Dorothea Lange Butter bean vines across the porch, Negro quarter, Memphis, Tennessee 1938
One of the few good things to emerge from the impeachment tragedy: Jonathan Turley’s clear voice.
“Let them impeach and be damned.” Those words could have easily come from Donald Trump, as the House moves this week to impeach him. They were, however, the words of another president who not only shares some striking similarities to Trump but who went through an impeachment with chilling parallels to the current proceedings. The impeachment of Trump is not just history repeating itself but repeating itself with a vengeance.
The closest of the three prior presidential impeachment cases to the House effort today is the 1868 impeachment of Andrew Johnson. This is certainly not a comparison that Democrats should relish. The Johnson case has long been widely regarded as the very prototype of an abusive impeachment. As in the case of Trump, calls to impeach Johnson began almost as soon as he took office. A southerner who ascended to power after the Civil War as a result of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Johnson was called the “accidental president” and his legitimacy was never accepted by critics. Representative John Farnsworth of Illinois called Johnson an “ungrateful, despicable, besotted, traitorous man.”
Johnson opposed much of the reconstruction plan Lincoln had for the defeated south and was criticized for fueling racial divisions. He was widely viewed as an alcoholic and racist liar who opposed full citizenship for freed slaves. Ridiculed for not being able to spell, Johnson responded, “It is a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.” Sound familiar? The “Radical Republicans” in Congress started to lay a trap a year before impeachment. They were aware that Johnson wanted their ally, War Secretary Edwin Stanton, out of his cabinet, so they then decided to pass an unconstitutional law that made his firing a crime.
To leave no doubt of their intentions, they even defined such a firing as a “high misdemeanor.” It was a trap door crime created for the purposes of impeachment. Undeterred, Johnson fired Stanton anyway. His foes then set upon any member of Congress or commentator who dared question the basis for the impeachment. His leading opponent, Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania demanded of them, “What good did your moderation do you? If you do not kill the beast, it will kill you.”
Feldman also makes a solid argument, instead of the opinionated statements he made in the House.
While Nancy Pelosi threatens to withhold articles of impeachment passed Wednesday night by the House, Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman says that President Trump isn’t technically impeached until the House actually transmits the articles to the Senate. Feldman, who testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings earlier this month, argues in a Bloomberg Op-Ed that the framers’ definition of impeachment “assumed that impeachment was a process, not just a House vote,” and that “Strictly speaking, “impeachment” occurred – and occurs — when the articles of impeachment are presented to the Senate for trial. And at that point, the Senate is obliged by the Constitution to hold a trial.”
“If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all. That’s because “impeachment” under the Constitution means the House sending its approved articles of to the Senate, with House managers standing up in the Senate and saying the president is impeached. As for the headlines we saw after the House vote saying, “TRUMP IMPEACHED,” those are a media shorthand, not a technically correct legal statement. So far, the House has voted to impeach (future tense) Trump. He isn’t impeached (past tense) until the articles go to the Senate and the House members deliver the message.” -Noah Feldman
Pelosi, meanwhile, won’t transmit the articles until the Senate holds what she considers a “fair” trial. Roughly modeled after England’s impeachment procedures, the framers in Article I of the constitution gave the House “the sole power of impeachment,” while giving the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.” [..] In closing, Feldman says “if the House never sends the articles, then Trump could say with strong justification that he was never actually impeached,” adding “And that’s probably not the message Congressional Democrats are hoping to send.”
Where is he on Clapper?
Attorney General William Barr told “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that by the time Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, it had become clear that allegations raised by the FBI against a former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos were largely baseless, and that pursuing George Papadopoulos’ “had very little probative value.” Additionally, Barr admitted, in a very candid (for him) moment, that federal prosecutor John Durham (who is scrutinizing the Russia investigation) “isn’t just looking at the FBI, he’s looking at other agencies, departments, and private actors,” but that “the other agencies are cooperating very well.”
Which is all the more intriguing as, at the same time as his interview aired, The New York Times dropped a bombshell, reporting that, according to three people briefed on the inquiry, Durham’s investigation has begun examining the role of the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference. Specifically, Durham has requested Brennan’s emails, call logs, and other documents from the C.I.A. (and judging by Barr’s statement that “other agencies are cooperating very well,” we suspect Durham will get what he wants. Additionally, NYT reports that Durham is also examining whether Mr. Brennan privately contradicted his public comments, including May 2017 testimony to Congress, about both the dossier and about any debate among the intelligence agencies over their conclusions on Russia’s interference.
Of course, NYT is quick to ‘warn’ readers that Durham’s decision to probe Brennan’s actions deeper will “add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.” But we ask, just as with Ukraine and the Bidens, is it only ‘not allowed’ to root out corruption if the corrupt is a representative of ‘the other’? We will let AG Barr respond to that implied problem: “The president bore the burden of probably one of the greatest conspiracy theories – baseless conspiracy theories – in American political history.” [..] We suspect that if Durham cracks Brennan, he will take everyone else down with him. Maybe Nancy will hand the impeachment articles over at that moment… as a distraction from the real threat to America’s democracy, constitution, and common man.
If you’re into climate issues, this should make you rejoice.
Freight shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge of consumer and industrial goods but not bulk commodities declined 3.3% in November from a year ago, the 12th month in a row of year-over-year declines, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. This follows a huge boom in shipments through much of 2018, but by November last year, that boom was already fizzling, and by December last year, shipments declined on a year-over-year basis for the first time since the last freight recession. Note the infamous boom-and-bust cycles of the business:
The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods, industrial products such as construction materials, equipment and components being shipped to or by manufacturers, supplies and equipment for oil & gas drilling, and many other things. But it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. Cass derives the data from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of its clients ($28 billion in 2018). The boom levels last year had been stimulated by pandemic efforts all around to front-run the tariffs by loading up on merchandise. But November’s drop in shipment volume didn’t just put the index below November last year, but also below 2017 levels and 2014 levels and nudged it closer to the lows of the 2015 and 2016 freight recession. In the stacked chart below – note the seasonality of the business – the red line represents the index for 2019. The top black line represents 2018, the purple line 2017, and the yellow line 2014:
The Oil-and-Gas-Bust Factor. For more granularity, we’ll look at durable goods shipments – which include anything from washing machines (knock on wood in term of “durable”) to industrial equipment. Durable goods shipments in November fell 1.5% year-over-year. But within that group, shipments of machinery and equipment for agriculture, construction, and mining, which is dominated by equipment for shale oil-and-gas drilling, plunged 13.6% year-over-year. During the peak of the Oil Bust in late 2015 and early 2016, shipments of equipment to these sectors plunged by as much as 37% year-over-year, much worse than the plunge during the Financial Crisis when they’d bottomed out at -29%. This is how important the oil-and-gas sector has become to US industry.
Take a spoonful of Abenomics, add several pounds of sugar.
Japan’s government has approved a record budget spending plan worth $939 billion for the coming fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance said on Friday, as it struggles to curb spending and manage the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden. The 102.7 trillion yen ($939 billion) general-account budget for the year beginning April 1 marks a 1.2% rise from the current year, boosted by record outlays for welfare and the military and other spending aimed at boosting the economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has prioritized growth over fiscal reform under his “Abenomics” reflationary policy of monetary stimulus and flexible spending, and planned spending has increased for eight straight years.
Part of the planned spending will help finance a $122 billion fiscal package put together this month by Abe’s cabinet to shore up growth beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after hits from the U.S.-China trade war and an Oct. 1 sales tax hike to 10%. [..] Japan’s public debt is more than double the size of its $5 trillion economy, by far the highest among advanced economies. Bond yields have been suppressed by Bank of Japan money printing under a policy that caps 10-year JGB yields around 0%, allowing the government to rely on cheap borrowing. Perhaps mindful of fiscal discipline, Japan aims to cut new bond issuance for a 10th straight year – to 32.6 trillion yen from 32.7 trillion yen this year, helped in part by additional revenues from the sales tax hike.
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will install a giant cover over one of the reactors that underwent a nuclear meltdown as part of its dismantling process. Tokyo Electric Power Company announced the decision on Thursday regarding the No.1 reactor building, which was affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The covering will measure 65 meters high, 65 meters long and 50 meters wide. Its ceiling will have cranes that can be used to remove debris. The reactor’s fuel storage pool still holds 392 nuclear fuel units. As part of their removal process, TEPCO is clearing scattered debris from the building.
TEPCO says that by installing the cover, it aims to lower the risks of radioactive dust spreading outside during the debris removal process. It added that the device will also prevent rainwater from getting into the reactor building, thereby helping to reduce the volume of newly contaminated water. TEPCO says it cannot tell when the device will be completed, as it is still in the process of making a detailed construction plan.
Self-determination in 2020. Scotland has to ask the country they want to separate from if that’s okay.
Nicola Sturgeon has called for the Scottish parliament to be given permanent powers to hold subsequent referendums on independence from the UK. Describing the SNP’s success in last week’s general election as an “unarguable mandate by any normal standard of democracy”, Scotland’s first minister confirmed on Thursday morning that she had formally written to Boris Johnson to request the powers to legally stage another referendum under section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act. Alongside this, the SNP leader published a 38-page document that also sets out draft amendments to the statute, which would devolve the right to hold votes on leaving the UK to Holyrood.
Insisting that she was not advocating for a third independence referendum – “not least because I think when Scotland gets the chance to vote again, it will vote for independence” – she refused to rule one out for ever, underlining that no first minister could bind the hands of their successors over the right to self-determination. Entitled Scotland’s Right to Choose, the publication argues that there has been a “material change of circumstance” since the independence referendum of 2014, based on “the prospect of Scotland leaving the EU against its will and what EU exit has revealed about Scotland’s position within the UK”.
Launching the document at an event at her official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said she “fully expected to get a flat no” from Westminster initially. “I’m going to stand my ground. I fully expect today we will get the flat no of Westminster opposition, but that will not be the end of the matter and Boris Johnson should not be under any illusion that it is.”
Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans “tear up” a government pledge to protect child refugees in Europe seeking to reunite with family in the UK, campaigners have said. The Prime Minister’s new withdrawal agreement bill, which sets out plans for the UK’s exit from the EU, has scrapped a previous commitment to negotiate a new deal for child refugees after Brexit. The explanatory notes of the bill observe that the obligation to negotiate an agreement that “an unaccompanied child who has made a claim for international protection in a member state can come to the UK to join a relative” has been dropped. That obligation, which was pushed for and celebrated by Lord Alf Dubs and the wider Labour Party as well as refugee charities, has been replaced with a requirement only to make a statement to parliament.
Reacting to this, Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “During the last Parliament, Labour’s Alf Dubs led the campaign to protect child refugees post-Brexit. The Tories now want to tear up those protections. “As we leave the EU we cannot abandon our values of human rights and internationalism. Labour must continue to stand up for the most vulnerable people in the world.” Lord Alf Dubs told The Independent it was a “retrograde step” that could leave hundreds of children with relatives in the UK stranded alone in Europe. “It’s deeply depressing and deeply disappointing. We’re talking about children and young people who had some hope of a decent life with their relatives,” he said.
Today Assange is set to be moved to the courtroom to face the Spanish judge via videolink.
Lawyers for journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will argue that a treaty between the US and UK explicitly bans extradition for political offenses when his hearing begins in early 2020. Assange faces 18 counts in the US including conspiracy to hack government computers and violating espionage laws with a possible penalty of decades in prison. His full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020 and his defense team have made clear their intention to fight his extradition using any and all means at their disposal. “We say that there is in the treaty a ban on being extradited for a political offense and these offenses as framed and in substance are political offenses,” Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Assange’s defense lawyers will also submit medical evidence, public comments made by US officials and details from the Chelsea Manning case to fight the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US and are also expected to call up to 21 witnesses to testify. Manning is currently in prison for contempt of court after she refused to testify before a federal grand jury seeking to level additional charges against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Assange appeared via video link but the whistleblower is due to make an in-person appearance in court tomorrow to answer questions from a Spanish judge in relation to “revelations about bugging of conversations with his lawyers” during his prolonged seven-year exile at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegations of rape which have subsequently been dropped.
Medical observers from #Doctors4Assange were denied access to Thursday’s case management hearing for #JulianAssange, despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.
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