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GOP Watch Keeping an Eye on Republicans for You - Page 21

“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 Welcome to GOP Watch keeping an eye on Republicans for you. The Republican Party is using lies, hate, fear, alterative facts and whataboutism to stay in power and protect a comprised and corrupt Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party and Putin. The GOP is a danger to America and Americans.

By Mike DeBonis

Rep. Adam B. Schiff spoke for nearly an hour closing the House’s case for the removal of President Trump, advancing and rebutting scores of arguments, but many Republican senators left the chamber talking about only one line: His reference to a news report that GOP senators were warned that if they vote against the president, their “head will be on a pike.” “Not true!” an indignant Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) bristled afterward, saying senators were “visibly upset” by the comment. “Nothing like going through three days of frustration and then cap it with an insult on everybody.”

The reference came from a CBS News report that had gone viral earlier Friday, quoting an anonymous Trump confidant claiming that senators were warned that “your head will be on a pike” if they vote against the president on impeachment. The report did not say who had delivered the threat or which senators had been so warned. “I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “I hope it’s not true. But I’m struck by the irony of the idea, when we’re talking about a president who would make himself a monarch, that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was imposed by a monarch — a head on a pike.”

And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) suggested in a tweet that Republicans were feigning outrage to distract from the rest of Schiff’s detailed argument for Trump’s removal. “I’m gonna let you in on a secret,” he wrote. “Republicans who don’t want to defend Trump’s corruption on the merits are instead going to complain about how mean the House managers are.” - Why the fake outrage from Republican Senators all Americans know comrade Don the Con threatens Republicans when they don’t do what he wants or say something he does not like. Republicans are mad at Schiff for what Don the Con said that is BS, they are using any excuse they can to protect Don the Con. History will not be kind to Moscow Mitch and the Republican Senators who give Don the Con a pass to f*ck over our constitution, our laws and the American people.

The fauxtrage over Adam Schiff's "head on a pike" reference is meant to obscure the simple fact they're terrified to cross the president.
By Charles P. Pierce

WASHINGTON—Not long after Congressman Adam Schiff had wrapped up the prosecution’s case, and pretty much wrapped the administration* in heavy chains and barbed wire, Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, stepped up to a bank of microphones in the basement of the Capitol to announce that he was not afraid of the president*. Oh, no. Not him. Not Senator James Lankford.

One of the most remarkable moments of the night was when Adam Schiff said that Republicans were told that their head would be on a pike by the president if they vote against him. That is completely, totally false. All of us were shaking our heads saying, “Where in the world did that story come from?”

By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Delivering an ominous threat to members of his own party, Donald J. Trump warned congressional Republicans on Monday that if they vote for impeachment he would come to their states and campaign for their reëlection. In a series of intimidating, early-morning tweets, Trump made it clear that if Republicans wobble on impeachment, “I will hold rallies in your state and support you with everything I’ve got.”

By Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

The Republican Party was at the brink of civil war on Sunday as Donald J. Trump signaled he would retaliate against lawmakers who withdraw their support from his campaign, and senior party leaders privately acknowledged that they now feared losing control of both houses of Congress.

Even before Mr. Trump’s second debate against Hillary Clinton, the party faced an internal rift unseen in modern times. A wave of defections from Mr. Trump’s candidacy, prompted by the revelation of a recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault, was met with boastful defiance by the Republican presidential nominee.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump attacked the Republicans fleeing his campaign as “self-righteous hypocrites” and predicted their defeat at the ballot box. In a set of talking points sent to his supporters Sunday morning, Mr. Trump’s campaign urged them to attack turncoat Republicans as “more concerned with their political future than they are about the country.”

Republicans used to know that patriotism isn't about words, it's what you do. But today's congressional Republicans have lost sight of that.
By Sophia A. Nelson Opinion contributor

Something is really bothering me. I was struck by what the Senate chaplain, retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, said in his prayer on Wednesday afternoon at the beginning of the first day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.  He prayed, in part: "Help them remember that patriots reside on both sides of the aisle." The “them” he was referring to, of course, was the Senators, House managers and president’s counsel gathered in the chamber. His words stirred my soul and they have pulsed throughout my disrupted spirit ever since. His words have made me restless, troubled me, and challenged me as a devout Christian and lifelong Republican to face a harsh reality: that the vast majority of people in my political party of more than 30 years are not acting like patriots.

Patriotism, I'm afraid, has left the building. Patriotism is not about words. Patriotism is about what we do. Patriotism is about what we stand for, who we stand up to and what we are willing to put on the line. Patriotism is about truth, honor, liberty, equality and freedom. The Republican-held Senate voted down all 11 amendments introduced by the minority party. Worse, Sen. Marsha Blackburn attacked decorated Iraq War veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Twitter Thursday, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted about a "drinking game" when the word "drug deal" or "get over it" is used by House Managers.

Yes, say Senate Republicans, we know there's evidence that makes Trump’s guilt even clearer. But we will sit as judges to disallow it before we sit as jurors to “exonerate” him.
By Michael Tomasky

Adam Schiff’s closing remarks Thursday night will go down in history. He laid out, with a plain-spoken eloquence, everything that’s at stake here. He’s been impressive the whole way through—I was especially struck on day two by the way he batted down one particular defense of Donald Trump that’s been driving me nuts, the fact that Volodymyr Zelensky said he never felt any pressure from Trump. Well, duh, Schiff said—like the president of a small country wants to antagonize the president of the United States?

But day three, in closing, he was even better. Watch it if you haven’t. He looked to his left—right at Senate Republicans—as he said, “Do we really have any doubt about the facts here? Does anybody really question whether the president is capable of what he’s charged with? No one is really making the argument—Donald Trump would never do such a thing—because of course we know that he would, and of course we know that he did.”


CNN's Chris Cuomo says that House impeachment managers successfully debunked conspiracy theories that have been broadcast on Fox News programs.

By Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson and D'Angelo Gore

White House lawyers distorted the facts on the impeachment process and other issues during the Jan. 21 Senate trial:

White House counsel Pat Cipollone falsely suggested Republicans were barred from the closed-door depositions conducted by the House intelligence committee. But members of three committees — both Democrats and Republicans — participated.

Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump’s attorney, falsely said, “During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the president was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses … the right to access evidence and … the right to have counsel present at hearings.” The committee chair invited Trump and his lawyers to participate, but they declined.

Cipollone claimed Rep. Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chairman, “manufactured a false version” of the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president and “he didn’t tell” the American people “it was a complete fake.” Schiff indicated he was giving “the essence” of Trump’s remarks and about an hour later said it was “at least part in parody.”

Sekulow said the special counsel’s report on Russian interference during the 2016 election found Trump committed “no obstruction.” That’s not what the report said. While the report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” it said, citing “multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence.”

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his resolution outlining the impeachment trial procedures “tracks closely” with the rules of trials for other presidents. How closely McConnell’s resolution tracks with the procedures used in the past may be a matter of opinion. However, there are some differences between the rules for Trump’s trial and President Bill Clinton’s.

Barry Goldwater had the power to tell Nixon it was all over. But don’t expect a repeat this time.

At the end for Richard Nixon, after all the mounting evidence in the Watergate scandal, after both special prosecutors, after all the White House indictments, after the guilty pleas, after the obstruction efforts fell apart, after all the court fights, after all the damaging revelations in outlets like the Washington Post, Time and the Los Angeles Times, after all the impeachment hearings, it all came down to Barry Goldwater.

It’s easy, nearly 50 years after Watergate, to forget that Nixon’s ignominious departure from the White House was hardly a foregone conclusion. The Republican Party had stuck closely with Nixon even through the darkest days of the Watergate scandal; even as its lawmakers whispered behind closed doors about his guilt and even as public opinion polls showed Nixon dragging down their party, they had toughed it out—past the indictments of his top aides, past the courts batting back one attempt at obstruction after another, even after Nixon’s attacks on and ultimate firing of the special prosecutor targeting him.

It wasn’t until August 6, 1974, at the regular Senate Republican Conference lunch that Barry Goldwater fumed to his colleagues: “There are only so many lies you can take, and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House—today!” Hours later, he ventured to the White House to tell Nixon to resign. And, amazingly, Nixon did. For Nixon knew that when Goldwater threw in the towel, it really was over.

Senators have a duty to conduct a fair and full trial. The Republican leader is trying to make sure they can’t.
By Noah Bookbinder

The removal of a sitting president is the last line of defense provided by the framers of the Constitution against the abuse of power by the leader of our country. When senators take an oath to uphold the Constitution, they assume the grave responsibility to conduct a thorough and fair trial on behalf of the American people. Dismissing this process set out in the Constitution, President Trump has called the impeachment process a “scam.” That’s his opinion, of course — but this week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing everything he can to ensure that the Senate trial actually is a scam. An impeachment trial is only meaningful if the American people can have confidence in the fairness of the process; only then will the trial’s verdict be worthy of respect. Mr. McConnell is advocating trial procedures that would undercut any possibility of that.

Americans understand the basic contours of a fair trial: Each side presents relevant evidence, in the form of documents and witnesses. But Mr. McConnell and President Trump’s allies in the Senate appear to think that the president should be allowed to play by his own rules. The impeachment procedural resolution that the Senate adopted early Wednesday morning appears designed to, among other things, prevent either side from introducing testimony and evidence about President Trump’s alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

By Editorial Board

SENATE REPUBLICANS on Tuesday were laying the groundwork for a truncated trial of President Trump that would be a perversion of justice. Proposals by Democrats to obtain critical evidence were voted down. Unless several senators change their positions, votes to acquit Mr. Trump on the House’s charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress could come as soon as next week without any testimony by witnesses or review of key documents. That would be unprecedented compared with previous presidential impeachments. It would gravely damage the only mechanism the Constitution provides for checking a rogue president.

Yet the rigging of the trial process may not be the most damaging legacy of the exhibition Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is orchestrating in full collaboration with the White House. That might flow from the brazen case being laid out by Mr. Trump’s lawyers. The defense brief they filed Monday argues that the president “did absolutely nothing wrong” when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations of Joe Biden and a Russian-promoted conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. It further contends that Mr. Trump was entirely within his rights when he refused all cooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, including rejecting subpoenas for testimony and documents. It says he cannot be impeached because he violated no law.

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.

House Bill 2044, which was aimed at events such as "Drag Queen Story Time" in public libraries, caused controversy upon its introduction in January 2020.
By Dan MacGuill

HB 2044, a bill before the Missouri state House of Representatives, could lead to the imprisonment of librarians for failing to comply with its provisions. A bill proposed in Missouri this month represents a transparent, shameful attempt to legalize book banning in public libraries within the state, PEN America said today. The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.”

Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community. …

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

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

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.”

The Iran debate shows Republicans don’t believe in fighting tyrants. They believe in smearing their opponents.
By William Saletan

What does the Republican Party stand for? Lately, that’s been hard to figure out. In 2016, the party adopted a platform that talked about “moral leadership,” “the cause of liberty,” fighting “tyranny and injustice,” and standing up to “countries with repressive governments.” For three years, President Donald Trump, backed by Republicans in Congress, abandoned those commitments. Then last week, Trump reverted to the old Republican habit of using force. He killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani with a drone strike. And when Democrats questioned the wisdom of the strike, Republicans accused them of disloyalty to America.

From hawkishness to appeasement, the GOP has zigged, zagged, and zigged. Only one thing has remained constant: its partisan exploitation of the military and the flag. Republicans don’t believe in standing up to enemies abroad. They believe in impugning the patriotism of Democrats.

By Hansi Lo Wang - Square

More than a year after his death, a cache of computer files saved on the hard drives of Thomas Hofeller, a prominent Republican redistricting strategist, is becoming public. Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina fought in court to keep copies of these maps, spreadsheets and other documents from entering the public record. But some files have already come to light in recent months through court filings and news reports.

They have been cited as evidence of gerrymandering that got political maps thrown out in North Carolina, and they have raised questions about Hofeller's role in the Trump administration's failed push for a census citizenship question. Now more of the files are available online through a website called The Hofeller Files, where Hofeller's daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, published a link to her copy of the files on Sunday after first announcing her plans in a tweet last month.

"These are matters that concern the people and their franchise and their access to resources. This is, therefore, the property of the people," Hofeller told NPR. "I won't be satisfied that we the people have found everything until we the people have had a look at it in its entirety."

"A hunch that maybe something was wrong"
Her decision to put the files online herself is just the latest twist in a series of one astonishing event after another.

A treasure trove that led to bombshells
Since then, the Hofeller files have led to bombshell developments in two major legal battles in the political world.

Opinion by Ben Wikler

(CNN) Last week, a judge appointed by a Republican governor used an extreme and malicious interpretation of a Wisconsin state voting law to throw roughly 234,000 state voters off the rolls. The decision on a case brought by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, concerns a state law that requires the Wisconsin Elections Commission to keep voting rolls up to date. Under the law, the Commission sends letters to voters suspected of having moved based on "reliable information." Those who don't respond within 30 days are then purged from the rolls.

The legal dispute is over what constitutes "reliable information." In this case, the data is from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a useful but imperfect tool to compare voter registrations across states. The commission planned to spend the next 12 to 24 months assessing individual cases to gather enough "reliable information" on whether they had indeed moved. But the lawsuit demanded that the Commission not double-check, and simply de-register every voter flagged by ERIC. The judge agreed. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has already filed an appeal on behalf of the Commission.

That's how, by undermining what constitutes "reliable information," conservatives obtained a ruling that disproportionately targets Democratic voters and throws up needless barriers to voting in next year's presidential election in a state that President Donald Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. This voter purge is a barely disguised ploy to rig our democracy and win the 2020 election. It comes on the heels of remarks made by a top reelection adviser for Trump to fellow Republicans in Wisconsin, who said that "traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places." (The adviser later said his remarks were taken out of context.) It's part of a broader conservative playbook being implemented across the country in which the goal is not to win democratic elections but to destroy democracy in order to win elections.

By Kat Tenbarge

One of President Donald Trump's top re-election advisers told a group of influential Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is "traditionally" part of the party's election strategy in battleground states, the Associated Press reports. Now, Justin Clark, an attorney and one of Trump's senior political advisers, says he was referring to the historic, false accusations that the Republican Party suppresses votes to win elections.

At a November 21 event meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association's Wisconsin chapter, Clark spoke for about 20 minutes, and the speech was recorded by a liberal advocacy group and provided to the AP. "Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places," Clark told the group, which included Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the executive director of the state's Republican party.

"Let's start protecting our voters," he continued, partly referring to Election Day monitoring of polling places. "We know where they are [...] Let's start playing offense a little bit. That's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program."

When I was coming of age, the Democrats were the moral relativists and the victims and the purveyors of sacrilege. Now, it’s the Republicans. It’s sickening to watch.
By Matt Lewis Senior Columnist

The impeachment of Donald Trump demonstrated what still feels to me like a weird new development: The Republicans are the evil party, while Democrats (presumably now the “stupid party”?) seemed much more sane, moderate, and honorable.

For most of my life, things appeared the exact opposite. For most of my life, it felt like the Democrats were the ones who were pandering, playing the politics of victimhood, insulting my intelligence, and saying borderline sacrilegious things. Today, the roles are reversed. Just as the parties seem to have switched positions on a myriad of issues like Russia, tariffs, and reverence for the Founding Fathers and American Exceptionalism, it is now the Republicans who are viscerally repellent.

If you watched the debates during impeachment day, you know these are not honest brokers. Their talking points—which I’m assuming are poll-tested—were maudlin, offensive, and manipulative.

By Molly Olmstead

Matt Bevin, the former governor of Kentucky who has been criticized for pardoning relatives of his supporters before leaving office, said on Thursday that he pardoned one convicted child rapist because he didn’t believe he was guilty—because the 9-year-old victim’s hymen was intact.

Asked about his decision to pardon 41-year-old Micah Schoettle, sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2018 on charges of rape, incest, and sodomy, Bevin cast doubt on the victim’s testimony. The victim said she had been abused over two years and accused Schoettle of raping her on multiple occasions when her sister was in the room.

“Both their hymens were intact,” he told the radio station WHAS. “This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me, if you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.”

Some scholars want the inappropriate passage removed. Here’s why it should stay.
By Mark Joseph Stern

Partisan judges who impose reactionary policies from the bench often try to elevate their reasoning beyond the prattle of fringe-right talk radio. Not Jennifer Walker Elrod and Kurt D. Engelhardt of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both judges ruled on Wednesday that a key component of Obamacare—and perhaps the entire law—is now unconstitutional. Elrod (a George W. Bush appointee) and Engelhardt (a Donald Trump appointee) bashed the Affordable Care Act by parroting urban legends about its supposed threat to the republic. In the third footnote of an opinion that Engelhardt joined in full, Elrod suggested that the ACA’s passage was a “fraud”:

Trump's education secretary is "effectively funding an outside propaganda operation," says watchdog group
By Igor Derysh

The family foundation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her billionaire husband, Dick, gave more than $1 million to purportedly “independent” right-wing groups that have helped boost her assault on public education, according to a recent tax filing obtained by the government watchdog group Allied Progress and shared with Salon.

The 2018 filing shows that the couple put $5 million into the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation while doling out more than $11.6 million in contributions and pledges. As in previous years, much of the funding went to Christian charities and local initiatives in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the couple’s home. But more than $1 million went to supposedly independent right-wing think tanks and groups like the American Enterprise Institute and the National Review Institute, which have heaped praise on Secretary DeVos and helped promote her agenda.

“Secretary DeVos is effectively funding an outside propaganda operation to help her bash teachers’ unions and promote private voucher schemes that undermine public education,” said Jeremy Funk, communications director for Allied Progress, a nonpartisan watchdog organization.

Upstart network seeks to outfox Fox, but media experts say it presents an ethical challenge.

Upstart conservative network One America News’ decision to turn over three hours this week to Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories gleaned from his trip to Ukraine found a receptive audience in the White House — less so in major newsrooms and TV studios.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said Wednesday that Giuliani brought back “dirt of questionable credibility” from his trip with a reporter from a “far-right fringe cable channel.” On MSNBC, national security correspondent Ken Dilanian said Giuliani floated a “bogus conspiracy theory” about Joe Biden on OAN, a network “which makes Fox News look like PBS.” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake labeled the OAN series “a stunning piece of propaganda.”

But for much of the media world, OAN’s decision to give Giuliani a direct role in preparing its Ukraine report presents a troubling ethical development in the media landscape. Where once opinion shows began supplanting traditional news, now openly partisan content — presented largely unfiltered by the president’s personal attorney — is seeking to supplant content that’s opinionated but still independent.

NBC News
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., blamed Republicans for choosing party over country to defend President Trump in the impeachment inquiry.

By Ariane de Vogue, Ted Barrett and Dan Berman, CNN

Washington (CNN) While the rest of Washington focused on impeachment proceedings Wednesday, Mitch McConnell successfully pressed forward on a subject that has been the one knockout success for the Republican Senate and President Donald Trump: judges. Wednesday afternoon, the Senate majority leader forced a deal with Democrats to expedite 11 federal district judge nominations. McConnell's thrust is emblematic of what he sees as his crowning achievement. So far, he has led the charge changing the landscape of the federal courts across the country with a record number of appellate court judges -- currently at 50 -- and Supreme Court nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. "My motto for the remainder of this Congress is 'leave no vacancy behind,'" McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday.

McConnell had scheduled procedural votes on nominees coming roughly every two hours. Two votes were held Wednesday before the agreement was reached to speed things along with 11 consecutive votes in the late afternoon. Final votes to confirm the nominees have not yet been scheduled. The threat of keeping senators in extra days or through the weekend is a tactic as old as time, but nevertheless usually yields results. Previous deals cutting short debate and allowing nominees to be approved so senators can go home for recess have been met with liberal unhappiness, however. Two deals reached last year allowed senators to return home to their states during the middle of the re-election campaign, but in the end it was Democratic incumbents who lost, giving the Republicans the stronger 53-47 majority they enjoy today. - McConnell stole Obama supreme court pick and now is stacking the courts with rightwing judges who are not qualified for the job.

By Jason Lemon

Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush's administration, warned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has acted in a "corrupt" manner and has "rigged" a potential Senate trial for President Donald Trump.

McConnell last Thursday told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would be working closely with White House counsel in the increasingly likely event of a Senate trial following a vote of impeachment in the House of Representatives. "I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers," the Republican from Kentucky asserted.

As a result, many Democrats – and some conservatives – have criticized McConnell for openly announcing his intent to violate the oath he, along with other senators, will be required to take ahead of the trial. That oath explicitly states that the lawmakers "will do impartial justice according to the Constitution."

   This is not about partisan politics. I have taken on corrupt Democrats including Minnesota’s DFL Party bosses. But the conduct of @senatemajldr in this impeachment trial is corrupt and partisan beyond the pale. The GOP will not survive if this continues.
   — Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 16, 2019

   This is about the rule of law, not partisanship. I am an independent and am a critic of corrupt Democrats as well as Republicans here in Minnesota and elsewhere. For me the facts are clear: ⁦@senatemajldr⁩ has this impeachment trial rigged. https://t.co/Vf6eLfq0GW
   — Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 16, 2019

Think about it. He won’t produce any information demanded by Congress. He won’t let anyone working for him talk to Congress.

More importantly, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is in a position where he could have the president acquitted almost immediately. Atty. Gen. William Barr won’t allow investigations aside from the ones that Trump wants. The judiciary is being stacked with judges who favor the president.

Our government is being turned into a rubber stamp for Trump.

Allan Gerson, Encino

By David Smith

As the GOP counter-offensive runs on fake news and conspiracy theories, critics say truth itself is under attack “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” George Orwell wrote in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. “If that is granted, all else follows.” The pro-Donald Trump industrial complex has not yet denied basic arithmetic. But as impeachment looms, his allies appear to be waging an increasingly frantic political and media counter-offensive that puts truth itself in the dock.

A bewildering array of fake news, warped facts and conspiracy theories have been propagated in the past week by conservative media, Republican politicians, White House officials and the president in his own defence. It is, commentators say, a concerted disinformation war, intended to crowd out damaging revelations as the House of Representatives prepares its ultimate sanction.

“The more facts come out, the more desperate they get,” said Kurt Bardella, a former spokesman and senior adviser on the House oversight committee. “They know in a debate centred on facts, truth and reality, they lose. Their only mechanism to survive is to muddy the waters, distort, distract and hope if they repeat lies often enough, they become real.”

But Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and author of Everything Trump Touches Dies, said: “I’m not surprised at Ted Cruz being sycophantic to Trump. Trump broke Ted Cruz a long time ago. The Republicans have the worst political Stockholm syndrome we’ve ever seen. “These guys are all in an abusive relationship with Trump. I don’t mean that in a flippant way. They behave the way you see victims of domestic violence behave. But they’ve got culpability in this thing: they’re not just victims, they’re enablers.”

By Courtney Subramanian USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Former White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill warned House lawmakers last month not to buy into the "fictional narrative" that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

This week, FBI Director Christopher Wray sought to debunk the theory of election meddling by Ukraine. "We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election," Wray told ABC in an interview that aired on Monday.

Yet several Republican senators, who will serve as jurors in a likely impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, have pushed the notion of Ukrainian meddling. The strategy, experts said, was to sow enough doubts about Ukraine's actions to build a case that Trump's pressure on the country stemmed from legitimate policy concerns, and was not part of a politically motivated shakedown, as Democrats contend.

Several Republican senators have echoed Trump in saying someone should look into claims that Kyiv interfered in the 2016 election, but most have not gone as far as the president and Giuliani in alleging a widespread effort to intervene. Instead, many GOP senators have couched their comments by saying they have "questions" about Ukraine's actions.

By Greg Sargent Opinion writer

It has often been observed that one of President Trump’s biggest allies in the impeachment battle is Fox News — that if Richard Nixon had enjoyed the benefit of such a powerful purveyor of propaganda, he wouldn’t have been driven from office. You could not ask for a clearer indication of this than the interview that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just gave to Sean Hannity about Trump’s coming trial.

The interview showcases how Trump’s propagandists have succeeded in creating a universe that is as hermetically sealed off from this scandal’s widely and firmly established set of facts as one half of a divided cell is from the other. In this universe, it’s simultaneously the case that everything Trump said on his corrupt call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was absolutely fine and that the key elements of Trump’s pressure on Zelensky simply never happened.

And in this universe, it’s not just fully understood that Trump’s acquittal is assured in advance and that the trial will be gamed to Trump’s maximum benefit. It’s also understood that this is how it should be. Indeed, the interview appears designed to reassure audiences of all this.

That was plainly evident in McConnell’s quotes about how this process will unfold. As McConnell said:

Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.

McConnell also said:

We’ll be working through this process ... in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people representing the president in the well of the Senate.

Many have sharply criticized McConnell for telegraphing that the trial will be gamed in advance to assure Trump’s acquittal and to make it as politically painless as possible. - Mitch McConnell is violating his oath of office it is to the constitution not to Trump.

By Greg Sargent

If Mitch McConnell goes through with his reported plan to hold a sham impeachment trial that acquits President Trump without calling witnesses, it will provide the perfect coda for the corrupt and farcical way Trump’s defenders have handled this saga all throughout.

In so doing, the Senate majority leader and other assorted Trump propagandists will be unabashedly enshrining their position as follows: We’ve already decided in advance that the full facts will not persuade us to turn on Trump, no matter how damning they are, so why should we listen to them at all?

This is how Trump’s defenders actually view the situation — and the awful implications of this should not be sugar-coated.

Yet the scheme may not prove as easy to get away with as they think. Handled properly, Democrats can use it to demonstrate that Republicans themselves know Trump’s substantive defenses are weak and his corruption is indefensible — and vividly show how Republicans are functioning as Trump’s full-blown accomplices.

Donald Trump’s allies are making an alarming argument in his impeachment defense.
By Jonathan Bernstein

Members of the House judiciary committee spent Wednesday night making opening statements in a hearing about two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstructing Congress — against President Donald Trump. Was there breaking news? Nope. But it was quite interesting anyway.

The Democrats were mostly matter-of-fact. Again and again, they pounded away at the basic facts of the case — that Trump had used public policy for private gain by pressuring Ukraine to announce corruption investigations that would help him win re-election in 2020. There was very little general Trump-bashing. That served as a rejoinder to Republican claims that the whole process is all about a party that hates the president; the Democrats didn’t sound like a bunch of haters Tuesday night.

A few tried framing impeachment within their own life stories, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Pramila Jayapal, Hakeem Jeffries and Hank Johnson all gave strong efforts, although no one threatened the gold standard for impeachment oratory. The biggest disappointment for Democrats must’ve been that they failed to capture the media’s attention: None of the broadcast networks aired the prime-time session live.

As for the Republicans? They had one sort-of reasonable argument: that Democrats are rushing to finish the impeachment proceedings on an arbitrary schedule. On the charge of obstructing Congress, they also reasonably contended that Trump is within his rights to assert privileges and fight for them in the courts. But it went rapidly downhill after that. Republicans claimed that Democrats so loathe the president that they’d impeach him regardless of the facts, which is an easy way to avoid the record in front of them but suffers from the logical flaw that if Democrats actually didn’t care about the facts, they would’ve impeached Trump long ago over the Russia scandal or emoluments or how he wears his ties.

Then there was a series of attacks on Representative Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee. Republicans are still complaining that his committee took depositions in private, even though transcripts were later released and most of the witnesses subsequently gave public testimony. And yes, they’re still complaining that Schiff paraphrased the president one time, and (a new one) that he gave a lot of documents to them before the last hearing. All this was meant to demonstrate that Schiff is the one actually obstructing Congress. I’m paraphrasing — horrors! — but it didn’t make much sense in the original either.

GOP lawmakers have treated the hearings like Fox New segments, delivering loud, rambling monologues in a deliberate attempt to wear down participants and viewers.
By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

If there’s one thing we’ve seen consistently from Republicans during the past few weeks of congressional impeachment hearings, it’s yelling.

The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump have been drafted and the process is now moving steadily towards a vote in the House. But GOP lawmakers, especially GOP men, aren't going down quietly. Perhaps Democratic Coalition’s Jon Cooper put it best when he tweeted Monday, “Why is Doug Collins always yelling?” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie pointed out a similar phenomenon, noting that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was "yelling about whether the rules of the hearing are, in fact, the rules of the hearing.”

Why is Doug Collins ALWAYS yelling? 😫pic.twitter.com/p8s0Ti5Kix
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) December 9, 2019

Indeed, in observing my former House GOP comrades over the many days of contentious House hearings, I am reminded of a scene from the classic Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” where the famed (and fictional) Channel 4 News team angrily confronts its news director over the hiring of a female reporter. In the scene, several of the male journalists take turns yelling their opposition to the addition. Steve Carell’s character, Brick Tamland, isn’t really smart enough to have a critique but wishing to be included, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”

Mitch McConnell plans to rush through a fake trial to a quick acquittal. So why did Democrats rush impeachment?
By Amanda Marcotte

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows Donald Trump is guilty. He just doesn't care — McConnell plans to cover it up and doesn't even really care how obvious that is All that was made clear from an article published late Wednesday in the Washington Post, in which Senate Republicans admitted that the plan is to rubber-stamp their acquittal of Trump, and their lack of desire to even try to dignify this travesty of justice by pretending to hold a real impeachment trial, as the Constitution demands. Senate Republicans want to hold "a short impeachment trial early next year that would include no witnesses," the article explains, because they believe "it would be better to limit the trial and quickly vote to acquit Trump."

The reason they believe this is no mystery, of course. As the impeachment hearings in front of the House have showed, Trump looks guiltier with every minute of discussion on his scheme to blackmail Ukrainian leadership into falsely branding his presumed 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, as a crook. Even when Republicans called witnesses during the impeachment hearings, those witnesses ended up giving testimony that made Trump look worse. When the GOP called a legal "expert" to critique the impeachment process his testimony was a confusing mishmash that only made the pro-impeachment witnesses look stronger.

Trump radiates guilt at every moment and with every public statement. So the only way for McConnell to conceal his guilt is to throw a blanket over the whole thing. Continuing to argue about it, even through the Republican methods of throwing tantrums and creating distractions, isn't really working — Trump's behavior pierces through all the noise like a laser stream of pure, red hot guilt. Looking away and refusing to discuss it as much as humanly possible is the best available option for Republicans. Trump was reportedly interested in staging a big spectacle in the Senate trial, and calling Hunter Biden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the original Ukraine whistleblower and who knows who else. For once, Republicans may defy him, but only to safeguard his presidency.

American conservatives who find themselves identifying with Putin’s regime refuse to see the country for what it actually is.
By Anne Applebaum

Sherwood Eddy was a prominent American missionary as well as that now rare thing, a Christian socialist. In the 1920s and ’30s, he made more than a dozen trips to the Soviet Union. He was not blind to the problems of the U.S.S.R., but he also found much to like. In place of squabbling, corrupt democratic politicians, he wrote in one of his books on the country, “Stalin rules … by his sagacity, his honesty, his rugged courage, his indomitable will and titanic energy.” Instead of the greed he found so pervasive in America, Russians seemed to him to be working for the joy of working.

Above all, though, he thought he had found in Russia something that his own individualistic society lacked: a “unified philosophy of life.” In Russia, he wrote, “all life is focused in a central purpose. It is directed to a single high end and energized by such powerful and glowing motivation that life seems to have supreme significance.”

Eddy was wrong about much of what he saw. Joseph Stalin was a liar and a mass murderer; Russians worked because they were hungry and afraid. The “unified philosophy of life” was a chimera, and the reality was a totalitarian state that used terror and propaganda to maintain that unity. But Eddy, like others in his era, was predisposed to admire the Soviet Union precisely because he was so critical of the economics and politics of his own country, Depression-era America. In this, he was not alone.

By David Shortell, Evan Perez and Josh Campbell, CNN

Washington (CNN) Some federal law enforcement officials are warning of a chilling effect inside the FBI amid attacks by President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr over the bureau's handling of the Russia investigation.

Current and former FBI officials tell CNN they're concerned that the harsh rhetoric coming from Trump and Barr has only worsened the bureau's already tenuous standing with the President, leaving them wondering whether federal agents could be less aggressive the next time they have to pursue a sensitive investigation.

"We're constantly told to be agile and use all the legal tools available to us," said one FBI employee who works on counterintelligence matters. "But who is going to risk sticking their neck out now only to have DOJ chop it off?"

Barr this week seized on findings in a blockbuster inspector general report to scold the FBI for using "intrusive" tools with only "flimsy" evidence, and he questioned whether they'd been motivated by bias. Those attacks were particularly noteworthy given that the report found no evidence of bias or improper motivation in the FBI's decisions to use counterintelligence techniques. The report did however point out serious mistakes and mishandling of evidence by the FBI.

New Day
Fox News hosts are offering their own interpretation of the FBI report recently released by the Department of Justice Inspector General.

New Day
CNN's John Avlon takes a look at Attorney General Bill Barr and if he acts more as a personal attorney for the President or the Attorney General.

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — Want another example of how Attorney General William Barr has provided fodder for those who say he’s acted more like the president’s personal attorney than the nation’s chief law-enforcement official?

Here’s Barr’s interview with NBC’s Pete Williams, in which Barr calls the Trump campaign’s links to Russia in 2016 a “completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press.”

So what was happening in the final months of the 2016 election?

June 9: Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner meet with a Kremlin-connected lawyer after Donald Trump Jr. was told that the Russian government had dirt on Hillary Clinton:"If it's what you say, I love it," Trump Jr. writes about the promise of dirt on Clinton.

July 27: Candidate Trump himself asks Russia for assistance in the 2016 election: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." (On that same day, Russian intelligence – for the first time -- tries to gain access to Hillary Clinton's emails/server, per Robert Mueller's indictments on July 13, 2018.)

Aug. 15: A Trump campaign associate – Roger Stone – communicates with Russian intelligence: "On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, 'thank u for writing back … do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs I posted,’” per Mueller’s indictments on July 13, 2018.

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.

The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Did Bill Barr just signal to the police to turn America into a very dangerous place? Sam Seder and the Majority Report crew discuss this.

US POLITICS NEWS - Synopsis: I’m Calling For An Impeachment Inquiry Into William Barr’s Long Line Of Cover Ups For Trump
While Congress has never impeached a sitting US attorney general, the facts emerging from the national security whistleblower complaint have raised calls for Barr’s recusal from any involvement in DOJ actions around it. But while recusal is necessary, it is also insufficient.

By Bill McCarthy, Amy Sherman, Miriam Valverde

Congressional Republicans argue that President Donald Trump did nothing wrong related to Ukraine and his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. They released a 123-page report on the impeachment inquiry to counter the majority report by the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee, which the Judiciary Committee will likely use to craft articles of impeachment. The Republican report argues that the impeachment inquiry led by Democrats is merely "their obsession with re-litigating the results of the 2016 presidential election."

We found that the GOP report omits key facts and relevant testimony related to the inquiry. Here’s a look at six points in the report that needed a fact-check or additional context.

Claim: There’s no evidence that Trump directed anyone to pressure Ukraine

"The impeachment inquiry has uncovered no clear evidence that President Trump directed Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and Secretary Perry to work with Mayor Giuliani for the purpose of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival." This claim is directly contradicted by testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland testified that he, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, worked with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani "on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president."

Claim: The whistleblower report was misleading

The whistleblower complaint contained "inaccurate and misleading information."

This ignores that the whistleblower complaint has been backed up by the released summary of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky as well as the public testimony during the impeachment hearings. The complaint said that when Trump spoke with Zelensky on July 25, he pressured Zelensky to initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of Biden and his son, Hunter. The readout of the call released by the White House shows Trump stating, "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it." Trump and his allies have spread the falsehood that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor for investigating Hunter Biden’s company, but that is not supported by evidence.

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.

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