Thursday, October 17, 2019

Last Call For Making A Buck

President Trump has awarded the 2020 Group of Seven summit of world leaders to his private company, scheduling the summit for June at his Trump Doral golf resort outside Miami, the White House announced Thursday.

That decision is without precedent in modern American history: The president used his public office to direct a massive contract to himself
. The G-7 summit draws hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel and provides a worldwide spotlight.

The announcement that the president’s club would host the international summit comes as Trump is in the midst of twin crises that are consuming his presidency — a hasty and confused American retreat in Syria and a growing impeachment inquiry in Congress.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who announced the decision, said the administration was not worried about the appearance of a conflict of interest, while he touted what the president’s resort has to offer.

Doral was far and away the best physical facility for this meeting,” Mulvaney said. He said that the administration examined 10 sites before choosing this one. Mulvaney quoted an anonymous site selection official who he said told him, “It’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.” Mulvaney did not say what other sites were vetted.

Mulvaney said it was Trump’s idea to pursue the idea of hosting the event at his resort.

What about Doral?” he said, recounting the president’s comments in the White House dining room.

And so Trump has awarded a massive, multi-million dollar government contract to his own resort, openly, in public, says there's no conflict of interest despite the Constitution making it clear that it's a violation of the Emoluments Clause and that's that.

In fact, if Trump gets away with this, he knows he'll never be removed from office.  He's daring the GOP to defend him now.  And I'll bet not one Republican senator complains about it.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

Trump's EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland had plenty to say about not wanting to go to prison for his role in Donald Trump's little military aid for fabricated Joe Biden dirt scheme, and his defense basically consisted of "I was too stupid to know what Rudy Giuliani was up to."

In his opening statement, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Sondland wrote that any plot to encourage a foreign government to influence an American election would have been “wrong.” 
“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” he will say, according to the written version of his opening statement. 
Sondland's role in the pressure campaign on the Ukrainian president was first revealed by The Daily Beast. He and Giuliani encouraged President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens. It has been alleged that there was a quid pro quo whereby Zelensky would be rewarded by the White House with a meeting between the presidents in return for launching an investigation into one of Trump's potential 2020 rivals. 
“Please know that I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters. However, given the President’s explicit direction, as well as the importance we attached to arranging a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, we agreed to do as President Trump directed,” Sondland wrote. 
Based on the President’s direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky, which we all believed was crucial to strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian ties and furthering long-held U.S. foreign policy goals in the region; or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President’s concerns.”

Keeping in mind a quid pro quo still isn't necessary for Trump's impeachment in this case and that Trump asking Zelensky for a "favor" as he did is enough for removal from office, the White House response from acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is that the quid pro quo happened anyway and so what.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters that the release of military aid to Ukraine this summer was linked in part to White House demands that Ukraine’s government investigate what he called corruption by Democrats in the 2016 American presidential campaign. 
It was the first time a White House official has publicly acknowledged what a parade of current and former administration officials have told impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill. 
“The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters, referring to Mr. Trump. “And that is absolutely appropriate.” 
He said that the aid was initially withheld because, “Everybody knows this is a corrupt place,” and the president was demanding Ukraine clean up its own government. But Mr. Trump also told Mr. Mulvaney that he was concerned about what he thought was Ukraine’s role in the 2016 campaign. 
Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the D.N.C. server? Absolutely. No question about that,” he said. “But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.” 
Mr. Mulvaney was referring to Mr. Trump’s discredited idea that a server with Hillary Clinton’s missing emails was being held by a company based in Ukraine. 
Mr. Mulvaney’s comments undercut the president’s repeated denials that there was a quid pro quo linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists on its eastern border.

We've reached the "Yeah we did it, so what" phase of the Ukraine scandal.

The "so what" is impeachment.


BREAKING: House Democratic Stalwart Elijah Cummings Dead At 68

House Democratic Oversight chair and 22-year veteran Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings died early this morning at Johns Hopkins after a long bout with health issues.

Cummings was born in 1951 and raised in Baltimore, where he continued to live.

He was one of seven children of Robert Cummings Sr. and Ruth Elma Cummings, née Cochran, who were sharecroppers on land where their ancestors were enslaved. The couple moved to Baltimore in the late 1940s.

As a child, Cummings struggled in elementary school and was assigned to special education courses. However, after showing promise in high school at City College, he won Phi Beta Kappa honors at Howard University in Washington. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and passed the state bar in 1976.

After graduating from law school, Cummings joined a small Baltimore law firm and later set up his own practice, pooling expenses with two other lawyers. He soon transitioned to his second aspiration as a public servant. His longtime mentor is Larry Gibson, the Baltimore attorney and author who was active in the 1960s civil rights movement.

In 1982, with the support of several established city officials, Cummings ran for state delegate and won. He served in the Maryland General Assembly for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named speaker pro tem.

In late 1995, Cummings decided to run for Maryland’s 7th congressional district in the U.S. House after Rep. Kweisi Mfume announced he would resign to become the head of the NAACP. Cummings served as a congressman since 1996.

Cummings was an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church — he was there habitually for an early service — and was married to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who was elected chair of the Maryland Democratic Party in December 2018.

“It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey,” his wife said in a statement. “I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”

One of Trump's most strident critics in the House, Cummings was one of the early leaders of the House's impeachment efforts.  I am only saddened to see that he will not see his wrk finished.

But finished it will be.  And soon.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Rudy Giuliani is, at this point, in violation of a House subpoena, but House Dems don't seem to be in a rush to actually do anything about it.

In a letter, Giuliani’s attorney—who was dropped by his client shortly after said letter went out—said the subpoena was “overbroad, unduly burdensome, and seeks documents beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry.”

In addition to Giuliani, the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget faced a Tuesday deadline to produce documents that were requested in Democrats’ subpoenas. OMB said it would not be complying, but Pentagon chief Mark Esper has said he would turn over at least some documents that would help lawmakers better understand the role that the hold-up in security security aid played in Trumpworld’s campaign to pressure the Ukranians. “We will do everything we can to comply,” Esper told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, faced a Tuesday request—not a subpoena—for documents illuminating his role in the Ukraine saga. But his office announced on Tuesday that it would not comply with any of the Democrats’ requests, casting their impeachment inquiry as illegitimate.

The moves echo past attempts from Trumpworld to stiff-arm subpoenas during the Mueller investigation, which prompted intense hand-wringing among House Democrats over how to respond. Ultimately, they did vote in June to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for ignoring subpoenas. These were largely symbolic votes, however, and their ramifications were murky at best, leaving Democrats struggling to explain their import to the public.

That frustration is clearly animating some lawmakers’ desire to reconsider ways to assert their punitive authority—including the avenue of inherent contempt, which empowers the legislative branch to take would-be witnesses into custody until they comply with duly issued congressional orders.

“This is another example of why the House needs to revisit inherent contempt,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) of Giuliani. “We need to enforce our own subpoenas. We can and we should.”

But others on Capitol Hill look back on those struggles and see a reason to simply move past it to focus on what they believe really matters. “If the administration, and the president’s private sector accomplices, are going to follow through on their promise not to comply with the investigation, including ignoring lawful subpoenas, and if the only recourse (court action) allows them to run out the clock on an active criminal scheme involving U.S. national security and elections, then the House has no choice but impeachment,” said a House Democratic aide.

Another House Democratic aide put it more bluntly: “They already have the Watergate tapes,” the aide said of the impeachment investigators, underscoring why the party was unlikely to pursue a punishment outside the normal legal system for those defying subpoenas.

To be fair, Rudy's already in a ridiculous amount of legal peril.

For months, investigators looking into Rudy Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine have dug into everything from possible financial entanglements with alleged corrupt Ukrainian figures to counterintelligence concerns raised by some of those business ties, according to people briefed on the matter. 
The counterintelligence part of the investigation indicates that FBI and criminal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking at a broader set of issues related to Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, than has been previously reported. 
Kenneth McCallion, a New York attorney, says that investigators first approached him earlier this year to ask about Giuliani's ties to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Giuliani associates indicted last week on campaign-finance related charges. 
McCallion says FBI counterintelligence agents in February or March asked questions about some of Giuliani's Ukrainian business dealings. 
The counterintelligence probe hinges in part on whether a foreign influence operation was trying to take advantage of Giuliani's business ties in Ukraine and with wealthy foreigners to make inroads with the White House, according to one person briefed on the matter. 
"I was just asked whether I or any of my clients knew of any dealings that these two guys had with Giuliani," McCallion said. "They were on the radar with regard to possible counterintelligence issues."

The theory of "We have enough to impeach Trump" is nice, but it depends on Democrats actually drawing up articles and putting them to a vote.  Doing that will almost certainly trigger a House GOP counterattack. 

Meanwhile, an official impeachment inquiry vote would open the door to House Republicans to start issuing subpoenas and that would mean weeks, if not months of endless hearings on Hunter Biden, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Linda Page, James Comey, Jim Clapper, maybe even Robert Mueller.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell is signaling that political reality means he'll actually have a Senate trial after all.  A very short one, anyway.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senate Republicans on Wednesday that he expects Speaker Nancy Pelosi to approve articles of impeachment as early as Thanksgiving, according to five people familiar with Wednesday’s party lunch. McConnell then surmised that the Senate could deal with the trial by Christmas, concluding the impeachment proceedings before the Democratic presidential primaries begin.

While they said there’s no deal between Pelosi and McConnell, Republican senators believe it’s in both parties’ interest to move quickly.

“He thinks Democrats are of the same mind: let’s not drag this out for five weeks,” said one attendee of the lunch.

McConnell’s comments and PowerPoint presentation on Wednesday were in part an acknowledgment that impeachment is exceedingly likely to come to the Senate, and much of the discussion centered on the ins and outs of Senate procedure.

McConnell told senators they would be unable to speak during the trial and that only the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the president’s defenders and the House managers could talk, said one person familiar with the meeting.

A spokesman for McConnell did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

That McConnell clearly doesn't share the White House opinion that the impeachment proceedings are "illegitimate" is a major tell, but I still expect a 100% party line vote on each article and Trump's eventual acquittal, followed by eleven months of THEY TRIED TO IMPEACH YOU ads.

But then again...


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