Media (421)


Starting to Fall

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last week was not a good one for Trump.  After Ambassador Taylor’s testimony Lt. Col.  Vindman, the Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, and Ambassador Yovanovitch, who had abruptly been removed from her post in Ukraine, testified.  Both were attacked by the president.  Alexander Vindman, whom Trump already had labeled a ‘never Trumper’ after his closed door testimony, on the official White House Twitter account, because Ukraine had offered him the position of Secretary of Defense no less than three times.  Marie Yovanovitch on the president’s personal account in the middle of her testimony, which was yet another attempt to intimidate a witness.   Vindman was also criticized by a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee for wearing his uniform and insisting on being addressed by his rank, which is standard protocol for military officers who give testimony.  Ambassador Yovanovitch testified about the brutal way in which she had been ordered to return to the US and how she felt threatened by Trump, and Lt. Col. Vindman about his concerns regarding the president’s call with Zelensky.

The testimonies apparently took a toll on Trump, because on Saturday afternoon he was rushed to a hospital for some testing, which the White House later said was an unscheduled part of his regular physical.  Apparently concerned about the optics the White House Press Secretary put out a statement that the president works from 6 am until late at night, which became the laughing stock of all political talk shows but not of FOX News, where Judge Jeanine Pirro called Trump ‘almost super-human.’  The president’s anxiety about the way the impeachment inquiry was unfolding made him declare that he considered submitting written testimony, something he did for the Mueller probe and will never do again, because he’s still being investigated for possibly having lied to the Special Counsel.  This week things got worse for Trump.  The most important witness was the US Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, one of the ‘three amigos’ who were told by the president to ‘work with Rudy Giuliani,’ meaning that they had to strongarm Zelensky into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.

Giuliani was peddling the ludicrous theory Putin had whispered into Trump’s ear that not Russia had interfered in the presidential election but Ukraine on behalf of Hillary Clinton, and the equally debunked theory that Biden had meddled in Ukraine’s justice system on behalf of his son’s business interests.   Sondland and his team had to convince the Ukrainian president to publicly announce investigations in these matters for fear of not getting a White House meeting and not receiving the badly needed military assistance that had already been approved by Congress.

Sondland decided not to follow Michael Cohen and Roger Stone into the slammer and confirmed the bribery plot, adding that ‘everybody was in the loop,’ including Secretary of State Pompeo, acting White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney and Vice-President Pence.  Republican attempts to dismantle Sondland’s testimony by referring to the fact that Trump had told him in a phone call ‘I want nothing’ failed, because at the time of that call the whistleblower had already revealed the plot.

In defense of Trump Republican congressmen were left with the mind boggling contradiction that there had not been a plot because the plot had failed, and Trump appeared on the White House lawn with a scribbled note saying ‘I want nothing’ and the name Zelensky misspelled as Zellinsky.  Last night the president had a White House dinner with Republican senators to try and keep them on his side.

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Before the Fall

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last week the president continued his quest for an audience that would applaud him and he finally found one at the Alabama-Louisiana State University football game he attended on Saturday.  The Crimson Tide fans will think twice before they applaud Trump again, however, because their team lost to LSU for the first time in ten years.  Two days later in New York things were back in order, because although demonstrators were kept away from the location where Trump kicked off the Veterans Day parade with a sleep-inducing teleprompter speech the chant ‘Lock him up’ could be heard from a distance.  In the president’s immediate environment things were not much better, because acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone were feuding over the question whether the latter had done enough to keep government employees from testifying to the House Intelligence Committee in the impeachment inquiry.  Meanwhile in  Florida former National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested that Trump’s decision to give Turkey unfettered access to Syria was driven by his own business interests.

In advance of the impeachment hearings a memo circulated among House Republicans that proposed the following strategy: admit all the known facts, including a quid-pro-quo, but emphasize that the president was extremely concerned about corruption in Ukraine and had no criminal intent whatsoever.  In light of the testimony later in the week it would not have worked anyway, but Trump immediately shot down this attempt to save his presidency by tweeting once more that his call with Zelensky had been perfect and that he wanted Joe Biden investigated.  The president’s rabid state of mind was further exhibited when the news broke that he had wanted to fire the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, who found the whistleblower’s complaint ‘credible and urgent’ and passed it on to the Intelligence Committee, for disloyalty.  During the hearing Ambassador Taylor dropped the bombshell that in a July 26 phone call with Gordon Sondland Trump was overheard asking about ‘the investigations.’  Sondland told a staffer that Trump cared more about having Biden investigated than about Ukraine

It also became clear that if the money had not been released to Ukraine before the end of the fiscal year on September 30 it would have been lost, which implies that but for the whistleblower many more Ukrainians would have died trying to battle the Russians with inferior weaponry, and explains the diplomats’ deep concern.  In spite of tweeting about the hearings Trump said that he didn’t watch them and met with Erdogan in the Oval Office instead, praising the Turkish president’s great rapport with the Kurds after Erdogan had played an anti-Kurd video on his Ipad.

Trump was not the only one in trouble this week.  A watchdog group revealed that Stephen Miller, before becoming the architect of the White House’s anti-immigrant policies, had send multiple emails containing white nationalist viewpoints to Breitbart News, while Trump’s old pal Roger Stone is looking at possibly 20 years in prison as his trial draws to a close.  In an event promoting freedom of speech at UCLA Don Trump Jr. was booed off stage by his own peeps for cancelling a Q&A.

After the first hearings the GOP firewall still holds, with Devin Nunes and ‘Gym’ Jordan taking the lead in aggressively confronting the witnesses with cockamamie conspiracy theories and Lindsey Graham declaring that he’ll do what he can to prevent a trial in the Senate.  But it’s still early in the process, and now Trump’s direct involvement has been confirmed by a second witness of his call with Sondland.

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The Dumbo Defense

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

When there is no other defense left your lawyer may turn to the judge and say “look at him, your honor, my client is far too dumb to have done this.”  That is essentially what Lindsey Graham implied when he said that Trump is incapable of committing the high crime he will be impeached for.  It was the last step in a process that started with ‘there was no quid-pro-quo,’ followed by ‘there could not have been a quid-pro-quo because Ukraine didn’t know money was withheld,’ which in turn was followed by ‘Ukraine got the money, so what’s all the fuzz about,’ and finally ‘there was a quid-pro-quo, but it’s not bad enough to impeach the president for.’  That sequence was produced by the release of testimony by Ambassador William Taylor, who made clear that there had been a quid-pro-quo, and the revised testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who suddenly remembered that he had told the Ukrainians why the money was being withheld.   If that was not bad enough for Trump there was the testimony by Ambassador Yovanovitch, who still feels threatened by the president, and by Lt. Col. Vindman, whom Trump and FOX News are trying to smear.

In light of all that testimony, other than calling the impeachment inquiry ‘a hoax,’ Trump’s only line of attack is now against the whistleblower, whose identity is irrelevant because his story has been completely confirmed.  An attempt by the president to have AG Bill Barr at a televised press conference declare that Trump did nothing wrong backfired, because even Barr can smell a rotten fish and refused.   And things will only get worse for the president when the Intelligence Committee starts having public, televised hearings in the House next week, first with Taylor and then with Yovanovitch, probably soon to be followed by Sondland.  As a former reality TV star Trump knows the power of television, and when it’s not on his side he is terrified by it.  His attempt to block testimony by all government employees has partly failed, and the refusal by current and former White House employees to comply with subpoenas will not slow down the investigation but only produce more articles of impeachment.  On Thursday Trump showed his ignorance about the impeachment process by tweeting that his trial would be held in the House.

Meanwhile Rudy Giuliani’s life doesn’t get easier either.  It became known that Lev Parnas, who himself works for a Ukrainian Mafioso, hired Giuliani as spokesperson for his company ‘Fraud Guarantee.’  Parnas is now apparently pissed off that Trump pretends he doesn’t know him and may soon start ‘singing,’ which would be very bad for Trump and Giuliani.  Hizzoner is panicking and therefore all over the place, one day saying that the State Department asked him to be involved in Ukraine and the next day that he was only there for his client, Donald J. Trump.

In Kentucky the GOP candidate for governor, Matt Bevin, lost the election, something Trump in advance called ‘the biggest defeat in the world’ for himself, because he had campaigned hard for Bevin.  The president claimed that he had increased Bevin’s percentage of the votes by 15%, but the polls show that it’s possible that Trump brought the percentage down.  He might consider doing the same for his former scapegoat Jeff Sessions, who is running for his old Senate seat in Alabama.

After having been booed at the World Series Trump tried to find a friendlier audience at a UFC fight in Manhattan, where he was greeted by boos and some cheers.  For his third attempt the president will kick off the Veterans Day parade in New York, but since he’s known there as ‘corporal bone spurs’ he won’t march in it.  To top the week off Trump was fined $2 million for self-dealing with his foundation.

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Blowing an Opportunity in 40 Minutes

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It could have been Trump’s finest hour.  He could have walked up to the podium, looked straight into the camera, solemnly announced the death of the world’s number one terrorist, praised the Delta Force that executed the attack on the compound, thanked the US allies, in particular the Kurds, whose contribution to the success of the raid was critical, then turned around and stepped away.  People would have called him presidential, but the president chose to start rambling and lying.  He said that Al Baghdadi ‘died like a dog, died like a coward, crying and whimpering,’ although a military spokesperson later told the press that Trump had no way of knowing exactly how the ISIS leader behaved just before he blew himself up.  He thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and finally the Kurds, who provided ‘some help,’ but only after they had been beaten up by the Turks for three days, although later it was revealed that for quite some time the Kurds had provided critical intelligence and monitored the compound, while Russia had only allowed the Americans to fly over territory it occupied and the role of Turkey and Syria was even more nebulous.

Of course Trump couldn’t pass up a chance to criticize Obama, so he declared that Baghdadi should have been killed by his predecessor and said that the ISIS leader was much bigger than Osama Bin Laden, because Bin Laden was not known before 9/11 and Baghdadi had a caliphate.  In spite of obligatory denials by the Pentagon it appears that the military was forced to speed up the assault because of the loss of local capabilities due to Trump’s sudden withdrawal of troops from north-eastern Syria, so that the action was a success in spite of rather than thanks to the Commander in Chief.  Trump notified the Russians of the upcoming attack on the compound but against protocol not de Democrats, allegedly because he didn’t trust them but more likely to spite them.  Also not informed was acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who learned about Al Baghdadi’s death when the president announced it on Twitter.  Trump had special praise for the ‘canine’ that chased the terrorist to his death, clarifying that he called it a ‘dog,’ a term he normally only uses in a derogatory way, especially to describe women who dare to criticize him.

If Trump dreamed that he could take a victory lap at game 5 of the World Series he was awoken by the chant ‘lock him up,’ and from then on things went south for him.  Nancy Pelosi decided to speed up the impeachment inquiry and not get bogged down in court fights, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated veteran working for the National Security Counsel, testified that there had been four quid pro quos with Ukraine: an Oval Office meeting and military aid were made contingent upon investigating Biden and Burisma, but also the 2016 election and CrowdStrike.

Vindman was the first witness who had actually been listening in on Trump’s call with Zelensky, and he told House members that passages referring to Biden and Burisma had been omitted from the White House memo that the president on more than one occasion had called an ‘exact transcript’ and a ‘word for word’ reconstruction of the call.  As thanks for his service the usual suspects at FOX News painted Vindman as a ‘never Trumper’ and a double agent working for Ukraine.

While the president was urging Republicans to focus on substance instead of process, something they simply cannot do, John Bolton was invited to come testify in the impeachment inquiry.  The former National Security Advisor’s lawyer made clear that a subpoena would be required, but it’s still uncertain if Bolton would be willing to answer questions, and nobody can even guess what he would say.

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A Useful Fucking Moron

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
Trump didn’t play golf last weekend, and that was the second sign that his problems were getting to him after he canned the plan to host the next G7 meeting at his Doral resort in Miami.  Mick Mulvaney explained that Doral had been chosen because the president still considers himself a ‘hospitality guy’ and simply wanted to offer his guests the best possible experience.  There was no profit motive, Trump would have done it for free if only that was allowed, and it made him lash out at the ‘phony’ emoluments clause in the Constitution, claiming that George Washington had a business desk in the Oval Office but not providing evidence that Washington did business with foreign countries.  Trump’s declaration that he is losing between 2 and 5 billion dollars because of his presidency was greeted with skepticism by experts who are convinced that Trump doesn’t even have $1 billion to lose.  Mulvaney and Mike Pompeo were sent out to the Sunday shows to argue that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, in Mick Mulvaney’s case to walk back his earlier admission, and they did so poorly that the president must have tasted the carpet in the Oval Office.

Trump’s gofers’ lies came crashing down when Ambassador Bill Taylor testified that military aid to Ukraine had been held back because Trump wanted president Zelensky to first publicly announce that Joe Biden and the role of Ukraine in the 2016 elections were under investigation.  Pompeo had been stupid enough to give a conscientious civil servant instead of a crook a front row seat to the shakedown, and the Ambassador had diligently been taking notes.  If the whistleblower’s letter was the smoking gun Taylor’s testimony was the bullet, and even Mitch McConnell felt compelled to contradict Trump’s statement that the Senate Leader considered his phone call with Zelensky ‘perfect.’  As the impeachment investigation carries on it’s becoming obvious that ‘Abuse of Power’ will be the first article of impeachment, and after the president called the proceedings ‘a lynching’ while Taylor was testifying, the next day over thirty deplorable GOP House members forced themselves into the investigative committee’s Capitol workspace, having cleared their obstructive action with Trump and only showing that they have run out of arguments to defend him.

Meanwhile Putin met with Erdogan and the two autocrats divvied northeastern Syria up between their troops, with some room for Assad but none for the Kurds.  Trump had no problem with this arrangement, because according to him the US ‘never agreed to protect the Kurds’ and ‘we took the oil.’  The president declared that Syria, Turkey and ‘all forms of the Kurds’ have been fighting over blood stained sand for ages and lifted all sanctions on Turkey, while in DC the Special Envoy on Syria testified that at least 100 ISIS fighters escaped since the US withdrew its troops.

While Russia benefitted from Trump’s weakening of Ukraine’s defenses against the invasion by its proxies, Russia, Iran, ISIS and Syria benefit from the president’s policies in the Middle East.  Trump’s primary motive in his decision making is apparently to please strongmen like Putin and Erdogan, but also Kim Jong-un and even the Taliban, who are holding out for a better deal than they have been offered so far.  All these miscreants have his number and can call anytime.

In New York City, in a case involving his tax returns, Trump’s lawyers argued that the president cannot be investigated and that therefore Trump could indeed shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without consequences until after his presidency.  And at an event in Pittsburg the president surprised his audience with the news that ‘we’re building a wall in Colorado,’ a state that isn’t on the southern border.

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