Thursday, February 13, 2020

After Committing Impeachable Acts Throughout His Entire Impeachment Trial, An Acquitted Trump Continues Committing Impeachable Acts

Hannah Arendt, from The Origins of Totalitarianism:
Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.

In one sense, Maine Senator Susan Collins was correct. Donald Trump did learn a "pretty big lesson" from being impeached. He knows he can get away with anything. But Trump likely was already aware of that, because he continued to commit the exact same crimes for which he was being impeached throughout his entire impeachment trial.

Imagine a serial killer on trial for multiple murders being let out of jail every night to commit additional murders, crimes to which he confesses the next morning (and helpfully provides evidence). But the judge has admitted publicly that he's colluding with the defense team, making sure evidence is suppressed and witnesses are never called. So the accused is set free, and during his post-trial news conference, he stabs a bystander to death in celebration. Despite numerous cops nearby, the murderer is not arrested and he walks off, happily planning his next round of murders.

Law professors Joshua Geltzer and Ryan Goodman state that the firings of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland "should be understood as an escalation in President Donald Trump's ongoing efforts that threaten American democratic institutions".
In case there were any doubt about the motivation for all of this, a series of tweets by the president and his son made clear that Lt. Col. Vindman's ejection was a direct response to the testimony he provided Congress that pointed to the president's wrongdoing. ...

Trump was punishing key witnesses for doing precisely what the United States Congress swore them in to do: explain what they'd seen and heard. ...

Retaliating against them for their testimony was precisely the point for Trump. ... As a former Trump NSC official Fernando Cutz said, "The broader message to career officials is that you can't speak up. Even if you see something illegal, something unethical, you can't speak up. That's the message the president wants to send." ... Friday's ousters are an extension of the second article of impeachment against Trump: obstruction of Congress, and more broadly obstruction of the public's access to the truth.

The [firings] continued the transformation of the instruments of national power into tools of Trump's personal advancement. This exploitation of America's diplomatic, military, and law enforcement mechanisms was the very usurpation of power that got Trump impeached in the first place. ... Having survived impeachment, Trump now seeks to accelerate the redirection of America's instruments of power into his own instruments of power. ...

Trump's expectation for officials is a personal loyalty to him—as former FBI Director James Comey learned in his early White House meeting with Trump and as his immediate successor as Acting Director, Andy McCabe, faced when Trump asked McCabe for whom he voted in 2016. Trump directed fury at then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions when his recusal from the Russia investigation meant that Sessions wasn’t personally protecting Trump. "Where's my Roy Cohn?" Trump reportedly said to other officials in his frustration over Sessions. ...

What shoe might drop next? Trump is reportedly considering, in consultation with his advisors, firing the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson—another official installed in his current role by Trump himself. Atkinson, very much to his credit, battled others within the executive branch to ensure that the whistleblower complaint that began to unravel Trump's extortion of Ukraine reached congressional overseers in both the House and Senate, where it belonged. Simply put, he did his job ... and, yet again, that's exactly why Trump now might fire him. ... As Trump's former head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, warned, "Firing an Inspector General for processing a whistleblower complaint would be an extraordinary blow to whatever shred of government integrity remains. It would be an atom bomb." ...

As Trump said in an interview with Bob Woodward, "Real power is—I don't even want to use the word—fear" ...

For months, the Trump administration has ... been firing those who've insisted on adherence to the rule of law when that insistence is at odds with the White House. ...

[Trump's recent action is] an important step in the consolidation of power by a president who intends to take the very sins for which he was impeached—exploiting American national power for Trump's personal power, and silencing those who try to call him out for it—and indulge in them more aggressively, even more brazenly.

Trump's public admission that the firings were blatant revenge against the two men for testifying (telling the truth) in his just-completed impeachment hearing is likely itself an impeachable offense. George Conway, writing in The Washington Post, states:
If Richard M. Nixon was to be impeached for authorizing hush money for witnesses, and Trump himself was actually impeached for directing defiance of House subpoenas, then there should be no doubt that punishing witnesses for complying with subpoenas and giving truthful testimony about presidential misconduct should make for a high crime or misdemeanor as well.
Conway points out that Trump's alleged order to the Pentagon to "screw Amazon", whose chief executive owns the Post, is likely also an impeachable offense. As would be his threats against Google, Facebook and Twitter, and his punishment of Puerto Rico's population because its politicians were critical of him.

Trump has committed more crimes than can be counted. It's a disgrace that the Democrats paved the way for his acquittal by bringing only two counts against him, which the Republicans easily swatted away.

Leah Litman, writing for Slate:
Last Tuesday, in explaining her vote to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Sen. Susan Collins suggested that the president had learned a "pretty big lesson" simply from being impeached and that he would be "much more cautious" about engaging in similar behavior again. By Friday, Trump had issued a series of firings of public officials who had testified against the president during the impeachment inquiry, demonstrating his takeaway from impeachment: He can use the powers of his office to do whatever he wants. Having gotten away with abuses of power again and again, Trump is now unleashed to continue to corruptly use the powers of his office without consequence. ...

Trump and his administration have internalized the lesson that if no one will stop you, there's no reason to stop. Less than two years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of the president's ban on entry by nationals of several Muslim-majority countries ... [making] clear that it would not stop the president from incorporating his bigotry into official immigration policy. ... After receiving a pass on xenophobia, the president has continued to do it again and again. Last week, he expanded the entry ban to cover five additional countries (Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Eritrea, and Myanmar) with substantial Muslim populations. In one of those countries (Myanmar), a group of Muslims (the Rohingya) are fleeing religious persecution and genocide. The president had previously said, according to the New York Times, that Nigerians should "go back to their huts." ...

[I]t does not take a genius to see how that decision signals that the court is unwilling to stop the president from making policy based on bigoted, thinly veiled Islamophobia or racism. The president received the message and has run with it. ... The odds of this Supreme Court reversing course and stopping him this time is virtually nil. ...

With the Senate's blessing, the president will continue to corruptly abuse the powers of his office to undermine elections and our rule of law—and, as demonstrated by the Friday Night Massacre, he will do so in even more aggressive and ostentatious ways. With the court's blessing, the president will expand his racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim immigration practices with little limit to what he may try to enact. ...

It is unclear what, if anything, can stop him now.

Less than 48 hours after being acquitted, Trump went on a rambling, delusional rant lasting more than hour, calling the impeachment trial "evil", "corrupt", "phony", "rotten", the work of "dirty cops", "leakers and liars", "very evil and sick people" who were "vicious as hell". "It was all bullshit." "They made up facts." "It was a disgrace." Trump whined that he "went through hell". "Did nothing wrong. Did nothing wrong." "We were treated unbelievably unfairly."

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted "WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!", referring to comments by the former New York mayor in 2015 defending police policy of stop-and-frisk. Shortly after posting the tweet, Trump deleted it – possibly because he has repeatedly supported the same unconstitutional activity.

Trump called for the nationwide implementation of stop-and-frisk during his 2016 campaign. A federal judge had declared the practice unconstitutional three years earlier. (Verbatim quotes should always be used for Trump.)
I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to — we did it in New York. It worked incredibly well. You understand — you have to have, in my opinion. I see what's going on here — I see what's going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City, it was so incredible — the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor. But New York City was incredible — the way that worked. So I think that could be one step you could do.
Trump repeated his support for the illegal program in 2018, claiming that it "works and it was meant for problems like Chicago".

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's presidential campaign did not deny plagiarizing material from "research publications, media outlets, and a number of nonprofit, educational, and policy groups" for eight of its plans and fact sheets (on maternal health, LGBTQ equality, the economy, tax policy, infrastructure, and mental health). Bloomberg News' style guide states: "Plagiarism is theft. Be prepared to lose your job if you plagiarize."

Bloomberg is also misleading voters when he claims he cut stop-and-frisk by 95% as mayor. In a statement posted on his campaign website, Bloomberg states that by the time he left office, "I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized".

Actually, under Bloomberg's administration, the stop-and-frisk program was vastly expanded, from 97,296 stops in 2002 to 685,724 in 2011 — a more than seven-fold increase. The full extent of the program will never be known because although police officers were required to fill out a form for each stop, it's highly unlikely they did so for each and every instance. Bloomberg stopped the program only after several lawsuits were filed claiming (correctly) that the program violated the basic constitutional rights of city residents.

Slate: "Trump Advisers Hope Secret Service for New Hampshire Rally Interfered With Democratic Voters"
President Donald Trump touched down in New Hampshire Monday on the eve of the state's primary to, as he tweeted beforehand, "shake up the Dems a little bit". ...

Trump, of course, has never been one for larger principles or the greater good or fairness for that matter. Or anything that doesn't suit his immediate self-interest. So it should perhaps be unsurprising that Trump's campaign is also kinda hoping that his visit to the state will make it harder for Democrats to do their civic duty of seeing and evaluating their potential representatives before casting their votes.

Construction crews working on Trump's border wall in southern Arizona are blasting sites at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve for the last 43+ years). Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, told The Intercept that the ancestral homeland and sacred burial sites of Tohono O'odham Nation are along the path set to be blasted.

An internal National Park Service report obtained by The Washington Post showed that the construction could destroy as many as 22 archaeological sites. Grijalva said DHS has repeatedly failed to consult with tribal stakeholders in the region.
It's right in the path. The one indignation of the blasting on the hill is shortly to follow with other indignations and disrespect. DHS had mentioned to the tribes that they would back off on developing the hill, but the work is still being done. ... You would think that in a situation like this, that involves human remains, burial sites, bone fragments that are traced and dated a thousand years or more back, that there would be some sensitivity, for lack of a better word, on the part of DHS and the administration. There is none.
The Trump administration is using the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, to push ahead with construction. The Real ID Act allows the government to waive (i.e., ignore) certain laws because of national security. The Act has been invoked 21 times since 2005, with 16 of those coming in the last two and a half years, under Trump, who has by-passed dozens of laws, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act.

Efren Olivares of the Texas Civil Rights Project:
The idea that the secretary of DHS could come to your community and say no laws apply here, what kind of rule of law is that? People should be outraged to know that Homeland Security can wield that kind of power.
Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity:
Draining precious groundwater, bulldozing ancient saguaros and plowing over burial grounds isn't enough. Now they're literally dynamiting a mountain in protected wilderness lands. Nothing is sacred to them, no amount of destruction too grand. We're living a nightmare down here in the borderlands.

On Monday, J.W. Verret, a George Mason University law professor and former member of the Trump transition team, predicted on CNN that Trump will be impeached for a second time. Verrett was asked if Trump's acquittal "will lead the president to feel he can seek foreign help in the election".
There's no question but that he will attempt to do it. ... He will be impeached again, I don't know for what, and it will be legitimate. It could be for things personal having to do with his company.

The New York Times downplayed Trump's vendetta against Vindman and Sondland, relating what happened without any context and treating it as the normal give-and-take of politics.

Jim Fallows of The Atlantic said Trump's behaviour
should have been profoundly troubling to any journalist concerned with accountability. He punished people for refusing to lie under oath for him. He was sending a signal to everyone in the government that their jobs are at stake should they displease him.
The Times stated that Trump, "emboldened by his victory and determined to strike back ... ordered ... Sondland ... recalled from his post ... on the same day that ... Vindman ... was marched out of the White House by security guards".

Dan Froomkin of Press Watch states that while the Times is "technically accurate", "by refusing to plainly situate his actions in their context — that it was an authoritarian assault on people trying to bring facts to light, that those facts exposed Trump as abusing his power, and that anyone who isn't loyal to him is his 'enemy'", the Times lets Trump off too easily. (Googling "media normalizes trump" is instructive.)

Things were a bit different in the UK earlier this month. Journalists decided to collectively boycott a Downing Street briefing on February 3 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's most senior communications adviser attempted to ban certain reporters from attending.

When reporters from the Mirror, the i, HuffPost, PoliticsHome, the Independent and others were told to leave, the remaining journalists, which included the BBC, ITV, Sky News, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Financial Times, and the Guardian, decided to walk out. The Labour party accused Johnson of "resorting to tactics imported from Donald Trump to hide from scrutiny".

The very next day, the White House excluded CNN anchors from its traditional off-the-record pre-State of the Union lunch. No other media objected, as anchors from ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox News, OANN, C-SPAN, CBN, Univision, Telemundo, Sinclair, and Gray TV were all seen in the West Wing. And, as Melanie McFarland of Salon reported:
Cut to Thursday of [last] week, when ABC, CBS, and NBC allowed Trump to ramble live and uninterrupted for more than an hour about his impeachment and the Senate's acquittal ...

In an AP story published that day, representatives from two network newsrooms expressed the thought that the president had a right to be heard "out of fairness" following weeks of TV impeachment hearing in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This skates by the fact that Trump had ample opportunity [to] have his say in several House committee hearings where he declined to appear and before the Senate in a "trial" he influenced to be a sham. So, in fairness, the networks gave Trump an hour-plus victory lap ... [which] only served the ego of a man who just got away with abusing the power of his office with no consequences, and benefited a Senate that would rather be craven than uphold the sanctity of Constitution. ...

Knowing that nothing journalists are doing will change any minds frozen by whatever ignorance gorgon has them in its thrall should free reporters to stand with their censored and ostracized colleagues on principle.

This is wishful thinking, I realize. ...

But here's a clue for the likes of Chuck Todd, who reportedly broke midday bread with POTUS only to be insulted to his face. If he needs you, he'll grant you that interview regardless whether you share a bag of McDonald's with him or not.
It's unlikely Todd has any integrity left to lose, but selling his pride for that day for a warmed-over Big Mac? #Sad.

What else?

Trump Refuses To Give Federal Workers Their Required Raise

Trump Thinks Head Injuries [Traumatic Brain Injuries] Are A Sign Of Weakness

Did You Know That April Heat Kills A Pandemic?
The insane ramblings from an imbecile:
A lot of people think that [the Wuhan coronavirus] goes away in April with the heat. As the heat comes in. Typically that will go away in April. We're in great shape ...

Inae Oh, Mother Jones, February 9, 2020:
Trump Is About to Go After Safety-Net Programs, Just Like He Promised Not to Do

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the White House is expected to propose a $4.8 trillion budget that aims to slash these popular programs [Medicare and Medicaid] while increasing spending on NASA, defense, and veterans:
The White House proposes to cut spending by $4.4 trillion over a decade. Of that, it targets $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs, including $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits.
While this reported budget is sure to fail ... it's still striking to witness the vast gulf between Trump's stated pledges and his actual priorities.
January 22, 2020: "At some point they will be [cut]. ... At the right time, we will take a look at that." (CNBC)

February 4, 2020: "We will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security." (State of the Union)

February 10, 2020: "The White House proposes to cut ... $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits." (Wall Street Journal)

A new national poll (Quinnipiac, February 5-9) shows that all of the top Democratic candidates can beat Trump:
Bloomberg beats Trump  51-42
Sanders beats Trump    51-43
Biden beats Trump      50-43
Klobuchar beats Trump  49-43
Warren beats Trump     48-44
Buttigieg beats Trump  47-43
Yes, yes, I know that national polls mean nothing and that it's all about the only states that matter in the Electoral College. Still, it's interesting to know that if the United States was a real democracy Trump would be facing a huge uphill climb with any of the Democrats is worth pondering. He is weak, he isn't strong. On the other hand, he cheats.

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