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Tag: trump impeachment

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.

Former Speaker Ryan Raising Funds For Trump Critic Kinzinger

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is one of former President Donald Trump's most outspoken critics in the Republican Party, and Trump supporters would love to remove him from Congress via a GOP primary in the 2022 midterms. But the conservative congressman has some allies on the right, including former House Speaker Paul Ryan — who according to Politico's Shia Kapos, will head a fundraiser for Kinzinger this Monday, May 24.

Kapos explains, "It's a decisive move against ex-President Donald Trump, who has set his sights on Republicans who voted to impeach him. Kinzinger is one of 10 Republicans who joined Democrats to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The Illinois Republican has continued to carry the anti-Trump mantle, and it's no surprise that Ryan would back Kinzinger. Ryan, who's had a long-running feud with Trump, criticized Republicans who wouldn't certify the Electoral College results that validated Joe Biden's election as president."

Kinzinger has been a major thorn in Trump's side. Following the 2020 presidential election, Kinzinger called out Trump's debunked claims of widespread voter fraud as total nonsense and acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect. And after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming were among the minority of House Republicans who championed Trump's impeachment.

In 2018, Ryan — who was House speaker at the time and had been Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election — announced that he would not be seeking reelection. Ryan said that he wanted to spend more time with his family, but it was obvious that he was disenchanted with Trumpism and believed that the 2018 midterms would be bad for Republicans.

McCarthy Supported Jan 6 Commission Before He Opposed It

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made it abundantly clear that he is adamantly opposed to the type of bipartisan commission on the January 6 insurrection that is being proposed by a fellow GOP conservative: Rep. John Katko of Upstate New York. But an old quote from McCarthy, journalist David Freelander has noted on Twitter, conflicts with what McCarthy is saying now, and casts his opposition in a cynical light.

Freedlander points out that when McCarthy, earlier this year, voiced his opposition to Trump's second impeachment, he argued that a "fact-finding commission" would be more appropriate." McCarthy told fellow members of Congress that he considered impeachment premature because "no investigations have been completed" and "no hearings have been held."

McCarthy was calling for the type of January 6 commission that Katko is calling for now and that the House minority leader is now opposed to.

This January 13 tweet from NBC News shows McCarthy voicing his support for such a "fact-finding commission." He also suggested a censure resolution for Trump at the time, another idea he didn't seriously pursue.

At the time, he spoke against impeachment, endorsing the fact-finding commission. Based in part on those kinds of remarks, the Democrats engaged in months-long negotiations with Republicans on such a commission, making numerous concessions to accommodate GOP concerns and input. But then once the compromise was reached, McCarthy abandoned it. In this light, his old remarks look like a cynical excuse not to go along with impeaching Trump, because he was never really serious about a commission all along.

#EndorseThis: Humiliating CNN Supercut Highlights Kevin McCarthy's Flip-Flops

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has performed a dizzying series of flip-flops over the former guy's election lies and theJan. 6 Capitol riot. And with this supercut reel of his contradictory blather, CNN holds him fully accountable..

The flurry of reversals is so ridiculous that CNN anchor John Berman offered several reminders that on each occasion, this was "the same Kevin McCarthy" on their screens.

"Here's how the head-spinning, bumper car evolution has played out since the election," says co-anchor Briana Keilar -- and she's right.

It's laughable.

CNN/Kevin McCarthy www.youtube.com