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Donald J. Trump's Enablers

With the help of his enablers, Donald J. Trump is abusing his office destroying our institutions and America’s standing and credibility around the world. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke. In this case, Republicans are actively helping Trump do evil things.

Trump his Enablers, Flunkies, Minions and Sycophants are not patriots

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Unable to explain away a diversity problem, Conway pivots to a personal attack: "I don't know why you've changed"
By Roger Sollenberger

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway lashed out at CBS News correspondent Paula Reid after she was pressed to explain the evident lack of diversity on President Donald Trump's recently announced "Opening Our Country Council." "Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," Conway said in the tense exchange, which was captured by C-SPAN. Referencing the long list of names rattled off by Trump at a Tuesday briefing, Reid first asked Conway to explain how the council would function. "How will they work? How will they meet? How will they make recommendations to the president?" she first asked at a press gaggle before pivoting to the issue of diversity. "And is there any thought to diversifying that council beyond what is predominantly a group of very wealthy white men?" Reid continued. Conway responded that Trump had calls scheduled that very day with some of the individuals on the list, which she characterized as "probably less exhaustive than it is illustrative." She then defended the homogeny of the council's membership, claiming that Trump does not get to pick "who the heads of the sports commission leagues and CEOs of companies are." And when Reid pushed back — pointing out that the White House could, in fact, include a range of voices — Conway turned the argument into a personal one. "Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," she told the journalist. "Respectfully, I don't know why you've changed." The senior White House official then accused Reid of both "screaming at Anthony Fauci and the president of the United States" in the White House briefing room. This was an apparent reference to two exchanges during Monday's briefing. In he first, Reid asked Fauci — without screaming — when about remarks that sparked fears of his termination by Trump. In a rare display of emotion, Fauci expressed visible contempt for Reid's question. The doctor replied, "Everything I do is voluntarily." Later in the briefing, the president called Reid "disgraceful" when she pressed him on a series of inaccuracies in his attempt to defend the administration's response to the pandemic.

By William Cummings - USA TODAY

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus and is being quarantined, his office announced Sunday. The diagnosis comes as the Senate prepares to move forward on a massive coronavirus stimulus aid package aimed at alleviating the economic impact of the outbreak. Several Republican lawmakers announced on Sunday they would self-quarantine as a result of Paul's diagnosis. Sergio Gor, Paul's deputy chief of staff, said the senator "decided to get tested after attending an event where two individuals subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, even though he wasn't aware of any direct contact with either one of them." Gor said Paul is in a higher risk category after having part of his lung removed last year after it was damaged in a 2017 assault by his neighbor. Paul's diagnosis also raised questions about his behavior after he continued to attend events and use shared facilities as he awaited the test results. Several news outlets reported, for example, that Paul was using the Senategym and pool as recently as Sunday morning, the same day he announced he had tested positive. Several lawmakers also reported having lunch recently with Paul. Those actions drew sharp criticism from at least one fellow senator.

BBC

The acting White House chief of staff says US media is stoking a coronavirus panic because they hope it will take down President Donald Trump. "The reason they are paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to bring down the president," Mick Mulvaney said. Speaking to a group of conservatives on Friday, he added people should ignore the media in order to calm the markets. Global markets have continued to fall as the virus infects over 50 countries. There have been 82,000 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and 2,800 deaths since the disease emerged late last year. All but 3,664 cases and 57 of the deaths have been reported in China. The number of Americans infected with with virus stands at 60.

What is Mr Mulvaney's argument?
"We took extraordinary steps four or five weeks ago," Mr Mulvaney said, referring to the Trump administration order to close the border to foreign travelers coming from China, where the virus originated. The move was widely covered in the media at the time. "Why didn't we hear about it? What was going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment. And that's all the press wanted to talk about," he told a gathering of conservatives outside Washington on Friday.

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”
By Sherrod Brown

Not guilty. Not guilty. In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business. Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism. Senator Patty Murray, a thoughtful Democrat from Washington State, still remembers “the fear that dominated the Senate leading up to the Iraq war.” “You could feel it then,” she told me, “and you can feel that fear now” — chiefly among Senate Republicans. For those of us who, from the start, questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war, our sense of isolation surely wasn’t much different from the loneliness felt in the 1950s by Senator Herbert Lehman of New York, who confronted Joe McCarthy’s demagogy only to be abandoned by so many of his colleagues. Nor was it so different from what Senator George McGovern must have felt when he announced his early opposition to the Vietnam War and was then labeled a traitor by many inside and outside of Congress.

The Kentucky Republican's comment on the Senate floor was met with shrugs by most Senate Republicans.
By KYLE CHENEY and BURGESS EVERETT

After being denied by Chief Justice John Roberts last week, Paul used a period reserved for senators’ impeachment speeches to read aloud the name of an intelligence community official alleged to be the whistleblower. Sen. Rand Paul read aloud the name of the alleged whistleblower who first raised alarms about President Donald Trump's conduct toward Ukraine. And most Republicans didn’t seem to care. After being denied by Chief Justice John Roberts last week, Paul used a period reserved for senators’ impeachment speeches to read aloud the name of an intelligence community official alleged to be the whistleblower. "They made a big mistake not allowing my question. My question did not talk about anybody who is a whistleblower, my question did not accuse anybody of being whistleblower, it did not make a statement believing that someone was a whistleblower. I simply named two people's names because I think it's very important to know what happened," Paul said on the floor. It’s the type of move that might have prompted a backlash from within his own party not too long ago, and several senators said they would not have done it. But after three weeks of the impeachment trial and with Trump’s firm grip over the party, there was little blowback from his colleagues on Tuesday. “I was glad we didn’t put the chief justice in a bad situation,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership. “I have some sympathy for [Paul’s] view on this. The whistleblower law should protect the whistleblower’s job and future opportunity and not necessarily hide who the whistleblower is.” “It’s fine,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “Had there been a vote on it, I probably would have voted to override the chief justice.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has long touted his reputation protecting whistleblowers, said simply: “If it’s the same name everybody else used, then it’s kind of out there.”

By William Cummings - USA TODAY

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Donald Trump's defense team, alarmed Democrats and many legal scholars with his argument in the first day of questions and answers in the Senate impeachment trial that presidents cannot be removed from office for an action they believe could help get them re-elected. In response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about whether it mattered if Trump engaged in a "quid pro quo," Dershowitz said that motive was what mattered and that if an act was in the public interest it was not impeachable. And he said it was reasonable for a public official to equate what is in their own political interest with the public good. "Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest," he said. "And if a president does something, which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." Dershowitz said a quid pro quo that involved an illegal act, or was done for personal financial gain, would be impeachable, however. Amid a flood of criticism on social media and cable news, the high-profile attorney and law professor said his answer was being "willfully distorted."

As Mr. Biden campaigned in the state, residents appeared unmoved: “I don’t think much about anything Joni Ernst says.”
By Thomas Kaplan and Nick Corasaniti

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a Republican, wondered aloud about her Democratic constituents as they wrestled with a final decision before the looming Iowa caucuses, particularly those considering supporting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. After sitting through hours of arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump on Monday, where his legal team focused on how Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, had nabbed a lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Ms. Ernst addressed reporters in the basement of the Capitol. “Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening,” she said. “And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucusgoers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?” At an event in Muscatine on Tuesday, a handmade sign on the wall seemed to answer her directly: “Joni — We’re w/ Joe.”

By Phil Mattingly, Manu Raju, Paul LeBlanc and Chandelis Duster, CNN

Washington (CNN) Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday publicly refused to read a question from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky during the Senate impeachment trial that named the alleged Ukraine whistleblower. "The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted," Roberts said after receiving the question card. Paul had expressed frustration with Republican leadership during the trial Wednesday night after it was made clear Roberts would not read his question that named the alleged Ukraine whistleblower, sources with knowledge of the situation said. The development brought Roberts into an unusual position in the trial, where he has served in large part to guide the proceedings, not to decide or make any rulings on how they progress. But prior to the 16-hour question-and-answer period for the trial on Wednesday, Roberts made clear that he would not read the alleged name of the whistleblower, nor would he consider questions that would move to clearly identify the individual, the sources said. Roberts, in his role, reads each question submitted by senators. He was able to review questions from senators who submitted them prior to the start of Wednesday's proceedings, according to two sources. Paul's question, which sources said was revised several times but explicitly would have named the alleged whistleblower, ran afoul of the line Roberts drew on the matter. Paul, for his part, could be seen and overheard expressing his frustration on the Senate floor during a break in the proceedings. "If I have to fight for recognition, I will," he was heard telling a Republican staffer.

Anderson Cooper 360

CNN's Jeffrey Toobin confronts President Donald Trump's lawyer Alan Dershowitz with a video of Dershowitz patting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the back after Trump praised Mike Pompeo for barring an NPR reporter from his plane. Dershowitz says the pat was in support of Pompeo's policy moves and not in support of his interaction with the reporter.

By Christina Zhao

"Marsha" began trending on Twitter across America on Thursday afternoon after Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee questioned Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's patriotism and said she's reading a book during the third day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

As Democrats made their case for why Trump should be removed from office today, Washington Post conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, took to Twitter to call Blackburn "shameful." Her remarks came after an MSNBC correspondent shared a tweet noting that Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina "has a fidget spinner," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) "had quite the sketch of the Capitol going" and Blackburn is "reading a book" during the trial.

Blackburn quickly responded to Rubin's remarks by confirming that she is not paying attention to the impeachment proceedings, which Trump and some Republicans have claimed is a "sham." "First – I'm reading Resistance (At All Costs) by Kim Strassel. Read the chapter on obstruction. It provides good insights into today's proceedings," the senator wrote. "Second – busy mamas are the best at multi-tasking. Try it."

ZERO SCRUPLES
His Clinton probe was one of the sleaziest episodes in recent American political history, at least until Trump came along.
By Michael Tomasky

I had to chuckle over the weekend as pundits tried to square the circle of Ken Starr, who led the impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton in 1998, defending Donald Trump on impeachment charges in 2020. Why, it seems so inconsistent on its face! But for Starr, it’s 1,000 percent consistent. It’s who he is.

He’s a political hack. A total partisan hatchet man. One of the most poisonous political figures of our time. No—worse. One of the most poisonous public figures. Not just in politics, but in any realm. I’d sooner have O.J. over for dinner. He’s another one of those men who started his adult life as a Democrat—even a Vietnam protester!—but got yucked out by something along the way and became a Reagan man. Like Rudy Giuliani, another historically poisonous figure (I wouldn’t have said this of him, by the way, until the last couple of years).

But let’s just go back to the pivotal moment, when Starr became known by the nation at large. This was 1994, when he was appointed to replace Robert Fiske as independent counsel investigating Clinton. This was one of the sleaziest episodes in recent American political history, at least until Trump came along.

By Robert Costa and Rachael Bade

President Trump’s legal defense team and Senate GOP allies are quietly gaming out contingency plans should Democrats win enough votes to force witnesses to testify in the impeachment trial, including an effort to keep former national security adviser John Bolton from the spotlight, according to multiple officials familiar with the discussions.

While Republicans continue to express confidence that Democrats will fail to persuade four GOP lawmakers to break ranks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has opposed calling any witnesses in the trial, they are readying a Plan B just in case — underscoring how uncertain they are about prevailing in a showdown over witnesses and Bolton’s possible testimony.

One option being discussed, according to a senior administration official, would be to move Bolton’s testimony to a classified setting because of national security concerns, ensuring that it is not public.

By Carol D. Leonnig and David A. Fahrenthold

The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel — until after the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The issue has emerged as a sticking point in recent weeks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and key senators have been negotiating draft legislation to move the Secret Service back to his department, its historic home.

Mnuchin has balked at Democratic demands that the bill require the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to the travel of the president and his adult children within 120 days after it is passed, according to people with knowledge of the talks. Mnuchin has agreed to Democrats’ push for a requirement that the Secret Service report its travel expenses but wants such disclosures to begin after the election.

By Mark Morales and Frank Bivona, CNN

Avon, Connecticut (CNN) FBI investigators on Thursday visited both the home and business of Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde, who this week was implicated in the Ukraine scandal. The agents were seen by CNN and their presence was confirmed by a law enforcement official. They were at the home early Thursday morning in Weatogue, Connecticut, before going to Hyde's business in nearby Avon. Hyde runs both his landscaping company and his campaign headquarters from the office. The investigators did not answer questions as to Hyde's whereabouts or why they wanted to speak with him. No other details were provided. Text messages show Hyde was involved in efforts to surveil and remove former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Kiev.

The Kentucky senator is vowing to squeeze vulnerable GOP incumbents if they side with Democrats during Trump's impeachment trial.
By BURGESS EVERETT

Sen. Rand Paul is waging a fierce campaign to prevent the Senate from hearing witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, vowing to force tough votes on his fellow Republicans if they break with the president or back Democrats' demands for new evidence. The Kentucky Republican is occasionally at odds with Trump, from his strike against Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to his national emergency to build his border wall. But when it comes to impeachment, Paul is taking the hardest line possible in Trump’s favor.

Paul says if four or more of his GOP colleagues join with Democrats to entertain new witness testimony, he will make the Senate vote on subpoenaing the president’s preferred witnesses, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower behind the Ukraine scandal — polarizing picks who moderate Republicans aren’t eager to debate. So he has a simple message for his party: End the trial before witnesses are called.

“If you vote against Hunter Biden, you’re voting to lose your election, basically. Seriously. That’s what it is,” Paul said during an interview in his office on Wednesday. “If you don’t want to vote and you think you’re going to have to vote against Hunter Biden, you should just vote against witnesses, period.”

"This is unacceptable and there should be consequences," one Democratic lawmaker said.
By KYLE CHENEY and JOHN BRESNAHAN

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Wednesday night publicly named a person that some Republicans and allies of President Donald Trump claim is the alleged whistleblower who first brought the Trump-Ukraine scandal to light.

Gohmert identified the person, who POLITICO is not naming, during remarks at a Judiciary Committee meeting on articles of impeachment against Trump. Gohmert named the person as he ticked through a list of witnesses he said the committee should hear from before voting on impeachment.

Gohmert did not identify the person as the potential whistleblower, but Republicans have demanded that the whistleblower be subpoenaed to testify, a call that Democrats have swatted away as irresponsible and even dangerous.

Democrats say any effort to identify the whistleblower could endanger the person's life and chill future whistleblowers from revealing alleged wrongdoing in government.

By Amy Sherman

In a House Judiciary Committee hearing, a southwest Florida Republican congressman said the impeachment process had reached a new level of unfairness: Not only was President Donald Trump receiving less due process than average Americans, but Iraqi terrorism suspects are treated more fairly.

"Even terrorists in Iraq were afforded more due process than you and the Democratic majority have afforded the president," said U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, directing his comment to Democratic committee leaders Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff. "I know, because I served in Iraq, and I've prosecuted terrorists in Iraq, and we provided terrorists in Iraq more rights and due process in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq then you and Chairman Schiff have afforded the president of the United States."

We decided to check out his comparison. Steube’s spokeswoman did not respond to our requests for evidence. Like similar claims before his, we found Steube ignores that the stage where Trump would receive due process to defend himself is in the Senate — and also that Trump’s team was invited to participate in the House Judiciary hearing.

By Justine Coleman

Former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said it is “deeply disturbing” that Attorney General William Barr “is more concerned with protecting the president than protecting our country from Russia."

   It's deeply disturbing that the Attorney General is more concerned with protecting the president than protecting our country from Russia.
   — Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 9, 2019

Bloomberg called out the attorney general after Barr said Monday’s inspector general report showed the FBI started an “intrusive” examination into President Trump’s 2016 campaign based “on the thinnest of suspicions.”

Barr’s comments followed the release of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report, which found the FBI was justified in launching an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

In his remarks Monday, Barr countered Horowitz’s conclusions that the bureau had an “authorized purpose” to start the investigation, saying the FBI had an “insufficient” basis for the probe.

By Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent

The Justice Department’s inspector general has released his long-awaited report on the FBI investigation of Russia’s 2016 effort to help elect Donald Trump president. Though it identifies serious errors and omissions in the FBI’s work — many related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to surveil Carter Page, an informal Trump campaign adviser — the report torpedoes the endless claim by Trump and his propagandists that the entire Russia investigation was a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.”

It’s important to reiterate right up front the actual argument that Trump World made for literally years. Not just that mistakes were made in the launching of the investigation. Not just that applications for this or that wiretapping warrant were mishandled. No, the Trump argument has been that the entire investigation was built on top of deeply nefarious motives — that is, that the “deep state" was corruptly conspiring to prevent Trump from being elected president — and that it all was illegitimate. This was the argument of the president of the United States: that a law enforcement investigation into a foreign attack on our democracy was a “hoax" and a “witch hunt.”

Implicit in this position is the idea that when law enforcement officials learned that Russia was trying to sabotage a free and fair U.S. election, they shouldn’t have done anything. But it’s worse than that: Trump World’s story has been that law enforcement was riddled with corruption from top to bottom, and that they were the ones trying to corrupt and rig the election — that is, the real crime wasn’t Russian sabotage of our election, but the effort to investigate it. The I.G. report just wrecked numerous claims that Trump and his propagandists have made to justify that narrative.

The attorney general said the investigation was launched on the "thinnest of suspicions."
By Adam Edelman

Attorney General William Barr on Monday rejected a key conclusion of an investigation conducted by his own agency's watchdog that a probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election was justified. Barr, in a lengthy statement, called the FBI's investigation into Moscow's interference "intrusive" and said it had been launched "on the thinnest of suspicions" — even though the Justice Department's inspector general report released Monday concluded that the overall probe was justified and not motivated by politics.

"The Inspector General's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken," Barr said. He added that "the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory."

The report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI and the Justice Department launched their investigation into the 2016 campaign not for political reasons, but because of evidence the Russian government was using cutouts to reach out to the Trump campaign as part of its efforts to influence the election.

The report found the FBI mishandled parts of its application to monitor a Trump campaign aide as it was probing possible Russian interference in the 2016 race, but that the overall probe was justified. That last conclusion rebuts President Donald Trump's claims that the probe was launched as part of a politically biased plot against him. - Despite the evidence, Barr will protect Trump until the end. Barr’s job is to the constitution not to Donald J. Trump.

By William Cummings USA TODAY

Sen. Ted Cruz joined the list of Republican lawmakers who have argued President Donald Trump had legitimate reasons to ask Ukraine to investigate the 2016 election because that country "blatantly interfered in our election."

The Texas conservative said on NBC News' "Meet the Press" that there was "considerable evidence" Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, though he could only point to one op-ed from a former ambassador to the U.S. as proof of Ukrainian interference.

Cruz accused the news media of being "misleading" by acting as if only Russia or Ukraine interfered in 2016 when it could have been both or more nations.

"Of course Russia interfered in our election. Nobody looking at the evidence disputes that," Cruz said. "But here's the game the media is playing. Because Russia interfered, the media pretends nobody else did."

More:How to stay updated on USA TODAY's impeachment coverage

During the 2016 election, many Ukrainians and several officials expressed concern about then-candidate Trump's positive words for Russian President Vladimir and an interview in which he indicated he would consider recognizing Putin's military annexation of Crimea.

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) Armed with never-before-seen phone records, Democrats on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump's allies of coordinating with a conservative journalist to peddle "false narratives" about Trump's opponents as part of his multi-pronged pressure campaign on Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report -- which was made public Tuesday -- says the committee's top Repubican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, was linked to that effort. The records, according to Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, were subpoenaed from third-parties.

"Mr. Solomon was not working alone," the report said of conservative journalist John Solomon's articles throughout 2019 that spread Trump-backed conspiracies about Ukraine. "As further described below, there was a coordinated effort by associates of President Trump to push these false narratives publicly, as evidenced by public statements, phone records, and contractual agreements." The phone records, which are labeled in the report's endnotes as coming from AT&T, show a web of communications between Solomon, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Ukrainian American businessman Lev Parnas, Nunes and the White House's budget office. CNN is owned by AT&T.

'MY GOODNESS!'
Chuck Todd was left gobsmacked by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) when the GOP lawmaker said the ex-Ukrainian president “actively worked” for Hillary Clinton.
By Justin Baragona

A week after claiming that he didn’t know whether Russia or Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC server during the 2016 election, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) left Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd astounded when he accused the former president of Ukraine of working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At the top of their interview on Sunday, Todd brought up Kennedy’s eventual walk-back of his DNC remarks, asking the Louisiana lawmaker why he backtracked.

“Well, Chris Wallace was interviewing me and he asked me a question. I answered it. I thought he had asked me if Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election,” the Republican senator replied, reiterating previous excuses he had given. “He didn’t, he asked me if Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC computer, which is, of course, a form of meddling. I went back and looked at the transcript and I realized Chris was right and I was wrong so I said I was wrong.”

The NBC News host went on to note that the main criticism Kennedy has faced in recent days is that he is conflating what Russia and Ukraine did during the 2016 election, stating that Kennedy appears to be doing President Trump’s “dirty work” for him. A week after claiming that he didn’t know whether Russia or Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC server during the 2016 election, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) left Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd astounded when he accused the former president of Ukraine of working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

At the top of their interview on Sunday, Todd brought up Kennedy’s eventual walk-back of his DNC remarks, asking the Louisiana lawmaker why he backtracked.

“Well, Chris Wallace was interviewing me and he asked me a question. I answered it. I thought he had asked me if Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election,” the Republican senator replied, reiterating previous excuses he had given. “He didn’t, he asked me if Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC computer, which is, of course, a form of meddling. I went back and looked at the transcript and I realized Chris was right and I was wrong so I said I was wrong.”

The NBC News host went on to note that the main criticism Kennedy has faced in recent days is that he is conflating what Russia and Ukraine did during the 2016 election, stating that Kennedy appears to be doing President Trump’s “dirty work” for him.

by Bernard Starr

The media continues to give virtually 24-hour coverage to Donald Trump, with commentators wringing their hands over his latest cruelty or bizarre behavior. But none of that bewailing is likely to change anything. If 12,000 lies and counting have not had any impact on his popular base or Congressional sycophant accomplices, further revelations, even of insanity, are not likely to move the needle either. Trump is Trump by virtue of his personality — some say pathologies. But his sycophants are supporting him by choice. That’s why the focus should not be on Trump, but on his enablers. If they had been true to their early insights into his dangerous flaws, Trump would have been gone long ago. Sycophants and enablers beware: You will be held responsible. And Israelis should be cautious about their praise of Donald Trump, even though his popularity in Israel is greater than in the US.

It’s understandable that many Jews around the world, and particularly in Israel, welcome his enthusiastic support of Israel and his moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — although not everyone agrees with the wisdom of that move for the peace process. But for Israel to reward these actions with blanket endorsements of Donald Trump, in much the same way American sycophants have endorsed his behavior, this could backfire. The post mortem on Trump’s administration will surely decry his damage to democracy, international treaties, and a civil world order. And Trump’s demand that American Jews must vote for him or they will be voting against Israel is likely to incite antisemitism. Adding fuel to that fire, Trump embraced the claim of  a conservative radio host that Israelis love him because he is the Messiah and “the greatest president of the Jews.” How to wake up the sycophants? They must be persuaded to realize that when the Trump regime ends, they will be excoriated forever, especially if Trump brings on a colossal disaster, which is always an imminent possibility. But the fate of the sycophants must be illustrated in specific graphic depictions, not just vague statements such as “history will be harsh on you.” This approach might be effective in giving some a wake-up call that could move the needle.

Donald Trump’s regime may last just four years if he is defeated in 2020. But don’t tell that to his sycophants in Congress and his administration. They too are so intoxicated with the aphrodisiac of power that they are blind to the consequences of their actions, which are likely to haunt them. The court of worldwide public opinion and its judgments will be brutal when the floodgates open. We have seen a glimpse of what might happen, with leaks and revelations from those who have been in the administration and from a British ambassador who was appalled at Trump’s incompetence and “uniquely dysfunctional White House.” Most people — especially diplomats and world leaders — who hold back their honest assessments of Trump are restrained by decorum while he remains president. When Trump’s reign ends, the sycophants will be reviled because it’s no secret that they always knew exactly who Trump is. They painted an accurate picture of him before he became the Republican candidate for president, but did an abrupt about-face when he won the Republican nomination and then the presidency.

Many of the leading Republican politicians denounced Trump and sounded an alarm several years before psychiatrists warned the public about him in a bestselling book. Senator Ted Cruz: “[Donald Trump] is a pathological liar … he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. The man is utterly amoral. You know, morality does not exist for him.” Senator Lindsay Graham: “I think he’s a kook, I think he’s crazy. He would be a terrible commander-in-chief. Donald Trump is not fit to be president.” Senator Rand Paul: “[Donald Trump] is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag. A speck of dirt is way more qualified to be president. If the dirt doesn’t go away, it will keep scratching your cornea until, eventually, it blinds you with all its filth.” With these frightening assessments, how could the Republicans hand Trump access to our nuclear codes? How could these prominent political figures and others endorse Trump and later willingly rubber-stamp his erratic and destructive policies and actions? In fact, that’s precisely what happened. How can we explain this phenomenon? Full Story

From Paul Ryan to John McCain, Sarah Ellison takes a look at the men—and the motives—that are propping up a Donald Trump presidency.
By Sarah Ellison

Blame for the ongoing destruction wrought by the Trump administration will always attach to Donald Trump. But Trump cannot help himself. He is a pathogen, doing what pathogens do, and as surprised as anyone to have found himself replicating in the nation’s bloodstream. Equal blame will attach to a small group of experienced and seemingly rational politicians who knew exactly what Trump was like; who had cause to loathe and distrust him; who understood firsthand that he knew nothing about government and did not care to know anything; who could see clearly that he was dangerous, brutal, and corrupt; and who nonetheless decided, after occasional protests, to help him achieve and hold power.

These are people who have been repeatedly belittled and mocked by Trump, who have sometimes been forced to voice their disgust at his words and actions, and who—for reasons that range from ambition and fear to denial and moral blindness—not only have declined to stand in his way but continue to prop him up. One or more of them may ultimately decide to defy him, but nothing will absolve them of the damage already done. Full Story


By Justin Wise

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on Monday walked back comments in which he said Ukraine could have been responsible for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). But the Louisiana senator doubled down on the unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine may have tried to interfere in other ways, saying that there is “proven and unproven” evidence that both Ukraine and Russia meddled in the election.

Appearing on CNN, Kennedy acknowledged that he was "wrong" to say just a day prior that there weren't definitive answers on who hacked the DNC ahead of the 2016 election. Kennedy claimed he'd misheard a question from Fox News anchor Chris Wallace while appearing on "Fox News Sunday," causing him to answer incorrectly.

"I was answering one of his questions, and he interjected with a statement and asked me to react to it. What I heard Chris say was only Russia tried to interfere in the election, and I answered the question. That’s not what he said," Kennedy said on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," noting that Wallace's question focused on DNC servers.

"Chris is right. I was wrong," he said. "The only evidence I have, and I think it’s overwhelming, is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer. I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it." The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia sought to interfere in the election to harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's candidacy and help Trump.  

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy was asked a simple question by Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday: "Who do you believe was responsible for hacking the [Democratic National Committee] and Clinton campaign computers, their emails. Was it Russia or Ukraine?"
Here's what Kennedy said in response: "I don't know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us."

That is simply not true. False. And what's worse is Kennedy, of course, knows that. Because he has been residing on planet Earth for the last three years.
And, because of that, Kennedy knows four things:

1) The intelligence community concluded in early 2017 that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to help President Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton

2) The Senate Intelligence Committee -- chaired by Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr -- affirmed that finding

3) The Mueller Report, almost two years in the making, reaffirmed Russia's role and goals

4) Robert Mueller himself, in sworn testimony on Capitol Hill this summer, said this: "The Russian government interfered in our election in sweeping and systematic fashion."

When confronted by Wallace with just one of those facts -- that the intelligence community has made clear it was Russia that hacked the DNC server and Clinton campaign emails and then pushed what they found to the website WikiLeaks -- Kennedy responded: "Right. But it could also be Ukraine."
Let's be clear here: NO, IT COULDN'T.
This yeah-but-Ukraine defense is hung on a series of half-truths and thinly reported pieces that suggest that there were elements within Ukraine that didn't want Trump to win. Just as a thought experiment, let's grant that that supposition is true. It still isn't anything like the concerted, deep and targeted misinformation campaign run by the Russians to help Trump and hurt Clinton. Nothing like it. Like, not in the same universe.

Stefanik's fall: Why did a congresswoman from an upstate New York purple district just set herself on fire?
By Sophia Tesfaye

Since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives following sweeping midterm victories last year, Republicans have had little recourse to stop attempts at congressional oversight of the Trump administration. So, they’ve resorted to rotating a few willing members to dutifully gaslight, grandstand and exhibit fake outrage while hoping to create the illusion of fighting the good fight — all for Fox News hosts who hail them as the true heroes of the republic.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is on permanent assignment, as witnessed by his disgraceful conduct during impeachment hearings. Important supporting roles are filled by Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio (and of the Ohio State wrestling team's sex scandal), and now the newest rising Republican star, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.

When public impeachment hearings began last Wednesday, House Republicans suddenly subbed in Jordan for fear of not having strong enough attack dogs on the House Intelligence Committee. They also apparently did not have enough women, which isn't that surprising — of 102 women in the House, only 13 are Republicans. When it came time to question Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Republicans relied on Stefanik, the only woman on the committee, to do their grilling. A third-term congresswoman from rural upstate New York who made history at age 30 in 2014 as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress — a record since surpassed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Stefanik emerged Friday as one of the leading Republican voices defending Trump. Full Story

Trump allies plan to call for witnesses who could bolster their narrative and hammer away at the anonymous whistleblower whose account launched the inquiry in the first place.
By Sam Brodey

As House Democrats ramp up their impeachment push, their adversaries on the Republican side are preparing to unleash a counter-push to disrupt impeachment proceedings, discredit the whistleblower, and interrogate every person the whistleblower spoke with. In a show of unity, House Republicans unanimously voted on Thursday against a resolution recognizing the framework of the impeachment inquiry and outlining its next phase. Though that resolution passed, it was a chance for the GOP to lock arms on the proceedings and beat back lingering questions over just how committed Hill Republicans are to risk their political hides in defense of the president.

With the party now relatively focused, the Republicans leading the counter-impeachment campaign are taking this moment to lay out their next steps, which will continue to center on claims that the impeachment process is profoundly unfair to Trump and Republicans—and that the whole Ukraine matter was a sham to begin with. According to GOP lawmakers and aides, the party’s game plan includes calling for witnesses who could bolster their narrative and hammering away at the anonymous whistleblower whose account launched the inquiry in the first place. They’re also holding out the possibility of more tactics to disrupt impeachment—like last week’s stunt to shut down the inquiry’s secure hearing room. Lawmakers are also likely to release a report when the probe is concluded to counter the report the Democratic majority will release to form the basis for impeachment.

Through it all, Republicans will need to pull off a tricky balancing act: keeping a focus on process—which many in GOP leadership believe is the best way to lower the public’s confidence in the impeachment inquiry—while keeping satisfied a mercurial president, who has proven eager to air his anger at Republicans he deems insufficiently loyal, or insufficiently interested in defending him on substance.

According to Jack Kingston, a former Georgia congressman and an ally of the president, House Republicans have been doing a “decent job given the tools they have,” but added it would be better if they had a few more of a certain kind of Republican—naming specifically Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Jim Jordan (R-OH)—out there defending the president.

“Everyone was an activist during the Clinton thing on the Democratic side,” said Kingston, who served in the House during President Clinton’s impeachment. “Everybody needs to get off the bench and start talking about it.” One subject that particularly riles up Republicans—and marries their fairness arguments with the Trump-friendly case that the Ukraine probe is some kind of deep-state machination—is the anonymous whistleblower. At first, Republicans dismissed the whistleblower’s complaint because it was not based on firsthand information. Full Story

As Trump’s demands grow ever more erratic, democracy rests on the willingness of bureaucrats to ignore the democratically elected chief executive.
By Adam Serwer

This morning, President Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense on camera. Responding to questioning from reporters about his effort to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to launch an investigation into one of his Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump reiterated his demand that Ukraine “start a major investigation into the Bidens,” before suggesting that “China should start an investigation into the Bidens” as well. Ukraine is dependent on the United States for military aid; China is in the midst of a trade war with the U.S. instigated by Trump. Both countries now know that they can influence United States policy by pursuing the president’s personal, political interests. A president using his authority to form an alliance with foreign powers, at the expense of the national interest, is such a straightforwardly impeachable offense that the Framers themselves designed the impeachment clause for the express purpose of removing a chief executive who uses his powers in this way.

Republicans have attempted to shift the conversation away from Trump’s acts, to focus instead on questions about the process used by the whistle-blower who exposed Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine. But not only did Schiff and the whistle-blower follow the rules; both the redacted complaint released by the White House and the summary of the call itself substantiate the allegations at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. And even if they didn’t, the president himself just repeated the impeachable offense on camera, making an explicit demand that two countries criminalize his political rival. It was not even the first time this week that Trump demanded a political rival be investigated. For the past few days, Trump has demanded that House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff be “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason” for a mocking paraphrase of Trump’s call with Zelensky using mafia-like language. The accusation of treason is absurd.

The Constitution specifically protects the remarks of legislators on the House floor, secures freedom of speech, and defines treason in extremely narrow terms, limiting it to “levying war” against the U.S. or aiding its enemies. But Trump makes no distinction between loyalty to him as a person and loyalty to the United States, and so takes criticism as treason. Yet despite the president’s bluster, nothing happened. The Justice Department did not arrest and imprison Schiff, arraigning him on charges of treason. And that reality speaks to both the absurdity and danger of this moment, in which American democracy relies on the willingness of executive-branch subordinates to ignore the ravings of the Mad King. This extends into the realm of policy, where Trump’s own officials have struggled to contain his lust for cruelty, refusing requests to gun down migrants or install a moat with alligators at the border. Elected Republicans know that Trump is unfit for office. The president’s own subordinates know that Trump is unfit for office.

They know this, because when the president issues ridiculous orders, such as the demand that a leader of the opposition party be arrested, they ignore his demands. A nation in which the opposition cannot criticize the head of state without facing criminal sanction is not a democracy, but it is the kind of country over which Donald Trump would like to preside. The result is that American democracy rests on the willingness of bureaucrats to ignore the commands of their democratically elected chief executive. Unable to defend the substance of the president’s extortion attempt, Republicans have turned to complaining about the process. But Thursday’s performance on the White House lawn renders those baseless complaints moot—the president just did publicly what the Democrats have accused him of doing privately. The only argument against removing Trump from office is that Trump’s raving is just Trump being Trump, and is not to be taken seriously. But the fact that the president’s madness must be ignored from time to time for America to continue to function as a democracy is an argument for, not against, his removal. Full Story

By Jason Sattler, Opinion columnist

President Donald Trump keeps racking up high crimes like they’re rounds of taxpayer-funded golf, threatening civil war or execution as punishment for any attempt to hold him accountable. You would assume he’s the greatest threat to democracy that we face. But you would be wrong. The Republicans in Congress who are inviting Trump to continue his torching of the Constitution are the greatest threat to this republic that any of us will ever see. And impeachment will fail unless it exposes this complicit and cowardly GOP. At long last, we’ve finally arrived at a serious effort to hold accountable a man who has been violating his oath of office since the words came out of his mouth.

But for this process to be a success, it needs to do more than charge the most obviously corrupt president in American history for posterity or even help us “actually find out every rotten thing he and his kids have been up to,” as The New Republic put it. Founders foresaw Trump nightmare: It doesn’t matter whether it focuses strictly on charges that follow from the government whistleblower’s depiction of Trump pressing the president of Ukraine to frame his political opponents, or expands to encompass all his multifarious documented abuses from obstruction of justice to his corrupt, endless and multifaceted self-enrichment.  Impeachment must have a singular goal: It must make the case that our democracy is at stake. To do this, Democrats must show that the GOP made Trump’s corruption inevitable. Thus, the American people must check the Republican Party with furious anger. Full Story

The moral and professional accounting some Republicans feared will never take place.
by Paul Waldman

After Donald Trump became his party’s nominee for president in 2016, a great many Republicans in Washington said publicly and privately that they would never work in his administration if he were to win. For some it was because they doubted his commitment to conservative ideology, but for most it was about Trump as a person: He was erratic, unqualified, and most of all an utterly corrupt and immoral person who sullies everything he touches. They had principles, and reputations to defend. He might be in office for four or eight years, but they would be around after that time was over.

Working for Trump could only end in shame and ignominy. If things went poorly, it might even be career suicide. Just imagine what kind of accounting there could be at the end of what was certain to be a disastrous presidency! No one who had put themselves in the service of this repellent man would escape blame. Three years later, there are some prominent “Never Trumpers” around, but their numbers are tiny. The overwhelming majority of Republicans—elected officials, political professionals, policy wonks—have to one degree or another bent the knee to Donald Trump.

Even the party’s eminence grises are in line; former vice president Dick Cheney, who has criticized the administration on foreign policy, will be raising money for Trump’s reelection. Which is as good a sign as any that the moral and professional accounting some Republicans feared—or hoped for—will never take place. There may be some places where those who placed themselves in Trump’s service will receive the contempt they deserve, like Kirstjen Nielsen being heckled in one restaurant and Sarah Huckabee Sanders being refused service in another. But by and large they’ll be fine, because they live in a world where nearly everyone is complicit.

That means that they will all have an interest in convincing each other and the world that working for the single most odious human being to ever sit in the Oval Office was a perfectly reasonable, even noble, thing to do. Consider Sanders, who defended and justified the most dishonest politician in American history (and perhaps that of the entire world) with an almost superhuman degree of commitment and enthusiasm. What will happen to her? She’ll probably write a best-selling book, and have corporations give her obscene sums to obtain her wisdom on damage control when they’re caught despoiling the environment or killing their customers. A Fox News gig will be hers for the asking, should she not find that too pedestrian. For the moment, she’s considering a run for governor of Arkansas. And she’d probably win. Full Story

By Jon Allsop, CJR

Over the past few days—as Trump openly asked foreign leaders to investigate his opponents, and the fact pattern around his conduct continued to sprawl—Republican talking points in Trump’s defense got ever more creative, and contradictory. Several GOP officials—including at least two United States senators—told reporters that Trump wasn’t being serious when he asked China to look into the Bidens, but was simply trolling the media. (It’s just the president being the president!) Visiting Greece, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, called Trump’s requests to foreign leaders “totally appropriate… Nations work together,” he said. “They say ‘Boy, goodness gracious if you can help me with X, we’ll help you achieve Y.’ This is what partnerships do.

It’s win-win.” (If this sounds to you like a quid pro quo, you wouldn’t be alone.) Meanwhile, Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan, of Axios, scooped that Trump—the origin of much of this whiplash messaging—told House Republicans Friday that he’d only called Ukraine’s president in the first place because Rick Perry, his energy secretary, asked him to. Yesterday morning, Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, followed this maddening logic to its conclusion by getting mad about it. When his guest Ron Johnson, a Republican senator, tried to score a point off of the press, Todd cut in: “OK, this is not about the media.” As Johnson continued to talk over him, Todd snapped. “Senator Johnson. SENATOR JOHNSON, PLEASE,” he shouted. Johnson finally yielded. “Can we please answer the question that I asked you, instead of trying to make Donald Trump feel better here,” Todd said.

The bickering soon recommenced. “I’m sorry you chose to come on this way, senator,” Todd said as he wrapped up the interview. Johnson was still railing as Todd cut him off. (Online, Todd won plaudits for his uncompromising questioning, though some of his critics noted that his newfound aggression with misleading interviewees should be a baseline performance, not an exception.) It wasn’t just Todd: over the weekend, and particularly on the Sunday shows, the spotlight seemed to shift, at least for a moment, to focus on the apologism of Trump’s enablers. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos didn’t get as angry as Todd, but was still visibly frustrated by his interview with Jim Jordan, a hardline GOP Congressman: “You’re telling us not to believe what we’ve seen with our own eyes, right there!” Stephanopoulos said of Jordan’s obfuscation on Trump’s China remark; wrapping up, he added, with an air of disgust, “We’ve been going 10 minutes, you still can’t say whether you think it’s right or wrong.”

Over on Fox, Chris Wallace held Rep. Chris Stewart’s feet to the fire when Stewart said a reported second whistleblower complaint against Trump is meaningless. On CNN, Jake Tapper offered some historical context—always welcome in these frenzied times—on Republican shamelessness; Tapper pointed not to Watergate, but to the McCarthy hearings, noting that history has been brutal in its judgment of the GOP lawmakers who had McCarthy’s back. Away from TV, articles in multiple publications noted the flailing nature of Republicans’ defenses of Trump. Antonia Ferrier, Mitch McConnell’s former comms chief, told the New York Times that “It’s very difficult to message on quicksand”; an unnamed former Trump official told the Washington Post that “Nobody wants to be the zebra that strays from the pack and gets gobbled up by the lion.” The refusal of most Republicans to criticize Trump is not a new story, of course; it’s been a defining theme of his presidency. Part of the reason it came into sharper focus yesterday was that the White House itself refused to put up a representative for any of the Sunday shows. Full Story

The moral and professional accounting some Republicans feared will never take place.
by Paul Waldman

After Donald Trump became his party’s nominee for president in 2016, a great many Republicans in Washington said publicly and privately that they would never work in his administration if he were to win. For some it was because they doubted his commitment to conservative ideology, but for most it was about Trump as a person: He was erratic, unqualified, and most of all an utterly corrupt and immoral person who sullies everything he touches. They had principles, and reputations to defend. He might be in office for four or eight years, but they would be around after that time was over.

Working for Trump could only end in shame and ignominy. If things went poorly, it might even be career suicide. Just imagine what kind of accounting there could be at the end of what was certain to be a disastrous presidency! No one who had put themselves in the service of this repellent man would escape blame. Three years later, there are some prominent “Never Trumpers” around, but their numbers are tiny. The overwhelming majority of Republicans—elected officials, political professionals, policy wonks—have to one degree or another bent the knee to Donald Trump. Even the party’s eminence grises are in line; former vice president Dick Cheney, who has criticized the administration on foreign policy, will be raising money for Trump’s reelection.

Which is as good a sign as any that the moral and professional accounting some Republicans feared—or hoped for—will never take place. There may be some places where those who placed themselves in Trump’s service will receive the contempt they deserve, like Kirstjen Nielsen being heckled in one restaurant and Sarah Huckabee Sanders being refused service in another. But by and large they’ll be fine, because they live in a world where nearly everyone is complicit. That means that they will all have an interest in convincing each other and the world that working for the single most odious human being to ever sit in the Oval Office was a perfectly reasonable, even noble, thing to do. Consider Sanders, who defended and justified the most dishonest politician in American history (and perhaps that of the entire world) with an almost superhuman degree of commitment and enthusiasm. What will happen to her? She’ll probably write a best-selling book, and have corporations give her obscene sums to obtain her wisdom on damage control when they’re caught despoiling the environment or killing their customers. A Fox News gig will be hers for the asking, should she not find that too pedestrian. For the moment, she’s considering a run for governor of Arkansas. And she’d probably win. Full Story

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