Thursday, September 26, 2019

BTRTN: Trump's Reign of Stain is Plainly in Ukraine

In the end, the most unsettling revelation of the whistle-blower's report is how many people in the Trump orbit were aware of, complicit in, or enabling a President's brazen lawlessness... and how little Republican thinking has changed in its wake. Now that Nancy Pelosi has initiated a formal impeachment inquiry, Steve warns Democrats to think extremely carefully about their next steps.

There are smoking guns, and then there is the murderer who openly admits to having pumped a dozen slugs into the bloody, lifeless body lying at his feet, and then looks around at all his cronies, shrugs, and says, “Hey, I didn’t do nuttin’ wrong.”

Donald Trump once said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single supporter. That theory may be tested when the foot he shoots is his own.

In the past week, we have watched as a cancer on this presidency metastasized by the hour into a potentially terminal disease.
First came the stunning news that a whistle-blower inside a Federal intelligence agency had alleged that the President of the United States had openly strong-armed a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent and thereby influence a U.S. election.

That alone is an impeachable offense, full stop. No need for a quid pro quo. No need for anything else.  

But it was actually worse than just a garden variety impeachable offense. There was a quid pro quo

Hoping to stanch the angry outcry about initial reports of the whistle-blower's allegations, the White House released a memorandum that summarized the key phone call. In that memo, Trump appears to make the release of U.S. military aid contingent on Ukraine doing Trump a “favor." Volodymyr Zelensky, the new President of Ukraine, is quoted as bringing up the subject of acquiring advanced weaponry from the United States, and the President of the United States immediately replies “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

Trump thereby implied that the transfer of military equipment would be contingent on Zelensky’s willingness to do him a “favor,” which clearly appears to be the re-opening of an investigation that Trump thought would soil Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This meant that Trump would withhold congressionally authorized U.S. military aid to a vital ally – thereby jeopardizing the national security of the United States – all in order to force Ukraine’s President to knuckle under to the demand to produce grist to slander a rival. 

It got worse. Trump suggested that the president of Ukraine should be directly in contact with William Barr, the U.S. Attorney General… thereby incorporating the machinery of the U.S. Department of Justice toward the purpose of waging a smear campaign against a political opponent. 

Could it be worse? Oh, yeah, baby. It was Barr’s Department of Justice that indicated to the Department of National Intelligence that it was not obligated to release the claim of the whistle-blower to Congress, an action required to be taken within seven days under whistle-blower law.

Worse? Uh huh. Rudy Giuliani continued to shed all filters in his accelerating odyssey toward holistic projectile stupidity, claiming that he had participated in the Biden dirt-digging expedition at the direction of the State Department. Was there any government agency that wasn’t trying to muscle the President of the Ukraine?

Late Tuesday afternoon, Trump held a press conference and volunteered that Mike Pence had been involved in matters with Ukraine. Here’s a guy whose only job in this administration is to stand behind Trump and gaze longingly at his rear-view, and even he has the Kiev area code on his speed dial.

Later still on Tuesday, Representative Eric Swalwell, one of the first Democrats to see the whistle-blower’s actual complaint that was delivered to the House at 5:00 Tuesday, reported that the whistle-blower’s allegation included the assertion that a number of senior people in government witnessed the actions and did nothing about it. 

Then, Wednesday morning, the actual whistle-blower complaint exploded onto the internet. 

The nine-page report somehow managed to be worse than the sum of all that had been previously reported. The whistle-blower reported that "approximately a dozen White House officials" had listened to the call. A State Department official had listened. Still more members of the State Department and Intelligence community had been briefed on the call. 

According to the whistle-blower's statement, an extensive cover-up began, as White House officials immediately grasped the toxicity of the call. The official record of the call was removed from the normal server where such routine calls would have been housed and moved to a system reserved for classified information. From the moment the call ended, the Trump White House knew exactly how damaging this phone call could be, and took immediate steps to conceal information about it. For all Donald Trump was publicly claiming that his call with Zelensky was "perfect," his own staff has been furiously trying to keep it far from public scrutiny.

Taken in full, it means that Trump’s DoJ, Department of State, Executive Branch, and just about anybody in Trump’s toxic immediate proximity all knew that the President of the United States had committed an impeachable offense by leaning hard on newly-elected former-comedian 41-year-old Ukraine President Zelensky in an attempt to generate campaign dirt on Joe Biden. 

And only one lonely whistle-blower had the guts to do anything about it. 

Witness your tax dollars at work.

No, this was not the isolated rogue action of the terrified thug who happens to be President of the United States.  It was the concerted effort of an army of morally bankrupt enablers, sycophants, and turn-a-blind-eye lackeys acting in coordinated stupidity, corrupt intent, and malevolent abuse of power. It took a village -- of village idiots, that is. And it raises that age old question: how many dim bulbs does it take to screw in a Ukrainian?

Trump’s Midas touch of filth and corruption has now stained each and every crevice and crack in his administration, pervading every pore of its being. Trump's reign of stain is plainly in Ukraine.

In the span of a week, the courage of a lonely whistle-blower had turned Washington, D.C. upside down. The stunning revelations rapidly shifted the tide in the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, causing Nancy Pelosi to change her long-standing opposition to impeachment.

Still, though, none of it was enough to change Republican minds.

Still, though, still, the blind Republican allegiance to Donald Trump endures. 

In a day of cable news, only two Republicans were willing to express concern about the actions of the Trump White House. Senator Mitt Romney tweeted that “If the President asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme.” Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said that “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s no ‘there’ there when there’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there.”

Troubling, indeed. 

Troubling that only two Republicans can look at what are merely the uncontested facts of this matter and find them “troubling.”

Even after the full whistle-blower complaint had been released on Tuesday morning, Republicans on the House Intelligence committee stood by their man, attempting to dismiss the category five shit-storm as just so much liberal and fake news media hype. Yet there was reason to wonder if their on-camera bravado -- aimed at an audience of one -- reflected their real beliefs.Republican Political Consultant Mike Murphy -- who had worked for both John McCain and Mitt Romney -- was interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC on Tuesday, and he made this startling assertion: "I can tell you this... one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.”

If true – if half-true -- this is the definitive statement about the the moral cowardice of the Republican Party.  But Murphy’s meta-message was clear… if the evidence of brutal corruption in the Ukraine matter did not cause these Republicans to vote their conscience, nothing will.

All of which must should be weighed into the mix as Nancy Pelosi evaluates her next steps.

As we listen to the political commentators, pundits, and websites, we hear cries for an urgent, narrowly drawn, and quickly executed single article of impeachment. Many of these observers believe that it is critically important to "strike while the iron is hot." There is talk of ratifying articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving.

I just don't get it.

Nothing that has happened in the last week changes one sad fact: if the Democrats race to vote on articles of impeachment, they will not prevail in the Senate. They do not have the votes required to have Trump removed from office. 

Indeed, the minute that the Democrats ratify articles of impeachment, they lose control over the process and the timing. When the House votes to impeach, they hand control over the entire process to Mitch McConnell... a corrupt and malevolent partisan manipulator without peer. 

As has always been true: the only thing that an impeachment trial in the Senate would accomplish is that Trump will claim that he has once again been found “innocent” and that he has been “vindicated.”

Nancy Pelosi, you have been exceedingly patient and deliberate in waiting for a moment to unite the Democrats behind an impeachment inquiry. 

Now begins a new period of deliberate, sustained, measured action... as you contemplate the exact right moment to bring articles of impeachment to the floor for a vote.

First, take the time to learn every possible thing you can about what just happened in these sordid dealings with Ukraine. Who were the White House officials who listened in? What did they do? How many will validate the whistle-blower's version of events? Who participated in the cover-up? Who spoke directly with Trump? 

If you are able to keep a steady diet of witnesses to Trump's Ukraine scandal on national television for the next two months, it will eat away at Trump's supporters and keep Trump on the defensive.

Second, don't give up on the other investigations just because this one is red-hot.  Keep all six of those House investigations going. Who knows what else is to be found? Who knows how many whistle-blowers there are in other departments?

Subpoena all the witnesses you want.

If they fail to show up, take the case to the Supreme Court.

Sure, let Donald Trump try to defy both the Supreme Court and the Congress, and watch what happens to Republican Senators then
Right now, Nancy, you control the most important factor of all: time.
There is not downside to letting the investigation into impeachable offenses drag on throughout 2020, creating a slow, steady, drip drip drip of evidence of repulsive actions taken by the Trump White House.

Nancy, keep your powder dry. Watch Republican Senators start to twitch as they begin to realize that their allegiance to Donald Trump may result in a crushing defeat for their party.  Watch them squirm as new whistle-blowers are emboldened to report other disgraces. Who knows? Maybe some Republican Senators will begin to turn. Maybe some will develop a conscience and others are in close enough races that coming out in favor of impeachment would actually help them.

And Nancy, if at any time you count enough Republican Senators that you can secure a conviction and removal from office, go for it. Have the House vote on articles of impeachment and start the trial. 

But if you don’t have those votes, wait.

Wait until October, 2020, and then have your Democratic caucus vote to ratify as many articles of impeachment as House lawyers can draft. 

Stain Donald Trump’s record forever. Make him the President of the United States who was slapped with most articles of impeachment in U.S.history.

Most important: drop those freshly ratified articles of impeachment at a point when there is not enough time for a Senate trial and vote before the Presidential election of 2020.

That’s right: time everything from here on so that the House has time to impeach Trump, but the Senate does not have enough for a trial, and does not have the opportunity to create the sham of "exoneration."

Now is not a time for a rush to judgment.

Now is time to go about the business of relentless, thorough, and aggressive impeachment proceedings conducted and curated to produce explosive sound-bytes for the nightly cable news.

Because we can all agree on one thing: the most important thing is for a Democrat to win in 2020. 

It that is your true goal, then do not trigger a Senate impeachment trial that is destined to lose.

One of the best ways to beat Trump is to continuously wound him; to relentlessly and meticulously damage Trump in protracted impeachment hearings.

Go to work, Democrats.

Now it is all in plain view.

The reign of stain is plainly in Ukraine. 

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