VANITY FAIR
2020 ELECTION

Rudy Giuliani Is My Father.
Please, Everyone, Vote for
Joe Biden and Kamala
Harris.

I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote
this toxic administration out of office.

By Caroline Rose Giuliani OCTOBER 15, 2020


I have a difficult confession—something I usually save for at least the second date. My father is Rudy Giuliani. We are multiverses apart, politically and otherwise. I’ve spent a lifetime forging an identity in the arts separate from my last name, so publicly declaring myself as a "Giuliani" feels counterintuitive, but I’ve come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now. The stakes are too high. I accept that most people will start reading this piece because you saw the headline with my father’s name. But now that you’re here, I’d like to tell you how urgent I think this moment is.

To anyone who feels overwhelmed or apathetic about this election, there is nothing I relate to more than desperation to escape corrosive political discourse. As a child, I saw firsthand the kind of cruel, selfish politics that Donald Trump has now inflicted on our country. It made me want to run as far away from them as possible. But trust me when I tell you: Running away does not solve the problem. We have to stand and fight. The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Around the age of 12, I would occasionally get into debates with my father, probably before I was emotionally equipped to handle such carnage. It was disheartening to feel how little power I had to change his mind, no matter how logical and above-my-pay-grade my arguments were. He always found a way to justify his party line, whatever it was at the time. Even though he was considered socially moderate for a Republican back in the day, we still often butted heads. When I tried to explain my belief that you don’t get to be considered benevolent on LGBTQ+ rights just because you have gay friends but don’t support gay marriage, I distinctly remember him firing back with an intensity fit for an opposing politican rather than one’s child. To be clear, I’m not sharing this anecdote to complain or criticize. I had an extremely privileged childhood and am grateful for everything I was given, including real-world lessons and complicated experiences like these. The point is to illustrate one of the many reasons I have a fraught relationship with politics, like so many of us do.

Even when there was an occasional flash of connection in these disagreements with my dad, it felt like nothing changed for the better, so I would retreat again until another issue I couldn’t stay silent on surfaced. Over the years other subjects like racial sensitivity (or lack thereof), sexism, policing, and the social safety net have all risen to this boiling point in me. It felt important to speak my mind, and I’m glad we at least managed to communicate at all. But the chasm was painful nonetheless, and has gotten exponentially more so in Trump’s era of chest-thumping partisan tribalism. I imagine many Americans can relate to the helpless feeling this confrontation cycle created in me, but we are not helpless. I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.

Trump and his enablers have used his presidency to stoke the injustice that already permeated our society, taking it to dramatically new, Bond-villain heights. I am a filmmaker in the LGBTQ+ community who tells stories about mental health, sexuality, and other stigmatized issues, and my goal is to humanize people and foster empathy. So I hope you’ll believe me when I say that another Trump term (a term, itself, that makes me cringe) will irrevocably harm the LGBTQ+ community, among many others. His administration asked the Supreme Court to let businesses fire people for being gay or trans, pushed a regulation to let health care providers refuse services to people who are LGTBQ+, and banned trans people from serving their country in the military.

Women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people of color are all also under attack by Trump’s inhumane policies—and by his judicial appointments, including, probably, Amy Coney Barrett. Trump’s administration has torn families apart in more ways than I even imagined were possible, from ripping children from their parents at the border to mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in over 215,000 in the U.S. dying, many thousands of them without their loved ones near. Faced with preventable deaths during a pandemic that Trump downplayed and ignored, rhetoric that has fed deep-seated, systemic racism, and chaos in the White House, it’s no surprise that so many Americans feel as hopeless and overwhelmed as I did growing up. But if we refuse to face our political reality, we don’t stand a chance of changing it.

In 2016, I realized I needed to speak out in a more substantial way than just debating my dad in private (especially since I wasn’t getting anywhere with that), so I publicly supported Hillary Clinton and began canvassing for congressional candidates. If the unrelenting deluge of devastating news makes you think I’m crazy for having hope, please remember that making us feel powerless is a tactic politicians use to make us think our voices and votes don’t matter. But they do. It’s taken persistence and nerve to find my voice in politics, and I’m using it now to ask you to stand with me in the fight to end Donald Trump’s reign of terror.

If being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president’s personal bulldog has taught me anything, it is that corruption starts with "yes-men" and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power. We’ve seen this ad nauseam with Trump and his cadre of high-level sycophants (the ones who weren’t convicted, anyway).

What inspires me most about Vice President Biden is that he is not afraid to surround himself with people who disagree with him. Choosing Senator Harris, who challenged him in the primary, speaks volumes about what an inclusive president he will be. Biden is willing to incorporate the views of progressive-movement leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on issues like universal health care, student debt relief, prison reform, and police reform. And he is capable of reaching across the aisle to find moments of bipartisanship. The very notion of "bipartisanship" may seem painfully ludicrous right now, but we need a path out of impenetrable gridlock and vicious sniping. In Joe Biden, we’ll have a leader who prioritizes common ground and civility over alienation, bullying, and scorched-earth tactics.

Speaking of scorched earth, I know many people feel paralyzed by climate despair. I do too, but something still can and must be done. As climate change begins to encroach on our everyday lives, it is clear that our planet cannot survive four more years of this administration’s environmental assault. This monumental challenge requires scientifically literate leadership and immediate action. Joe Biden has laid out an aggressive series of plans to restore the environmental regulations that Trump gutted on behalf of his corporate polluting friends. Biden has a transformational clean-energy policy that he will bring to Congress within his first 100 days in office, and perhaps most crucially, he brings a desire and capability to reunite the major nations of the world in forging a path toward a global green future.

I fully understand that some of you want a nominee who is more progressive. For others the idea of voting for a Democrat of any kind may be a hurdle. Now I have another confession to make. Biden wasn’t my first choice when the primaries started. But I know what is at stake, and Joe Biden will be everyone’s president if elected. If you are planning to cast a symbolic vote or abstain from voting altogether, please reconsider. It is more important than ever to avoid complacency. This election is far from over, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.

We are hanging by a single, slipping finger on a cliff’s edge, and the fall will be fatal. If we remove ourselves from the fight, our country will be in freefall. Alternatively, we can hang on, elect a compassionate and decent president, and claw our way back onto the ledge. If I, after decades of despair over politics, can engage in our democracy to meet this critical moment, I know you can too.

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POLITICS | The Atlantic

Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are 'Losers' and 'Suckers'

The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG SEPTEMBER 3, 2020


When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that "the helicopter couldn't fly" and that the Secret Service wouldn't drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, "Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers." In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as "suckers" for getting killed.

Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, "Who were the good guys in this war?" He also said that he didn't understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies.

Trump's understanding of concepts such as patriotism, service, and sacrifice has interested me since he expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. "He's not a war hero," Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. "I like people who weren't captured."

There was no precedent in American politics for the expression of this sort of contempt, but the performatively patriotic Trump did no damage to his candidacy by attacking McCain in this manner. Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Trump remained fixated on McCain, one of the few prominent Republicans to continue criticizing him after he won the nomination. When McCain died, in August 2018, Trump told his senior staff, according to three sources with direct knowledge of this event, "We're not going to support that loser's funeral," and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. "What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser," the president told aides. Trump was not invited to McCain's funeral. (These sources, and others quoted in this article, spoke on condition of anonymity. The White House did not return earlier calls for comment, but Alyssa Farah, a White House spokesperson, emailed me this statement shortly after this story was posted: "This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He's demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact.")

Trump's understanding of heroism has not evolved since he became president. According to sources with knowledge of the president's views, he seems to genuinely not understand why Americans treat former prisoners of war with respect. Nor does he understand why pilots who are shot down in combat are honored by the military. On at least two occasions since becoming president, according to three sources with direct knowledge of his views, Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a "loser" for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II. (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers.)

When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him. But his cynicism about service and heroism extends even to the World War I dead buried outside Paris—people who were killed more than a quarter century before he was born. Trump finds the notion of military service difficult to understand, and the idea of volunteering to serve especially incomprehensible. (The president did not serve in the military; he received a medical deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War because of the alleged presence of bone spurs in his feet. In the 1990s, Trump said his efforts to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases constituted his "personal Vietnam.")

On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America's most recent wars. Kelly's son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son's grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly's grave, turned directly to his father and said, "I don't get it. What was in it for them?" Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America's all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

"He can't fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself," one of Kelly's friends, a retired four-star general, told me. "He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there's no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There's no money in serving the nation." Kelly's friend went on to say, "Trump can't imagine anyone else's pain. That's why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he's buried."

I've asked numerous general officers over the past year for their analysis of Trump's seeming contempt for military service. They offer a number of explanations. Some of his cynicism is rooted in frustration, they say. Trump, unlike previous presidents, tends to believe that the military, like other departments of the federal government, is beholden only to him, and not the Constitution. Many senior officers have expressed worry about Trump's understanding of the rules governing the use of the armed forces. This issue came to a head in early June, during demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in response to police killings of Black people. James Mattis, the retired Marine general and former secretary of defense, lambasted Trump at the time for ordering law-enforcement officers to forcibly clear protesters from Lafayette Square, and for using soldiers as props: "When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution," Mattis wrote. "Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside."

Another explanation is more quotidian, and aligns with a broader understanding of Trump's material-focused worldview. The president believes that nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don't pursue riches are "losers." (According to eyewitnesses, after a White House briefing given by the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, Trump turned to aides and said, "That guy is smart. Why did he join the military?")

Yet another, related, explanation concerns what appears to be Trump's pathological fear of appearing to look like a "sucker" himself. His capacious definition of sucker includes those who lose their lives in service to their country, as well as those who are taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle. "He has a lot of fear," one officer with firsthand knowledge of Trump's views said. "He doesn't see the heroism in fighting." Several observers told me that Trump is deeply anxious about dying or being disfigured, and this worry manifests itself as disgust for those who have suffered. Trump recently claimed that he has received the bodies of slain service members "many, many" times, but in fact he has traveled to Dover Air Force Base, the transfer point for the remains of fallen service members, only four times since becoming president. In another incident, Trump falsely claimed that he had called "virtually all" of the families of service members who had died during his term, then began rush-shipping condolence letters when families said the president was not telling the truth.

Trump has been, for the duration of his presidency, fixated on staging military parades, but only of a certain sort. In a 2018 White House planning meeting for such an event, Trump asked his staff not to include wounded veterans, on grounds that spectators would feel uncomfortable in the presence of amputees. "Nobody wants to see that," he said.

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nymag.com

TARA READE 6:14 P.M.

PBS Asked Former Biden Staffers About Tara Reade. Here's What We Learned.

By Adam K. Raymond

In his more than four decades in Washington, D.C., Joe Biden has employed hundreds of staffers, advisers, and interns. Tara Reade was one of them. The former Senate staffer has accused Biden of sexual assault in the early '90s and says she was fired after reporting the incident. Biden denies her allegation but acknowledged this week that some voters may not believe him. He said that, if that's the case, they shouldn't cast their ballot for him.

"I think they should vote their heart. And if they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn't vote for me. I wouldn't vote for me if I believed Tara Reade," Biden said during an MSNBC virtual town hall.

On Friday, PBS NewsHour offered some new information for voters to consider, publishing the results of its interviews with 74 former Biden staffers, 62 of them women, who worked for him between 1972 and 2016. The interviews focused on Biden's behavior toward women, the culture in his office, and how the former staffers perceive Reade's allegations. Reporters Lisa Desjardins and Daniel Bush write that none of the people interviewed described experiencing or even hearing about sexual misconduct from Biden. Many said they do not believe Reade's allegation but acknowledged that their positive experience with Biden does not prove she's lying.

Doug Wigdor, Reade's attorney, said it was "not surprising" that some former staffers have cast doubt on her claims, noting they may have personal or political reasons for backing Biden's account.

Here, what we learned from the report:

A former staffer says Reade was fired for poor performance

Contrary to Reade's claim that she lost her job after complaining about Biden's behavior, a former staffer for the then-senator told NewsHour that Reade was fired for poor performance. Ben Savage, who said he sat next to Reade in the mailroom, said she struggled processing constituent mail, a key part of her job.

"Of all the people who held that position, she's the only one during my time there who couldn't necessarily keep up or who found it frustrating," Savage said.

Wigdor told NewsHour that Reade does not remember Savage, and her firing had nothing to do with performance. "Ms. Reade recalls that there was a lot of nitpicking regarding her performance in the office," he wrote in an email. "She was also very nervous at that point and distracted so it is possible that from time to time there was a mistake made …"

It's still unclear where the alleged assault might have taken place

Reade says the alleged assault took place while she was delivering a gym bag to Biden along the indoor route between his office and the Capitol. Her lawyer specified to NewsHour that it happened "in a semiprivate area like an alcove" located "somewhere between the Russell [building] and/or Capitol building." Reade previously described the assault taking place in a "side area."

The reporters set out to find a place matching that description and came up empty:

It is a roughly 10-minute walk that consists of one flight of stairs and one long hallway inside the Russell Building, followed by a wide tunnel through which he could walk or take an internal subway train to the Capitol.

The layout of that route and building has not changed. A recent walk through that area showed the subway tunnel contains no out-of-view areas, like an alcove. The remaining portion of the route includes multiple stairwells as well as corridors lined with offices. It is a main thoroughfare for senators and staffers.

They also noted it's a heavily trafficked area:

Some former staffers told the NewsHour that if Biden did assault Reade in any of these places, it would have been a brazen attack in an area with a high risk of being seen.

"When I worked in the Senate, it was always crowded [and] packed with lobbyists, staff and tourists," said Sheila Nix, who was Biden's chief of staff on the 2012 presidential campaign and previously worked as chief of staff to two other Democratic senators.

But, as Reade's lawyer pointed out, survivors often have trouble recalling specifics of their assaults.

Staffers said it's unlikely Reade would have been asked to serve drinks

Last year, Reade told a local paper in Nevada that she was told Biden wanted her to serve drinks at a fundraiser because he liked her legs. When she refused, she said, her career suffered.

Former Biden staffers tell NewsHour that it's very unlikely Reade would have been asked to serve drinks at a fundraiser. Not just because Biden was careful not to involve his Senate staff in campaign events, but because he was conscious about not putting young women in those roles. Per the report:

… two men who worked as junior staffers for Biden said the senator specifically did not want women to serve beverages, like coffee, or perform other menial tasks in his Senate office or on the committees he chaired. Men were typically asked to perform such tasks.

Reade's former co-worker recalls her saying she was admonished for the way she dressed

An anonymous former co-worker backed up Reade's claim that a supervisor admonished her for dressing inappropriately at work. However, while Reade painted this as retaliation for her sexual-harassment complaint, the co-worker said the criticism of her attire was warranted. Per NewsHour:

A woman who worked with Reade, but who spoke to the NewsHour on the condition she not be named, said she remembers Reade mentioning that she was scolded for her attire and that Reade asked her if it was a legitimate complaint. That coworker and two other staffers who worked with Reade said they believe she was not appropriately dressed for work.

Biden was known for touching people, but not in a sexual manner

Ex-staffers told NewsHour that Biden's reputation for touching people is well founded. He was known for massaging shoulders and kissing cheeks. Many said they found this behavior endearing and did not consider it sexual. But some said they see it in a somewhat different light following recent complaints from women about unwanted touching from Biden. Per NewsHour:

His behavior toward women can be "somewhat infantilizing," the staffer said. "That doesn't look like equality, right? But that was an expression of empathy, as opposed to flirtation."

For others, Biden's touching evoked some regret. "There were times as I now look back that I think we messed up. We should have said something about that," a different former staffer said. "We probably should have recognized that made people uncomfortable."

Many recall Biden treating female staffers well, but note that doesn't nullify Reade's claim

The vast majority of former staffers interviewed were women, and NewsHour reporters wrote that those who spent "countless hours" with him in "one-on-one settings" said "he never made passes at them or behaved in other ways that suggested sexual impropriety." He was also known for having women-friendly office policies.

Still, the reporters wrote, the ex-staffers "said they believed Reade should be heard and acknowledged that their experiences do not disprove her accusation."

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Opinions | The Washington Post

George Conway: No one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is about to teach that lesson.


By George T. Conway III

Contributing columnist
May 8, 2020 at 6:50 p.m. EDT


Twenty-six years ago, I published my first op-ed. Entitled "'No Man in This Country … Is Above the Law,'" it addressed news reports that President Bill Clinton planned to claim an immunity from having to respond to Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit. "In a case involving his private conduct," I wrote, "a President should be treated like any private citizen. The rule of law requires no more — and no less."

The piece led to my ghostwriting briefs for Jones, including a Supreme Court brief two years later. The Supreme Court agreed unanimously that Jones could proceed, and, like the op-ed, quoted from the Founders' debates about the status of the president: "Far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment." Which meant that while a president could be impeached for official misconduct, he "is otherwise subject to the laws" — and therefore could be sued — "for his purely private acts."

I couldn't have imagined then that another president would challenge that proposition. Then again, I couldn't have imagined President Donald Trump.

But here we are. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear telephonic arguments in three cases addressing whether Trump can keep his tax and financial information from being disclosed, whether from Congress or criminal prosecutors. In Trump v. Vance, which involves a New York state grand jury investigation, Trump's lawyers argue that, even when it comes to purely private conduct, the presidency insulates him from the legal process.

The case arises from a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, and it seems there's plenty worth examining: whether, as suggested by extensive reporting in this newspaper and other outlets, Trump's businesses may have dodged taxes. And whether Trump's hush-money payments, made through his lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, violated state law. (Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes arising from those payments, which the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan said were made "at the direction of Individual-1" — Trump.)

The state grand jury subpoenaed the Trump Organization and Trump's accounting firm, Mazars, seeking tax returns and financial records. Trump sued to block the subpoena to Mazars — on the ground that he's president. The lower federal courts rejected his pleas, and now he's in the Supreme Court. Where he will lose — or should.

To say Trump's argument is frivolous demeans frivolity. Clinton v. Jones dictates the result: The subpoenaed documents have nothing to do with Trump's presidential duties — zip. That alone does it.

But Trump's case is even weaker than Clinton's. At least Clinton was being sued personally. He ultimately had to give evidence himself, which he did (infamously) at a deposition. But because the suit had nothing to do with presidential duties, the Supreme Court said it could proceed.

Here, Trump hasn't been charged with or sued for anything. He's not being required to do anything. The subpoenas have been directed at his company and his accountants. They don't require his time or attention.

Trump's position stupefies. In essence: Authorities can't investigate anything touching his personal affairs — including, ahem, payments to pornographic actresses — because he's president. Think of the logic: Not only does the president enjoy a personal constitutional immunity — his businesses do, too.

It doesn't matter that Trump challenges a criminal inquiry, while Jones involved a civil suit. Whether a sitting president can be indicted remains unsettled, but Trump hasn't been charged. In fact, presidents have given evidence in criminal matters many times — including ones touching them personally. Chief Justice John Marshall ordered President Thomas Jefferson to produce documents in Aaron Burr's treason case. A unanimous Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, and rejected a claim of presidential privilege — in a case in which Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator. Clinton provided grand jury and criminal trial testimony in the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations — matters in which he was potentially a target.

Trump complains nonetheless that letting 50 states conduct investigations involving presidents would endanger the presidency, as well as federal supremacy. A short answer is one the court gave in Jones, where Clinton raised the specter of countless private plaintiffs bringing meritless suits: Courts can address vexatious litigation case by case, and if that doesn't suffice, Congress can legislate a fix.

A more fundamental answer, though, may be found in an amicus curiae brief in the Vance case, a brief submitted by the Protect Democracy Project and joined by me and 36 other conservatives: "The Constitution is concerned with the supremacy of federal law, not the supremacy of federal officials."

Likewise, the Constitution is concerned with protecting the presidency, not the person who happens to be the president. That's because no one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is now called upon to teach that lesson once again — even if Trump will likely never learn it.

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Opinion | usatoday.com

Why I'm skeptical about Reade's sexual assault claim against Biden: Ex-prosecutor

If we must blindly accept every allegation of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement is just a hit squad. And it's too important to be no more than that.

Michael J. Stern Opinion columnist
Apr 29, 2020

During 28 years as a state and federal prosecutor, I prosecuted a lot of sexual assault cases. The vast majority came early in my career, when I was a young attorney at a prosecutor's office outside Detroit.

A year ago, Tara Reade accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her shoulder and neck in a way that made her uncomfortable, when she worked for him as a staff assistant in 1993. Then last month, Reade told an interviewer that Biden stuck his hand under her skirt and forcibly penetrated her with his fingers. Biden denies the allegation.

When women make allegations of sexual assault, my default response is to believe them. But as the news media have investigated Reade's allegations, I've become increasingly skeptical. Here are some of the reasons why:

Delayed reporting … twice. Reade waited 27 years to publicly report her allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her. I understand that victims of sexual assault often do not come forward immediately because recounting the most violent and degrading experience of their lives, to a bunch of strangers, is the proverbial insult to injury. That so many women were willing to wait in my dreary government office, as I ran to the restroom to pull myself together after listening to their stories, is a testament to their fortitude.

Even so, it is reasonable to consider a 27-year reporting delay when assessing the believability of any criminal allegation. More significant perhaps, is Reade's decision to sit down with a newspaper last year and accuse Biden of touching her in a sexual way that made her uncomfortable — but neglect to mention her claim that he forcibly penetrated her with his fingers.

As a lawyer and victims' rights advocate, Reade was better equipped than most to appreciate that dramatic changes in sexual assault allegations severely undercut an accuser's credibility — especially when the change is from an uncomfortable shoulder touch to vaginal penetration.

Implausible explanation for changing story. When Reade went public with her sexual assault allegation in March, she said she wanted to do it in an interview with The Union newspaper in California last April. She said the reporter's tone made her feel uncomfortable and "I just really got shut down" and didn't tell the whole story.

It is hard to believe a reporter would discourage this kind of scoop. Regardless, it's also hard to accept that it took Reade 12 months to find another reporter eager to break that bombshell story. This unlikely explanation damages her credibility.

People who contradict Reade's claim. After the alleged assault, Reade said she complained about Biden's harassment to Marianne Baker, Biden's executive assistant, as well as to top aides Dennis Toner and Ted Kaufman. All three Biden staffers recently told The New York Times that she made no complaint to them.

And they did not offer the standard, noncommittal "I don't remember any such complaint." The denials were firm. "She did not come to me. If she had, I would have remembered her," Kaufman said. Toner made a similar statement. And from Baker: "I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct (by Biden), period." Baker said such a complaint, had Reade made it, "would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager."

Missing formal complaint. Reade told The Times she filed a written complaint against Biden with the Senate personnel office. But The Times could not find any complaint. When The Times asked Reade for a copy of the complaint, she said she did not have it. Yet she maintained and provided a copy of her 1993 Senate employment records.

It is odd that Reade kept a copy of her employment records but did not keep a copy of a complaint documenting criminal conduct by a man whose improprieties changed "the trajectory" of her life. It's equally odd The Times was unable to find a copy of the alleged Senate complaint.

Memory lapse. Reade has said that she cannot remember the date, time or exact location of the alleged assault, except that it occurred in a "semiprivate" area in corridors connecting Senate buildings. After I left the Justice Department, I was appointed by the federal court in Los Angeles to represent indigent defendants. The first thing that comes to mind from my defense attorney perspective is that Reade's amnesia about specifics makes it impossible for Biden to go through records and prove he could not have committed the assault, because he was somewhere else at the time.

For instance, if Reade alleged Biden assaulted her on the afternoon of June 3, 1993, Biden might be able to prove he was on the Senate floor or at the dentist. Her memory lapses could easily be perceived as bulletproofing a false allegation.

The lie about losing her job. Reade told The Union that Biden wanted her to serve drinks at an event. After she refused, "she felt pushed out and left Biden's employ," the newspaper said last April. But Reade claimed this month in her Times interview that after she filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate personnel office, she faced retaliation and was fired by Biden's chief of staff.

Leaving a job after refusing to serve drinks at a Biden fundraiser is vastly different than being fired as retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate. The disparity raises questions about Reade's credibility and account of events.

Compliments for Biden. In the 1990s, Biden worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act. In 2017, on multiple occasions, Reade retweeted or "liked" praise for Biden and his work combating sexual assault. In the same year, Reade tweeted other compliments of Biden, including: "My old boss speaks truth. Listen." It is bizarre that Reade would publicly laud Biden for combating the very thing she would later accuse him of doing to her.

Rejecting Biden, embracing Sanders. By this January, Reade was all in for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Her unwavering support was accompanied by an unbridled attack on Biden. In an article on Medium, Reade referred to Biden as "the blue version of Trump." Reade also pushed a Sanders/Elizabeth Warren ticket, while complaining that the Democratic National Committee was trying to "shove" Biden "down Democrat voters throats."

Despite her effusive 2017 praise for Biden's efforts on behalf of women, after pledging her support to Sanders, Reade turned on Biden and contradicted all she said before. She claimed that her decision to publicly accuse Biden of inappropriately touching her was due to "the hypocrisy that Biden is supposed to be the champion of women's rights."

Love of Russia and Putin. During 2017 when Reade was praising Biden, she was condemning Russian leader Vladimir Putin's efforts to hijack American democracy in the 2016 election. This changed in November 2018, when Reade trashed the United States as a country of "hypocrisy and imperialism" and "not a democracy at all but a corporate autocracy."

Reade's distaste for America closely tracked her new infatuation with Russia and Putin. She referred to Putin as a "genius" with an athletic prowess that "is intoxicating to American women." Then there's this gem: "President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity."

In March 2019, Reade essentially dismissed the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election as hype. She said she loved Russia and her Russian relatives — and "like most women across the world, I like President Putin … a lot, his shirt on or shirt off."

Believe all women?Now that Reade has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, never mind.

Pivoting again this month, Reade said that she "did not support Putin, and that her comments were pulled out of context from a novel she was writing," according to The Times. The quotations above, however, are from political opinion pieces she published, and she did not offer any other "context" to The Times.

Reade's writings shed light on her political alliance with Sanders, who has a long history of ties to Russia and whose stump speech is focused largely on his position that American inequality is due to a corporate autocracy. But at a very minimum, Reade's wild shifts in political ideology and her sexual infatuation with a brutal dictator of a foreign adversary raise questions about her emotional stability.

Suspect timing. For 27 years, Reade did not publicly accuse Biden of sexually assaulting her. But then Biden's string of March primary victories threw Sanders off his seemingly unstoppable path to the Democratic nomination. On March 25, as Sanders was pondering his political future, Reade finally went public with her claim. The confluence of Reade's support of Sanders, distaste for the traditional American democracy epitomized by Biden, and the timing of her allegation should give pause to even the most strident Biden critics.

The Larry King call. Last week, new "evidence" surfaced: a recorded call by an anonymous woman to CNN's "Larry King Live" show in 1993. Reade says the caller was her mother, who's now deceased. Assuming Reade is correct, her mother said: "I'm wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him."

As a prosecutor, this would not make me happy. Given that the call was anonymous, Reade's mother should have felt comfortable relaying the worst version of events. When trying to obtain someone's assistance, people typically do not downplay the seriousness of an incident. They exaggerate it. That Reade's mother said nothing about her daughter being sexually assaulted would lead many reasonable people to conclude that sexual assault was not the problem that prompted the call to King.

Reade's mother also said her daughter did not go to the press with her problem "out of respect" for the senator. I've never met a woman who stayed silent out of "respect" for the man who sexually assaulted her. And it is inconceivable that a mother would learn of her daughter's sexual assault and suggest that respect for the assailant is what stands between a life of painful silence and justice.

The "out of respect" explanation sounds more like an office squabble with staff that resulted in leaving the job. Indeed, in last year's interview with The Washington Post, Reade laid the blame on Biden's staff for "bullying" her. She also said, "I want to emphasize: It's not him. It's the people around him."

Statements to others. Reade's brother, Collin Moulton, told The Post recently that he remembers Reade telling him Biden inappropriately touched her neck and shoulders. He said nothing about a sexual assault until a few days later, when he texted The Post that he remembered Reade saying Biden put his hand "under her clothes."

That Reade's brother neglected to remember the most important part of her allegation initially could lead people to believe he recounted his Post interview to Reade, was told he left out the most important part, and texted it to The Post to avoid a discussion about why he failed to mention it in the first place.

In interviews with The Times, one friend of Reade's said Reade told her she was sexually assaulted by Biden. Another friend said Reade told her that Biden touched her inappropriately. Both friends insisted that The Times maintain their anonymity.

On Monday, Business Insider published an interview with a friend of Reade's who said that in 1995 or 1996, Reade told her she was assaulted by Biden. Insider called this friend, Lynda LaCasse, the "first person to independently corroborate, in detail and on the record, that Reade had told others about her assault allegations contemporaneously."

But Reade alleged she was assaulted in 1993. Telling a friend two or three years later is not contemporaneous. Legal references to a contemporaneous recounting typically refer to hours or days — the point being that facts are still fresh in a person's mind and the statement is more likely to be accurate.

The Insider also quoted a colleague of Reade's in the mid-1990s, Lorraine Sanchez, who said Reade told her she had been sexually harassed by a former boss. Reade did not mention Biden by name and did not provide details of the alleged harassment.

In prior interviews, Reade gave what appeared be an exhaustive list of people she told of the alleged assault. Neither of the women who talked to Business Insider were on that list.

The problem with statements from friends is that the information they recount is only as good as the information given to them. Let's say Reade left her job because she was angry about being asked to serve drinks or because she was fired for a legitimate reason. If she tried to save face by telling friends that she left because she was sexually assaulted, that's all her friends would know and all they could repeat.

Prior statements made by a sexual assault victim can carry some weight, but only if the accuser is credible. In Reade's case, the statements coming from her friends are only of value if people believe Reade can be relied on to tell the truth, regardless of the light in which it paints her.

Lack of other sexual assault allegations. Last year, several women claimed that Biden made them uncomfortable with things like a shoulder touch or a hug. (I wrote a column critical of one such allegation by Lucy Flores.) The Times and Post found no allegation of sexual assault against Biden except Reade's.

It is possible that in his 77 years, Biden committed one sexual assault and it was against Reade. But in my experience, men who commit a sexual assault are accused more than once ... like Donald Trump, who has had more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault leveled against him and who was recorded bragging about grabbing women's genitalia.

What remains. There are no third-party eyewitnesses or videos to support Tara Reade's allegation that she was assaulted by Joe Biden. No one but Reade and Biden know whether an assault occurred. This is typical of sexual assault allegations. Jurors, in this case the voting public, have to consider the facts and circumstances to assess whether Reade's allegation is credible. To do that, they have to determine whether Reade herself is believable.

I've dreaded writing this piece because I do not want it to be used as a guidebook to dismantling legitimate allegations of sexual assault. But not every claim of sexual assault is legitimate. During almost three decades as a prosecutor, I can remember dismissing two cases because I felt the defendant had not committed the charged crime. One of those cases was a rape charge.

The facts of that case made me question the credibility of the woman who claimed she was raped. In the end, she acknowledged that she fabricated the allegation after her boyfriend caught her with a man with whom she was having an affair.

I know that "Believe Women" is the mantra of the new decade. It is a response to a century of ignoring and excusing men's sexual assaults against women. But men and women alike should not be forced to blindly accept every allegation of sexual assault for fear of being labeled a misogynist or enabler.

We can support the #MeToo movement and not support allegations of sexual assault that do not ring true. If these two positions cannot coexist, the movement is no more than a hit squad. That's not how I see the #MeToo movement. It's too important, for too many victims of sexual assault and their allies, to be no more than that.

Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelJStern1

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Opinions | New York Times

Joe Biden: My Plan to Safely Reopen America

An effective strategy to beat the virus is the ultimate answer to how we get our economy back on track.

By Joe Biden
Mr. Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
April 12, 2020

People across America are stepping up to the plate. Millions are performing essential services at great personal risk, and millions more are staying at home, away from friends and extended family. In return, they want the answer to a simple question: What is the plan to safely reopen America?

So far, the Trump administration hasn't supplied an answer.

The plan has to start with responding effectively to the immediate medical crisis and ultimately lead to the widespread availability and administration of a vaccine. But we can't stay home and just wait for the vaccine to arrive. As others have noted, we need to build a bridge from here to there. Here's what our national strategy should look like.

First, we have to get the number of new cases of the disease down significantly. That means social distancing has to continue and the people on the front lines have to get the supplies and equipment they need. President Trump needs to use his full powers under the Defense Production Act to fight the disease with every tool at our disposal. He needs to get the federal response organized and stop making excuses. For more Americans to go back to their jobs, the president needs to do better at his job.

Second, there needs to be widespread, easily available and prompt testing — and a contact tracing strategy that protects privacy. A recent report from Mr. Trump's Department of Health and Human Services made clear that we are far from achieving this goal.

We should be running multiple times the number of diagnostic tests we're performing right now. And we should be ready to scale up a second form of testing: rapid serology tests to tell who has already been infected with the coronavirus and has antibodies. This isn't rocket science; it's about investment and execution. We are now several months into this crisis, and still this administration has not squarely faced up to the “original sin” in its failed response — the failure to test.

Third, we have to make sure that our hospitals and health care system are ready for flare-ups of the disease that may occur when economic activity expands again. Reopening the right way will still not be completely safe. Public health officials will need to conduct effective disease surveillance. Hospitals need to have the staff and equipment necessary to handle any local outbreaks, and we need an improved federal system to get help to these places as needed.

Make no mistake: An effective plan to beat the virus is the ultimate answer to how we get our economy back on track. So we should stop thinking of the health and economic responses as separate. They are not.

Once we have taken these steps, we can begin to reopen more businesses and put more people back to work. Things will not go back to “normal” right away. As public health experts have said, we should expect activity to return gradually, with sites like offices and stores reopening before arenas and theaters.

That's why we need to be working right now on the conditions under which our economy will operate as America gets back to work, and ensuring that the financial support our families and small businesses will need is fully in place.

As long as there is a significant risk that the virus can start spreading again, we are going to have to do some things differently. And the federal government should be leading the effort to figure that out.

If I were president, I would convene top experts from the private sector, industry by industry, to come up with new ideas on how to operate more safely. Perhaps offices and factories will need to space out workers and pursue other solutions to lessen risk of spread of the virus on the job. Restaurants may need new layouts, with diners farther apart.

From my talks with some industry leaders, I know that many are already at work on these questions. Mr. Trump needs to accelerate this thinking and make sure it is available to all businesses — including small businesses, not just the largest companies.

Likewise, I would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, working with organized labor and employee groups, to figure out what protections workers need on the job during this period.

Getting protective gear to our health care workers and emergency medical workers is the top priority — and one where we are still lagging. But once that need is met, I'd ask the experts to figure out what delivery workers, waiters, clerks and so many other professionals need to be safe. And I would focus like a laser on the racial disparities in Covid-19 cases.

Safe and effective treatment can help manage the risk of the coronavirus. But of course, the only complete solution is finding a vaccine to extinguish the threat it poses. Scientists are making great strides on this, but discovering and testing a vaccine is only the first step: Manufacturing sufficient doses and distributing it to reach everyone is a huge challenge. The Trump administration should already be reporting to the American people on its efforts.

As we prepare to reopen America, we have to remember what this crisis has taught us: The administration's failure to plan, to prepare, to honestly assess and communicate the threat to the nation led to catastrophic results. We cannot repeat those mistakes.

We know what we have to do. We have the tools, expertise and, now, hard-won experience. The American people have already paid too high a price in illness, death and economic loss. This time, the White House has to get it right.

Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States, is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

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IDEASThe Atlantic

The Trump Presidency Is Over

It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.

March 13, 2020

Peter Wehner
Contributing writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPC

When, in January 2016, I wrote that despite being a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations, I would never vote for Donald Trump, even though his administration would align much more with my policy views than a Hillary Clinton presidency would, a lot of my Republican friends were befuddled. How could I not vote for a person who checked far more of my policy boxes than his opponent?

What I explained then, and what I have said many times since, is that Trump is fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office. For me, that is the paramount consideration in electing a president, in part because at some point it's reasonable to expect that a president will face an unexpected crisis—and at that point, the president's judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability, will really matter.

"Mr. Trump has no desire to acquaint himself with most issues, let alone master them" is how I put it four years ago. "No major presidential candidate has ever been quite as disdainful of knowledge, as indifferent to facts, as untroubled by his benightedness." I added this:

Mr. Trump's virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness would do more than result in a failed presidency; it could very well lead to national catastrophe. The prospect of Donald Trump as commander in chief should send a chill down the spine of every American.

It took until the second half of Trump's first term, but the crisis has arrived in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, and it's hard to name a president who has been as overwhelmed by a crisis as the coronavirus has overwhelmed Donald Trump.

To be sure, the president isn't responsible for either the coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19, and he couldn't have stopped it from hitting our shores even if he had done everything right. Nor is it the case that the president hasn't done anything right; in fact, his decision to implement a travel ban on China was prudent. And any narrative that attempts to pin all of the blame on Trump for the coronavirus is simply unfair. The temptation among the president's critics to use the pandemic to get back at Trump for every bad thing he's done should be resisted, and schadenfreude is never a good look.

That said, the president and his administration are responsible for grave, costly errors, most especially the epic manufacturing failures in diagnostic testing, the decision to test too few people, the delay in expanding testing to labs outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and problems in the supply chain. These mistakes have left us blind and badly behind the curve, and, for a few crucial weeks, they created a false sense of security. What we now know is that the coronavirus silently spread for several weeks, without us being aware of it and while we were doing nothing to stop it. Containment and mitigation efforts could have significantly slowed its spread at an early, critical point, but we frittered away that opportunity.

"They've simply lost time they can't make up. You can't get back six weeks of blindness," Jeremy Konyndyk, who helped oversee the international response to Ebola during the Obama administration and is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, told The Washington Post. "To the extent that there's someone to blame here, the blame is on poor, chaotic management from the White House and failure to acknowledge the big picture."

Earlier this week, Anthony Fauci, the widely respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases whose reputation for honesty and integrity have been only enhanced during this crisis, admitted in congressional testimony that the United States is still not providing adequate testing for the coronavirus. "It is failing. Let's admit it." He added, "The idea of anybody getting [testing] easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that. I think it should be, but we're not."

We also know the World Health Organization had working tests that the United States refused, and researchers at a project in Seattle tried to conduct early tests for the coronavirus but were prevented from doing so by federal officials. (Doctors at the research project eventually decided to perform coronavirus tests without federal approval.)

But that's not all. The president reportedly ignored early warnings of the severity of the virus and grew angry at a CDC official who in February warned that an outbreak was inevitable. The Trump administration dismantled the National Security Council's global-health office, whose purpose was to address global pandemics; we're now paying the price for that. "We worked very well with that office," Fauci told Congress. "It would be nice if the office was still there." We may face a shortage of ventilators and medical supplies, and hospitals may soon be overwhelmed, certainly if the number of coronavirus cases increases at a rate anything like that in countries such as Italy. (This would cause not only needless coronavirus-related deaths, but deaths from those suffering from other ailments who won't have ready access to hospital care.)

Some of these mistakes are less serious and more understandable than others. One has to take into account that in government, when people are forced to make important decisions based on incomplete information in a compressed period of time, things go wrong.

Yet in some respects, the avalanche of false information from the president has been most alarming of all. It's been one rock slide after another, the likes of which we have never seen. Day after day after day he brazenly denied reality, in an effort to blunt the economic and political harm he faced. But Trump is in the process of discovering that he can't spin or tweet his way out of a pandemic. There is no one who can do to the coronavirus what Attorney General William Barr did to the Mueller report: lie about it and get away with it.

The president's misinformation and mendacity about the coronavirus are head-snapping. He claimed that it was contained in America when it was actually spreading. He claimed that we had "shut it down" when we had not. He claimed that testing was available when it wasn't. He claimed that the coronavirus will one day disappear "like a miracle"; it won't. He claimed that a vaccine would be available in months; Fauci says it will not be available for a year or more.

Trump falsely blamed the Obama administration for impeding coronavirus testing. He stated that the coronavirus first hit the United States later than it actually did. (He said that it was three weeks prior to the point at which he spoke; the actual figure was twice that.) The president claimed that the number of cases in Italy was getting "much better" when it was getting much worse. And in one of the more stunning statements an American president has ever made, Trump admitted that his preference was to keep a cruise ship off the California coast rather than allowing it to dock, because he wanted to keep the number of reported cases of the coronavirus artificially low.

"I like the numbers," Trump said. "I would rather have the numbers stay where they are. But if they want to take them off, they'll take them off. But if that happens, all of a sudden your 240 [cases] is obviously going to be a much higher number, and probably the 11 [deaths] will be a higher number too." (Cooler heads prevailed, and over the president's objections, the Grand Princess was allowed to dock at the Port of Oakland.)

On and on it goes.

To make matters worse, the president delivered an Oval Office address that was meant to reassure the nation and the markets but instead shook both. The president's delivery was awkward and stilted; worse, at several points, the president, who decided to ad-lib the teleprompter speech, misstated his administration's own policies, which the administration had to correct. Stock futures plunged even as the president was still delivering his speech. In his address, the president called for Americans to "unify together as one nation and one family," despite having referred to Washington Governor Jay Inslee as a "snake" days before the speech and attacking Democrats the morning after it. As The Washington Post's Dan Balz put it, "Almost everything that could have gone wrong with the speech did go wrong."

Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president's disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.

The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander "as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president," in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

Donald Trump is shrinking before our eyes.

The coronavirus is quite likely to be the Trump presidency's inflection point, when everything changed, when the bluster and ignorance and shallowness of America's 45th president became undeniable, an empirical reality, as indisputable as the laws of science or a mathematical equation.

It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain. The president, enraged for having been unmasked, will become more desperate, more embittered, more unhinged. He knows nothing will be the same. His administration may stagger on, but it will be only a hollow shell. The Trump presidency is over.

Peter Wehner is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Egan visiting professor at Duke University. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.

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Opinions | The Washington Post

George Conway: I believe the president, and in the president

By George T. Conway III

Feb. 5, 2020 at 11:04 a.m. EST

George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York and an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC.

I believe the president, and in the president.

I believe the Senate is right to acquit the president. I believe a fair trial is one with no witnesses, and that the trial was therefore fair. I believe the House was unfair because it found evidence against him. I believe that if the president does something that he believes will get himself reelected, that's in the public interest and can't be the kind of thing that results in impeachment.

I believe the president's call was perfect. I believe he is deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine. I believe the president can find Ukraine on a map.

I believe Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election, and that the intelligence community's suggestion otherwise is a Deep State lie. I believe the Democratic National Committee server is in Ukraine, where CrowdStrike hid it.

I believe President Barack Obama placed a “tapp” on the president's phones in 2016, and that the Russia investigation was a plot to keep him from winning, even though the plotters didn't think he could win.

I believe former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was conflicted because he quit one of the president's golf clubs, and that he and his Angry Democrats conducted a Witch Hunt to destroy the president. But I believe Mueller's report totally exonerated the president, because it found no collusion and no obstruction.

I believe it would be okay for the president to say he grabs women by their p-----s, because he is a star, and stars are allowed to do that. But I believe he didn't say that, even though he apologized for it, because I believe the “Access Hollywood” tape was doctored, because he said it was.

I believe E. Jean Carroll lied when she accused the president of rape, because he said she's not his type. I believe the dozens of other women who accused him of sexual misconduct are also lying, because he would never think of grabbing them by their p-----s or anything else.

I believe the president didn't know Michael Cohen was paying off porn star Stormy Daniels, and that Cohen did it on his own, because the president had no reason to pay her off. I believe the president was reimbursing Cohen for his legal expertise.

I believe the president wants to release his taxes but has not because he's under audit, which is why he has fought all the way to the Supreme Court not to disclose them. I believe he will disclose them when the audit is over, and that they will show him to be as rich and honest as he says he is.

I believe the president is a very stable genius, and that he repeatedly tells us so because it's true.

I believe the president can spell. I believe any spelling mistakes he makes are because he's a very busy man who doesn't watch much TV, or because he's intentionally triggering the libs.

I believe Hurricane Dorian was headed straight for Alabama. I believe the president's map wasn't altered with a Sharpie, and that if it was, he didn't do it, since he didn't need to because he was right.

I believe the president didn't call Apple's CEO “Tim Apple,” and that he said “Tim Cook of Apple” really, really fast, but that if he did say “Tim Apple,” it was to save words, which he always tries to do.

I believe the president is defeating socialism, despite the subsidies he's paying to save farmers from his protectionism and the $3.2 trillion he's added to the national debt during his term.

I believe the president has made tremendous progress building the wall, that Mexico paid for it in the trade deal, that the wall will soon run from San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico, that it will stop those caravans cold, and that it won't fall down.

I believe the president has a 95 percent approval rating among Republicans, and that there's no need to cite polls for that.

I believe the president is truthful. I believe the Fake News media lied each of the 16,241 times they have said he has made a false or misleading claim.

I believe the president is selfless, and always puts the nation's interests first. I believe he isn't a narcissist, but he'd be entitled to be one if he were one. I believe the president would never exercise his presidential powers to advance his personal interests, but if he did, that would be okay, because whatever is in his personal interests is necessarily in the nation's interests as well.

I believe Article II of the Constitution gives the president the right to do whatever he wants.

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Opinions | The Washington Post

Why Is Mitch McConnell So Afraid of John Bolton?

The Senate must hear his testimony in an impeachment trial.

By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III

Mr. Katyal, the author of "Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump," and Mr. Conway, an adviser to the Lincoln Project, are lawyers.

Jan. 7, 2020

The importance of John Bolton's offer to testify if subpoenaed in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump cannot be overstated. In a single stroke, Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, elevated truth and transparency over political gamesmanship.

The Senate must take him up on his offer, as well as demand the testimony of President Trump and the administration officials he has barred from testifying. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, reportedly has the votes to proceed with the trial despite no agreement with Democrats on new witnesses and to leave it a question to take up after opening arguments. The Senate still must declare that it will call witnesses during the trial.

Everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents — must know that these crucial witnesses will be heard.

The core principle behind the rule of law is that justice is blind and partisan identity should not influence a trial's outcome. But anyone watching Mr. McConnell twist himself into knots in trying to block witnesses and documents has to wonder whether this notion ever took root in his mind. He has gone so far as to say that "there will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can." He also said, "There's no chance the president is going to be removed from office."

How can Mr. McConnell make such a claim without having heard from Mr. Bolton? Remember that the diplomat Fiona Hill testified at the House impeachment hearings that Mr. Bolton called the pressuring of Ukraine by the administration a "drug deal" and said he wanted no part of it. Mr. Bolton himself has said that he possesses new information that has not been revealed. He even gave a speech saying that some of Mr. Trump's foreign policy decisions were made in his self-interest, not in the interest of the American people. Particularly after the United States' killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran, such questions have arisen once again.

And how can Mr. McConnell make such a claim without having heard from the most important witness of all, Mr. Trump? The president has been too scared to testify, and too scared to let anyone else in his administration testify. This is not a particularly compelling demonstration of innocence. When the House was holding impeachment hearings, Mr. Trump said he wanted the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to testify. Even that pretense is now gone.

There is only one possible explanation for this behavior: He is afraid of the truth. Otherwise, what argument can there be for refusing to hear from a central witness like Mr. Bolton, who other witnesses have indicated was exceptionally concerned about the suspension of military aid to Ukraine?

Making matters worse, Mr. McConnell is a lawyer (as are nearly 50 of his Senate colleagues). Yet clearly being a lawyer does not give one a monopoly on truth seeking, as his Republican colleagues with law degrees are proving.

Lindsey Graham, for example, said if there were evidence of a quid pro quo, he'd want to investigate, only to turn around after such evidence emerged to try to stop that very inquiry.

Marco Rubio deserves particular opprobrium. He has said Mr. Bolton cannot testify, reasoning that the Senate "inquiry should be based on the testimony" heard by the House. "We are acting on articles of impeachment," he declared. "We should be constrained by the information that those articles are based on." His ostrichlike behavior would appall the founders, who believed, in the words of Federalist 65, that such "strict rules" could never govern impeachments.

Mr. Rubio would have an even harder time explaining the 41 witnesses who testified in Andrew Johnson's Senate impeachment trial, or the three who testified in Bill Clinton's. Neither of those impeachments involved a president who had ordered those very witnesses not to cooperate with the House. It's quite rich to say the witnesses should have testified in the House when the defendant in the proceedings blocked them from doing so.

There's one bright spot: another senator who happens to be a lawyer, too. Mitt Romney recently said that the Senate should hear from Mr. Bolton. A handful of other Republican senators could join him and ensure a real trial, with witnesses and documents alike. Lisa Murkowski, Cory Gardner and Rob Portman — all of whom happen to be lawyers — would be a good start.

The two of us are lawyers and became friends and writing partners out of our shared reverence for the rule of law. We have very different politics, but we believe our commitment to this principle far eclipses the rest. The Constitution imposes upon the Senate a duty to "try all impeachments," and so a real trial — with all relevant testimony and evidence — is what is required.

This week, Mr. Bolton, himself a lawyer, and recognizing the nature of the Senate's crucial constitutional obligation, has taken a critical step in the right direction. It's our hope that Americans will recognize that our commitment to the rule of law is what holds us together.

The truth may not set the president free, but the Constitution is meant to keep the country free, and a fair and impartial trial is what must take place here.

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Opinions | The Washington Post

James Comey: This is what it is like to be attacked by the president

By James Comey
December 30 at 12:04 PM

James Comey is a former FBI director and deputy attorney general.

What's it like to be personally and publicly attacked by the president of the United States? Like many others in and out of government, I have some experience. I have also watched friends and former colleagues deal with vicious, repeated assaults. The attacks have interfered with their ability to find work after government service, as even employers who see through the lies fear hiring a “controversial” person or being attacked themselves. It can mean reassuring concerned friends and family, who can't imagine themselves the target of presidential wrath, that you're doing just fine. And it also means avoiding much of social media, because every presidential assault unleashes truly disturbed Trump supporters on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

So, it's hard on good people, especially those who don't have savings to fall back on. But the truth is that, in many ways, it is not as hard as you might think, especially as it continues endlessly, leaking power, shrinking its source.

At first, the attack is stunning and rocks your world. Waking up to find the president has tweeted that you are guilty of treason or committed assorted other crimes and are a [insert any one of this president's epithets here] is jarring and disorienting. That's the first stage, but it doesn't last.

The second stage is a kind of numbness, where it doesn't seem quite real that the so-called Leader of the Free World is assailing you by tweet and voice. It is still unsettling, but it is harder to recapture the vertigo of the first assault.

But the longer it goes on, the less it means. In the third stage, the impact diminishes, the power of it shrinks. It no longer feels as though the most powerful human on the planet is after you. It feels as though a strange and slightly sad old guy is yelling at you to get off his lawn, echoed by younger but no less sad people in red hats shouting, "Yeah, get off his lawn!"

In this stage, President Trump seems diminished, much as he has diminished the presidency itself. Foreign leaders laugh at him and throw his letters in the trash. American leaders clap back at him, offering condescending prayers for his personal well-being. The president's “trusted” advisers all appear to talk about him behind his back and treat him like a child. Principled public servants defy his orders not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. His record in the courts is similar to the Washington Redskins' on the field.

Even his secret weapon has lost power. Engagement with his Twitter account — the company's measure of how often people read, share and comment on a tweet — has steadily declined. Americans have grown tired of the show. They are channel-surfing on him. The exhausted middle has arrived at a collective Stage 3.

I don't mean to suggest Trump is not dangerous. The horrific betrayal of allies in northern Syria demonstrates that an impetuous and amoral leader can do great harm, even in shrunken form. And if he succeeds in redefining our nation's core values so that extorting foreign governments to aid in one's election is consistent with the oath of office, he will have done lasting damage to this nation — the harm our founders worried about most.

For the fourth, and final, stage, we need to fight through our fatigue and contempt for this shrunken, withered figure. Spurred by the danger he poses to our nation and its values, we have to overcome the shock and numbness of earlier stages. We must not look away. We must summon the effort necessary to protect this republic from Alexander Hamilton's great fear, that when an unprincipled person “is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may 'ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.' ”

We are headed into the storm our founders feared. Getting safely to the other side will require all of us to resist complacency and cynicism. Yes, the final stage is a test of the founders' design, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate American character. This democracy — made up of citizens and their institutions — is strong enough to weather the storm.

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Opinion | Courier Journal

Donald Trump has violated his oath. Mitch McConnell is about to violate 2

Kent Greenfield, Opinion contributor
Published 7:06 a.m. ET Dec. 26, 2019 | Updated 1:02 p.m. ET Dec. 26, 2019


We Kentuckians know that our word is our bond. Oaths are the most solemn of promises, and their breach results in serious reputational — and sometimes legal — consequences.

President Donald Trump will soon be on trial in the Senate on grounds that he breached one oath. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is about to breach two.

The Constitution mentions an oath only three times in its main body. The most famous is the oath the president swears upon taking office, set out word for word in Article II. That article is otherwise quite vague and abstract in describing the president's powers and obligations. Constitutional scholars have debated for 200 years what the "executive power" means, for example.

But the framers of the Constitution thought the specific words of the oath mattered, and every president has sworn to "faithfully execute the Office of the President … and … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution." (When Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the words in President Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2008, they performed a do-over the next day.)

The core of this presidential oath is faithfulness. This promise mirrors the responsibility mentioned later in Article II that the president "shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed." These are the only two times in the Constitution that faithfulness is mentioned. It is the central presidential obligation. The opposite of faithfulness? Corruption and abuse of power. And those constitutional sins, of course, are exactly the basis of the House's vote to impeach President Trump and will be the focus of the Senate's trial.

A second oath in the Constitution is in Article VI, which requires all state and federal officers to swear an "Oath … to support this Constitution." This was a big deal to the framers. The Constitution was the "supreme law of the Land" and even state officials were henceforth "bound by Oath" to it. Like all U.S. senators, congressional representatives, state governors and judges, and other officials, Sen. Mitch McConnell took this oath when he took office.

The third oath is the rarest. In Article I, the Constitution gives the Senate the "sole" power to "try all impeachments," and the Constitution requires that "when sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation." This special oath only kicks in when the Senate tries an impeachment, and this will be only the third time when a president has been so tried. The framers wanted to make sure the Senate would never take such a trial lightly — this oath requirement is over and above the oath each senator has already taken to support the Constitution. Sen. Mitch McConnell was a guest speaker at University of Louisville on Friday afternoon.Buy Photo

Sen. Mitch McConnell was a guest speaker at University of Louisville on Friday afternoon. (Photo: Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal, Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal)

The Constitution does not set out the text of the trial oath, but the Senate rules do. Senators will ''solemnly swear ... that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.''

The presidential oath and the senatorial oath to be taken before an impeachment trial are kin. The president must act faithfully and without corruption. In those (presumably) rare situations in which the president has failed to be faithful, the Senate is required to be faithful in its adjudication of the case against him.

But we have already seen indications that McConnell has no intention of doing impartial justice. He has said that he does not consider himself an "impartial juror." He is coordinating strategy with the White House. He has already called the case against the president "thin" and "incoherent."

Every senator has a constitutional obligation of impartiality. But McConnell's role as Senate leader makes his obligation even more important and crucial to the constitutional framework. This is not a time for political cynicism or constitutional faithlessness. McConnell's loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the Constitution. If he fails in this, he is not only violating his Article I oath but his Article VI oath.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the chamber's Democratic leader, is hitting the correct tone. He has called for the Senate to take its obligations seriously. He has called for the Senate to subpoena the documents Trump is hiding. He wants the trial to allow the time necessary for serious and sober evaluation of the facts. And key witnesses such as Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton should be called to testify.

The GOP line that the whole process is based on hearsay — not even accurate as an evidentiary matter — could be easily ameliorated by hearing from more people who have direct knowledge of Trump's mendacity, abuse of power and attempts at cover-ups.

Short of declaring war, the Senate is about to conduct its gravest and most serious constitutional obligation — to exercise the "sole power to try" impeachments. All senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially McConnell. History is watching, and it will be a harsh judge.

Kent Greenfield, a sixth-generation Kentuckian, is professor of law and Dean's Distinguished Scholar at Boston College.

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NR PLUS | MAGAZINE DECEMBER 31, 2019, ISSUE

Four Tests for Impeachment

By RAMESH PONNURU | December 19, 2019 11:23 AM


And how the president meets them

Advocates of a president's removal from office by Congress should have to climb over four walls to reach their objective. First, they should have to show that the facts they allege are true. Second, they should show that the fact pattern amounts to an abuse of power or dereliction of duty by the president. Third, they should show that this abuse or dereliction is impeachable. And fourth, they should show that it is prudent for Congress to remove the president for this impeachable offense: that it would produce more good than evil.

If the advocates can scale all four walls, then a majority of the House and a supermajority of the Senate ought to remove the president. If any of the obstacles proves insurmountable, the president should be allowed to serve out his term in office. In the current controversy over President Trump's conduct toward Ukraine, it just so happens that each successive wall is higher than the previous one.

Start with the first and shortest to scale. Did President Trump try to use federal policy toward Ukraine to get it to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter? It is pretty clear that he did, and Republican allies of Trump have put very little effort into denying it. The Trump administration itself released a memorandum summarizing Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and it showed that when Zelensky asked about military aid, Trump responded by saying he wanted “a favor.” He then asked for assistance in looking into alleged Ukrainian participation in the hacking of Americans during the 2016 campaign and in investigating alleged Biden corruption.

On October 3, Trump was asked to clarify what he had wanted the Ukrainian government to do. “They'd start a major investigation into the Bidens,” he answered. Representative Debbie Lesko (R., Ariz.) nonetheless told a CNN reporter on December 13 that Trump had not asked “a foreign power to investigate a political rival.” Her office later “clarified” that she meant to deny only that Trump had wanted the investigation because Biden is a political rival. The fact that they both want to be president in 2021 was, on her view, just a coincidence.

Take the clarification seriously, and what Representative Lesko was trying to do was to defend that second wall. Sure, the president sought an investigation of Biden, but only as a means of making sure that U.S. aid was not going to a corrupt state. Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) has said that the possibility that Trump was concerned about corruption means that he cannot be proved to have had a corrupt intent.

The argument requires a willful suspension of disbelief. Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union, has testified that Trump “didn't want to hear about” Ukrainian efforts against corruption and that concerns over corruption had not led to the withholding of aid from any other country within his portfolio. The Department of Defense had certified that Ukraine was taking steps against corruption before the administration withheld aid to it.

Fighting corruption would not have required Trump to encourage Zelensky to work with Rudolph Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, who has said that he was working in Ukraine to advance his client's personal interests; it would have counseled against Trump's doing that. Nor would the effort have required the secrecy with which it was conducted, or have required dropping around the same time it was starting to attract publicity. Kurt Volker, Trump's envoy to Ukraine, has testified that Giuliani said that official Ukrainian statements against corruption were insufficient unless they specifically mentioned the investigations touching on the Bidens and on the 2016 campaign.

There is essentially no evidence that either investigation is worth conducting. The theory that Joe Biden acted corruptly holds that he leaned on the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor who was looking into a company that had his son on the board. That prosecutor's former deputy has said that there was no active investigation, and the Obama administration was on record urging the prosecutor to assist a British legal action against the company's owner.

The theory about Ukrainian hacking has even less going for it. A “debunked conspiracy theory” is what Tom Bossert, a former homeland-security adviser to Trump and an opponent of impeachment, has called it. Most of Trump's defenders have dealt with the absence of any support for this theory by changing the subject to other forms of Ukrainian “interference” with the 2016 election, prominently including an op-ed a Ukrainian official wrote. But Trump wasn't talking about that, and U.S. officials have no legitimate interest in getting Ukraine to investigate it anyway.

On, then, to the third obstacle: impeachability. Maybe Trump's conduct was not perfect, runs the argument, but it wasn't impeachable either. The central Democratic allegation against Trump, that he has committed an abuse of power, is vague and malleable. It's not a crime. The central indictment in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, by contrast, was for perjury. Those who favor a narrow definition of impeachable offenses often quote James Madison, who successfully objected to counting “maladministration” among them on the ground that it would mean the president had “tenure during pleasure of the Senate.”

Madison also said, though, that impeachment is the constitutional protection against a president who would abuse his power to pardon criminals, and that it was an appropriate remedy for “wanton removal of meritorious officers” by the president. The Constitution says Congress may impeach federal officials for bribery, treason, and “other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is reasonable to conclude that only serious wrongs, equivalent in gravity to the first two categories, belong in the third one. We have no warrant for concluding that only violations of statutes qualify. Congress has impeached many officials for misconduct not involving statutory crimes, and included non-crimes in its efforts to impeach Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Clinton.

When the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the scope of the impeachment power, the Republicans called George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley as their only witness. Even Turley conceded that the “use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one's political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” He opposes impeachment because he believes the standard of proof should be high (an unexplained departure from his previously stated views) and has not been met.

He argued, additionally, that impeachments have greater legitimacy if at least partly based on a statutory crime. That claim might be correct in our legalistic political culture. It is related to the argument that abuse of power is too subjective a standard for removing a president. There is no getting around the fact that applying the impeachment power requires members of Congress to make a judgment, not merely a set of deductions.

The impeachment-and-removal power itself can be abused. We have protections against its abuse — including the consciences of congressmen, their election by voters, and the requirement of a House majority and a large Senate supermajority to use the power — but they are not and cannot be airtight.

Which brings us to the final wall. The strongest arguments against removing Trump fall under the heading of prudence. They hold that while he abused his power, it would be better to let voters judge that abuse in the upcoming election than for Congress to remove him; that his removal would be bitterly divisive; that it would set a dangerous precedent, encouraging Congress to strike against presidents over trivial disagreements. Like a nuclear weapon, in short, impeachment should be deployed extremely sparingly if at all.

The analogy is common but inapt. It is a nuclear weapon that replaces the president with his own handpicked ally, making it less potentially devastating in that respect than a general election. It also can't be deployed unless the public has a much larger level of support for it than it has mustered for any presidential candidate in decades. Only once in U.S. history has a president left office because Congress was going to remove him. The possibility of impeachment is a weak check on the presidency and cannot be made into a strong one.

It might be possible to regard Trump's Ukraine misadventure as a lapse of judgment, with little harm done, if he showed any repentance or even understanding of what he has done wrong. Instead it looks more like a window into tendencies of his that are incompatible with performing the functions of his office.

Whether Trump should be removed from office over the objections of nearly half the country is not an important question. He can't be. There are better questions. Would it be good for the country if a large majority of Americans were to be persuaded that it is unacceptable for a president to use his office to encourage foreign governments to investigate his political opponents? Assuming that the necessary level of support to remove a president from office for that offense will not be reached, should we prefer that more elected officials go on record that it is unacceptable — or that fewer do?

If you have read this far, you know my answer to these questions. The Constitution provides for impeachment and removal to protect us from officials, including presidents, who are unable or unwilling to distinguish between the common good that government is supposed to serve and their own narrow interests. Though he has done some good things in office, Trump is just such a president. Congress should act accordingly.


RAMESH PONNURU is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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VIEWS | EDITORIALChristianity Today

Trump Should Be Removed from Office

It's time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president's character was revealed for what it was.

MARK GALLI | DECEMBER 19, 2019

In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment.

The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being. We take pride in the fact, for instance, that politics does not dominate our homepage.

That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders (as well as ordinary citizens) on both sides of the political aisle.

Let's grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president's political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump's evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president's moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:

The President's failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.

And this:

Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.

Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump's immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don't reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation's leader doesn't really matter in the end?

We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it's time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it's time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that's when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world's understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

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White House rejects House Judiciary's invitation to participate in impeachment hearings

In a brief letter to Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., White House counsel Pat Cipollone sharply attacked the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as "completely baseless" and said House Democrats had "violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness."

Cipollone did not explicitly answer whether the White House would take part in the Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday, but a senior administration official told NBC News "the letter means that the White House will not participate in the House proceeding."


White House Letter to Chairman Nadler



THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON
December 6, 2019

The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Nadler:

As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness. Nevertheless, the Speaker of the House yesterday ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your Committee has heard a single shred of evidence.

House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings. Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats, and would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan, and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our Nation's history. Whatever course you choose, as the President has recently stated: "if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business."

Pat A. Cipollone
Counsel to the President

cc: The Honorable Doug Collins, Ranking Member



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More than 500 law professors say Trump committed 'impeachable conduct'


Washington Post
Matt Zapotosky



More than 500 legal scholars have signed on to an open letter asserting that President Trump committed “impeachable conduct” and that lawmakers would be acting well within their rights if they ultimately voted to remove him from office.

The signers are law professors and other academics from universities across the country, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan and many others. The open letter was published online Friday by the nonprofit advocacy group Protect Democracy.



Letter to Congress from Legal Scholars

Legal Scholars on Impeachment
Dec 6

We, the undersigned legal scholars, have concluded that President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct.

We do not reach this conclusion lightly. The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” warrant impeachment. But there is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress. His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.

We take no position on whether the President committed a crime. But conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable. The standard here is constitutional; it does not depend on what Congress has chosen to criminalize.

Impeachment is a remedy for grave abuses of the public trust. The two specific bases for impeachment named in the Constitution — treason and bribery — involve such abuses because they include conduct undertaken not in the “faithful execution” of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason).

Impeachment is an especially essential remedy for conduct that corrupts elections. The primary check on presidents is political: if a president behaves poorly, voters can punish him or his party at the polls. A president who corrupts the system of elections seeks to place himself beyond the reach of this political check. At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason described impeachable offenses as “attempts to subvert the constitution.” Corrupting elections subverts the process by which the Constitution makes the president democratically accountable. Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all. That is what impeachment is for.

Moreover, the Founders were keenly concerned with the possibility of corruption in the president's relationships with foreign governments. That is why they prohibited the president from accepting anything of value from foreign governments without Congress's consent. The same concern drove their thinking on impeachment. James Madison noted that Congress must be able to remove the president between elections lest there be no remedy if a president betrayed the public trust in dealings with foreign powers.

In light of these considerations, overwhelming evidence made public to date forces us to conclude that President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct. To mention only a few of those facts: William B. Taylor, who leads the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, testified that President Trump directed the withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia — aid that Congress determined to be in the U.S. national security interest — until Ukraine announced investigations that would aid the President's re-election campaign. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that the President made a White House visit for the Ukrainian president conditional on public announcement of those investigations. In a phone call with the Ukrainian president, President Trump asked for a “favor” in the form of a foreign government investigation of a U.S. citizen who is his political rival. President Trump and his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made public statements confirming this use of governmental power to solicit investigations that would aid the President's personal political interests. The President made clear that his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was central to efforts to spur Ukrainian investigations, and Mr. Giuliani confirmed that his efforts were in service of President Trump's private interests.

Ultimately, whether to impeach the President and remove him from office depends on judgments that the Constitution leaves to Congress. But if the House of Representatives impeached the President for the conduct described here and the Senate voted to remove him, they would be acting well within their constitutional powers. Whether President Trump's conduct is classified as bribery, as a high crime or misdemeanor, or as both, it is clearly impeachable under our Constitution.

Signed,*

*  List of signatories at the time of publishing.


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Opinions | The Washington Post

Richard Spencer: I was fired as Navy secretary. Here's what I've learned because of it.

By Richard Spencer

November 27, 2019 at 5:56 PM EST

Richard Spencer is the former secretary of the Navy.

The case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was charged with multiple war crimes before being convicted of a single lesser charge earlier this year, was troubling enough before things became even more troubling over the past few weeks. The trail of events that led to me being fired as secretary of the Navy is marked with lessons for me and for the nation.

It is highly irregular for a secretary to become deeply involved in most personnel matters. Normally, military justice works best when senior leadership stays far away. A system that prevents command influence is what separates our armed forces from others. Our system of military justice has helped build the world's most powerful navy; good leaders get promoted, bad ones get moved out, and criminals are punished.

In combat zones, the stakes are even higher. We train our forces to be both disciplined and lethal. We strive to use proportional force, protect civilians and treat detainees fairly. Ethical conduct is what sets our military apart. I have believed that every day since joining the Marine Corps in 1976.

We are effective overseas not because we have the best equipment but because we are professionals. Our troops are held to the highest standards. We expect those who lead our forces to exercise excellent judgment. The soldiers and sailors they lead must be able to count on that.

Earlier this year, Gallagher was formally charged with more than a dozen criminal acts, including premeditated murder, which occurred during his eighth deployment overseas. He was tried in a military court in San Diego and acquitted in July of all charges, except one count of wrongfully posing for photographs with the body of a dead Islamic State fighter. The jury sentenced him to four months, the maximum possible; because he had served that amount of time waiting for trial, he was released.

President Trump involved himself in the case almost from the start. Before the trial began, in March, I received two calls from the president asking me to lift Gallagher's confinement in a Navy brig; I pushed back twice, because the presiding judge, acting on information about the accused's conduct, had decided that confinement was important. Eventually, the president ordered me to have him transferred to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks. I came to believe that Trump's interest in the case stemmed partly from the way the defendant's lawyers and others had worked to keep it front and center in the media.

After the verdict was delivered, the Navy's normal process wasn't finished. Gallagher had voluntarily submitted his request to retire. In his case, there were three questions: Would he be permitted to retire at the rank of chief, which is also known as an E-7? (The jury had said he should be busted to an E-6, a demotion.) The second was: Should he be allowed to leave the service with an “honorable” or “general under honorable” discharge? And a third: Should he be able to keep his Trident pin, the medal all SEALs wear and treasure as members of an elite force?

On Nov. 14, partly because the president had already contacted me twice, I sent him a note asking him not to get involved in these questions. The next day, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called me and said the president would remain involved. Shortly thereafter, I received a second call from Cipollone, who said the president would order me to restore Gallagher to the rank of chief.

This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review. It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.

Given my desire to resolve a festering issue, I tried to find a way that would prevent the president from further involvement while trying all avenues to get Gallagher's file in front of a peer-review board. Why? The Naval Special Warfare community owns the Trident pin, not the secretary of the Navy, not the defense secretary, not even the president. If the review board concluded that Gallagher deserved to keep it, so be it.

I also began to work without personally consulting Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on every step. That was, I see in retrospect, a mistake for which I am solely responsible.

On Nov. 19, I briefed Esper's chief of staff concerning my plan. I briefed acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that evening.

The next day, the Navy established a review board to decide the status of Gallagher's Trident pin. According to long-standing procedure, a group of four senior enlisted SEALs would rule on the question. This was critical: It would be Gallagher's peers managing their own community. The senior enlisted ranks in our services are the foundation of good order and discipline.

But the question was quickly made moot: On Nov. 21, the president tweeted that Gallagher would be allowed to keep his pin — Trump's third intervention in the case. I recognized that the tweet revealed the president's intent. But I did not believe it to be an official order, chiefly because every action taken by the president in the case so far had either been a verbal or written command.

The rest is history. We must now move on and learn from what has transpired. The public should know that we have extensive screening procedures in place to assess the health and well-being of our forces. But we must keep fine-tuning those procedures to prevent a case such as this one from happening again.

More importantly, Americans need to know that 99.9 percent of our uniformed members always have, always are and always will make the right decision. Our allies need to know that we remain a force for good, and to please bear with us as we move through this moment in time.

Re: Original article.


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Chairman Schiff takes on Republican critics. Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show.



Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee, he is leading the impeachment proceedings against the President in the House of Representatives. Tonight, Chairman Schiff just sent this letter, a “dear colleague” letter to all members of the House. And among other things, he addresses in this letter the complaint that Republicans have been making and the White House has been making in which they`ve been saying that Republicans haven`t been allowed to ask questions of the witnesses who have been deposed so far in the impeachment inquiry.

Adam Schiff saying tonight that that is not true. He says, quote, in each session, I have made an opening statement and offered the same opportunity to a member designated by the minority, by the Republicans. Questions have primarily been asked by committee counsels for both the majority and the minority, but also by members of both parties. The majority and minority have been provided equal staff representation and equal time to question witnesses.

Schiff says, quote, it is necessary to point this out because the president and his allies made the false claim that Republican members and staff have been precluded from attending or asking questions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Schiff also addresses the concerns and complaints that have been made, not just from Republicans, about the fact that the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry thus far have only been heard behind closed doors. All of these depositions have been taken in closed-door proceedings. And his argument about that here, I think, is quite interesting.

He says, quote: Unlike in past impeachment proceedings in which Congress had the benefit of an investigation conducted in secret by an independent prosecutor, we must conduct the initial investigation ourselves. This is the case because the Department of Justice under William Barr expressly declined to investigate this matter after a criminal referral had been made.

And you know that strikes me as a fair point, although I had not previously been thinking about it in these terms. If you think about the last two, you know, impeachments, almost impeachments, in the Nixon investigation, you had Archibald Cox, special prosecutor, right, then he got fired and his successor, Leon Jaworski. But the two of them won a professional secret grand jury investigation into Watergate then handed over that secret grand jury material to Congress which was then used as the basis for drawing up impeachment articles.

In the Clinton impeachment, it was good old Ken Starr who conducted an ostensibly secret but very leaky grand jury investigation. He and his staff then compiled that information into a shiny cover heavy breathing airport novel of a report, which was then handed over to Congress and that was used as the basis of drawing up those impeachment proceedings as well. I mean, that`s not how this is going, right, when it comes to the impeachment of Donald Trump.

It is going to end up being a very important part of this history that we are now living through that there really were multiple criminal referrals of the president`s behavior that were made to the Justice Department at the outset of this process. Reportedly from the top lawyer at the CIA, reportedly from the office of the director of national intelligence. Those offices made criminal referrals that the Justice Department should investigate. Should look into whether the president had committed a crime by asking a foreign government to help him out against the Democrats for his re-election campaign.

Those criminal referrals were made. Not only did the Justice Department under William Barr decline to bring any charges despite those criminal referrals, the way Barr`s Justice Department handled it was to refuse to even investigate the issue. I mean, usually with a serious criminal referral, particularly coming from, you know, not some partisan and not some Rando but from a serious part of the government with evidence to back it up, especially when there are multiple criminal referrals on the same point, you would expect, I would think, that at least the FBI would conduct a preliminary investigation.

You know, talk to some of the people involved. Look at some of the evidence. Under Bill Barr, instead, the Justice Department decided that they would not speak to a single witnesses – a single witness and they would just from the get-go decline to open an investigation into these matters. I think their feeling was they just hoped this would go away.

They literally talked to zero witnesses. They had the FBI do no investigation whatsoever. The Justice Department decided, itself, nothing here, we are refusing to look into it.

And that maybe felt like a good idea in the first place, but it has now led to a whole bunch of different consequences which appear to be very much spinning outside of Bill Barr and the White House`s control. I mean, one of them is what Congressman Schiff explains in this letter tonight.

That decision by the Justice Department is what has led in part to this format we are now seeing for the impeachment investigation in the House. Schiff explains in this letter tonight that they would not have to do all the impeachment inquiry depositions and interviews in secret behind closed doors if this inquiry was being carried out following an FBI inquiry or grand jury investigation. But because those things didn`t happen they have to do the initial investigation by themselves and that means it has to happen in secret, it has too happen out of the public eye, and he explains why.

Quote: The special counsels in the Nixon and Clinton impeachments conducted their investigations in private and we must initially do the same. It is of paramount importance to ensure that witnesses cannot coordinate their testimony with one another to match their description of events or potentially conceal the truth. That, of course, is why grand jury testimony is secret, right? That you don`t want witnesses knowing what other witnesses have said, so they can`t line up their witness testimony to match other people.

Schiff says, quote: That said, let me be clear, as the investigation proceeds and at a time that will not jeopardize investigative equities, we will make the interview transcripts public subject to any necessary redactions for classified or sensitive information. We also anticipate at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public so the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand.

So that`s a letter from Adam Schiff tonight, and that is one consequence of William Barr at the Justice Department having tried to kibosh any proper investigation into the president`s behavior. Having said at the outset, no, nobody`s talking to any witnesses, nobody`s engaging the FBI in this, we`re just saying no, no investigation. I mean, arguably, that decision by William Barr and the Justice Department may also have had something to do with the initial whistleblower in the case bringing the matter to Congress` attention, knowing that it wasn`t going to go anywhere inside the Justice Department, and it certainly wasn`t going to go anywhere once the White House was advised to look at it. That arguably is what led to the whistleblower`s complaint being brought to Congress.

And that has led to an impeachment proceeding where these witness interviews, these depositions are now being conducted out of the public eye. That also appears to have led, and this, I think, is the big news in these proceedings today, I don`t think it`s a direct connection or not – it`s not a direct cause. William Barr saying this shouldn`t be investigated to what`s happening now. But I think it must have inexorably led to what happened today. . . .


The transcript carries on further. For the sake of brevity we stopped it here. If interested you can read the full transcript of the broadcast here.


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Read the whistleblower's memo about Trump's Ukraine call, as described to CBS News

By Arden Farhi
October 9, 2019 / 3:02 PM / CBS News

Washington — CBS News has learned the full contents of what appears to be a memo written by the whistleblower one day after the President spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.

The memo, dated July 26, is based on a conversation the whistleblower had with an unnamed White House official who listened to the call.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the memo was among the factors that led the intelligence community inspector general to determine the whistleblower's formal August 12 complaint was credible. The inspector general testified Friday behind closed doors before the three House committee leading the impeachment inquiry.

The president's call with Zelensky was held on the morning of July 25. The whistleblower wrote the memo the next day after speaking with the official in the afternoon. The whistleblower wrote that he or she spoke with the White House official for "a few minutes," and summarized their conversation.

According to the memo, the White House official described the contents of the call as "crazy," "frightening" and "completely lacking in substance related to national security."

The whistleblower said the official was "visibly shaken by what had transpired and seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the U.S. national security apparatus about the call."

The whistleblower's summary of the White House official's account of the call largely comports with the call record released by the White House, though some details are missing.


The full text of the memo, as described to CBS News:


26 July 2019

The following is a record of a conversation I had this afternoon with a White House official about the telephone call yesterday morning between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The official who listened to the entirety of the phone call was visibly shaken by what had transpired and seemed keen to inform a trusted colleague within the U.S. national security apparatus about the call. After my call with this official I [redacted] returned to my office, and wrote up my best recollection of what I had heard.

The official described the call as "crazy," "frightening" and "completely lacking in substance related to national security." The official asserted that the President used the call to persuade Ukrainian authorities to investigate his political rivals, chiefly former Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter. The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official's view, the President had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own reelection bid in 2020.

The phone call lasted approximately half an hour. The two leaders spoke through interpreters. My conversation with the official only lasted a few minutes, and as a result, I only received highlights:

  • The President asserted that "it all started in Ukraine," referring to the allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the subsequent investigation into the Trump campaign's contact with Russian individuals
  • The President asked Zelenskyy to locate the "Crowdstrike server" and turn it over to the United States, claiming that Crowdstrike is "a Ukrainian company," (Note: This appears to be a reference to the DNC server from which Russian hackers stole data and emails that were subsequently leaked in mid-2016; the DNC hired cyber security firm Crowdstrike to do the forensic analysis, which informed the FBI's investigation. It is not clear what the president was referring to when he claimed Crowdstrike is a Ukrainian company; one of its cofounders was born in Moscow.)
  • The President told Zelenskyy that he would be sending his personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to Ukraine soon and requested that Zelenskyy meet with him. Zelenskyy reluctantly agreed that, if Giuliani traveled to Ukraine, he would see him.
  • The President raised the case of Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden's role in the company, and former Vice President Biden's role in setting Ukraine policy. The President urged Zelenskyy to [end page 1] investigate the Bidens and stated that Giuliani would discuss this topic further with Zelenskyy during his trip to Kyiv.
  • The President urged Zelenskyy not to fire Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who the President claimed was doing a good job. (Note: Lutsenko has spearheaded various politicized investigations, including on Burisma Holdings and alleged "Ukrainian interference" in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Lutsenko is widely reviled in Ukraine, and Zelenskyy has pledged to fire him but has been unable to secure approval from the legislature.)
  • The President stated that he wanted Attorney General William Barr to speak with Zelenskyy as soon as possible. (Note: It was not clear whether this conversation was to be in reference to Crowdstrike or the investigations of the Bidens.)
  • The President reiterated his concern that Zelenskyy was surrounded by people who were enemies of the President, including "bad oligarchs."

The President did not raise security assistance. According to the official, Zelenskyy demurred in response to most of the President's requests.

I did not review a transcript or written notes, but the official informed me that they exist.

  • The standard White House practice for Presidential-level phone calls with world leaders is for the White House Situation Room to produce a word-for-word electronic transcript that memorializes the call. The transcript is typically then circulated to key White House officials to be transformed into a formal memorandum that is distributed as an eyes-only document, to the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Director of the CIA.
  • In this case, the official told me that such a transcript had indeed been produced and was being treated very sensitively, in hard copy only. Moreover, several additional senior White House officials listened to the entire phone call in an adjacent room in the Situation Room suite and they presumably took written notes on the call.
  • The official did not know whether the President was aware that other people were listening and that the call was being transcribed. The official also was not certain whether anyone else was in the Oval Office with the President during the call.

On the Ukrainian side, it is unclear who listened to the call or whether a record was produced.



First published on October 9, 2019 / 3:02 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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"Chimera of Conscience"

Published on Friday, October 04, 2019
by Common Dreams


“I emancipate man from the humiliating chimera which is called conscience. Conscience, like education, mutilates man. I have the advantage of not being restrained by any considerations of a theoretical or moral nature.” This from a speech in 1941 where the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin ostensibly quoted Adolf Hitler to exhort those gathered to take the same advice.

“The humiliating chimera of conscience.”

In this country, there has been a political and cultural romance with persons who have emancipated themselves from the “humiliating chimera of conscience.” Whether it's Santa or God or an internal moral parent figure that audits your actions when no one else is watching, whoever is able to evict that figure from their inner consciousness emerges as a hero in American culture. Lovable gangsters from James Cagney to Tony Soprano to Michael Corleone—getting away with it is the only rule to be honored. When caught: Attack. Rant. Divert. Accuse. (If ever you want to know what Trump is guilty of listen to his accusations. In 2016 saying if he loses it's because the system is rigged—and saying it as he knows the system is being rigged in his favor. Nepotism? Paraphrasing? Treason? Low IQ?)

Getting caught becomes an external problem. There is no internal vexation or examination. People who trouble themselves with conscience do not win. Whether Trump has emancipated himself from conscience or it was never a struggle to begin with is a brief discussion. It's a genetic code that seems enforced by an enabling racist father figure. Money is the only force that will guarantee loyalty. There is no love or moral order. The only verb is grab. Whether money or land or pussy—grab. The humiliating chimera of conscience is either a speed bump or a fatal folly.

The Republicans around this black hole may have liberated themselves from conscience. Being in awe of someone who never had that struggle seals the deal. If there was a doubt in these people that there is a higher moral order or an afterlife, they have chosen to land on the convenient side of, this is it. What you can grab and what you can get away with rules. Lip service to evangelicals adds a certain kind of scum to the pageant.

The loyal voters to this pied piper of chaos are fans, not citizens. I am reminded of a childhood playground experience hearing two young fathers discussing their sons. The son of one of the fathers was with a group setting off cherry bombs the day before in the playground. The cops came and they ran. The one son was the only one nabbed by the cops and brought home to the father. And this father said to his friend, “I didn't punish him for what he did, I punished him because he got caught.” That father absorbed a certain American ethos and gave the commandment to his young son.

The chorus of the base is, “Let him get away with it. We wish we could.” When Nixon was told there's a cancer on the presidency the allegory implies malignancy. It spreads. Trump is a tumor resulting from toxic elements. It's spreading as Republican senators, congresspersons and voters insist that this is not a disease but a cure.

The only cure is in the hands of the congress—like a pumped up immune system it needs to evict the congealed toxin. The civil war being threatened is a body divided against itself. The operative part of the phrase is: “against itself.” The forces keeping this chaotic, renegade organism in place are oblivious to the harm they are doing to themselves and indifferent to the harm being claimed by others.

Conscience means a moment of apology is required. This is not forthcoming from the current criminal at the dock. A verdict of guilty as charged is the remedy. Whether he apologizes or is ushered out of the territory where he is little more than a squatter matters not. The national and international bodies need to know that we are on the mend.

Bill C. Davis is a playwright. Archive of his Common Dreams' articles here.


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Opinions | The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton: Mueller documented a serious crime against all Americans. Here's how to respond.

By Hillary Clinton April 24 at 4:44 PM

Hillary Clinton was the 2016 Democratic nominee for president.

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia's "sweeping and systematic" attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there's a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I'm not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin's ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee's Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller's report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr's redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It's up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation's interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today's House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can't forget that the issue today is not just the president's possible obstruction of justice — it's also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump's recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today's Democrats, it's not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it's essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It's critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn't just a reckoning about our recent history; it's also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America's future. And, unless he's held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin's agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that's most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it's up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

Re: Original article.


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New York Times Op-Ed

OPINION

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

Sept. 5, 2018



The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It's not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump's leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump's impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don't get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president's leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief's comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he'd made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin's spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn't the work of the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it's over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

The writer is a senior official in the Trump administration.

Re: Original article.


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14th and 25th Amendment


Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the LEFT to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5

The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.




Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.


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