Will Your Lawyer Talk to God for You?

Washington Post, White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid

N.Y. Times, Mulvaney Asked About Legal Justification for Withholding Ukraine Aid: In emails uncovered during an internal review, the acting White House chief of staff also asked budget officials how long the aid could be withheld.

These developments make me reflect on what is normal litigation practice—and what is most definitely, most assuredly not standard operating procedure

Dog Bites Man

Organization in legal trouble. Chief counsel calls for review of thousands of relevant documents (1) to find out what the hell happened, (2) to see what legal spin he could place on the facts, (3) to anticipate what the organization’s adversaries might make of the relevant evidence.

Happens every day. It’s called protecting your client.

After the boss does something stupid, underlings try to find a legal figleaf to defend the stupid thing that just occurred.

Happens every day. It’s called anticipating litigation.

Man Bites Dog

Along with all this client protectin’ and litigatin’ anticipatin’, the organization is engaged in a massive effort to cover up the facts—and blatantly disregards duly issued subpoenas.

Man Take Another Large Bite, Dog Howls in Pain

While counsel for the organization is doing all this client protectin’ and litigatin’ anticipatin’ and coverin’ up, someone or someones leak like a sieve to the Washington Post.

And who, pray tell, might the leakers be?

Presumably one or more junior lawyers, paralegals, or legal secretaries employed by the organization in legal difficulty.

Not exactly standard operatin’ procedure in well run organizations.

Screen Shot 2019-11-24 at 9.45.41 PM

Just Another Lazy Saturday Afternoon in Bizarro World

Shit Show Pony

Philip Klein, Democrats are making a mistake by rushing impeachment vote

That’s because, Mr. Klein allows, we really don’t yet have a witness who heard Donald Trump declare, “Let’s extort the Ukrainians by denying them weapons until they dig up bogus information on my political appointments.” So, he claims, we need to take as long as not takes to find such a person.

Barbara McQuade, Trump Has Committed an Impeachable Offense. A More Important Question Looms.

Writing from a prosecutor’s perspective, Ms. McQuade argues that the first step is gathering persuasive evidence that a crime has occurred. But, before indicting the defendant for that crime, the prosecutor needs to exercise her discretion by also considering whether prosecution will have a deterrent effect and what the collateral consequences of prosecution might be. (I would have thought she might add in the heinousness of the crime—i.e., whether the potential defendant merits punishment.)

She implies, though she does not say specifically, that the House might consider alternatives in this case.

Censure, anyone?

Susan B. Glasser, THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT IMPEACHMENT: Facts be damned is Trump’s approach, and it’s working.

By “working,” Ms. Glasser appears to mean that Trump is succeeding in forcing elected Republicans to climb down into his fact free rabbit hole. She adduces no evidence that Trump is successfully gaslighting the previously gaslight-resistant portion of our population.

Washington Post, How Trump keeps making it tougher for his GOP impeachment defenders

This is what happens when an idiot exercises his right to be his own attorney.

Thinking About Strategy on a Lazy Saturday Afternoon

Persuading two thirds of the Senate to remove Trump from office was highly unlikely when the impeachment effort began, and it remains highly unlikely now. You might waste a dollar to buy a lottery ticket, on the highly unlikely possibility that you might win. But it would be unwise to spend the mortgage money on lottery tickets.

Nevertheless, several objectives justify the impeachment effort. One is to try to deter the little Ceasar in the Oval Office from acting on the worst ideas that enter into his head. A second is to take a strong position against efforts to change fundamentally the balance among the three branches of government. And a third is to force the Republican empty suits into an untenable position—driving a wedge even deeper between the cultists and the traditional suburban Republican voters. It seems to me that third objective is going just fine for our side. Witness what just happened in Kentucky and Louisiana.

The Big Picture on the Republican Dilemma—Strategerywise

Republican politicians are hamstrung by the rabid views of a very large portion of their base, yet face political extinction as demographic changes occur in Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere. Their solution is to establish a presidential and judicial dictatorship, to keep themselves in power. Benjamin Franklin said we have a republic, if we can keep it. They have decided they don’t want to keep it.

Responding to Political Nihilism

This is most regrettable, but wringing our hands and rending our garments is not an adequate response. Rather, if they want to engage in political nihilism, what we have to do is expose them. I want Susan Collins in Maine to take Trump as her lover. I want Tom Tillis in North Carolina tied hand and foot to Trump. I want Joni Ernst of Iowa performing fellatio on the Orange Man. I want John Cornyn of Texas licking his boots. I want Martha McSally of Arizona to be discovered in bed with him.

I want them all spouting utter nonsense.

I want them all to explain, over and over and over, why withholding military aid from an ally under attack is not impeachable conduct.

And, BTW, Go Ahead and Pre-Impeach President Biden While You’re At It

And I want them all trying to use the impeachment trial as an effort to pre-impeach President Biden. Because I really don’t think that will be a good look for them.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer Deals Plainly

District 4

For your reading pleasure, here is Brent Larkin’s op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, titled, Jim Jordan was imposed on us for egregiously partisan reasons. Now he’s afflicting the nation:

CLEVELAND — Of all the regions in all the states in all the country, Jim Jordan got dragged into ours. There was no good reason to punish Greater Cleveland by making the person who’s now the second most contemptible human being in the entire U.S. government part of the region’s delegation to Congress. Worse yet, the betrayal was bipartisan.

When Ohio’s political and legislative leaders were drawing new congressional boundaries prior to the 2012 election, Democrats wanted a district that would protect U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge. Republicans wanted districts that would elect the maximum number of GOP congressmen. And some people from both parties wanted a district that would likely lead to the defeat of longtime Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

They all got what they wanted.

But to make it work required drawing a hideously gerrymandered district for the southwest Ohio congressman, one that meanders some 200 miles from near Dayton north into Lorain County near Cleveland.

And now it’s fitting that Republicans have given this seven-term sycophant a starring role in the televised House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump. The assignment comes as Jordan is being credibly accused by some of knowingly turning a blind eye to sexual abuse by a team doctor when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University from 1987 to 1994.

At least five people – four of them former wrestlers and one of them a longtime friend – have said Jordan had to have known former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss was on a sexual rampage that would include — according to OSU — 1,429 sexual assaults and 47 rapes of student patients during Strauss’ time at the school (1978 to 1998) prior to his suicide in 2005.

That makes Jordan an ideal candidate to lead the defense of a malignant president who has bragged about physically abusing women and who has been accused by two dozen women of sexual assault or misconduct.

Jordan was appointed to the Intelligence Committee the same day, Nov. 8, that NBC reported on a lawsuit filed early this month in which a former wrestling referee alleges Strauss masturbated in front of him in the shower following an OSU wrestling match in 1994.

When the referee told Jordan what happened, he alleges that Jordan blew him off with, “Yeah, that’s Strauss.”

As the allegations pile up, Jordan’s denials remain unchanged. He dismissed the latest one as “ridiculous.”

People have every right to believe Jordan’s angry dismissals. Common sense suggests they’d probably be better off believing five men who have no reason to lie.

When Jordan slithers out from under his rock each morning, dons a shirt and tie – sans the jacket, lest he be mistaken for Joe McCarthy – his life’s work is to besmirch everything America stands for in service of Donald Trump.

If it takes undermining yet another principle of democracy by condoning attacks on men and women who have devoted their lives in honorable service to this country, Jordan is always ready and willing.

If it takes changing the Trump defense strategy on an almost daily basis because facts keep getting in the way, Jordan is the ideal bootlicker. Trump’s support is all that seems to matter to the man former House Speaker John Boehner regularly referred to as “a legislative terrorist” – along with a whole bunch of other descriptions unfit for print.

Why would Jordan so readily ruin what little was left of his reputation? One theory holds he hopes to inherit Trump’s base for a presidential run of his own in 2024. The swamp will be a crowded place in four years, overrun with loathsome folks angling to continue the dastardly business of shredding the Constitution.

Michael Gerson’s credentials to analyze Jordan are impeccable. He is an evangelical Christian, lifelong Republican and onetime chief speechwriter to former President George W. Bush.

In his Washington Post column of Nov. 14, Gerson showed his keen understanding of Jordan, describing him as “the Truly Trumpian Man – guided by bigotry, seized by conspiracy theories, dismissive of facts and truth, indifferent to ethics, contemptuous of institutional norms and ruthlessly dedicated to the success of a demagogue.”

Gerson applied the identical description to Stephen Miller, the White House resident white supremacist.

Everything about Jordan reeks of a man willing to cast aside common decency and fairness in service of a corrupt and cruel president.

He may be the most unfit man to ever represent part of Greater Cleveland in Congress.

In Bizarro World: The One Thing I Find Most Surprising

bizarro 2

In the bizarro world we’re living in, here is the one thing I find most surprising—and, I think, slightly encouraging. Remember when Mike Mulvaney said, in words or substance, “Yeah, we extorted Ukraine. Get over it”? Well, Mulvaney said it, but everyone else, from Trump on down, seems scared shitless of just admitting the truth and saying “So what?”

Indeed, we have it on good authority that a group of four towering geniuses—they would be Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Bogus Legal Opinion Pat Cipollone—have decided that they want the Senate to hold an extended trial:

Two attendees said that the White House wants the Senate to hold a trial of some length and not immediately dismiss any articles of impeachment with the GOP’s majority, as some Republicans have suggested.

The White House and Trump’s GOP allies decided instead “they want some kind of factual affirmative defense on the merits,” said one attendee.

Alternative Narratives and the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Argument

Many criminal trials follow this pattern: the defendant does not take the stand. The judge instructs the jury that no adverse presumption should follow from the defendant’s failure to take the stand. The facts are incomplete and somewhat ambiguous. (The facts are ALWAYS incomplete and somewhat ambiguous.) Defense counsel argues that some of the evidence may look pretty bad, but that, nonetheless, there is an alternative explanation of the facts. And, defense counsel strenuously claims, that alternative explanation creates at least a reasonable doubt about whether the defendant shot Cock Robin, or whether it was someone else.

But if Republicans want to take this tack with the Trump defense, there are two big problems.

One, it’s Trump’s own fault that the facts are incomplete, because he has ordered key witnesses not to testify, he has ordered the relevant documents to be withheld, and he has intimidated the witnesses who have come forward.

And the jury sure as hell can draw an adverse inference from that.

Two, the doubts that Trump’s defenders are advancing are not reasonable doubts: they are instead  unreasonable doubts.

No wonder the four towering legal geniuses would like to see “some kind of factual affirmative defense on the merits.”

The Main Takeaway

Progressives continue to fear the mighty power of Trump’s bullshit. But Trump’s defenders are afraid Trump’s bullshit-to-sense ratio may have reached a critically dangerous level.

Isn’t it nice to see such a confirmation of human reason?

Another Day in Bizarro World

Bizarro-World

The Zealots All Het Up

W Post

The above post is from one of my high school classmates. I have blacked out his or her name, to avoid unnecessary embarrassment for the family.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, the usually reliable Greg Sargent has suggested that we should start calling all Republicans criminals.

Someone evidently forgot to take his medications this morning.

Impeachment? Let’s Just Call the Whole Thing Off

Writing in Vanity Fair, Ken Stern informs us “IT IS HARD TO READ THIS AS ANYTHING BUT A WARNING”: NEW POLLING SUGGESTS DEMOCRATS’ IMPEACHMENT PUSH COULD ALIENATE KEY VOTERS: Data exclusive to Vanity Fair shows impeachment could be a losing issue for Democrats hoping to recruit Independents in 2020.

I gritted my teeth, read the article, and found it maybe a soupçon less disheartening than the title might suggest. But it was still plenty bad. It’s not so much that the independents believe or admire Trump. It’s that they are confused and exhausted.

And, most of all, they don’t see Trump’s continuation in office as relevant to their own wellbeing or lack of same. As long as things are OK for them personally, they don’t give a rat’s ass whether the President has the maturity of a three-year old, the morality of a sea slug, and the temperament of a rabid rottweiler.

One could bloviate about the immorality of this attitude. In my eighth decade of life, I for one don’t do nearly as much moralizing as I did in my youth. But it’s still surprising that large numbers of folks don’t see the danger in being led by a childish, narcissistic, immoral fool. Sort of like living your life unaware that hot stoves burn fingers or that three year olds are not supposed to drive cars.

But It Gets Yet More Bizarre

In my next post I shall reveal what I find most surprising of all in this bizarre world.

Lindsey, Please Bring on the Biden Investigation! Signed: Love and Kisses, Human Scum

follow the money

Alison Durkee, LINDSEY GRAHAM GIVES TRUMP THE BIDEN INVESTIGATION HE’S BEEN BEGGING FOR: A series of impeachment witnesses have all testified that the conspiracy theory is completely false—but Graham didn’t bother to tune in:

President Donald Trump may not have ultimately been successful in his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden—but at least he has Senator Lindsey Graham to do his bidding instead. Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, signaled his intention Thursday to investigate Joe and son Hunter Biden‘s dealings in Ukraine, legitimizing an unsubstantiated right-wing conspiracy theory that has gained notoriety through the current impeachment proceedings. The senator sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to Biden and Burisma, the Ukranian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden previously served, in order to investigate the theory that the then-V.P. improperly ordered the firing of former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in order to end Shokin’s investigation into Burisma.

Graham suggested Thursday in his letter that he’ll be focusing on Joe Biden’s conversations with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well as a 2016 meeting between Devon Archer, a business partner of Hunter Biden’s, and then-Secretary of State John Kerry. (A former Kerry aide told the Washington Post the meeting was a “courtesy hello to a 2004 alumni” of Kerry’s presidential campaign and was “100 percent unrelated to Burisma.”) Graham had previously told the Post in late October that he would not give into GOP pressure and “turn the Senate into a circus” by investigating the Bidens. But the escalating impeachment inquiry—which has gotten worse and worse for the Trump administration with each testifying witness—seems to have changed the loyal Trump ally’s mind. Graham spokeswoman Taylor Reidy told the Post that the senator was now asking for the documents because “Adam Schiff and the House Intel Committee have made it clear they will not look into the issues about Hunter Biden and Burisma.” “Graham is requesting documents which could shed additional light on that issue and hopes they will be able to answer some of the outstanding questions,” Reidy added.

Bring on the Biden Investigation

Schiff Was Right Not to Let the Hearings Be Diverted

The Republicans seem to want to argue that it was OK for Trump to ask the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens because, in the Republicans’ view, the Bidens were in fact guilty of corruption. But the hypothetical guilt of the Bidens would not excuse Trump’s conduct. So the Bidens’ hypothetical guilt or innocence is irrelevant to the matters the Intelligence Committee is investigating. So the Intelligence Committee is right not let itself be diverted into irrelevancies.

But, Lindsey, Please Bring on the Biden Investigation Anyway

If nothing else, do it as a personal favor to me. I will be voting in a Democratic primary. I have not yet decided whom to vote for. I’m skeptical that Sleepy Joe is the best candidate, but I might, in the end, vote for him because I might decide that he Is in fact the candidate most likely to defeat Trump.

Now, I know beyond any doubt that if Biden is the nominee, Republicans will hop up and down, foam at the mouth, and scream Ukrainian corruption. That doesn’t make much difference, because they’ll hop up and down, foam and the mouth, and scream lies no matter who is nominated.

But here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure that a full presentation will show that Sleepy Joe did nothing and said nothing to benefit Burisma, with whom Hunter was associated in three different capacities. In particular, I’m pretty sure the evidence will show that Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor that Sleep Joe wanted to shitcan, was eminently worthy of being shitcanned.

But it would be helpful to have all of this fully aired, earlier rather than later. To help Arius and Dr. Aardvark be sure that Sleepy Joe doesn’t have baggage we don’t know about.

So, thank you Lindsey.

But Won’t Lindsey Graham Just Manufacture Evidence and Stage a Bogus Show Trial?

Possibly, he might try to do that. But I’m pretty sure he could not get away with it.

But is it OK for the House Judiciary Committee to Investigate Political Opponents Not Currently Serving in Government—and Shouldn’t the Bidens Just Refuse to Cooperate?

The case law tells us that Congress has an extremely broad power to conduct investigations. That power has some limitations, but it’s very broad. If the Senate subpoenas the Bidens and they respond by asking the courts to suppress the subpoenas, I believe they would lose the case.

For that reasons and others, I will not vote for Sleepy Joe if he and Hunter try to stonewall Lindsey.

And What About Hunter?

As I said above, the key question is whether Sleepy Joe did or said anything wrong in reference to Ukrainian corruption.

At a bare minimum, Hunter Biden exercised extremely poor judgment in trading on his father’s position to sit on the board of a corrupt company and give that corrupt company a veneer of respectability—and allow that corrupt company to imply that it had juice with the Vice President of the United States.

We already know that. We also know, I think, that we are not personally responsible for all the unwise choices made by all of our relatives, particularly our adult relatives. That said, it bears on our understanding of Joe Biden’s character and judgment to know what he said or didn’t say, what he did or didn’t do, to remonstrate with young Hunter. And, yes, I understand that’s an emotional topic for Sleepy Joe, but that’s a question he’s going to have to answer. And the sooner he answers, the better for all of us—probably including both the Bidens.

What Did Hunter Actually Do for Burisma? And How Much Loot Did He Actually Receive?

Three Hats

Young Hunter’s service to Burisma caused him to wear three different hats, at various times.

Compensation as a Member of the Board of Directors. It has been widely reported that he received $50,000 a month in that capacity. As a human scum, I know that 2 + 2 = 4, and that $50,000 x 12 = $600,000, and that $600,000 x several years = several million simoleons.

Definitely on the high side. Median compensation for directors at the very largest U.S. corporations runs around $300,000 per year.

Fees for Legal Services and Law Firm Compensation. During much of the relevant time period, young Hunter was Of Counsel at the respected New York-based law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, which describes itself this way: “We are a firm of internationally recognized trial lawyers, crisis managers, and strategic advisors known for our creative, aggressive, and efficient pursuit of success for our clients.”

In 2014, following Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, of which we have heard so much in recent days, Burisma felt the need for some serious crisis management, strategic advice, and creative and aggressive pursue of success. That was because Burisma had been bribing government officials, evading taxes, and laundering money. So they retained Boies Schiller and they hired one of their lawyers—not a partner, but an Of Counsel who just happened to be a son of the U.S. Vice President—to serve on their board. His particular lane—presumably, both as a Boies Schiller attorney and a board member—was said to be “corporate governance best practices.” I assume that young Hunter was able to advise them that corporate governance best practices do not include bribery, tax evasion, and money laundering. For this, his law firm was paid a considerable amount of money. I don’t believe we know how much, though, even by an order of magnitude. I do not believe we know exactly what services were performed, apart from general admonitions to go and sin no more.

Also, from the perspective of Boies Schiller’s management, young Hunter would have been seen as a “rain maker,” and that would have been reflected in his compensation. I do not believe we know the amount of that compensation.

Financial Rewards for International Deal Making. At more or less the same time as Burisma hired Boies Schiller and put young Hunter on its board, it also entered into one or more transactions with an investment and deal-making firm named Rosemont Seneca. Young Hunter was one of that firm’s three partners, the others being Christopher Heinz, John Kerry’s stepson, and someone named Devon Archer. Young Heinz, who smelled a rat, got out of the relationship. Young Devon joined his friend and partner Hunter in accepting a position on Burisma’s board of directors.

There is some reporting that, while wearing this third hat, Hunter came out several million dollars richer. But verified facts are scarce.

I Want to Know the Facts Before I Vote

I want to know how much money Hunter got, for doing what. I want to know whether the facts suggest the payments were all for legitimate services or business transactions—or whether Burisma was deliberately putting a large amount of money in Hunter’s pocket which he had not earned. And if the latter was the case, I want to know what Hunter did with the money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many Have Asked, How Will the Republicans React to All the Damning Testimony?

**

Glad to see readers today from the Kingdom of Nepal—wonderful place, one of our best trips—and from the Republic of Georgia, which I am sure is a fine place as well. Glad to see continued readership in Mauritius, Kenya, Germany, and other far-flung places.

The Thing About a Really Stupid Argument

fish

Some Republicans are trying to argue that Trump only had a generic interest in Ukrainian corruption, not the Bidens or the mythical Hidden Democratic Server.

Some Republicans are trying to argue that the Three Amigos somehow made a huge mistake about what The Donald wanted them to do.

Some Republicans are arguing that bribery means offering an official act in exchange for a personal payoff, but bribery is OK if the bribe is never paid because you get caught.

The Thing About a Really Stupid Argument

The thing about a really stupid argument it that it’s like yesterday’s fish. It may not be too bad on the second day, but the more it’s exposed to air and sunshine, the worse it’s going to smell.

“Bad but Not Impeachably Bad”? A Clarifying Hypothetical

Bill and Monica

Best headline for today: GORDON SONDLAND THROWS TRUMP, GIULIANI UNDER THE BUS (BACKS UP, DOES IT AGAIN). And in the Washington Post, Amber Blake explains the eight ways in which Gordon Sondland’s testimony torpedoes Republican defenses of Trump. I won’t repeat their points, but will give my take on where we stand today.

A Clarifying Hypothetical

Let me pose a hypothetical, contrary to fact. Assume that the evidence, take as a whole showed the following: Trump, directly or through intermediaries, conveyed this message to the Ukrainians: “You can have your military aid, as appropriated by Congress, in full and on time. But you also want a meeting with me in the Oval Office. And, to get that meeting, your president must first publicly announce that he is investigating (1) my batshit crazy theory about purloined Democratic servers, hidden away in Ukraine, and (2) allegations that Joe Biden took money from corrupt Ukrainian oligarchs. You do not have to take any followup steps, but you do have to announce publicly that you intend to investigate these charges, which you must claim to take seriously. If you do that, you will get your White House meeting.” Assume further that the military aid does flow, on time and in full.

Bad but Not Impeachably Bad?

In recent days, we have been schooled in the technicalities of the law of bribery. And, with the benefit of this technical analysis, we can see that, in my hypothetical, one might indeed discern all the elements of bribery. But would it be easy to argue—persuasively, to a skeptical public—that my hypothetical is quite bad enough to warrant impeachment?

Sure, it’s different from Clinton’s perjuring himself about how often he unzipped his pants. Sure, my hypothetical describes conduct that may be felonious, but so was Clinton’s conduct.

It’s the Military Aid, Stupid

No, I submit that what pushes the Trump situation over the impeachability line is the callous indifference to dying Ukrainians—the withholding of military aid for no good reason.

Republicans have four choices:

  • they can keep on telling a fairy tale about the military aid,
  • they can make the bad-but-not-impeachably-bad argument,
  • they can defend the withholding of military aid to extort bogus investigations as morally right and proper, or
  • they can give the conclusory answer, “We think no impeachable offenses were committed” and then just shut the hell up, manfully refusing any further explanation or rational debate.

All the choices are bad for them. At the end of the day, I think the last choice—make a conclusory statement, shut up, and refuse all further discussion—is the least bad from their perspective, so that’s where they will probably go in the end.

But right now, they want to keep on telling their fairy tale.

Three Questions to Answer

Republicans have three questions to answer:

  1. Why was the military aid put on hold, in the first place?
  2. Why was it finally released? And,
  3. Why was it released when it was released—two days after the scandal broke in public?

As to the first question: Republicans want to answer that it was put on hold because a general concern of Ukrainian corruption. But the July 25 “transcript” that Trump himself released is inconsistent with that fable.

As to the second question: some Republicans have floated the myth that people knowledgeable about Ukraine talked Trump around to the view that Zelinsky was a “good guy.” But there is no evidence at all to support the claim.

And if there were any such evidence, it would be found amount the thousands of documents that Trump is hiding from the House. As Miss Nancy said, if Trump has some exculpatory evidence, cough it up.

As to the third question, I have not even heard a pathetic attempt to explain the timing of the release, or to rebut the obvious conclusion that Trump released the aid on September 11 because he was caught.

A Point of Personal Privilege

 

Several decades ago, Dr. Aardvark and I met, dated, and married at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

I taught a course in introductory political science. On the last day of class, I asked the students to tell me what they had learned. There ensued an extensive discussion in Cantonese, and they selected a spokesperson to respond, stating the group consensus. “Mr. Aardvark,” the spokesman said, “in your course we have learned that in the West there is too much freedom.”

My students’ grandchildren are now manning the barricades.

May the Lord Buddha protect them.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, Which is Infallible, Would Like You to Know that Republicans Hitched Their Wagon to the Wrong Star

My attention has been drawn to a November 6 Wall Street Journal editorial—written after Trump’s Kentucky catastrophe but before his Louisiana debacle. The infallible WSJ Editorial Board concludes,

Senate Republicans know that … their majority is … at risk. They can’t win merely by turning out the Trump base. The GOP needs a strategy and agenda to regain support in the suburbs or they will lose the House, the White House and the Senate in 2020.

Buck up, everybody. No, don’t be complacent. And don’t accuse me of supporting complacency.

Just buck up. And remember the other side isn’t ten feet tall.

We are treated daily to massive gaslighting–making even the strongest minded among us question their hold on reality.

We are treated to a concerted effort to dissolve the boundary between right and wrong.

We are experiencing something analogous to an evil Nazi medical experiment on the body politic.

Science, enlightenment, and expertise are being tested.

But rationality will prevail.

You have it one the authority of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.

 

Nowhere to Go But Down

This from a new ABC/Ipsos poll out today:

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 12.16.41 PM

A whole bunch of polls, asking a whole bunch of varied questions—“Trump said the moon is made of green cheese, how strongly do you agree?”—have yielded that same 25 percent figure. So, we can say with some confidence, that’s his base, and that’s his base line. The 25 percent of us who are cultists will stick with him, because they think he’s God’s Anointed. As for the remaining 75 percent of us, it can only get worse for the Trumpster. Ain’t nothin’ on the horizon that might improve his position.

A Perfect Phone Call All Right—Perfect Evidence of Bribery

Trump’s July 25 call was indeed perfect: a perfect example of the crime of bribery.

Republicans are transitioning to the No-Harm-No-Foul defense. That defense does not cut the mustard. That dog won’t hunt. That cock won’t fight.

Relying on help from a more learned friend, I explained the point in a previous post. Now, Randall D. Eliason, Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University*  lays it all out in Trump and Ukraine: Call it Bribery, Not Extortion.  I won’t relay all the technical legal analysis, but here is the key passage:

The federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201, makes it a crime for a public official to corruptly demand, seek, receive, accept, or agree to receive or accept anything of value in exchange for being influenced in the performance of an official act. In this case, the public official is president Trump. The thing of value he demanded was public investigations of his political rival Joe Biden and of a debunked conspiracy theory involving interference in the 2016 election and a computer server supposedly located in Ukraine.  And the official act Trump would perform in return would be releasing the approved military aid to Ukraine. Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine readily meets the elements of the bribery statute.

A key factor in this charge is the breadth of the term “thing of value.” It encompasses anything of subjective value to the official that would have the potential to influence his or her behavior. Offers of future contracts or employment, sexual favors, companionship, and other intangibles all have been held to be things of value for purposes of the bribery statute. Publicly-announced investigations that would benefit Trump politically would certainly qualify. Trump’s actions in seeking the investigations, both personally and through intermediaries such as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, amply demonstrate how personally valuable he thought Ukraine’s actions could be.

*”Randall D. Eliason spent 12 years as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, working in various areas including misdemeanors, grand jury, narcotics, general felonies, and the Violent Crime Unit. For more than eight years, Mr. Eliason specialized in white collar crime as a member of the Public Corruption/Government Fraud section. From 1999 to 2001, he served as chief of that section, supervising a staff of eleven AUSA’s prosecuting white collar cases in federal court.

“Mr. Eliason is the recipient of numerous awards and commendations from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies. While at the U.S. Attorney’s office, he lectured at the Department of Justice National Advocacy Center in South Carolina and at the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. He also served as the Professional Responsibility Officer (ethics advisor) for the Criminal Division.”

Right Numbers, Wrong Conclusion

data

Philip Bump, Another warning for Republicans: Trump can’t win you your election

Yesterday, I wrote about how Trump when to Louisiana begging voters to make the election for governor a referendum on his impeachment. He wanted them to “send a message”—and said so very plainly. His efforts juiced voting among his cultists in rural areas, but they ginned up even more anti-Trump voters among African-Americans and among folks in the suburbs of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

In the remote event you pine for a lot of detailed data supporting that thesis, then Mr. Bump’s article is the article for you.

A Little More Context

I’ll add a bit more data. In 2016, 1,178,638 Louisiana voters exercised the franchise for Donald Trump, while 780,194 chose Crooked Hillary. Deceitful Donald won 58.1 percent, Crooked Hillary received 38.4 percent, and a hodgepodge of weird third-party candidates garnered a collective 3.6 percent of Louisiana voters.

On Saturday, the notorious socialist, Governor Edwards, got the nod from 774,469 voters—pretty much the same number who liked Crooked Hillary in 2016. Republican candidate Eddie “Me Hug Trump” Rispone got 734,128.

Let us take a swig of coffee and reflect on those numbers. Almost half a million Louisiana voters—444,510, to be precise—voted for Trump in 2016 but chose not to vote for the candidate Trump endorsed in 2019, all while he was begging and pleading with them to send Washington a message on impeachment. Putting it another way, 62 percent of Trump’s Louisiana voters still believe his bullshit and are still willing to do what he tells them to do. The other 38 percent of his voters? They’re either immune to his gaslighting, or maybe they want to send a different message: go ahead and impeach the sonofabitch.

Right Numbers, Wrong Conclusion

Bump writes,

To be fair, Trump has never been terribly effective at delivering general-election victories. In 2018, his endorsed candidates went about 50-50, though he’d been effective at winning primaries for Republicans.

But right now Trump needs Republicans to feel more confident in his ability to win elections than he did then. When Bevin lost, we noted the difficulty of the timing for Trump. With impeachment looming in the House, he needs Republicans to feel as though they can’t buck him without paying a political result. Expending a lot of political capital on winning gubernatorial races in red states only to see the Republicans lose doesn’t send that message. Quite the opposite.

The underlined passage is wrong. If a Louisiana senator voted to remove Trump from office, the data discussed here imply he would lose at least 62 percent of his base. “Voting to buck him” would indeed likely be politically disastrous.

On the other hand, a vote to acquit might cost up to a third of his base.

Dear Leader is Ill

lolcat get well

From Daily Kos:

On Saturday, Donald Trump was whisked off to Walter Reed Medical Center for what the White House Press Secretary would soon insist were “routine checkups.” Yes, on a Saturday. Yes, with no prior indication. The trip to Walter Reed was not on the schedule as of Friday, a source told CNN, and the medical staff was not alerted that Trump would be coming. …

So the story is that Donald Trump, famously lazy and extremelydevoted to finding time to golf on nearly every weekend, decided on a whim that rather than go golfing or sitting his behind down in front of Fox News he felt like randomly popping in, unannounced, to get some blood drawn because he’s been looking over the 2020 schedule and no, sorry, all booked up. Sure. Everyone has hobbies; if Donald’s hobby is unannounced routine medical visits who are we to argue. Perhaps the lobby has a brand of mints he hasn’t been able to find anywhere else.

To Defenestrate or not to Defenestrate: The Bad Guys are in an Impossible Position

defenestration

Gordon Sondland is in an Impossible Position

The Guardian, Impeachment inquiry: Trump ally must choose between loyalty and saving himself: Gordon Sondland may try to balance fealty to Trump with the fate that has befallen others in the president’s circle: prison time:

Donald Trump’s fate in the impeachment inquiry could rest in the hands of a donor and supporter under pressure to turn against the US president to save his own skin.

Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, is due to testify on Wednesday during the second week of televised hearings that have rocked the White House.

Sondland is certain to be questioned about the biggest revelation from last week: a phone call he made to Trump from Ukraine in July in which the president was overheard asking about an investigation into one of his political rivals. Sondland allegedly assured him it would go ahead.

The ambassador made no mention of the call in a deposition to the inquiry behind closed doors, nor in a revised statement three weeks later that conceded a quid pro quo over military aid. Now, in front of TV cameras and an audience of millions, he will be asked why.

As he weighs his answer, Sondland may try to balance fealty to Trump with the fate that has befallen others in the president’s circle: his former lawyer Michael Cohen and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort are both behind bars, while political operative Roger Stone was last week found guilty of lying to Congress.

“Hey Ambassador Sondland,” tweeted Joe Scarborough, a former congressman turned TV host, “Roger Stone lied to Congress for Trump and is now going to jail. Just like his campaign manager and lawyer. Are you next? Your call, Gordy.”

Ambassador Sondland’s best move would be to flee the jurisdiction. And I am not kidding.

His second best option would be to take massive doses of Prevagen, show up, and tell the truth: that the Trumpster told him to extort the Ukrainians.

Republicans Who Want to Defenstrate Sondland are also in an Impossible Situation

If he shows up and tells the truth, the Republican pols will hop up and down and ask the same. question about 97 times: Were you lying then or are you lying now?

But the question actually has an answer: I was lying then but I’m telling the truth now.

“OK,” Shouty Shirt will shout, “How do we know you’re telling the truth now, when you just admitted lying under oath a few days ago?”

But the problem for Shouty Shirt is that his rhetorical question has an answer: “I was lying then, because I wanted to protect Trump. But I’m telling the truth now because my lies have been exposed, and I want to avoid further legal exposure for perjury.”

Speaker Pelosi: “Show Me the Exculpatory Evidence.” Senator Johnson (R-Idiot): “Well, I Really Wish We HAD Some Exculpatory Evidence to Show You.”

exculpatory

Politico, Pelosi: I ‘look forward to seeing’ evidence clearing Trump:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and House impeachment investigators “look forward” to seeing any information that would demonstrate President Donald Trump’s innocence.

“That remains,” the California Democrat said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” when asked by host Margaret Brennan whether she had seen any information that clears Trump of any wrongdoing in the Ukraine scandal.

Washington Post, Sen. Johnson says whistleblower’s sources ‘exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed’:

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Sunday that the Trump administration officials who provided information to the anonymous whistleblower about the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

“This would have been far better off if we would’ve just taken care of this behind the scenes,” Johnson said in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “We have two branches of government. Most people, most people wanted to support Ukraine. We were trying to convince President Trump.”