Monday, October 28, 2019

Last Call For The Reach To Impeach, Con't

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the bluff of the House GOP and Trump regime by holding a formal impeachment inquiry floor vote later this week.

The Thursday vote will push back against a White House and Republican congressional talking point that the impeachment inquiry is not legitimate because it hasn't been formally authorized, which comes as Democrats are facing off for the first time with a witness defying a subpoena as part of the inquiry. 
The resolution, which will be introduced and marked up in the House Rules Committee, would be the first vote the full House will take related to impeachment, after the House did not vote to formally authorize an impeachment inquiry earlier this month. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday in a "Dear Colleague" letter that the resolution was not legally necessary, but the House would take the vote "to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives." 
"This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry, including all requests for documents, subpoenas for records and testimony, and any other investigative steps previously taken or to be taken as part of this investigation," Pelosi wrote. 
Pelosi said that the resolution would establish the procedure for open hearings, authorize the release of deposition transcripts and outline how the Intelligence Committee can transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee, which would be the panel that would take up potential articles of impeachment. 
The Rules Committee website says the resolution is "directing certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump." 
The text of the resolution has not been released, but House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement that the measure will lay out how the House is "ensuring transparency" as it moves toward the "public phase" of the impeachment inquiry. 
"This is the right thing to do for the institution and the American people," McGovern said in a statement.

I can see Pelosi's argument that it's the right thing to do, but if she actually believes this will get the Trump regime to cooperate in any way, well I've got some seaside cottages in Kansas to sell her. Pelosi's too smart to think this will get the White House to turn over a single page of documents, but again, this is all 100% a political process, not a legal one.  It gives the appearance of good politics.

Having said that, by the end of the week, the White House will have their excuse for refusing to cooperate ready to go, and the media will then spend the weekend reading way too much into any non-party line votes from Thursday's proceedings.

I'm unsure about Pelosi buying into the GOP framing, as Democrats are often wont to do, but Pelosi's been doing a great job stewarding this so far, and besides, it's just as likely that the Trumpies overplay their hand.

Lot of nervous Republicans having to go on record defending Trump in a few days, too.   On the other hand, there a quite a few Republicans who have already announced their retirement, including 20-year veteran Oregon Republican Greg Walden just today, who maybe, maybe might do the right thing.

We'll see.  It's all academic without Senate conviction anyway.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

It seems like every day we learn that the Trump regime lied about some part of the Ukraine story, and this time it's the White House lies that Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky didn't know of any pressure by Trump until the August 25 phone call.  It turns out that Zelensky's people raised questions almost immediately all the way back in May.

The White House was alerted as early as mid-May — earlier than previously known — that a budding pressure campaign by Rudy Giuliani and one of President Donald Trump's ambassadors was rattling the new Ukrainian president, two people with knowledge of the matter tell NBC News.

Alarm bells went off at the National Security Council when the White House's top Europe official was told that Giuliani was pushing the incoming Ukrainian administration to shake up the leadership of state-owned energy giant Naftogaz, said the sources. The official, Fiona Hill, learned then about the involvement of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Giuliani associates who were helping with the Naftogaz pressure and also with trying to find dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

Hill quickly briefed then-National Security Adviser John Bolton about what she'd been told, said the individuals with knowledge of the meeting.

The revelation significantly moves up the timeline of when the White House learned that Trump's allies had engaged with the incoming Ukrainian administration and were acting in ways that unnerved the Ukrainians — even before President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had been sworn in. Biden had entered the presidential race barely three weeks earlier.

In a White House meeting the week of May 20, Hill was also told that Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, a major Republican donor tapped by Trump for a coveted post in Brussels, was giving Zelenskiy unsolicited advice on who should be elevated to influential posts in his new administration, the individuals said. One of them said it struck the Ukrainians as "inappropriate."

Zelenskiy was inaugurated that same week — on May 20 — snapping selfies and giving high-fives to the crowd as he made his way through the Ukrainian capital for his speech to parliament.

Hill learned of Zelenskiy's concerns from former U.S. diplomat Amos Hochstein, now a member of Naftogaz's supervisory board. Hochstein had just returned from pre-inauguration meeting with Zelenskiy and his advisers in Kyiv in which they discussed Giuliani's and Sondland's overtures and how to inoculate Ukraine from getting dragged in to domestic U.S. politics.

Zelenskiy's early concern about pressure from Trump and his allies, expressed in the May 7 meeting with his advisers and Hochstein, was earlier reported by The Associated Press. The fact that those concerns were then quickly relayed to the White House National Security Council has never previously been reported.

The bigger issue is that this assuredly means former National Security Adviser John Bolton's mustache is now directly in the crosshairs of Rep. Adam Schiff and House Democrats investigating the Trump regime's impeachable offenses.

Whether or not Bolton will talk is another thing.

According to multiple reports on Thursday and Friday, the former national security adviser’s lawyers have spoken with the three Democratic-led House committees about a potential deposition. If that happens, he would be by far the most high-level witness to testify, possibly giving investigators the most authoritative account of President Donald Trump’s policy toward Ukraine.

This is very bad news for Trump. The president and Bolton had a contentious relationship that spilled out into the open after the top aide left the administration: Trump said he fired Bolton, but Bolton clapped back saying that he resigned. That means Bolton is unlikely to protect the president and instead will recount what he saw inside the government as truthfully as he can.

He surely has some explosive things to say. After all, he was on the infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the American leader requested a “favor” in exchange in for investigations into Joe Biden’s family and Democrats. What’s more, two separate witnesses in the impeachment inquiry noted that Bolton felt the pressure campaign on Ukraine was highly inappropriate.

Today's story means Bolton knew as early as May, not July, what Trump was up to in Ukraine with Rudy.  He may very well want to set the record straight.

But another Republican has emerged as being neck deep in the Ukraine mess, and that's one of the GOP senators who would ostensibly sit in judgment on Trump in any impeachment trial: Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

Sen. Ron Johnson met in July with a former Ukrainian diplomat who has circulated unproven claims that Ukrainian officials assisted Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a previously unreported contact that underscores the GOP senator’s involvement in the unfolding narrative that triggered the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

In an interview this past week, Andrii Telizhenko said he met with Johnson (Wis.) for at least 30 minutes on Capitol Hill and with Senate staff for five additional hours. He said discussions focused in part on “the DNC issue” — a reference to his unsubstantiated claim that the Democratic National Committee worked with the Ukrainian government in 2016 to gather incriminating information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Telizhenko said he could not recall the date of the meeting, but a review of his Facebook page revealed a photo of him and Johnson posted on July 11.

“I was in Washington, and Sen. Johnson found out I was in D.C., and staff called me and wanted to do a meeting with me. So I reached out back and said, ‘Sure, I’ll come down the Hill and talk to you,’ ” Telizhenko told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

An individual close to Johnson confirmed that staff for one of his committees met with Telizhenko as part of an ongoing investigation into the FBI and its probes of the 2016 election, but declined to say whether the senator was involved.

The meeting points to Johnson’s emerging role as the member of Congress most heavily involved in the Ukraine saga that has engulfed the White House and has threatened Trump with impeachment.

It's bad enough that Trump did what he did, but he couldn't have done it without Republican senators playing ball, and Johnson is the first real connection among Mitch's merry band of mobsters to directly enabling Trump's dirty deeds.

Surely Johnson would recuse himself from any Senate proceedings involving Trump and Ukraine, yes?

The Boys From Santiago

As Will Bunch reminds us, there's only one country on Earth right now with a larger income inequality problem than Trump-era America, and that country is currently on fire in the middle of the largest protests seen in decades, with more than six percent of the entire nation taking to the streets.

The biggest fires are always started by the tiniest spark. That was almost literally true in 2011 when an unknown street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest corruption and government harassment, and triggered the Arab Spring, a series of uprisings that roiled an entire region and inspired movements like Spain’s Indignados and Occupy Wall Street.

In 2019, as an autumn of popular uprisings erupts around the globe, the most dramatic revolution of the moment is taking place in the shadows of the towering mountains of Chile, where as many as a million people flood the streets of capital city Santiago by day, and harrowing street battles have erupted at night. What set off this political conflagration? A subway fare hike that -- converted to U.S. money -- amounts to less than 5 cents.
But to massive numbers of Chileans, those 30 extra pesos were literally the last straw, and not just because transit fares in the South American nation had doubled in 12 years to take a toll on lower-income families. The fare hike touched off much deeper anxieties about income inequality in a nation often held up as an economic success story because of its rapidly rising gross domestic product (GDP), yet has seen much of that wealth flow to a narrow sliver at the top. That’s in addition to social unease over fewer opportunities for Chile’s browner-skinned indigenous and mixed-race people, often packed into outskirts barrios.

At first, students began protesting by hopping turnstiles and dodging the fare, chanting: “Evading, not paying, another way of fighting!” But things escalated. More than a dozen subway stations burned. The government of President Sebastián Piñera responded with a repressive crackdown, then a retreat of rolling back the fare, announcing new measures for the working class, and lifting a curfew. Yet on Saturday, more than a million people flooded Santiago’s Plaza Italia for the largest protest yet, and no one knows how all of this will end.

Americans should be paying a lot closer attention to all of this -- and not just because 50-plus years of U.S. meddling in a capital some 5,000 miles south of Washington have played a key role in getting things to this point. After taking the advice of America’s conservative economics professors for decades, Chile now has -- according to one survey -- the world’s highest level of income inequality. No. 2 on that list? The United States. No wonder this nation’s billionaire oligarchs are so worried about the 2020 elections. They ought to be terrified.

I'd like to believe Bunch is on to something.  Sadly, we live in a nation where tens of millions of us are barely holding on to what we have, and the rest are invested in stepping over our burning corpses to get the scraps from people with more wealth in dollars than people on the planet.

Times ten.

Something is going to give, and soon.


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