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FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 21, 2020 at 12:12 am

On January 16, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered this oath to the 100 Senators who would render judgment on the conduct of the 45th President of the United States:

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”

Truth #2: All 100 Senators pledged they would. But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

“I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” Mitch McConnell told reporters in December. “I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.” 

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Mitch McConnell

And Lindsey Graham offered this during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “The best thing for the American people is to end this crap as quickly as possible, to have a trial in the Senate, bipartisan acquittal of the President. And on Feb. 4, when the president comes into the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union, he will have been acquitted by the Senate.” 

If this were a criminal or civil trial, McConnell and Graham would automatically be ejected from jury service.    

Truth #3: Instead of acting as impartial witnesses, Republican Senators are conspiring to obstruct evidence through smears and intimidation. 

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has called for at least four witnesses to testify. These include: 

  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney;
  • Former national security adviser John Bolton;
  • Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief;
  • Michael Duffey, an official with the Office of Management and Budget.

These are men who are in a position to testify about what they actually saw Trump do.

To prevent such testimony, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and other Right-wingers threaten that if Democrats subpoena Bolton, Republicans will subpoena Hunter Biden and the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry. 

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Rand Paul

Biden is the son of former Vice President Joseph Biden—and has nothing to contribute to knowledge of Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine. Subpoenaing him would simply be an act of gratuitous cruelty and sensationalism.

And forcing the still-unidentified whistleblower to testify would violate Justice Department protections for those who testify to government wrongdoing. 

Truth #4: Republican Senators’ willingness to support Trunmp’s crimes cannot be divorced from the evil of their constituents.  

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon examined why Donald Trump’s base supports him so fanatically: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

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Trump supporters giving the Nazi salute

Truth #5: Republicans love Trump—but love their careers more. 

According to an August 29, 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 65% of Republicans are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior. But they are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told a Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.” 

Thus, it is not Trump who commands their ultimate loyalty—and certainly not the United States Constitution—but their desire to remain in office for life.

By supporting Trump, they guarantee that he will not “primary” them in the upcoming 2020 elections—that is, run an even more Fascistic candidate against them.

They also ensure a steady stream of “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes) from Russian oligarchs—who, in turn, take their marching orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finally: Republicans fear that if Trump is convicted and removed, they will lose their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. If Trump is branded a loser, his supporters will also be branded the same.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

On January 16, two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump were submitted to the United States Senate.

Almost one month earlier—on December 18, 2019—the House of Representatives had approved those Articles for:  

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival. 

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

One hundred Senators will now decide if Trump remains as the 45th President of the United States—or becomes the first President in history to be convicted and removed.

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The United States Senate

(The first President to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, survived in office by only one vote. The second, Richard Nixon, resigned rather than face almost certain conviction.)

Of those 100, 53 are Republicans—like Trump.

Democrats form a majority in the House—that was how they secured Trump’s impeachment. But with only 47 members in the Senate, they do not command a majority to secure conviction.

Their only hope is to convince enough Republicans to vote on the basis of the evidence—which is overwhelming. 

On September 9, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees began investigating his attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joseph Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020.

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” earlier in July, Trump had told Mick Mulvaney, his White House chief of staff, to withhold $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. And ever since, the evidence linking Trump to impeachable offenses has mushroomed.

On January 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld security aid to Ukraine.

The GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, declared that the White House Budget Office violated the Impoundment Control Act, a 1974 law that limits the White House from withholding funds that Congress has appropriated.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO auditors wrote. 

Still, no one actually expects Republican Senators to uphold their Constitutional duties. The smart money is on their giving Trump a free pass on his latest act of illegality. 

There are, however, truths that these Republican Senators will not dare mention publicly. This article will do its best to cast a spotlight on them.

Truth #1: The man presiding over the Senate—Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell—has received monies from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator and Donald Trump sponsor Vladimir Putin.

pacAnd so have other Republicans.

Len Blavatnik is a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Putin. In 2015-16, he contributed to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs) and top Republican leaders, including McConnell.

According to Federal Election Commission:

During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP PACs..

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)

Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell. 
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

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The Kremlin

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Intrater and Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans

Truth #2: At least two Republican Senators—McConnell and Graham—committed perjury when they took an oath to render impartial judgment on Trump.

All 100 Senators pledged they would “do impartial justice” in judging Trump’s actions as President.

But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

SUBVERTING OTHER GOVERNMENTS? IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2020 at 12:03 am

“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

The speaker was White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. And in an October 17 press conference, he was trying to put the best possible spin on President Donald Trump’s latest outrage: An attempt to extort a “favor” from the president of Ukraine.

In July, 2019, Trump told Mulvaney to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

As far as known, this marked a first in American foreign policy: Trying to extort a patently illegal favor from an ally.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t hesitate to leverage the great economic and military power of the United States to gain concessions from Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain.

At Roosevelt’s insistence, for example, it was an American—General Dwight D. Eisenhower—who was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Had the British gotten their way, the post would have almost certainly gone to British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.

Roosevelt’s insistence, however, had nothing to do with personally benefiting himself. 

But the unpleasant truth remains that subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. For example:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

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Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913.
  • He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista.
  • On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende.
  • Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking). In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

Americans reacted to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—with indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like  Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Jacobo Arbenz, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

PROTECTING AMERICA FROM A LEGACY OF EVIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2019 at 12:11 am

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) has a sense of history that many of his colleagues—especially Republicans—would do well to acquire.

Since September, he has headed an investigation into President Donald J. Trump’s attempt to extort foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.  

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Adam Schiff

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

On November 25, Schiff sat for an extended interview with Jake Tapper, CNN’s political correspondent.

What would it mean if Republicans uniformly oppose any articles of impeachment against Trump? asked Tapper.

Schiff replied that the vote would be a matter of conscience—and history: “It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up.

“And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.” 

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Donald Trump

In the classic 1960 movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Burt Lancaster, as Ernst Janning, the once distinguished German judge, confesses his guilt and that of Nazi Germany in a controlled, yet emotional, outburst. 

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in the Reichstag? When our neighbors were dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau?

“Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried off to their extermination? Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse we were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds. Does that make us any the less guilty?

“Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”170592-Judgment-at-Nuremberg-Posters.jpg

Adam Schiff is clearly hoping to avoid such an infamous fate for his own country.

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man, charged conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency. 

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • He repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • He brutally attacked American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • He repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first Muslim travel ban. 
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • He intended to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would result in his impeachment.
  • He has lied so often—13,435 times by October 14, 2019, according to the Washington Post—he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.
  • On December 22, 2018, he shut down the Federal government—because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 
  • An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

So why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  Fear that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by:

  • Their being voted out of Congress by Trump’s fanatical base; or
  • Their being voted out of Congress by anti-Trump voters sensing Republican weakness if he’s impeached.

Future historians—if there are any—will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to:

  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania;
  • Using the White House to further enrich Trump;
  • Siding with Russia and North Korea against America’s oldest allies, such as NATO;
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare; and
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy.

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2019 at 12:16 am

On July 25, 2019, President Donald J Trump tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

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Joseph Biden

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

On November 22, 2019, Mark Shields—a liberal syndicated columnist—and David Brooks—a conservative one for The New York Timesreached disturbingly similar conclusions about the corruption reveled by hearings of the House Intelligence Committee.

DAVID BROOKS: “I think Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that this was unethical. What strikes me [is] that everyone was in the loop, that this was not something they tried to hide.

“This was just something they thought was the way politics gets done or foreign policy gets done, that there’s no division between personal gain and public service.”

MARK SHIELDS: “What I have underestimated….is the fear that Donald Trump exercises over Republicans.I mean, people talked about Lyndon Johnson being a fearsome political leader. They don’t even approach. I mean, he strikes fear into the hearts of Republicans up and down the line. And I think that….has been eye-opening in its dimensions.”

Nor is there any reason to hope that the GOP will reign Trump in.

In a November 14 column, “Republicans Can’t Abandon Trump Now Because They’re All Guilty,” freelance journalist Joel Mathis warns: “Trump’s abuses of power mirror those of the GOP as a whole. Republicans can’t turn on him, because doing so would be to indict their party’s entire approach to politics.”

For example:

  • At the state level, GOP legislatures have passed numerous voter ID laws over the last decade. Officially, the reason has been to prevent non-citizens from voting. In reality, the motive is to depress turnout among Democratic constituencies.
  • When Democrats have won elections, Republicans have tried to make it impossible for them to carry out their policies. In Utah, voters approved Medicaid expansion at the ballot box—but Republicans nullified this.
  • In North Carolina, Republican legislators prevented voters from choosing their representatives. Instead, Republican representatives chose voters through partisan sorting. In September, the state’s Supreme Court ruled the legislative gerrymandered district map unconstitutional.

The upshot of all this: “The president and his party are united in the belief that their entitlement to power allows them to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes….

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“In the meantime, it is probably best to give up waiting for that impeachment-induced moment—a  Watergate—when Republicans realize their duty to country and come around to opposing him. The president and today’s GOP share the same sins. It will be difficult for them to abandon each other.”

That appears to be the judgment of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Concluding the proceedings for November 21, Schiff attacked Republicans’ total rejection of the overwhelming evidence linking Trump with extortion:

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Adam Schiff

“But apparently, it’s all hearsay. Even when you actually hear the president….that’s hearsay. We can’t rely on people saying what the president said. Apparently, we can only rely on what the president says, and there, we shouldn’t even rely on that either….

“We should imagine he said something about actually fighting corruption, instead of what he actually said, which was, ‘I want you to do us a favor, though. I want you to look into this 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, and I want you to look into the Bidens.’

“I guess we’re not even supposed to rely on that because that’s hearsay….That would be like saying you can’t rely on the testimony of the burglars during Watergate because it’s only hearsay, or you can’t consider the fact that they tried to break in because they got caught. They actually didn’t get what they came for, so, you know, kind of no harm, no foul. That’s absurd.

“The difference between [Watergate and Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine] is not the difference between [Richard] Nixon and [Donald] Trump. It’s the difference between that Congress and this one. And so, we are asking, where is Howard Baker? Where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party to look to their duty? 

“But the other defense besides ‘It failed, the scheme failed, they got caught,’ the other defense is ‘The president denies it.’ Well, I guess that’s case closed, right?

“….This president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.”

* * * * *

Those who lament that the United States has become a polarized nation must realize there is only one choice: Either Americans will remain free—or they will be enslaved by a ruthless political party convinced it is entitled to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes;

There is no middle ground.

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2019 at 12:26 am

On November 14, the CNN website showcased an opinion piece by Jane Carr and Laura Juncadella entitled: “Fractured States of America.” 

And it opened:

“Some worry that it’s already too late, that we’ve crossed a threshold of polarization from which there is no return. Others look toward a future where more moderate voices are heeded and heard, and Americans can find better ways to relate to each other. Still others look back to history for a guide—perhaps for what not to do, or at the very least for proof that while it’s been bad before, progress is still possible.”

Then followed a series of anecdotes. The sub-headlines summed up many of the comments reported.

  • “I was starting to hate people that I have loved for years.”
  • “Voting for Trump cost me my friends.”
  • “I feel like I’m living in hostile territory.”
  • “Our children are watching this bloodsport.”
  • “A student’s Nazi-style salute reflects the mate.”
  • “Our leaders reflect the worst of us.”
  • “I truly believe I will be assaulted over a bumper sticker.”
  • “It already feels like a cold war.”

Abraham Lincoln warned: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

America now faces such a choice:

  1. To submit to the tyrannical aggression of a ruthless political party convinced that they are entitled to power to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes; or
  2. To fiercely resist that aggression and the destruction of those democratic processes.

Consider the face-off between President Donald J. Trump and Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Vindman is is a United States Army officer who serves as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. He is also a witness to Trump’s efforts to extort “a favor” from the president of Ukraine.

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Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

Адміністрація Президента України [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman, having overheard Trump’s phone call, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Trump denounced Vindman as a “Never Trumper”—as if opposing his extortion attempt constituted a blasphemy. Republicans and their shills on the Fox News Network attacked him as well. As a result, he sought protection by the Army for himself and his family. 

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Donald Trump

On November 15, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields summed up the different reactions by Republicans and Democrats to Trump’s extortion attempt.

Their forum: The PBS Newshour.  While they often reach different conclusions on the same matter, on this occasion they found themselves in virtual agreement.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

DAVID BROOKS: “The case is very solid and airtight that there was the quid pro quo. All the testimony points to that. And, mostly, you see a contrast. The first two gentlemen that testified on the first day, they were just upstanding, solid public servants.

“I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered. They cared about the country. They were serving. They had not partisan axe to grind. They were just honest men of integrity.

“And I thought we saw that again today with [former Ambassador to Ukraine] Marie Yovanovitch. And in her case, the day was more emotional, because you got to see a case of bullying against a strong, upstanding woman.

“And so I thought she expressed—like, the heavy moments of today where when she expressed her reaction to how badly she was treated. And so that introduces an element of emotion and pathos into what shouldn’t be just a legal proceeding. It should be something where people see the contrast between good people and bad people.” 

MARK SHIELDS: “There’s a sense of outrage building. This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States. 

“I mean, why? Why did they go to such lengths to denigrate, to attack, to try and destroy and sabotage the career of a dedicated public servant [United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich], a person who had put her life on the line? Why did they do it? What was it, money? Was it power?”

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump has a longstanding hatred of whistleblowers when they betray his crimes and follies. But he feels completely different about “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Presidential candidate Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” 

Image result for Official White House photos of Donald Trump

Trump can’t refute the sheer number of witnesses who have testified to his extortion attempt on Ukraine. So he now seeks to shift blame to the person who originally testified to his extortion.

On November 6, his son, Donald, Jr., tweeted out an article which might—or might not—have contained the name of the Intelligence community whistleblower.

A Trump shill later claimed that Trump hadn’t known about his son’s efforts to attack that official.

The law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, called on Attorney General William Barr to open a criminal investigation into any leaks of the whistleblower’s identity. 

“As attorneys representing whistleblowers for over 35-years we are extremely concerned about the nation-wide ‘chilling effect’ the disclosure of the identity of any intelligence community whistleblower will necessary cause. Whistleblowers need to reassurance that the laws protecting them will be strictly enforced. 

“If the [whistleblower’s] name is revealed by any person, including Donald Trump, Jr., we hereby request that the persons engaging in this obstruction of justice be immediately arrested.” 

Yet Barr, as Trump’s handpicked Attorney General, has so far refused to take any action against those in violation of whistleblower statutes. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace-related laws.

Image result for official seal of osha

According to a 2002 amendment to the federal retaliation statute:

“Whoever knowingly, with intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

These forbid an employer to fire, lay off, threaten, reduce pay or hours, blacklist, demote, deny overtime, benefits or promotion to anyone protected by such laws.

One such witness is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine. A member of the National Security Council, he felt it improper for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate an American citizen.

Trump called Vindman, a Purple Heart winner who was wounded in Iraq, “Yesterday’s Never Trumper witness.” 

Ultimately, the identity of the whistleblower doesn’t matter.

As Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted on November 8: “One more time for the people in the back: The whistleblower pulled the fire alarm. The 1st responders showed up and saw smoke, flames, and @realDonaldTrump holding matches. Does it matter who pulled the fire alarm?”

The truth of the original complaint about Trump’s extortion attempt has been repeatedly validated by multiple witnesses.

It now remains to be seen whether Republicans care more about the truth of that complaint—or bowing in subservience to a thoroughly corrupt President.

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Before 1966, witnesses who dared expose the deadly secrets of the Mafia came to a brutal end once trials ended. And sometimes before trials even began.

For example: In 1940, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a notorious hitman for Murder, Inc., the execution squad of the New York Mafia, turned State’s evidence against his cronies. His testimony sent his former boss, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, to the electric chair for murder.

He was set to testify against Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, the chief of Murder, Inc., in November, 1941. Then fate—or bribed police—intervened.

Reles was being guarded round-the-clock by a lieutenant and six detectives at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Nevertheless, he “fell” 42 feet to his death from his sixth-floor room. No one was prosecuted for his murder.

As Joseph Valachi, a future Mafia witness, later testified: “I never met anybody yet who thought Reles went out that window on purpose.”

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Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

In 1966, the United States Justice Department indicted Rhode Island Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca. Thus, protection of its star witness, hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, became a top priority.

Assigned to guard him was a small, handpicked detail of deputy U.S. marshals under the command of John Partington. For 18 months, the marshals foiled every effort by the Mafia to “clip” Barboza.

His testimony convicted a half-dozen top Mafiosi—including Patriarca. Then the marshals packed Barboza off to California under a new identity—and a new life.

Other Mafiosi—having run afoul of the Mafia and impressed by the success of the marshals in keeping Barboza alive—signed on as witnesses.

This, in turn, led the Justice Department to create an official Witness Security Program. By 2019, the Program had protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness

Every President since John F. Kennedy has championed the vigorous prosecution of organized crime. And fueling this drive is the testimony of endangered witnesses requiring air-tight security.

Donald Trump is the first President to blatantly attack those who dare to “rat out” their former criminal associates.

On August 21, 2018, attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.  

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him: “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

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U.S. Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic] he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’

“But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

“TREASON”: TRUMP LIKES THE SOUND OF THE WORD: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump routinely makes fun of others.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, he infamously mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition affecting the joints.

In 2018, Trump viciously attacked Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who had come forward to allege that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted her when she was 15. 

But he holds himself immune from ridicule. 

On September 26, Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, rose to the occasion.

Adam Schiff

During a hearing of his committee, he gave a dramatic reading—part news summary, part parody. It centered on an extortion call Trump had made on July 25 to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump had wanted a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

Unspoken was the threat of cancelling $400 million in promised American military aid to Ukraine. 

So Schiff—whose committee is investigating that incident—gave a summary of that call during a hearing.

It wasn’t the news summary part that infuriated Trump, but the mockery included within it.

As Schiff explained to CNN: “The fact that that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the President never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times.’ My point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.” 

Trump had aimed his own brand of juvenile humor at Schiff in the past, referring to him as “little Adam Schit.”

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Donald Trump

But for Schiff to dare to make fun of him was—for Trump—entirely too much.

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” Trump tweeted. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” 

Trump is the first President to openly equate criticism—especially mockery—of himself with treason. Like the French King, Louis X1V, he believes: L’État, c’est moi—“I am the State.”

And treason is a crime that has traditionally been punished with death.

So Trump more than gave the game away when he tweeted, on October 7: “Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people.

“This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!” 

Nancy Pelosi, as speaker of the House of Representatives, has done nothing that meets the Constitutional definition of treason: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” 

Moreover, members of Congress cannot be impeached. Impeachment is a Congressional tool for investigating judges or executive branch officials they believe may have committed crimes. 

No doubt many people believe that Trump wouldn’t dare ask his hand-picked Attorney General, William Barr, to indict Adam Schiff or Nancy Pelosi for treason. 

Of course, there were many people who believed that Trump wouldn’t dare fire FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation into Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Or that he would openly call on a hostile foreign power—China—to intervene in the 2020  Presidential election.

A President who can invite a hostile foreign power to slander his political opponent can just as easily call on a hostile foreign power to assassinate that opponent. 

Trump has claimed: “Let me tell you, I’m only interested in corruption. I don’t care about politics. I don’t care about Biden’s politics….”

But if Trump were concerned about fighting corruption, he wouldn’t have:

  • Focused his anti-corruption campaign entirely on Biden;
  • Defended his former 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who made millions working for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych;
  • Praised others mired in corruption scandals—such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump is counting on Americans’ awe of the Presidency to convince them of his integrity.

But according to Robert A. Prentice, Professor of Government and Society at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin: 

“President Donald Trump’s lying is off the charts. No prominent politician in memory bests Trump for spouting spectacular, egregious, easily disproved lies. The birther claim. The vote fraud claim. The attendance at the inauguration claim. And on and on and on.

“Every fact checker—Kessler, Factcheck.org, Snopes.com, PolitiFact—finds a level of mendacity unequaled by any politician ever scrutinized. For instance, 70 percent of his campaign statements checked by PolitiFact were mostly false, totally false, or “pants on fire” false.”

Donald Trump prides himself on setting Presidential precedents. He may turn out to be the first President who invoked “treason” against his political opponents—and was himself found to be a menace to the nation he claimed to love.

“TREASON”: TRUMP LIKES THE SOUND OF THE WORD: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 10, 2019 at 12:07 am

In 2016, Donald Trump asked Russia to intervene in the upcoming Presidential election.

At a July 22, 2016 press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

And on October 3, 2019, Trump called on another foreign—and enemy—nation to churn out “dirt” on another Democratic Presidential candidate: Former Vice President Joe Biden: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

Head shot of Trump smiling in front of an American flag. He is wearing a dark blue suit jacket, white shirt, light blue necktie, and American flag lapel pin.

Donald Trump

Asked if he had requested China’s “President-for-Life” Xi Jinping to do so, Trump replied: “I haven’t. But it’s certainly something we should start thinking about.”

Trump’s comments came just one week before a Chinese delegation was to arrive in Washington to resume protracted trade negotiations.

And to make certain the Chinese got the message, Trump warned: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

Despite Trump’s accusations, there has been no evidence of corruption by Biden or his son, Hunter. 

Having twice called on foreign—and enemy—nations to subvert American Presidential elections, Trump feels himself qualified to define who is guilty of treasonous behavior. 

Enter Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Schiff tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

Then, even worse for Trump’s ego, Schiff went further. He dared to parody Trump’s extortion attempt.

Biden 2013.jpg

Joe Biden

On September 26, during a session of the Intelligence Committee, Schiff gave a dramatic reading—part news summary, part parody—of the call with Zelensky.

He prefaced the reading by saying, “In not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.

“President Zelensky, eager to establish himself at home as the friend of the President of the most powerful nation on earth, had at least two objectives: Get a meeting with the President and get more military help. And so what happened on that call?

“Zelensky begins by ingratiating himself, and he tries to enlist the support of the President. He expresses his interest in meeting with the President, and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself.

“And what is the President’s response? Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.

“Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates. ‘We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here.

“‘I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.

“‘I’m going to put you in touch with people, and not just any people. I’m going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy [Trump’s personal attorney and fixer].

“‘You’re going to love him [Giuliani]. Trust me. You know what I’m asking? And so I’m only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.'”

Schiff later told CNN that he was trying to mock the President’s conduct.

The next day, September 27, Trump demanded in a tweet that Schiff “immediately resign.”

Trump, of course, has no power to force a member of Congress to resign.

And on September 29, Trump tweeted: “….Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..” 

Treason? 

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