That’s the message liberal advocacy groups are trying to send to Republican senators in hopes of pressuring them to vote for President Trump’s removal from office, or at least maximizing the political pain for them if they don’t.
One such group, Stand Up America, is bankrolling a new $300,000 digital campaign targeting a dozen GOP senators as the impeachment trial draws nearer. The liberal political nonprofit, which has been organizing to support impeachment and other initiatives to counter Trump, tells The Daily Beast it plans to run digital ads urging the public to call their senator; they will also launch a volunteer-driven texting campaign to drive calls and apply pressure on a few key Republicans.
It’s part of a broader effort from the left to lean on Republican senators to break with Trump in a trial that will decide the fate of his presidency. Chances are, it won’t work; so far, no Republican lawmaker has publicly indicated a willingness to vote for Trump’s conviction after the House voted to impeach earlier this month. And groups aligned with the president have begun to crowd the airwaves with anti-impeachment messages targeting moderate Democrats.
“Hope springs eternal,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and alumni of former Sen. Harry Reid’s office. “But if I look at what happened in the House, I’m afraid we’re in for a beating.”
But liberal groups, some of which have deep pockets and deeper volunteer networks to tap into, could at the very least make the next few weeks even more difficult for a few Republicans. Stand Up America is putting a special focus on GOP senators facing competitive re-election races in 2020—such as Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado—or those who have indicated possible support for impeachment, like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The broader pool of senators targeted by Stand Up America includes Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is both up for re-election in 2020 and is considered a possible vote to convict Trump, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a moderate who is retiring at the end of next year.
The announcement of this opening salvo comes as Democrats emerge from a House impeachment vote largely unified but politically battered after GOP groups dumped millions of dollars on ad campaigns targeting vulnerable Democrats for their support of impeaching Trump.
There was some grumbling that liberal outside groups did not provide enough air cover for the dozens of Democratic lawmakers representing Trump-won districts for whom impeachment was a politically difficult vote. But the dynamics are far different in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Democrats see an opportunity to finally go on the offensive.
A second advocacy group, backed by the billionaire presidential candidate Tom Steyer, has indicated it will spend whatever it takes to mount a successful pressure campaign on GOP senators. Steyer’s group, Need to Impeach, laid down $350,000 for a cable TV ad campaign last week and has committed to spending $1 million heading into the trial. Steyer has already spent $3.5 million targeting GOP senators.
“We’ve got a few million to put pressure on senators to do the right thing,” said Kevin Mack, the lead political strategist at Need to Impeach.
They plan to apply that pressure not just around the final vote to acquit or convict Trump, but on procedural votes that will define what the trial itself looks like. Since the House approved articles of impeachment last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held off on formally sending them to the upper chamber while the GOP majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, try to negotiate ground rules for the trial.
Their disagreement centers on whether or not new witnesses in the Ukraine inquiry will be called to testify. Schumer has said he will use his limited power as minority leader to force votes in the Senate on subpoenaing key figures like acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who has so far refused to testify.
“The American public has made it clear they want to see witnesses and get to the bottom of what happened,” said Mack. “We will put pressure on individual senators who have a vote to take.”
Democratic veterans of Senate politics are hopeful this is a sign that their side’s constellation of advocacy groups will not get put on the back foot by a deluge of GOP cash. During the House fight, liberal groups seemed outgunned at key stretches, said Manley.
Outside groups, he said, should “focus on either persuading or providing as much political pain as possible to a handful of Republicans who are out there, who may or may not be persuadable.”
Over the course of the House inquiry, political groups connected to Trump and the GOP dumped close to $17 million on ads attacking vulnerable House Democrats on impeachment, according to The New York Times. Democrats hardly spent anything to pressure House GOP lawmakers, and instead ran ads touting the party’s record on issues like health care.
Ultimately, just two House Democrats voted against both articles of impeachment, and one of them, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, immediately switched to the GOP afterward.
Political action committees associated with the GOP and Trump’s re-election campaign will continue to be involved during the Senate trial. In an unexpected development, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is entering the fray to launch a new pro-Trump big money group aimed at providing air cover for GOP senators and hitting a group of moderate Democratic senators.
Last week, Christie’s group placed a million-dollar TV ad buy to back up senators like Collins and Gardner but also to pressure Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat facing a tough re-election battle in deep-red Alabama.
Those on the pro-impeachment side say they’re not fazed by that effort. “Our message is, bring it on, let’s go,” said Mack. “If Chris Christie wants to start running ads covering up Donald Trump’s crimes, it’s not going to go well in Colorado and Maine.”
Impeachment advocates also say they have an advantage that newly-formed PACs like Christie’s do not: an established presence in the world of anti-Trump grassroots politics, which can be called upon for fundraising, organizing, and more.
Stand Up America claims to have a network of 2.5 million people it will mobilize to pressure GOP senators around the impeachment trial. The group notes that it has driven more than 200,000 constituent calls demanding impeachment to Capitol Hill already.
President Donald Trump is quite generous when it comes to giving to his family throughout the year and around Christmas time, according to his daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump.
Lara Trump shared a couple family stories with the Daily Caller’s Stephanie Hamill. She also revealed how they shop for a man who appears to have it all. (RELATED: Here’s The Original Story Of What Happened On Christmas Eve)
It must be tough to buy a billionaire a nice gift for Christmas, right?!
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.
Elizabeth Warren hoped to reboot her flailing campaign with an attack on Pete Buttigieg’s fundraising, but it might end up kicking her to the curb instead. After heaping scorn on Mayor Pete’s “wine cave full of crystals” big-ticket fundraising event, it turned out that Warren had a few wine-cellar events of her own. Today, the Washington Post reminds readers that Warren used to excel at the same kind of wealthy fundraiser events she excoriates now … right up until this year, in fact:
Chase Williams grinned broadly as he stood for a photo next to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, chatting briefly with the senator from Massachusetts before moving on so someone else could have their turn.
It was the kind of moment that has become a ubiquitous part of Warren’s presidential campaign and its long “selfie lines,” where supporters wait for hours to pose with her at no charge.
But this shot, taken in October 2017, was at an entirely different kind of event: an exclusive “backstage” reception that took place in the vault of a former Cleveland bank. And that was the day’s low-rent affair — donors who agreed to pay more attended an even more exclusive shindig with Warren that day, according to two people familiar with her schedule.
The events were part of a high-dollar fundraising program that Warren had embraced her entire political career, from her first Senate run in 2011 through her reelection last year. Warren was so successful at it that she was able to transfer $10 million of her Senate cash to help launch her presidential bid.
The best aspect of this Washington Post exposé is that it came out on Christmas Eve. Warren can reserve some hope that most people won’t bother to keep up with the news today. Of course, the down side is that there isn’t much other news in the presidential primaries today, and that means those who are paying attention will get a full dose of the accusation of hypocrisy.
And boy, does the Washington Post deliver on that score. Annie Linskey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee get the aforementioned Chase Williams to call Warren out for claiming that “this isn’t something I do” by rebuking her, “Two years ago, she very much did that.” They also remind readers of an angry response from former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who helped organize a Joe Biden fundraiser that Warren attacked last April. Rendell wrote an op-ed in September calling Warren a hypocrite for her attacks on other candidates’ fundraisers, in which Rendell raised the same specific points as Linskey and Lee do today:
Now, Warren has every right to make that pledge even if she had obtained significant contributions from donors in the past. Doing that didn’t make her a hypocrite. But there are two other reasons why the description applies.
First, because she transferred $10.4 million from her Senate reelection campaign to her presidential campaign fund. More than $6 million came in contributions of $1,000 and up, as the New York Times recently noted. The senator appears to be trying to have it both ways — get the political upside from eschewing donations from higher-level donors and running a grass-roots campaign, while at the same time using money obtained from those donors in 2018. …
Second, Warren attacked former vice president Joe Biden for holding a kickoff fundraiser in Philadelphia in April, which she criticized as “a swanky private fund-raiser for wealthy donors” in an email to supporters the next day.
Well, I helped organize that affair, and I thought her attack was extremely hypocritical because nearly 20 of us who attended the Biden fundraiser had also given her $2,000 or more in 2018 at closed-door fundraisers in “swanky” locations.
Warren didn’t seem to have any trouble taking our money in 2018, but suddenly we were power brokers and influence peddlers in 2019. The year before, we were wonderful. I co-chaired one of the events for the senator and received a glowing, handwritten thank-you letter from her for my hard work.
Rendell’s column caused a minor splash at the time, but that didn’t impact Warren’s upward trajectory. She sailed through the Democratic debate to peak at a virtual tie with Biden in the aggregate polling average curated at RealClearPolitics in October. Since that point, Warren’s polling stock has descended faster and more steeply than even Kamala Harris’ after her peak in early July. That’s not just nationally, either; in Iowa, Warren has fallen into fourth place after briefly leading the field, although the top tier is bunched together:
Warren has also fallen to fourth place in New Hampshire, a state in which the Massachusetts senator desperately needs to show strength. Warren’s a very distant second to Joe Biden in South Carolina, too. With the wheels coming off her campaign, suddenly the criticism from Rendell and other Democrats over hypocrisy and dishonesty stick more to the flesh.
On the latter point, Warren isn’t helping herself. Within the space of six weeks she contradicted herself on her bio … again:
“My degree was affordable at $50 a semester.” – Warren, November 13, 2019
It’s not just that Warren’s a hypocrite — it’s that she’s a phony. Her stock is falling because voters have gotten wise to her act. If Warren doesn’t rethink her entire approach to politics in this cycle, she might soon be joining Harris on the sidelines.
The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates betrayals of public trust. Sign up to receive our stories.
When President Donald Trump ordered a halt to aid to Ukraine last summer, defense officials and diplomats worried first that it would
undermine U.S. national security. Ukraine is, as some of them later testified before Congress, on the front lines of Russian aggression, and only robust
American support would fend off aggressive Moscow meddling in the West. This worry eventually helped galvanize congressional support for one of the two
impeachment articles approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18.
But there was also a separate, less-noticed facet of the internal administration uproar set off by Trump’s July 12 order stopping the
flow of $391 million in weapons and security assistance to Ukraine. Some senior administration officials worried that by defying a law ordering that the funds
be spent within a defined period, Trump was asking the officials involved to take an action that was not merely unwise but flatly illegal.
The administration so far has declined to release copies of its internal communications about this vital issue — the legality of what Trump had ordered. On Friday, in 146 pages of new documents provided to the Center for Public Integrity under a court order, the Justice Department blacked out — for the second time — many of the substantive passages reflecting what key officials at the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget said to one another.
But considerable evidence is still available that those at key institutions responsible for distributing the Ukraine aid worried the halt potentially violated a 45-year-old law written to keep presidents from ignoring the will of Congress, according to public statements and congressional testimony
That law, known as the Impoundment Control Act, says that once Congress appropriates funds — like the Ukraine assistance — and the president signs the relevant spending bill, the executive branch must spend those funds. A president cannot simply ignore Congress’s direction, no matter how inconvenient or unappealing that instruction might be. If funds are withheld or shifted elsewhere, this cannot be done in secret, and Congress must approve.
But Trump’s decision to stop the aid was not announced, and no formal notification was ever sent to Congress. In an email on July 25, for example, as a senior OMB political appointee named Michael Duffey told the Pentagon’s comptroller about the aid halt, he said, “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction.” Throughout this period, the reason for the aid halt was rarely discussed, even within the government. In an email on Sept. 11 – the day the funding halt finally ended — OMB official Edna T. Falk Curtain told a senior defense official that “I still have no insight on the rationale for the hold.”
Without a clear justification or any broader effort to gain congressional support, the officials overseeing the expenditure of the funds started hunting for legal guidance as soon as the
order to halt the aid was given. When Trump’s political appointees told career officials not to worry, they still did.
“There was a report,” OMB director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at a press conference on Oct. 17, “that if we didn’t pay out the money it would be illegal, it would be unlawful.” He said it was “one of those things that has a little shred of truth in it, that makes it look a lot worse than it really is” because what he regarded as the deadline for spending the money did not fall until the end of September — two and a half months after Trump’s initial order.
To learn more, Public Integrity in late September petitioned the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department for copies of their communications about the aid halt. But the Justice Department so far — in two document releases on Dec. 12 and 20 — has chosen to conceal key passages in those documents. And the federal district court judge overseeing the case, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, on Dec. 18 set a schedule for reviewing Public Integrity’s appeal that makes a final determination of the request unlikely to occur before March.
According to some of those involved in the funding halt, officials were deeply worried from the outset that a delay even for a few weeks could make it hard to ensure all the money was spent by that Sept. 30 deadline. DOD Comptroller Elaine McCusker, for example, noted what she called “increasing risk of execution” in an email on Sept. 5 to the Pentagon’s top lawyer and policy officials, among others, meaning she was worried the money could not all be spent by the end of the month.
We can’t do this work without your support.
After robust internal discussions, she and other officials did their best to carry out the policy, temporarily, by ordering a series of short-term holdups in the funding, while affirming in writing that they still planned to disburse it soon.
They specifically undertook an unusual maneuver, stopping the disbursements by adding a rare footnote to spending documents for Pentagon operations and maintenance efforts, which declared the Ukraine funding in particular was being held up for a week at a time. Then, over a period of about seven weeks, they tacked the footnote again and again onto eight such documents, each time as a temporary measure.
An unnamed lawyer at OMB, not wanting to participate in what appeared to be an illegal funding policy, decided to quit, as did another OMB official, according to congressional testimony by Mark Sandy, the office’s deputy associate director for national security and a 12-year veteran at the agency. OMB spokespeople have disputed the account, saying the resignations were not over the policy.
Others at OMB and the Pentagon meanwhile tried to organize a campaign inside the government to lobby Trump to let the assistance program proceed. They wrote memoranda to their bosses, held meetings to plot strategy and tried to persuade some of Trump’s cabinet-level appointees to approach him directly about it. But a discussion with Trump in mid-August by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton failed to persuade Trump to let the aid resume, and there is no record of other high-level officials such as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confronting Trump about it.
OMB initially blocked the State Department’s portion of the aid on July 3. That was exactly two weeks after Trump — according to a June 19 email from Duffey to the Pentagon’s comptroller – noticed a newspaper article about the Pentagon’s plan to proceed with the aid. “The President has asked about this funding release, and I have been tasked to follow-up with someone over there to get more detail,” the email said.
A separate note sent by a senior aide to the Secretary of Defense to others there said on June 24 that the White House wanted to know in particular if U.S. firms were providing the
aid, and how much assistance was being provided to Ukraine by U.S. allies. (The answer was that “dozens of vendors are U.S. companies” and many other countries were supporting Ukraine, according to a copy.)
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Trump’s formal order blocking the Pentagon’s portion of the aid was nonetheless communicated to OMB by one of his aides on July 12. The first footnote depicting a temporary funding holdup was signed by Sandy on the evening of July 25, the same day as Trump’s controversial phone call with Ukraine’s president, Vlodymyr Zelensky.
During that call, Zelensky said he wanted to continue military cooperation with America and that “we are almost ready to buy” more anti-tank missiles. Trump responded that “I would like you to do us a favor though,” and listed two investigations he wanted Zelensky to order: One was about Ukraine’s alleged support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential
election and the other was about lucrative business ties that former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, established with a company in Ukraine.
There was, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland has testified, what amounted to a “quid pro quo” being offered, in which Zelensky could get a White House meeting with Trump and a release of the aid in return for promising the investigations. This was, according to the testimony of Fiona Hill, Trump’s top former White House adviser on Russia, the real reason the aid was withheld.
The deferral order signed by Sandy — using language worked out with the advice of legal counsel at the Pentagon and OMB — stated that the rationale for the holdup was to “to allow for an interagency process to determine the best use of such funds.” But no such reexamination of the Ukraine spending plan was actually under way, according to key officials, other than frantic meetings aimed at getting the flow of funds started.
Restrained by a law passed to control Richard Nixon
Many presidents have chafed at having to share their spending role with Congress, but the rule blocking a presidential withholding of congressionally approved funds has been upheld by federal courts and is well known to officials responsible for overseeing the annual flow of $4.4 trillion out of the federal treasury.
To Laura Cooper, an 18-year veteran of the Defense Department who is now the deputy assistant secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, the rationale for U.S. assistance was clear-cut: Ukraine, she told a closed-door House hearing on Oct. 23, is one of two front-line states facing Russian aggression (the other being the former Soviet republic of Georgia), and
“in order to deter further Russian aggression, we need to be able to shore up these countries’ abilities to defend themselves. That’s, I think, pure and simple, the rationale.”
The aid program included the provision of night vision goggles, military vehicles, counter-battery radars, sniper rifles, and medical equipment to the Ukrainian military, she said, plus the sale of anti-tank weapons meant to be used defensively by Ukraine in the event of a new Russian attempt to seize more of the country’s territory.
The law that states funds must be spent once they are appropriated was approved in June 1974 and reluctantly signed by President Richard Nixon four weeks before he resigned in response to allegations that he had abused his power, obstructed justice and displayed contempt of Congress in connection with the Watergate scandal — allegations similar to those levelled against Trump.
Nixon had provoked congressional ire in part by frequently holding back expenditures that lawmakers had ordered be spent on programs to protect the environment and other matters — amounting to as much as a fifth of some accounts, often without any announcement.
So Congress spent two years drafting the Impoundment Control Act, which allows spending to be withheld for only three reasons — to provide for “contingencies,” to achieve savings from increased efficiencies, or as mandated by a particular law. The act also bars a deliberate holdup of spending until the end of a fiscal year, according to 2018 decision by auditors at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And it said no funding could be delayed for more than 45 days without Congress’s approval.
The timing of the Ukraine aid holdup — coming just before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 — opened to door to the funds’ potential expiration. This made everyone nervous, according to interviews, documents, and congressional testimony.
In his testimony, Sandy said that after being asked by his superior, Michael Duffey, a former head of the Wisconsin Republican Party who now heads OMB’s national security division, on July 18 to issue an order formally delaying the aid, he immediately raised the Impoundment Control Act and said OMB would “have to assess [the delay] with the advice of counsel before proceeding.” He also reached out to senior officials at the Pentagon and asked them to seek advice from their top legal counsel, he told House committees in a deposition on Nov. 16.
The first formal order blocking the aid was then held up for a week while officials scrambled in part to assess its legality. Sandy said he finally issued a temporary hold on the aid the evening of July 25, but at an interagency meeting the following day, he and other officials raised the need to notify Congress — as the Impoundment Act required — and make the decision public. “We also raised legal questions,” Sandy said. “The comments in the room at the deputies’ level reflected a sense that there was not an understanding of how this could legally play out,” Cooper testified on Oct. 23.
Those attending the July 26 meeting from the Defense Department “raised the question of how the president’s guidance could be implemented, and proffered that perhaps a reprogramming action would be the way to do this,” Cooper said — meaning that the department, to comply with the Impoundment Act, would have to tell Congress and get its approval to spend the funds on something else.
By the time the aid halt came up for renewal on July 31, Duffey had removed Sandy’s authority and placed himself in charge of signing a series of additional, temporary orders with the same language — an unusual substitution of a political appointee for a career employee as the approver of a routine decision related to OMB’s disbursement of funds.
These orders provoked alarm, Sandy testified, because each additional delay heightened the risk that the funds would not be spent before end of the fiscal year, a circumstance that would violate the law. “We expressed those concerns to Mike Duffey, and, on every occasion, we advised him to speak to the general counsel,” Sandy said. Cooper likewise said at an interagency meeting on July 31, that Congress had to be notified, under the law. But she added, “there was no such notice to my knowledge, or preparation of such a notice, to my knowledge.”
Some of the defense contractors involved in providing the aid also became alarmed at the absence of any clear policy guidance about the halt or its origins. In an email apparently sent on
August 26 to Eric Chewning, the chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense, for example, L3Harris Technologies’ vice president for government relations complained that “we’ve
engaged with OMB to understand the issue but have been told there are larger policy issues involved here. The impact of holding this case and allowing the funding to expire is extremely serious for us as the communications devices have been built and are ready to ship.”
Chewning’s reaction to the email was blacked out by the Justice Department in the documents provided to Public Integrity. The documents also make clear that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was fully briefed by aides about the aid halt ten days earlier. But his comments about it, as well as what they told him, were blacked out by the administration in the documents.
A unique, unannounced pause in funding
The two articles of impeachment approved by House Democrats assail Trump for “conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations” into Hunter Biden and the 2016 election “for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.” In so doing, they said, “President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.” They also accused him of improperly obstructing their inquiry into the aid holdup, partly by holding up the release of relevant documents from the Defense Department, OMB and other agencies. These documents would presumably shed further light on how and why the holdup of aid occurred.
Republicans in Congress, with White House support, have said the Democrats’ criticisms are unjustified, citing multiple reasons: Ukraine, they say, did not even know the aid was being withheld until it was reported publicly by Politico about five weeks after the holdup began — making the delay virtually irrelevant to any actions by Ukraine’s government. Trump was only concerned, they say, about limiting corruption in Ukraine.
They also have said that the pause wasn’t extraordinary: “It is not unusual for U.S. foreign assistance to become delayed,” said a House Republican staff report released on Dec. 2. The provision of aid to Lebanon was delayed in the fall of this year, for example, after the president there resigned, their report noted. Aid to Afghanistan was delayed in September due
to corruption concerns. During the summer, aid to Central America was reprogrammed to compel governments there to curtail the flow of their migrants to the United States. And in 2017, aid to Egypt was frozen over human rights concerns.
But all the aid interruptions cited by the Republicans were publicly announced and reported to Congress, as the Impoundment Act requires. The holdup in the Ukraine aid, in contrast, was kept quiet. When Sandy was asked during his testimony if he had ever previously issued orders like those used to stop the flow of aid to Ukraine, he replied, “I don’t recall an example
just like this.” It was, he emphasized, a unique event.
Trump, moreover, didn’t raise the issue of Ukraine corruption with Zelensky in two phone calls, one on the day of Zelensky’s election, with the second on July 25 — despite having been urged to do so in advance by his own aides. And the Pentagon had no overarching concerns about the magnitude of corruption or the path on which Zelensky had put the country, according to Cooper’s testimony.
A top Pentagon official, policy chief John Rood, had previously certified in a May 23 letter to Congress that Ukraine “has taken substantial actions … for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.” He said, “There remain areas that require significant attention,” but stated that Ukraine has met all conditions for the remaining U.S. aid to be provided.
Cooper said that at the interagency meeting of so-called “deputies” or high-ranking officials from around the government on July 26, “all I had to go on was that the President is concerned about corruption in Ukraine and somehow therefore we were holding security assistance. So the conversation at the deputies, a lot of the members were saying, you know, corruption, yes,
it’s been an issue. Yes, it’s a concern. Yes, there’s a long way to go, but we’re on the right path, you know, we can move forward. So it felt Iike a conversation where people were trying to explain how corruption shouldn’t be a concern.”
After the Government Accountability Office announced it was auditing the potential mishandling of the funds, OMB general counsel Mark Paoletta, a former legal adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, asserted in a Dec. 9 legal opinion that the holdup was not a policy “deferral,” which would have been illegal, but merely a “programmatic delay” to examine if the funds
were going to be used effectively. “It was OMB’s understanding that a brief period was needed, prior to the funds expiring, to engage in a policy process regarding those funds,” Paoletta said without further explanation.
But Cooper, in her testimony, said that while the issue of continuing corruption in Ukraine was mentioned at several interagency meetings during the funding pause, the conversation didn’t amount to a new review of the topic. And one of the largely-redacted Defense Department documents provided on Dec. 12 to Public Integrity at the insistence of a federal judge hints at a sharp disagreement about the propriety of the aid holdup between one of her colleagues, Pentagon comptroller Elaine McCusker, and Duffey at OMB. “Seems like we continue to talk
past each other a bit,” McCusker said in an email on Aug. 20.
Sam Berger, a lawyer who was a senior counselor and policy adviser at OMB from 2010 to 2015 before becoming a White House adviser to President Obama, says that in his view, Trump’s holdup of the funding “constituted an illegal impoundment” and that none of the administration’s claims about it “pass legal muster.”
A former assistant attorney general and special counsel to the Defense Department, Jack Goldsmith, said in an Oct. 16 article in a blog called Lawfare that he, too, believes that despite some uncertainty, the 55-day long aid holdup appeared to be in “contravention” of the Impoundment Act, which limits any deferral to 45 days and otherwise requires congressional approval. No such approval was ever granted.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer pro golfer advanced business interests of indicted Giuliani associates: report Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Mulvaney deputy tapped for White House tech post MORE launched into a diatribe over his impeachment following a video call with U.S. service members on Tuesday, claiming Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRand Paul airs grievances about impeachment, ‘your favorite politicians’ as part of Festivus Poll: Trump approval rating nears 50 percent heading into 2020 Trump will hold first 2020 campaign rally in Ohio MORE (D-Calif.) “hates the Republican Party” while insisting he’s in a “very good position” ahead of a Senate trial.
“She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party and she’s desperate,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
“She got thrown out as Speaker once before,” he continued. “I think it’s going to happen again. She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country, and she’s not doing a great job. And some people think she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
The president was responding to Pelosi’s decision to delay sending the House-passed articles of impeachment — which accuse him of abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate until she sees what the rules will look like for the impeachment trial in the upper chamber.
Pelosi has expressed concerns that the GOP-controlled Senate, which is widely expected to acquit Trump, will not hold a fair trial. Trump was asked Tuesday whether he was concerned she could hold the articles indefinitely.
“We’re in a very good position. Ultimately that decision is going to be made by [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFBI looking into former Kentucky governor’s controversial pardons: report There’s no requirement — nor need — for an actual trial in the Senate Congress must ensure every eligible American can access the ballot box MORE,” Trump said. “He has the right to do whatever he wants. He’s the head of the Senate.”
“People remember they treated us very unfairly,” Trump claimed of House Democrats. “Now they come to the Senate and they want everything.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerImpeached, with a solid base and no apologies — Trump becomes the only issue of 2020 McConnell: ‘Let’s quit the charade’ on impeachment Schumer: Newly released emails show importance of White House witnesses in Senate trial MORE (D-N.Y.) has pushed McConnell to call witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyRepublican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Mulvaney deputy tapped for White House tech post Schumer demands sensitive documents for impeachment trial MORE, so they can testify about the administration’s decision to temporarily withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. House Democrats have accused Trump of using the assistance as a cudgel to pressure Kyiv to announce investigations that could benefit him politically, which the administration has denied. McConnell (R-Ky.) has rejected Schumer’s request.
Trump argued Tuesday that he wasn’t afforded due process or allowed legal representation during impeachment proceedings in the House and criticized its Intelligence Committee for holding closed-door hearings “in a basement.” He also claimed without offering evidence that Democrats selectively leaked material from the private hearings.
The House Intelligence Committee eventually held public hearings with witnesses who detailed aspects of the administration’s policy toward and dealings with Ukraine, though Trump’s team was not invited to participate.
The House Judiciary Committee offered Trump’s lawyers the opportunity to take part in hearings that debated articles of impeachment, but the White House refused, accusing Democrats of a partisan exercise.
“We have a perfect case. They have no case,” Trump insisted Tuesday.
“Now we have the majority and it’s up to Mitch McConnell,” the president continued. “They want Mitch McConnell to do wonderful things for them. He’s going to do what he wants to do, very smart guy, very good guy, and a very fair guy. But they treated us very unfairly and they want fairness in the Senate.”
The House voted nearly along party lines last Wednesday to approve the two articles of impeachment against Trump, setting the stage for a Senate trial likely sometime in January. Pelosi’s decision to delay transmitting the articles, however, has called the timeline into question.
Trump, who is on a two-week vacation at his Florida resort, also lashed out at impeachment in a series of tweets earlier Tuesday. He characterized commentary on Fox News about the subject and claimed Democrats only approved the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — a key priority of his administration — to show they could do “something productive” amid impeachment.
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Solomon writes: “For the United States, oligarchy is the elephant – and donkey – in the room. Only one candidate for president is willing to name it.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Sopa)
By Norman Solomon, Reader Supported News
24 December 19
or the United States, oligarchy is the elephant – and donkey – in the room. Only one candidate for president is willing to name it.
Out of nearly 25,000 words spoken during the Democratic debate last Thursday night, the word “oligarchy” was heard once. “We are living in a nation increasingly becoming an oligarchy,” Bernie Sanders said, “where you have a handful of billionaires who spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections and politicians.”
Sanders gets so much flak from corporate media because his campaign is upsetting the dominant apple cart. He relentlessly exposes a basic contradiction: A society ruled by an oligarchy – defined as “a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes” – can’t really be a democracy.
The super-wealthy individuals and huge corporations that own the biggest U.S. media outlets don’t want actual democracy. It would curb their profits and their power.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post editorialized that the agendas of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren “probably would fail at the polls and, if not, would carry extreme risks if they tried to implement them.” The editorial went on to praise “the relative moderates in the race” – Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – for “offering a more positive future.”
But “a more positive future” for whom? Those “moderates” are certainly offering a more positive future for the newspaper’s owner, Jeff Bezos, who usually ranks as the richest person in the world. He wants to acquire even more extreme personal wealth beyond his current $108 billion.
The Washington Post’s routinely negative treatment of Sanders, which became notorious during his 2016 presidential run, remains symptomatic of what afflicts mass-media coverage of his current campaign – from editorial pages and front pages to commercial TV news and “public” outlets like the “PBS NewsHour” and NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition.”
The essence of a propaganda system is repetition. To be effective, it doesn’t require complete uniformity – only dominant messaging, worldviews and assumptions.
Prevailing in news media’s political content is the central, tacit assumption that oligarchy isn’t a reality in the United States. So, there’s scant interest in the fact that the richest three people in the USA “now have as much wealth as the bottom half of the U.S. population combined.” As for the damaging impacts on democracy, they get less attention than Melania Trump’s wardrobe.
Now, as Sanders surges in Iowa and elsewhere, there’s a renewed pattern of mass-media outlets notably ignoring or denigrating his campaign’s progress. Like many other Sanders supporters, I find that disgusting yet not surprising.
In fortresses of high finance and vast opulence – with no ceiling on the often-pathological quests for ever-greater wealth – defenders of oligarchy see democratic potential as an ominous weapon in the hands of advancing hordes. Media outlets provide a wide (and shallow) moat.
For mass media owned by oligarchs and their corporate entities, affinity with the “moderate” orientations of Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar is clear. Any one of them would be welcomed by corporate elites as protection against what they see as a hazardous upsurge of progressive populism.
While Buttigieg has emerged as a sharp corporate tool for the maintenance of oligarchy, Joe Biden is an old hand at such tasks. Meanwhile, ready to preempt the politician-intermediaries for plutocracy, Michael Bloomberg is offering a blunt instrument for direct wealthy rule. Estimated to be the eighth-richest person in the United States, he was urged to run for president this year by Bezos.
During the next few months, Bloomberg will continue to use his massive class-war chest to fund an advertising onslaught of unprecedented size. In just weeks, he has spent upwards of $80 million on TV ads, dwarfing all such spending by his opponents combined. And, with little fanfare, he has already hired upwards of 200 paid staffers, who’ll be deployed in 21 states.
If Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Bloomberg won the Democratic presidential nomination, that would be a triumph for oligarchy in the midst of rising grassroots opposition.
Right now, two corporate Democrats are the leading contenders to maintain corrupted business-as-usual at the top of the party. As the executive director of Our Revolution, Joseph Geevarghese, aptly put it days ago, “Almost every problem facing our country – from runaway greed on Wall Street, to high prescription drug prices, to locking kids in private detention facilities, to our failure to act against the climate crisis – can be traced back to the influence of the kind of donors fueling Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden’s campaigns for president.”
While uttering standard platitudes along the lines of making the rich and corporations “pay their fair share,” you won’t hear Buttigieg or Biden use the word “oligarchy.” That’s because, to serve the oligarchy, they must pretend it doesn’t exist.
Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched independent Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon is the author of a dozen books, including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
After months of false starts and threats and endless posturing, Donald Trump has joined Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, becoming the third American president impeached by the House of Representatives.
Democrats started promising to do this before the president was elected. Still, it feels kind of weird, surprising, surreal even, that it actually happened. Why? Because impeachment is a terrible idea for the country.
At this point, there is no chance the Democrats can remove the president. And in trying, they will only hurt themselves. The polls are clear. Yet—and here is the fascinating part—they did it anyway.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., explained why: “The president’s continuing course of conduct constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy in America. We cannot allow this misconduct to pass. It would be a sell-out of our Constitution, our foreign policy, our national security and our democracy.”
See if you can follow his logic chain: Leaving a president in office until voters can decide to remove him from office if they want to is “a danger to democracy.”
The entire impeachment saga has become detached from reality.
Here are the facts: Democrats do not have the votes to remove Trump from office. They never will have the votes to remove the president. The point of impeachment is to remove a president. They cannot do that. This process is doomed.
By the way, they don’t have the votes because voters don’t support it. The irony is that our democracy is working just fine. Voters support it. After a full month of watching public hearings on impeachment, Democrats have not gained support. They have lost it.
In late October, when this began, about half the country backed impeachment and 44% said they were opposed. In the most recent polling, those numbers have inverted. In other words, the more people learned about impeachment, the less they wanted impeachment. That’s not one person’s opinion. That is the sum total of the polling.
Even in the face of all the data, elite Democrats still will not admit it. They are in denial. Democratic Party cheerleader and CNN commentator Jeffrey Toobin attacked his own company’s polling when it didn’t match what he believes to be true, saying:
You see a decline from our last poll in Democratic support from 90% down to 77%. Can I just say that I don’t believe that poll for one second … The 90% to 77%. You know, it’s just I don’t believe it. Like it makes no sense that that the numbers would change like that. I mean … sometimes polls are sometimes wrong.
Why doesn’t Toobin believe it? Because he doesn’t. Says the legal analyst. I look out my window and I see the horizon. That means it’s flat. You can tell me the Earth is round. But I just don’t believe it, never mind your dumb numbers and scientific theories. I just don’t believe it.
This is the definition of ideological extremism. It’s an inability to change course no matter what the evidence tells you. At that point, this is no longer politics. We left that a long time ago. What we are seeing is religion. And, of course, being the Democratic Party, it’s always the exact opposite of what they claim it is.
As Trump noted in his recent letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “You are the ones interfering in America’s elections. You are the ones subverting American democracy. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to the republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.”
The public, whether they like Trump or not, agrees with that. Polling shows it.
But the Democrats can’t acknowledge that they are stuck. In 2016, even before the election, they went all-in on denouncing Trump and his supporters as beyond the pale racists not worthy of being hated.
When they lost, they refused to learn. They refused to think about why they may have lost. Instead, they moved seamlessly from calling voters who wouldn’t support them “racists” into a conspiracy about Russia that was so bizarre they could never fully explain its outlines. That collapsed, too.
But what hasn’t changed is the rage storm they’ve created with years of propaganda. Democratic leaders whipped their voters into such a frenzy that the voters can’t be pulled back now. They want blood.
The Democrats have no choice but to march forward even though it will inevitably destroy them, and they know it will.
What would it take to turn Texas, a Republican stronghold, into a blue state? According to data from SurveyMonkey, just remove all the gun owners from the Lone Star State and it would have gone to Hillary Clinton in 2016. You can do the same thing in liberal California. Remove all the non-gun owners and the state would have voted for Donald Trump.
That’s how divisive the issue of gun control is in American politics.
SurveyMonkey found that no other demographic — not race, religion or gender — so perfectly divided voters. In the 2016 election, 47 percent of Trump supporters said gun control was an issue important enough to influence their vote. That’s compared to just 27 percent of voters who supported Hillary Clinton.
But what does this divide mean? How is it impacting gun control policy, and how might this issue change in light of recent mass shootings like Las Vegas, Orlando and Newtown? To discuss the data, the PBS NewsHour hosted a Twitter chat 1 p.m. EDT Thursday with data journalist Dante Chinni (@Dchinni), professor and chairman of political science at the University of Kansas Don Haider-Markel (@dhmarkel), and Washington Post correspondent Philip Bump (@pbump).
The third impeachment of a U.S. president in our 230-year history is at an impasse. Many now wonder whether there might be a role for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in breaking the partisan logjam.
Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution provides that, while the House has the “sole Power of Impeachment,” the “Senate shall have the sole power to try all Impeachments.” When a president is tried, the great charter says, “the Chief Justice shall preside.” So who makes the rules? You would think the chief justice. But the Constitution also says in Article I, Section 5, that “Each House shall determine the Rules of its Proceedings.”
So all rules of procedure in an impeachment of the president must be governed by those enacted by a majority of the senators — a cumbersome procedure, possibly requiring a vote on each rule.
The chief justice is the presiding officer, but are his duties purely ceremonial?
I would not argue that, under the constitutional structure, Chief Justice Roberts can order witnesses to appear and make up his own rules structuring the proceeding. It is frequently stated that impeachment is a political, not a judicial, process; to call on the chief justice to exercise judicial control over a political process would seem far-fetched and contrary to precedent.
But I would argue that there is a role for the chief justice in resolving the present impasse.
Taking her cue from Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRand Paul airs grievances about impeachment, ‘your favorite politicians’ as part of Festivus Poll: Trump approval rating nears 50 percent heading into 2020 Trump will hold first 2020 campaign rally in Ohio MORE (D-Calif.) has said she will delay transmitting the articles of impeachment until she is assured of a fair proceeding in the Senate — notably, that evidence from the handful of witnesses specified by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerImpeached, with a solid base and no apologies — Trump becomes the only issue of 2020 McConnell: ‘Let’s quit the charade’ on impeachment Schumer: Newly released emails show importance of White House witnesses in Senate trial MORE (D-N.Y.) and certain relevant documents have been entered into the record. Check!
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFBI looking into former Kentucky governor’s controversial pardons: report There’s no requirement — nor need — for an actual trial in the Senate Congress must ensure every eligible American can access the ballot box MORE (R-Ky.) has said he wants a hydra-headed procedure, with housekeeping matters first agreed upon, opening statements, and then a later vote on whether witnesses will be called to testify. He claims this is what happened in the Clinton impeachment. Schumer says no. Not checkmate, but stalemate.
So what is the way forward? No one really knows. But when warring parties cannot agree in court to reasonable rules of engagement, the presiding judge may enter the fray and mediate the dispute, or perhaps resolve it for them. Here, the chief justice might have some leverage.
He should meet with the two Senate leaders and put forward a fair process that assures justice to the president and to the House. This might include what witnesses may be called by both sides, what documents will be produced, and whether sworn testimony will be taken in a public proceeding or behind closed doors by way of depositions. He might address other procedural and administrative issues necessary to the conduct of the trial. This is “Trial Management 101.” This is what a judge does when he “presides” — he controls the course of a proceeding.
The chief justice’s immediate reaction might be, “Where’s my leverage if they can’t agree on my proposals?” He would have tremendous leverage coming from the prestige of his office. What would be the optics if the Republican-appointed chief justice proposed taking testimony, in open or closed session, and McConnell — who says he is coordinating with the White House — turns it down? Surely, there would be public outrage. McConnell, if he is acting in good faith at all, would have to comply with the proposals of the impartial magistrate that the Constitution puts in charge of the proceeding.
McConnell clearly visualizes the trial as a partisan vote — something like a vote on health care, immigration or late-term abortion. He appears to forget that the Constitution, in cases of impeachment, requires senators to take an additional oath to decide that issue fairly, impartially. The Constitution contemplates a trial in the Senate, and a trial must have reasonable rules. Who ever heard of a trial without witnesses, without a reasonable opportunity to present evidence?
It is no answer to say that the House had the opportunity to present this evidence before it impeached. This was the argument of George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, called as an expert witness by Republicans before the House Judiciary Committee; he said there might have been impeachable offenses accomplished by Trump’s conduct, but it was too early to tell.
Yet, under the Constitution, the House is an accusatory body. It need not have all the evidence; it merely must be satisfied, as it was, that it had enough evidence to impeach. Grand juries frequently indict based on hearsay. Prosecutors often feel they don’t have all that is knowable at the time of indictment before the grand jury, but they indict anyway.
Defense lawyers may argue all they want that this is “indictment-lite” or a “slipshod” indictment. But in such instances, if prosecutors choose to go to trial, they are never precluded from offering additional evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and they are required to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense: Justice to the defendant, to be sure, but justice to the government as well. In civil cases, the parties amass much evidence in discovery proceedings before trial but are never precluded from offering additional evidence at the trial itself. The object of the exercise must be to achieve the aspiration of justice.
Founders James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were wise enough to put a brake on the awesome powers of the president with the impeachment clause. They entrusted the House with the sole power of accusation, and the elite Senate with the sole power to try the case. The president is not supposed to serve at the pleasure of the Senate — but he may be “removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The Founders of our country said that, in cases of impeachment, the chief justice is to preside — and they must have had something in mind. So, Chief Justice Roberts, do your constitutional duty and “preside” over the trial by taking a hand in resolving the partisan impasse and breathing justice, due process and fairness into the rules of engagement. Then, let the trial begin.
James D. Zirin, a retired partner of Sidley Austin, is the author of the recently published book, “Plaintiff in Chief — A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits.” He is a former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.