Filosofa Is Ranting … AGAIN!

Last evening, Donald Trump crossed a line in my book.  He’s crossed many before, but this, taken in conjunction with his statement a few days ago that he had “total authority”, is the final straw.  I hold every person who voted for, and still approves of Donald Trump responsible for handing the ‘keys to the kingdom’ to a cruel and evil tyrant determined to have his way at all costs, determined to destroy the United States.

Why am I ranting, you ask?  Believe me, I toned it down a lot from my first draft!  Let me tell you …

According to the U.S. Constitution, we have three equal branches of government, but yesterday … Donald Trump threatened to trash the Constitution in order to have his way.  Oh sure, he’s been trashing it, shredding it, trampling it and burning it for over three years now, but this is beyond any of his previous abominable moves.

Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to shut down both chambers of Congress to allow him to fill vacancies in his administration without Senate approval.  This is unconscionable … this is the action of a strongarm dictator, determined to get his way … or else!  This is the exact sort of tyrant the Founding Fathers worried about, the reason they built checks and balances into the Constitution so that no one person could hijack the democratic principles on which this nation was founded.

He spent much of his daily campaign rally (disguised as a coronavirus briefing), railing against democrats for blocking his nominations when in fact, the nominations are awaiting Senate approval and the Senate is controlled by the republicans … his own bootlickers!

He ended his little tirade with …

“They know they’ve been warned and they’ve been warned right now. If they don’t approve it, then we’re going to go this route and we’ll probably be challenged in court and we’ll see who wins.”

The Constitution grants the president the authority to adjourn Congress if leaders of the House and Senate can’t agree on whether to adjourn.  However, in 233 years of governance under the Constitution, that authority has never once been exercised.  And furthermore, there is currently no disagreement between the two chambers — they have already agreed to adjourn on Jan. 3, 2021.

In 2014, republican senators challenged some of President Obama’s recess appointments in the Supreme Court and won their case.  The Supreme Court ruled that only the Senate — not the president — can decide when it is in session.  Seems cut and dried to me, but this is the era of Trump, when nothing follows any logical pattern, when he can browbeat and bully to get his way, when children are thrown into cages by order of Trump, and when justice as we once knew it no longer exists.


And in other news …

Well isn’t that convenient?

The criminal trial for several associates of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been postponed until well after the November election.  How very convenient!

parnas-frugmanA federal judge in New York on Wednesday ordered that the trial of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and two other men on campaign-finance-related charges be postponed from this October to February of next year.

Parnas and Fruman worked closely with Giuliani on several efforts related to Ukraine, including a successful drive to oust the U.S. ambassador to that country, Marie Yovanovitch. She was removed from her post last May. An indictment returned against the businessmen last year charged them with violating U.S. campaign finance laws by funneling funds from abroad and hiding their source. In the indictment, Yovanovitch’s ouster is discussed as one of the goals the conspirators were allegedly seeking to achieve.

The reason cited for the delay was logistical problems related to the pandemic … my guess is that money or favours changed hands to push it to after the election so that it wouldn’t be ongoing, or fresh in people’s minds on election day.  Amazing how this pandemic that is killing the rest of us has played right into Trump’s hands in a number of ways, isn’t it?


Profit over people

In a 24-hour period ending on Wednesday everning, the U.S. recorded more than 4,500 deaths as a result of the coronavirus, an all-time daily high.  And yet Trump stands firm that he is re-opening the country, possibly even before May 1st.  Later today, he plans to “unveil” his plan for opening the economy.  Likely his plan will be disregarded by most, except the republican governors who care far more for the wealthy industrialists in their states than the working people.  We, the poor and middle class, are expendable, you know.

Turns out that yesterday Trump attempted a conference call with bankers from such institutions as Goldman-Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America and others.  First, it was a fiasco, as he didn’t give much advance notice and most of the CEOs he planned to touch base with already had other commitments for the time he specified.  One of the executives involved in the call referred to it as a ‘shit show’, if that tells you anything.

Trump’s intent was to talk with the bankers about how to re-start the economy, and apparently he expected them to be eager to get back to ‘business as usual’, but he was in for a bit of a surprise.  One of the CEOs complained …

“I really don’t understand how they are communicating on this. He’s got to stop talking about turning the economy back on and start talking about making people feel safe, things that are happening around testing and the health care system. That’s the only way you will really get the economy reopened over a period of time.”

Now, as a rule I have little or no respect for bankers, considering them to be a greedy lot concerned more about their own investment portfolios than our lives, but this is one case where I will give them a thumbs up for saying just what the rest of the nation is saying (except money-grubbing industrialists and the politicians in their pockets).


I would like to remind the people of this country that we did not elect Donald Trump to lead this nation.  We elected Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes more than Donald Trump.  Through corrupt machinations primarily by the republicans in certain states, he was placed into the Oval Office and has been destroying this nation since the first day he took office.  But today, in a crisis of astronomical proportions, we are stuck with a person at the helm who does not have a clue what he is doing and does not care, but is determined to claim absolute power, to lead not as a president representing the people, but as an authoritarian who puts his own interests first.  Remember all these abominations on November 3rd, please, or we may very well find ourselves in the same situation the German people found themselves in 1933.  Think about it.

Snarkier Than Usual Snippets

Disclaimer:  Filosofa is in a foul mood tonight.  While doing laundry, I cursed one of my daughter’s shirts, calling it a bitch and threatening to cut it into a thousand pieces, if that gives you any indication.  All day long I’ve tried to write my piece for mine and Jeff’s Discord & Dissension project for tomorrow, and I feel completely dysfunctional, unable to focus.  So, long story short, you can expect the snippets to be even snarkier than usual tonight.


Ay, Pobrecito Barr …

Poor Bill Barr, ultimate boot-licker and sycophant who has sacrificed the integrity of the United States Department of Justice for whatever it was Trump promised him.  Now he is whining that mean ol’ Donnie isn’t being fair to him.  In an interview with ABC News yesterday, Barr said …

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president. I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

Say WHAT???Trump-BarrThis from the man that has given the keys to the kingdom to Trump and told him that no matter what he does, as long as he is the sitting president, he cannot be charged with a crime?  This from the man that has changed the laws to suit the president, has opened an investigation into one of Trump’s rivals even though it has already been proven that there was no wrongdoing?  And this from the man who totally and completely misrepresented the results of Robert Mueller’s report?  Are we actually supposed to feel pity for Billy boy?  The man who once had a decent reputation sold his soul downriver to become one of Trump’s toadies, and now we’re supposed to feel sorry for him?  No way, José!

Barr said he was determined to lead the justice department without being influence by outside forces, including the president.

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Too late, Billy Boy!Bill-BarrFormer Justice Department official, Matthew Miller, wrote on Twitter: “Don’t be fooled by this one, people. Barr is telling the president that his impulsiveness is making it politically harder for him to deliver the results he wants. If Trump would just shut up, Barr could take care of him much more effectively.”

No doubt.


Trump’s bloody wall …

Yesterday, the Pentagon informed Congress that it intends to divert some $3.8 billion earmarked for military equipment to Trump’s damn stupid, useless, abominable border wall!  You know what?  If the Pentagon has so much more money than it needs, then let’s cut their budget and leave only enough to take care of the troops – salaries, benefits, medical care, housing, etc.  They are obviously well over-funded, if they can afford to give it away for something so useless.

If Congress intended to fund the bloody wall, they would have allocated monies for it.  They didn’t.  Therefore obviously the representatives of We the People do not see the wall as a priority at this time.  Congress, and We the People, have spoken, MISTER TRUMP.  Even some of Trump’s boot-lickers in Congress were actually upset over this one, saying that Trump had overstepped his constitutional authority by second-guessing congressional spending decisions.

“Once those choices have been made, the Department of Defense cannot change them in pursuit of their own priorities without the approval of Congress. Attempts to do so undermines the principle of civilian control of the military and is in violation of the separation of powers within the Constitution.” – Representative Mac Thornberry, top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee

Frankly, I hope the wall gets blown to bits, section by section, until there is naught left but a brick or two.


John Kelly found them!

Former Chief of Staff John Kelly finally, some 13 months after leaving Trump’s employ, found his cojones!  I wonder where they were hiding all this time?  Kelly, who is also a retired Marine Corps general, was giving a speech at Drew University in Morristown, New Jersey, on Wednesday night when he let off a bit of steam about Trump’s firing of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman last week.  Of Vindman, Kelly says …

“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave.  He went and told his boss what he just heard. Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against … the Russians. And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in. We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’”

But, once the box was opened, Kelly didn’t stop there.  Kelly laid out his doubts about Trump’s policies regarding North Korea, illegal immigration, military discipline, Ukraine, and the news media.  He said he did not believe the press is “the enemy of the people”, and he sharply criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump has steadfastly courted.  He also disapproved of the president’s language about migrants, saying that most migrants are merely looking for jobs …

“In fact, they’re overwhelmingly good people … They’re not all rapists and they’re not all murderers. And it’s wrong to characterize them that way. I disagreed with the president a number of times.”

Kelly faulted Trump for intervening in the case of Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was convicted last year of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter, and later pardoned by Trump …

“The idea that the commander in chief intervened there, in my opinion, was exactly the wrong thing to do. Had I been there, I think I could have prevented it.”

Too bad that Kelly didn’t find his conscience when he was still there, as perhaps he might have done some good.  Trump, of course, was quickly informed of Kelly’s words and had to retaliate, for that’s the only thing Trump knows to do …

“When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head. Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do. His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that “John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you.” Wrong!”

One can only hope that Karen Kelly is undergoing psychiatric care.


One bright spot …

Marie YovanovitchI shall end with a bit of uplifting news.  Former ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who became a central witness in the impeachment inquiry against Trump, received the Trainor Award at Georgetown University this week, in recognition of her 33-year career as a diplomat.  If anybody has earned the award, it is Ms. Yovanovitch who had a difficult and unexpected role during the House investigation into the administration’s shadow diplomacy and the pressure campaign on Ukraine.  She was vilified by Trump and his family, and it was later learned that Trump directly ordered her firing, claiming she had shown ‘disloyalty’ to him – sound familiar?

Thumbs up to Ms. Yovanovitch.  👍


And on that note, I shall leave you and go finish my post for this afternoon, hopefully in time for Jeff to review it before posting.susan-collins

The Purge Begins …

President Richard Nixon kept an “enemies list”, the purpose of which was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service, and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.”  According to then-White House counsel John Dean …

“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

At one point, there were as many as 576 names on Nixon’s list.  Some have jokingly referred to Trump’s own ‘enemies list’.  It is no longer a joking matter.  While Nixon sought to punish his ‘enemies’ through such things as tax audits, Trump uses no subterfuge, no circuities.

In a 1992 interview with Charlie Rose, Donald Trump said …

“I love getting even when I get screwed by someone … Always get even. When you are in business you need to get even with people who screw you. You need to screw them back 15 times harder. You do it not only to get the person who messed with you but also to show the others who are watching what will happen to them if they mess with you. If someone attacks you, do not hesitate. Go for the jugular.”

 When he did a television program called The Apprentice, apparently his buzz line was “You’re fired!”  He used that three times yesterday, and unless I miss my guess, he intends to use it a few more times.

First, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was fired from his role as the top Ukraine policy officer on the National Security Council and was escorted from the White House.  At the same time, his brother Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman was also fired from his NSC job.

A few hours later, Trump ordered U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordan Sondland, recalled from his post and fired.

Alexander Vindman and Gordon Sondland’s only ‘crime’ was that they told the truth.  Both testified in the impeachment hearings held by the House last fall … an act Trump claims was ‘disloyal’ to him.  Funny that … I always believed that any government official’s loyalty was to the nation and to We the People, not to the person occupying the Oval Office.  Yevgeny’s only crime, apparently, was being Alexander’s brother.

The day after the Senate voted to acquit Trump of his crimes, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who never holds press briefings, said …

“… how horribly he was treated, and maybe people should pay for that.”

It seems the Trump purge has begun.  Of the twelve people who testified against Trump in the impeachment hearings, only three remain in their positions:  David Holmes, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine; Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon; and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state.  Will their heads roll next?

Others on his ‘enemies list’ no doubt include various members of Congress, starting with Mitt Romney, the only senator with the courage to vote to convict Trump on one of the articles of impeachment, Jerry Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff, Joe Manchin and others.  Since Trump cannot fire a member of Congress, one wonders how he plans to extract his ‘revenge’.  Think about this one for a few minutes, folks.  The aforementioned Stephanie Grisham stated earlier this week …

“Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the president’s phone call. Will there be no retribution?”

It should be noted that a threat was made on Adam Schiff’s life earlier this year.  And then there was this statement by Jeff Buckles, a police department assistant chief in the Alabama town of Geraldine …

“Pelosi just ripped up his speach [sic]. Road Side bomb on her way home and any other Dumbocrats.”

Hyperbole?  Probably, but troubling, nonetheless.  Remember Cesar Sayoc, who sent pipe bombs through the mail to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other democrats?  Remember Jarrod Ramos who shot and killed five employees at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis Maryland in 2018?  In the divisive atmosphere in this nation today, and with so many avid Trumpeters determined to keep their hero in office, and with more guns in the hands of civilians than there are people in the entire nation … what could possibly go wrong?  Trump has convinced his base, some 40% of adults in the nation, that he is their savior, that he is great and has made their lives somehow better.  He riles the masses at his rallies and in his speeches.  This is a toxic situation.

One report I read claims a “person in the know” said former national security advisor John Bolton is at or near the top of the list.  No doubt there are others, perhaps some in the press, perhaps some who testified but have already left the administration, such as Fiona Hill, the Europe policy chief at the National Security Council, and Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine.

I don’t care if you identify as a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, or none of the above … you must be incensed by this purge!  This is not normal and we simply cannot turn a blind eye and allow it to become normal!  Never in my life did I imagine that this country would stoop so low, would become, in essence, a tin pot dictatorship, yet for all intents and purposes, that is what we have become.  It is a dark day for the United States.  Keep your eye on the ball, folks, for this is only the beginning.darkness

Decency on Display at Hearing Today

Our friend Jeff reminds us of something … what true decency is. The difference between evil cruelty and common decency is as pronounced as the difference between night and day. Thank you, Jeff … have a great weekend!

On The Fence Voters

Hint: Not from the President of the United States

Soon out here in the Pacific Northwest, the weekend will officially begin. The wife will come home from work, we’ll crack open a cold IPA and discuss a bit about what happened in Trumpworld today.

I hadn’t planned on weighing in because I didn’t know if I’d have the time. But something occurred to me and I wanted to briefly share it with you.

As you’re hopefully ready to enjoy the upcoming weekend, I’d like to leave you with a word that kept coming into my head as I watched Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch testify today: D E C E N C Y.

Why that word? Simply put, the current President of the United States does not have a lick of it in his body. We see it every day through his tweets or press interactions. We’re nearly three years into his…

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The Words Of A Wise Man

Thomas Friedman is a weekly columnist for the New York Times, a well-respected author of seven books, numerous documentaries, and the recipient of three Pulitzer prizes.  His forte is foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues.  Yesterday, his latest column crossed my desk and I felt it worthy of sharing.


It’s Not Trump vs. the Dems. It’s Trump vs. the Country’s True Defenders.

Public servants who swore to protect the Constitution also set the impeachment process in motion.

thomas-l-friedman-thumbLarge

by Thomas L. Friedman

Last Thursday and Friday, two important Americans bore witness to the state of our nation. One was President Trump, addressing political rallies. The other was Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until suddenly told to get “on the next plane” — because Trump wanted her removed — without explanation.

Every American should contemplate their remarks, which I excerpt later, and then ask two questions: Whose speech would you want to read to your children’s civics class and which speaker do you think represents the America you want to see evolve and leave to your kids?

This exercise is vital because this impeachment process was not set in motion by the Democratic Party. It was set in motion by civil servants — whistle-blowers from the intelligence community, now supported by National Security Council staffers and diplomats. These public servants also took an oath to serve the country and protect the Constitution, and they have shown remarkable courage to risk their careers, and maybe more, to call out the president for violating his oath.

They are like antibodies fighting the cancer in our political system. John Bolton spoke for all of them when, while national security adviser, he reportedly instructed Fiona Hill, the N.S.C. Russia expert, to tell White House lawyers that he wanted no part “of whatever drug deal” the president’s cronies were cooking up as part of an off-the-books diplomatic effort being led by Rudy Giuliani to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

It is breathtaking that virtually no Republican lawmakers have manifested similar courage — when all they have to lose is $174,000 in salary and free parking at Reagan Washington National Airport.

This point can’t be stressed enough. Because if Trump is removed from office and the country is healed afterward, it will only be because a majority of Americans understand that this is, at its core, a fight between these noncorrupt, apolitical civil servants — whose norms and institutions make America’s government so envied and respected around the world — and Giuliani and Trump and their pals, who care only about serving themselves and their conspiracy theories.

Trump and his enablers at the state-directed Fox News want to portray this as just another partisan fight — between Trump and his Democratic rivals — in the hope that the public will shrug and say, “There they go again.” They don’t want Americans to understand that this fight is about guarding the most cherished norms and institutions that define us as a nation.

We can’t let that happen. In service of that goal, I repeat some of Trump’s and Yovanovitch’s remarks.

Here’s Trump in Louisiana: “The radical Democrats’ policies are crazy. Their politicians are corrupt. Their candidates are terrible. And they know they can’t win on Election Day, so they’re pursuing an illegal, invalid and unconstitutional bullshit impeachment.”

And here’s Trump in Minneapolis about Joe Biden: “He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

And here’s Yovanovitch in her opening statement to the House impeachment investigators: “For the last 33 years, it has been my great honor to serve the American people as a Foreign Service officer, over six administrations — four Republican, and two Democratic. I have served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts, and was appointed to serve as an ambassador three times — twice by a Republican president and once by a Democrat. Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the oath that Foreign Service officers take and observe every day: ‘that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ and ‘that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.’”

She added: “My parents fled Communist and Nazi regimes. Having seen, firsthand, the war, poverty and displacement common to totalitarian regimes, they valued the freedom and democracy the U.S. represents. And they raised me to cherish these values as well.”

She continued: “From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Our policy, fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, was to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy integrated into Europe.”

Then Yovanovitch added: “I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing, to my embassy colleagues or to anyone else. … With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal contacts with him. … I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”YovanovitchAnd then she explained that after being asked in early March “to extend my tour until 2020, I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine ‘on the next plane.’ You will understandably want to ask why my posting ended so suddenly. I wanted to learn that, too, and I tried to find out. I met with the deputy secretary of state, who informed me of the curtailment of my term.

“He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.”

Alas, Secretary of State Pompeo did nothing to protect her.

Yovanovitch continued: “Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives. …

“I have served this nation honorably for more than 30 years. … Throughout that time, I — like my colleagues at the State Department — have always believed that we enjoyed a sacred trust with our government. … We repeatedly uproot our lives, and we frequently put ourselves in harm’s way to serve this nation. And we do that willingly, because we believe in America and its special role in the world. We also believe that, in return, our government will have our backs and protect us if we come under attack from foreign interests. That basic understanding no longer holds true.”

If this is how our government will now act, great long-term harm will be done to “our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably,” Yovanovitch concluded. We will lose “many of this nation’s most loyal and talented public servants,” and “bad actors” in countries beyond Ukraine will “see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system. In such circumstances, the only interests that will be served are those of our strategic adversaries, like Russia, that spread chaos and attack the institutions and norms that the U.S. helped create and which we have benefited from for the last 75 years.”

In both Minnesota and Louisiana, Trump supporters chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” at his red-meat lines. Read these two transcripts and then ask yourself, who’s really protecting and honoring “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.”?

The Deep State bites back

Finally, a few people associated with the Trump administration are beginning to defy Trump. Two women have testified before the House committees investigating Trump with an eye toward impeachment, and I understand there will be more. Our friend Jeff has written about these two trailblazers who put country and law before loyalty to the Oaf in Office. Hopefully there will be more soon. Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

It’s notable that in the last few days, we’ve seen two women, Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill, come forward to testify before the various committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump, surrounding his phone call to the Ukrainian President.

By all accounts, even though we haven’t seen the transcripts, they’ve given powerful testimony, both exhibiting a full grasp of the issues commensurate with their long histories of serving at the State Department and the National Security Council. In other words, here are two powerful women, intelligent and patriotic, who’ve served with distinction and honor for the United States government. Not only that, but both are experts in their particular field of foreign diplomacy, invaluable resources in how we relate to various situational hotspots around the world.

Is it any wonder that the President doesn’t care for either of these two brave women? Of course not. It’s…

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Questions … And More Questions

As most of you know, one of my favourite journalists is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.  Kristof has received two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur.  He is often out and about covering humanitarian crises around the globe.  But, his political views back here at home are typically spot-on … his is the voice of calm, of reason amidst all the chaos.  His OpEd yesterday is no exception, as he weighs in on … what else?  Impeachment and Trump’s abuse of power.  His words are sound and well worth the read.

Mr. President, a Few Questions

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist
SEPT. 27, 2019

“Shall any man be above justice?” George Mason asked in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. “Above all, shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?”

That was a central question for the framers of the Constitution — to what extent should impeachment be a check on a president? — and it’s the central question for our political system today.

President Trump’s bullying of Ukraine to target Joe Biden is parallel to the kinds of abuse that the framers discussed when they adopted the impeachment clause. What they fretted about was a leader who abused power — by colluding with a foreign country, James Madison suggested — and threatened the integrity of our system.

So, guided by those concerns of abuse of power, let’s see what the impeachment inquiry turns up. Among the areas that merit further investigation:

What was Russia’s role? Did Trump discuss Ukraine with Vladimir Putin in their June meeting in Osaka, in their Paris or Helsinki meetings last year, or in their July 31 phone call? Did Putin plant misinformation that Trump acted on?

In his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump raised the bizarre conspiracy theory that it had been Ukraine rather than Russia that had hacked Democratic emails. Doesn’t that sound as if it was translated from the original Russian?

Likewise, Trump’s distrust of his ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and his faith that a trove of dirt about Biden corruption was sitting in Ukraine waiting to be dug up — why, all this resembles what a skilled K.G.B. officer might say to manipulate a naïve American acolyte.

Certainly Putin benefited from Trump’s hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, from the American coolness toward Zelensky and from the sidelining of Ukraine experts such as Ambassador Yovanovitch.

There are whispers of this in the intelligence community, but let’s be clear that these are questions rather than allegations. Unfortunately, the Kremlin came out on Friday against releasing phone transcripts, and Trump has generally concealed details of his conversations with Putin — even taking away notes from an interpreter after one meeting.

Was there a substantial cover-up? The whistle-blower alleges a cover-up, in a complaint that the administration then tried to cover up. Hmm.

The rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky was placed in an unusually secure system. Why?

Ukraine is a longtime Trump fixation, with the president tweeting as early as July 2017 about “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign.” Rudy Giuliani rode roughshod over policymakers in an attempt to hijack foreign policy formation, and the White House has never convincingly explained its hold on military assistance.

Did administration officials try to hide all of this? Did they impede Congress from providing oversight? Was there a cover-up of not just a call, but of a long-term pattern of abuse?

What were the roles of Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? Pence dropped out of the delegation that attended Zelensky’s inauguration, seemingly as a way to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. Did Pence agree to this?

As for Barr, why did Trump repeatedly suggest him as a contact for Zelensky? And why did the Justice Department try to quash the whistle-blower complaint? Why does Barr regularly act as Trump’s cleanup man rather than as the nation’s lawyer?

Was Pompeo complicit in Trump’s efforts to shunt aside the State Department so that Giuliani could oversee relations with Ukraine? What role did Pompeo play in the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch?

There’s much debate about whether Trump should or shouldn’t be impeached, but for now that seems to me to be premature. Before any impeachment vote, we need a substantial inquiry to determine facts.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor, has a smart book, “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide,” in which he advises people to think about whether they would favor or oppose impeachment if they felt the opposite about this president. In that spirit, I approach it this way: How would I feel about impeachment if these Ukraine revelations were about Barack Obama?

There’s a danger that Democrats rush this process in ways that antagonize swing voters, particularly when polls show that a majority of the public both disapproves of Trump’s conduct and does not favor impeachment.

In the end, Mitch McConnell may not even permit a Senate trial after an impeachment. Or if McConnell convenes a trial, he could immediately have the Republican majority vote to dismiss the case.

That makes it all the more important that the House impeachment inquiry meticulously gather information by a process that — to the extent possible in our polarized age — is perceived by the public as fair, deliberate and legitimate. The backdrop must be the question that George Mason properly posed more than two centuries ago: “Shall any man be above justice?”