“President” Donald trump
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The Washington Post reports House Republicans are formulating a new impeachment defense of President Trump. Rather than deny that the extortion scheme took place, or defend the extortion as a legitimate exercise in foreign policy, they plan to make the case that his deputies “could have acted on their own to influence Ukraine policy.” So the whole scheme was going on right under Trump’s nose, without his knowledge or participation?
This line of defense’s advantage, such as it is, is the relative dearth of direct evidence of Trump’s orders to his subordinates. “There is no direct linkage to the president of the United States,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told reporters.
It is true that the president has developed a lifelong aversion, honed through years of directing shady and outright criminal schemes, to any of his advisers taking notes in a meeting with him. Several accounts have depicted Trump lashing out at lawyers for taking notes, and insisting that Roy Cohn — an attorney Trump shared with several leading Mafia dons — never took notes. The new book by an anonymous senior Trump official has another scene of the president berating an aide: “Are you [expletive] taking notes?”
And so, while European Union envoy Gordon Sondland has testified that Trump directed him to withhold diplomatic favors from Ukraine to compel investigations of Trump’s domestic enemies, he has no physical evidence. That makes it Sondland’s word against Trump’s. And Trump can then run his usual play of denying everything, calling Sondland a Never Trumper — any person who opposes Trump is either a Democrat or, by Trump’s definition, a Never Trumper — who is bitter and resentful.
Yet the emerging plan to present Sondland as the true mastermind of the Trump administration’s Ukraine scheme, and Trump as an ignorant bystander, is going to run into several massive problems. The first is that any depiction of Sondland as the brains behind the Ukraine scheme is easily disabused by even a casual familiarity with Gordon Sondland. The hotelier and Republican fanboy is clearly very interested in the perks and access associated with his ambassadorship, and has zero record of deep personal investment in proving various right-wing conspiracy theories about Ukraine framing Russia for the 2016 email theft, or Joe Biden’s alleged corruption. Sondland is a pure functionary who could not possibly have taken over authority for Ukraine — from a post, E.U. ambassador, that does not cover Ukraine — without presidential authority.
At the risk of over-relying on Simpsons references, the ploy of pinning everything on Sondland is reminiscent of Bart Simpson getting a job working for the Mafia, only for them to tell the court that Bart was the family don:
Second, it relies on the assumption not only that Sondland was acting alone, but so too were several other Trump officials, all in pursuit of the same extortion plot. Mick Mulvaney, who has publicly admitted a quid pro quo, was not following orders from Gordon Sondland when he held up military aid to Ukraine. Mike Pence was not following orders from Sondland when he publicly affirmed that the aid was tied to Ukraine investigating the Bidens.
And Rudy Giuliani spent months carrying out his work in broad daylight. Giuliani has stated repeatedly that his work was undertaken at Trump’s direction (“I don’t do anything that involves my client without speaking with my client.”) He continues to regularly remind the world on Twitter that he is following Trump’s orders and absolutely not working alone:
Then there is the wee fact that Trump actually has revealed his own involvement. In a series of candid remarks to reporters all the way back in September that have somehow fallen down the memory hole, Trump made clear that “corruption” is his code word for “Biden,” and that he did demand investigations of this to Ukraine (“It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”). Then of course there’s the rough transcript of Trump pushing Ukraine’s president to do exactly that.
Trump may be too suspicious to allow his underlings to take notes on his schemes, but he’s also dumb enough to just blurt them out himself. And this points to the greatest risk of the House Republicans’ patsy defense: Trump is very unlikely to go along with it. He cannot tolerate other people taking credit for his decisions, manipulating him in any way, or depicting him as anything other than fully in charge of his own administration. What’s more, he seems unable to grasp the accusation itself. Seeing nothing wrong with using foreign policy for his political ends, he keeps confirming he has demanded investigations of his rivals, and indeed keeps demanding new ones in broad daylight.
If House Republicans have already reached such a state of desperation as to absolve Trump from the policies of the Trump administration, one can only wonder where the defenses will go from here. Maybe Trump doesn’t actually exist and is the character of “Trump” is a Tony Clifton–style hoax. Maybe the whole Ukraine thing was just a dream!
New GOP Ukraine Defense: Trump Was Just a Patsy for Sondland
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This does not exactly sound like a foolproof strategy
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Nate Silver unconvinced that Bloomberg will have much of an impact
A *partial* list of candidates who, if they entered the race at the last minute, would probably have more impact than Bloomberg:
Also all of the past nominees (Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Kerry, etc.)
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Ya don’t say
On Fox, former President George W. Bush calls this an “unsettled period” for the country.
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It’s a deeper reckoning. It’s about whether the legitimacy of our entire system can last much longer without Trump being removed from office.
Gordon Sond-who now?
Trump on Gordon Sondland: “I hardly knew the gentleman.”
And we’re off: “There’s nobody I’d rather run against than little Michael,” Trump says of Bloomberg.
Republican president won’t campaign against Republican candidate
Trump says he won’t campaign against Sessions, per pool report from South Lawn. “I’ll see how it all goes. We’ll see what happens. He’s got tough competition.”
the national interest
the national interest
New GOP Ukraine Defense: Trump Was Just a Patsy for Sondland
By Jonathan Chait
“There is no direct linkage to the president of the United States.”
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In 2014, a White House speechwriter made a brain-injured soldier a symbol of resilience. Now he finds the story didn’t end so neatly.
A second person has accused Representative Jim Jordan of ignoring their report of sexual abuse
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“Yeah, that’s Strauss,” Jordan and then-head coach Russ Hellickson replied, according to the lawsuit, when the referee, identified in court papers as John Doe 42, told them about the incident. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Ohio, implies that Jordan’s response to the incident, which the referee said happened in 1994, was essentially a shrug.
John Doe 42 is the second person to say he told Jordan directly about either being approached or molested by Strauss, who was found by independent investigators to have sexually abused 177 male students over two decades.
Buttigieg has put out a new economic plan
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While Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have proposed making college free for everyone, Buttigieg is taking a more targeted approach of giving free tuition only to families he considers middle-class and lower. His new policy calls for reduced tuition at public universities for families earning $100,000 to $150,000 and no tuition for those below that threshold. Like several in the Democratic field, Buttigieg also proposes expanding Pell Grants to help low-income students pay for housing and fees and investing $50 billion in historically black colleges.
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Another classic from Donald Trump Jr., least self-aware man in America
President-elect Trump and the new first family were at Arlington National Cemetery, where Trump was to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns.
“I rarely get emotional, if ever,” Trump Jr. wrote in his new book, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” “Yet, as we drove past the rows of white grave markers, in the gravity of the moment, I had a deep sense of the importance of the presidency and a love of our country.”
He also had another revelation as he watched his father standing in front of the tomb, surrounded by more than 400,000 graves, listening to the Army Band bugler playing taps: The Trump family had already suffered, he recalled thinking, and this was only the beginning.
“In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family, and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed — voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off the office,’” Trump Jr. wrote.
A new clue about the identity of the anonymous Trump op-ed writer: he really admires John McCain
Besides, everything in the text of “A Warning” suggests a dyed-in-the-wool establishment Republican. There’s the typical talk about American exceptionalism and national security. There’s the eternal complaint that President Barack Obama was “out of touch with mainstream America.” There’s a wistful elegy for “our budget-balancing daydreams.” Yes, Anonymous is happy about the conservative judicial appointments, the deregulation, the tax cuts; what rankles is the “unbecoming” behavior, the “unseemly antics.”
A big tell comes early on, when Anonymous reveals what “the last straw” was. It wasn’t Mr. Trump’s response to the right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when a white supremacist killed a woman and the president talked about “the violence on many sides.” It wasn’t even the administration’s separation of migrant families at the border. These examples might have left Anonymous appalled, but the truly unforgivable act was when Senator John McCain died last year and Mr. Trump tried to hoist the flag on the White House above half-staff: “President Trump, in unprecedented fashion, was determined to use his office to limit the nation’s recognition of John McCain’s legacy.”
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Bloomberg Dips Toe In Presidential Primary Waters
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It gets even more interesting. I hear from a good source that Eric Holder has been consulting strategists about possibly jumping into the Dem presidential race. NYT reports Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering a late entry as well.
Bloomberg might – might – be on the brink of entering the presidential race
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