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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: trump impeachment

Final Report: Select Panel Recommends Barring Trump From Public Office

The House Select Committee has published its final report. You can find it here.

The report is a sweeping 845 pages and features rich narratives neatly divided into different phases of former President Donald Trump’s push to overturn the results of the 2020 election before finally inciting an insurrection at the U.S Capitol.

1. THE BIG LIE

The first chapter of the final report covers former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” and specifically, the committee contends, how he deliberately exploited the “Red Mirage” to advance his overturn agenda.

As Fox News elections head Chris Stirewalt explained: for nearly half a century, the practice of voting by mail or early voting, or absentee voting was par for the course. Typically, because Democrats tend to vote this way more often than Republicans in “nearly every election,” he said, it results in a simple formula: “Republicans win Election Day and Democrats win the early vote and then you wait and start counting. It happens every time.”

Trump exploited an ordinary situation, sowed confusion about the timing of the votes, and deceived Americans, the report notes. And all of this was foreshadowed.

Subchapters in the first section of the report focus on Trump’s early plans to declare victory in the election, further details about his efforts to delegitimize the process, the formal launch of the Big Lie, the shakeup to his campaign team after the election was over, how his campaign informed him repeatedly that he had lost and voter fraud didn’t exist as well as Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories. Another section is devoted entirely to his speech on January 6.

  • Trump “pushed the campaign’s ‘Team Normal’” to the curb two weeks after the election (Campaign manager Bill Stepien and deputy Justin Clark) and replaced them with Rudy Giuliani who then recruited attorneys Jenna Ellis (Giuliani’s deputy), Bernie Kerik, Boris Epshteyn, Katherine Friess, and Christina Bobb.
  • On January 2, 2021, Matthew Morgan, the senior-most lawyer for the Trump campaign approached then-Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, and together, the men reached the conclusion that even if every claim of fraud was “aggregated and read most favorably to the campaign… it was not sufficient to be outcome determinative.”
  • Trump White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner arranged an Oval Office briefing for Trump on Nov. 6, exactly two months to the day until the insurrection, with campaign staff. Trump was told then that analysis from swing states showed a victory was impossible.

By the numbers:

Trump sued 62 times in states and in Washington, D.C. from Nov. 4 to January 6. He lost all but one case. 22 judges appointed by Republican presidents oversaw the cases. 10 of them were Trump-appointed. All three of the justices appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court who reviewed his fraud claims, rejected them.

The first chapter of the report, in particular, Section 1.8 “President Trump repeatedly promoted conspiracy theories,” offers extensive analysis and debunking of the various conspiracy theories that Trump deployed about rampant voter fraud.

Dead people voting became a major, disinformation-laden complaint flowing from the Trump campaign and the Republican party. The final committee report notes that just days before January 6, Senator Lindsey Graham prodded Trump’s lawyers to “provide evidence to support the campaign’s claims regarding dead voters.”

Giuliani looked into it and “they concluded they could not find evidence of dead voters anywhere near the number that Giuliani and President Trump were claiming publicly.”

Excerpt:

After noting the shortcomings in their evidence, Katherine Fries, a lawyer working with the Giuliani legal team, warned that Senator Graham would “push back” on their evidence. As predicted by Friess, Senator Graham was not impressed by the information provided by Giuliani’s team.
In his speech on the Senate floor on January 6th, Graham explained why he would not object to the certification of electoral votes. Senator Graham referred to the failure of the Trump attorneys to provide the evidence he requested: “’They said there’s 66,000 people in Georgia under 18 voted. Howmany people believe that? I asked, ‘Give me 10.’ Hadn’t had one. They said 8,000 felons in prison in Arizona voted. Give me 10. Hadn’t gotten one. Does that say there’s—There’s problems in every election. I don’t buy this. Enough’s enough. We’ve got to end it.”

Dominion Voting Systems may have a chance to sue Trump yet. According to the final report, Trump tweeted and retweeted false claims about the voting machine manufacturer over 30 times, lies about them in election speeches and interviews and did all of this, despite his staff telling him his claims had no merit, the report notes.

“Hand recounts confirmed the fidelity of the machines. But none of this overwhelming evidence mattered. President Trump demonstrated a conscious disregard for the facts and continued to maliciously smear Dominion.”

II. ‘I JUST WANT TO FIND 11,780 VOTES’

The final report reveals that former President Donald Trump contacted more than 190 Republican state legislators in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan alone—just three of seven battleground states.

Excerpt:

One voicemail left as part of this initiative was leaked to the press on December 1, 2020. In it, a Trump Campaign staffer said, “I did want to personally reach out to you on behalf of the President.” Her main point came later in the message: “we want to know when there is a resolution inthe House to appoint electors for Trump if the President can count on you to join in support.” Another message from this effort that reached reporters made the same ask and claimed that, “[a]fter a roundtable with tthe President, he asked us to reach out to you individually” to whip support for a “joint resolution from the State House and Senate” that would “allow Michigan to send electors for Donald J. Trump to the Electoral College and save our country.” Soon after the voicemail leaked, the Campaign staffer who left this voicemail got a text message from one of her supervisors, who wrote: “Honest to god I’m so proud of this” because “[t]hey unwittingly just gotyour message out there.” He elaborated: “you used the awesome powerof the presidency to scare a state rep into getting a statewide newspaper todeliver your talking points.”

III. FAKE ELECTORS AND ‘THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE’ STRATEGY

At the heart of the attempt to overturn the election were the fake electors. The committee notes how in seven battleground states, they affixed their signatures to bunk certificates in gambits led by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and others like Kenneth Cheseboro, Cheseboro provided instructions to pro-Trump electors in five of the seven battleground states to declare themselves “duly elected and qualified” but they weren’t. None of those who had signed were sanctioned by the state government with what is known as a “certificate of ascertainment.”

In just two of the seven battleground states, electors included a disclaimer on their “certificate” that noted the form was valid only if they were deemed “qualified” at a later time.

In an email to Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien on December 14, 2020, Joshua Findlay, the Republican National Committee’s director for election integrity, sent an email to the legal team on the campaign.

Excerpt:

“Findlay updated Campaign Manager Bill Stepienand his bosses on the legal team that the Trump team’s slate in Georgia wasnot able to satisfy all provisions of State law but still “voted as legally aspossible under the circumstances” before transmitting their fake votes toWashington, DC, by mail.”

The final report also presents evidence connecting Trump directly to the fake elector scheme. Findlay said Trump “made it clear that Rudy [Giuliani] was in charge of this and that Rudy was executing what he wanted.””

IV. ‘JUST CALL IT CORRUPT AND LEAVE THE REST TO ME’

The Justice Department never found any evidence of widespread voter fraud significant enough to alter the outcome of the 2020 election and hand Donald Trump a victory.

The committee notes that former Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr authorized two investigations into claims of election fraud. The first one began on Nov. 7—the day the press declared Joe Biden was the winner—and then on Nov. 9. Barr ordered the department and the FBI to investigate for fraud in their respective jurisdictions. He specified that his order should not lead anyone to believe that the request for an investigation alone constituted proof fraud.

Barr rebuffed Trump’s conspiracy theories in three meetings and Trump was immovable.

“The President said there had been major fraud and that, as soon as the facts were out, the results of the election would be reversed,” Barr told the committee.

Rudy Giuliani had been in Trump’s ear, Barr said, and was telling him “crazy stuff” about what authority the Justice Department had to investigate their claims. Giuliani had badmouthed the Justice Department to Trump and Barr believed this was because Giuliani was upset that no one had come up with any evidence of fraud.

By Nov. 29, Trump went on Fox News and claimed the DOJ was “missing in action” and he opined that maybe the FBI was involved nefariously somehow. Trump claimed the FBI wasn’t investigating Dominion, either. But six days earlier Barr had already explained to Trump that the Dominion voting machine conspiracy theory was nonsense. All Trump did, Barr testified, was come back at him with “crazy stuff.” Barr would resign on Dec. 14.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen stepped in after Barr left. From December 23, 2020, to January 3, 2021, Rosen and Trump were in constant contact and it was usually Trump calling to complain about how little the Justice Department had done to investigate his claims of voter fraud.

Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, had introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, an attorney at the Justice Department who was sympathetic to Trump. Clark eventually went to a meeting at the Oval Office against department policy. Rosen warned Clark not to do it again. Rosen had not yet learned that at the meeting in the Oval Office, Clark “told the President that if he were to change the leadership at the Department of Justice, ‘then the Department might be able to do more’ to support the President’s claims that the election had been stolen from him.”

As Clark vied for the top spot at the department, he would draft a memo intended for battleground state legislatures that proclaimed voting irregularities. First up was Georgia. If Rosen wouldn’t send memo as Trump wanted, Clark would replace him, Rosen recalled. The memo was never sent and Clark never ascended the ladder for the simple fact that Rosen and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, as well as other Justice Department officials, threatened to resign en masse if Trump went forward with Clark.

Excerpt:

“People tell me Jeff Clark is great” and that “I should put him in,”President Trump said on the call. “People want me to replace the DOJ leadership.” Donoghue responded “[S]ir, that’s fine, you should have the leadership you want, but understand, changing the leadership in the Department won’t change anything.”

Perry, who has been referred to the House Ethics Committee by the January 6 probe, called Richard Donoghue one day before Clark drafted the 5-page memo.

The final report notes at length that the same tactics being used by Rudy Giuliani to advance fake elector slates, were the ones Clark deployed in his draft letter.

From December through January 2, Clark met with Trump in Oval Office despite admonishments from Rosen. Trump meanwhile was fervently pushing the Justice Department to file a frivolous lawsuit in Pennsylvania challenging the election results. Despite being told repeatedly that this would not happen, Trump and his allies kept pressing the Justice Department.

V. ‘A COUP IN SEARCH OF LEGAL THEORY’

Highlights from this section of the final report include some incredibly damning if not wildly curious details around the drafting of a memo by attorney John Eastman that proposed to have the vice president intervene at the joint certification ceremony. The proposal was flatly unconstitutional but ambiguity in the language around the Electoral Count Act was just wide enough of a window for Eastman.

The final report contends that Eastman wrote his first of two “January 6th Scenario” memos on Dec. 23. That same day he spoke to Trump for 23 minutes.

Excerpt:

“From the start, President Trump was looped in on Eastman’s proposal. The same day Eastman started preparing the memo, he sent an email to President Trump’s assistant Molly Michael, at 1:32 p.m.: “Is the President available for a very quick call today at some point? Just want to update himon our overall strategic thinking.” Only five minutes later, Eastman received a call from the White House switchboard; according to his phone records, the conversation lasted for almost 23 minutes.”

Pence and Trump met privately, without anyone else present, on January 5, 2021, at the White House. Eastman had been pushing the Pence-as-arbiter-of-the-count strategy hot and heavy but understood, the committee notes, that Pence wouldn’t go for it.

Excerpt:

Eastman recognized that Vice President Pence was not going to change his mind on rejecting electors outright, but he still asked if the Vice President would consider sending the electors back to the States. “I don’t seeit,” Vice President Pence responded, “but my counsel will hear out whatever Mr. Eastman has to say.”Jacob received other calls from Eastman on January 5th. Jacob toldthe Select Committee that he had a detailed discussion with Eastman concerning the ways his proposal would violate the Electoral Count Act. Eastman resorted to a ridiculous argument—comparing their current situation to the crisis that faced President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.Eastman invoked President Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. He also told Jacob to “stay tuned” because “we” were trying to getsome letters from State legislators indicating that they were interested inthe Vice President sending the electors back to the States.”

VI. “BE THERE, WILL BE WILD!”

  • According to the report, for the Million MAGA March in Washington, D.C. on Nov 14, Proud Boy leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio had his air travel to D.C. paid for by Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock who urged Trump during a Dec. 18, 2020 meeting to seize voting machines.

VII. 187 MINUTES OF DERELICTION

The select committee was unable to corroborate testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson about Trump lunging at a Secret Service driver on January 6 and requesting that it be taken to the Capitol. Individuals who were in the president’s car that afternoon could not remember Trump grabbing at the clavicle of Bobby Engel, Trump’s head of Secret Service. Hutchinson testified under oath that this story was relayed to her secondhand by Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent-turned--deputy chief of staff for the Trump White House. (Such a transition is rare.)

A footnote in the final report points out:

A book written by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in December 2021 made the categorical claim that the President never intended to travel to the Capitol that day. See Mark Meadows, The Chief’s Chief (St. Petersburg, FL: All Seasons Press, 2021), p. 250. The Committee’s evidence demonstrates that Meadows’s claim is categorically false. Because the Meadows book conflicted sharply with information that was being received by the Select Committee, the Committee became increasingly wary that other witnesses might intentionally conceal what happened. That appeared to be the case with Ornato. Ornato does not recall that he conveyed the information to Cassidy Hutchinson regarding the SUV, and also does not recall that he conveyed similar information to a White House employee with national security responsibilities who testified that Ornato recalled a similar account to him. The Committee is skeptical of Ornato’s account.

Multiple people reached out to Trump while he failed to respond to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump allies, family members, friendly press, staff; nearly everyone in Trump’s orbit who testified to the committee about this three-hour block said the same thing: Trump had to do more to condemn the violence.

The final report shows that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, was in a panic on January 6, just like so many of her colleagues, Capitol staff, journalists, and others who were working inside the Capitol or visiting that day.

“Mark, I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people This isn’t the way to solve anything,” Greene wrote. [Punctuation original]

Notably, Trump’s personal assistant Johnny McEntee said when he and the president spoke by phone after the attack on January 6, Trump did not express any sadness.

“This is a crazy day,” McEntee recalled Trump saying. The tone was “like, wow, can you believe this shit?” and McEntee thought Trump seemed shocked that things got out of control. Trump didn’t make any other phone calls for the rest of the evening on January 6. He did not call Pence, despite learning earlier that he had to be whisked to safety during the siege.

VIII. ANALYSIS OF AN ATTACK

The final chapter of the report delves into how the Capitol attack took shape on January 6 and who was involved, starting with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The activities of Trump allies like Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Ali Alexander and Michael Flynn are discussed, Details include analysis from the moments that Capitol was breached to the first person inside to the conduct of some of the most memorable faces to emerge from the violent attack.

This portion of the report also includes information around the timelines of lawmaker evacuations from the Capitol, and other important details in the day’s chronology including when an officer shot Trump supporter and U.S. veteran Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt refused to stand down, video footage shows, and ignored the officer’s orders, attempting to squeeze herself through a shattered glass door.

The clearing of the Capitol is also detailed in this segment of the report.

APPENDICES

Appendices are split into four categories: Government Agency Preparation for and Response to January 6; DC National Guard Prep for and Response to January 6; The Big Rip-Off: Follow the Money; Malign Foreign Influence

HIGHLIGHTS

Government Agency Preparation for and Response to January 6

  • Senator Mark Warner called FBI deputy director David Bowdich during the siege and told him the situation was a “mess” because 87 Senators were in one location during the attack. “We now have the vast majority of the Senate in one room,” Warner told him.
  • Agents with the Secret Service who were tuned into Trump’s speech at the Ellipse sent an email to Secret Service leadership stating: “POTUS just said that he is going up to the U.S. Capitol to ‘watch’ the vote.” The agent was unsure if Trump was serious. Another Secret Service executive replied, “[he] said it but not going to our knowledge.”

DC National Guard Prep for and Response to January 6

  • The commander of the National Guard, General William Walker, was forced to wait for three hours and 19 minutes on Jan. 6 as the Pentagon worked on a plan to deploy back up to the Capitol. Chris Miller, then the acting-defense secretary, said he thought it would only take a minute but that minute turned into five, then 10, and then 15.
    • EXCERPT: “And then an hour went by, then more time went by . . . .But we never thought it would take that long. Col. Matthews confirmed that there were periods on the call when no one was talking. At times, there was talk of securing buildings other than the Capitol. [Miller] called the open channel essentially “a general officer chat line.”
  • Miller said he had approved the National Guard at 3:04 p.m. but the Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, hosted a planning call but that call did not include General Walker, the official responsible for leading troops into Washington.
    • EXCERPT: Major General Walker himself understood he had to wait for approval from Secretary McCarthy to deploy his forces. But as he waited on that video CALL for hours, he did strongly consider sending them anyway. He turned to his lawyer and said, “Hey, you know what? You know, we’re going to go, and I'm just going to shoulder the responsibility.” According to Major General Walker, his lawyer responded, “What if you get sued?” Colonel Mathews, that lawyer, “told him not to do that. Just hold on.” The Guard officials located with Major General Walker at the Armory all say he seriously contemplated aloud the possibility of breaking with the chain of command. “Should we just deploy now and resign tomorrow?” was how Lieutenant Nick recalled Major General Walker bluntly putting it. “I would have done just that,” Major General Walker said, “but not for those two letters” from his superiors curtailing Guard redeployment.
  • General Walker told the committee that “ultimately, no plan from Army leaders—strategic or tactical—made it to the troops.“[I]f they came up with a plan, they never shared it with us,” he said. “They claim they were putting a plan together. That’s what took so long. I never saw a plan from the Department of Defense or the Department of the Army.”

The Big Rip-Off

The select committee contends that Trump sucked up cash from donors by proclaiming that he was using donations to support his legal battle. The Republican National Committee knew Trump’s claims of winning were baseless, the final report notes. and that any additional donations would not help him win the 2020 election.

The only individuals at the RNC who tried to “walk back” the fundraising email blasts were RNC lawyers. Members of the RNC legal team did not testify to the committee due to attorney-client privilege issues, but interviews with RNC staffers like Alex Katz revealed that lawyers instructed him not to say “steal the election” in messaging.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • The final report recommends reform of the Electoral Count Act and proposals removal of ambiguous language while solidifying the role of the Vice President as ministerial only. (Senators passed ECA reform legislation on Thursday)
  • The final report recommends that the Justice Department make a determination on its criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump and others. Bar associations should also continue to review the conduct of attorneys cited in the report for unethical behavior or misconduct to ensure they are not practicing improperly; DoJ should take greater steps to prevent its attorneys from participating in any campaign-related activities (See: Jeffrey Clark)
  • The final report recommends that Trump be banned from running for office ever again and points to the 14th Amendment which bars someone from holding office if they have “engaged in an insurrection” or provided “aid and comfort” to enemies of the U.S. Constitution
  • The committee recommends that the joint session of Congress be considered a “national security special event”
  • The committee recommends that tougher penalties are enforced on those who would try to upend the nation’s transfer of power as well as increasing the federal penalties for people who threaten election workers; in that same vein, the committee recommends stronger protections be put in place to shield election worker’s personal information
  • The committee recommends that the House of Representatives develop legislation that would make its subpoenas enforceable in federal court, either following the statutory authority that exists for the Senate in 2 U.S.C.§ 288d and 28 U.S.C. § 1365 or adopting a broad approach to facilitate timely oversight of the executive branch.”
  • The committee recommends increased oversight of the Capitol Police as well as increased oversight over social media companies' policies that have the real-time effect of “radicalizing their consumers including by provoking people to attack their own country”
  • The committee recommends federal agencies with intelligence and security missions move ahead on developing strategies to combat extremism, including white nationalist groups and violent anti-government groups.
  • Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Mortified Mitch And Cowering Kevin, GOP 'Leaders,' Are Paralyzed By Trump

The day after the victory in Nevada by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, securing the Senate for Democrats, is one of those days you don’t even have to read the stories. The headlines spewing the panic on the Right are more than enough:

The Washington Post: “Republican rivals start plotting a post-Trump future -- The GOP’s disappointing midterm results spur some donors and party leaders to consider other 2024 candidates.”

The Washington Post: Election deniers lose races for key state offices in every 2020 battleground -- The candidates could have gained power over election administration. Voters rejected them in the six most pivotal states.

The New York Times: Trump Angst Grips Republicans (Again) as 2024 Announcement Looms -- While Republicans pick up the pieces from the midterm elections, former President Donald J. Trump is already forcing them to take sides in the next election.

The Washington Post: In election 2022, the party of Trump pays for being the party of Trump

The Washington Post: Congressional Republicans panic as they watch their lead dwindle -- Private consternation reached a public boiling point Friday as lawmakers in both chambers confronted the fallout from Tuesday’s elections

The Washington Post: Democrats surged to flip state legislatures, defying past GOP gains

If you’re a Republican “leader,” as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pretend to be, you have to be looking at the headlines and asking yourself what the fuck happened, don’t you? Well, you would if you were a sane person occupying a leadership position in an actual political party. The situation for Kev and Mitch, however, is somewhat different. If they open their traps and a natural reaction comes out, something along the lines of “Oh, my God!”, it will be read by the MAGA faithful as a betrayal of the real leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. If they even twitch in the direction of criticizing the Great One, they’ll be politically drawn and quartered within the hour.

Quite a dilemma for the boys, huh? Well, just as a reminder, their party has been here before – specifically, when Richard Nixon was clinging to the White House by his fingernails after the Judiciary Committee had voted on three articles of impeachment and plans were being made to schedule a vote in the House and a trial in the Senate way back in 1974. Republican Senators Hugh Scott and Barry Goldwater, accompanied by Minority Leader Jacob Rhodes, got in a car and drove from the Capitol to the White House and met with Nixon and told him his support in both the House and Senate was thin and he would not survive an impeachment and trial. Nixon resigned as president the next day.

I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that ol’ Mitch is ruing the day he didn’t rally his Republican troops and push through a conviction of Trump at his second impeachment trial in the Senate in February of last year. The Constitution’s ban on running again for president would have parked Trump permanently on the sidelines of American politics and left an open field to Republicans in the midterms this year. Instead, Trump hung like a black cloud over the elections in the House and the Senate, not to mention down in the state houses the Republicans lost. So many of Trump’s hand-picked candidates lost, they practically threw a coronation when the odious J.D. Vance was able to win Ohio's Senate race.

The option of getting some Republican billionaire to loan them a plane to fly down to Palm Beach for a sit-down with The Man Himself is still open to Tremblin’ Mitch and Shiverin’ Kev. The chances of either one of them overcoming the shakes long enough to Do What Must Be Done for the Republican Party, however, are either close to zero or zero itself, their fear of Trump’s MAGA masses is so great.

It's amazing, isn’t it, to watch an entire political party full of professional politicians be aware of what must be done to save themselves and their party from a crushing defeat across the board in Washington and further erosion of their grip on legislatures down in the states in 2024, and still they just sit there petrified for their own political lives if they even move a muscle in that direction.

But that’s where they are, with Kev biting his nails as he watches the last few results come in that will determine whether Republicans regain the majority in the House of Representatives. Piece of advice, Kev: Don’t bother worrying yourself into sleepless nights. You’re finished as a “leader” of the loons who will take charge if the Republicans squeak-out enough victories to carry the day for the party in the House. You’ll have plenty of time to gaze at your pin-striped navel and wonder What Went Wrong.

Alternatively, you could pay another groveling visit to Mar-a-Lago and ask Mr. Indictment Himself for help corralling his MAGA minions in the House. That would make you look weak and him look strong, but if that’s the way you want to play it with 2024 looming on the horizon, more power to you. I know a few Democrats who hope you do just that.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

On July Fourth, Appreciation For The Truly Patriotic Conservatives

When the flags fly proudly on the Fourth of July, I remember what my late father taught me about love of country. Much as he despised the scoundrels and pretenders he liked to call "jelly-bellied flag flappers," after a line in a favorite Rudyard Kipling story, he was deeply patriotic. It is a phrase that aptly describes the belligerent chicken hawk who never stops squawking — someone like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

Like many who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my dad never spoke much about his four tough years of military service, which brought him under Japanese bombardment in the Pacific theater. But eventually there came a time when he attached to his lapel a small eagle-shaped pin known as a "ruptured duck" — a memento given to every veteran. With this proof of service, he demonstrated that as a lifelong liberal, he loved his country as much as any conservative.

That gesture occurred during one of those periods when the political polarization now plaguing our country began to metastasize. It seemed important to my father -- and to me over these many years since -- to lay down a marker for liberals and progressives who love America, with her manifest flaws and conflicted past. Over these past two years, however, living through the pandemic and the insurrection, it has become equally important to recognize that patriotism can still bring us together across sectarian and ideological divides. And on this holiday, to celebrate the determined defense of democracy and law that brings together patriots of all partisan stripes.

On this Independence Day, it doesn't seem so important to argue, as I have in years past, that the liberal left is equally as devoted to American institutions and values as our compatriots on the right -- because so many of the latter have demonstrated, in their fealty to Trump, that they love their would-be dictator more than they love their country. Democrats have proved to be staunch and unified in their defense of the Constitution, with the party's elected officials leading the fight to uphold democracy both at home and around the world.

What feels vital today is to appreciate the allies from the other side of the political aisle who have rallied to the cause, at no small cost to themselves and their families. It is a list that grows longer by the day, starting with Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Republicans who broke with their party to demand truth and justice in the wake of Trump's attempted January 6 coup. Both have proved willing to sacrifice their promising political futures and to subject themselves to vile abuse as they stood up against their degenerating quasi-fascist party and its criminal leader. They have forged real friendships as well as strong working relationships with the Democrats on the House Select Committee, because that is what Americans do in a time of crisis.

Both Kinzinger and Cheney still profess what I would consider misguided views or worse on many issues, and have adopted some positions -- on voting rights, for instance -- that contradict their professed love of democracy. So have other Republican and former Republican officials and leaders who have nevertheless proven their independence from Trump's authoritarian mob. Rusty Bowers, the Arizona Republican legislator who refused to bow to that mob, has even said he would vote for Trump again -- a truly bizarre statement.

And yet we must be grateful to Bowers, and to Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sperling of Georgia, as well as the eight other Congressional Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January 2020, the seven Republican senators who voted to convict him, and the many conservatives who have chosen law and liberty over chaos, lies, and tyranny. Yes, that even includes Mike Pence, the former vice president who merely did his duty but performed that constitutional task under threat of death from the leader to whom he had shown such obsequious loyalty.

I cannot help but hope that all of these good people, forced to turn away from their party and many of their friends, will reconsider their reactionary views on all kinds of matters. Some conservatives, including a few whom I've gotten to know better in these moments, are indeed looking back and questioning rigid perspectives from the past. In many cases that is what their intelligence and ethics will eventually require of them.

Yet on this July Fourth, any such considerations matter much less to me than their willingness to set aside our differences in a common cause. Disagreements about the best way to fulfill our nation's promise will endure -- and I look forward to the day when we can again debate those matters in a democratic society secure from authoritarian threats.

Meanwhile, we ought to appreciate all the leaders, thinkers, and activists who have joined America's united front against fascism. We will be struggling together to preserve our common birthright for years to come.


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Pentagon: Trump Officials Illegally Retaliated Against Yevgeny Vindman

A Defense Department report has concluded that Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman was the subject of wrongful retaliation, finding that multiple Trump administration officials, and former President Trump himself, violated federal whistleblower protection laws for targeting and subsequently firing Vindman after he raised concerns regarding Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with the president of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the office of the Defense Department’s Acting Inspector General, Sean O’Donnell, released its report on its investigations into the whistleblower reprisal complaint that Vindman filed in August 2020, months after his firing.

Between July 2019 and January 2020, Vindman, who served as the ethics counsel on the National Security Council, broached several points of concern with his superiors, some of which his twin brother, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, had raised with him about Trump’s now-infamous "perfect" conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In his testimony as a key witness during Trump’s first impeachment trial, Alexander Vindman told lawmakers he had heard the “inappropriate” phone call and knew “without hesitation” he had to report it.

The Vindman brothers had approached John Eisenberg, who was then a Trump adviser and deputy White House counsel and NSC ;egal counsel, with their concerns about the phone call. The meeting was later joined by Michael Ellis, Vindman’s direct supervisor, serving as deputy legal advisor and senior associate White House counsel at the time.

Vindman also raised concerns that former NSC officials Robert O'Brien and Alexander Gray “engaged in sexist behavior, misused their positions, and misused NSC staff by asking them to perform personal errands,” O’ Donnell wrote in the report. Possible ethics violations, mismanagement and waste of funds, and abuse of authority were other concerns raised by Vindman.

Despite these complaints falling under “protected communication” in 10 U.S.C. § 1034, a statute that bans retaliation against armed forces members for whistleblower complaints, Vindman was slowly relieved of his responsibilities and barred from senior-level meetings.

Two days after Trump’s first impeachment trial, Vindman was removed "abruptly and unceremoniously" from his NSC position, and his brother was fired as well, according to CNN.

“The Complainant experienced his first unfavorable personnel action in the fall of 2019 when his duties and responsibilities started to be reduced, and his second unfavorable personnel action when he received a referred OER [Officer Evaluation Report] for the performance period June 1, 2019, through February 7, 2020,” the IG report stated. “The close proximity in time between the Complainant’s protected communications and the personnel actions raises an inference of reprisal.”

“We found, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the Complainant was the subject of unfavorable personnel actions from administration officials,” O’Donnell wrote in the report. “Furthermore, we concluded based on a preponderance of the evidence, that these actions would not have occurred or been withheld absent the Complainant’s protected communications.”

The report also noted that Vindman’s former superiors made it difficult for investigators to get their sides of the story.

“We attempted to interview Mr. Ellis and Mr. Eisenberg, but they declined to cooperate with this investigation,” the report stated. “Based on the available evidence, we conclude that it is more likely than not that Mr. Ellis knew of two of the Complainant’s protected communications, and Mr. Eisenberg knew of three of the Complainant’s protected communications.”

In a statement, Vindman’s attorney said the report completely vindicated his client. The Biden administration promoted Vindman to colonel in March 2021.

Book: Graham Threatened Trump With 25th Amendment After Capitol Insurrection

A new book is shedding light on Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) push back against former President Donald Trump while an angry mob of far-right Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, the authors of the book, titled This Will Not Pass, detailed the Republican senator's call to White House general counsel Pat Cipollone.

During the call, Graham reportedly leveled a threat toward Cipollone, saying, "we’ll be asking for the 25th Amendment” if Trump didn't take aggressive action to quell the chaos erupting inside the federal building.

Speaking to the authors of the book after the chaos waned on January 6, Graham reportedly said, “People will say, ‘I don’t want to be associated with that.’ ... There will be a rallying effect for a while, the country says: We’re better than this,” Graham said, according to Axios.

While an impeachment trial could have led to Trump's removal, a CNN report highlighted the unique difference between impeachment and the 25th Amendment:

"The 25th Amendment, which has periodically been discussed as a means of last resort to remove a rogue or incapacitated president, would be a faster route to removing Trump."

So, how would that have worked? CNN senior writer Zachary Wolf explained the full process.

"To forcibly wrest power from Trump, Pence would have to be on board, according to the text of the amendment," Wolf wrote. "Pence would also need either a majority of Trump's Cabinet officials to agree the President is unfit for office and temporarily seize power from him."

He added, "Trump could dispute their move with a letter to Congress. Pence and the Cabinet would then have four days to dispute him, Congress would then vote -- it requires a two-thirds supermajority, usually 67 senators and 290 House members to permanently remove him."

According to HuffPost, the January 6 insurrection wasn't the only time the 25th Amendment was mentioned. The book details reportedly follow multiple occasions where lawmakers discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Five Major Pro-Putin, Anti-Ukraine Things Trump Did To Stoke Crisis

As Ukraine and its people continue to face Russian aggression and attacks, citizens in the West and Russia itself watch in horror at what one megalomaniac gone mad is doing to a sovereign land and its innocent people. America and its European allies stand together and are doing everything to stop Putin from continuing his naked aggression and tyrannical aspirations. Well, except for the Biden-hating traitors at Fox News and in the Republican party.

Hours before Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine, Fox News’ Tucker Carson (or Putin's cuck boy) was still heaping praise and worship on the Russian autocrat. Putin’s belligerent threats towards Ukraine and build-up of roughly 190,000 troops on the country’s border, was, according to Carlson, a mere “border dispute”. Carlson placated Putin and went so far as to play into Kremlin talking points by declaring that Ukraine was “not a democracy” in a sickening attempt to humanize the evil scumbag.

Maybe We Need To Freeze This Russian Asset

Tucker Carlson loves Putin

Meme by Michael Hayne

And while slimy and feckless Republicans look to score cheap political points by attacking President Biden ahead of midterms, it's vital to remind these disingenuous Trumplicans just how much Trump was pro-Putin and anti-Ukraine.

1. Trump Hired Pro-Russian Criminal To Run His 2016 Campaign

Manafort was hired by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a controversial pro-Russia politician who was ousted from power twice. After Yanukovych was elected president in 2010, Manafort reportedly stayed on as an adviser and worked on other projects in Eastern Europe, including the Party of Regions political party (Politico)

In early 2016, Manafort became Trump's campaign chairman. Manafort’s resignation from the campaign was announced on August 19, 2016, after The Times reported that he'd received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party between 2007 and 2012. Manafort and Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016. She reportedly was said to have damaging information on Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, which was "part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump." (Fox News)

2. Trump Rewrote 2016 Campaign GOP Platform To Make It Anti-Ukraine

The Trump campaign convinced the platform committee to change GOP Platform committee member Diana Denman's proposal of bulking up security for Ukraine. It went from calling on the U.S. to provide Ukraine "lethal defensive weapons" to the more benign phrase "appropriate assistance." (NPR) Oh, and who can forget the decidedly anti-Ukraine act of threatening to withhold security assistance from the country unless it helped smear Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election. You know, the very thing that spawned impeachment number 1.

3. Trump Gave Classified Intel To Russia

Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation, two U.S. officials revealed, plunging the White House into controversy just months into Trump’s term. (Reuters)

4. Trump Refused to Impose New Sanctions On Russia

In 2018, The Trump administration announced it wouldn't impose additional sanctions on Russia, despite Congress passing a law allowing the President to do so. (Independent)

5. Trump Attacked And Weakened NATO At Every Chance

Trump repeatedly unleashed attacks on the major western alliance in existence since the end of World War II, threatening to withhold money and even calling NATO "obsolete” and “unfair, economically, to … the United States.” Worse yet, it seems that Trump was aiming to leave NATO altogether if he somehow won reelection.

We all know today's GOP is totally immune to facts and reality, but it's imperative to make sure that those of us still residing in Reality Town know the truth behind every vile and hypocritical smear a desperate and power-hungry GOP makes.

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist.Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok

Wyoming Republicans' Purge Of Liz Cheney Denigrates Them, Not Her

The Republican Party of Wyoming has formally banished Rep. Liz Cheney from its ranks. This decision calls to mind Evelyn Waugh's remark when told that Winston Churchill's son, a politician and journalist, had undergone surgery for a benign tumor: "A typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it."

Saying she is not a Republican is like saying Kim is not a Kardashian. Cheney is the daughter of two proud, prominent stalwarts of the GOP. Father Dick served in four Republican administrations, the last as vice president. Mother Lynne chaired the National Endowment for the Humanities under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and gained fame for championing conservative cultural values.

Liz was a senior official in President George W. Bush's State Department and has been elected to Wyoming's sole House seat three times. She was a member of the House Republican leadership.

She lines up on the right on almost every significant issue of public policy — celebrating the Second Amendment, pushing for oil and gas production, opposing abortion rights and more. She voted 93% of the time with former President Donald Trump. Last year, she got a rating of 96 percent from the ultra-conservative group Heritage Action — and two percent from the tree-hugging League of Conservation Voters.

But history and devotion to the cause don't matter in today's GOP. The only thing that matters is loyalty to Trump. Cheney took such offense at Trump's role in the Capitol riot, which was aimed at overturning a democratic election — oh, and, by the way, put her life in jeopardy — that she voted to impeach him.

That vote and her persistent criticism of the Madman of Mar-a-Lago got her removed from her House leadership position. Following her conscience has made her radioactive even among the Wyoming Republicans who once rallied behind her.

Two things about today's GOP are striking. One is the near-universal allegiance to Trump, no matter how badly he behaves or how much he trashes long-standing Republican policies. Republicans are basically reenacting the 1937 Soviet Communist Party conference, in which delegates applauded the murderous dictator Joseph Stalin for 11 straight minutes because they were too terrified to stop.

The second notable fact is how much dissent the party used to allow as a matter of course. In 1974, seven GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Richard Nixon. They were not exiled to Siberia.

It used to be rare for the party to persecute its mavericks. Dissidents found ample room in the GOP tent, even though they often lost platform battles. Among the politicians known by what now sounds like an oxymoron — "liberal Republican" or "moderate Republican" — were such major figures as President Dwight Eisenhower, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, President Gerald Ford and Michigan Gov. George Romney.

Ronald Reagan led the 1980 conservative takeover of the GOP, but he made common cause with moderates — even choosing one of them, Bush, as his running mate. In his day, it was said that Democrats look for heretics while Republicans look for converts. Lately, though, the Republican Party seems to be taking lessons from "The Spanish Inquisition for Dummies."

It's a measure of how far the party has traveled that George W. Bush, beloved by Republicans during his presidency, couldn't bring himself to vote for his party's nominee in 2016 or 2020. Reagan, who supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and amnesty for undocumented immigrants, would be considered irredeemable by his party today.

Extremists in the party, however, can be tolerated. When the House voted to revoke the committee assignments of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for racist, antisemitic, violent and generally insane statements and tweets, 199 Republicans sided with her.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urged his members to oppose the censure of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for a cartoon video of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Notes Politico, "The 13 Republicans who backed the infrastructure bill then endured a wave of violent threats against their lives, many of which were encouraged by some of the most extreme members of their own conference."

But a fondness for violent rhetoric has long been a trademark of Trump, who still commands the broad allegiance of the party faithful. Republicans who encouraged, excused or defended what he did on Jan. 6 retain their good standing. So to be purged, as Cheney has been, is not a disgrace. It's an honor.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Chuck Todd And The Myth Of Liberal Media Bias

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Surveying the media landscape and seeing a Beltway press corps that's constantly on the run from Republican attacks, Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd this week urged his colleagues to stand up to the right-wing bullies, who have spent decades demonizing journalists.

"We should have fought back better in the mainstream media. We shouldn't [have] accepted the premise that there was liberal bias. We should have defended," Todd told The Verge. "We ended up in this both-sides trope. We bought into the idea that, 'Oh my God, we're perceived as having a liberal bias.'"

He added: "Where we did get lost in this, and this sort of happened to mainstream media in particular, is that we did let Republican critics get in our heads, right? The Republicans have been running on, "There's a liberal bias in the media." This has been a 45-year campaign."

Technically, it's been a 52-year campaign, with Vice President Spiro Agnew's "nattering nabobs of negativism" attack on the press in 1969 often cited as the launching point of the choreographed crusade.

The good news is that every 12 or 24 months Todd emerges and makes these types of welcomed, clear-eyed pronouncements about the press, calling out right-wing lies, and urging his colleagues to do better in fighting against dishonest GOP attacks.

The bad news is Todd then goes back to work at NBC and rarely follows his own advice. He makes no structural changes to the programs he oversees to make sure they don't fall prey to GOP tactics. It's easy to view his pronouncements as performative, directed at those who are concerned about journalism and about the state of our democracy in the face of a Republican Party that broke its pact with common sense and instead now worships at the altar of a Mar-a-Lago retiree.

Todd refuses to follow his own lead and produce consistently clear, aggressive journalism, while not fretting about potential GOP pushback.

A quick example.

During Trump's second impeachment trial, Todd introduced a Meet The Press segment in which voters from a toss-up district in Michigan were interviewed about the House proceedings. Touted as a way to take the temperature of everyday voters outside of the "Beltway," the sit-down with six voters from Kent County, Michigan, offered a chance to hear if heartland denizens "cared" about impeachment. Except there was a problem: Every voter interviewed was a Republican, and every voter interviewed opposed impeachment. ("I don't even care. It's just noise.")

This makes no sense. If you wanted anecdotal evidence of the nation's response to impeachment, you'd interview a wide cross-section of voters. Instead, Todd only talked to Republicans even though the Michigan district he focused on is evenly split among Democrats and Republicans. What would explain this type of illogical press behavior other than a fear of upsetting conservatives — of being tagged with the Liberal Media Bias charge?

Todd lamented to The Verge that the press has fallen into a "both sides trope," where journalists strain to place blame on Republicans and Democrats even when it should not be distributed that way. Yet earlier this year, after another deadly gun rampage in America, and after the Republican Party once again categorically refused to support any possible gun safety legislation, Todd went on Meet the Press and blamed Congress — Both Sides — for not doing anything to stop the deadly plague.

In response to my media critiques, PRESS RUN readers often ask, why? Why does the press behave the way it does? Why does it engage in Both Sides nonsense in an effort to water down irresponsible GOP behavior? Why does it view so many news cycles through the prism of Republican talking points? Without question, the overriding cultural reason is the fear of being hit with the Liberal Media Bias label.

I don't mean that's what's driving journalists on an hourly, granular level, or that before filing a story or going on the air they consciously think about GOP attacks. But it does remain the dominant ethos and it's been ingrained in newsrooms for decades. (Being the target of right-wing smear campaigns is no fun and it can damage journalism careers.) Consequently, the press spends an inordinate amount of time trying to prove it's not guilty of Liberal Media Bias.

That institutional fear helps explain the inexplicable, like why so many news organizations refused to call Trump a liar for four years, even as they documented his thousands of lies. That was a deliberate decision to turn away from the truth —and from accurate language — while covering the most dangerous president in American history. Afraid that calling Trump a "liar" in straight news reports would spark cries of Liberal Media Bias, the press capitulated. In the process, Trump used his avalanche of untruths to chip away at our democratic institutions.

Eric Alterman wrote an entire, must-read book in 2003 expertly debunking the bias myth, What Liberal Media? Conservatives "know mau-mauing the other side is just a good way to get their own ideas across–or perhaps prevent the other side from getting a fair hearing for theirs," he wrote. I made a similar effort with my book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, where I focused on the media's failure during the run-up to the Iraq War: "To oppose the invasion vocally was to be outside the media mainstream and to invite scorn. Like some nervous Democratic members of Congress right before the war, mainstream media journalists seemed to scramble for political cover so as to not subject themselves to conservative catcalls."

Still, the Liberal Media Bias myth persists and remains a driving engine of the conservative movement. It's arguably more potent today because Trump made it a centerpiece of his political appeal to hate the press. It would be helpful if journalists like Chuck Todd actually took their own advice and combated the fiction head on.