Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Media bias and propaganda

A major contributor to the extreme partisan/ideological divide in this country is a media that caters to the divide and institutionalize the divide.  It is an echo chamber with few outlets attempting to be neutral, report both sides of an issue, and are centrist..maybe a bit left or right of center.  Where you get your news and punditry reveals where you are with what you accept as the gospel truth, whether it is propaganda, biased viewpoints, and reporting slants, or objective and balanced.   Some media outlets are clearly advocates for a particular point of view and feature and report news stories to support their bias.  Not only could the news report cherry pick which stories they cover that support their bias, they also slant the stories to fit their bias.  Sometimes if you switch between MSNBC and Fox,  you might even get the impression we are living in two separate worlds, the content and spin have little in common.
If you get your news and views solely from one outlet, it is no wonder you might think what the "other side" is reporting is fake news because you never heard of such a thing.

This variety of media is the trademark of freedom of the press. It is a large market place of ideas and it is only human to favor those who reinforce our preexisting biases and ideas. It takes an effort to get out of our comfort zones and see what "the other side" is reporting. One way to break out of this is to make that effort to see what others may be reporting and how they do it.  The other way is to use those considered more neutral or centrist as your main source of news and views.

I write opinions and I am not a reporter.  I footnote my postings with links to sources of what influenced my opinion based writing.  You will notice that I tend to cite sources listed in the following study and chart from media near the center.  To see which media you feel comfortable with, depend on to get your world view, go to this site:




Monday, December 30, 2019

Bewitched, bothered, bewildered by polls

A  Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered 2020 election forecast
Looking at public opinion polls to see where the US electorate stands at the beginning of 2020 has left me humming  the 1940  Rodgers and Hart song,  “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.”  Common wisdom uttered by most pundits left and right is that the country is closely divided, rabidly tribal and partisan, with views so set in concrete that short of some bombshell event, a weakening in the economy or another revelation of earthshaking magnitude of wrongdoing, Donald Trump has a good chance of being elected for a second term.  The polls taken during the last 30 plus days of 2019 reveal a conflicted and contradictory electorate but there are some troubling signs for Trump and a slight advantage for Democrats that are beginning to show up.  I am assuming  Trump will survive the Senate impeachment trial to finish his term and run for reelection. The safest forecast as we begin  2020, is that the election outcome is still close enough that no party or candidate should take anything for granted. 

These following findings are based on my favorite source of public opinion polls, Real Clear Politics.  RCP calculates the average of all public polls in a given period. In this case, the polls cited here were taken in the 30 days before the last week in December. Polls are useful at this early stage of the election cycle to provide some general benchmarks for future comparisons, a starting gate, a way to measure trends. Most public polls have margins of error of at least 4% and depending upon how the pollster phrases the question, results can vary widely from individual poll to poll.  Voters can find themselves bewitched with polls showing their candidate ahead while ignoring bad news polls and wake up the day after the election in shock. Campaigns like to cherry-pick the poll that puts their candidate in the best light and push their exposure in their favored media outlet.  Averaging them at least puts any one poll in a more meaningful perspective. 

In normal political years, the most telling poll is whether the public thinks the country is moving in the right or wrong direction.  If the polls show the country is moving in the wrong direction, the party in power gets the blame and the red flags of alert should alarm the incumbent.   The RCP average is that while 53% approve of Trump’s performance on the economy, 56% still think the country is moving in the wrong direction and only 37% see it on the right track. This is bewildering in its contradiction.  That could indicate it is not just the economy that will determine the November outcome. That should deeply bother President Trump in any normal political year. The economy is definitely his strong card.   Given the extreme partisanship that has marked this past year, normal may no longer exist, but factors of loyalty or disgust with his character and behavior were not separately or specifically addressed in the RCP average, and I suspect that such factors may explain or be included in some of the wrong track results.     I could not find any recent polls separately measuring disgust or character factors. Consistently over the past several years, the economy and health care/ choice are at the top of any list of voters’ concerns. The environment as an issue is also rising. RCP did not specifically address health care or choice as issues, either. Foreign affairs rarely rank among top voter concerns, but the impeachment focus could change that. 

 Even more puzzling and alarming to Trump supporters should be another measure: job approval.  RCP shows Trump’s job approval at 44 % and disapproval at around 52%.  Approval of his foreign policy is similar: 43% approve, and 54% disapprove.  Neither of those is good news for Trump.   However, offsetting these to some extent are his polls on the economy which show a  majority approve of Donald Trump’s handling of the economy,  a flip flop of the ones on job approval and foreign policy.  To what extent approval of Trump's handling of the economy will be offset by other issues regarding health care, choice, environment, character, and foreign affairs is the question bothering and bewildering those of us who follow politics closely. We just do not know yet.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

On a partisan impeachment: Sham and shame

How will history look at this impeachment process?. History will take note of partisanship involved, but it will also note a trial took place in the hands of a Senate majority that blocked facts and witnesses.The acquittal of Presdent Trump will be both a sham and a shame. The Republican partisan Senate is relying solely on party discipline to save their president. It has little to do with the merits of the accusations. Such an acquittal of the President will be viewed as a sham. since it would have no basis in fact. and evidence. History cares about facts and evidence even if the GOP does not.That does not seem to bother the GOP leadership. They most likely have a greater fear of an informed electorate in 2020. A public trial with witnesses and evidence would put the spotlight on the facts and evidence and illustrate the GOP's lack of any fact-based rebuttal...
It the GOP claims the House was partisan in their impeachment process, the GOP will look even more partisan. Inquiry and impeachment by the House were at least based on facts, direct testimony, and evidence and the GOP were given equal time to orate and cross-examine witnesses and even to call a few of their own to testify. The GOP was the one that relied on party loyalty to succeed in the Senate trial.
Instead, the GOP has shrilly claimed the process was not fair and it was motivated by partisanship. .Given the opportunity to present their own facts and witnesses, the GOP chose to bang the table instead, shouting how unfair it all is while relying solely on party discipline, threatening primaries and denial of campaign funds, forcing all of their party members to toe the line. If the Senate, in theory, is sitting as a jury in a trial, but witnesses and testimony are not permitted, what kind of a trial is that?  It is a shame.  Pelosi is right: unless the GOP permits witnesses and presentation of evidence, the Senate's "trial" is a worthless exercise. She should stick to her guns to refuse to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate so long as they refuse to run a trial the public sees as fair and is simply not a partisan whitewash of the President.



.  The case the GOP is making instead is that the Democrats are the partisan ones   Here is their pitch: Democrats always wanted to impeach Trump from day one so therefore just ignore any facts, evidence, or self-incriminating words. . either have no evidence to refute the facts and they want to make sure facts are buried. In the inquiry process, nothing was done in secret; both party members of the committees involved attended the depositions and cross-examined the witnesses.  In the hearings, both parties had equal time to orate and to cross-examine witnesses...and they even called their witnesses.  When the White House was invited to participate in the Judiciary committee decision making regarding the articles of impeachment, they declined the opportunity. Where their arguments fall flat is 1) until the Ukraine scandal, only about 30% of the House Democratic Caucus favored impeachment; 2)House leadership dampened impeachment talk until the Ukraine scandal emerged with its blatant evidence of presidential misdeeds; 3) F.ollowing that logic, only when the President's party held the majority of the House, could the President fairly be impeached., There is nothing fair about that because the majority would never let their party leader be impeached;  5) The ultimate hypocrisy: The GOP Senate is maintaining party discipline and will use every bit of its power of threatening to primary anyone who fails to jump ship or withhold their war chest of unlimited dollars, firm in the knowledge that it would take 20 of their caucus to vote to convict the president and remove him, given the 2./3 super-majority vote needed.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Lucky for Donald Trump he is a sitting president

Revised and updated: 1/4/2020
Lucky for Donald Trump he is a sitting president because the list of laws he could have been accused of breaking is long and sitting presidents cannot be charged or prosecuted for breaking them. However, he is likely never to be exonerated of wrongdoing, either. His guilt or innocence could be a question mark in history forever regardless if he is acquitted in a Senate trial..Trump has wanted to have a Senate trial, having counted on party discipline to guarantee his acquittal so he could go into 2020 shouting a claim of not guilty to the rooftop. The way the Senate trial is shaping up, it is becoming clearer that reason, logic, law, and facts will not determine the Senate vote. .Party discipline will be the determining factor. To reach a guilty verdict, a 2/3 vote is required. Twenty GOP Senators would have to cross the aisle for that to happen. It will be viewed by history as a partisan whitewash exercise unless there is to be a trial that is perceived by voters and history as fair, with witnesses called and new evidence presented that is sincerely considered, emphasis on "sincerely" . At this moment, of writing, with Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi in a standoff over the trial process and rules, it does not seem likely.

What the standoff has achieved is to give Trump media megaphone a pitch that Trump was not impeached in spite of the vote of the resolution on the record, because no trial was held that acquitted him. History is not fooled by redefining the meaning of impeachment. Nor is Merriam-Webster: " to charge with a crime or misdemeanor specificallyto charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office". It is the act of charging misconduct, not holding the trial itself or its outcome. There are at least two presidents who would have liked impeachment removed from their record.. No president has ever been found guilty and removed from office by a Senate trial. They are still considered impeached. by both the public and by history.

Impeachment vote by the House is similar to criminal indictments by a grand jury but differs. In impeachment, as provided in the Constitution statutory crimes do not have to be involved or finding of guilt in a court of law does not have to happen first. Thanks to the Department of Justice rules and court decisions, no sitting president can ever be indicted for a crime, in any case. Only the House of Representatives has the power to do something like that through the impeachment process. Abuse of power is a catch-all phrase to deal with a rogue president who misuses their power to benefit himself instead of the nation. Breaking .a federal law for that, short of treason, is not in the federal statutes. Stonewalling subpoenas for witnesses and documents and lying about coverups are violations of federal statutes but a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.. That is why both Nixon in Watergate and Trump (if not by name in the Michael Cohen/Stormy Daniels case) were named unindicted co-conspirators in criminal indictments.

The President may look at acquittal in a Senate trial as a victory, however hollow. He can also count himself as lucky. As a sitting President, he will never face criminal charges while he occupies the Oval Ofice, either. because of the list of laws he has been suspected of violating or attempting to break, mostly being committed in plain sight. using his own words.. When you hear Democrats repeat time and time again no president is above the law, it means Trump is a scofflaw, misusing his powers while ignoring laws. Donald Trump has been operating under his own belief that he can never be held accountable for breaking laws so therefore he can do whatever he pleases while he is in office. He is running under the cover of DOJ rules that he cannot be charged or tried for a crime while he is president.. In short, in 19th-century terms, he is a king. In 21st century terms, he has dictatorial powers. In any case, he has gone rogue when it comes to abiding by laws.

.Here are some of the laws Trump could have been prosecuted for breaking if he were not a sitting president. Trump could have been charged with violation of campaign FEC laws for soliciting help for his re-election from a foreign government. (Russia, China, are you listening; do me a favor, Ukraine)  He could have broken the impoundment law when without cause and ignoring procedure he froze the military aid to Ukraine. Timing and testimony by those ordered to freeze the aid are damning. Then there is the emoluments clause in the Constitution and the corresponding statute that does not permit a federal official to use taxpayer money for private gain. ..and another that does not let a president use his office to make money.or .receive something of value from foreigners..hotel stays, dirt on a political opponent. Special Counsel Robert  Mueller found 10 instances of Trump's obstruction of justice, but because he was a sitting president, he could not be indicted, charged and convicted of a crime. Therefore, Mueller referred to the matter to Congress. to conduct an investigation (impeachment inquiry) and charge under the Constitution. While the House decided not to include Mueller's findings in the Articles of Impeachment, they still have the ability to indict and include them later, pending a court-ordered testimony under oath by the chief witness, Don McGahn, Trump's White House attorney at the time the alleged obstruction of justice took place.

Footnote:  More than 400 former federal prosecutors have signed a letter  that “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice." The House debated whether obstruction of justice should have been included in their articles of impeachment, but in the end, they did not at that time since critical witnesses they subpoenaed stonewalled them.  If Don McGahn, Trump's White House attorney is ordered by the court to testify because he was the chief witness of obstruction,  it may yet re-emerge as another impeachment article.https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/05/federal-prosecutors-letter-trump-obstruction.html



.Trump's strategy has been to prevent any of those closest to him and with knowledge of his actions to testify in either the Senate trial or impeachment inquiry,.He could then claim there was no evidence he intentionally abused power or obstructed justice. He made a major miscalculation. Polls show 70% have seen enough evidence to believe Trump did something wrong in strongarming the President of Ukraine to re-open investigations into long-debunked theories to help his re-election in 2020. 50% think what he did deserves his removal from office in a Senate trial. Trump had not figured there were those who had first-hand direct evidence who were brave enough to testify under oath and defy their boss's orders, providing evidence that Trump's supporters have been unable to refute. Cries of unfairness by his supporters seem empty because, whenever given the chance by official invitation in the inquiry hearings, or so far in the Senate trial phase itself he fought and refused to provide evidence and testimony that would clear him. Trump's stonewalling itself became the article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.
The next question is whether what President Trump did had enough factual evidence to prove "he done it" to deserve a Senate guilty conviction. The House has drawn up articles of impeachment twice in recent history and the issues involved look nearly frivolous next to what was involved in Donald Trump's case. One, Clinton, involved lying about a sexual dalliance with an intern and Nixon was charged another for dirty political tricks and lying about his role in the coverup who resigned before a House or Senate vote. This impeachment of Donald Trump concerns national security interests and the ability to maintain some of the essential principles of the Constitution that stand between us as a republic and a democracy and a dictatorship of a person instead of a rule of law. If this is not enough reason for the House to impeach and theSenate to vote to convict, what is?

Since the GOP could or would not provide witnesses to refute the House inquiry findings, they have resorted to promoting side issues regarding Joe Biden and a Russian propaganda line that Ukraine hacked the DNC, not Russia. Every testifier in the House inquiry underlined that the "cloud strike theory" was contradicted by every US intelligence agency. Russia did it. The Biden issue is a diversionary sideshow aimed at trying to shoot his candidacy down before 2020, and in spite of Rudy Guiliani's best efforts, he has failed to prove any link Biden interfered to protect his son. Even if it were true, Biden is not the person who is being impeached. He is not the sitting president. Biden is irrelevant in the Senate trial.



Saturday, December 7, 2019

Conspriacy theories: plausibility, ignorance,and debunking

Revised and updated 12/10/19
A version of this was published in the Winter Park Times, Dec. 13, 2019

Two conspiracy theories promoted by Donald Trump, CloudStrke and "deep state" got debunked lately, but if you listened to him or his Congressional supporters, and only supportive media, you may have missed it. Conspiracy theories can only take root if a number of people think something sounds plausible and it supports their preconceived notions or it serves their political agenda. Usually, if conspiracy theories are challenged and investigated, and the theory falls apart, people who once believed it, move on.  It is different from Donald Trump's s loyal followers. They declare evidence they do not like as fake news, simply disagree with conclusions without reason or presenting countering evidence,  or dismiss the findings as tainted because the accusers and investigators are motivated by some hatred or organized resistance. 

Announcing an investigation into CloudStrike" is one of those "favors" Trump asked of  Ukraine President Zelensky in the infamous July 25  telephone calls that did kick off the impeachment process. The CloudStrike theory is that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US elections on behalf of Hillary Clinton instead of, or just like, Russia did. Ukraine persons may have expressed publicly their preference, but they did not conduct activities in the US like Russia’s. Trump and followers continued to tout the theory even after it was debunked by US intelligence and an NSC expert, Fiona Hill,  called a talking point Putin, a lie,   advanced to deflect Russian blame for active measures in 2016 to  Ukraine. FBI Director Christopher Wray was quick to verify they found no evidence Ukraine interfered in 2016. Trump and his supporters ignore the evidence and still promote the legitimacy of the theory as a way to justify the favor he asked of Ukraine.

 The investigation into Russian interference as detailed in the Mueller Report is still haunting Trump. While he was exonerated of collusion with the Russians because of a lack of evidence, he was not cleared of obstructing justice, regardless of how AG Bill Barr twisted the report. Mueller declined to indict him because of department rules. Trump and his advisors concocted another conspiracy theory to explain it away.  His response is that the "deep state" conspired to "get" him because they were politically motivated. Therefore, his logic follows, their claim of any evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing was suspect and tainted.

The Department of Justice's Inspector General released a report this month that shot holes into the"deep state" conspiracy theory. A two-year investigation found the FBI had not acted to start the Russian connection investigation because of political bias. In fact, there were those in the FBI who were very supportive of Donald Trump, thought Hillary Clinton was a crook, and also those who had opposite views. However, none had acted on their political beliefs. The IG reported the FBI  did not bug Trump's phones, did not launch the Russian investigation in 2016 without good cause, did not "spy" on the campaign, and the investigation was authorized in compliance with Department rules.  They opened up the investigation because of DNC being hacked, intelligence reporting frequent staff contacts with Russians, and the tip-off by an Australian diplomat.

The investigation began two months before the FISA warrant flap over Carter Page, who was never charged, and months before the Steele Dossier, neither of which affected the investigation. If there was no "deep state", the FBI was no angel, either, but what they did wrong was not politically motivated nor did it affect the final FBI findings on the Russian connection. That a lower level FBI agent had indeed misbehaved was not the reason the FBI opened the Russian investigation. However, department rules and the FISA warrant process were flawed. Trump's loyal Attorney General, Bill Barr, said he disagreed with the IG's conclusions (no specific reason was given). and he was quick to distort some results. and cherry-picked others. 

(added 12/11/19) I am listening to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Lindsey Graham try to hit back on the Department of Justice Inspector General report that knocked holes into GOP conspiracy theories: This is the same FBI staff in place when the FBI's publicly announced on again and off again criminal investigations into Hillary's scuttled Hillary Clinton's campaign while keeping the investigation about Trump's et al, contacts with Russians. The GOP had no problem with the FBI then...but when the same FBI finds negative stuff on Trump, we have Lindsey Graham banging the table trying to taint any negative evidence that hurt Donald Trump. What this is is a smokescreen to divert attention from the substance of the part of the IG's findings that hurt Trump. The smoke the FBI found fire justified opening the investigation. Their investigations resulted in Trump's associates landing in jail or pleading guilty and indictments of 12 Russians and identifying ten instances of Trump's obstruction of the FBI's ability to investigate the Russian meddling. .. However, IG found that the department had poor regulations and fault in the FISA process and a low threshold for opening investigations. That needs pursuing, but it should not drown out the findings that Trump did not like, which is what Graham is trying to accomplish.

That the Western leading Ukraine regime would want Hillary  Clinton to win in 2016 is understandable. That does make Cloud Strike sound plausible. Russia had grabbed their Crimea and invaded an eastern province in 2014. Russia was the enemy of the western leaning Ukraine government. In 2016 Donald Trump's campaign chair Paul Manafort was a close advisor of the ousted pro-Russian Ukraine president and his close business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik was suspected of being a Russian intelligence trained agent. Trump's foreign policy had taken a sharpened pro-Russian issue focus soon after Manafort joined Trump's campaign in the spring of 2016, including lifting promoting sanctions against Russia for invading and grabbing eastern Ukraine and weakening NATO, the main barrier to further Russian aggression,  calling it obsolete.   Fiona Hill, the NSC Russian expert testified in the inquiry hearings that the theory Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections was a “fictional narrative” fueled by Russian intelligence because Putin wanted to get the heat on election interference transferred to another country, hoping to get sanctions levied against them for the meddling lifted.  Further ignorance upon which the supporters of the theory-based their belief was that the IT security company involved, Cloud Strike, was owned by a US-based Ukrainian, except the owner, was a Russian immigrant and not from Ukraine.

The attack on Joe Biden by Trump supporters hinges on their report that Biden got a prosecutor fired in Ukraine in order to protect his son Hunter. That makes no sense since Biden and the entire European Community and the Obama administration withheld an IMF loan because the prosecutor did not pursue corruption, not because he was not prosecuting Hunter.  https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/03/what-really-happened-when-biden-forced-out-ukraines-top-prosecutor/378562











Thursday, December 5, 2019

Putin's winning strategy: the duping of the GOP

Update December 10, 2019 to reflect the articles of impeachment and the DOJ Inspector General Report on the FBI activities in opening and conducting the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Putin's  strategy to shape US policy for Russia’s benefit is to attempt to dupe American voters and their government representatives.  It appears some have fallen under their spell.
On December 3, 2019, the House of

 Representatives voted on a resolution that opposed Russia's being readmitted to the G7. Russia had been kicked out of that prestigious group of world leaders for their grab of Ukrainian territory. There is an ongoing hot conflict there in which 13,000 Ukrainians have died .and for which the western leading government had sought critical anti-tank missiles, Javelins, to thwart further aggression.    Seventy-one Republicans voted against that  G7 resolution, including Colorado's own Rep. Ken Buck. That is a sad indication of how some in the GOP are becoming a supporter of Donald Trump's pro-Russian policies, a party that used to be firmly against Russian aggression. The resolution passed handily but in past, similar resolutions, including maintaining sanctions against Russia,  had received greater bi-partisan support. The seventy-one GOP votes in opposition on December  3 are a disturbing measure of how far the Russians have made inroads into the views of some voters and their representatives in Congress.  The Russian influence has also been felt in the issues surrounding impeachment, such as Cloudstrike and support of lethal military aid for Ukraine against Russian aggression.

That Russian influence and Donald Trump inviting them into the American system is a subject that appears throughout the articles of impeachment that will be voted upon in the House within a week or two. Within the same week, the long-awaited Inspector General report of the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference and active measures in the 2016 election verified the justification of the issue on its merits and that it was not done because of some "deep state" partisanship.  The GOP had tried to brush off and deny the Russian meddling as some conspiracy cooked up by Trump's opponents to unseat him. In a stunning role reversal, the once anti-communist GOP became an unwitting supporter of Russian activities and policies promoted by Trump and Democrats became the defense and Russian hawk party.  

It is likely those who used to be Russia hawks and now have flipped are also taking their cue from their leader, Donald Trump.  The mystery is Trump's Make Russia Great Again foreign policy. Why? Whatever the issue, Crimea, Syria, NATO, interference in the 2016 elections, he apologizes or supports Putin's policies and takes his word for Russian intelligence over his own US intelligence services.

The Mueller investigation found  widespread  Russian interference  in 2016 elections  and Special Counsel Robert  Mueller warned us that Russia is planning to do likewise in 2020. Constitution  law professors dominated the first day of the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings Dec. 4, citing the deliberations of the writers of our Constitution in formulating impeachment clauses.  The reason it was included in the Constitution, our founders  feared the re-establishment of a monarchy, a king,  by foreign influence, negating what the American Revolution.had accomplished. They also feared that waiting for the next election for the president to be disciplined for this might be too late  because the wrongdoing  practices of the chief executive could continue to get more foreign intervention to help get himself re-elected and perpetuate his ability to become a king, an autocrat.
That Russian influence and Donald Trump inviting them into the American system is a subject that appears throughout the articles of impeachment that will be voted upon in the House within a week or two. Within the same week, the long-awaited Inspector General report of the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference and active measures in the 2016 election verified the justification of the issue on its merits and that it was not done because of some "deep state" partisanship.

A propaganda initiative conducted by Russians has become central to the impeachment actions in the House. One of the two favors Donald Trump asked of the Ukraine president  was for him to open investigations of Cloudstrike in order to get an oval office visit, and later, to get the anti-tank missile aid Trump had frozen released.  The  Cloudstrike theory, that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC server is a conspiracy theory that contradicts the findings of the US intelligence services who traced it to a propaganda initiative of Russian intelligence. Both GOP Trump Congressional supporters and Trump himself have fallen for the conspiracy theory hook line and sinker, even after they were briefed by our intelligence services.

Putin  may be a younger generation than the Soviets,  but he was still trained by them as  KGB operative. The propaganda methods developed in the USSR were some of the most effective skills in modern history. I have seen them work from the inside, too, from my student days in Berlin as Communists consolidated control of their German zones. Putin has harnessed modern IT communications as his weapons to shape the minds of those he is trying to control. He is appearing to be succeeding.


Monday, December 2, 2019

What's next in impeachment

A version of this was published in the Winter Park Times December 6, 2019.

What’s next in Donald Trump’s impeachment?  The House Intelligence Committee and two other committees involved are reporting their inquiry results, their investigative findings, to the House Judiciary Committee. That committee will draw up the articles of impeachment, similar to prosecution or plaintiff charges or complaints in a court process, though non-statutory criminal behaviors can also be considered. So far, the White House has refused to participate, claiming this is a coup, hoax, an unfair, partisan witch hunt, and illegal act, devoid of due process. They have left their defense and representation up to House GOP loyalists who call this a “clown show”.   Is it?  The process is outlined and Congressional action is empowered by the Constitution as part of the checks and balances protections against being governed by a king, a person, instead of abiding by the rule of law.  The Constitution writers wanted Congress to hold a president accountable for” treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors” through the impeachment process. If you have watched any part of the hearings on TV  you know that both Republicans and Democrats have had equal time to cross-examine witnesses and make their political cases, even in the not so secret deposition phase. Deposition transcripts are published on the web and testimonies of fact witnesses are readily found on YouTube. Republican House members in the inquiry hearings mostly ignored facts revealed by witnesses, called three of their own witnesses, attacked the process,  and impugned witnesses. They demanded to investigate conspiracy theories already debunked or not central to the issue at hand.
 Partisan? The beginning of past impeachment processes was very partisan but by the time the process reached the Senate to hold a trial and vote, facts, evidence, and public polling also impacted the extent of party loyalty and discipline. In fact, when Richard Nixon got a forecasted vote count, he resigned before any votes were taken in the House or the Senate. Assuming the Republican-controlled Senate honors rules already in place, this should ensure the ultimate fairness of a courtroom type procedure. The Constitution requires  a vote of two-thirds of senators to find the president guilty as charged in at least one of the articles of impeachment and to remove him from office, virtually ensuring that there is bi-partisan consensus needed to reach that total. No president to date has gotten the two-thirds vote needed to be found guilty and removed, the bar is so high.
The GOP and the White House pounding the table about the unfairness of it all is a strategy that will only go so far. The White House has stonewalled all Congressional subpoenas and has now refused to participate in Judiciary Committee hearings, even with their attorneys or the President himself invited to participate.  The White House is making their case on media outlets that are friendly to them and tweets, avoiding having to swear to tell the truth while denying facts uncovered by the inquiry hearings. Eventually, they will have to deal with the facts, swear to the truth if they testify, claiming executive privilege, or take the fifth.  A judge just ruled against the Executive Branch claiming blanket immunity as grounds for ignoring Congressional subpoenas and declared, “the president is not a king.”
Some say leave it up to 2020 elections, they are so soon   If it is a given that the Senate on a party-line vote will acquit the accused president, why go through the process of impeachment?  It serves the purpose of informing voters of wrongdoing or exoneration they otherwise may not have known, and it may or may not affect the next election.  Such actions, in any case, set standards either lower or better defined for acceptable future presidential behavior.  It is at minimum a black mark on the president’s name in the history books which may be punishment enough that future presidents may want to avoid it.
My takeaway from the Dec. 4 House Judiciary Committee hearings: : I thought the Democrats and their witnesses made a strong case for impeachment for preserving the integrity of our 2020 elections, keeping elections free from foreign influence. Therefore, speed is important before the president would do more damage. Impeachment was designed to reign in out of control presidents and not leave it up to voters in the next elections, because a president could use his techniques to determine the outcome of the next election. , Foreigners do not have our interests at heart but work to support theirs. Trump invited Russians to interfere in 2016 and he indeed pressured a vulnerable ally to help him just say they announced they were opening, not performing, investigations on his own domestic political opponent and a debunked theory in order to help him in 2020. The pressure used to get the Ukraine president to comply was comprised of restoring critical foreign aid and a White House visit as the reward for doing him some favors. It also looks that the Mueller obstruction findings will be rolled in.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The great con


11/24/19  Testimony by State Department and the US ambassador Bill Taylor to Ukraine  November 13 confirmed  Trump used withholding military aid as a threat to force the Ukraine president to go before microphones and announce he would re-open investigations into the Bidens and find  evidence that Ukraine, not Russia, was to blame  for the 2016 US presidential election interference. In fact. Amb. Sondland, one of the schemers, testified that Trump did not require Zelensky to go through with the investigation, just to announce it. That was the purpose. 

The dead-end investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails and Ben Ghazi hurt her badly. It should work against Biden, too...right?  That latter issue, that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC server is a conspiracy theory that contradicts the findings of Mueller,'s investigation,  all of the US intelligence services, and a bi-partisan Senate committee findings, not to mention they found it was a propaganda initiative of Russian intelligence agencies. NSC expert on Russia matters, Fiona Hill, calls the claim that Ukraine, not Russia,(Cloudstrike) invented and advanced by Russia." It is fiction", she testified in open hearings.. 





Impeachment to date in tweet form

Democrat’s case
Trump did it. He tried to cheat in secret to help his 2020 re-election campaign. His own words and first-hand witnesses testified he used Congressionally approved taxpayer money to coerce a desperate ally fighting Russia to help Trump's re-election in 2020. He invited foreign interference in the 2020 elections to help his re-election. Trump was caught in the act and the scheme was aborted..

Trump claimed he was fighting Ukraine corruption, but only mentioned Bidens. Ambassador Sondland, one of the three Amigos running the scheme, confirmed Trump "did not give a s...t about Ukraine, but cared about "big stuff" meaning investigations into Bidens and: Ukraine, not Russia hacked the DNC.

What did Trump know; when he froze the military aid to Ukraine? Per sworn testimony, the order was given directly to the Office of Budget and Management as early as July 18, a week before July 25 shakedown call with the Ukraine president and the official order was issued the evening of July 25. Because a violation of law was involved, two OMB officials refused to sign off on the freeze, resigned, and were replaced by Trump loyalists.
What did Trump know when he released the military aid to Ukraine? Two days before the release of aid,, the Whistleblower complaint was released to Congress and the public, but at the end of August White House attorneys told Trump about the Whistleblower complaint. Zelensky by then had agreed to comply with Trump's favors he asked, to announce publicly the investigations into Bidens and 2016, arranged an interview with CNN, and canceled it with the release of the aid. Ukraine and Amb. Sondland knew aid was dependent on Ukraine's compliance to announce the investigations by the end of August.

Trump knew and approved the scheme.Trump ordered the suspension of military aid week before July25 telephone call where he listed favors and referred Ukraine president to Guiliani. Guiliani said he was working for Trump. Amb. Sondland reported updates to Trump and said all were in the loop.

All US intelligence agencies, 125 pages of Mueller report, and Senate bipartisan committee report provide proof Russia, not Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections. Russia intelligence services invented conspiracy theory Ukraine did it. Joe Biden advocated more vigorous prosecution of Ukraine's corruption, not less. Amb. Sondland testifies Trump only wanted Ukraine to announce investigations, not conduct them.

Trump emboldens Russian aggression, giving them a green light to exert control over Ukraine and other countries since they fear little resistance from the US. He does not care an expletive about Ukraine but how they could help his re-election. He promotes and repeats Russian propaganda and trusts Russian sources instead of US intelligence services and bi-partisan Senate committee findings.

We cannot trust Trump to look after ours or the nation's interests because he cares less for our national security than he does for his own political security. Trump lies to the public often. He uses fear of reprisals and tweets to intimidate opposition and claims he is above the law to get his way both in foreign affairs and domestic policy.

White House refused to respond to subpoenas and obstructs justice by keeping administration officials with first-hand knowledge to produce documents and to testify. Still civil service and military and Amb. Sondland as first-hand witnesses testified.

If GOP Senators acquit him, they are complicit and give present and future presidents the green light to do it, too.

GOP’s case
He did wrong, but not wrong enough to justify impeachment or removal.

The military was unfrozen; no investigations in Biden or 2016. No harm, no foul.

President released aid because Ukraine president agreed to investigate Bidens and 2016 and announce it publicly.

July 25 telephone call: perfect, nothing to see there.

Guiliani did it, not Trump.

No one knows if Ukraine didn't hack the DNC server.

Trump only wanted to fight corruption in Ukraine but only mentioned Bidens. GOP 
opens investigation Joe Biden’s connections with Ukraine to verify the theory.

We need to check first to see if Ukraine interfered in 2016, not Russia. Who knows what happened. No one does.

President is more credible than anyone else in government. Everyone who disagrees with Donald Trump is a Never Trumper and not loyal. Professional diplomats and intelligence officials have hidden agendas or are mistaken. Trump is God’s chosen one.

All evidence presented in hearings was hearsay.
Democrats have been out to impeach Trump since he was elected.
Impeachment is an illegal act; it is a coup….so
Members of the executive branch should not obey or comply with Congressional subpoenas.
The executive branch has the power to defy all Congressional subpoenas. Executive branch has absolute immunity.
All excutive branch testifiers can claim executive privilege.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What were the "bombshells" on the impeachment inquiry open hearings"i

Update 12/3/19
House Intelligence Committee report to House Judiciary Committee 

Update: 11/23.19
Nunes had been doing work in Ukraine on Bidens.

Update: 11/27/19


11/24/19  Testimony by State Department and the US ambassador Bill Taylor to Ukraine  November 13 confirmed  Trump used withholding military aid as a threat to force the Ukraine president to go before microphones and announce he would re-open investigations into the Bidens and find  evidence that Ukraine, not Russia, was to blame  for the 2016 US presidential election interference. In fact. Amb. Sondland, one of the schemers, testified that Trump did not require Zelensky to go through with the investigation, just to announce it. That was the purpose. The dead end investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails and Ben Ghazi hurt her badly. It should work against Biden, too...right?  That latter issue, that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC server is a conspiracy theory that contradicts the findings of Mueller,'s investigation,  all of the US intelligence services, and a bi-partisan Senate committee findings, not to mention they found it was a propaganda initiative of Russian intelligence services. . NSC expert on Russia matters, Fiona Hill, calls the claim that Ukraine, not Russia,(Cloudstrike) invented and advanced by Russia." It is fiction", she testified in open hearings.. 


"The US uses withholding favors and aid often to get foreign governments to agree to US foreign objectives; Mulvaney: just get over it"
Numerous testifiers in both the deposition and public testimony..in fact, all, testified that Trump had never made fighting corruption in general in Ukraine as a mention in regard to the "quid pro quo" as being a legitimate use of his powers.  What all reported was that only corruption mentioned had to do with Bidens and Burisma.  As Ambassador Sondland reported after an overheard conversation with Trump while on his unsecured cell phone in a Kyiv restaurant, and verified by at least two first-hand witnesses and to some extent by Sondland himself, was that the President did not give a s....t about Ukraine; it was the big stuff.  Bidens".  Laura Cooper of the Pentagon testified that the stipulations placed on the release of the military aid to Ukraine, including acting on corruption, had been satisfied as of May and the aid could have been released after going through some administrative hoops could have been released in mid-June. July 18 the President via Mulvaney froze the disbursement with no reason given.  There were indeed inquiries to her staff around mid-July from Ukraine embassy wondering where their money for Javelins was.  They were aware of the freeze. It was not until later in summer that the weapon's freeze was connected to the pressure on Zelensky in addition to the Oval Office meeting and was verified by Sondland by August 31.

Taylor was the successor to Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch who Trump had removed in May. Ambassador Yovanovitch testified November 15 she had known Rudy Guiliani had been active in Ukraine seeking her removal.  Yovanovitch's testimony revealed she was recalled and smeared for her efforts to rein in corruption in Ukraine that targeted a corrupt prosecutor who was a pal of Rudy Guiliani's circle of Ukraine contacts.

On November 21, in open hearings in the House, Will Hurd, retiring GOP representative from Texas, presented what will be the best argument the GOP Senators can use to vote against the conviction of Trump. After hearing the devastating evidence that indeed there was a "quid pro quo" , even verified by Amb. Gordon Sondland, one of the participants in the scheme, first hand, it does not rise to a reason to remove Trump. This is a judgment call. The Senators need to ask: why not? What are the rules going forward? Will this mean the standards set for future presidents that it is ok to ask foreigners to intervene in our own elections, in spite of laws forbidding that, and is it ok for future presidents to use taxpayer and Congressionally appropriated money for their own personal political benefit in order to pressure foreign leaders to help his re-election. Where do we draw the line on acceptable presidential behavior.

Zelensky had been reluctant to interfere in US domestic politics, fearing he would jeopardize bi-partisan support in the US Congress. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland in Wednesday, November 20 open hearing confirmed the quid pro quo, using exactly those words: Trump would give the Oval Office meeting Zelensky wanted to have for Trump to confirm continued America’s support of Ukraine, but only if Zelensky would commit to the investigations. Sondland's significance: first had knowledge as a participant in the scheme. This was no hearsay or circumstantial evidence. This was from the participant's horse's mouth. However, Sondland was slow to realize the military aid/Javelin release also was dependent on Zelensky’s agreement to investigate the two conspiracy theories and announce it publicly. He did understand that at the end of August. He was also slow to grasp that every time Burisma investigations re-opening meant Hunter and Joe Biden's activities. Under questioning, Sondland agreed opening the Biden investigation would benefit Trump in 2020. The issue that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 elections, contradicts the findings of Mueller,'s investigation, all of the US intelligence services, and bi-partisan Senate committee findings. Sondland also said all of the president's men, Pence, Pompeo, Mulvaney, etc. were in on the scheme. It was not just Rudy Guiliani going rogue; it was the mainstream of Trump and his closest advisors who were part of it. Laura Cooper, the point person in the Department of Defense, also testified that her staff had received inquiries from the Ukraine embassy on July 25 asking about the money for the javelins, indicating that Ukraine knew about the July 18 freeze on javelin money far earlier than the GOP charged. The
significance is that it shuts holes in the GOP argument that there was no quo there, i.e.how could
Ukraine knows that the release of the military aid was being used as the extortion hammer. They did know. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdIIMXibXoc Laura Cooper testimony 11/20

 There was also evidence Guiliani had been trying to get evidence against the Bidens since late 2018, before the election of Zelensky in April 2019. 

 Trump released the aid within 48 hours of the Whistleblower's complaint reaching Congress with public exposure of Trump's July 25 call. In that call in he asked Zelensky for "favors though "in response to Zelensky saying he was ready to buy Javelins, anti-tank missiles, critical to Ukraine's defense against Russian tanks. Trump referred Zelensky to Guiliani for followup.
GOP defense seems to be no harm no foul since Ukraine got the aid, but an attempted crime is subject to prosecution, as well, respond Democrats. The harm done was to throw doubt into Trump's commitment to Ukraine and emboldening Putin's power and attempt to control eastern Europe's former USSR's satellites. The GOP is claiming all evidence has been supplied by second-hand knowledge and hearsay, while Trump has attempted to keep anyone with direct knowledge from testifying. He has failed. First-hand witnesses have emerged , especially the participant in the scheme, Gordon Sondland, and Trump's own words are the best evidence against him. 
Another GOP defense is that Trump may have done wrong, but not wrong enough to warrant impeachment or removal from office. Prior impeachment attempts involved coverup and lying of a break-in to Democratic National Committee (Watergate/Nixon) and Clinton's lying about a sex affair with an intern.  This impeachment process and inquiry hearings concern national security and defense in the face of Russian aggression that could result in future hotter conflicts. If this is not enough to justify impeachment/trial what is or ever will be?