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GOP Watch Keeping an Eye on Republicans for You - Page 22
“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.

Deadline White House
The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes on the lengths congressional Republicans are going to in order to protect Donald Trump

The 11 Hour
U.S. intelligence officials say that it was Russia who hacked the DNC in the 2016 elections, but some Republicans are still using a favorite talking point of the Kremlin to suggest it could have been Ukraine. Philip Rucker reacts.

John Kennedy and Roger Wicker’s comments are a taste of what’s to come during a Senate trial.
By Aaron Rupar

The consensus conclusion of the US intelligence community is that the Russian government was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 election. This finding was affirmed by a bipartisan Senate investigation and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who in painstaking detail laid out how Russian intelligence officers helped Trump not only through hacks, but also with the ensuing WikiLeaks anti-Clinton propaganda campaign featuring the emails stolen during those hacks.

Nonetheless, nearly three years after the US intelligence community first announced this consensus conclusion, Republicans senators are publicly trying to gaslight people about what happened in 2016 by insisting that purported — but in reality nonexistent — Ukrainian election interference is just as concerning as what Russia did. Their aim appears to be twofold: justifying the conspiracy theories Trump tried to leverage the Ukrainian government into investigating (and that are at the heart of the House’s impeachment inquiry), and drawing into question whether Trump actually benefitted from foreign interference. “I’m saying that Ms. Hill is entitled to her opinion”

That Republican senators are choosing this moment to push unfounded Ukrainian interference conspiracy theories is particularly galling in light of Russia expert and former National Security Council official Fiona Hill’s testimony before impeachment investigators last Thursday. Hill used her opening statement to attack Republicans for indulging in unfounded conspiracy theories. She described the Ukrainian interference notion as “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” adding, “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a US adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) discusses call records between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. A Nunes spokesman did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

TV host doubles down on support for Putin after ‘joking’ about ‘rooting for Russia’ last week
By Conrad Dunca

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has backed Russia over Ukraine for the second time in a week and suggested some US journalists hate America more than Vladimir Putin. Mr Carlson said the US should “probably take the side of Russia” in a dispute between Mr Putin’s country and Ukraine, even though Ukraine is a US ally.

On Monday night, Republican congressman Jim Jordan denied suggestions that Donald Trump is helping Russia by pointing out that the Trump administration has placed sanctions on the country. However, the Fox News presenter quickly replied that he “totally opposed” those sanctions.

“I should say for the record, I’m totally opposed to these sanctions and I don’t think we should be at war with Russia… I think we should probably take the side of Russia, uh, if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,” he said. Last Monday, Mr Carlson said on his primetime TV show that he was “rooting for Russia” in the conflict with Ukraine, before walking back that comment as a joke later in the episode. His support for Russia on yesterday’s show, which included a segment defending Mr Putin, did not come with that clarification.

By Paul Vercammen and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) Rep. Duncan Hunter -- who is accused of illegally dipping into campaign funds to pay for vacations, video games and more -- will plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday, CNN confirmed on Monday. "I'm going to change my plea to guilty," Hunter said in an interview with CNN affiliate KUSI. One of Hunter's attorneys, Devin Burstein, confirmed to CNN on Monday afternoon that the plea will be guilty. "I think it's important that people know that I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money," Hunter said. "I am responsible for my campaign and what happens to my campaign money," he added.

Citing the reasons for his change of heart, Hunter said, "I think it's important not to have a trial for three reasons and those three reasons are my kids." Hunter had long denied he had misused any campaign funds, despite federal prosecutors charging he had fraudulently spent more than $200,000 on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation and thousands of dollars on routine items like groceries, bedding and other household items. Hunter's forthcoming guilty plea comes months after his wife, Margaret, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring with her husband to "knowingly and willingly" convert campaign funds for personal use and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Hunter had initially blamed his wife for the alleged campaign fund abuses, saying she was the one handling his finances. "She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did that'll be looked at too, I'm sure," he said on Fox News in August 2018.

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.

Cuomo Prime Time
CNN's Chris Cuomo breaks down the four debunked GOP-backed conspiracy theories concerning Ukraine and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Legislative paralysis gripped Capitol Hill well before impeachment started.
By Ella Nilsen

There’s a pervasive sense of legislative paralysis gripping Capitol Hill. And it’s been there long before the impeachment inquiry began.

For months, President Donald Trump has fired off tweet missives accusing House Democrats of “getting nothing done in Congress,” and being consumed with impeachment.

Trump may want to look to the Republican-controlled Senate instead. Democrats in the House have been passing bills at a rapid clip; as of November 15, the House has passed nearly 400 bills, not including resolutions. But the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee estimates 80 percent of those bill have hit a snag in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is prioritizing confirming judges over passing bills.

Congress has passed just 70 bills into law this year. Granted, it still has one more year in its term, but the number pales in comparison to recent past sessions of Congress, which typically see anywhere from 300-500 bills passed in two years (and that is even a diminished number from the 700-800 bills passed in the 1970s and 1980s).

Ten of those 70 bills this year have been renaming federal post offices or Veterans Affairs facilities, and many others are related to appropriations or extending programs like the National Flood Insurance or the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

This has led to House Democrats decrying McConnell’s so-called “legislative graveyard,” a moniker the Senate majority leader has proudly adopted. McConnell calls himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation he derides as socialist, but many of the bills that never see the Senate floor are bipartisan issues, like a universal background check bill, net neutrality, and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

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.

Not content with rhetorical support for Trump, Nunes may have met with a former (and highly corrupt) Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss the effort to vilify Joe Biden.

By Charlie Sykes, editor-at-large of the Bulwark and an MSNBC contributor

At last Thursday’s impeachment hearing, Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump's former top adviser on Russia and Europe, had a very direct message for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Her comments came the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin had boasted at an event in Moscow: “Thank God no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

In effect that was also a shoutout to Nunes. As Trump’s loyal attack ferret on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has continually pushed the same debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine, the Democratic National Committee and CrowdStrike that the Russians have apparently worked so diligently to spread. Indeed, Nunes has become the de facto face of the GOP defense of Trump, in all of its bizarre contempt for facts, its willingness to ignore and defame witnesses and its zeal to defend the president at all costs — including actively colluding with efforts to dig up dirt on his political opponents.

As Hill sat in front of Nunes, the former national security aide made it clear she would not be playing his game. “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) A clear divide was on display this week in Washington. On one side were the nine witnesses -- all of whom are current or former Trump administration officials. This group was dealing in something called facts. Texts. WhatsApp messages. Contemporaneous notes from phone calls and meetings. Released rough transcripts. Eyewitness testimony.

Those facts all painted a very similar picture: A concerted effort -- from a number of senior officials including President Donald Trump -- to force Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House. When the investigation was not publicly announced, nearly $400 million in US security aid for Ukraine was held up as a way to lever up the pressure on Zelensky to do what Trump wanted.

Briefed by American intelligence officials in recent weeks on Russia’s untrue smear campaign against Ukraine, Republicans continue to push the story
By Peter Wade

For years now, Russia has sought to frame Ukraine for its own actions interfering with the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times reported, citing three American officials. And, despite being briefed on Russia’s efforts, some in Congress are pushing these conspiracy theories, as seen in Republicans’ questions and speeches during the impeachment hearings.

The White House’s former top Russia advisor, Fiona Hill, backed up the intelligence community’s assertion in her impeachment testimony on Thursday, saying, “Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Fiona Hill addressed Republican members of Congress promoting the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election: "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves." pic.twitter.com/1czUtCeWVT

— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 21, 2019

According to the Times, beginning in 2017, Russian intelligence agents spread misinformation that Ukraine was behind the 2016 election hacking, mixing facts — that a very small number Ukranians did try to stop Trump from being elected — with blatant conspiracy theories. These agents, trying to mask the source of this smear campaign, then used oligarchs and businessmen as intermediaries to spread the information to American politicians and journalists. American intelligence officials have briefed senators and their aides on this very issue in recent weeks.

But the success of the Russian smear campaign was evident in the impeachment inquiry hearings where Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes, and backed up by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, were clearly ignoring intelligence officials’ warnings and pushing the conspiracy theories. Full Story

He thinks he’s owning the libs. He’s really owning himself.
By Aaron Rupar

On two separate occasions during Tuesday’s impeachment hearings, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA) derisively referred to the impeachment inquiry as a “drug deal” — a turn of phrase meant to depict Democrats as being up to something illicit.

   For the second time today, Devin Nunes obliviously refers to the impeachment inquiry as a "drug deal" -- the exact turn of phrase John Bolton used to describe Sondland and Mulvaney working to leverage Ukraine into doing political favors for Trump pic.twitter.com/PJeaRu5RHX
   — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 19, 2019

The comment is part of Republicans’ broader push to portray the entire impeachment inquiry as a partisan witch hunt. But while Nunes may think that by saying this he’s owning the libs, he’s actually owning himself.

“Drug deal,” if you recall, was the memorable turn of phrase then-National Security Adviser John Bolton originally used to describe the efforts of US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani to leverage the Ukrainian government into doing political favors for Trump.

My colleague Alex Ward detailed the backdrop of Bolton’s “drug dealer” remark late last month, when news broke that Bolton was in talks to testify before impeachment investigators. And suffice it to say the context doesn’t reflect positively on Trump’s Ukraine policy:

   In her testimony last week, former National Security Council Director for European Affairs Fiona Hill recounted a July 10 meeting with senior Ukrainian officials that she, Bolton, and US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland attended. Per her statements, Sondland brought up the investigation, leaving those in the room with no doubt that he wanted the Ukrainians to look into the Bidens.

   Bolton afterward told Hill to speak with top NSC lawyer John Eisenberg about his own discomfort with what Sondland said and the Ukraine plan he, Giuliani, and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney were executing.

   “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton told Hill, according to the New York Times reported last week. Apparently, Bolton was already upset at Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, for leading his own policy to Ukraine outside official channels. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Hill recalled Bolton saying in a previous conversation. Full Story

Perhaps the grossest moment of the impeachment hearings to date.
By Zack Beauchamp

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the key witnesses in the House Democrats’ impeachment hearings, is an Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient who has served in the US Army for the past 20 years. He also emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1979, when he was 4 years old — a fact that the attorney for House Republicans played on during a line of questioning during Vindman’s Tuesday morning’s hearing that seemed to imply he was unpatriotic and untrustworthy.

Vindman is important because he was a high-level US official on Ukraine who listened to President Donald Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and, afterward, raised concerns with his superiors about the appropriateness of Trump’s “demand” (his words) that Ukraine investigate the Bidens. As a veteran, he’s one of the Democrats’ most credible witnesses — proof that Trump’s behavior really was troubling. It’s vital for the Republican cause to discredit him.

Steve Castor, the Republican attorney, tried to do this by asking Vindman about a visit to Ukraine for Zelensky’s inauguration earlier this year. He specifically focused on a job offer Vindman received from Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. Apparently, Danylyuk offered Vindman an opportunity to become Ukraine’s defense minister three times during the trip — and, each time, Vindman declined.

“Upon returning, I notified chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this, the offer,” Vindman said. But Castor wasn’t satisfied. He continued to press Vindman on whether he ever considered the offer, resulting in an exchange in which he appeared to call Vindman’s patriotism into question: Full Story

The same people who drove the hoax that used foreign policy as an instrument to punish a domestic political opponent are now running Trump’s impeachment defense.
By Joel Rubin
House Republicans have a history of twisting facts to create a circus during congressional hearings; it’s a feature, not a bug for them. But in a taste of sweet irony, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch subtly flipped the script during the impeachment hearings Friday, using her opening statement to name her colleagues who were killed in Benghazi and subsequently used as political props to attack the Obama administration’s State Department. Speaking of the department, she said: “We are Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Patrick Smith, Ty Woods, and Glen Doherty—people rightly called heroes for their ultimate sacrifice to this nation's foreign policy interests in Libya, eight years ago. We honor these individuals. They represent each one of you here—and every American. These courageous individuals were attacked because they symbolized America.”

The Benghazi hearings were a new low for House Republicans, who turned a national tragedy into a political circus focused on bringing down a Democratic presidential candidate. Those hearings were never about what happened in Libya, and how to prevent future tragedies—as Kevin McCarthy publicly bragged at the time. They were about smearing Hillary Clinton so that she would lose in 2016. And it worked.

That why House Republicans and Donald Trump are trying to do the same thing to Joe Biden in 2020. The same people who drove the Benghazi hoax are now running Trump’s impeachment defense: Mike Pompeo, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Devin Nunes, Lindsey Graham, and Mick Mulvaney. Only now, instead of backbenchers, they’re party stars in large part because of their political success with the Benghazi hearings. The lesson they learned is that politicizing American foreign policy at the expense of the country’s national security in order to win an election is a time-tested strategy. At the core of this shameless abuse of our national security is the mistreatment of an American ambassador.

In the case of Chris Stevens, with whom I worked and who was beloved by the career State Department personnel, it was these Republicans who convened nine congressional investigations for multiple years to uncover zero scandal about his and three other Americans’ horrendous murder, except for mundane, unfortunate, and fixable bureaucratic mismanagement. Unsatisfied, they then formed the Benghazi Select Committee to find the scandal that they wanted but that didn’t exist.

And when they created the Select Committee, dozens of State Department witnesses were called to testify. All of them came, never compelled to do so by subpoena or in defiance of a White House order to not appear. I should know, as I was one of them. Not once did anyone even remotely suggest that I not comply. In the Obama Administration, we understood that Congress had a critical constitutional role to play in the functioning of our democratic government, no matter what it’s motivations. We just didn’t understand how deeply corrupted House Republican’s intentions were.

Their willingness to smear State Department personnel had no boundaries. Which leads us to impeachment today, and the hypocritical mistreatment of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. She has been smeared by the president’s allies and the president himself, and left unprotected by the current Secretary of State–the same Mike Pompeo who, when in Congress, had eviscerated the Obama State Department for not preventing Ambassador Stevens’ killing. Pompeo’s actions back then, as now, make it clear that he prioritized politics over national security. Full Story
CNN -Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said that in all of her interactions with President Trump, he was a truthful person. CNN's Anderson Cooper breaks down her claim on 'The Ridiculist.' Video

CNN - CNN's Jake Tapper examines the political evolution of Sen. Lindsey Graham as his messages surrounding impeachment and President Donald Trump change. Video

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) - With a series of damning closed-door hearings behind them and public hearings into the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump set to start later this week, Republicans have fixated on a very strange idea: We have to know who the whistleblower is! "I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn't allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid because without the whistleblower complaint we wouldn't be talking about any of this," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) on Fox News on Sunday.

That echoes what Trump himself has been saying for weeks now. "Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called 'Whistleblower,' represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way," he tweeted at the end of September. The logic behind this we-have-to-know-and-meet-the-whistleblower-or-this-whole-thing-is-a-sham argument is both deeply flawed and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the whistleblower system actually works.

So, let's start there. When the whistleblower filed his or her eight-page complaint alleging, among other things, that Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensksky to look into unproven allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, on a July 25 phone call, it was the start of an investigation, not the end of one. Whistleblowers, in corporate America and government, provide leads for investigators to look into. They are the start of an investigative process, not the end of one.

What comes next is an attempt by investigators -- Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission etc. -- to corroborate the allegations made by the whistleblower. Are they simply a disgruntled employee trying to settle a score? Or are they someone with real and valid concerns centered around provable facts? What's become clear over the six weeks between the whistleblower complaint becoming public in September and this week's set of public hearings is that the whistleblower knew what they were talking about. Full Story

By Rachel Sandler

Topline: Some right-wing news outlets and conservative circles in Washington—including Donald Trump Jr.—are actively trying to spread the identity of the alleged impeachment whistleblower, while major news outlets decline to publish the name amid concerns for the whistleblower’s safety.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tweeted a link on Wednesday to a Breitbart article that named the alleged whistleblower, immediately drawing criticism that he was putting the whistleblower in danger (Trump Jr.’s tweet also included the name of the alleged whistleblower).

Right-wing outlets, including Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, have been circulating the name of the alleged whistleblower since last week, citing an October 30 Real Clear Investigations report that included a name and photo of the alleged whistleblower. Executives at Fox News, though, have instructed hosts not to name the whistleblower, CNN reported.

Real Clear Investigations is an offshoot of RealClearPolitics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom. (RealClearPolitics did not immediately respond to request for comment from Forbes.)

With the exception of Real Clear Investigations, major news outlets (including Forbes) have published scant details about the whistleblower, according to Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi, because of “several factors: concerns that revealing the name could jeopardize the whistleblower’s safety; legal questions about whether the whistleblower’s identity is protected by federal law; and potential adverse public reaction to such a disclosure.”

Both Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, and the Associated Press added that the identity of the whistleblower is almost a moot point because a call transcript released by the White House and on-the-record testimony from top administration officials have confirmed much of what the whistleblower alleged.

Trump Jr. dismissed the outrage, saying in a follow-up tweet: “Are they going to pretend that his name hasn’t been in the public domain for weeks now? Numerous people & news outlets including Real Clear Politics already ID’d him.”
While whistleblowers have some protections under federal law, there is no statute stopping the president or a member of Congress from revealing their name.

Key background: While RealClearPolitics is the only nonpartisan outlet to reveal the name of the whistleblower, the New York Times in September published some details about him, including the fact that he is a male CIA officer who was detailed to work at the White House. Since then, other outlets have corroborated the New York Times but have not published additional details.

Meanwhile, Trump himself and some members of Congress, including senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, have called on the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed, with Graham, according to the Associated Press, saying Wednesday that, “Nobody should be prosecuted based on an anonymous accusation.” Earlier this month, Trump called the whistleblower a “spy” working to undermine his administration. Full Story

Washington Post

Over the past month, House Republicans and Fox News personalities have echoed each other’s talking points, decrying the impeachment inquiry as a “Soviet-style” process. Video Read more: https://wapo.st/2CfobnF.


Kellyanne Conway has a supernatural ability to derail any interview that paints Donald Trump in a negative light. How does she do it? Watching Conway do backflips to avoid answering simple questions is fascinating and occasionally entertaining, but it doesn’t provide viewers with useful information about what the Trump administration is doing or intends to do. And it should raise questions about what the purpose of interviewing an administration official actually is. Video
Outing “the whistleblower” is the most egregious, but certainly not the only, example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading the fight against impeachment. They love “their” Trump.
By Julia Davis

Standing beside an approving Donald Trump at a rally in Kentucky on Monday night, Republican Sen. Rand Paul demanded the media unmask the whistleblower whose report about the president’s alleged abuse of power dealing with Ukraine sparked impeachment proceedings.American news organizations resisted the pressure, but—in a 2019 re-play of “Russia, if you’re listening”—Kremlin-controlled state media promptly jumped on it.

Shortly after Sen. Paul tweeted out an article that speculated in considerable detail about the identity of the whistleblower—with a photograph, a name, and details about the purported political history of a CIA professional—Russian state media followed suit. As if on cue, the Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information. But unlike Rand Paul, one of the Russian state media outlets didn’t seem to find the source—Real Clear Investigations—to be particularly impressive, and claimed falsely that the material was published originally by The Washington Post.

This was the most egregious, but certainly not the only example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading for Trump’s fight against impeachment as proceedings against him unfold with growing speed. As a chorus of talking heads on Fox News have picked up on Trump’s talking points, which is predictable—they’ve also been echoed across the pond, albeit with a tinge of irony. “Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?” asked Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the television show Evening with Vladimir Soloviev.

“When they say that Trump is weakening the United States—yes, he is. And that’s why we love him.”
— Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a prominent fixture on Russian state television

Russian experts, government officials, and prominent talking heads often deride the American president for his Twitter clangor, haphazard approach to foreign policy, clownish lack of decorum, and unfiltered stream of verbalized consciousness. But all the reasons they believe Trump “isn’t a very good president” for America are precisely their reasons for thinking he is so great for Russia.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian client whose regime teetered on the brink of collapse only to be saved definitively by Trump’s chaotic approach to the Middle East, recently said that “President Trump is the best type of president for a foe.” The Russians heartily agree. The Trump presidency has been wildly successful for Russia, which is eagerly stepping into every vacuum created by the retreat of the United States on the world stage. Full Story

Advocacy groups worry efforts to purge voters are targeted attacks to suppress legal access to ballot
By Clark Mindock

A planned purge of 300,000 names from voting rolls in Georgia has advocates concerned that efforts to slash access to the ballot could re-emerge as a major issue heading into 2020. The purge was announced this past week by officials in the state, who cast the effort as a routine part of ensuring that voting rolls are up to date, and that individuals who have died or moved away are no longer capable of voting in the state. The figure amounts to roughly 4 per cent of the registered voters in the state, which gained notoriety for alleged voter intimidation in 2018 that may have directly impacted the results of the governor’s race.

This is “a routine process that every state does,” said Walter Jones, a spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state’s voter education programme. Voters identified by the purge will now receive a letter to their last known address, and must respond using one of several forms of communication to ensure they remain on the ballot. Mr Jones claimed that these purges have occurred for years, and that they are overseen by Democratic and Republican establishments. But advocates are wary of the efforts, especially after the 2018 election in which now-governor Brian Kemp beat out Democrat Stacey Abrams by 1.4 per cent of the vote – a slim margin in the state. 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

Rep. Louie Gohmert dropped the name during a public hearing while Rand Paul shared it with millions on Twitter
By Igor Derysh

Republican lawmakers are publicly spreading the name of a CIA officer named in a RealClearInvestigations report as the whistleblower who reported President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The unconfirmed report named a 33-year-old CIA analyst as the purported whistleblower, although mainstream media outlets have declined to disclose the name after his attorneys warned that they have received death threats targeting their client. Republican lawmakers have reportedly repeatedly attempted to get the whistleblower’s name on record at impeachment hearings in hopes that it will be released publicly. (Salon has made the decision not to publish this person's name, although it will no doubt soon be in the public record.)

The report, which relied primarily on quotes from former Trump administration officials and a “dossier” compiled on this individual that has circulated around Capitol Hill, identifies the purported whistleblower as a “registered Democrat” who worked on the National Security Council under the Obama administration and was held over in the early days of the Trump administration before he was “accused of working against Trump,” according to the report. As a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, this CIA analyst is said to have worked closely with Vice President Joe Biden, who was Obama’s point man on Ukraine. The whistleblower’s attorneys have declined to confirm his identity and have condemned the attempts to expose him.

But the report was not the first public mention of the CIA analyst’s name. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, dropped the name of the purported whistleblower during a public House Natural Resources Committee hearing last week, The Dallas Morning News has reported. “A lot of us in Washington know who it is,” Gohmert told a Dallas radio station after the hearing, claiming that the whistleblower is a “very staunch Democrat” who was “supposed to be a point person on Ukraine, during the time when Ukraine was its most corrupt, and he didn’t blow any whistles on their corruption."

After the report was published, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., shared the claims with his 2.6 million followers. “It is being reported that the whistleblower was Joe Biden’s point man on Ukraine,” Paul tweeted. “It is imperative the whistleblower is subpoenaed and asked under oath about Hunter Biden and corruption.” “Stop trying to endanger the life of the whistleblower, Senator,” replied national security attorney Bradley Moss. The name quickly spread among conservative circles and the report was shared by right-wing pundits like Ann Coulter and reporters for far-right news outlets like The Daily Wire. Full Story

Trump aims to discredit and delegitimize the impeachment process by turning it into a circus. But circuses need clowns. Is the GOP up for that?
By Charles Sykes - Opinion contributor

This is the stark political reality: on Thursday not a single House Republican voted for the resolution formalizing the inquiry into the impeachment of Donald Trump. Congressman Justin Amash, who left the GOP this year, reminded his colleagues that Trump will only be in power for a short time, “but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name.” He appealed to Republicans to step out of their media bubbles. “History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man.” When it came time to vote, not one Republican followed his advice.

The lockstep vote is a reminder of Donald Trump’s extraordinary hold over the GOP and the party’s cult-like unwillingness to break with Trump, despite the mounting evidence of his misconduct. To imagine now that Republicans will somehow show a flash of independence and conscience seems like the triumph of hope over experience.

Sticking by Trump

For the time being, Republicans have decided that sticking with Trump is the safe move, given his solid support among the base. But history’s verdict is unlikely to be kind, and what is about to happen is anything but safe. A party line vote to exonerate the president irretrievably bonds the GOP to Trump’s conduct, character and ethics, and risks toxifying conservatism for a generation.

Republicans have already abandoned the notion that character matters, jettisoned fiscal conservativism and free markets, and accepted lying as simply the price of doing business with this president. They have watched as constitutional norms have been battered and the rule of law bent to partisan advantage. Time and again, they have convinced themselves that it was all worth it. But the stakes are about to rise dramatically. Full Story

By Tal Axelrod

Former GOP Rep. David Jolly (Fla.) tore into congressional Republicans over their defenses of President Trump against Democrats’ impeachment investigation, saying they “look like fools.” "What we’re seeing from House Republicans, frankly, is this childish behavior," he said on MSNBC on Saturday. "They’re displaying an arrogance, an anger, an immaturity — they look like fools." Republicans have railed against the House’s impeachment probe, with many saying the investigation is illegitimate since there has not yet been an official vote to start an inquiry. However, they have also stayed relatively tight-lipped as to whether it was appropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a request that is at the heart of the probe. "What Republicans should be doing ... and I struggle with even saying this because they’re on the wrong side of history and I hate to give them counsel that I think is accurate. Stop arguing about the process. Stop doing the sit-ins. Stop doing the stupid stuff that is not believable," Jolly said. "Frankly, the American people don’t care about the process." “From [Sen.] Lindsey Graham’s [R-S.C.] stupidity to [Rep.] Matt Gaetz’s [R-Fla.] stupidity, get that to a concise argument,” he added, saying the focus should not be on the process but instead on some defense that says Trump’s behavior is unimpeachable. more...

By Ewan Palmer

Rep. Ted Lieu has accused William Barr of acting more in the interests of President Donald Trump than as Attorney General by announcing a criminal investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon, Lieu said it is "deeply troubling" how Barr is behaving when asked for his response to the news, first reported by The New York Times, that the Justice Department is looking into the investigation on Russian interference during the 2016 election. As noted by The Times, John H. Durham, the prosecutor heading the investigation, will be able to subpoena for witness testimonies and documents, as well as convene a grand jury and file criminal charges. However, it is not clear what potential criminal charges Durham is looking into, nor when the investigation was launched. "Special counselor Mueller indicted 34 individuals and companies, at least eight have been convicted or pled guilty. He found that Russia systematically and sweepingly interfered in our U.S. elections. What Bill Barr is now trying to do is essentially tell the American people none of that should have happened," Lieu said.

"It is deeply troubling what Bill Barr is doing." Barr was previously criticized for his summary of Mueller's investigation, which he said concludes that neither the Trump campaign nor any of its associates conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mueller wrote a letter to the Justice Department in May expressing his concerns that Barr's four-page summary did not fully capture the "context, nature, and substance" of his findings. Lieu added that Barr is "absolutely" acting as a partisan as the attorney for the president rather than attorney general when asked by Lemon. "His memo, before the special council's report was released, is incredibly misleading," Lieu added. "When history looks back on it, you'll know that he misled the American people. And then in different actions Barr has taken he seems like he's acting as the President's own lawyer rather than as Attorney general for the United States." The Justice Department's guidelines state that there only needs to be "reasonable indication" that a crime has been committed for authorities to launch an investigation, a lower requirement than the probable cause needed to obtain search warrants. more...

By Jon HealeyDeputy Editorial Page Editor

How bad was diplomat William Taylor’s testimony for President Trump? Bad enough to prompt dozens of House Republicans on Wednesday to interrupt the impeachment inquiry, arguing that the process should be conducted in public, not in secret. Three House committees have been taking depositions privately in day-long sessions held in a secure room in the Capitol; Taylor, who appeared Tuesday, outlined how Trump demanded a quid pro quo (through his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and his appointee Gordon Sondland) from new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for getting the military aid and the White House meetings Zelensky desperately sought. The price Trump demanded, according to Taylor? That Zelensky publicly announce that Ukraine would launch two investigations — one into alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and one into a Ukrainian energy company that employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden — that could help Trump’s political fortunes. It’s so much easier for Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill to bleat about the process of the inquiry than it is to deny Taylor’s account or defend the quid pro quo. Bear in mind that Republicans sit on the three committees and have participated in all the depositions.

The lawmakers who descended on the secure room where the committees have been meeting were not members of those panels; instead, they argued that they were trying to expose what they deemed a “sham.” I & dozens of GOP colleagues held a joint news conference attacking the Socialist Democrats’ secret, closed-door, Capitol basement impeachment proceedings that shut out the public & congressmen from impeachment testimony, evidence, & developments. pic.twitter.com/Ra7HD8h35V — Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) October 23, 2019. Oh and yes, the stunt was coordinated with House GOP leaders and, reportedly, endorsed by Trump himself, although Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the self-proclaimed leader of the group, denied any White House involvement. The problem with the storm-and-tweet tactic is so obvious, I feel silly even pointing it out. The secret sessions are the preliminaries, designed to figure out whether the allegations made by the as-yet unnamed whistleblower had a basis in reality.

Once the committees have established the evidentiary baseline, they will switch to public sessions involving many of the same witnesses. The purpose of the secret sessions is at least twofold: to try to prevent witnesses in the first phase from coordinating their testimony, and to have a record of sworn testimony that can be used to prevent witnesses from changing their stories when the hearings go public. In other words, the secret sessions will soon give way to public ones. And what will the Republican protesters say then? Perhaps they’ll focus on the fact that the full House hasn’t voted on whether to conduct an impeachment inquiry, but the more we hear from witnesses like Taylor, the more difficult such a vote becomes for Republicans, and the easier for swing-district Democrats. Wednesday’s stunt may slow down the march toward a resolution, but it won’t stop the inquiry. Eventually, every member of Congress is going to have to decide what to do about the facts laid out by Taylor and the others who’ve been deposed, including Sondland. And while the choices are too consequential to be easy for any member, they are particularly challenging for Republicans. more...

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