The Washington Post reports that, speaking of Trump’s move to defund the WHO:
The chairman of the Russian State Duma’s foreign affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, called Trump’s move “absolutely harmful” on Wednesday and an example of “egoism and the politicization of Covid-19.” The move was aimed at blaming others for U.S. failures, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Some reading for this evening:
Nancy LeTourneau, Trump Is Making the Case That He’s Putin’s Puppet:
This is actually about a country run by an authoritarian leader who wants to break up the kinds of alliances that have kept the global order fairly stable for the last 60 years and take us back to the “Great Power” politics that resulted in two world wars. Rather than standing up to that threat, our current president is playing the role of puppet to that leader …
Josh Marshall, We’ve Got a Problem. A Big Problem:
We have a President who clearly got a great deal of assistance from Russia in getting elected. We can argue about how important it was to his victory. But the reality of the help is not in any real dispute. His campaign at a minimum had numerous highly suspicious contacts with people either in the Russian government or acting on behalf of the Russian government while that was happening. That is a very generous interpretation. He’s doing all the stuff he’d have been asked to do if such a corrupt bargain had been made. At a certain point – and I’d say we’re clearly at or past that point – it really doesn’t matter whether we can prove such a bargain was made. I’m not even sure it matters whether it was explicit or even happened. The bank robber helped the teller get the job and now the teller just won’t seem to lock the safe or even turn on the alarm. We can debate forever whether the teller is just absent-minded or has some odd philosophical aversion toward locks. The debate may be unresolvable. It truly doesn’t matter.
Jonathan Chait, Trump Is Fulfilling Russia’s Dream of Splitting the Western Alliance:
“Senior government officials in Washington, London, Berlin, and other European capitals” tell Susan Glasser “they now worry that Trump may be a greater immediate threat to the alliance than even authoritarian great-power rivals, such as Russia and China.” Trump might be a greater threat to the West than Putin. Worse, he might be, in a sense, the very same threat.
Yeah, I know, you make up your own mind about what you must read. And well you should. But please consider these.
Jeff Sessions, Patriot
The Washington Monthly answers, at least to its own satisfaction, the question, Why Did Sessions Pivot 180 Degrees in His Views on Russia? Massive intrigue. $11 billion deals. Intense skullduggery.
Why the Delay in the Revised Muslim Ban?
****Aardvark Confirmation Bias Alert****Because they ain’t got no stinkin’ evidence to support it.
Why “Obamacare Replacement” Won’t Pass
The picture is becoming clearer, as Josh Barro lucidly explains. And see 5 Points On The Tax Credit Debate Roiling The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Effort.
To pass, it would have to strike some sort of balance between destroying health care for everybody, which the traditional conservatives/libertarians want, and keeping subsidies for lots of people, which the “moderates” want, so that it won’t be compared too unfavorably vis-à-vis Obamacare. But there aren’t enough votes for that kind of compromise.
The only way to steamroll all the Republican factious is bullying from Trump. Which he probably won’t do. Which might well not work if he tried it. And which, if it did work, would seriously undermine Trump with his base—when lots of them lose their health care.
Brooks On Trumpism
Many paragraphs. A deep thought in every one. Read it for yourself. Brooks concludes thusly,
Fourth, Trump’s speech on Tuesday offered those of us who want to replace him an occasion to ask the big question: How in the 21st century should government unleash initiative and dynamism while also preserving order? Trump’s answer: Nationalize intimidation but privatize compassion. Don’t look to government to offer a warm hand; look to it to confront your enemies with a hard fist.
Human development research offers a different formula: All of life is a series of daring adventures from a secure base. If government can create a framework in which people grow up amid healthy families, nurturing schools, thick communities and a secure safety net, then they will have the resources and audacity to thrive in a free global economy and a diversifying skills economy.
This is a response that is open to welfare state policies from the left and trade and macroeconomic policies from the free-market right — a single-payer health care system married to the flat tax.
The last thing Trump showed was this: We’re in a state of radical flux. Political parties can turn on a dime. At least that means it’s a time to think anew.
Words fail me.
This morning Nicholas Kristof asks, trenchantly discusses, but does not answer the question whether Trump is “Kremlin Employee of the Month”—concluding, “We can’t afford even the perception that our president is the Kremlin’s man in Washington.”
Well, that’s right. We can’t afford it, but it looks as if we have bought it anyway.
Meanwhile, from the Washington Post we learn that “There’s no joy in Moscow after tough talk from Trump appointees.” This comes amid other reports of possible buyers’ remorse at the Kremlin.
Which would you want, a stable, predictable enemy, or an unstable, mentally challenged tool? Hmm … That would depend on how unstable and how mentally challenged, wouldn’t it?
As Aardvark writes on the evening of Friday the 13th of January, the gyre keeps widening, and we remember Nixon’s integrity, patriotism, and trustworthiness with increasing fondness.
Senator Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Warner, Democrat of Virginia, have released the following statement, and I quote:
Joint Statement on Committee Inquiry into Russian Intelligence Activities
WASHINGTON – Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today issued a joint statement regarding the Committee’s inquiry into Russian intelligence activities:
“As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States.
In the course of its regular work, the Committee conducts oversight of the Intelligence Community’s collection and analysis related to Russia; however, the October 7, 2016, joint statement on election security from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), combined with the declassified Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” raise profound concerns.
The Committee will, therefore, conduct a bipartisan inquiry of the intelligence reporting behind the Intelligence Community assessments from January 6, 2017 on this subject.
The scope of the Committee’s inquiry will include, but is not limited to:
- A review of the intelligence that informed the Intelligence Community Assessment “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections;”
- Counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns;
- Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” directed against the U.S., both as it regards the 2016 election and more broadly.
The Committee plans to:
- Hold hearings examining Russian intelligence activity;
- Interview senior officials of both the outgoing and incoming administrations including the issuance of subpoenas if necessary to compel testimony; and
- Produce both classified and unclassified reports on its findings.
The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads. We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right. When possible, the Committee will hold open hearings to help inform the public about the issues. That said, we will be conducting the bulk of the Committee’s business behind closed doors because we take seriously our obligation to protect sources and methods. As the Committee’s investigation progresses, we will keep Senate leadership, and the broader body, apprised of our findings.
We have received assurance from the Director of National Intelligence that the Intelligence Community will fully and promptly support our requests for information related to the investigation, and we have every reason to believe that commitment will be honored by the incoming administration.
Majority Leader McConnell and Democratic Leader Schumer have made it clear they expect any investigation into Russia’s involvement in our nation’s elections to be conducted in a bipartisan manner. It is a charge the SSCI takes seriously, as bipartisanship—in fact, non-partisanship—is at the very core of the Committee’s charter and is essential to preserving the intelligence equities involved.”
In addition to the joint statement, the Senators offered additional comment separately.
“As I indicated in my December statement, the SSCI has focused a great deal of attention on Russia’s behavior around the world,” said Chairman Burr. “Over the last two years, we have held more than ten hearings and briefings on these issues, with four reviewing Russia’s so-called ‘active measures.’”
“The SSCI was established to oversee the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government, and to ensure that the appropriate departments and agencies provided informed and timely intelligence to our nation’s leaders,” Burr added, “and part of our inquiry will necessarily be focused on what happened, and what didn’t happen, in this case.”
Of the investigation, Vice Chairman Warner said, “This issue impacts the foundations of our democratic system, it’s that important. This requires a full, deep, and bipartisan examination. At this time, I believe that this Committee is clearly best positioned to take on that responsibility, but whoever does this needs to do it right. If it turns out that SSCI cannot properly conduct this investigation, I will support legislation to empower whoever can do it right. That is my position now, and it will be my position for the duration of the investigation. I look forward to working with Chairman Burr on this tremendously important matter.”
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And now, our national anthem.