Trump throws Giuliani under the bus

[And drives over him a few times.]

Donald Trump has now denied that he directed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine and seek out investigations on his behalf, contradicting his own words to the Ukrainian President in the White House-released transcript of the July 25 call. Trump also contradicted sworn testimony from members of his administration and claims from his own White House acting chief of staff.

“No, I didn’t direct him, but he’s a warrior, Rudy’s a warrior,” Trump added. “Rudy went. He possibly saw something. But you have to understand, Rudy (has) other people that he represents.”

But “My understanding was that the President directed Mr. Giuliani’s participation, and that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the concerns of the President,” was what US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt… So we followed the President’s orders.”

There are reports that Giuliani pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from officials in Ukraine at the same time that he was using his connections there to unearth damaging information about the Bidens. While the deals weren’t consummated, the revelations are important because, first, they undercut Giuliani’s repeated claim that he has no business in Ukraine, and second, they suggest Giuliani was preying on potential clients in Ukraine who were desperate for stronger ties to the United States and his main client, Trump.

Some no-name name, Mark Sandy, an official at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testified earlier this month that he was told US security assistance to Ukraine had been held up because of Trump’s concerns that other countries were not giving enough. How many other excuses will come out?

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said that the aid was withheld to encourage Ukraine to investigate possible interference in the 2016 presidential election on October 17th. Trump said on November 27th in a tweet that “I held back the money from Ukraine because it is considered a corrupt country.” Nothing about other countries.

Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House of Representatives, which has been trying to force his appearance since April over Robert Mueller’s findings that suggest Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation. Jackson dismissed the President’s claim that McGahn was subject to blanket immunity.

The House Judiciary Committee is setting a deadline of December 6 for Trump to decide whether his attorneys will participate in the committee’s impeachment proceedings against him. The letter to Trump and a separate letter sent to Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Doug Collins of Georgia were largely technical, referring to the rules established by the House’s impeachment resolution last month.

But the letter starts the clock for the White House to decide if it will take part in the House’s impeachment proceedings — which Trump and congressional Republicans have claimed are unfair — or wait until a potential Senate trial to make its case directly to Congress.

Trump announced in October that “we’ve come to a very substantial Phase One deal” which reportedly includes getting the Chinese to agree to a numerical amount of US agricultural purchases in exchange for reducing tariffs. Weeks later, they were close to a Phase One deal, but it has yet to materialize. He said last week that we were “potentially very close,” to an agreement.

Meanwhile, the trade war is having an economic impact on both the US and China — as well as globally. Trump is due to hike tariffs on December 15 [in under 3 weeks] on a lot of Chinese consumer goods. Do you think there was ever a “Phase ONE”?

Trump signed a law supporting Hong Kong’s months-long protest movement, handing anti-government demonstrators in the semi-autonomous Chinese city a moral victory and likely complicating trade negotiations with Beijing. The new law will require the US to annually confirm that Hong Kong’s special freedoms are being maintained by Beijing — failure to do so could result in Washington withdrawing the city’s special status, a massive blow to the Hong Kong economy.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the law “seriously interferes in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s domestic politics…. It has seriously violated international law and basic rules of international relations,” the statement added. “Such plainly bullying behavior is firmly opposed by the Chinese government and Chinese people.”

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was “fired for proposing a secret agreement with the White House” involving the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher was convicted of bringing discredit to the armed services after posing next to a dead ISIS fighter’s body, which is against regulations. He was then demoted in rank — a decision Trump a week ago reversed in a move that angered military officials.

Military officials then moved ahead with the process to review Gallagher’s status in the elite group. Spencer was proposing a review with a secret guarantee that Gallagher would be allowed to keep his status as a Navy SEAL and supposedly was not fired for failing to carry out Trump’s wishes, because Trump had not wanted a review at all.

The Trump administration has moved to substantially cut its contribution to NATO’s collective budget. Previously the US provided some 22% of NATO’s direct funding, which covers the cost of maintaining the NATO headquarters, joint security investments and some combined military operations.

US defense officials are saying that the Trump administration sought to reduce its contribution to about 16%, bringing it in line with Germany’s, which provides 14.8% despite the US having a larger economy. Trump has long slammed NATO allies for not meeting the 2% NATO defense spending target. Member countries have boosted defense spending considerably in recent years, something Trump has claimed credit for.

After quite a few deaths early this year related to vaping where Trump promised to do something about it. Months later and nothing has happened – just like the promises that were dropped for oil, coal, tobacco, firearms, etc. These all have huge lobby groups that mostly support the Republican party.

A long-serving military officer put it bluntly saying “there is a morale problem,” and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the Trump’s behavior. Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump’s sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria.

But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump’s intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored. Now senior Pentagon officials believed it would undermine military discipline and order. Trump had upped the ante at a rally by issuing an extraordinary declaration that he took action in the face of “deep state” opposition.

In the “What is he smoking?” department: Energy Secretary Rick Perry, an evangelical Christian, said “You know, Barack Obama doesn’t get to be the President of the United Sates without being ordained by God. Neither did Donald Trump.”

Trump recognized Conan, the hero dog who was injured during a raid which led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, at the White House on Monday. Conan had received a “medal and a plaque.” Vice President Pence, a dog handler and Melania Trump [who didn’t seemed to be thrilled and who was standing a bit farther to the side] were there. Let’s hope Conan didn’t shake Trump’s paw.

Twitter announced that it would allow users to disable SMS two-factor authentication (2FA) and instead use a physical security key or a one-time code authenticator app. Until now, Twitter users who wanted to use 2FA were required to provide a phone number and enable SMS 2FA. I’m sure Trump doesn’t use 2FA – he may not even know what it is.

Inquiry ramps up and al-Baghdadi epilogue

The House passed a resolution formalizing the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry. No Republicans broke with their party and voted with Democrats to pass the resolution. 2 Democrats voted against the resolution. The impeachment inquiry will continue, under the protocols described in the resolution.

Not surprising Trump, cronies and Republicans aren’t happy with the vote. Before the House vote, Republicans and the White House claimed the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate because it did not receive a full House vote. They are staying on this message even after the vote. Weren’t they whining that the inquiries were too private – even though 47 Republicans are participating?

“In all the hearings, there’s nothing compelling, nothing overwhelming, so the speaker should follow her own words on what bipartisan vote on that floor…” said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Yes bipartisan with just 2 Democrats.

The inquiry will move to “open hearings” where “staff counsel” will be permitted to do “sustained questioning for up to 45 minutes per side” of witnesses.

Questioning by counsel will be followed by “member questioning.”

In a recent face-to-face meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Trump to stop attacking Senate Republicans. If Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives, the Republican-controlled Senate will decide whether he should be removed from office. Trump has attacked numerous Republicans in the Senate and it is these same Senators who could decide his fate [i.e. don’t alienate them].

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the resolution “fails to provide any due process whatsoever to the Administration,” calling it “unconstitutional.” She seems to know nothing about the constitution. The resolution does not violate due process nor is it unconstitutional. In fact, part of the resolution explicitly details the rights available to the President in the impeachment inquiry.

“There is nothing in the Constitution or any law, nor any rules of the House, that prescribes a particular procedure for impeachment proceedings,” says a university law professor.

Trump said “In America, you are innocent until proven guilty” but then he adds that you don’t need to be investigated to find a crime. Seriously? That’s like saying unless you are caught doing something illegal, you go to court but there will be no investigation otherwise.

A witness expected to testify in the impeachment inquiry – former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman – didn’t show up for his. The night prior, the committees running the inquiry received a letter from Kupperman’s lawyer saying that he would ask a federal judge to rule on whether he had to appear.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who serves as the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, testified in the impeachment inquiries and was criticized by some Republican lawmakers. He had complied with the subpoena and answering questions from both Democratic and Republican Members and staff.

He was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s president even though trump tweeted ” Why are people that I never even heard of testifying about the call.” Vindman told the House impeachment investigators that he was so troubled by Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president that he reported his concerns to a superior.

Trump joined in the criticism of Vindman, claiming without evidence that Vindman is a “Never Trumper.” Vindman served multiple overseas tours as a US infantry officer, including a deployment to Iraq where he received a Purple Heart after being wounded in an IED attack. He has served in Trump’s National Security Council since 2018.

Seem like every person who is against Trump is a “Never Trumper”.

Vindman tried to make changes to the White House’s rough transcript of the July phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s President, including that Trump mentioned tapes of former Vice President Joe Biden. These were left off the transcript.

The crackpots including Trump’s current propaganda department, Fox News, went after Vindman calling him a traitor for engaged in “espionage” on behalf of Ukraine and other comments because he wasn’t born in the US but Russia.

A district court “ruled that the impeachment inquiry is valid”. These are the same rules for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. But Republicans now, including those Republicans that created the rules for Clinton, don’t agree now.

“I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” former White House chief of staff John Kelly said. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”

No shocker, Grisham said, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.” Trump said “John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office”.

The US diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, rose to global attention after testifying on Capitol Hill in the impeachment inquiry. He provided a damning account of how Trump told his appointees to establish a quid pro quo, trading much-needed US military aid for political favors from Ukraine. Trump claims, with no proof, “He’s a Never Trumper.” Taylor seems to be apolitical.

Trump declared that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead after a US military raid in northwest Syria. “He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said and added al-Baghdadi was “crying, whimpering, screaming, and bringing three kids with him. To die.” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper claims that ISIS has been hit with a “devastating blow” but al-Baghdadi will be replaced quite fast.

Trump said he informed a few Republican members of Congress of the raid ahead of his announcement. Trump said he did not inform key Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Trump said a leak of the raid could have cost American lives. Yes, but maybe also because he doesn’t trust the Democrats.

Trump has claimed that taking down al-Baghdadi was more important than taking down Bin Laden. I am guessing 3000+ families would reject that though. But you know it is Trump’s ego.

McConnell calls the world a “safer place today” following Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper claims that ISIS has been hit with a “devastating blow” but al-Baghdadi will be replaced quite fast. The Iraqis claimed they gave the intelligence information to the US forces.

But the Russians said “The increasing number of direct participants and countries that allegedly took part in this ‘operation,’ each one giving completely contradictory details, raises legitimate questions and doubts about its existence and especially the level of its success” and that Syrian government backed by Russian air power had defeated ISIS, saying that al-Baghdadi’s death “has absolutely no operational significance on the situation in Syria.

Trump, days after the mission, continues to be pumped up about the “win”. He instead continues to be on his ego trip. For example, he said “Another president should have gotten him” [al-Baghdadi].

Note that Trump has a history of using “crying” in his comments when they never did cry. Al-Baghdadi cried before he blew himself up, farmers cried when he signed an executive order, etc.

Trump tweeted a “declassified” photo of the military dog that was wounded in the raid that led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The administration is “working on” arrangements for the dog to visit the White House, but said it might be difficult since the canine is “back at work” in the field.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said the name of the dog – who appears to be a very good boy or girl – remained classified. “We’re not releasing the name of the dog right now. The dog is still in theater…. We’re protecting the dog’s identity.” Later it was given out – Conan. Surprised that Trump didn’t ask why do the military use only German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois dogs but no “American” dogs.

Trump tweeted that “American troops” have “terminated” ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s “likely” replacement. Syrian Democratic Forces said that al-Muhajir was killed in a coordinated operation between the US military and SDF intelligence officers near Jarablus in northern Syria. There will always be replacements.

You can’t make this stuff up: Trump claimed he had been prescient about the danger posed by bin Laden, having called for the death of the al Qaeda leader in a “very successful” book he published in the year before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Trump said that he knew the threat from bin Laden at a time when “nobody” had “ever heard of” bin Laden. “Let’s put it this way: if they would have listened to me, a lot of things would have been different,” he said.

Trump said he still hears people marveling about his supposed declaration. “To this day, I get people coming up to me,” he said. “They said, ‘You know what one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen about you is that you predicted that Osama bin Laden had to be killed before he knocked down the World Trade Center.’ It’s true.” Bin Laden was known in 2000 and the book never mentioned that the US should go after him but was mentioned.
Maybe he has a revised book that isn’t out yet.

Trump has changed his permanent residence to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, in late September, and first lady Melania Trump followed suit in October, in forms filed with the Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

“Good riddance,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted after learning about Trump’s decision to move. “It’s not like Mr. Trump paid taxes here anyway. He’s all yours, Florida.”

The state Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney have launched multiple probes of Trump’s businesses, charities, political committees and personal conduct. He’s fighting, among other things, a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on his “Apprentice” show; an investigation of his family foundation; and a subpoena seeking eight years of his tax returns.

Microsoft has won a hotly contested contract to provide cloud computing services to the Defense Department, besting Amazon in a months-long competition. The contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) is said to be worth billions of dollars over the coming decade. Trump called former Defense Secretary James Mattis during the summer 2018 and directed him to “screw Amazon” out of the opportunity to bid on the contract.

Trump began raising questions about whether the process had been fair. Trump has long been critical of Amazon and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Trump’s interjection was soon followed by an examination of the contract launched by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

A company, CertiPath, with ties to Trump’s brother, Robert, was awarded a $33 million government contract earlier this year, and two rival bidders, Venable and NMR Consulting, filed a complaint alleging potential favoritism in the bidding process. CertiPath specializes in digital security and verifying online identities and the contract was to provide security for federal courthouses and cell blocks.

Trump attended the 5th game of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros and got mixed “reviews”. Trump, who has yet to throw out a ceremonial first pitch since taking office, arrived after the game is underway and leave before the final out, in hopes of making his visit less disruptive to fans, according to Rob Manfred, baseball’s commissioner. The first pitch went to a notable Trump critic, celebrity chef Jose Andres, whose humanitarian work has been widely acclaimed.

Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on Trump’s National Security Council, expected to leave the administration soon- a decision that was his and has been “planned for some time” given that he was an ally of former national security adviser John Bolton. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for Morrison’s testimony after an attempt by the White House to direct him not to appear.

The Trump administration is poised to undo an Obama-era regulation intended to limit emissions of toxins from coal-fired power plants, a move that environmental groups say could lead to significant health problems.
In a scathing letter issued to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the American Bar Association rated Lawrence J.C. VanDyke — Trump’s nominee for a seat on a controversial appeals court — “not qualified’ for the judicial bench after conducting 60 interviews. ” Mr. VanDyke is arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules.”