[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Three Things: Odd, Odder, Oddities

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! / ~Rayne]

Just a few oddities as the White House presents its counter arguments to impeachment. This is an open thread.

Ken Starr asking how our nation entered an “age of impeachment” is just bizarre – as if some pod had taken over his brain and wiped out his role in Clinton’s impeachment for lying about a blowjob. Makes me want to yell, We’re here in no small part of you, you moron!

But this is just another entry in a string of oddities future Americans will look back upon, scratching their heads as they try to make sense of the stupidity.

~ 3 ~

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the man who became a household name over 13 seasons on NBC’s The Apprentice by saying, “You’re fired!” couldn’t manage to say that to public servant Marie Yovanovitch who served at his pleasure?

Doesn’t it seem odd that the candidate who used the same phrase about then-President Obama and then-candidate Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail wouldn’t use that phrase about a public employee with whom he wasn’t happy?

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that this same man said instead, “Take her out!” to people who weren’t employed by the government, for whom that public servant didn’t work?

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that this same man used the phrase, “Take her out!” about removing a public servant, but paraphrased his remarks about the assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani that he’d ordered? “I will say this, we caught a total monster. We took him out. That should have happened a long time ago,” Trump said.

Doesn’t it strike you as odd GOP senators are more upset about Schiff’s repeating a threat ostensibly made by the White House to them, rather than Trump’s repeated use of mobster language?

~ 2 ~

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that least 20 GOP senators left the chamber for protracted periods of time during the House’s opening arguments last week, in defiance of the Senate’s own rules?

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the press took note that 40% of the GOP wasn’t present, but never made a point to document and report the names of all the GOP senators who left the chamber?

There clearly was a bias at work because outlets like POLITICO made sure to name the Democrats who weren’t in their seats for the duration, but failed to name the GOP senators who left the chamber:

Even before that scheduled recess break, a half dozen Republicans had decided to stand in the back — like Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska — rather than remain in their seats.
A half-dozen Democrats, too, were in and out of the chamber. That includes Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who left the room three times — including once for more than 10 minutes. But nearly all Democrats remained in the chamber to listen to Schiff, even as some, like Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), stood near the back of the room to lean against a railing or wall.
The longer Schiff spoke, the more flagrant the rule violations on the floor. There were several whispered conversations, with several senators going in and out of the chamber every minute or so. The Senate eventually recessed around 3:30 p.m. — Sarah Ferris

Also wonder why journalists have never asked GOP members of Congress if they were ever asked to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement with the Trump White House or with Trump organization, or with the Republican Party. We know NDAs signed by public employees aren’t enforceable, but were there any other NDAs controlling the speech and other actions of the GOP caucus? Did any NDAs dictate their leaving during impeachment hearings to prevent their hearing anything against Trump?

~ 1 ~

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the Class II GOP senators who are up for re-election this coming November don’t seem to be concerned at all about their vote for/against witnesses for the impeachment trial?

These are the GOP senators up for re-election:

Capito, Shelley Moore (R-WV)
Cassidy, Bill (R-LA)
Collins, Susan M. (R-ME)
Cornyn, John (R-TX)
Cotton, Tom (R-AR)
Daines, Steve (R-MT)
Enzi, Michael B. (R-WY)
Ernst, Joni (R-IA)
Gardner, Cory (R-CO)
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)
Hyde-Smith, Cindy (R-MS)
Inhofe, James M. (R-OK)
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Perdue, David (R-GA)
Risch, James E. (R-ID)
Rounds, Mike (R-SD)
Sasse, Ben (R-NE)
Sullivan, Dan (R-AK)
Tillis, Thom (R-NC)

Alexander, Lamar (R-TN) – retiring, seat is open.
Roberts, Pat (R-KS) – retiring, seat is open.

Doesn’t it seem odd that the last two, Alexander and Roberts, haven’t come out for witnesses since they are not beholden to the GOP or the White House having announced their retirement?

McSally, Martha (R-AZ) — is up for election; she’s an appointee who replaced a previous short-term appointee, Jon Kyl. Arizona is and has been rated a toss-up; you’d think she’d vote for witnesses since public support is running 72% to have witnesses called to testify.

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. Bring all your oddities here for discussion.

Impeachment = Grounds for Firing

You’d think we were all in Newfoundland buried beneath multiple feet of snow given the blizzard of bullshit Trump and his reality TV cast have been spewing.

Like this idiocy on Twitter:

Many have speculated that Trump can’t read; the above tweet is one more piece of evidence in their favor, because he’s clearly not read the rather simple Articles of Impeachment.

He can read because in addition to typing stupid tweets he manages to scratch out legible crap on paper using a Sharpie pen, writ large enough that passing cameras can read it.

Like this piece of brilliance snapped on November 20:

[Photo: Mark Wilson, Getty Photos]

Sure, we believe you, big guy. You didn’t want a quid pro quo BUT you told Zelensky you want him to “do the right thing,” leaving the possibility of future cooperation hanging in the air and $35 million in U.S. aid allocated by Congress still undelivered the day before this note was Sharpied.

Not bribery. Not extortive at all, with hundreds of Ukraine’s citizens dying due to Russian aggression.

But Trump’s ethically-challenged brain trust has his back, issuing a letter rebutting the House’s impeachment. They claim he can’t be impeached because [—enter bullshit excuse du jour—].

Like Alan Dershowitz’s ridiculous claim that Trump didn’t do anything illegal and therefore can’t be impeached.

I pity every student Dershowitz ever taught; the credibility of their credits earned has been thrown into question now that Dershowitz has decided to backpedal on his positions held back in the 1990s when lying to Congress about a consensual blowjob was an impeachable offense.

One of the arguments consistently made by Trump, his consent-challenged attorneys, and the right-wing monkey horde is that impeachment nullifies the 2016 election.

Putting aside the legitimacy of an election questionably won with foreign interference he solicited right in front of the American public on camera, impeachment isn’t a criminal prosecution. It’s a Constitutional act by which the people through their representatives indict the president for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” — it’s not a nullification.

Can’t believe I’m actually posting anything by Cato Institute, but this fairly brief explainer is straightforward:

Using the power it alone possesses,the House of Representatives impeached Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors consisting of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.

In Trump’s abuse of office he acted illegally; these acts may yet be prosecuted once he leaves office if they are still within statue of limitations:

There may be more illegal acts upon further investigation. We still don’t have all the details about the threat to former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, for example.

The illegal acts themselves are not laid out in the Articles of Impeachment, offering instead only the high-level assessment that Trump invited foreign interference in the 2020 election for his own personal gain while damaging U.S. national security interests and in violation of his oath to faithfully execute the law. He obstructed Congress as they investigated his abuse of office.

The House was too kind by half, sparing him a detailed recitation of his illegal behaviors within the Articles.

A conviction by the Senate — unlikely as it is because its GOP majority is hapless and nearly as corrupt as Trump — won’t nullify the 2016 election. It would result in succession by Vice President Mike Pence, acknowledging both the election and the established order of succession.

And it would tell Trump what he truly deserves to hear for failing to do his job, that of faithful execution of this country’s laws, upholding the Constitution.

It’s a pity Trump and his legal minions refuse to accept the House has found ample grounds to tell Trump his work performance is unacceptable.

More than half of the U.S. don’t approve of Trump’s job performance as well. It’d be nice if the Senate GOP found a spine, convicted Trump, and told him in simple, familiar terms he knows all too well that he’s fired.

Three Things: ‘She’s Going to Go Through Some Things’

House Intelligence Committee released some materials provided to them by Lev Parnas, revealing Trump’s Ukraine scandal is even uglier than expected. Here’s three things the public now needs.

~ 3 ~

As Marcy noted in her post earlier today, the Department of Justice only reviewed the Memorandum of Telephone Conversation from Trump’s call to Ukraine’s President Zelensky on July 25 this past year, the one in which Trump said about Ambassador Yovanovitch, “She’s going to go through some things.”

Where is the full transcript of that call? There can be nothing in it at this point that the public and or its elected representatives shouldn’t know about.

Are there any other full transcripts of phone calls with Ukrainian officials similarly hidden away yet, even after the MEMCON for the July 25 call was released?

Attorney General Bill Barr’s handling of the investigation is now in question as well and should prompt a congressional investigation. Congress needs them in the event there is any exculpatory content in these transcripts.

Where is the July 25 transcript?

~ 2 ~

Trump attended the White House’s Hanukkah party in 2018, during which he had a side discussion with Lev Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman.

… During the party, Parnas and Fruman slipped out for a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani, two acquaintances who Parnas confided in told CNN. Parnas allegedly told his confidants after the meeting that the “big guy,” which is how he purportedly referred to the president, had assigned him and Fruman a “secret mission” to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden and his son Hunter.

Parnas and Fruman were reportedly assigned to be Giuliani’s operatives on the ground in Ukraine. Parnas allegedly described it to at least one associate as a sort of “James Bond mission.” …

How does Parnas’ statement line up with the newly released material? Does it sync? Parnas has now said Trump knew everything, that “everybody was in the loop” — Trump, Pence, and more.

And did Rod Rosenstein see or hear anything at all since he was at the same party?

~ 1 ~

Elizabeth de la Vega asked a good question on Twitter last night.

Is there any relationship between Robert F. Hyde, the congressional candidate from Connecticut who is now embroiled in the Ukraine scandal, and Paul Manafort?

Both of them are from Connecticut.

Both of them are involved in construction – Manafort’s family owns a contracting firm specializing in demolition in Plainville CT and Hyde started a construction and landscaping firm based in Avon CT.

The two companies are located a little over 10 miles apart.

And Hyde has been embroiled in Trump’s Ukraine scandal.

What’s the connection, if any?

~ 0 ~

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow landed an exclusive with Lev Parnas this evening, still underway even as I post this.

If you’re watching, what in this program seems new and important?

Horowitz

Crossfire Hurricane Glossary

Even before it went live yesterday, I was looking through Marcy’s incredibly awesome timeline on Crossfire Hurricane. It is a stunningly important and good thing, not only for those here, but those everywhere. I read things day and night, and have seen many timelines on this subject, but none that approach that which Marcy has produced. That said, if even I have to do double takes on what some of the names and acronyms are, I thought a guide was in order.

So, I thought an enduring glossary would help not even now, but going forward. What follows will be what appears appropriate now, and this post may be supplemented lated as necessary. I hope it helps. Maybe at some point I’ll come back an make it alphabetical, but for now I am just going from front to back in order of appearance.

Some are patently obvious and need no explanation, e.g. “CIA” for instance. As to the rest though, away we go:

ASAC: Assistant Agent In Charge, typically of an FBI Field Office.

Zainab Ahmad: Is a seriously kick ass former member of DOJ. Ahmad was a prosecutor with the DOJ who long specialized in investigating and prosecuting terrorism. She served as an AUSA in the Eastern District of New York until 2017, successfully prosecuting several high-profile terrorism cases. In 2017, she was reassigned to the Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice team. After Mueller closed up shop, Zainab landed as a white collar and cyber security specialist at the NY office of Gibson Dunn.

Evgeny Burykov: A convicted Russian spy. He was arrested on January 26, 2015, charged with, and pleading guilty to, spying on the United States for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Buryakov was a New York-based Deputy Representative of Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state-owned national development bank.

CHS-3: In addition to Steele (CHS-1) and Halper (CHS-2) there was another FBI informant who spoken on a number of occasions with George Papadopoulos. The person’s identity is unknown. Papadopoulos told him a version of the Joseph Mifsud in fall 2016.

Anne Conway: Conway is a GHW Bush nominated judge to the Middle District of Florida, and who serves on the FISC, since being do designated by John Roberts in 2016. Judge Conway approved a 2017 FISA Court warrant for Carter Page, a former adviser to the 2016 Trump Campaign.

Raymond Dearie: Is a well respected Senior United States District Court Judge from EDNY originally nominated by Reagan, and served on FISX between July 2012 and July 2019, after appointment by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Oleg Deripaska (Oligarch 1): Paul Manafort’s one-time paymaster, and also the client of a lawyer employing Christopher Steele in 2016. In that role, Steele repeatedly offered to broker a meeting at which Deripaska could provide derogatory information on Manafort. FBI belatedly considered whether Deripaska was a source of disinformation for the dossier.

Alexander Downer: Former Australian High Commissioner (ambassador) to the UK (2014-18), former leader of the Australian Liberal Party (1994-95), and former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (1996-2007). Definitely not a coffee boy, but met with one over a few drinks in London.

For bmaz, I note that he is a fan of V8 motor racing and has a CMAS racing license. (h/t EH)

Stu Evans: Stuart Evans, deputy assistant attorney general of DOJ’s National Security Division. He’s the person who insisted on adding a footnote alerting the FISC of Steele’s potential bias.

FIFA: The international governing body of soccer. A body Chris Steele gave work and information on to not just US authorities but worldwide ones too.

Michael Gaeta (Handling Agent 1): An FBI agent, previously an attache in Rome and one time handler of Christopher Steele. A specialist in Eastern European organized crime including in the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine.

Taushina Gauhar: Is a (former) Deputy Assistant Attorney General (DAAG) in the Department of Justice National Security Division (NSD) and FISA lawyer specialist.

JD Gordan: Gordan is an American communications and foreign policy advisor, who served as a Pentagon spokesman during the Bush Administration and later a National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. He is also a crackpot gadabout on forums such as One America News Network, Fox News, Sky News, The Daily Caller, The Hill, and The Washington Times. He’s the guy who ensured that the Republican platform did not incorporate lethal aid to Ukraine.

Stefan Halper (Source 2): Ooof, this could go on even longer, but per Wiki, Halper is an American foreign policy spy and Senior Fellow at the University of Cambridge where he is a Life Fellow at Magdalene College. He served as a White House official in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, and was reportedly in charge of the spying operation by the 1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign that became known as “Debategate”. Through his decades of work for the CIA, Halper has had extensive ties to the Bush family. Through his work with Sir Richard Dearlove he also has ties to the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6. For purposes here, Halper acted as an FBI informant for its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.

Kathleen Kavalec: Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who met with Chris Steele in October 2016.

Mary McCord: McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017 and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division from 2014 to 2016. She now teaches at Georgetown and contributes at Lawfare.

Sergei Millian (Person 1): A Belarus born businessman knee deep in everything Russia and a putative source for Chris Steele. He was also the subject of a counterintelligence investigation during 2016-17. Much still not necessarily clear about Millian.

NYFO: New York Field Office of the FBI.

OGC: Office Of General Counsel at the Department of Justice.

OI: The Office of Intelligence at DOJ. They’re in charge of writing FISA applications.

Bruce and Nellie Ohr: Bruce Ohr is a United States Department of Justice official. A former Associate Deputy Attorney General and former director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). He is an expert on transnational organized crime and has spent most of his career overseeing gang and racketeering-related prosecutions, including Russian organized crime. Nellie is Bruce’s wife, and a longtime expert on all things Russian. She worked at one point for Fusion GPS as a contractor between October 2015 and September 2016.

Victor Podobnyy: An Russian SVR (foreign intelligence) officer worked under the cover as a banker who was recruiting Carter Page in 2013.

SSA: Supervisory Special Agent.

Scott Schools: Scott Schools was the “highest-ranking career civil servant at the United States Department of Justice”, serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General. For those who have been around long enough, he was, for a while, the “new” David Margolis. Schools, a putatively decent chap, is gone now, having been replaces by a Jeff Sessions designated mope named Bradley Weinsheimer.

Glenn Simpson: Former journalist for the Wall Street Journal and co-founder of Fusion GPS.

Paul Singer: An American billionaire hedge fund manager, activist, investor, vulture capitalist, and philanthropist. A hard line Republican promoter and shill, but also a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights.

Bruce Swartz: Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International Affairs. Key to the story because of a purported effort by Kurt Volker to get Swartz to officially ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He would have been in the loop in any normal requests between the US and Ukraine. Still a lot of questions open as to Swartz.

UCE: An FBI employee working undercover. A woman working under the pseudonym Azra Turk accompanied Stefan Halper on his interviews with George Papadopoulos.

Sally Yates: Former US Attorney for Northern District of Georgia, Deputy Attorney General, and Acting AG.

Explain It To Me: What Does Impeachment Mean Now?

[NB: check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Trump was impeached Tuesday evening under two Articles of Impeachment — one for abuse of power, and another for obstruction of Congress.

Got it. This is pretty straightforward.

The House has “the sole Power of Impeachment” according to Article I, Section 2, subsection 5 of the Constitution.

Understood, no problem. That’s what the House exercised under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership.

We’re now to Article I, Section 3, subsection 6 after last night:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Nothing between Article I, Section 2, subsection 5 and Article I, Section 3, subsection 6 says that the House MUST or SHALL forward any impeachment to the Senate for a trial.

I think we’re all of us watching to see how this shakes out. Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Sits on 400 Bills” McConnell said last week he is coordinating the handling of the senate trial with the White House — a gross conflict of interest undermining Congress’s separate powers — and senators like Majority Whip Lindsey Graham have already decided to vote to acquit Trump, it doesn’t make much sense to forward the impeachment if already moot.

It makes sense to hang on to the impeachment articles until there is clarification about the Senate acting in good faith, “on Oath or Affirmation” as Article I, Section 3, subsection 6 says.

~ ~ ~

Now we arrive at my first question: is Trump still qualified to run for re-election?

See Article I, Section 3, subsection 7:

Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Emphasis mine. Does “judgment” refer solely to conviction by the Senate after a trial once the impeachment has been forwarded to them? Or is the “judgment” when the impeachment has been pronounced by the House since the House has the sole power of impeachment? The Constitution says “Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment” in subsection 7 but the wording, “Judgment in Cases of impeachment” may not mean “Judgment in Cases of conviction” — the latter would clearly limit the outcome of the House’s impeachment to a pre-indictment or indictment determination before the Senate’s trial.

This subsection occurs under Section 3 which defines the Senate’s composition and its most fundamental powers — specifically, trying the subject after impeachment — so we might assume this is the Senate’s “judgment.” But the Constitution’s wording is muddy.

We don’t have the benefit of precedent to rely upon for guidance. Andrew Johnson, impeached by the House in 1868 but not removed by the Senate, did not win his party’s nomination that year and left office in 1869 having never been elected to the presidency. In 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached by the House during his second term, though not removed by the Senate; he was ineligible to run for re-election.

~ ~ ~

My second question relates to a point Robert Reich made about a pardon for the impeached president:

… Regardless of whether a sitting president can be indicted and convicted on such criminal charges, Trump will become liable to them at some point. But could he be pardoned, as Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon 45 years ago?

Article II, section 2 of the Constitution gives a president the power to pardon anyone who has been convicted of offenses against the United States, with one exception: “In Cases of Impeachment.”

If Trump is impeached by the House, he can never be pardoned for these crimes. He cannot pardon himself (it’s dubious that a president has this self-pardoning power in any event), and he cannot be pardoned by a future president.

Even if a subsequent president wanted to pardon Trump in the interest of, say, domestic tranquility, she could not. …

Apart from the specific reference to the House’s sole power to impeach, is this why the two Articles of Impeachment do not use the words “bribery” or “extortion” to describe what Trump did with regard to Ukraine — to limit the described crimes against the U.S. for which Trump could be pardoned by an interim successor or the next elected president?

Or if the crime(s) have not been spelled out in an impeachment, identified as a violation of specific U.S. law, can Trump still be pardoned for them, in essence given carte blanche after the fact?

Is this why the Articles were scoped so narrowly, to prevent an over-broad pardon?

So often it’s said the president’s pardon power is absolute, but impeachment appears to place the single limit. Where and when is that limit placed?

~ ~ ~

These questions have been chewing at me since Pelosi’s second gavel upon completion of the vote on the second article. I imagine the Republican Party will do as it’s done since 2015: roll over and let Trump run an obnoxious and corrupt re-election campaign, looking every bit as repulsive as he did Tuesday evening during his Battle Creek rally.

It’s also been niggling at me that twice in the text of the Articles of Impeachment it was written, “the President ‘shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’.”

Shall, not may, be removed, on conviction for Bribery.

I noted also the use of the word “betrayed” in the Articles’ text:

… He has also betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections. …

It’s not treason as we’ve discussed in comments, but a traitor shouldn’t get a pass for selling out his country’s national security interests for personal gain.

You can bet McConnell and Graham would already have ensured the conviction and removal of a Democratic president who likewise betrayed the nation. If only they moved with the same alacrity on those 400 bills sitting on McConnell’s desk.

Impeachment: House of Representatives’ Debate and Vote Thread [UPDATE-4]

This post and thread are dedicated to today’s scheduled House of Representatives’ activities related to impeachment of Donald J. Trump, including the planned six hours of debate and the subsequent vote.

Live stream the House’s impeachment activities at these links:

C-SPAN: https://www.c-span.org/video/?467441-1/us-house-debates-articles-impeachment

C-SPAN’s YouTube feed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fefMKNOCZ3Y

USAToday’s YouTube feed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzl9hbDoV1k

House’s feed (not labeled as impeachment-related activity): https://live.house.gov/

We can expect many tactics to filibuster and delay the debate — we’re already seeing GOP resolutions submitted (and tabled) to this end.

Last night’s #NotAboveTheLaw rallies across the country demonstrate the level of support for today’s historic action. Americans don’t stand in the dark, cold, rain, and snow if they aren’t seriously committed to protecting their democracy. They are rallying again this morning ahead of the debate and votes.

You can do your bit to support our democracy even if you can’t attend a rally this morning. Call your representative and tell them you support a vote for impeachment.

You can also push back at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to deter a Senate trial by calling your senators and insisting they do not join McConnell’s effort to accumulate 51 votes to dismiss a trial. Let the people hear witnesses under oath before the Senate, including Trump in his own defense.

He’s going to need the opportunity after yesterday’s crackpot six-page error-riddled and lie-filled rant at House Speaker Pelosi.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resistbot.

UPDATE-1 — 12:10 p.m. ET —

The House Rules Committee has been debating the rules of the impeachment proceeding this morning, vote on rules now complete. Along party lines, of course.

If you are looking for additional information regarding the House investigation leading up to impeachment and today’s impeachment itself, check these sources:

C-SPAN’s impeachment dedicated site: https://www.c-span.org/impeachment/

NBC’s live updates page: https://www.nbcnews.com/Trump-impeachment-inquiry

CNN doesn’t appear to have an impeachment page but they have one on Trump: https://www.cnn.com/specials/politics/president-donald-trump-45

USAToday’s impeachment page: https://www.usatoday.com/news/trump-impeachment-inquiry/

Twitter’s impeachment event: https://twitter.com/i/events/1207033032110039040

House clerk just read the revised rules and articles of impeachment; Speaker Pelosi is now up and offering opening remarks to launch the six hours of debate.

Let’s do this, keep our republic.

UPDATE-2 — 12:30 p.m. ET —

Rep. Doug Collins has offered the minority remarks which I freely admit to muting because it’s the same bullshit whining offered too loud.

For quieter coverage, here are live Twitter threads of the impeachment debate:

Marcy’s live thread: https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1207347805368541189

Brandi Buchman, Courthouse News: https://twitter.com/BBuchman_CNS/status/1207256948908929025

Jennifer Taub’s thread: https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1207303012651327489

UPDATE-3 — 8:10 p.m. ET —

The House is now voting on the first article of impeachment for abuse of power. Each member will cast their vote electronically from within the House within a 15-minute window.

Keep our republic, congresspersons.

8:14 p.m. ET — already at 152 Democrats and 1 Independent voting Yea.

8:15 p.m. ET — 163 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea.

8:20 p.m. ET — 198 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea. 2 Democrats voting Nay (likely Van Drew and Peterson)

8:22 p.m. ET — 210 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea. 2 Democrats voting Nay (likely Van Drew and Peterson)

8:24 p.m. ET — 215 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea. We have impeachment.

8:34 p.m. ET —

Democrats voting Nay:

Jeff Van Drew, NJ-2

Collin Peterson, MN-7

Democrats voting Present:

Tulsi Gabbard, HI-2

UPDATE-4 — 8:39 p.m. ET —

House now voting on second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.

8:39 p.m. ET — 198 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea

8:42 p.m. ET — 214 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea; 3 Democrats voting Nay, 1 Democrat voting Present

8:43 p.m. ET — 217 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea; 3 Democrats voting Nay, 1 Democrat voting Present. We have a second count of impeachment.

8:50-ish p.m. ET —

(I confess I forgot to check the clock for the time when Pelosi hit the gavel.)

Democrats voting Nay:

Jeff Van Drew, NJ-2

Collin Peterson, MN-7

Jared Golden, ME-2

Democrats voting Present:

Tulsi Gabbard, HI-2

Analysis of Democratic defections:

Van Drew has said he is leaving the Democratic Party and becoming a Republican. Why he simply didn’t retire I don’t know because his chances of winning aren’t good in a blue wave.

Collin Peterson represents a very rural and overwhelmingly white portion of western Minnesota and is a pro-life Dem.

Tulsi Gabbard. This one is self-explanatory.

Jared Golden had indicated he was going to split his votes, saying he didn’t think the Dems had proven a threshold had been met for “high crimes and misdemeanors” with the second article. The second article seems so clear — witnesses and documents were subpoenaed as part of an impeachment inquiry, and Trump refused to allow compliance with the subpoenas — that Golden has stretched beyond rationality his effort to “work with the president.”

Golden had said, “…while the president’s resistance toward our investigative efforts has been frustrating, it has not yet, in my view, reached the threshold of ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ that the Constitution demands. For that reason, I will vote against Article II of the House resolution regarding obstruction of Congress.” If this were a criminal investigation and a target refused to comply with a subpoena, they’d be facing a charge of obstruction. Golden simply chose to split the wrong baby at the wrong time.

And I hope Stephen King, he of the myriad horror novels, gets a more progressive Democratic candidate to primary and win Golden’s seat.

Updates during the course of House activities will appear at the bottom of this post.

Impeachable Acts: What GOP Spin Can’t Change

[NB: note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I wrote this in comments but in hindsight it should be shared as a post.

Nothing the GOP has said about the impeachment hearing witnesses, their testimony, the rules and circumstances, can change these facts.

Though this isn’t the word-for-word transcription of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky, the content not omitted or redacted in the published telephone conference memo is damning enough:

The GOP wants the public to forget that Trump asked for a favor.

The GOP wants people to forget that 18 USC 201 Bribery says no public official may demand or ask for anything of value for personal use, and Trump specifically mentions Biden during the call, making this about his personal re-election campaign.

The GOP wants people to forget that 52 USC 30121 Contributions (campaign finance) says no candidate may solicit anything of value from a foreign national.

The GOP wants people to forget Trump used his office for the purposes of campaign work — while not a Hatch Act violation, certainly an abuse of office.

The GOP wants people to forget that Trump removed former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after assassinating her character — not merely removing her at his discretion as executive, but an unlawful retaliatory firing — also implying during the July 25 call that she would be harassed or persecuted in some way even though she had already been recalled from her position as Ambassador to Ukraine.

And the GOP wants want you to forget that Trump intimidated witnesses even as they testified before Congress, a violation of 18 USC 1512.

But facts are stubborn things and in this case, the facts before us are simple, straightforward, inescapable as presented during the hearings to date and in published government documents. Trump bribed Ukraine’s Zelensky, violated campaign finance law, tampered with witnesses, and abused his office.

We don’t even need to look at his extortion (18 USC 872) or weigh whether he committed Honest Services Fraud (18 USC 1346), or his role in obstruction of proceedings (18 USC 1505) and contempt of Congress (2 USC 192 – preventing witnesses from testifying or withholding evidence), or conspiracy to defraud the United States by agreeing to commit any of the above acts with Rudy Giuliani and/or others (18 USC 371).

Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s bribery — asking for foreign interference in our presidential elections again — as an inconvenience, some annoyance which will blow over.

None of the elected Republicans so far have been willing to live up their oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. The only elected Republican to do so had to leave the GOP because he believed impeachment hearings were warranted.

Voters can’t forget this at the polls: our democracy and the Constitution are inconveniences to the Republican Party.

Impeachment Hearings: Day 5 – A Tough Hill Ahead?

[NB: Updates to this post will appear at the bottom. /~Rayne]

The last of this week’s scheduled hearings begins at 9:00 a.m. ET. Here’s the schedule according to NPR:

Thursday, one panel only at 9 a.m. ET

  • Fiona Hill, formerly the top Russia specialist on the National Security Council, testified last month that she registered concerns about the parallel foreign policy channel that Giuliani was using to impact policy in Ukraine. She told investigators that she discussed her concerns with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said that Giuliani was “a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up.”
  • David Holmes, a State Department aide who overheard a phone conversation between Sondland and the president on July 26. Holmes appeared in a closed-door interview on Friday, but several Democrats who listened to his testimony indicated that they wanted him to appear in a public hearing.

Hill’s October 14 deposition was interrupted by the House GOP loudmouth Matt Gaetz before he was booted out because he wasn’t a member of the committees in the depostion. What was it about her deposition and her anticipated testimony that encouraged Gaetz to interject himself into the closed door session?

Ditto for Laura Cooper who testified last night. Something about her role must worry them and the White House so much that they’d coordinated their SCIF-storming tantrum to suck up media bandwidth while curtailing her October 23 deposition behind closed doors.

Was it because these two women may be able to pin point when Trump dictated the hold on aid and Ukraine’s representatives became aware there was a hold for political reasons? Was it because they could detail how different this hold was from other holds, departing sharply from recent U.S. foreign policy?

You’ll recall Holmes was added to the schedule on Monday; Republicans said they were ‘shaken’ by his deposition. Holmes will be able to validate the July 26 phone call between Sondland and Trump as well as some of the content and context of the call, putting to rest GOP claims of hearsay evidence regarding this call the day after the Trump-Zelensky phone call.

~ ~ ~

To follow along via streaming:

For folks who can’t stream, you can follow these live Twitter threads:

Marcy’s live twitter thread

Brandi Buchman-Courthouse News’s thread

Aaron Rupar-Vox’s thread contains video snippets

My Trump-Russia Twitter list which includes most of the above folks.

Here’s CNN’s live update page for today’s hearings.

~ ~ ~

Trump’s minders lost control of him this morning:

Tsk-tsk. Don’t play poker, dude.

Impeachment Hearings: Day 4 – Sondland Gets Another Chance

[NB: Updates to this post will appear at the bottom. /~Rayne]

First of the day’s hearings begin at 9:00 a.m. ET and the second at 2:30 p.m. Here’s the schedule according to NPR:

Wednesday, first panel at 9 a.m. ET

  • Gordon Sondland. Once a top donor to the president’s inaugural committee, Sondland has faced intense scrutiny about his closed-door testimony after he sent the committee a three-page amendment reversing his initial account. In that addendum, Sondland said he personally told a top aide to Zelenskiy that the release of U.S. aid to Ukraine was linked to investigations.

Wednesday, second panel at 2:30 p.m. ET

  • Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department, who in closed-door testimony said that Ukrainians raised the administration’s delay of $391 million in security assistance in August. She said that she spoke to Volker about the issue and that he told her he was working with Ukrainians to make a statement disavowing election interference.
  • David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs at the State Department. He testified behind closed doors on Nov. 6, and Republicans asked for him to appear in the public hearings.

Until now Republicans had been most worried about hotelier Gordon Sondland’s testimony, out of all the witnesses called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

New reports say Sondland will admit there was a quid pro quo and implicate then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with Trump.

The opening of the hearing appears a little disordered even now because the GOP members didn’t appear to know in advance this was the tack Sondland would take.

~ ~ ~

For folks who can stream, catch today’s hearings at:

For folks who can’t stream, you can follow these live Twitter threads:

Marcy’s live twitter thread

Brandi Buchman-Courthouse News’s thread

Looks like Courthouse News’s Adam Klasfeld is also covering this hearing.

Paul McLeod-BuzzFeed is tweeting from the hearing room.

My Trump-Russia Twitter list which includes most of the above folks.

See also CNN’s live update page for today’s hearings.

~ ~ ~

Pam Bondi has already made a boo-boo defending Trump this morning:

Not off to a good start.

Buckle up, Sondland’s begun.

Impeachment Hearings: Day 3 – Witnesses to the July 25 Call [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Updates to this post will appear at the bottom. /~Rayne]

Today’s hearings are already under way, the first scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. ET and the second at 2:30 p.m.

Per NPR, the witnesses for the first panel:

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council. Vindman listened to the July 25 telephone conversation in the White House Situation Room and reported his concerns about the president’s mention of political investigations to the top NSC attorney, John Eisenberg. He said the attorney decided to move the record of the call onto a highly classified system that few could access. (heard the July 25 phone call)
  • Jennifer Williams, a foreign service aide detailed to Vice President Pence’s office who listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy.(heard the July 25 phone call)

Bold mine.

The witnesses for the second panel:

  • Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, who along with Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry was part of the “three amigos” tasked by the president to handle Ukraine policy. He was on the list of witnesses requested to appear by Republican members of the Intelligence Committee.
  • Tim Morrison, the former National Security Council aide who heard the July 25 call but in closed-door testimony told the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry that he didn’t view the president’s actions as illegal or inappropriate. Republicans say his testimony supports the president’s position that there was nothing improper about the July 25 call, and they included him on a list of witnesses they asked the Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to call.(heard the July 25 phone call)

Trump supporters whining about hearsay should be treated as just that, whining, given the number of witnesses who have heard the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky directly.

If these same supporters question these witnesses’ testimony about the July 25 call, they could demand the actual word-for-word transcript which had been placed in the secured server in an exception to past practice.

Schiff’s opening statement can be found at this link.

Let’s do this.

UPDATE-1 — 11:00 A.M. ET —

If you’re not able to stream the hearing today you can follow these live Twitter threads in progress:

Marcy’s live twitter thread

Emma Loop-BuzzFeed’s thread

Jennifer Taub’s thread

Brandi Buchman-Courthouse News’s thread

Aaron Rupar-Vox’s thread

My Trump-Russia Twitter list which includes most of the above folks.

UPDATE-2 — 11:23 A.M. ET —

In response to Lt. Col. Vindman’s closing remarks in his written statement, I’m adding to this post a comment I left in another thread:

Vindman’s point about the threat to witnesses in other countries who give testimony against a government shouldn’t be treated as a throw-away.

A Russian journalist and opposition politician died mysteriously this past Saturday while traveling on a train. Nikita Isaev was only 41 years old; in 2017 he’d made some waves insisting Russia release kompromat on Trump after Trump failed to lift sanctions on Russia.

What odd timing of this death from undetermined causes — Isaev looked okay in the last selfie he tweeted from the train.

The risk to witnesses is serious because they are essentially testifying about a continuation of the Russian interference program.

Vindman’s closing remarks, in case you missed them:

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