With only two weeks left in the decade, it looks like the 2010s will end...bizarrely.
More people have taken a look at the President's unhinged temper tantrum yesterday. I already mentioned that Aaron Blake annotated it. The Times fact-checked it. And Jennifer Rubin says "It is difficult to capture how bizarre and frightening the letter is simply by counting the utter falsehoods...or by quoting from the invective dripping from his pen."
As for the impeachment itself, Josh Marshall keeps things simple:
Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.
One: The President is accused of using extortion to coerce a foreign power to intervene in a US presidential election on his behalf.
Two: There is no one in US politics who would ever find that behavior remotely acceptable in a President of the opposite party.
Three: The evidence that the President did what he is accused of doing is simply overwhelming.
In the UK, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Labour—Islington South and Finsbury) has announced a run for Labour Party leader: “Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’. To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts … I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it."
The Times review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker left me feeling resigned to seeing the movie, rather than excited. A.O. Scott said:
The director is J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most consistent B student in modern popular culture. He has shepherded George Lucas’s mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era, making the old galaxy a more diverse and also a less idiosyncratic place.
Abrams is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a longstanding sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up.
Which is not entirely terrible. “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a great “Star Wars” movie, but that may be because there is no such thing. That seems to be the way we like it.
Well, that's a ringing endorsement. I mean, I'm sure I'll come out of it feeling like it was worth $15, but I'm not sure I'll see it over 200 times like I have with A New Hope. (It helps that ANH came out when I was about to turn 7.)
And in other news:
Will the world be better in 2020? We'll see.
The President of the United States threw another tantrum today, this time in the form of a six-page letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It isn't exactly the Gettysburg Address:
President Trump on Tuesday denounced what he called a “partisan impeachment crusade” being waged against him by Democrats, calling the effort to remove him an unconstitutional abuse of power and an “attempted coup” that would come back to haunt them at the ballot box next year.
“I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election,” Mr. Trump wrote in a rambling, six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent on the eve of House votes to impeach him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “They will not soon forgive your perversion of justice and abuse of power.”
Mr. Trump wrote that he knew his letter would not change the outcome of Wednesday’s votes, expected to occur almost entirely on party lines, to impeach him. But he said the missive was “for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”
He's right; history will judge how he handled his presidency. I doubt it will judge him the way his narcissistic little mind believes it will.
If you have nothing better to do this afternoon, you can read the letter here. Lincoln may have cringed, but Andrew Johnson would approve.
Update: Of course Aaron Blake annotated the thing.
As the final results of yesterday's election came in, journalists around the world started analyzing them. A sample:
The Guardian mourned not only the complete expulsion of Labour from Scotland, but also how seats Labour held since 1935 flipped. Jonathan Freedland puts the blame entirely on Jeremy Corbyn, who, meanwhile, is "very proud" of the party manifesto that scared millions of people away from the party.
The Economist sees it as clearly Corbyn's defeat. Corbyn has promised to step down as Labour leader but hasn't said when. I can scarcely imagine how he'll avoid a possibly-literal defenestration.
Jo Swinson managed to take the Liberal Democratic party from its 2010 high of 62 seats down to today's 11, losing her own seat and her job in the process. I mentioned last night that the Lib-Dems are the party of compromise in the UK, but right now, no one wants to compromise.
The Atlantic's Helen Lewis points out that 87% of British Jews think Corbyn an anti-Semite (as do 100% of the Daily Parker's Jews).
Many writers thought about what this means for American politics: Andrew Sullivan and David Weigel, for example.
On TPM, John Judis blames the philosophical problem Labour had over Brexit—and Jeremy Corbyn. Josh Marshall wonders if the UK will even exist in 2030.
And as Labour supporters throughout the UK wonder what the hell happened today, I should note that two Articles of Impeachment left the Judiciary Committee this morning on their way to the House floor. The last three weeks of the decade will be interesting, won't they?
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder slams his successor for "actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official" that he felt compelled to speak out:
In Barr’s view, sharing executive power with anyone “beyond the control of the president” (emphasis mine), presumably including a semi-independent Cabinet member, “contravenes the Framers’ clear intent to vest that power in a single person.” This is a stunning declaration not merely of ideology but of loyalty: to the president and his interests. It is also revealing of Barr’s own intent: to serve not at a careful remove from politics, as his office demands, but as an instrument of politics — under the direct “control” of President Trump.
Virtually since the moment he took office...Barr’s words and actions have been fundamentally inconsistent with his duty to the Constitution. Which is why I now fear that his conduct — running political interference for an increasingly lawless president — will wreak lasting damage.
The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him. William Barr has proved he is incapable of serving as such an attorney general. He is unfit to lead the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, across town from the Justice Department, the Republican Party, from Congress to the White House, apparently have decided that no defense is their best offense against the articles of impeachment against President Trump. This may have something to do with Trump admitting to all the impeachable conduct the House accuses him of...
Let me first acknowledge that the biggest news story today today came from the House Judiciary Committee, which has drawn up two articles of impeachment against President Trump. This comes after committee chair Jerry Nadler nearly lost control of yesterday's meeting.
As Josh Marshall points out, no one expects the Senate to remove the president from office. So the Democratic Party's job is just to demonstrate how much malfeasance and illegality the Republican Party will tolerate from their guy.
If only that were the only story today.
And tonight, I get to preside over a condo-board meeting that will be at least as fun as yesterday's Judiciary Committee meeting.
I had the misfortune of hearing the entirety of Rep. Doug Collins' (R-GA) opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee this morning, and I almost ran off the road because I was rolling my eyes too much.
Fortunately, Alexandra Petri neatly summed up the Republican positions he advanced:
You bet I would love to support impeachment! Nothing would delight me more — if it were just bipartisan, which unfortunately it’s not, because I have vowed to oppose it at all costs. This is sure an unfortunate coincidence. I keep asking: Why isn’t there bipartisan support for this? I could support it, if only I were not against it — which I am, vehemently, and will hear no reason to change my mind. A most ingenious paradox!
We must consider the facts. Alas, the facts are in dispute, coincidentally again by me. So, there we are. Who can say what’s true? I understand you to be saying that a certain set of things are demonstrably true, but to that I say, “What if they weren’t? Also, think about President Andrew Johnson.”
It is your fault that this impeachment process is not bipartisan, and you ought to feel bad. If I had not vowed that this process was illegitimate and I would oppose it, I would consider it legitimate, and support it. It is your fault that I won’t, for starting this process, instead of waiting for me to start it.
Which I would have! If the president were a Democrat.
As long as the Republican members of Congress do not care at all how President Trump executes his office, all the Democrats can do is point out how bad it is. And also their hypocrisy. Remember, when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair, they made all the arguments that Democrats are now making for far worse conduct.
The Post reported today that a simple review of phone logs shows how the president and his stooges left themselves open to Russian espionage by using insecure cell phones:
The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents — a stance that is particularly remarkable given Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign for her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state.
The connection to the Ukraine campaign is also troubling because of how Moscow could exploit knowledge that Trump was secretly engaged in efforts to extract political favors from the government in Kyiv.
Trump and Giuliani have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information,” said John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Sipher and others said that it is so likely that Russia tracked the calls of Giuliani and others that the Kremlin probably knows more now
“Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text” of what was said, Sipher said. “I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.”
Ordinarily I'd chalk this up to stupidity. But GOP strategist Rick Wilson sees something far darker:
The traitors deliberately ignore the reporting, counsel, and warnings of the intelligence community when it comes to Russia’s attacks and Vladimir Putin’s vast, continuing intelligence and propaganda warfare against the United States.
The traitors — be they United States senators like John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham or columnists from the Federalist, Breitbart, and a slurry of other formally conservative media outlets — repeat the Kremlin-approved propaganda messages and tropes of that warfare, word for word.
It’s not simply treason by making common cause with a murderous autocrat in Russia, or merrily wrecking the alliances around the world that kept America relatively secure for seven decades.
Their betrayal is also to our system of government, which as imperfect — and often downright fucked up — as it is, has been remarkably capable of surviving.
And if you can’t spot the treason yet, you will soon enough. That’s the thing about spies, traitors, and those who betray their country — they rarely stay hidden forever.
We need to get this administration out of office in 2021, and help the American people understand the danger their sympathizers represent. If only we still taught civics in schools.
Today in Chicago we have seen more sun than in the past several weeks, and yet here I toil in my cube. But a lot is going on outside it:
And we now return to our regular JSON debugging session, already in progress.
As the House Judiciary Committee goes through the unfortunately necessary step of having expert witnesses state the obvious, other things caught my attention over the course of the morning:
Finally, two CTA employees were fired after one of them discovered an exploitable security hole in bus-tracking software, and the other tested it. The one who discovered it has sued under a Federal whistle-blower statute. Firing someone for discovering a potentially-catastrophic software design error is really dumb, people.
After conversations with knowledgeable friends on both sides of center, I wonder which of these scenarios in all seriousness is most likely. Note that these scenarios are not mutually exclusive:
A. President Trump wins re-election.
B. President Trump leaves office before the 2021 inauguration.
C. President Trump loses re-election but refuses to concede.
D. One or more members of President Trump's immediate family flees to exile in Russia before the end of 2022.
E. A flag or general officer openly defies an order from President Trump...
1. and is acquitted at court-martial; or
2. is not sent to court-martial.
F. A senior officer (O-4 to O-6, i.e., Major through Colonel or Lt Commander through Captain) openly defies an order from President Trump...
1. and is acquitted at court-martial; or
2. is not sent to court-martial.
G. One or more members of President Trump's immediate family is convicted of state crimes related to Trump's companies.
All of these are troubling scenarios. All of them are possible.
Not to mention, Scenario F2 has already happened, but people outside the military may not understand the problem. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman unambiguously violated a direct order from the president when he testified before Congress last month. But the order was unambiguously illegal. If the Army were to follow proper procedures, Vindman should go to court-marshal and he should be acquitted. He hasn't been because the Army has no way of starting those proceedings without looking like it's taking a political position. But what if...?
There are many other situations that could come up before Trump leaves office, but I think these are the most likely.
Thoughtful comments about these possibilities are encouraged.