141 thoughts on “Journal During the Trump Regime (6)

  1. Someone said that a lot of books will be written about Trump’s tweets. That sounds right to me. In my view, Trump’s tweets, or words in general, evoke a lot of reactions. Indeed, one common effect is speechlessness–I’m stunned, overwhelmed, and don’t know where to begin. Commenting on one thing suggests this is the most noteworthy or troubling part of the tweet, but that is often not the case. Choosing the most troubling aspect is extremely difficult, because there are often several aspect that are troubling.

    Trump’s rhetoric (and actions) also stun me because an intelligent adult would not speak and act this way. Similarly, I do not expect a leader of a liberal democracy to speak and act this way. This huge incongruence fries my brains. His words and actions make sense if he were a 10 year old boy. I would not be stunned and confused if he were a dictator in an autocracy. It is difficult and uncomfortable, even after several years, of understanding Trump in this way. He’s a 70 year old man, the POTUS. It’s hard to believe such a person can speak and act the way he does.

  2. (Note: I erroneously posted this a few days ago in the Journal (5) thread.)

    There are many moments where one could justifiably say, “Trump seems to be more unhinged; things are different, etc.” Sometimes when people say this I feel they’re not describing anything new–they’re describing what has been normal for a while. At the same time, I can understand why they would say that. Sometimes one can feel more shock and concern, while not really knowing why this specific incident or moment is more shocking and concerning than many other, previous incidents and moments. That’s how I felt yesterday (and today). Someone made a list of the incidents that occurred yesterday and the day before:

    If you haven’t seen video or read articles of the incidents above, it may not seem as bad. And really, maybe the situation isn’t more dire, maybe Trump isn’t more unhinged than a month or a year ago. But I’m feeling that way. Maybe the threat and concern can’t really have great impact all the time, so it only occurs and different times, triggered by specific events that may not be more significant than previous ones?

    Whatever the case may be, I’m feeling a little more worried–the realization that our liberal democracy is slipping; that it is under attack. I think the recent news about Trump giving special authority to investigate the start of the Russia investigation is what worries me the most. For more details on this, here’s a comment from someone who claims to have worked for WH and DOJ. (It was retweeted by someone I trust, Asha Rangappa.)

    I think this alarm bells should be ringing–the press and former officials in government, including the Trump administration, should be doing the ringing.

  3. Some comments about this:

    1. Put aside the possibility that Russia has compromising material on Trump or that Trump doesn’t want to anger Putin because he wants to do personal business with him. It’s clear to me that Trump can’t put aside his ego. It seems like he can’t separate his electoral victory from Russian interference. That is, to push back against Russia would be equivalent to invalidating his victory. How does this not make him unfit? How is this not a failure in a fundamental duty as POTUS?

    2. Mueller’s quote and remarks in general reject the claim that the Russian investigation was a hoax and witch hunt. Either Mueller or Trump is wrong. They both can’t be right.

    3. I’m not sure what Trump means by “Russia disappeared” but they’re still a threat, and we should take what they did seriously.

    4. “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me get elected” He seems to admit that they did help him here. Was that a slip? Also, he’s right if you don’t think welcoming Russia to release Hillary’s missing emails, meeting with Russian representatives relating to the campaign is equivalent to “nothing to do.”

  4. Evidence that Trump Acts like an Arsonist and Firefighter

    The phrase comes from Greg Sargent:

    The next sequence of tweets are Juliette Kayyem predicting what was going to happen.

    Thread from May 30, 2019 from Juliette Kayyem:

    Earlier today:

    Recently,

    6/22/2019

  5. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Hearing Today

    Some tweets on the hearing:

  6. For me, this is a transparently bad attempt to erode trust in the New York Times (and possibly the mainstream media in general). It’s also possible that this is Trump’s 9 year old MO of lashing out in frustration.

    I wonder how many other people think this is a very lame attempt at trying to undermine the paper. Or will Trump’s use of “Failing New York Times” actually cause some to think less of the paper? Will they actually believe the Times has actually revealed top secret cybersecurity maneuvers by the U.S. government? Do people really believe the Times is the enemy of the people?

    By the way, a lot of this feels like projection–
    “failing,”
    “virtual act of treason,”
    “desperate for a story any story, even if bad for our Country,”
    “anything goes for our CORRUPT,” and
    “They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

    All of this alludes to Trump himself in my opinion.

    Edit

    Also, the tweet is confusing and non-sensical:

    1. On the theme of 9 year old MO, this maneuver should be added–the “ole I hardly knew him” trick:

      When a young child tries to distance themselves from a guilty party, they don’t realize that adult they’re speaking to knows this the claim is false (i.e., the child has strong ties to the guilty person). Does this seem like what’s going on with Trump? Anyone loosely following this story knows the claim is false or at least totally ineffective. Trump may indeed not know Sondland really well, but he picked him to be Ambassador to the EU. Not knowing Sondland well doesn’t really provide cover for Trump (and I feel silly for writing this as it seems pretty obvious to me).

      Some other techniques that Trump employs:

      Call a person saying or doing something damaging to Trump a Democrat or Never Trumper–ignoring the fact that neither is false.

  7. “Do you think the people will demand I stay longer?”

    Imagine if Obama said this, even facetiously. GOP would be calling for his head.

    A reminder that Stalin used the line “Enemy of the People,” and later I believe Khrushchev banned it’s use because it was so corrosive.

  8. Disappointing and Sickening, Really

    This is at campaign rally, kicking off Trump 2020.

    (This is the kind of thing that makes it virtually impossible to seriously voting for Rubio for POTUS.)

  9. This would be great if it was a line from a political satire:

  10. Is this a big deal?

    A professor on authoritarianism, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, seems to think so:

    I’m not sure, but I’m also not an expert on authoritarians. My reaction, though, is that the video is odd, and inappropriate. Can you imagine Obama or W, Clinton or any POTUS doing something similar? At best, it speaks badly of Trump–his personality, mental well-being, maybe. It suggests significant insecurity, maybe narcissism, and even a lack of a awareness that this is something inappropriate.

    I can’t rule out that he’s preparing his followers for staying in power after his term, he’s made at least one other comment publicly before (ostensibly joking).

  11. None of your business?

    Trump is the POTUS, representing our country and our country’s interests when he meets Putin. He’s not a businessman or private citizen. There are some things that he should not and need not disclose, but it is the business of the American people to know what the POTUS plans to discuss, generally, with the President of Russia.

  12. I’m very uncomfortable with this type of statement, especially coming from someone in a prominent position:

    The statement basically undermines the notion that the SCOTUS acts in a non-partisan way. Maybe this is naive of me to even suggest this, but if the general belief is that the SCOTUS and judicial branch makes decisions based on partisanship, I think that really undermines the legitimacy of the courts. If I were a senator and I decided to air these views, I would have to feel confident that the SCOTUS is totally political, and maybe broken in some significant way.

  13. Thoughts on this Thread

    1. No class.
    2. Great leaders take responsibility for their actions, and the organizations they oversee. Trump is at the other end of that spectrum.

  14. Thread:

  15. Yeah, the ending was a kicker.

    7/28/2019

    This is a good point. He speaks more harshly about Rep. Cummings and other Americans of color than dictators that are actually brutal. I think you could add Kim Jong Un, Duterte, Assad, or the Saudi crown prince killing the journalist. One counter to this is that the POTUS has to be diplomatic with other world leaders. While this is true, other presidents have harshly condemned actions by dictators. Again, my sense is that Trump will criticize Americans, or anyone who is critical of him, more than dictators or individuals who really deserve harsh criticism. He also seems to target people of color.

  16. Evidence 653 that the President really has the mind and maturity of a child

    If there is an alternate, plausible, explanation for this behavior, I’d like to hear it. Even if he’s governing the nation as a reality TV show, that’s not an explanation that dispels the impression that he acts and thinks like a child. This tweet is on the “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” level. It’s also over-the-top horrible to mock a Congressman when his house was robbed.

  17. I’m not sure if this is accurate, but if it is, it’s awful:

    Here it is:

    1. I haven’t read the article, but this headline seems really bad:

      This headline not only creates a positive impression of Trump which is undeserved on this issue, but it creates the impression that he’s acting like normal, responsible politician. They use the word “urge,” which is much more earnest and genuine sounding than the neutral “calls.” I assume the writer(s) of this headline follows the news closely; I would be surprised if they actually think this characterization is credible. There is far more evidence that Trump actually wants to keep the nation divided than wanting to unify it.

  18. I haven’t been following today’s news closely enough to know what these tweets are referring to specifically, but the tweets are not good.

    The tweets also triggered a thought I had today about the way I think people develop an understanding of our politics, particularly those who don’t follow the news closely. My sense is that a lot comes down to heuristics. One sort of obvious example, and it may not even qualify as a heuristic, is a catastrophe to signal that a politician is doing a bad job. I thought of this specifically in relation to Trump. My sense is that many Americans don’t realize how bad he is as a president. One of the few things that could possibly change this is a catastrophic event–e.g., financial crisis or use of a nuclear weapon–especially if one can reasonably draw a line from Trump’s rhetoric or actions to that catastrophe. This is not a good way for people to find out that the POTUS is unfit, though.

    Here are more details:

  19. One angle on Trump that has been at the forefront of my mind recently: He doesn’t have the capacity to put the country or other people ahead of himself. It’s all about him. He can never be the bigger person. And all of this is manifesting itself in a way that makes him seem like a child. The problem is significant enough that it is one of many things that makes him unfit and incapable of doing the job.

    In reference to a NYT headline:

    Another tweet:

    1. “Trump offers no moral leadership; he seems to have no interest in unifying the nation; no evidence that the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least.”

      “Indeed we have a president with a toxic tongue, who has publicly and unapologetically embraced the political strategy of hate, racism, and division.”

      Just want to add that intelligence chiefs have repeatedly mentioned in public that Russia is trying to sow discord and widen divisions in our country. Trump knows this, but he’s still using an approach that aids their efforts. Whatever the reason for him doing this, it seems appropriate to say he’s betraying the country.

      8/8/2019

      This is a what Trump tweeted as he visited a city that experienced a tragedy. (There’s music on this, too.)

      Not only evidence for the claim that the “the presidency has awakened his conscience,” but it’s evidence that something is not right with this guy.

      edit

  20. On several occasions I’ve mentioned the way Trump’s words and actions will leave me stunned and speechless, often because my mind can’t seem to accept reality and the number and layers of problems I have with what I’m hearing. I’ve struggled to articulate this reaction (including right now), but I recently read a few sentences that resonated with me:

    A really exceptional work of obscenity, like a really exceptional work of beauty, exceeds the ability of its viewers to fathom what they just saw. Did that just happen? But … how? What sorcery created it? Words don’t arrive, and the stammering gives way to silence.

    The latest publicity photograph of the president in El Paso, Texas, knocked me into silence for a good half hour this morning while I tried to figure out the many layers of obscenity on display.

  21. Whether this makes someone a white nationalist or not, I’m not sure. I am sure that anyone that does the above behaves and speaks like a white nationalist. And if they continue to do so they either are a white nationalist, or they don’t care if anyone thinks that they are.

    Also, politicians, pundits, and media outlets that are silent or don’t push back against this are basically enabling white nationalist views.

  22. Thought: What if General Mattis, General McMaster, and Secretary Tillerson hold a press conference saying he’s worried that the President is unstable and thinks he poses a threat to the country.

    And then suppose a prominent individual from the administration resigns and holds a press conference saying the same thing.

    And then this leads to other people coming out saying the same thing.

    In my opinion, this is the kind of thing that could be a game-changer. One, it could really get the attention of the general public, especially those who don’t really follow the news closesly. Two, Republicans on Capitol Hill could finally do something.

    In my opinion, one person saying what Scaramucci says is not enough. We need a bunch of them, doing this one after the other, like a cascade or a the breaking of a dam.

    1. It could matter at the Congressional level but it’s not going to matter among his supporters, which is all he cares about. And the Mooch is certainly not the guy to be carrying this flag, sorry as I am to say it.

    2. In addition to having an impact on Congress, I think it could really impact those the casual news consumer. I also don’t think of the Trump supporter as a monolith. The die-hard supporter won’t be affected by this, but I don’t think all of them are die-hard supporters.

      I do agree that Mooch is not the best guy. But the guy who initiates the process isn’t as important. It’s the cascade that occurs after that, hopefully. For example, if that happened right after Mattis resigned. (Alas, it did not.)

    1. I kind of thought everyone knew that the point of hanging is the quick snapping of the neck. When I read the headline about broken neck bones, I knew it was suicide.

      1. From what I recall, the problem wasn’t just a broken neck, but the number(?) of bones or the specific ones that seemed unusual for a hanging. (But I’m not sure if those who felt this way had any medical training.)

  23. One of many examples as to why someone would question Trump’s fitness and mental state.

    Contemplation of invoking the 25th amendment is not irrational in my opinion.

  24. I can’t read the article, but if this quote is accurate, the first thought that came to mind: Trump is acting with impunity. He’s confident Senate GOP wouldn’t convict him, and that Dems in the House are reluctant to impeach. Second thought: GOP is just as unfit to govern as Trump.

  25. Thread.

  26. No one will be able to say that people weren’t ringing the alarm bells about the danger President Trump posed to the nation and the world, or that he was incredibly unfit to do the job.

    However, my sense is that the overall coverage of Trump, especially in mainstream press, did not really convey this warning. Unless you read the news regularly, I suspect people may think Trump is a clown, but not completely inept, possibly mentally ill, or someone who thinks and governs like a dictator. But maybe I’m wrong.

    But when historians look back on this time, they will definitely find many examples of the tweet above. (The Atlantic has had many articles and even entire issues emphasizing this, I believe.)

  27. At what point should one take him seriously on stuff like this:

    This is not the only example. At the same time, it’s seems unreasonable to think he’s serious about running for a third term or has a genuine desire to remain as president after two terms. If he didn’t have a lot of other red flags related to authoritarianism, I would say this is inappropriate, but I don’t think I’d take it seriously.

  28. This is going to sound hyperbolic (and I hope this actually turns out to be the case), but our constitutional system–specifically, the rule of law and separation of powers–seems to be gradually eroding. More specifically, the institutions that suppose to ensure and protect this seem to be eroding, and we’re watching this happen in slow motion.

    The thread below made me think of this. The Acting Director of National Intelligence is supposed to inform Congress about a complaints by whistleblowers, but the current acting DNI has not done so in the required time, and without giving explanation. (He is one of many acting directors. This is another sign, as Congress is supposed to confirm the people in these positions; Trump seems to be bypassing Congress’s oversight.)

    Another bit of news that made me think of this–DOJ trying to prosecute Andrew McCabe, and some of the unusual circumstances surrounding this. (See below.) What’s crucial is that the President has publicly attacked McCabe, which creates the impression that he’s influencing the DOJ to go after one of his enemies.

    It feels like a constitutional crisises happening in several places, moving in slow motion.

  29. I’m not sure if this is real:

    President Donald Trump just can’t stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.

    “You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, ‘Sir, we’re very low on ammunition,'” Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. “I said, ‘That’s a horrible thing to say.’ I’m not blaming him. I’m not blaming anybody. But that’s what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won’t say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: ‘Sir, if you could, delay it because we’re very low on ammunition.’

    “And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general,” Trump continued. “No president should ever, ever hear that statement: ‘We’re low on ammunition.'”

    It appears as if General Mattis has prevented Trump from taking military action using a tactic that one would use only on someone who is remarkably unintelligent. The scary thing is that this is believable. I don’t know whether to chuckle, grimace, or worry–probably all three at the same time.

    1. I had to read the NYT story on this very slowly this morning. It felt very carefully written, as if everyone’s stepping gently around something enormous.

      It’s stupid to say this in the middle of a presidency where every day brings new things that make you say “this has to be it, right?”

      But this could be it. This feels huge to me. In an oh-my-gosh-we-could-all-be-in-trouble-now kind of way. In a someone-might-have-to-go-to-prison kind of way. I’m not saying this with glee. I am now spooked.

      The WaPo story later today said sources talk about Ukraine and possible appeals for help with the reelection campaign. That makes me less spooked, if that’s what it is, but it’s no less serious. I’m half-dreading the news over the next week.

    2. I had to read the NYT story on this very slowly this morning. It felt very carefully written, as if everyone’s stepping gently around something enormous….But this could be it. This feels huge to me.

      I’ve heard others react this way, and I agree, this sounds significant, and I agree with the reaction on some level. But on another level, I find the reaction odd. Do people think the incident is worse that giving highly classified Israeli intel to the Russians. (I recall that this could have compromised a source as well.)? And what about using an insecure phone?

      By the way, David Frum wrote a piece today about this, citing a historical incident that pushed the Founders to include the ability to impeach and remove the Executive in the Constitution. The incident is worth reading about:

      Great Britain had been ruled by a king named Charles II. King Charles was the son of Charles I, the king whose head was cut off during the English Civil War. Restored to the throne, Charles II learned to tiptoe carefully around his dangerous subjects. But there was a problem: Charles wanted more money than Parliament willingly offered him. His solution? He reached out to an old friend and patron: the king of France, Louis XIV.

      Louis had sheltered Charles during exile. He knew that Charles had converted to Catholicism—a secret that could have cost Charles his throne and possibly his life if his own people had known it. Louis had no parliament of his own to worry about. He paid Charles an annual subsidy to cover Charles’s fiscal shortfall. In return, he asked Charles to hand over a British base on French soil—and to stay neutral in the war Louis was about to launch against the Protestant Netherlands.

      These treasons would emerge into daylight after the overthrow of Charles’s brother and the Stuart dynasty in 1688.

      The WaPo story later today said sources talk about Ukraine and possible appeals for help with the reelection campaign. That makes me less spooked, if that’s what it is, but it’s no less serious.

      Specifically, there’s a sense that Trump administration pressured the Ukranian President to investigate Joe Biden’s son, and that part of this pressure included witholding military aid (?). That’s my understanding, anyway.

      I’m curious to know what made you spooked before, and what makes you less spooked now.

      1. Giving away intel, especially another country’s, is super serious but not spookier than actively working against the United States. Neither is looking for dirt on another candidate. I’m not willing to debate this — I’m not downplaying their seriousness. But my mind may have gotten away from me when I pictured what could have been the topic of conversation.

        Also, if that’s what it is, I don’t know if it qualifies as “urgent,” as the inspector general says it is. That word “urgent” and the verification by the IG that the whistleblower’s case is legit makes this all sound way more serious to me, a position I’m still standing on.

        Plus, a whistleblower case feels like a direct legal action against the officeholder himself and the officeholder’s conduct. Suing to get tax returns is a legal action, but that’s not against the person’s conduct.

    3. It depends on how you define “actively working against the United States.” I could list a lot of things Trump has said and done that I think would qualify. But I think you mean something more explicit–like giving away secrets for financial gain, or something like that? (Then again, I think the chances are very high that he has already done like this, similar to the Charles II example above. At the very least, we can say Trump’s refusal to reveal his tax forms and divest his business makes it almost impossible to verify.)

      Plus, a whistleblower case feels like a direct legal action against the officeholder himself and the officeholder’s conduct. Suing to get tax returns is a legal action, but that’s not against the person’s conduct.

      You’re saying the whistleblower incident involves Trump being charged or prosecuted for a crime? I don’t get that sense.

    4. Good argument by Nichols.

      In a call to the new president of Ukraine, Trump reportedly attempted to pressure the leader of a sovereign state into conducting an investigation—a witch hunt, one might call it—of a U.S. citizen, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden….

      If this in itself is not impeachable, then the concept has no meaning. Trump’s grubby commandeering of the presidency’s fearsome and nearly uncheckable powers in foreign policy for his own ends is a gross abuse of power and an affront both to our constitutional order and to the integrity of our elections.

      The story may even be worse than we know. If Trump tried to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage, as reporters are now investigating, then he held Ukrainian and American security hostage to his political vendettas. It means nothing to say that no such deal was reached; the important point is that Trump abused his position in the Oval Office.

      Nichols ends with this:

      …if this kind of dangerous, unhinged hijacking of the powers of the presidency is not enough for either the citizens or their elected leaders to demand Trump’s removal, then we no longer have an accountable executive branch, and we might as well just admit that we have chosen to elect a monarch and be done with the illusion of constitutional order in the United States.

  30. i’m reeeeeeally not in the mood to dissect any of this for degrees of offense or shades of definition, beyond what i’ve just shared. it feels like having to talk about the most painful feelings to uncomfortable extents. actually it doesn’t feel like it — that’s practically what it is. yes. we can all think of blatant things said and done in plain view of the country on broadcast television. i’m okay with not being able to express the specifics of my concern but i assure you i’m not merely waking up now to this person’s dastardly behavior.

    ugh. i can’t believe this is our country.

    1. but i assure you i’m not merely waking up now to this person’s dastardly behavior.

      That was never a question in my mind, for what it’s worth.

      ugh. i can’t believe this is our country.

      More specifically for me–I can’t believe the Congressional Republicans are allowing all of this. I think this might be the most disturbing part of this whole thing, at least for me.

    2. You said, ” it feels like having to talk about the most painful feelings to uncomfortable extents. actually it doesn’t feel like it — that’s practically what it is. ” I agree with you and it makes me think of this tweet I saw today:

      The checks and balances don’t work if congressional Republicans don’t want it to work, which is one of the main reasons voters should remove them. I am most shocked, disturbed, and appalled by the congressional Republicans.

  31. I’ve seen several smart people express this sentiment:

    I totally understand Rocah’s feelings. Trump behaving the way he is, without any consequences, is really eroding our system of checks and balances and the rule of law. But when I consider the likely end game scenario, impeaching Trump could actually make the situation worse. Here’s my thinking:

    1. Suppose Pelosi starts impeaching hearings and House impeaches Trump;
    2. The Senate now has to determine if they’re going to acquit or convict and remove him. There’s a possibility that the general public and the Senate would change dramatically, but if not, the Senate would likely acquit Trump;
    3. The acquittal could create the impression that Trump really has done nothing to deserve impeachment; it could likely exonerate his behavior. I think this likely would happen to Americans who do not follow the news closely and/or may be confused about who to believe. It’s not an unreasonable conclusion. If Trump really was unfit or did something truly bad, it’s reasonable to assume enough Republicans would remove him;
    4. Additionally, impeachment could possibly empower Republicans and Trump politically, leading to increased or the same number of seats in Congress. If this happened, the Republicans would not change–they would continue to put power over principle and the country. This includes undermining key democratic institutions, norms as well as the entire system. If Trump wins a second term, it could also endanger national security.

    Of course, there’s no guarantee 3 and 4 will occur. It’s possible that the process of impeachment in the House would really turn the public against Trump, which could turn enough Republicans against Trump. I’m have a hard time imagining something from the impeachment process doing that, given the revelations that should have had that effect already, but didn’t.

    So if 3 and 4 are the more likely result, I wonder if people like Rocah would still want Pelosi to proceed with impeachment. I’d like to hear a case for impeachment in spite of 3 and 4.

  32. Ukraine Scandal

    Write up of Trump’s phone conversation with the Ukranian president.

    Thread:

    One important point. My understanding is that if there was “corruption” relating to Joe Biden, there is appropriate (read: non-political, non abuse-of-powers ways) to work with another country to investigate this. When Trump gets more directly involved, it creates impression of…more later

    Another thread I agree with:

    Another tweet that just leaves me flummoxed:

    He really doesn’t think he did anything wrong. A few thoughts:

    1. At the very least, he’s creating the appearance that he’s pressuring a country to produce damaging information about a political opponent. This is why there are these norms and procedures between the POTUS and the DOJ/FBI and other intelligence agencies. An executive who would use any of these agencies to go after political enemies (and/or protect himself) is unfit and poses a serious danger to the republic;

    2. Someone pointed out that Trump was withholding money, which I believe would be used for defense, particularly against Russia. This has strategic importance to the U.S. If Russia gets more aggressive that can lead to war, which the U.S. would likely have to get involved in. If accurate, Trump would be putting his political interests ahead of the nation’s.

    9/27/2019

    From Chairperson of Federal Election Commission:

    10/16/2019

    1. Unclassified version of the whistleblower’s complaint. (It’s not that long.)

      Trump’s comments about this:

      9/27/2019

      I’m not sure if this is accurate, but…

      11/1/2019

      Trump really doesn’t think what he said in the call was wrong.

      Very little should surprise me about this president, but the fact that he thinks he did nothing wrong is remarkable. One possibility that explains his thinking is that he believes Biden did something wrong, so the means to uncover that doesn’t matter. But there are problems with that: 1) If Biden really did something legitimately wrong, there are appropriate channels to do this; and if he used appropriate channels and they discovered wrongdoing, that would strengthen the claim. Intervening outside of appropriate channels makes the investigation seem political, weakening the legitimacy of the investigation. (Perhaps he doesn’t care about legitimacy–he just wants to hurt his political opponent.); 2) Trump and his family are guilty of the wrongdoing he’s accusing Biden of. How can Biden be guilty while he and his family are not? That doesn’t fly.

    2. More flummoxing

      The phone call “could not have been better or more honorable…It wasn’t bad, it was very legal and very good.” Again, he really seems to think that nothing was wrong with the call. Now, I’m not sure about the legal part, but this was not honorable, good, or something that couldn’t have been better. I’m also certain that large numbers of congressional Republicans, if they were honest and candid, would strongly disagree with him. They should be made to publicly state their position on this. What Trump did is wrong and completely inappropriate and unacceptable for the president of a democratic republic. The public should know which politicians and pundits agree and disagree on this.

      On a side note, here’s what the POTUS tweeted right before that:

      We can make fun of this and laugh, but ultimately I see this as one of many indications that something is not right with him. In a lot of ways, what I’ve seen from Trump reminds me of what I’ve seen from AB. I don’t know if AB has an actual mental disorder, but I have the strong impression that something is not right with him. His behavior is not normal, and having a mental disorder would explain it. I feel the same about Trump. The phrase “mad king” comes to mind.

      Speaking of “mad king,” a little later he tweeted this:

      1. Doubling down

        11/11/2019

        Today:

        It really does seem like he really believes he did nothing wrong–which is really damning in my view. And it’s not just this call, but the actions behind the scenes involving his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

    3. I feel like now would be a good time for Mattis, Tillerson, Coats, Bolton, Cohn, and McMaster to publicly speak out against Trump–with maybe Mattis doing this on one day followed by the others, one after the other. I think this could be a bombshell that causes the damn to break (i.e., precipitating defections en masse), or at least quash Trump’s narrative and the efforts to promote it. Death blow.

      The article below on political cascades does a great job of explaining my underlying thinking on this:

      The following is meaningful and I appreciate it, but I don’t think it spark a political cascade. (About a thousand former federal prosecutors signed a letter saying POTUS would have been indicted if not for rule that POTUS can’t be indicted in office. That didn’t seem to have much effect.)

      1. I guess we’ve given up on Romney voicing his conscience? I feel like a sitting Republican senator might be more effective. Your average member of the electorate doesn’t even know who McMaster is.

    4. I haven’t completely given up on Romney or other Republicans (e.g., Senator Collins, Murkowski) from speaking because of their conscience, but their response to Trump thus far doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

      And if sitting Congress people would speak out strongly–like Rep. Justin Amash–that would absolutely have impact. However, in my view, what’s critical is a group of them, coming out in a cascade. One solitary voice, like Amash, trickling out with long intervals in between–that seems to have minimal impact. (See Sen. Corker and Sen. Flake.)

      Finally, while many casual news consumers may not know McMaster, or Mattis, Tillerson, Cohn, Coats, Bolton–if they sound the alarm bells, I think the coverage will identify who they are and convey that seriousness of this.

      (Side note: McMaster may not be the most effective messenger, unless he publicly admits his error.

    5. I applaud Romney for saying this. We need more Republicans to come out and say the same, though. Or Romney has to keep repeating this, emphatically doing so. What I would like to see: A press conference where a group of Republican Congress people–such as Lamar Alexander, James Lankford, Richard Burr, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, Adam Kinzinger, Will Hurd, etc.–come out a clearly denounce the actions of Trump. They can say they support a lot of Trump’s policies. They can even say they don’t think he should be impeached (at this time), but they should say that Trump’s conversation with the Ukranian President totally wrong and unacceptable.

      By the way, I agree with what Frum says below:

      Any Republican (or conservative pundit) that plays a key role in pushing back or effectively stopping Trump–e.g., spearheading a Republican revolt against Trump, helping bring Republicans and Democrats together to oppose Trump , mitigating divisions in the country, etc.–will be remembered as a hero and a significant historical figure in my opinion.

      This type of tweet below, won’t age well:

      He’ll focus on thosee things while ignoring the President urging Ukraine to investigate his main political opponent and the opponent’s son, withholding critical military aid that Urkaine needs to defend itself against Russia. There’s also enormous corruption–specifically, Trump using his office to enrich himself. Also lingering questions about counter-intel threat Trump poses to the country. Rubio implies these things are unsubstantial, and I think history will judge him, and others like him, harshly for this.

    6. I totally agree with the article below. It also includes a quick summary of the DNC server and crowdstrike issue that Trump mentioned in his phone call with the Ukranian president.

    7. Trump’s laughable claim that he cared about Ukranian corruption

      From WaPo: Trump and Mulvaney’s claim that corruption concerns held up Ukraine aid

      I think checking facts is important, but I have problems with the way journalists do factchecking. But I liked the tack WaPo took here. They first cited DoD assessment of corruption in Ukraine. (I believe DoD has to do this before signing off on military aid, or something to that effect.) Their assessment was that Ukraine was taking good steps to end or reduce corruption. They then looked to see if the White House did any assessment, in which to disagree with DoD. Nope. Nada. They give Trump (and Mulvaney) four Pinocchios. (Note: Did Trump and Mulvaney make a claim that wasn’t factual? That seems wrong. Their claim was not believable, for some of the reasons they list, but that doesn’t make the claim not a fact.)

      Also,

      Finally, and I think I mentioned this before. Look at Trump, his family and his cabinet–it will be clear that he doesn’t care about corruption–unless his political opponent does it.

    8. Thread on “legitimizing propaganda”

    9. The details in the following article should really be bad for Trump, but in a way, it could be good.

      I say “good” because if Russian oligarchs have ties to Trump and his associates like Giuliani than I think that just makes the story way more confusing for the average American. For one thing, this adds more players to the story, and like a 19th century Russian novel, this can make keeping track of what’s going on more difficult. Secondly, I worry that many Americans may not understand potential significance (and threat) of Trump having ties to Russian oligarchs. The oligarchs may be rich and even corrupt. So what? There are rich corrupt Americans, too. Yes, that’s not a good thing if the POTUS has some ties with them, but Trump’s a businessman, and I suspect many will accept and tolerate him having ties to corrupt individuals.

      The thing is, the corruption in Russia can involve ties to organized crime and the Russian government; and the nature of the tie may involve assistance with money laundering and other illicit practices that can be used as blackmail against Trump and his associates with those ties.

      I’ll stop here and acknowledge that what I said sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory. I will mention some things that others can check out for themselves. First, the idea that Russian organized criminals, oligarchs or even Russian banks, etc. launder money in the west is something that happens, regardless of if Trump got involved with a scheme like this. Second, one should ask if there is any evidence that Trump, prior to becoming president, may have been involved with this sort of activity. If both are true, one may think the notion is less far-fetched. But then again, maybe not. I will say accepting even the possibility is not easy–because it seems crazy that this could be happening to someone who is the POTUS. This is another advantage that Trump has.

    10. Trump’s loathing for Urkaine

      (This is according to officials who spoke anonymously, but it’s not hard to believe.)

      At best, it seems like Trump’s animosity towards Ukraine stems from a conspiracy theory–namely that Ukraine worked with the DNC to take down Trump–but it’s unclear what Trump means by this or why he believes this. (It seems like Trump is tying the conspiracy theory that Crowdstrike attempted to frame the Russian government for hacking the DNC).

      I think the bottom line (or one of them) is that Trump is putting his hatred towards Ukraine ahead of U.S. interests; and his hatred is based on a conspiracy theory.

      Also, hating Ukraine–accusing them of interfering with the election, instead of the Russians–not giving military aid to them–all of this benefits Russia.

      Edit

  33. If they think what Trump did is truly deserving of impeachment, their silence is deplorable. Why? In my view, what’s critical about the situation we’re in are the people and institutions that inform and signal to the public whether something is seriously wrong or not. Did Trump really do something that warrants impeachment? Or is this a bogus charge driven almost entirely by politics–i.e., a witch hunt? My sense is that a very large number of Americans are uncertain and confused about this; and they will continue to be confused and uncertain as long as the Republicans and Democrats take opposite positions, and both sides are equally loud and adamant. However, if enough Republicans and conservative pundits agree with Democrats–especially those who supported Trump–then I think many of these Americans won’t be so confused and uncertain–they’ll support impeachment and removal.

    Having said that, I do think this is more complicated. News could actually generate increased public opposition to Trump and that could cause Republicans and conservative pundits to turn against Trump, which will lead to more Americans turning against Trump. The issue isn’t either/or. The public’s shift could change Republicans and the Republicans’ shift could change the public. Both could happen simultaneously and feed into each other.

    I believe there are many congressional Republicans who know that Trump is totally unfit and that he did many impeachable things. If a handful of them expressed this, it could make a difference, especially if set off a chain reaction. The same applies to former and current officials in the Trump administration. If Mattis, McMaster, Tillerson, Cohn, et al., had a press conference tomorrow saying Trump’s behavior warrants impeachment, that could set off a chain reaction–in the public opinion as well within conservative sphere.

    If this is accurate, the silence of these individuals is disappointing at best, and a kind of betrayal of the country at worst.

    This is worse, if true:

    Trump and his supporters, including some congressional Republicans, are saying this is Fake News, the Democrats want to usurp voters, a witch hunt. All these claims would be destroyed if those 35 Senators mentioned above would speak up! Same with Mattis, Tillerson, Kelly, McMaster, Cohn, Coats, et al. This is not to say that Trump would lose all support. But most of the support would be the fanatics, which I think would be significantly smaller than the rest of the country.

    1. Decide for yourself if Trump’s congressional defenders have a strong case. To me, they’re trying to defend the indefensible.

      Here’s the type of argument they’re apparently going to use:

      This is going to be an obviously dumb argument to most Americans, I hope.

  34. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is far off:

    On a related note, I wonder how the press will cover something like this, especially if Trump administration pursues this more vigorously:

    From WaPo: State Dept. intensifies email probe of Hillary Clinton’s former aides

    A senior State Dept. official claims this is a process started before the Trump administration and the WH has nothing to do with this, but that is hard to believe. This the problem when Trump who publicly attacks people who are prosecuted or investigated by the federal government. It creates the impression that Trump is ordering or pressuring the departments to do this. (Sorry if that’s obvious, I’m venting here.)

    1. “Nearly every Trump ally’s defense has been an effort to gaslight America.”

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I really think most reasonable, fair-minded people who follow the news closely would agree with Rep. Amash. But many people do not follow the news closely–they’re not news junkies, and they have busy lives.

      Here’s where the press could (and should) aid these Americans, but their method of creating the appearance of fairness and objectivity is to create an equivalence between the two political parties, using techniques like “he said/she said” journalism. This approach wouldn’t be so problematic if both sides more or less told the truth and operated in good faith to the same degree. The problem occurs when one party operates in a way that is significantly different, operating in bad faith far more than the other. When this happens the balanced approach to covering politics fails to serve the American public, particularly those who aren’t news junkies. And this leads back to Yglesias tweet above.

      One last point. I feel like the press could (should?) deal with this problem by presenting evidence showing that one side is worse than the other. The problem is that simply doing this will suggest they’re not being fair. One way to get around this problem is to have a group of liberals and conservatives oversee this process and even have a discussion about this–a discussion that would reveal where the group agrees and disagrees. If both liberals and conservatives ultimately agree that Republicans are being less honest and have more bad faith than Democrats, claiming unfairness and bias would be more difficult.

    2. Thread by Garry Kasparov:

      As you watch Trump’s defenders lie, deflect, and distract today and in the coming weeks, remember that they don’t care about being caught in obvious lies. Calling bullshit still means you’re talking about the bullshit, not the facts.

      This is part of the “flood not dam” model. They want doubt. They can make up a dozen new lies and new distractions every day while there’s only one truth. Stop chasing them and keep repeating the facts.

      Many thought it strange when Putin’s propaganda released many different “refutations” after Russian forces shot down MH17, some even on the same day. But they want to distract, not refute. To make it seem like the truth isn’t knowable.

      They’ll attack the truth-tellers, accuse them of anything at all, because playing defense takes energy. They’ll use whataboutism to distract from their crimes. Keep following the money and repeating the truth.

      I agree that Trump and his supporters merely want to create doubt and cause confusion. I’m not sure repeating facts is the solution, though. My gut tells me that the better move is to focus on previous claims made by both pro and anti-Trump folks, including the frequency in which the claims were accurate or proved true. They show also make note of outrageous claims, and how often these proved true or false. By presenting these in a way that the public can easily compare, the public can decide which speakers are credible or not.

      Of course, the press should also point out when defenders or opponents of Trump make false or dubious claims in the present.

      Finally, when evaluating Trump’s rhetoric and actions, with Trump defenders or opponents, I think the press should frame the discussion by asking if the behavior is appropriate for a future presidents, Democrat or Republican, or if the behavior would warrant the end of a presidency. The present position of opponents or defenders should be seen as a position on the standards that will be applied to future presidents. If anyone thinks a future presidency warrants termination for a specific behavior, if the current president behaves in the same way, then his presidency warrants termination now.

      Addendum

      I just realized a problem with the press providing clear evidence about the credibility of supporters or opponents of Trump. If the evidence overwhelmingly shows that one side is far less credible a) this will create the impression that the press is not being fair (i.e., they’re biased), and b) they will have more difficulty putting the discredited individuals on their news programs. My sense is that the latter would be bad for ratings, and it would create the impression that they’re not being fair.

  35. Evidence that Trump thinks and governs more like an authoritarian than a president of a liberal democracy

    If he loses in 2020 or gets impeached, I’m almost certain he will not go quietly–likely loudly questioning the legitimacy of the election or inciting his base by using references to “coup” and “civil war.” No real leader of a liberal democracy would do this.

    Additionally, here’s something I hope Americans will consider and examine: Has Trump done or said anything that would cause people who have sworn an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution to be critical or suspicious of Trump? If there are, that weakens Trump’s claims. Also, if any other politician behaved like Trump, what kind of press coverage would you predict? If the answer is “highly negative,” then the problem isn’t the press–it’s Trump.

    The country will need Republicans and conservative media to help us out of this mess. If they support Trump’s claims, the country could be in bad shape.

    Yesterday:

    The second-hand complaint is moot because the White House rough transcript is damning by itself (and is largely consistent with the complaint). Trump genuinely thinks he did nothing wrong in the call (just as he seems to think there’s nothing wrong with accepting “dirt” of his political opponent from other countries, or trying to build a tower in Russia during the election, while casting doubt on Russian interference).

    A few days ago, Trump retweeted this quote from Pastor Robert Jeffers:

    1. GOP placing great importance in identifying the whistleblower. Is there any legitimate reason for doing this

      Here’s a situation where I think anger would be justified and a desire to out the whistleblower would be understandable–namely, if the complaint was trivial, creating the impression that it was a political hit job. Or maybe if the POTUS was completely innocent.

      But in this case, the complaint, if true, would be a big deal–something that would potentially end any other presidency, justifiably so. Trump also released a WH summary the phone call that is largely consistent with the whistleblower. Witnesses also seem consistent with the whistleblower. Really, all that seems left is to decide if what the President did is acceptable and warrants impeachment and/or removal. I don’t see how that identity of the whistleblower is relevant.

  36. This seems like a plausible explanation for the behavior of Republicans and conservatives who have been principled and patriotic–who genuinely cared about the rule of law, separation of powers, and national security–They see Democrats as far more of a threat than Trump. They will tolerate his corruption, incompetence, mental instablity because their blinded by the notion that the Democrats are worse. Nothing Trump can do will be worse than Democrats….Now, I have a hard time believing this is literally the case, but it doesn’t seem far off. I’ll put it this way: I have a hard time imagining what Trump could do that would make Republicans turn against him.

    On a related note,

    Also, I remember when interviews asked him about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s handling of drug problem (Duterte was ordering extra-judicial killings.) Trump said, “He’s doing it the right way.”

  37. I worry as the country moves closer to impeachment, Trump’s rhetoric and behavior is going to get more erratic and extreme.

  38. Trump’s now urging China to investigate the Bidens.

    Thoughts:

    –Who thinks he will protect the elections from foreign interference, which includes foreign adversaries providing dirt, accurate or not, on political opponents). It’s very difficult to not see his lack of actions on shoring up election equipment and pushing back on Russian interference as a sign that he’s open to this, and indirectly welcoming it. If true this would be something that makes him unfit and warrants the end of his presidency;

    –This is a time where Republicans like Romney need to forcefully condemn the POTUS from publicly urging other countries to investigate his political opponents. To be silent is to allow this behavior to become the norm;

    –Trump complains about the whistleblower’s “secondhand information.” Trump’s public comments above support the WB’s complaint;

    –The idea that Trump wants the Biden’s investigated because he cares about corruption is absurd. And if it’s OK to investigate children of his political opponents for corruption, it should OK to investigate his children. Addtionally, if corruption shi

    1. Who believes Trump really cares about ending corruption? (I guess the same people who believe he’s “draining the swamp?”)

      Good response:

      Anyone who digs up news reports about Trump’s golf courses and hotels and the business of his children–since he’s been in office–or scandals involving his cabinet–I can’t imagine such a person will take Trump seriously about caring about corruption.

      Another thing: He’s not obligated to end corruption in other countries. Speak out against, sure. But, again, I can’t recall him speaking out about the corruption of other countries. And he seems to have a strong desire of getting along with Russia, but doesn’t seem concerned about their corruption.

      Finally, my understanding is that there are proper channels for DOJ to get involved with corruption issues in other countries, and Trump has bypassed those (e.g., using his personal lawyer). When it comes to U.S. citizens, the POTUS should target them, or make public statements that suggests that he is. The POTUS should allow DOJ/FBI to handle this with independence, certainly not use these agencies to go after political enemies.

  39. At what point does one consider “ravings of a mad King” is actually an accurate description rather than a glib, partisan cheap shot?

    More evidence that the ravings and madness may be real. Or it could be just evidence of gross incompetence:

  40. The argument is persuasive for me–but that’s also because I think there is a lot of other evidence that warrant impeachment and removal. In a way, I don’t know if the tweets cited by Nichols is sufficient. While they may be, they can also be seen as reinforcing Trump’s unfitness–a level of unfitness that would warrant impeachment.

  41. I didn’t see the video, but if it’s as bad as it sounds–this is so wrong.

    Agree with the tweet below:

    Trump isn’t even trying to be a leader, someone trying to unite the country. Also, his attacks on the press, including describing them as “the enemy of the people,” is another indication of his authoritarian approach to governing. It’s reprehensible.

    10/14/2019

    Here’s the video:

    1. I might pump the brakes just a little here. If the video (and I won’t watch it so this is just speculation) was clearly meant to be a joke, I don’t think the takeaway is necessarily an endorsement of violence. I didn’t think much of Kathy Griffin’s decapitation joke, and I understood a lot of the outrage, but Griffin is a comic — nobody takes what she says as instructive or any kind of doctrine.

      I absolutely think it’s in poor taste and I’m also disgusted by it, but is it reprehensible?

    2. I absolutely think it’s in poor taste and I’m also disgusted by it, but is it reprehensible?

      Yes, and I disturbing–I would be surprised if you disagree (if you watched it). I’ll describe a few things, since you don’t plan on watching it. The video uses a graphically violently, shoot ’em up clip from the movie, The Kingsman–not only do we see Trump graphically killing the news media, but President Obama, and Hillary Clinton as well.

      I can’t imagine any POTUS not forcefully disavowing and denouncing this video.

    3. Context:

      Also, it’s worth mentioning the shooting in the Baltimore(?) newsroom. Wasn’t there a bomb scare at CNN as well?

      Prof Ben-Ghiat studies authoritarians (or at least wrote a book on Mussolini):

      Ruth Ben-Ghiat on CNN Tonight: Don Lemon 10-02-19 – Vid 4 from Ruth Ben-Ghiat on Vimeo.

  42. I saw a tweet of Trump insisting on knowing the identity of the whistleblower. Some thoughts about Trump’s thought process:

    1. Trump wholeheartedly believes the phone call to the Ukranian president, and using Giuliani, Sondland, Pence, et al. to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, is perfectly acceptable. Maybe he believes it’s OK because every president or politician does this or should do this.

    2. If this is true, then he may believe the whistleblower is simply trying to create the appearance that Trump did something awful–like how the GOP made a big deal about Benghazi debacle. That is, the GOP mostly made a big deal to hurt Hillary Clinton (and Obama) politically.

    3. If this is true, then Trump would think the whistleblower isn’t really a whistleblower–i.e., the person doesn’t have a legitimate concern–s/he is engaging in political/information warfare. Therefore the person doesn’t deserve protection.

    If all of this is true, this is really damning in my opinion–specifically if #1 is true. It is one of many examples that reveal a very authoritarian mindset and approach to governing. Most Republican congresspersons would strongly disagree with Trump–at least before Trump was elected.

    I think it’s pretty clear that #1 is true, based on Trump’s comments–and the fact that the WH released a summary of the phone conversation, ostensibly thinking it would vindicate Trump. The question is, does Congress and the American people believe it’s acceptable for the POTUS to pressure another country to find political damaging information on a political opponent? Would it be OK if the POTUS sacrifice U.S. interests (in this case, withholding congressionally approved funding that is critical for Ukraine to defend itself against Russia) to do this? Would it be OK if the POTUS accepted dubious information, manufactured by the other country? Or do these actions warrant the end of a presidency?

  43. Reading the article below makes me think of Paul Manafort, specifically the way he lobbied for questionable people. Giuliani seems like a cross between Manafort and Michael Cohen.

    Also, the article raises questions about why Trump decided to move U.S. troops away from Kursdish allies.

  44. Watch this:

    Republicans like this have to start saying this publicly. Sickening that they’re keeping silent on this. I’m pretty sure large numbers of Americans confused or in the dark about whether Trump actually mentally and emotionally deteriorating. Republicans–or former prominent members of the Trump administration–would make this much clearer for them.

    I also recommend watching this:

    1. Love this. As an American and as someone who admires Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, I approve this message.

  45. From the Director of National Intelligence’s office:

    I really think you can make a strong case that Trump is and has been violating a lot of this.

  46. Another example revealing Trump’s unfitness:

    He’s said this before about Iraqi oil as well. My sense is that he genuinely believes this. And I would be shocked if many people around him haven’t told him this is illegal, and not a good thing to express, as it feeds narrative that U.S. just want to take ME resources.

  47. The lack of self-awareness here is remarkable. It’s delusional, or I’m losing my mind.

  48. To get a sense of the possible serious effects of impeachment, I think this article is worth reading:

  49. AG Bill Barr’s Quest to Investigate the Investigators

    Barr assigned John Durham, the AG of Conneticutt, to investigate the investigation of Trump-Russia. (Inspector General of DOJ or FBI has already been reviewing this prior to this appointment.) Durham supposedly had a good reputation, and it would make sense to choose someone like that to ensure public this investigation is not political. But Barr has supposedly been flying to other countries to talk to their officials about how Trump-Russia investigation started–which almost ruins the appointment of Durham in the first place.

    Here’s a recent story on Barr’s investigation:

    And the information being requested has left allies astonished. One British official with knowledge of Barr’s wish list presented to London commented that “it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services”.

  50. Gross Negligence With Regard to National Security

    That’s a description I’d use to describe Trump, and the level of negligence is unreal. More evidence of that in this Wapo piece, Ambassador’s cellphone call to Trump from Kyiv restaurant was a stunning breach of security, former officials say

    The Ambassador (Sondland) isn’t only to blame.

    It is also dangerous for a president to take an off-the-books call like that, Pfeiffer said. That is why call logs are kept, he said. Without them, someone could assert that the president said something on a call, and a log “protects the president’s ability to deny something happened,” he said. “Good bureaucratic record-keeping is a protection for someone in the position of the president.”

    This is not the first time questions have arisen over Trump’s un­or­tho­dox phone use. He has been known to give his personal cellphone number to other world leaders, despite aides’ warnings that his cellphone calls are not secure. Russia and China in particular have targeted his personal cellphone calls, the New York Times reported.

    I’m almost certain people around him have told him these things, yet, he seems to continue to ignore them. This seems like gross negligence, and if he persists in doing these things, I would think this is impeachable.

  51. I hope there is missing contextual information that makes this not as sickening as it seems:

    1. This seems headed for a showdown.

      People trying to head this off:

      I am open-minded and willing to consider the possibility for good reasons for not taking away their tridents or for pardoning these soldiers, but I haven’t read Trump give any reason for this. Anyone know if he has or if there are good arguments for his actions?

    2. Right now, Trump seems to be backing down. As I think this is good for the military, I hope this doesn’t change.

    3. Gallagher making some pretty big accusations against the U.S. Navy.

      If he’s correct there should be hell to pay in the Navy, but, to be fair, if he’s wrong–especially if these accusations are entirely baseless and spurious–he should have hell to pay.

      I really tired of Trump and others making these smears and accusations with no consequences. They just keep doing it, and probably will continue unless they face meaningful consequences.

    4. U.S. Navy Secretary Pushed Out

    5. The following article discusses the importance of enforcing discipline and codes of conduct for soldiers. On some level I can understand why some may want to be lenient on soldiers, as we’re asking them to be willing to kill in order to defend the nation and its interests. They’re bound to make mistakes in the process. But if the U.S. military doesn’t have a strict code of conduct, then the soldiers and military overall can devolve into savagery and barbarism. Well, that’s my takeaway. Read for yourself.

      I’m also going to include the New York Times Daily podcast, which gives a lot of the backstory on this:

  52. And our society is not well-equipped at this moment to deal with this.

    I have a strong sense that McMullin is right. Many of the arguments Trump and his defenders are throwing out there are not compelling and sometimes not sound. But I get the sense they’re not throwing these arguments out not to convince people, but to sow confusion–or at least that’s where the strategy can be effective. As long as a large enough percentage of the population is confused, unsure of what to believe and then exhausted, Trump can escape.

    The press should be one of the main defenses against this, but they are not doing a good job in this regard in my opinion. My sense is that some different approach to their job is required, and, for the most part, they have not really made this kind of adjustment.

    Here are some quick thoughts on the nature of the problem we face now.

    Some problems:
    People can make up crazy lies, accusations, and conspiracy theories with little or no consequence. By lack of consequence, I’m thinking specifically of loss of credibility, social shunning. Without these consequences, these people and their ideas maintain a level of credibility it should not. Now, I believe this effect is especially true to Americans who don’t pay close attention to the news, who are largely politically apathetic. I believe this leads to confusion and exhaustion from these individuals.

    I should add that I think we’re in this situation because bad actors like Trump seem to have little or no shame. If he and his supporters did, they would not do what they’re doing, or they would likely resign.

    Path forward
    My sense is the way out of this mess involves identifying and actively fortifying the journalists, politicians, pundits, and political organizations that rely on facts, use sound and reasonable thinking and operate in good faith. If we can identify these people and organizations in a way that this would be clear to casual news consumers, then these casual news consumers should also be able to see the key facts, and sound arguments. And if this is very clear, they should be able to clearly see the claims that are dubious or false and arguments that are unreasonable and likely given in bad faith. This can then a basis to exact some heavy price on individuals and organizations that promote crazy claims.

    1. Because I believe this to be true, my heart sunk a little as I read this tweet:

      Here’s a quote from the article that takes me back to the post above:

      The journalist in me longs to write about this other version of the hearings: the one that is all about the evidence and the unfolding investigation, about who was a strong witness and who was not, about where there are holes in the case and what new information was gleaned. This is the version that those who listened closely came away with, the one that led Julie Pace, the Washington bureau chief of the Associated Press, no bastion of editorializing, to conclude the “mountain of impeachment evidence is beyond dispute.”

      The journalists primary challenge is not the usual one involving digging for and verifying information and presenting it in a compelling way to citizens. In my view the bigger challenge involves

      a) getting the most relevant information to casual news consumers,
      b) organizing it in a way that is relatively easy to understand, not requiring a lot of time and energy, and;
      c) finding a messenger that is credible and trustworthy–i.e., can stand up to charges of political bias.

      Without find a way to achieve the above, the “mountain of impeachment evidence” will likely be a matter of dispute.

    1. It just feels like mobster schtick–way to distance himself from illegal activity, creating a way to deny responsibility. But with careful scrutiny the strategem is not very effective. To me, it’s only effective if a confusing, overloaded information environment.

      Thread shooting down suggestion that Trump didn’t know what Giuliani was doing:

  53. Burisma and the Bidens

    Going into this, my assumption was that the Bidens/Burisma story really had no substance. The podcast modified that view.

    What I knew going in:

    A. There was lots of corruption in Ukraine;
    B. The chief prosecutor of Ukraine was seen as very soft on corruption;
    C. U.S. policy and many Europeans wanted him to be removed;
    D. Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to remove him.
    E. Hunter Biden, the VP’s son, sat on the board of Burisma (a gas company?).

    What I learned

    A. The new prosecutor did investigate Burisma, and issued fines, but ultimately the oligarch, who I believe was in exile, was allowed to return (and be involved with the company?);
    B. Anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine were not happy with this–they didn’t think the Ukrainian government was tough enough.

    This last point is important. If IMF and European leaders believed the actions were woefully inadequate–essentially allowing corruption to go unpunished–then this raises at least the appearance that Bidens’ involvement led to leniency.

    On some level, one could argue that this warrants further investigation. On the other hand, those who believe this warrants further investigation, but ignores Trump not divesting his businesses and using his office to promote them; not acting on Trump administration promoting Ivanka’s products; not investigating whether China approved trademarks for Ivanka’s business–they should not be taken seriously.

    In a way, this reminds me of Bill Clinton talking to AG Lynch on the tarmac. We don’t know what they talked about. They claimed they talked about family matters, not the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and server. Even if they did, this meeting was problematic because of optics. If the Ukrainian actions on Burisma wasn’t adequate, this also creates the reasonable impression that the Bidens had something to do with this.

    I should say that I think it’s important to compare actions and evaluate the severity of them. What I know of the Burisma/Biden would fall be a 4-5 on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being incredibly corrupt/criminal, etc. What Trump and his family are doing, in terms of corruption is 9-10.

    Finally, if there is something to the Biden-Burisma scandal, why didn’t Republicans make a big deal of this? Why didn’t DOJ investigate? Trump’s DOJ could have used proper channels doing so as well–and this would have protected the investigation from the appearance of politicization. Trump’s handling of the issue has created the strong appearance that this is completely political and not legitimate.

  54. From the Atlantic: Heads, Trump Wins. Tails, We All Lose. by David Frum

    The basic idea is that the courts rule against many of Trump’s actions this will ultimately constrain the presidency in ways that will likely harm future presidencies and our system of government overall. Why? Laws, as a way to regulate a president’s conduct and actions, can be crude and also abused via politics. Frum mentions that much of our system depended on a president to behave with a degree of honor and to be trustworthy. Trump has challenged that to a degree that the courts may render decisions that will make it harder for future presidents to function.

    Of course, if the courts don’t do this, then this will enable Trump to act with impunity.

    I’m not doing a good job of summarizing the article–it’s worth reading, so read it for yourself.

  55. How do you explain the following poll results?

    Here’s my take: Trump’s support is based primarily on a group with the most power and privilege feeling both under threat. They see Trump as their champion, fighting against this loss. In this battle, the ends justifies the means. Supporters will tolerate a violation of almost every principle and belief they’ve valued–in order to maintain power. And if they fail, at least, they won’t go quietly–Trump is angry expression of these changes. Generally, a group or individual with power does not give it up willingly. I feel like this is what we’re seeing play out. For Republicans who view Trump as their champion, fighting against this loss of power, on some level, I can see why they view him as better than Lincoln.

  56. Multiple people I follow on twitter have been re-tweeting the following:

    Is this such a good move? Wouldn’t it likely cause Trump to do something foolish or damaging to things that these people care about? Besides the pleasure of mocking the president, what is to be gained from promoting this?

    12/4/2019

    I don’t think it’s a great idea to do something that will provoke someone who could be mentally unstable and has the ability to launch nuclear missiles. It could possibly increase authoritarian behavior. (Is that the goal–to make him act so inappropriately that the American public turns against him?)

  57. Watts also goes on to mention that in allows for plausible deniability by the Russian government.

  58. This clip has been getting some attention:

    Some comments:

    I assume Speaker Pelosi took this as an insinuation that she hates Trump–and that’s what offended her. While I can understand her being peeved, the question seems valid to me.

    I really liked her response, separating policy positions she disagrees with, which she implied that the election should address, from violations of the Constitution, which the Ukraine scandal has triggered. I totally agree with her. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Trump’s policies, whether one finds Trump likable or unlikable, as a person–those matters don’t warrant impeachment and removal. Trump’s actions and behaviors relating to Ukraine foreign assistance and meetings with the Ukrainian president, tying this to an announcement that would damage his political rival, does.

    In the press conference, Pelosi references a Trump quote–“Article II gives me the power to do whatever I want.”

    Trump also said that he has that absolute right to pardon himself.

    (Professor Turley, who testified yesterday, arguing against impeachment, appears in the clip, claiming that the POTUS can pardon himself, but it would basically be a really bad thing if he did.)

    1. More on the reporter who asked the question, and Pelosi’s own explanation:

      I’m not sure if all the details above are relevant. Well, if he’s implicitly suggesting that the Pelosi and the Democrats are pursuing impeachment because they hate the POTUS, I can see why Pelosi and other Democrats don’t see this as a good faith question. But I do think the Pelosi and Democrats should explain why impeachment is not about personal animus towards Trump.

      Helpful contextual details that I didn’t know from a WaPo op-ed about this incident:

      One of the things every Catholic child is taught is that the word “hate” should never be used in connection with another human being.

      This admonition flows from the expansive Catholic interpretation of the Fifth Commandment. In a General Audience last year in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis declared that to hate is to murder in your heart.

      All of which explains House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) reaction when James Rosen, a journalist for conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, asked her: “Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?”

    1. Nuts.

  59. I’m not posting this to mock Trump.

    A lot of times when Trump misspeaks, I can sort of figure out what he meant to say. It may take some work, but I can sort of get there. Not all of them indicate mental deterioration. Mind you, the statement often justify some concern. But what he says here perplexed me more than normal. The only thing I can think of is that he meant to say “abortion” in the 9th month. But he says, “baby to be born.” That seems not just a small mistake that anyone could make. He’s really confused or makes an odd error.

  60. The 434-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane, into the Trump campaign, and rejected the assertion that the case was opened out of political animus or that informants were used in violation of FBI rules.

    However,

    These two tweets by a law professor and a former federal prosecutor make me a little queasy. My sense was Durham had a good reputation for being non-partisan professional. These tweets suggest he is not acting that way. I feel uneasy because seeing the DOJ/FBI operate in a more political, partisan way pains me. And if DOJ or FBI did that with the Trump and his campaign, that would make me feel equally uneasy and disappointed.

    Another tweet:

    Edit

    Thread.

    Edit

    1. AG Bill Barr’s report sounds create a totally different impression of the IG report. (And I’m even more uneasy)

      Barr opens with “Noting is more important than the integrity and credibility of the FBI and Department of Justice.” His actions, now and in the past, do not support this.

      For example,

      FBI Director, Chris Wray’s, response seems to fall in line with IG report:

      1. Former federal prosecutors:

      2. Regarding FBI director’s comments about the IG report:

  61. Lavrov meeting with Trump at White House (?) today. Ukrainian President Zelensky still hasn’t gotten a meeting at the White House.

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