October 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


Trump's impeachment polling is historically unprecedented (Harry Enten, 10/04/19, CNN)

Impeachment actions usually start off as being unpopular with the American public. After the House voted to start an impeachment inquiry of Clinton in October 1998, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 45% approved and 53% disapproved.

But with Trump, those numbers are reversed. In an average of polls taken since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry last week, 51% support an impeachment inquiry. A minority, 44%, are against it.

When it comes to impeaching and removing Trump from office, the difference is even more dramatic. An average of polls taken since early last week shows that 46% support impeaching and removing Trump from office. That's about equal with the 45% who are against such an action. [...]

More amazingly, more Americans are in favor of impeaching Trump now than they were at a similar time during the House's investigation of Nixon in 1973 and 1974.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to start an impeachment inquiry of Nixon in late October 1973. This was following the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, in which Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire an independent prosecutor looking into the Watergate scandal. A Gallup poll taken in the immediate aftermath found that just 38% felt that Nixon should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency. The majority, 53%, said that he shouldn't.

Even after two dramatic events, the public was apprehensive about impeaching and removing Nixon.

resistance to impeachment is natural in a democracy; after all, we're essentially indicting our own judgment.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Fighting Calls for Impeachment, Trump Intensifies Anti-Semitic Rhetoric. We Cannot Ignore It. (Mehdi Hasan, October 4 2019, the Intercept)

Don Jr.'s tweets provoked a rare response from Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who referred to his invocation of Soros, a left-leaning Jewish billionaire, as an "anti-Semitic trope" and a "dangerous" insinuation.

Dangerous indeed. On October 22, 2018, Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc sent a pipe bomb to the Westchester, New York, home of Soros. Six days later, white nationalist Robert Bowers murdered 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue because he believed that wealthy U.S. Jews were conspiring bring "invaders in that kill our people," an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory endorsed by the president of the United States. "A lot of people say" that Soros funded the migrant caravan, Trump irresponsibly claimed only three days after the Pittsburgh massacre.

So why isn't there more outrage over Trump's blatant and dangerous anti-Semitism, in the specific context of this impeachment inquiry? Why has his nasty, conspiratorial and Jew-baiting response to it not been a bigger story?

One reason is that Trump's anti-Semitism is nothing new. He was an anti-Semite when he accused U.S. Jews of being dumb and disloyal. He was an anti-Semite when he praised neo-Nazis as "very fine people." He was an anti-Semite when he referred to comedian Jon Stewart as Jonathan Leibowitz. He was an anti-Semite when he kept -- no joke -- a book of Hitler's speeches next to his bed. So we have become inured to his anti-Semitism, just as we have become inured to his anti-Muslim bigotry and his anti-black and anti-Latino racism.

Another reason is the cynical and partisan weaponization of anti-Semitism by the right to attack the left -- especially the likes of Reps. llhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib - aided and abetted by a lazy liberal media. (Can you imagine the reaction if Omar had called, say, Trump's Jewish Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin "shifty" or a "savage"?)

But we cannot afford to give Trump a pass on this. "As the impeachment inquiry escalates," Beinart writes, "Trump's anti-Semitic rhetoric probably will too." Remember: The president's paranoid and cultish online supporters have already begun promulgating mad conspiracy theories to try and protect their hero from being impeached and, as Vox's Jane Coaston has observed, "an environment where conspiracy theories flourish and find new ground is the perfect environment for anti-Semitism itself to flourish and find new acolytes," especially because "anti-Semitism itself is a conspiracy theory."

Hate crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions in the U.S. rose by 37 percent during Trump's first year in office. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Adam Schiff Is the Right Man for the Moment: A clinical and focused approach is called for in the face of Trump's theatrics and distraction. (Margaret L. Taylor, Oct. 4, 2019m, NY Times)

News of a whistle-blower complaint about Mr. Trump's July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine changed all of that. The drama that ensued put Mr. Schiff in the driver's seat -- not because the call specifically addressed intelligence matters, but because the whistle-blower just happened to work in the intelligence community. A whistle-blower from the State Department with access to similar witnesses and facts could just as easily have submitted the complaint to a different committee.

Mr. Schiff is a stickler for process. When the whistle-blower approached him and his staff, they did precisely the right thing: They directed the whistle-blower to obtain legal counsel and file the complaint through the appropriate channels laid out in the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.

Mr. Schiff went public only after receiving a letter from the intelligence community inspector general indicating the acting director of national intelligence had not followed process requirements outlined in the law. The president can concoct all the conspiracy theories he wants, and Lindsey Graham and others may pick up the tune, but Mr. Schiff played it by the book.

Speaker Pelosi tagged Mr. Schiff as the lead on gathering facts on the Ukraine issue in anticipation of an impeachment vote. For now, Mr. Nadler has stepped into the background -- eventually, any articles of impeachment would go through his committee first. But Mr. Schiff is quarterbacking speedy efforts of his own staff and also two other committees, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Reform, that Ms. Pelosi has directed to assist in the effort.

Mr. Schiff is setting the tone and strategy of the inquiry, quickly setting up depositions of key witnesses and warning the administration that obstruction and delay could form the basis for a distinct article of impeachment similar to one approved by the Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon in 1974.

In short, Mr. Schiff is the man of the moment -- and, without knowing it, he has been preparing for it for the past two years. As chairman, he followed Devin Nunes of California, whose handling of the committee's Russia investigation was specious and included cloak-and-dagger visits to the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Trump pushing nations for Biden probe is 'wrong and appalling': Romney (Reuters, 10/04/19)

"When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China's investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated," Romney said on Twitter. "By all appearances, the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."

Sasse breaks with Trump's call for probe: 'Americans don't look to Chinese commies for the truth' (JORDAIN CARNEY, 10/03/19, The hill)
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) pushed back strongly on Thursday night against President Trump's suggestion that the Chinese government investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
"Hold up: Americans don't look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that's a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps," Sasse said in a statement to the Omaha World-Herald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Constitutional Scholars: Warren's Lobbying Tax May Violate Constitution (Yuichiro Kakutani, OCTOBER 4, 2019, Free Beacon)

Other scholars echoed von Spakovsky's concerns. Michael Barone, a resident fellow at the pro-free market American Enterprise Institute, said he could "see an argument that says this proposal would penalize the exercise of First Amendment rights," comparing it to "a confiscatory tax on newspaper." Trevor Burrus, a research fellow for the libertarian Cato Institute's constitutional studies center, concurred, saying "Sen. Warren has essentially proposed a tax on that fundamental right." He accused the Democratic presidential hopeful of attempting to "squelch political speech."

"She pushed for stricter regulations on banks and home loans, and then pushed--'lobbied' one might say--for the creation of the CFPB," Burrus said. "In short, Warren apparently believes in lobbying when she does it, or when it is done for causes she believes in. Her lobbying tax proposal would very likely be declared unconstitutional. The Constitution doesn't permit transparent attempts to squelch political speech."

Other legal scholars said the proposal would be appropriate. Ilya Shapiro, director of Cato's Constitutional Studies Center, said the lobbying tax is above board. While the policy might be misguided, Shapiro said, it is no different from excise taxes--taxes on goods and services--that are legal and imposed on those who purchase legal aid, political advertisements, and other speech-related services.

"Assuming there's federal jurisdiction in the first place--meaning that it affects interstate commerce--I don't really see a constitutional problem with it," he said. "There's special kinds of taxes on different kinds of products, alcohol for example, around the country. So this would be just one more of those."

...just ban lobbying activity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rick Perry is reportedly stepping down as energy secretary (Peter Weber, 10/03/10, The Week)

Perry, a former Texas governor and two-time Republican presidential candidate, has kept an unusually low profile for a member of Trump's Cabinet, and he has avoided scandals that have tarred or forced out several other Cabinet secretaries. He recently got embroiled in the Ukraine scandal, though there is no indication he played any role in the effort to press Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier Thursday, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) dinged Perry for recently launching an artificial intelligence office at the Energy Department that could potentially benefit his wife, Anita.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet the Hawkish Liberal Think Tank Powering the Kamala Harris Campaign (BRANKO MARCETIC, 10/04/19, In These Times)

If you liked Hillary Clinton's foreign policy, you can keep it.  

That's the message many Democratic voters are receiving this election, as they prepare to pick a contender from the gradually winnowing field of candidates to take on Donald Trump in 2020. And the reason is the continuing influence of a think-tank called the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

The influence of CNAS on the 2020 election, at this point, is being channeled through the campaign of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has drawn heavily from its ranks to fill her line-up of foreign policy advisors. But given its status as the go-to fountainhead of Democratic foreign policy ideas, there is every chance its alumni could be part of another future Democratic administration.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to Investigating Biden (Kenneth P. Vogel and Michael S. Schmidt, Oct. 3, 2019, NY Times)

Late Thursday, House Democrats released a series of texts between Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that also showed that officials in both countries understood that Mr. Trump would not grant Mr. Zelensky an Oval Office meeting he was seeking until Ukraine agreed to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by the American side. [...]

The drafting of the statement, which came in the weeks after the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, was an effort to pacify Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani and to normalize relations between the two countries as Ukraine faced continuing conflict with Russia. Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker believed that Mr. Giuliani was "poisoning" Mr. Trump's mind about Ukraine and that eliciting a public commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue the investigations would induce Mr. Trump to more fully support the new Ukrainian government, according to the people familiar with it.

The texts released by House Democrats late Thursday night corroborated this characterization.

In the hours before the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Volker texted Mr. Yermak that he had "Heard from White House" that "we will nail down date" for the official Oval Office visit coveted by the Ukrainians, "assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate" the claims that Ukrainian officials tried to sabotage Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign.