NPC Skating night, Washington DC 1919
On the day the House is supposed to hold its impeachment vote, it’s inevitable much of the news is about just that, especially after a 6-page letter from Trump to Pelosi was published on Tuesday. First, the involvement of White House counsel leads to some confusion.
• White House Counsel Didn’t Take Lead On Trump Letter To Pelosi (Hill)
White House lawyers did not take the lead on President Trump’s scathing letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday in which he accused Democrats of “interfering in America’s elections” with their impeachment efforts, according to multiple reports. The New York Times reported that the process for the letter was led by Eric Ueland, the director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, who was joined by policy adviser Stephen Miller and Michael Williams, an adviser to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone wasn’t involved in drafting the letter, the Times reported, while Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs tweeted Tuesday night that Cipollone was “aware” of the letter “from beginning.” An official told CNN that the White House counsel’s office had reviewed the letter but didn’t take the lead on it. ABC News’s Katherine Faulders also tweeted that the counsel’s office put forth edits to the missive, while ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported that White House lawyers were largely cut out of the process.
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The letter itself: I picked a part where Trump talks about all the calls for impeachment from day one of his presidency, way before the reason the Dems give for the impeachment, the call with Zelensky, ever took place. But do read the whole thing, please.
• Donald Trump’s Letter To Nancy Pelosi (ZH)
Dear Madam Speaker: I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade being pursued by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history. The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!
[..] Speaker Pelosi, you admitted just last week at a public forum that your party’s impeachment effort has been going on for “two and a half years,” long before you ever heard about a phone call with Ukraine. Nineteen minutes after I took the oath of office, the Washington Post published a story headlined, “The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun.” Less than three months after my inauguration, Representative Maxine Waters stated, “I’m going to fight every day until he’s impeached.” House Democrats introduced the first impeachment resolution against me within months of my inauguration, for what will be regarded as one of our country’s best decisions, the firing of James Comey (see Inspector General Reports)—who the world now knows is one of the dirtiest cops our Nation has ever seen.
A ranting and raving Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, declared just hours after she was sworn into office, “We’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherf’***r.” Representative Al Green said in May, -I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” Again, you and your allies said, and did, all of these things long before you ever heard of President Zelensky or anything related to Ukraine. As you know very well, this impeachment drive has nothing to do with Ukraine, or the totally appropriate conversation I had with its new president. It only has to do with your attempt to undo the election of 2016 and steal the election of 2020!
Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress as though it were said by me. His shameless lies and deceptions, dating all the way back to the Russia Hoax, is one of the main reasons we are here today.
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Really sick? Why would she say something like that? To imitate Trump?
• Pelosi Calls Trump Impeachment Letter ‘Ridiculous’ And ‘Really Sick’ (Hill)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday derided President Trump’s scathing letter urging her to halt the impeachment proceedings as “ridiculous” and “really sick.” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that she had not gotten the opportunity to read the full letter, which accused Democrats of waging an “unconstitutional abuse of power” by moving forward with an impeachment vote over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “I’ve seen the essence of it, though, and it’s really sick,” Pelosi said as she walked through the halls of Congress. The Democratic-controlled House is prepared to vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Nearly every Democratic lawmaker is expected to vote in favor of the impeachment articles, which are based on an inquiry largely focused on allegations that Trump urged the Ukrainian president to open politically beneficial investigations.
In anticipation of the vote, Trump sent a six-page letter to Pelosi imploring her and her Democratic colleagues to “immediately cease this impeachment fantasy.” The expansive letter attempts to turn the tables on Democrats, accusing the party’s lawmakers of engaging in the type of conduct they have alleged of Trump. Echoing language he’s used before, Trump called Democrats’ efforts “nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup.” “You are not just after me, as President, you are after the entire Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “You are the ones interfering in America’s election. You are the ones subverting America’s Democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice,” he added. “You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.”
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Good stuff from the Bee: “Democrats don’t get the big prize, but they each get a complimentary copy of Impeachment: The Board Game.”
• The Bee Explains: Impeachment (Babylon Bee)
What is impeachment? It’s the official, constitutional method for screaming at the sky because Trump is president.
Why is Trump being impeached? Trump has committed some very serious offenses, from not being a Democrat to being a Republican. He also won the 2016 election, which rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. He also restored the celebration of Christmas after eight years of winter with no Christmas under Obama. This drove Dems up a wall so they drummed up some charges against him.
Why didn’t Democrats include any criminal offenses in the articles of impeachment? There were just so many of them, it was hard to pick one. So, instead of laying out actually impeachable offenses, the Democrats summarized it all with two main articles of impeachment: 1.) Trump is president. 2.) TRUMP IS PRESIDENT.
What does it take to remove the president from office? Faith, trust, and pixie dust.
Will Trump be removed from office? Lol.
If we believe in ourselves and try hard, and Trump is removed, Hillary Clinton becomes president, right? Actually, Mike Pence would become president, basically making the United States into a Handmaid’s Tale-style dystopia.
What happens if Trump is impeached in the House but acquitted in the Senate? Democrats don’t get the big prize, but they each get a complimentary copy of Impeachment: The Board Game.
Once the House votes to officially impeach President Trump, what happens next? Trump wins the 2020 election.
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They feel (ab)used.
• FISA Court Slams FBI, Says Worried About ‘Other Warrants’ (ZH)
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court slammed the FBI on Tuesday in a rare public statement over the agency’s handling of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s warrant application and subsequent renewals, according to the Wall Street Journal. “In order to appreciate the seriousness of that misconduct and its implications, it is useful to understand certain procedural and substantive requirements that apply to the government’s conduct of electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes,” reads the statement.
The punchline: “The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the OIG report, was antithetical to the hieghtned duty of candor” required by federal investigators, adding “The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” wrote the court, which called the recent watchdog report from the DOJ’s Inspector General “troubling.” The court ordered the government, by January 10, 2020, to explain what steps it’s was taking to prevent such lapses in the future.
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Stop the circus? But the GOP can call a hundred witnesses.
• McConnell Wants Quick Impeachment Dismissal Vote: ‘We’ve Heard Enough’ (WE)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he believes the Senate should vote quickly to dismiss two impeachment charges against President Trump and avoid “an embarrassing scene” in the chamber. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told Fox News Radio he did not support “a show trial” and believes the Senate “ought to vote and move on” after Democrats present their case and the president’s lawyers respond. The Senate will have to make a decision after hearing the opening arguments from both sides, he said.
“Have we learned enough after listening to all of this to go on and vote on the two very weak articles of impeachment?” McConnell said. “Or do we have a show trial in which both sides try to embarrass the other and put on an embarrassing scene, frankly, for the American people? Obviously, I think we’ve heard enough.” The Senate is poised to take up two impeachment articles in January. Democrats want to subpoena several current and former Trump administration officials, but McConnell rejected their proposal. Democrats oppose GOP witness proposals.
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Lisa Page as the victim feels strange. Her anti-Trump mails are public. So, yeah, go on Maddow.
• Lisa Page Responds To ‘Vile’ Trump Attacks (Hill) /span>
Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page spoke out late Tuesday about how she has been treated, including by President Trump, since her texts with former agent Peter Strzok became public, saying she realized that “being quiet isn’t making this go away.” Page spoke with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow about a week after the Justice Department’s inspector general released the findings of its probe into the bureau’s handling of its investigation into Trump campaign associates in 2016. The long-awaited report sharply criticized the FBI over its handling of applications to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, but undercut a GOP talking point in finding that the probe was not motivated by political bias.
Page called the inspector general’s findings “two years too late.” “It won’t make a difference and it’s two years too late,” she said on MSNBC. “[Investigators] realized what I’ve known from the beginning which is that my personal views had no impact on the course of either investigation” “Two days later, you see Lindsey Graham in the Senate spend 40 minutes reading text messages again,” she added. “These are three years old. They’ve been described as immaterial ultimately by the inspector general and yet we’re still talking about them.”
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Ukraine is often labeled one of the three most corrupt nations in the world. Do realize what it takes to reach that spot.
• Latvian Government Flagged ‘Suspicious’ Hunter Biden Payments In 2016 (Solomon)
As the U.S. presidential race began roaring to life in 2016, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Latvia flagged a series of “ suspicious” financial transactions to Hunter Biden and other colleagues at a Ukrainian natural gas company and sought Kiev’s help investigating, according to documents and interviews. The Feb. 18, 2016 alert to Ukraine came from the Latvian prosecutorial agency responsible for investigating money laundering, and it specifically questioned whether Vice President Joe Biden’s younger son and three other officials at Burisma Holdings were the potential beneficiaries of suspect funds.
“The Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity … is currently investigating suspicious activity of Burisma Holdings Limited,” the Latvian agency also known as the FIU wrote Ukraine’s financial authorities. The memo was released to me by the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office and confirmed by the Latvian embassy to the United States. Latvian authorities said they did not get any incriminating information back from Ukraine to warrant further investigation and did not take additional action in 2016. But the memo adds to the mounting evidence that there was ongoing investigative activity surrounding Burisma Holdings and Hunter Biden’s compensation as a board member in the weeks just before Joe Biden forced the firing of the Ukraine prosecutor overseeing the Burisma investigation in spring 2016.
The Latvian law enforcement memo identified a series of loan payments totaling about $16.6 million that were routed from companies in Beliz and the United Kingdom to Burisma through Ukraine’s PrivatBank between 2012 and 2015. The flagged funds were “partially transferred” to Hunter Biden, a board member at Burisma since May 2014, and three other officials working for the Ukrainian natural gas company, the Latvian memo said. Arturs Saburovs, the Third Secretary at the Latvian embassy in Washington, confirmed his country flagged the transactions in February 2016 after seeing public reports that Burisma was under investigation in Ukraine and that Hunter Biden served on the company’s board. He said Latvia did not receive any evidence back from Ukraine to further its investigation.
[..] On Feb. 2, 2016, the Ukraine prosecutor general’s office secured a court order to re-seize the assets of Burisma Holdings founder Mykola Zlochevsky. Officers went to the home, placed seizure notices and took items from the home that included a luxury car, officials said. About two weeks later, the Latvian suspicious financial transactions memo was transmitted to Ukrainian authorities. And then in late February, according to U.S. documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, Burisma’s American representatives pressed the U.S. State Department to try to help end the corruption allegations against the company. By mid-March 2016, State’s top official for Ukraine policy publicly called for Shokin’s ouster, and less than three weeks later Joe Biden managed to force Ukraine’s president to fire Shokin by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.
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“Trump’s “Space Force,” the first new branch of the U.S. military to be created in more than 60 years.”
• House Approves $1.4 Trillion Spending Deal To Avert Shutdown (R.)
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a $1.4 trillion spending package to avert a partial government shutdown that also would raise the U.S. tobacco purchasing age to 21 and permanently repeal several of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) taxes. The spending package now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers aim to approve it before current government funding runs out on Saturday, avoiding the type of messy budget battle that resulted in a record 35-day interruption of government services late last year and early this year. The legislation, worked out between leading lawmakers and the Trump administration, denies President Donald Trump the full $5 billion he requested to help build his signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, keeping funding static at $1.37 billion for border barriers.
White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway said Trump is nevertheless expected to sign the $1.4 trillion bill this week. “He’s very happy with what he’s learned the final contents are expected to be,” Conway told reporters at the White House. The crackdown on youth smoking, by changing the minimum age for cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco purchases to 21 from the current 18, would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration six months to develop regulations. The agency would then have three years to work with states on implementing the change. The largest expenditure in the bill is for the Department of Defense, which would get a total of $738 billion for this year, $22 billion more than last year. As part of that defense package, the Senate on Tuesday authorized the creation of Trump’s “Space Force,” the first new branch of the U.S. military to be created in more than 60 years.
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So much hangs on the Magnitsky narrative, you’re not supposed to criticize it.
• Germany’s Spiegel Brushes Off Browder’s Complaint About Magnitsky Story (RT)
British investor Bill Browder has lashed out at Der Spiegel weekly by accusing it of distorting the story of the death of his auditor Sergey Magnitsky. The outlet maintains it is Browder who has some questions to answer. Der Spiegel published an investigative bombshell last month, detailing various flaws in the story about Magnitsky’s death that Browder – a US-born investor who became Russian President Vladimir Putin’s self-proclaimed “enemy number one” – used to convince Western governments to impose sanctions against Russian officials over supposedly endemic human rights violations. In his narrative, Browder portrayed the late auditor as a courageous whistleblower, who was heinously and deliberately killed by the Russian authorities in a bid to silence him.
Following a rigorous analysis of a trove of documents linked to the auditor’s death in 2009, including some materials published by Browder’s own people, Der Spiegel’s Benjamin Bidder concluded that significant parts of this story were not actually true. Magnitsky has never been a whistleblower, and he was not a victim of murder, although he did suffer “terrible injustice,” the reporter concluded. He went on to say that Western governments, including those in Washington, Ottawa and London, apparently fell for a “convenient” narrative perpetuated by the man he described as a “fraudster.” What followed was a swift – and angry – reaction from the investor, who made a name for himself in the West through spreading this story and relentlessly lobbying for sanctions against Russia.
Der Spiegel has confirmed that the apparently infuriated investor “has now gone public with his complaints about the Spiegel story in the form of a letter to the news magazine’s editor-in-chief.” Browder did not stop at that and promptly filed a complaint with the German Press Council – a monitoring organization formed by major German publishers and journalistic associations.[..] Yet, Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s major news media outlets, is refusing to be intimidated. In a lengthy piece dealing with the incident, it brushed off the investor’s complaints as having “no basis.”
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Bellingcat: February 2020, MH17.
• Newsweek Trusts Bellingcat More Than Reuters – Journalist Who Quit (RT)
Blind trust in controversial ‘citizen investigation’ outlet Bellingcat prompted Newsweek editors to drop a report on the latest OPCW leaks, the author of the piece who resigned from the magazine after the incident told RT. Tareq Haddad announced his resignation from Newsweek last week, accusing the magazine of “suppressing” his attempt to report on a leaked email casting doubts on the results of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation into an April 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, which allegedly killed dozens of civilians. The OPCW sent a fact-finding mission to the site, which pinned the blame for the attack on Damascus.
While witnesses who later spoke in the Hague said the White Helmets’ video of the attack was staged. Haddad also issued a scathing rebuke to the Newsweek – and Western journalism in general – by accusing it of siding with the American warmongers to promote the US wars and obscure the truth. Now he also revealed to RT that it was the editorial board’s quite peculiar pick of trustworthy sources that gave a rise to the whole issue in the first place. Haddad first approached his editors with an OPCW leaks story pitch, citing an opinion piece by Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday. “The fact that another British journalist has published it in a reputable publication, I thought, was more than enough for Newsweek to be able to do that,” he told RT.
The editors simply discarded this idea by calling Hitchens – a man Haddad describes as an “accomplished journalist [working] for more than 12 years” – not trustworthy enough. Instead, they referred him to a Bellingcat article supposedly debunking the whole leak story.
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“..an executive order signed by President Trump that reclassifies Judaism as a race and nationality as opposed to a religion..”
I don’t think you can “Declare” a new race by executive order, just because it’s politically convenient. You leave that to science.
• UK Goverment Plans To Ban Boycotting Israel (MPN)
Following the results of the recent UK election, the victorious Conservative party has now declared their intention to make it illegal for public institutions in the country to support non-violent boycotts of the state of Israel in any capacity. On Sunday, the UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust matters, Lord Eric Pickles, gave a speech in Jerusalem at the International Institute for Strategic Dialogue conference, where he made the Conservatives’ motives clear. Pickles, whose speech garnered “rapturous applause” from conference attendees, stated that the public sector would soon be banned from associating in any way with the Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement, which uses non-violent means to pressure Israel to follow international law with regards to its military occupation of Palestine and blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The coming ban, as described by Pickles, is set to prohibit government bodies and organizations from supporting BDS in any fashion, which would also prevent them from employing or working with anyone who supports boycotting the Israeli state. Pickles went on to say the reason for the ban is that BDS itself is anti-Semitic (despite BDS having numerous Jewish supporters), stating: “BDS is anti-Semitic, and should be treated as such. Anti-Semitism is an attack on the British way of life and British identity. Without our Jewish citizens, we would be a lesser nation.” Notably, Pickles is also the parliamentary chairman of the U.K. pro-Israel lobby group, Conservative Friends of Israel.
Pickles also made it clear that he conflates Judaism with Zionism, a move that was recently made law in the United States through an executive order signed by President Trump that reclassifies Judaism as a race and nationality as opposed to a religion. Regarding his personal support for Israel, Pickles did not mention Judaism at all, instead championing Zionism and Israel’s ability to “defend its borders.” He referred to himself as “an unapologetic, unreformed Zionist,” before adding that “Israel exists because it can defend its borders, and its people. It is the only place in this region in which governments are elected. It is a civilized, decent place and I’m very proud it exists.” Pickles has previously called Israel a “bastion of democracy.” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time activist for Palestinian rights, had been targeted by a massive and relentless smear campaign in the UK, Israel and U.S. media as anti-Semitic for his criticisms of Israel’s government. Pickles’ speech alluded to this effort by asserting that the recent election was essentially a national referendum on anti-Semitism.
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