing and regular blaring nonsense is a hollow echo of what once was a more intellectual and vital profession. Not that Trump cares want the journalists to “get religion” there per se, just that when he drives the shiv in, it’s sometimes on the mark. It would serve journalism in this country to work harder to make their own institution survive in some form that actually helps correct the problems of our society, rather than just talk with and give deference to the folks who have created those problems.

  20. Chaparral says:

    I’m having trouble understanding why this process is so complex. From the transcript of the call and the China video the day after the transcript was released, it is clear that Trump violated the constitution by asking for something of value from a foreign entity. And he violated the election law by asking for foreign help. He obviously, undeniably violated the constitution and broke the law. Simple. Straightforward. Impeachable.

    Short, sharp, to the point. And fast. If the charges were made that simple, this could be on it’s way to the senate by now. A clear emphasis on the constitution, which everyone involved is sworn the protect and defend, may even dislodge a few principled Republicans.

    While the other aspects of this, especially the violations of national security, richly deserve attention, why make the legal process so complex? Maybe it’s my plebian understanding but, I don’t see what is to be gained with the hearings. Even if you can’t take it to the hilt, drive the blade home while you have the advantage.

    • P J Evans says:

      They’re reporting what they’ve already learned, the evidence to back up the charges, via the public hearings, to us, the public (and their employers). (See also the Watergate hearings, which did the same thing.) It may not be required under the Constitution. but that document is fairly loose in its requirements for impeachment procedures.

  21. Fran of the North says:

    When the GOP plays down the importance of the hearings by calling them a snooze-fest, they are playing to the audience which is informed enough to know that hearings are taking place, but who aren’t interested enough to get any facts on their own.

    ‘If people I trust say that there is nothing of interest, there surely isn’t.’

    When many members of the press says that there was little of interest, it is because they’ve been paying attention to the leaks from the closed door hearings, and surprise, the open hearings are confirming the leaks. But that doesn’t mean that for those who are just starting to pay attention that the information isn’t interesting and shocking.

    Finally, much of the ‘horse race’ reporting is a function of confirmation bias. Most of the articles posted since yesterday afternoon were probably ‘written’ before the hearing was called to order.

  22. Glacier says:

    “But Frost replies that Nixon knew that criminals would be protected. Nixon objects and tries to qualify, but Frost persists: “An obstruction of justice is an obstruction of justice if it’s for a minute or five minutes…” On the televised portion of the interviews at this point, Nixon appears shaken. He then says his “absence of motive” precludes any criminal intent. But Frost jumps on that and surprises Nixon, suggesting the ex-president’s knowledge of the law is incomplete. “The law states,” says Frost, “that when intent and foreseeable consequences are sufficient, motive is completely irrelevant.” Nixon says nothing and appears uncomfortable.”

    • timbo says:

      Yes, they should be running that too on the wall of DP HQ so that reporters must see it as they attempt to gain insight.

  23. Matthew Harris says:

    Someone above already mentioned the WWE, which means this analogy might make sense to some of you.

    Most of professional wrestling is fake. This is publicly acknowledged by the wrestlers themselves, and I think all fans know it as this point.

    Occasionally, though, something happens in wrestling that is not part of the script. Sometimes, “Kayfabe” is broken. Sometimes a wrestler gets hurt and it is not part of the act. Sometimes wrestlers actually do extreme things outside of the ring, not as part of a script, but because they are actually doing things.

    So sometimes when a wrestler gets hit over the head with a chair, he actually gets a concussion and passes out.

    So how is the announcer to say this? How does he say “This is not part of the story, this is a real thing that just happened?”

    The media has been covering the political horserace, the sniping and posturing that defines the 24 hour news cycle, (and now the 6 hour twitter outrage cycle) for so long, that they seem to have lost track of the difference between The Show and Reality. They are treating Trump openly soliciting foreign powers to prosecute US citizens as if it is the same as him making a silly gaffe. I don’t know how to communicate to people that this is not just part of the politics of entertainment.

    Lots of people who are not in the media have made the same mistake. There has been so much outrage against Trump, that it is hard to separate out the criminal from just normal blunders. That is why things like “Sharpiegate” have made impeachment more difficult. This isn’t part of the show, but I have no idea how to communicate that.

    • timbo says:

      Trump has mastered this in fact. The DP needs to figure out a way to beat him at this game. And here is where I put in a word for empowering the Sargeant at Arms of enforcing witness appearance before House committees… we need a folkhero that has more backing than Trump to take some action here.

  24. Kelly Canfield says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post a lot today. There was some quality nagging at me and it finally dawned on me what it is:

    What Marcy describes, to me, elucidates a feeling near Niemoller – “First they came for the 4th Amendment, and I did not speak out on that topic, because I was a First Amendment-er” etc.

    And once they come for the First, having gutted the rest, there will be nothing to write worth reading, you lousy hacks!

    Jeezus I hope they figure it out and get it together and actually commit some journamalism.

  25. harpie says:

    Hey, BMAZ…thought you might be interested in this thread:
    2:39 PM – 14 Nov 2019

    There is a HUGE screen outside of Union Station right now featuring Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in the Senate — as Brett Kavanaugh is inside speaking at the Federalist Society annual fundraiser dinner. […]

    Still awkward as all these Fed Society people in tuxes are stuck standing here with people shouting “hey hey, ho ho! Kavanaugh has got to go!” Also I see Rod Rosenstein is in line (!) for this gala with Brett Kavanaugh. [VIDEO] […]

  26. dwfreeman says:

    The MSM covers everything these days as a horse race and measures its value on a peculiar entertainment scale in which the value is based on whether its own curiosity is sufficiently piqued enough to report it as such.

    First of all, there is no attention paid to the actual timeline of this scandal or explaining why it happened or whether it happened as a result of the Mueller Report, and not as some standalone case, Beyond that, the shadow of authoritarian thinking has shrouded Trump’s actions even in the glare of impeachment. A lot of people who follow this blog get that immediately, so saying this is hardly breathtaking.

    Trump abused his office as president by denying release of congressionally-authorized funds in the 2019 federal budget for Ukraine’s defense by imposing conditions for their release that had the net effect of benefiting Russia, not Ukraine. Trump’s admin informed Congress on Feb. 28 that it planned to release the funds but didn’t. It repeated that assurance in May, but didn’t follow through. So, what was the hold up?

    People started wondering why was this money being withheld. And nobody in the Department of Defense, in the foreign service seemed to know. This funding wasn’t a political issue when it was approved. It was authorized on a bipartisan basis. So, why isn’t that part of it reported in more detail along with all the GOP members who voted for it. What was their intent in passing it?

    The GOP acts like nothing matters in the process so long as the money found its way to the recipient. And I don’t even think that Trump was holding it up exclusively for his own re-election benefit. And I believe that because he kept changing the conditions for its release. He clearly wanted a taste from this bribe, a perfect transaction for Trump, $391 million in public extortion funding, for which he could apply any ransom.

    But this transactional Don wanted to repay a political debt to his Moscow mentor, who greenlit his Kremlin Trump Tower project in December 2015, as a payoff for Putin’s field of dreams in damaging NAT0, western alliances and US influence overall.

    What does it take to prove Trump complicity as a Russian asset? No matter how you spin his personal connection to killing Urkraine funding either on a timeline or by implicating its leadership in some kind of corruption cabal, and benefiting paranthetically, the case is made. He is not acting in US interests. I don’t give a damn whether its impeachable, it’s removable. This guy acts out of his own self-interest, on whatever terms that means.

    I want to make one other point about the WB who is the hero of this case. The WB law was blatantly violated by the WH and DOJ. And the media has failed to point this out.

    Even now, the GOP and WH are trying to out the WB for the purpose of discrediting that person into lifetime oblivion, if not murder. This is total fucking bullshit. Fuck the motherfuckers. If the Dems do nothing else, protecting this hero is task No. 1. The clown car politics of the Republicans and their propaganda machine at Fox must be pummeled at every turn.

    • P J Evans says:

      The thing that gets me is that the GOP-T keeps trying to claim he’s not guilty because he’s too stupid/incompetent to do it. Hell, that’s ground for impeachment in itself: if he’s that stupid/incompetent, he isn’t capable of doing the job as president that he swore to do – and congress has the duty to remove him.

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