Impeachment inquiry ramps up

Andrew Bakaj, a lawyer for the whistleblower who raised alarms about Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine said his client is willing to answer written questions submitted by House Republicans. Attorney Mark Zaid tweeted that the whistleblower would answer questions directly from Republican members “in writing, under oath & penalty of perjury,” part of a bid to stem escalating efforts by Trump and his GOP allies to unmask the person’s identity. Trump said Bakaj should be sued. For what?

“Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!” Trump tweeted. Trump pushed the news media to divulge the whistleblower’s identity, asserting that the person’s accounting of events is incorrect. The whistleblower’s complaint has been corroborated by people with firsthand knowledge of the events who have appeared on Capitol Hill.

A lawyer for the Ukraine whistleblower, whose complaint document triggered the House impeachment inquiry of Trump, has sent a letter to the White House warning Trump to “cease and desist” attacking his client. “I am writing out of deep concern that your client, the President of the United States, is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower, and their family in physical danger,” Bakaj wrote to White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Remember how the Republicans whined that the impeachment inquiry was bad because they were behind closed doors [even though they forget to tell their base that 47 Republicans were present? Now Trump said “They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt.”

Just moments before his deposition was scheduled to begin, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s lawyer informed impeachment officials that he had been directed by the White House not to comply with the authorized subpoena and asserted “absolute immunity.”

Trump attacked the whistleblower who set off the impeachment inquiry as an, “Obama person,” a “never Trumper,” and “a radical.” To know all this information, Trump must know who the whistleblower is. So why is he asking?

Fox News has told their anchors and others not to reveal the whistleblower’s identity. I guess they are getting tired of Trump.

Trump asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for help to discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. Trump called Johnson to ask for the favor on July 26 – only two days after the prime minister took office, according to the Times of London. This was also one day after his much-scrutinized phone call to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, Trump told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Barr would contact his Australian counterpart for information on how the Mueller probe was linked to a tip from Australian diplomat Alexander Downer.

US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland amended his previous closed-door testimony with House impeachment investigators to say that he told a top Ukrainian political aide that the release of US security aid was likely conditioned on Ukraine publicly announcing an investigation that would help the Trump politically.

After his recent testimony, Trump claimed he does not know Sondland well. Trump previously called Sondland “a really good man and great American” and “highly respected.” Can he say that to a man he now claims he doesn’t know him?

Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker rejected the conspiracy theories about Ukraine and Joe Biden that have been promoted by Rudy Giuliani, according to excerpts of his testimony to lawmakers. The conspiracy theory alleges that Biden held up $1 billion in aid for Ukraine to pressure their government to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, an energy company where Biden’s son had a high-paid board seat.

White House senior counselor Kellyanne “the Witch” Conway said that she does not know if Trump withheld US military aid to Ukraine, but stood by the White House’s response that there was no quid pro quo between Trump and the country. So even she is unsure. Conway contended that asking a foreign leader to investigate a political rival is “not impeachable” – except if it was to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rival. She also said Joe Biden is not a top political rival of Trump. Until the Democratic nominee is announce, he is a rival. Makes no difference if he is at the top. He’s roughly in the top three. Obama came out of nowhere to win the nomination and eventually the Presidency [without asking for foreign help!].

Former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Michael McKinley, who testified behind closed doors on October 16, said that he raised [the former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie] Yovanovitch matter with Pompeo three times and proposed releasing a statement of support for the former diplomat, who was abruptly recalled from her post.

Yovanovitch felt threatened by what was coming out of the White House. McKinley did not receive a response from the secretary of state, including when he told Pompeo he was leaving the department.

When asked about it after Yovanovitch testified, Trump said she did a bad job. If she did a bad job, why was she ambassador for so long? Incompetence from Pompeo [we already know Trump is incompetence]. If a person is doing a bad job, the person should be dismissed.

The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry are hoping to hear from Robert Blair, an assistant to Trump and senior adviser to Mulvaney, though that looks unlikely considering Blair’s attorney said he has refused to testify in the probe.

Trump says he’s not concerned about depositions from current and former administration officials in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Yet he continues to bully them and telling those still working for him not to give testimony. A future obstruction charge?

GOP leadership has officially assigned Rep. Jim Jordan to the House Intelligence Committee ahead of the upcoming televised impeachment hearings, a move designed to bolster Trump’s defense as Democrats take their probe public. Rep. Rick Crawford has agreed to temporarily step aside for Jordan, who is seen as one of Trump’s best attack dogs on Capitol Hill. Transcripts of the interviews released this week show Crawford hasn’t been asking many questions during the closed-door sessions.

Trump and other top 2016 Trump campaign officials repeatedly privately discussed how the campaign could get access to stolen Democratic emails WikiLeaks had in 2016, according to newly released interview notes from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. Per a judge’s order, the Justice Department will continue to release new tranches of the Mueller investigative notes monthly.

A retelling of events from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who served alongside campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is the fullest detail revealed by the Justice Department yet on discussions within the Trump campaign as it pursued damaging information about its Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. The documents were stolen by the Russians, the American intelligence community has found.

The anonymous senior Trump administration official claims in their forthcoming book [“A Warning”] that Trump officials considered resigning together last year in a “midnight self-massacre” in hopes to sound an alarm about Trump. It is written by the same senior Trump administration official who was behind a 2018 New York Times op-ed expressing profound concern about Trump’s competence.

The book describes Trump as dealing with each new political crisis “like a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport.”

After some tweets by Trump, “It’s like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him. You’re stunned, amused, and embarrassed all at the same time.”

The book also contains an allegation that senior White House officials were certain Pence would support an effort to have Trump removed from office over concerns about his mental state.

The Justice Department is going on the offensive against the anonymous author, telling them in a letter that he or she may be violating “one or more nondisclosure agreements” by writing the anti-Trump book. The author’s publisher is rejecting the argument and saying the book will be released as scheduled and the author’s agents are accusing the government of trying to unmask the author.

A federal appeals court rejected Trump’s effort to block New York prosecutors from accessing his tax records and Trump’s sweeping claims of presidential immunity. The Manhattan District Attorney is investigating hush-money payments made in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. The ruling does not mean that Trump’s tax records will not be turned over immediately. Local prosecutors agreed to delay enforcement of the subpoena to Trump’s longtime accounting firm if Trump’s lawyers move quickly to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Trump continues to says he is under an audit. He supposedly has had no income other than his salary for the last [almost] 3 years. An audit is generally for a year, not 10+ years.

There were three state elections recently.

“Our big Rally on Friday night moved the numbers from a tie to a big WIN.” tweeted Trump. Mississippi is a state that the Republicans always win. Was it his “polling”? See a bit father down this blog.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, where Trump won by 30 points in 2016, the Republican governor just barely lost the state. Trump predicted an easy win the night before.

Trump tweeted prior to the election that “Virginia has the best Unemployment and Economic numbers in the history of the State. If the Democrats get in, those numbers will go rapidly in the other direction. On Tuesday, Vote Republican!” – Except the politicians with low unemployment and great economic numbers are Democrats! And you know he probably inflated the “best” part anyways.

In Virginia, where the Republicans had slim majorities in the state legislature and senate, they lost both. The Democrats control both and the governor’s seat.

The Trump administration announced that it will begin formally withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord, the first step in a year-long process to leave the landmark agreement to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases. Trump said in 2017 that he intended to pull the US out of the agreement, the latest move is a procedural step that would lead to a complete withdrawal just after the 2020 presidential election.

The withdrawal will take effect one year from delivery of the notification. Is it a coincidence that the final pull-out will be around election time in 2020? When Trump loses the 2020 election, a new president could rejoin the agreement, but would have to put forth new climate commitments to the UN. A recent poll said that about 7 in 10 Americans think global warming is happening, and at least 6 in 10 are “somewhat worried” about it.

“I have the real polls. I have the real polls,” Trump claimed. “The CNN polls are fake. The FOX polls have always been lousy, I tell them they ought to get themselves a new pollster, but the real polls, and you look at the polls that came out this morning, people don’t want anything to do with impeachment. It’s a phony scam.” Trump did not give any more details on what he says are the “real polls.”

Trump tweeted that he may cut off federal government help in funding to help stop the fires raging in California saying [as usual] bad fire management. More like climate change and deforestation.

A judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million to a collection of nonprofit organizations as part of a settlement with the New York state attorney general’s office to resolve a civil lawsuit that alleged “persistent” violations of charities law that included unlawful coordination with the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Filed in June 2018, the lawsuit alleged that Trump and his three eldest children — Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric — violated federal and state campaign finance laws and abused the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s tax-exempt status. According to the lawsuit, the Trumps allowed the foundation to be used “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.” The foundation is dissolved.

Trump himself had vowed to fight the lawsuit, tweeting last year, “I won’t settle this case!” and politically motivated. The attorney general’s office had sought several outcomes, including $2.8 million in restitution, plus penalties, and a ban on Trump and his children serving on the board of any other New York nonprofit.

Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll sued Trump for defamation over what she says were his lies denying her public accusation in June that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. The lawsuit, which includes a detailed account of the incident in which Trump allegedly raped Carroll in a dressing room at luxury Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman, was filed in New York state Supreme Court.

Trump said of Carroll that he “never met this person” Except there is a picture of them from about 7 years earlier.

Trump continues to be happy by tweeting that his approval rating is 50% [or better] according to polling firm Rasmussen. Problem is that a dozen legitimate polling forms say Trump is around 40%. Who’s right? Hmmmm. Oh and 49% in that same poll are against him.

A federal judge in Oregon temporarily blocked a Trump administration proclamation that would have required prospective immigrants to prove they would have US health insurance within 30 days of their arrival or enough money to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”

Prospective immigrants had been scrambling to figure out how to get the necessary coverage, navigating a complex healthcare bureaucracy that has, for the most part, not previously catered to those who are not yet in the country.

Trump was met with loud, sustained boos and some cheers as he entered Madison Square Garden for the Ultimate Fighting Championship recently in New York. A handful of signs reading “Remove Trump” and “Impeach Trump” dotted the crowd. The day after, Trump didn’t address any negative reception he received the night before, instead writing that walking into the venue “was a little bit like walking into a Trump Rally. Plenty of MAGA & KAG present. Great energy.” Sure Donnie.

His trip to New York was just a handful of days after he changed his residence to Florida from New York and badmouthed the city and state. He was me with protesters outside as well.

Trump’s campaign web site is selling a “Read the transcript” t-shirt for $30 [plus shipping]. A plain white t-shirt with red text on the front. Wonder if the t-shirt is made in China like his MAGA hats.

If you want a book that will knock you out in minutes if you can’t sleep: Donald Trump Jr wrote a book. No. It’s not in crayons. But it could be a belong in multiple top 10 book categories, political fiction, science fiction, very young children, bathroom books, etc. Soon to be in the $5 bins.

According to one newspaper the “Trump Organization scrubs name from two Central Park ice skating rinks in a bid to rebrand and ‘downplay their connection to the president’s name”. Yes. That will do it.

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.”