Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Last Call For Bad-imir Like Vladimir

Vladimir Putin is tossing out his entire government so he can take control of the country the old-fashioned way: since he can't be President anymore after 2024, he's moving power over to the Prime Minister as current PM Dmitri Medvedev announced his resignation, along with the entire Russian government.

The entire Russian government is resigning, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday, after Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping reforms that could extend his decades-long grip on power beyond the end of his presidency. 
Putin thanked members of the government for their work but added that "not everything worked out." Putin added that in the near future he would meet with each member of the cabinet. The mass resignation includes Medvedev. 
The surprise announcement came after Putin proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the powers of the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the presidency. 
Taking power from the presidency and handing it to parliament could signal a power shift that has been long speculated about in Russia. 
Putin's critics have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain control of the country after his presidential term ends in 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers. Similarly, in 2008 Putin swapped places with the prime minister to circumvent the constitutional provision banning the same person from serving two consecutive terms. 
In his statement, Medvedev indicated that the government was resigning to clear the way for Putin's proposed reforms. 
Putin "outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution, significant changes not only to a number of articles of the constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole," Medvedev said in his statement, which was aired on Russian state television. 
"In this context, it's obvious that we, as the government ... should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this. And in these conditions, I believe that it would be right, in accordance with Section 117 of the constitution," for the government to resign, Medvedev added. 
Putin nominated the head of the Federal Taxation Service, Mikhail Mishustin, to replace Medvedev as prime minister, according to a Kremlin statement

The Putin autocracy marches on, and I mysteriously predict he'll be the country's Prime Minister in 2024, a position that will have even more power than the Russian presidency does today by the time Putin is done fiddling with the levers of government.

Trump is absolutely paying attention.  

Impeachment Reached, Con't

As the impeachment proceedings officially move on to the Senate with Nancy Pelosi naming seven Democrats as House impeachment managers for the upcoming Senate trial slated to start on Tuesday, it's important to know that the Senate GOP absolutely considers a free press allowed to cover the proceedings live as a threat to national security and as a threat to the senators themselves, and a major press crackdown is already being planned.

The Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police are launching an unprecedented crackdown on the Capitol press corps for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, following a standoff between the Capitol’s chief security officials, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt and the standing committees of correspondents.

Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael C. Stenger will enact a plan that intends to protect senators and the chamber, but it also suggests that credentialed reporters and photographers whom senators interact with on a daily basis are considered a threat.

Additional security screening and limited movement within the Capitol for reporters are two issues that are drawing criticism from Capitol Hill media.

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, which represents journalists credentialed in the daily press galleries in the House and Senate, has come out forcefully against the planned restrictions that it says rejected every suggestion made by the correspondents “without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.”

Standing gallery committees are panels made up of journalists elected by their colleagues; they help oversee press operations and work to ensure press access to public officials and proceedings on Capitol Hill.

“These potential restrictions fail to acknowledge what currently works on Capitol Hill, or the way the American public expects to be able to follow a vital news event about their government in the digital age,” the Standing Committee of Correspondents said in a letter Tuesday.

When the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate, a procession full of pomp and circumstance, just one video camera and no still photographers will be allowed to document the historic moment. No audio recording at all will be permitted, leaving radio reporters empty-handed
This restriction was not in place when the articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton were delivered to the secretary of the Senate in 1998, a fact confirmed by CQ Roll Call file photos and coverage of the event.

During the trial, a single press pen will be set up on the second floor of the Senate, where lawmakers enter and exit the chamber. Reporters will be confined to the pen, unable to move with senators. No movement will be allowed outside the corrals, and reporters and photographers will need to be escorted to and from the pen.

This is being down for two reasons, one, to belittle and insult the press which Republicans clearly believe are an enemy of the people, and two, to control information flow during the trial and to make sure that it can successfully laundered through FOX News and other right-wing sources, who will still find a way to get their "exclusives" during the trial.

This is being done for the same awful reasons that the White House has in order to justify not having press briefings for the last nine months.

It's to make sure no embarrassing sound bites happen, like GOP senators letting their masks slip and admitting Trump is a criminal.

The Drums Of War, Con't

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia thinks his Iran War Powers act actually has a chance in the Senate because the briefing last week by the State Department and Pentagon went so badly that several GOP senators are considering handcuffing Trump on further action against Tehran.

“There were a couple of other problems I thought about that briefing,” Kaine added. “Without getting into classified information, many of us were underwhelmed by the evidence of imminence. Not everybody was, some thought it was fine, but many of us were underwhelmed by that.”

Several legislators left that briefing last week infuriated with what they considered evasive or dismissive answers on a question of war and peace. Memorably, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a close ally of the president, laced into the briefers—Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire—for “telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.” Several others predicted to The Daily Beast that it would cost the administration congressional support over Iran ahead of the upcoming war-powers votes.

Since last week, Kaine has been in talks with GOP senators—including Lee, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Todd Young (R-IN)—about shaping the text of his resolution in hopes of it garnering as much Republican support as possible. Those negotiations, Kaine said, have yielded compromise—including mutual support of striking text from the resolution that specifically mentions President Trump. “We’re trying to make it as palatable as we can for everybody,” he said.

Such efforts have proven fruitful so far. Young told reporters on Tuesday that he’d be backing Kaine’s resolution—and with Lee and Paul already supportive, only one more GOP senator is needed to support the measure in order for it to pass the Senate.

Kaine said he wasn’t sure how large the pool of possible GOP ‘yes’ votes is. “Probably a dozen, but I could be surprised,” he said. Lee, meanwhile, predicted to reporters that it would probably be close to the bloc of seven who voted with Democrats on the Yemen resolution.

But of course, making it palatable means making it toothless.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a similar Iran war powers resolution by a 224 to 194 margin. That resolution, led by Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin, is unlikely to receive a Senate vote, however. It is what’s known as a “concurrent” resolution—which, owing to obscure parliamentary procedure, doesn’t provide an obvious mechanism for senators to get it onto the floor for a vote.

Slotkin’s measure, as a concurrent resolution, also doesn’t require a presidential signature to pass. House Democratic leadership considered that a strength, since it avoids a presidential veto—something Trump exercised when Congress voted to get the U.S. out of the Yemen war. But avoiding a veto has an upside for Trump, argued Matt Duss, the chief foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

“If Trump wants to veto the second War Powers Resolution of his presidency and assert a unilateral right to escalate conflicts as he’s sending thousands more troops to the Middle East, he can do that, but it will just further reveal that he’s lying when he says he wants to end our country’s endless wars,” Duss told The Daily Beast.

Does anyone here think Trump gives a damn about that should the measure survive a near guaranteed filibuster?


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