Here’s a heads up on something. There are a number of questions about what kind of articles of impeachment will be voted against President Trump and what wrongdoing they will cover. But it’s generally assumed that we know the relevant facts those articles will be based on. Don’t be so sure.
The actual articles, the report that goes with it and the evidence presented at a Senate trial will likely contain at least one pretty substantial surprise – and not a good one for President Trump.
In what’s seen as an attempt to poke holes in House Democrats’ impeachment case, White House officials are disputing the details of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s contacts with White House aides during key moments in the Ukraine pressure scheme. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.
I’ve seldom considered a public question in which the two possible answers both seem quite so compelling and convincing as this one. Late last month I said I had grave misgivings about ending the Impeachment inquiry, as the House appears intent on doing, without having deposed any of the key players in the scandal. The list is long: Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton in addition to as many as a dozen others. Stopping here seems crazy on several fronts: There are numerous key questions that remain unanswered. There are dimensions of wrongdoing that remain all but unexplored – side rackets pursued by Rudy Giuliani, his hustler pals Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas and others. These unknowns appear to contain at least substantial venal corruption, likely subversion of US foreign policy and even possible subversion by foreign nation states.
For all of these reasons, ones that are both substantive and narrowly political, it seems crazy to leave these questions unanswered. And yet I think they should. People talk about whether the Democrats should go small or go big. I think it’s more whether they should go fast or go slow. (After all, it’s easy enough to add on an obstruction article based on the Mueller Report. The work is already done.) I think they’re right to go fast, even as I agree that the arguments to the contrary are powerful and compelling.
Here are my four reasons.
Happy Thursday, December 5. President Donald Trump took a stab at explaining away his damning request for a favor from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on the July 25 call. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching. Read More
Some aspects of Wednesday’s impeachment hearing — the first in front of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel with jurisdiction for advancing the ultimate articles of impeachment — felt like déjà vu all over again.
Happy Wednesday, December 4. The House Judiciary Committee will take over the impeachment inquiry today, kicking off the process with constitutional law experts. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
I just heard — to my great chagrin and distress — one of my favorite CNN hosts say “clearly President Trump doesn’t think he did anything wrong.” Not only is this not “clear,” it is almost certainly false. We shouldn’t say this because it’s not true. He certainly knows he did something wrong. He simply doesn’t care.
Happy Tuesday, December 3. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee plan to try out new tactics in the next phase of the impeachment inquiry, disposing of Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) conspiracy-theory fixation. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Here’s a helpful article by Philip Bump in the Post.
Bump takes the GOP claims of Ukraine election interference at face value and looks at what they amount to. As he shows pretty clearly, even taken on their face the alleged evidence is basically absurd. It amounts to information coming out of Ukraine – not by the government – about Paul Manafort’s criminal activities and the fact that a few government officials said negative things about Trump on social media, largely in reaction to Trump’s saying Russia was entitled to annex Crimea.
In the House’s fast-moving impeachment inquiry, the House Intelligence Committee will be passing the baton to the House Judiciary Committee this week.
Happy Monday, December 2. White House counsel Pat Cipollone officially notified the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday that it has no plan to participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry, citing poor planning on behalf of Democrats and an unfair process. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:
TPM Reader JEB follows up with some thoughts on Trumpism, strongman rule and extreme wealth …
As it’s a slow Thanksgiving weekend Friday I re-read your “Brittle Grip” series of posts. You spoke today about the global rise of extreme wealth and strongman rule, though you had previously written mostly about the United States only. This prompts a few thoughts.
The first is the most obvious. Strongman rule has been around for a long time. In one form or another it long characterized the government of nations in several regions of the world. Most of those nations were not especially wealthy; your typical local strongman held political power but not a great deal of economic power, certainly not compared to the United States or the European countries. This has changed somewhat in recent years, more in some countries than in others.
TPM Reader DK has a good point. Leaving these to one-off decisions by the Chief Justice as presiding officer has the additional possible advantage of avoiding some damaging precedents …
I have read your discussion of a Senate impeachment trial with John Roberts in the role of presiding officer. The take away being that the Democrats don’t need to wait for a Supreme Court decision to subpoena witnesses (Mulvaney, et.al.) with direct knowledge of White House actions. Instead a witness could be called during a Senate trial, and if Roberts were to overrule objections, they would have to testify.
An utterly remarkable story this morning in the Post. Reporters got hold of a series of retainer contracts that were being negotiated early this calendar year. It’s not clear whether they were finalized or money changed hands. But they involved Rudy Giuliani agreeing to represent the former top prosecutor in Ukraine, Yuri Lutsenko, both as an individual and in his role as top prosecutor for combined sums of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just so we’re clear, this is the guy who he was working with to manufacture damaging information about the Biden family.
Happy Wednesday, November 27. President Donald Trump was briefed about the whistleblower complaint just before he unfroze military aid for Ukraine. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
We’ve known for months that Rudy Giuliani held some of his Ukraine-related meetings in Spain. What wasn’t clear was what client or work had brought him to Spain in the first place. The Post reports this morning that he was staying at the Spanish estate of a Venezuelan energy magnate facing a money laundering and bribery probe in the US. There’s not anything illegal or even inappropriate about this in itself. But it underscores a clear pattern: Most of Giuliani’s business of late has been has been finding foreign oligarchs and plutocrats with legal trouble in the United States and getting paid to use his connection to Trump and the DOJ to get them off the hook. Read More
Here are a few interesting data points from the just-released CNN poll on impeachment. The topline is pretty bad for the President. 50% of Americans believe the President should be impeached and removed from office. 43% disagree. Slightly more encouraging for the President is that those are the exact numbers CNN/SSRS found in mid-late October, prior to the public hearings. The President’s approval stands at 42% with 54% disapproving. In other words, the numbers are bad. But the hearings didn’t move anyone. We can also note that his approval is basically identical to the number who oppose removal from office. It’s like perfect polarization. You either support President Trump or you think he should be removed from office.
Happy Tuesday, November 26. A federal judge ruled Monday that President Donald Trump does not have the power to stop former White House counsel Don McGahn from obeying a House subpoena. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.