If the witness vote succeeds, Hawley aims to force votes on subpoenas for House Intelligence Chairman Schiff (D-Calif.), Vice President Biden, Hunter Biden, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the still-unnamed whistleblower who reported Trump’s July call with the Ukrainian president and a reported acquaintance of the whistleblower’s.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone hinted at a Schiff subpoena during testimony before the Senate on Saturday by noting he didn’t appear before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment.
Democrats already forced votes to subpoena acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, and documents related to the administration’s decision-making on aid to Ukraine earlier this week, all of which failed on party lines. Democrats say that the Bidens aren’t relevant to the investigation.
Hawley would also seek communications among the whistleblower, Schiff and his staff, transcripts of Atkinson’s congressional testimony, communications between the House impeachment managers and Democratic presidential candidates as well as documents related to Biden’s drive to oust former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Shokin was deeply unpopular with Western officials, who viewed him ascorrupt.
There’s no evidence Biden used his position as vice president to benefit his son’s work with Burisma.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this week he’d rather request an outside counsel investigation in the Bidens than see Congress subpoena them.
A simple majority would be required to consider new evidence next week, but most Republicans oppose the measure and Democrats are currently short the four Republicans they need to win the vote. Several Republican senators are undecided.
Likewise, 51 senators would be required to win votes on issuing subpoenas for additional documents and witnesses.
Freed momentarily from the Senate’s impeachment trial, several presidential candidates high-tailed it to Iowa on Saturday for a last-minute blitz of campaigning before the state’s caucuses kick off the battle for the Democratic nomination.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota planned to hold town halls, rallies and concerts across Iowa on Saturday to keep their supporters motivated heading into the final stretch of the caucus campaign. They’ll join former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who don’t have Senate obligations and have already spent much of the past week in Iowa.
The burst of campaigning comes as the contest for the Democratic nomination enters a critical — and volatile — phase. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Saturday showed Sanders with a slight edge over the other leading candidates, but the race remains competitive. Several polls show Biden, Buttigieg and Warren are still among the front-runners.
“There’s still plenty of time for movement,” said Kurt Meyer, chairman of the Tri-County Democrats in northern Iowa. “Every part of the ground game counts.”
Stuck in Washington for much of the past week, the senators in the race have flooded Iowa and other early voting states with top-shelf surrogates — rock star lawmakers, former Cabinet members, celebrities and spouses. The stand-ins aren’t a guaranteed way to sustain excitement or win votes, but the campaigns see it as the best way to maximize their reach in a nominating fight that could turn on the narrowest of margins in Iowa and other early states.
Biden isn’t bound to the Senate like some of his rivals, but he must navigate the trial nonetheless. House Democrats’ charges that Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress are rooted in the president pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate discredited theories about Biden’s foreign policy duties in Ukraine as vice president and his son Hunter’s personal business dealings there.
Trump’s defense team began its defense of the president on Saturday, and some Republicans are determined to frame the matter more around Biden than around the president.
After a brief trip to New Hampshire, the second state to vote in Democrats’ nominating process, Biden planned to return to Iowa on Saturday evening and intended to remain in the state until caucus day. He began the day announcing an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who joined her fellow first-term congresswoman from Iowa, Abby Finkenauer, in backing Biden.
Ahead of his arrival in Iowa, Sanders sent progressive icon and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the state. She addressed dozens of Sanders volunteers at one of his field offices inside a stirp mall, before heading out to canvass in Cedar Rapids. She promised to wear her green “Green New Deal” baseball cap to join them on a clear but cold Saturday, amid snow drifts that piled along plowed roads, and melting ice.
“We are here to make a revolution that lasts,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
She will later join Sanders and filmmaker Michael Moore for a Saturday night rally in Ames.
Sanders’ wife, Jane, and actor Danny Glover were campaigning on his behalf in Nevada, which hosts the third nominating contest. Jane Sanders predicted a strong showing in the early voting states.
“I think we’ll win Iowa,” she told about 40 staff and volunteers. “I think we’ll win New Hampshire. And then I think it’s up to you whether we win Nevada. But it looks great.”
Sanders’ apparent momentum in Iowa is enough for the Buttigieg campaign to respond. The campaign sent prospective donors a fundraising solicitation warning of the Vermont senator’s strength.
“Bernie Sanders is raising tons of money, he’s surging in the polls, and he has dark money groups attacking his competitors,” the email said. “If things stay steady until the Iowa Caucuses in just nine days, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee of our party.”
Warren has Julian Castro, the former Obama housing secretary and onetime presidential candidate, in Nevada. U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., another star of the House freshman class like Ocasio-Cortez, is in South Carolina.
The Senate adjourned about noon EST Saturday, giving the presidential candidates time to return to Iowa for late-afternoon and evening events. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., was going to New Hampshire.
The weekend is critical for them, depending on how many more days the trial will extend this coming week. Warren’s campaign on Saturday hit prospective donors with a frank plea ahead of an “important January fundraising deadline.”
Fall short of her financial targets, the campaign wrote, and “we risk having to scale back our advertising plan during the most critical period of this election.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sure has an odd way of campaigning for Bernie Sanders. She doesn’t mention his name.
Last October, Bernie scored the coveted AOC endorsement. What could be better than a young socialist with a huge following to endorse an old socialist who captured the imagination of the socialist wing of the Democrat Party in 2016? AOC, after all, volunteered for the Sanders campaign back then. She has a history with him. Last November he announced that she will fill-in for him on the campaign trail while he is doing his day job in the Senate during the impeachment trial.
AOC is in Iowa for Sanders. During a campaign event in Iowa City (home city of the University of Iowa), liberal filmmaker and activist Michael Moore joined her to fire up the crowd for Bernie. Something caught the attention of reporters, though. AOC never once mentioned Sanders’ name during her speech. Moore served as the warm-up act for AOC. Moore is clearly excited to be serving as a surrogate.
“I’m so excited about our possibilities here. Right here in Iowa,” Moore said. “Bernie was in Dubuque a couple of weeks ago and I scribbled this down here – I came to tears watching him say this.”
“It was a Q-and-A at a big town hall and someone asked him if he thought he was too old to be president of the United States [and Bernie said] ‘I’ve been saying for months, I’ll tell you what’s too old — 40 million people in this country not having health care. That’s too old.’”
Moore championed Sanders for his policies on climate change, the minimum wage and his record on civil rights, before claiming Sanders is the only candidate who can defeat President Trump in November.
“We have to crush Donald J. Trump with the truth and with a candidate who is the opposite of Donald J. Trump,” he said.
Bernie Sanders may have moved Michael Moore to tears of joy with his socialist agenda but he horrifies the rest of us who do not wish to see the destruction of the U.S. economy and our way of life. Moore has one thing right, though – Sanders is the opposite of Trump, who embraces capitalism and our economy reaps the rewards of Trump’s policies.
Moore introduced AOC, the final speaker. She spoke as Moore did and encouraged the crowd to reject the status quo.
“It is bold and it is a risk,” she said. “We hedge our bets, we get more of the same. And the same has not been helping. So our job right now is to come together …We’ve got ten days left, ten days (until the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3).”
The New York Democrat also called for the abolition of two federal immigration agencies — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). She also advocated for Medicare-for-all, and suggested that political leaders craft the nation’s environmental policy around “indigenous wisdom.”
“This is not just about how we win, it’s about how we heal,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “From our bodies to this land, we are going to need entirely new paradigms of public policy in order to heal.”
I’m not sure what AOC means about our bodies’ healing, but I do know that voters did reject the status quo in 2016 when they voted for Donald Trump. Compared to Bernie’s lifetime career in politics, Trump is still the anti-status quo candidate. It’s just very odd that she doesn’t mention his name. Perhaps it is her lack of experience outside of her own district in New York, or maybe it is her own self-involvement. Whatever the reason, someone should pull her aside and remind her that the crowd is there for Bernie and his name should be used over and over again.
AOC and Moore will do Bernie’s bidding Saturday before the candidate is able to get to Iowa due to the impeachment trial schedule. He will be at a second rally, though, Saturday night. He groused about calendar conflicts and said that he and his campaign didn’t plan on missing out on so many events in Iowa this week. Really? Why was the schedule a surprise? Anyone interested in the impeachmentpalooza schedule knew about the starting date and schedule in advance.
“Obviously, when we were planning out our schedule, trust me, we were not expecting to be in Washington this week,” Sanders said in an interview airing Friday on “CBS Evening News.”
“We had set up a number of town meetings all over the state — we usually bring out good crowds — so it is disappointing to me to not be in Iowa talking to the people there,” he added.
Boohoo, Bernie. Democrats should have thought a little further ahead and realized that an impeachment circus would affect the campaign season. The absence of the senators involved in the trial participation are giving good old Joe and Mayor Pete plenty of time with the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire without worrying about competing for time with the senators.
The impeachment trial also puts the three senators who have events in Iowa this weekend – Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar – in a corner about traveling to Iowa. When the trial adjourns for the day on Saturday, they all have to scramble to fly back to Iowa. This means chartering private jets. How does that inconvenient truth square with all the climate change alarmism in the Democrat Party these days?
It was important since the White House has, before now, officially refused to cooperate with the impeachment process.
1. Democrats are trying to steal the 2020 election
“For all their talk about election interference, they’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history — and we can’t allow that to happen,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trump’s team.
Speaking after the arguments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the defense arguments were proof the Senate trial should feature witnesses and subpoenas for documents.
“So the President’s counsel is criticizing the case against the President for lack of sources close to the President while at the same time blocking testimony from witnesses close to the President,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
Will any senators actually flip on Trump impeachment?
The current question is not whether Trump will be removed from office — he won’t. It’s whether senators vote to hear from witnesses and see new evidence. I spent much of Friday going over which senators might flip — from both parties. Democrats seem completely united. There is a small universe of Republicans to watch. And even they are complaining about this process. It could be a stretch for even four Republicans to support more information at this trial. See everyone here.
Smart for Trump’s team to go quickly
The arguments lasted just about two hours. Cipollone, literally at the stroke of noon, said he was done for the day.
The fact of their brevity was a theme Trump’s lawyers continually mentioned.
“I am not going to continue to go over and over and over again the evidence that they did not put before you. Because we would be here for a lot longer than 24 hours,” said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lead attorneys.
‘If you’re winning, shut up’
Some supporters of impeachment praised the move, in part because Saturday morning is, as Trump has said, the Death Valley of ratings, but also as a sign of respect to senators itching to get out the door and smart, given the defense team’s strategic position.
“If you take less time and make your point more crisply, that’s probably better,” said Preet Bharara, former US attorney for the Southern District of New York
“If you’re winning, shut up,” added lawyer Jeffrey Toobin on CNN. “I think that’s the guiding principal of what they’re doing.”
Some flaws in the Trump defense
There were some flaws in their arguments.
For instance, deputy White House counsel Michael Purpura played several moments from impeachment hearings in which witnesses — former US Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison — said the first time they knew the Ukrainians expressed concern about security funding being frozen was in August.
And all that testimony did occur.
Purpura did not include the testimony of Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official who mentioned emails her office received from Ukrainians about the aid on the same day as Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President.
After days in which Rep. Adam Schiff, the House’s lead impeachment manager and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, became a viral hero to supporters of impeachment, with his methodical arguments and passionate, urgent pleas to hold Trump accountable, he was given a new role by the President’s defense team.
His satirical paraphrasing of Trump’s call with Zelensky, for which Trump and his defenders have routinely criticized Schiff, was played and the California Democrat was accused of being a liar.
“That’s fake, that’s not the real call,” Purpua said after playing the moment. “That’s not the evidence here, that’s not the transcript.”
Purpura showed the clip from the acting DNI hearing, Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, looked at him and was watching along without expression, according to CNN’s Manu Raju.
Schiff tried to head that claim off during his arguments Friday.
“I discovered something very significant by mocking the President and that is for a man who loves to mock others, he does not like to be mocked. As it turns out, he’s got a pretty thin skin. Who would have thought it?” Schiff said, anticipating the line of questioning against him. “Never mind that I said I wasn’t using his words before I said, and I wasn’t using his words after I said it, and I said I was making a parody of his words — ‘It’s an outrage! He mocked the President, that Schiff! Terrible!'”
Trump’s defense played multiple video clips of Schiff, not just from that hearing, but also from a cable news interview in which he said there was evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia. The Trump defense disputed this point and said it was part of a pattern by Schiff, misrepresenting things.
When asked by CNN about the newly revealed ABC recording of Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham downplayed its impact. “No, I think the President had lost faith in her for reasons that are known to him, and I just don’t think there’s a problem,” said the South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Point of order: Conviction does not automatically disqualify Trump in 2020
When Cipollone alleged that Democrats are asking Americans to “remove President Trump from the ballot” in the 2020, it wasn’t technically correct.
As CNN’s Jamie Ehrlich pointed out to me earlier this week, Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution holds that “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” It does not specify, however, whether those votes — removal and disqualification — should be held concurrently.
In our case, removal and disqualification are listed together in the articles of impeachment, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi handed over to the Senate to vote on. The precedent shows, however, that the Senate has separated removal and disqualification when they have voted on federal judges and officials. In the past, removal has required a supermajority (67 votes) and disqualification only required a simple majority (51 votes).
This opens the door to Trump being removed from office, yet he is able to run for reelection in the fall. It also opens up the possibility that the Senate bars him from running for office, but allows him to remain President.
This is just a point of order, however, since there are not currently anywhere near the 67 votes needed to convict Trump.
With the 2020 Iowa caucus just over one week away, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has another favorable Iowa poll under his belt — one in which he’s leading the field by 7 percentage points.
A new New York Times/Siena College poll, taken between January 20-23 and released Saturday, shows Sanders winning 25 percent of the vote in Iowa — a 6 percentage point rise since Siena’s last survey in October.
The poll found the Vermont senator followed by the race’s two moderate frontrunners: former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with 18 percent support, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 17 percent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who Siena pollsters found leading the field in October with 22 percent support, saw her polling fall to 15 percent. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who has seen some increase in her level of support nationally and in early states in recent weeks, was found to be fifth in the state, with 8 percent support. The poll’s margin of error is 4.8 percentage points.
This isn’t the first time Sanders has topped a recent Iowa poll: a Des Moines Register poll released two weeks ago showed Sanders with 20 percent support, 5 percentage points higher than the previous Register poll. He was followed by Warren at 17 percent, Buttigieg at 16 percent, and Biden at 15 percent.
And as Vox’s Ella Nilsen has reported, Sanders seems to be having a moment: He led a national poll for the first time last week, coming in 3 percentage points above habitual national frontrunner Biden, and a January New Hampshire poll conducted by WBUR released Thursday found him first in that state as well, leading the field by 12 percentage points.
That being said, it’s important to note that Iowa caucusgoers — and New Hampshire voters — are notorious for waiting until the last minute to make up their minds, which means that the results of the primary are far from set in stone. Saturday’s Siena poll, for instance, found 39 percent of likely caucusgoers said they haven’t yet made their minds up, a portion of the electorate so large it would be wrong to say there is a definite frontrunner — for now.
Warren’s loss appears to be Sanders’s gain
Biden and Buttigieg’s levels of support among Iowans remained completely stagnant between October and January, according to the Siena pollsters — what changed were Sanders and Warren’s numbers, with Warren’s loss appearing to be Sanders’s gain.
This reversal of fortune follows a public feud between the two progressives about whether Sanders told Warren he believed a woman couldn’t win the presidency in 2020. Sanders and his allies claim the senator from Vermont said no such thing; Warren and her allies say he did.
While tensions over that disagreement seem to have receded some, Siena pollsters found the issue is still weighing on the minds of Iowans — 38 percent of likely caucusgoers said a woman would have a harder time beating President Donald Trump than a man.
Working in Warren’s favor, however, is that she is still the top second choice for likely caucusgoers — an important metric because caucusgoers whose first choice does not win at least 15 percent of the caucus in a given district are asked to caucus for their second choice.
And the survey found Sanders has some challenges to surmount as well, particularly the fact he labels himself a Democratic socialist. In an election cycle in which voters routinely tell pollsters the criteria they consider most when selecting a candidate is that person’s ability to defeat Trump, 56 percent of those surveyed said they felt it would be harder for a Democratic socialist to defeat the president than other types of Democrats.
All this suggests that while Sanders is clearly doing well in the state, his victory isn’t assured. The race still has four frontrunners in Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Warren. But Sanders’s recent surge — coupled with his robust outreach to long-neglected communities — sets him up well for February as the first caucuses and primaries begin, as Vox’s Ella Nilsen has reported:
If his campaign can turn out Iowa’s sizable Latino population and working-class voters, Sanders is bullish about winning the February 3 caucuses. That could shift the ground here in New Hampshire favorably for him — and with a robust operation in key Western states like Nevada and California, two decisive wins in the earliest states could put Sanders well on his way to the Democratic nomination.
Even more importantly, they could prove Sanders’s theory of winning elections: expanding the electorate and getting traditionally neglected groups to turn out. Some might call it a political revolution.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Saturday argued a robust version of one of his favorite phrases to tweet: “Read the transcript!”
It was the first day of defense arguments in Trump’s impeachment trial as the Senate gathered for two quick hours in a rare Saturday session. The White House lawyers had said it would be a “sneak preview” of their defense, continuing Monday, and they spent the morning rebutting the House impeachment managers’ arguments by charging that they were politically motivated.
To begin, they read parts of a rough transcript of a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is at the heart of the House impeachment case. While Democrats point to the conversation as a prime reason to remove the president, the White House lawyers say it points to Trump’s innocence. Trump often tweets, sometimes in all caps, that people should read the transcript in an effort to clear himself.
Highlights of Friday’s session and what’s ahead as senators conduct just the third impeachment trial of a president:
THE CALL TRANSCRIPT
The House is charging that Trump abused power in a broad campaign to push Ukraine to investigate Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. They point to the July call, in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to probe Biden. At the time, Trump had ordered the U.S. to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
The defense argued that there’s no evidence that the military aid was a “quid pro quo” for the investigations. They said Trump was concerned about general corruption in the country and noted he eventually released the aid.
Deputy White House counsel Michael Purpura argued that everyone knows that when Trump asked Zelenskiy to “do us a favor,” he meant the U.S., not himself. Democrats have disagreed and said Trump didn’t release the aid until he “got caught.”
The defense lawyers said the House managers didn’t know what Trump’s motivations were.
DIFFERENT STYLES, SUBSTANCE
Trump’s defense team used just two hours of the senators’ time on and promised not to run out the 24-hour clock allotted for the days ahead the way House Democrats nearly did prosecuting the case.
The White House team also displayed quick-cut video presentations on the Senate’s overhead screens, turning soundbites from key players in the impeachment case into fast-snapping clips. It all seemed to command the attention of senators, likely a welcome change of pace for those who had grown tired of the prosecution’s long and often repetitive presentations.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow gave his word to the senators, “We’re not going to play the same clips seven times.” That prompted smiles from some senators.
The president’s team arrayed in the well of the chamber also looked different than the House managers — defending Trump were four white men. One woman, attorney Pam Bondi, is also on Trump’s team. The seven-person House manager team reflected a cross section of America that included women and people of color.
On Saturday the counsel’s table was without its TV-famous lawyers, Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, who have yet to appear before the Senate but are expected on Monday.
FOCUS ON SCHIFF
In arguing that the Democrats’ case is politically motivated, the White House lawyers focused on the person who has been at the head of the inquiry: lead impeachment manager and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
As part of their presentation, they played video of one of Schiff’s opening statements during a hearing early in the impeachment probe. In the statement, Schiff parodied Trump’s push for the investigations, comparing it to a mafia shakedown. Republicans, and Trump in particular, have focused on the monologue and said that Schiff made up a conversation that didn’t exist.
Schiff, in the chamber as as a prosecutor in the impeachment trial, looked straight ahead as they played the video, sitting just feet from the lawyers.
The lawyers also played video of Schiff saying early in the investigation that the Intelligence Committee hadn’t had any contact with the whistleblower who first revealed the call between Trump and Zelenskiy. In fact, the whistleblower had talked to committee staff. Schiff later said he should have been clearer in his comments.
After the session adjourned , Schiff said that the defense was employing an old courtroom trick. “When your client is guilty, when your client is dead to rights, you don’t want to talk about your client, you want to attack the prosecution,” he said.
NOT QUITE HIGH FIVES, BUT HANDSHAKES
As the Senate adjourned, several Republican senators, some closely allied with the president, made their way to the defense counsel’s table to shake their hands.
Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah stopped by.
Sekulow and Purpura walked through an aisle greeting more senators as the cameras shut off, including John Thune of South Dakota. Sekulow also checked in with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch of Idaho.
One GOP senator mentioned in the impeachment inquiry Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, engaged for several minutes in conversation with the counsel team. Last year, Johnson attended Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration with other U.S. officials and was cited in the House proceedings as having discussed the Ukraine situation with Trump.
The Trump team’s outreach did have some bipartisan moments. At one point, White House counsel Pat Cipollone chatted extensively with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and later appeared to be lingering to say hello to Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic presidential candidate.
WRAPPING UP SCHIFF: Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) — who has quickly been vaulted to a position of prominence atop the Democratic Party — wrapped up his prosecution of President DONALD TRUMP last night around 9 p.m. after three days of tight and compelling testimony.
HOW DO YOU JUDGE THE JOB SCHIFF and the Democrats did? Their rhetorical skills, their preparation and the depth of their argument have been roundly praised by both parties and most all observers. It’s very clear that Democrats knew exactly what they were doing by making SCHIFF the lead manager, and filling his team with talented orators. SCHIFF did seem to tick off Republicans, or at least give them a reason to say they’re ticked off — more on that below.
— WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT SCHIFF:NYT, by Sheryl Stolberg: “‘I have to say this,’ [Oklahoma GOP Sen. Jim] Inhofe told reporters Friday morning in the Capitol. ‘Schiff is very, very effective.’”
BUT SCHIFF WRAPPED yesterday by asking Republicans to vote for witnesses — an illustration of just how tough of a job Democrats have.
ON WITNESSES … THE LATEST THINKING in the Capitol among both Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans will not vote for witnesses. Smart money is on a 51-49 vote — although no one really has an idea at this point.
AN INTERESTING QUESTION TO PONDER: Politically, if you’re a Republican, can you vote for witnesses — and if witnesses fail, can you then vote to acquit? There are two schools of thinking on this: Yes: If you vote for witnesses, and they fail, you can vote to acquit because you can say, “I tried to get more information. The Senate said no, so I had to make a decision based on what we had.” No: How can you believe you need more information and then vote to acquit?
HAPPENING THIS MORNING: From a Dem aide: “Today, Managers for the U.S. House of Representatives will file a 28,578-page trial record with the Secretary of the Senate for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. The trial record serves as the evidentiary foundation informing the Senate impeachment trial and provides a permanent accounting to the Senate and the public of the evidence gathered against the President of the United States. This record does not include thousands of documents and testimony that President Trump is blocking from Congress and the American people.”
REPUBLICANS NOT MOVED … JOHN BRESNAHAN and BURGESS EVERETT: “Trump finds nearly unwavering loyalty from Republicans after Dem case”: “Senate Republicans spent three days listening to the House impeachment managers present a comprehensive case for removing President Donald Trump from office — an elaborate, multimedia narrative laying out a wide array of offenses allegedly committed to benefit the president’s personal political fortunes at the expense of the nation.
“A small minority of GOP senators may ultimately end up mildly criticizing the president’s behavior in requesting investigations into Joe Biden and delaying military aid to Ukraine. But any expressions of disapproval are muted, or explained away as an honest mistake by a frustrated president who just wanted to fight corruption in Ukraine. …
“[I]t is very unlikely that more than one or two Republican senators are even considering a vote to convict Trump and remove him from office, far from the 20 needed to reach the 67-vote threshold required by the Constitution. GOP leaders and aides privately doubt any Republican will cast such a vote, especially after they hear from Trump’s defense team over the next few days, and particularly if a key procedural vote on hearing witnesses is defeated next week.”
OUTRAGE OF THE DAY … BURGESS EVERETT: “Republicans livid after Schiff cites supposed threat to GOP senators”: “Lisa Murkowski thought Adam Schiff was doing a pretty good job prosecuting the case against President Donald Trump as he made his opening arguments. That is, until he read an anonymous quote warning Republican senators to vote with Trump or end up with their ‘head on a pike.’
“‘I thought he was doing fine with moral courage until he got to the head on a pike. That’s where he lost me … he’s a good orator,’ said the Alaska Republican, whose vote is crucial in the Democrat’s push to subpoena new witnesses and documents in the trial. ‘You’ve got to give him that. And he was moving right along with good oratory … it was just unnecessary.’
“The moderate Republican is one of the few unpredictable senators during the impeachment trial. But she appeared visibly upset during Schiff’s remarks, as did Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). ‘Not only have I never heard the ‘head on the pike’ line but also I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration,’ Collins said.” POLITICO
THE TRUMP TEAM DEFENSE starts at 10 a.m. today. President DONALD TRUMP suggested Saturdays are the backwater of television, but the networks are taking the proceedings live with their top talent at the wheel.
IT’S A SHORT DAY TODAY: The session is expected to wrap around 1 p.m., and the Senate will take tomorrow off and return Monday.
WHAT TO EXPECT TODAY … JAY SEKULOW told a group of us reporters in the Capitol yesterday that today would be like a “trailer … coming attractions.” SEKULOW said they would be speaking a lot about JOE and HUNTER BIDEN.
— DARREN SAMUELSOHN and KYLE CHENEY: “Trump’s legal team to launch unbridled attack on Biden”: “It’s not the strategy most lawyers would take when a president’s job is on the line. But this is the Trump era and any norms from past impeachment fights appear to be out the window. More than anything, Trump’s lawyers are aiming to use their nationally-televised platform to stamp out any lingering consideration by a handful of Senate Republicans to join Democrats in demanding new witnesses and documents to aid their prosecution.
“Whether that plan works remains to be seen — a vote on the witness question looms next week and several GOP senators have suggested they’re still open-minded. Trump himself is a wildcard in that debate. He has at times demanded that Republicans call his own favored witnesses, including Biden, and at others has called for a swift rejection of Democrats’ case.”
WHAT’S NEXT: We screwed up the timeline yesterday, so here’s what we expect going forward: WE ANTICIPATE the Trump defense will last today and Monday. Then Senate questions are TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY — Dems are expected to use this time, in part, to rebut the Trump defense. The debate on witnesses will probably be THURSDAY — probably a vote on witnesses, as well. If there are no witnesses, we’d guess they’ll close FRIDAY, and deliberate into SATURDAY. Vote could come next SATURDAY or MONDAY
— IF THERE ARE WITNESSES, this whole timeline is blown up, and the process will continue for weeks. (h/t the POLITICO Hill team)
BY THE NUMBERS … AT LEAST 30 SENATE DEMOCRATS have made 114 cable TV appearances this week (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC and ABC), per a Senate Dem source.
CALIFORNIA REP. DEVIN NUNES raised $2.1 million in the final three months of 2019. He has $7.1 million on hand. OHIO REP. JIM JORDAN raised $1.3 million and has $1.8 million on hand. Both men filed their reports yesterday — it’s due on Friday.
Good Saturday morning. PETE STARK, a former California Democrat, died at 88, per the San Jose Mercury News. He served in the House from 1973 to 2013, when he lost to Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).
SPOTTED: Nikki Haley having dinner at L28 in Tel Aviv on Friday night.
FOGGY BOTTOM BLOWUP: MARY LOUISE KELLY talking about her interview with Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO: “I was taken to the Secretary’s private living room where he was waiting and where he shouted at me for about same amount of time as the interview itself. He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine. He asked, ‘do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’
“He used the F-word in that sentence and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘people will hear about this.’” The full interview
NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN and ANNIE KARNI: “Trump May Skip Debates, or Seek New Host, if Process Isn’t ‘Fair’”: “President Trump’s campaign is considering only participating in general election debates if an outside firm serves as the host, and his advisers recently sat down with the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates to complain about the debates it hosted in 2016.
“The Dec. 19 meeting between Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., a prominent Republican and co-chairman of the commission, Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for Mr. Trump’s re-election effort, and another political adviser, Michael Glassner, came soon after Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that the 2016 debates had been ‘biased.’ Mr. Fahrenkopf said the meeting was cordial, but that Mr. Parscale essentially reiterated Mr. Trump’s complaints.” NYT
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 17 keepers
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman (@dlippman):
— “Is Venture Capital Worth the Risk?” by The New Yorker’s Nathan Heller: “The industry shaped the past decade. It could destroy the next.” New Yorker
— “What Schizophrenia Does to Families,” by Abigail Jones in WaPo Magazine: “A mother, a son, an unraveling mind — and a mental health system that can’t keep up.” WaPo Magazine
— “Fertility Inc.: Inside the big business of babymaking,” by Fortune’s Beth Kowitt: “One in eight couples struggles to conceive. No wonder investors are injecting cash into the industry.” Fortune
— “The Enemies of Writing,” by The Atlantic’s George Packer — per ALDaily’s description: “What is the enemy of writing today? Fear — of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism. The mob has the final edit.” Atlantic … “Defend your friends,”by Douglas Murray in Spectator USA
— “Protest Tech: Hong Kong,” by Richard Byrne and Michael C. Davis in Wilson Quarterly: “[T]he high political stakes of these protests – and the vivid images accompanying them – obscure an equally consequential global impact created by the territory’s tenacious pro-democracy movement: The streets of Hong Kong have become a teeming laboratory for the future of organized protest in a surveillance state.” Wilson Quarterly
— “Who Wants to Play the Status Game?” by Agnes Callard in The Point Mag: “In the Importance Game, participants jockey for position. This usually works by way of casual references to wealth, talent, accomplishment or connections. The Levelling Game uses empathy to equalise the players: So I might performatively share feelings of stress, inadequacy or weakness; or express discontent with the Powers that Be; or home in on a source of communal outrage, frustration or oppression.” The Point Mag (h/t TheBrowser.com)
— “Marketing Psychiatric Drugs to Jailers and Judges,” by Max Blau in The Atlantic: “Drug companies are courting jails and judges through sophisticated marketing efforts.” Atlantic
— “Throwaway society: Rejecting a life consumed by plastic,” by The Japan Times’ Andrew McKirdy: “Japan produces an estimated 9 million tons of plastic waste each year, with disposable packaging and food containers accounting for more than 40 percent. But how exactly does plastic consumption impact us on a personal level?” Japan Times (h/t Longreads.com)
— “The Subversive Joy of Cold-Water Swimming,” by The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead: “Britons are skipping the heated pool and rediscovering the pleasures of lakes, rivers, and seas—even in winter.” New Yorker
— “American Psycho: An Oral History, 20 Years After Its Divisive Debut,” by Tim Molloy in Movie Maker — per Longform.org’s description: “In January 2000, American Psycho bombed at Sundance. It was just the beginning.” Movie Maker
— “A Science-Based Case for Ending the Porn Epidemic,” by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry in American Greatness: “We know what porn does to the brain, because the medical science is solid. Because social science is much softer, we can’t know for certain what causal impacts porn has on society, if any. But once we realize that we have to be much more humble in this area, we can still make prudential judgments.” American Greatness
TRANSITIONS — DHS is adding three new public affairs staffers: Sofia Boza-Holman as press secretary, Brandy Brown as director of strategic communications and Elizabeth Ray as senior adviser to the assistant secretary. Boza-Holman was most recently director of strategic media for VP Mike Pence. Brown was most recently comms director for Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). Ray was most recently VP of accounts at CRC Strategies.
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) is 83 … Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is 63 … Jack Oliver is 51 … Nancy Gibbs … Joe Conason, EIC of National Memo, is 66 … NAM’s Mark Isaacson … Kate Conway … Ed Payne … Eleni Towns … Zach Pleat … NYT’s Jeremy Peters (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … WaPo’s Michael Scherer … Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up (h/t Hilary Rosen) … POLITICO’s Alessandro Sclapari and Chris Parisi … Adam Kovacevich, head of Americas government relations at Lime … Dave Martinez … Charles Aldinger … Erika Reynoso, VP for public affairs communications at Wells Fargo (h/t Emily Teitelbaum) … Iva Benson, EVP at Rubenstein … Dan Kaniewski … Angela Calman, VP of comms at Oscar Health … Ashley Jones, senior adviser to Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján, celebrating in LA (h/t husband Justin Davey) … Adam Falkoff, president of CapitalKeys … Danielle Inman … David Woodruff is 49 …
… Mallory Hunter, founder and president of Hunter Operations … Luke Graeter, legislative assistant for Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) (h/t Emily Saleme) … Emily Passer, senior director of digital communications for NBC News … Brian Dunn … Evan Lukaske is 31 … Christine Gianakis … Eleni Gill … Jason Jay Smart … Heather Marrison … Josh Randle (h/t Tammy Haddad) … Connor Wolf is 3-0 … Meaghan Lynch … Kevin Helliker, editor of Brunswick Review, is 61 … Joelle Terry … Mary Lynn Jones Rynkiewicz … Tina Kelley … Lucette Moran … Sefira Fialkoff … Parker Erickson … Dae Lim … Mark Bottini … Heather Bellow is 51 … Erik Smulson is 53 … Wes Caudell is 4-0 … Houston Ruck … Amy Mitchell … Michelle Goodman … Dan Carol … Laura Simolaris … Cory Mason … Chet Culver is 54 … Susan Torricelli (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Phil Beshara … Karen Ray Bishop … ICM Partners’ Michael Glantz is 6-0 … Ron Beitelspacher
THE SHOWS, by Matt Mackowiak, filing from Austin:
—NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) … Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) … Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Panel: Hoover Institution research fellow Lanhee Chen, The New York Times Magazine’s Mark Leibovich, Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter and NBC News’ Kristen Welker.
—ABC’s “This Week”: Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) … Trump impeachment defender Robert Ray … Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Panel: ABC News’ Terry Moran, The Dispatch editor-in-chief Jonah Goldberg, “Roland Martin Unfiltered” host Roland Martin and Republican strategist Alice Stewart.
—CBS’s “Face the Nation”: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) … Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) … latest CBS News Battleground Tracker with CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto. Panel: NPR’s Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post’s David Nakamura, co-author and The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker (“A Very Stable Genius”) and National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru.
—“Fox News Sunday”: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang … Trump impeachment lawyer Alan Dershowitz … The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel and WHO-TV’s Dave Price. Panel: The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin and Wilson Center president and CEO Jane Harman … “Power Player of the Week” segment with actor Ian Bohen (live from Des Moines, IA).
—Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” (10am ET / 10am CT): PresidentDonald Trump (re-air of interview from earlier this week) … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) … Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) … former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
—Fox News’ “MediaBuzz” (11am ET / 10am CT): White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham … The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway … Georgetown University’s Mo Elleithee … Fox Nation host Kat Timpf.
—CNN’s “Inside Politics” (7-9am ET): Panel: The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, AP’s Julie Pace, The New York Times’ Michael Shear, The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim, The Washington Post’s Paul Kane, UNC law school’s Michael Gerhardt, Tulane University’s Ross Garber, CNN’s Abby Philip and The New York Times’ Lisa Lerer.
—CNN’s “State of the Union” (9am ET / 12pm ET): Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) … Trump impeachment defender Robert Ray … attorney George Conway (taped). Panel: Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), former Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali and former Trump campaign advisor David Urban.
—CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” (SUN 10am ET): Panel: Former U.S. Amb. to Israel Martin Indyk, The Economist editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and former Singapore foreign minister Kishore Mahbuhbani … Iraqi president Barham Salih … Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.
—CNN’s “Reliable Sources” (SUN 11-am ET): CNN’s Oliver Darcy and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon … The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser and Politico’s Melanie Zanona … The Washington Examiner columnist Salena Zito and Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz … The Intercept co-founding editor and columnist Glenn Greenwald.
—Univision’s “Al Punto” (SUN 10am ET): Florida International University’s Dr. Aileen Marty and Providence Regional Medical Center’s Dr. George Diaz … Border Hispanics 4 Trump’s Ray Baca, Ana Laura Zepeda and Anthony Aguero … Guatemalan father and daughter reunited after being separated at the border Deisi Arreces-Huitz and Artemio Arreces … National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Gilbran Ramirez.
—C-SPAN: “The Communicators” (SAT 5:30pm ET): Huawei Technologies USA chief security officer Andy Purdy, questioned by Politico’s Joel Hendel … “Newsmakers” (SUN 10am ET): Senate Leadership Fund president & CEO Steven Law, questioned by National Journal’s Leah Askarinam and The Washington Post’s Jacqueline Alemany … “Q&A” (SUN 8pm & 11pm ET): “Iowa Press” host David Yepsen.
—MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” (SUN 7pm ET): Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) … Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) … Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) … Rep. Sylvia Garcia(D-TX) … Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) … Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) … co-authors Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig (“A Very Stable Genius”) … PBS Newshour’s Yamiche Alcindor … The Washington Post’s Paul Kane … Hoover Institution research fellow Lanhee Chen … Republican strategistMatt Gorman.
—Gray TV’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) … Bloomberg News’ Kevin Cirilli.
—Sinclair’s “America This Week with Eric Bolling”: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) … Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani … former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski … author Peter Schweizer(“Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite”) … WVON correspondent Ameshia Cross.
—“Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Stitcher): Former U.S. Rep.Darrell Issa (R-CA).
It’s three years later and Hillary Clinton continues to blame everyone but herself for her devastating loss to Donald Trump. James Comey, Vladimir Putin, and of course our scandal-obsessed media have all been subject to her wrath in postelection interviews. But she saves the worst of her ire for people to her left.
In an interview in October, she smeared both Jill Stein and Tulsi Gabbard as Russian assets. And last week, an interviewer with the Hollywood Reporter sat down with Clinton and read a particularly incendiary quote from her taken from an upcoming Hulu documentary. The subject of the quote? Senator Bernie Sanders.
He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.
Let’s look at all the “somebodies” that Hillary Clinton likes and who in turn like her.
In 1993, Bill Clinton nominated Madeleine Albright to be the US ambassador to the United Nations. She used her role as the US ambassador to push for draconian sanctions against Iraq. Normally, sanctions list specific items that are banned for import. These Iraqi sanctions, on the other hand, required the permission of the UN Security Council to allow importing any goods including food and medicine on a case-by-case basis. The results were catastrophic.
In 1999, former Congressman David Bonior, a Democrat from Michigan, described the sanctions as “infanticide masquerading as policy.”
In 1996, Leslie Stahl confronted Albright on 60 Minutes: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”
After being confirmed as secretary of state in 1997, Albright was a major force in pushing the 1999 war against Serbia.
She met with the extremist terrorist group Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which had ties to both Al-Qaeda and the international drug smuggling rings. In fact, Al-Qaeda fighters were flown to Kosovo to fight alongside the KLA. Based on coerced testimony and some well-placed lies from the KLA, Albright advocated a bombing campaign. For the next seventy-nine days, NATO rained fire and fury on Serbia. A TV station was hit, killing sixteen and injuring as many more. The Chinese embassy in Belgrade was also destroyed, killing three and injuring twenty-seven. Amnesty International called it “a war crime.” When Albright was questioned about this event by journalists at a 2012 book signing, she immediately evicted them from the room, audibly referring to them as “disgusting Serbs.”
But Hillary Clinton seems to think very highly of Madeleine Albright and has claimed that she emulated her as secretary of state, even touting her as a member of her “brain trust” for her 2016 campaign. In her book, Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton said:
Madeleine Albright was my longtime friend and partner in promoting rights and opportunities for women and agreed to chair a new public-private partnership to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in the Middle East.
Arguably, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the worst human rights record in the world. Women are consigned to adult lives as, essentially, perpetual children and must live at the mercy of their male guardians. The state sanctions only the most draconian interpretation of Islam: Wahhabism. Everyone else is a second-class citizen.
Migrant workers have no rights. They are subject to a state of quasi-slavery, where they are routinely abused, starved, raped, and beaten.
Dissidents fare even worse. During his reign, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud jailed Raif Badawi for blogging and jailed his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair for defending him in court. During the Arab Spring, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was responsible for the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, which included teenagers like Ali al-Nimr. Under his watch, Sheikh al-Nimr was sentenced to death. He also sent Saudi troops to crush the popular uprising in Bahrain where they launched a brutal massacre against Bahrain’s Shia population.
Of course, this doesn’t include their support for worldwide terrorism and the spread of Salafism — not to mention arming “moderate rebels” in Syria and Libya.
According to a 2010 New York Times article, “The king of Saudi Arabia had Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over for a friendly lunch Monday here at his desert camp, northeast of Riyadh.” She seemed to enjoy the company. In 2012, King Abdullah lavished Hillary Clinton with $500,000 worth of jewelry, which she accepted because “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and US government.”
Upon the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2015, Bill and Hillary Clinton issued a joint statement:
We are grateful for his support of efforts for peace in the Middle East; our close economic cooperation; the Kingdom’s humanitarian efforts around the world.
Later on, they elaborated:
[We] are also grateful for his personal friendship and kindness toward our family and we join the Saudi people in mourning his loss and send our heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family.
Tony Blair was the first “New Labour” prime minister, radically remaking the party into a handmaiden of neoliberalism, austerity, and mass privatization. In a 2001 speech to the European Research Institute, he infamously declared that national sovereignty was out-of-date. Fittingly, he signed on for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq two years later. During the fearmongering campaign leading up to it, this coalition managed to insert lies from science fiction novels and fantasies about human shredders in Baghdad in order to sell the war to the public.
Since stepping down as prime minister, Blair has been traveling around the world lobbying for various despots in the Gulf. During her time as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton personally enlisted Tony Blair to help her with negotiations in the Middle East while he was simultaneously getting paid by the Gulf monarchies. Like Clinton, Blair is seemingly immune to the charms of Bernie Sanders, comparing his left-wing populism to Trump’s right-wing demagoguery.
Jeff Bezos is a Bond villain without the charisma.
Under Bezos, Amazon warehouses have given new meaning to the phrase “worked to death.” In October, Amazon employee Billy Foister suffered a heart attack and died on the job. While his dead body was on the floor, other workers went about with their preassigned tasks for twenty minutes, apparently fearing retaliation for leaving their stations. Other workers have reported that they had to urinate in plastic bottles, having been refused bathroom breaks. During Christmas season, ambulances are routinely dispatched to Amazon warehouses due to the sheer number of workers collapsing from exhaustion.
This hasn’t put a damper on Bezos’s relationship with Clinton, however. In her last year as secretary of state, Amazon was awarded a $16.5 million contract with the State Department.
In 2013, Jeff Bezos acquired the Washington Post. While Bezos claims he exercises no editorial control over the paper, the sheer amount of pro-Amazon PR masquerading as journalism brings this issue into question. And while Bezos might be one of the people who “likes” Clinton, it is doubtful that he likes Bernie Sanders. Prior to the 2016 Michigan primary, the Washington Post ran sixteen negative articles on the Vermont senator in sixteen hours.
“I think Jeff Bezos saved the Washington Post,” Clinton said in 2017, perhaps thinking of his assistance in her time of need. “It drives news online, it drives news on TV.”
Perhaps in response to President Trump’s vulgarity and impetuousness, liberals have recently been busying themselves with the rehabilitation of George W. Bush. However, one cannot understate the catastrophic damage of his presidency.
And yet it’s not enough to sour the affections between him and Hillary Clinton. George W. Bush fondly calls Hillary his “sister-in-law” (he refers to Bill as his “brother from another mother”). At Nancy Reagan’s funeral, they made their genuine affection for each other apparent for the world to see.
In her book, What Happened, Hillary Clinton shared stories of their relationship: “On the platform, we sat next to the Bushes. The four of us had caught up inside a few minutes earlier, trading updates about our daughters and grandchildren. We chatted like it was any other day.”
That friendly meeting stuck with Bush. A few months later after Clinton’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of Trump, George W. Bush called her to console her on her loss:
George actually called just minutes after I finished my concession speech, and graciously waited on the line while I hugged my team and supporters one last time. When we talked, he suggested we find time to get burgers together. I think that’s Texan for “I feel your pain.”
After the fall of the USSR, Islam Karimov came to power in Uzbekistan. He was the West’s perfect darling, dutifully privatizing the telecommunications, mining, and oil and gas industries as well as the country’s airports. This mass privatization led to a spike in poverty and the lowering of life expectancy. He declared himself president for life and enriched himself and his family in the process.
After 9/11, he was a willing partner in the “War on Terror,” opening his country up to the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program and the makeshift facilities they set up in order to torture detainees from around the world. It was a win-win for Karimov — he’d been torturing his own dissidents for years. Some of them were raped with broken bottles. Others were boiled alive. Now, by hosting a CIA “black site,” he could safely count on Washington’s silence.
But he also knew who in the West had to be paid off in order to ensure his regime’s survival. In 2012 his daughter Gulnara Karimova hosted a fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation in Monaco. It was a smart move for Karimov. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton ignored the overwhelming evidence of human rights abuses, saying, “The US is a friend and partner of Uzbekistan in its pursuit of democracy.”
In a just world, Henry Kissinger would be in a jail cell at the Hague.
In the Middle East, he started a mini-war between the Kurds and Saddam Hussein in order to curry favor with the Shah of Iran. After the Shah and Saddam Hussein abandoned their hostilities for a peace deal, Kissinger abandoned the Iraqi Kurds to be slaughtered by Hussein.
In South America, Kissinger helped orchestrate a coup to overthrow democratically elected President Salvador Allende, a leftist. Military dictator Augusto Pinochet was installed in his place. Dissidents were tortured, shot, or thrown from helicopters. Many of these “disappeared” bodies continue to be unearthed in mass graves. Pinochet and Kissinger met with other right-wing tyrants in Latin America to facilitate plans for a worldwide hunt of leftists in what was dubbed Operation Condor. This operation spanned across continents and even the United States wasn’t spared with Pinochet’s security team assassinating Allende’s former ambassador to the United States, Orlando Letelier, via a car bomb in Washington, DC killing both Letelier and his twenty-five-year-old American assistant Ronni Moffitt.
In 1968, Kissinger sabotaged President Johnson’s negotiations to end the war in Vietnam in order to help Nixon win the White House, prolonging the brutal conflict for another seven years. After he became Nixon’s secretary of state, Kissinger oversaw the massive bombing of Cambodia, dropping more than 2.7 million tons of explosives on the small Southeast Asian country. In 1973, he ramped up the bombing after Hanoi, Saigon, and Washington signed the Paris Peace Accords. Worse, he supported the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, whose killing fields were responsible for the deaths of millions. If it’s even possible to put a number on all the deaths Henry Kissinger is responsible for, the number is certainly staggering.
To quote Anthony Bourdain, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.”
Hillary Clinton apparently disagrees. Kissinger and the Clintons seem to share a bond of true friendship. They even go on an annual beachfront vacation together. And she’s not hiding it — Hillary Clinton repeatedly touts Kissinger as a friend and a mentor: “Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state.” In her book, Hard Choices, she said, “Henry Kissinger checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.”
Henry Kissinger does indeed like Hillary Clinton.
After the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, Hosni Mubarak, with the help of “allies,” cemented his position as president. He perpetually created a “state of emergency” to imprison dissidents, ban political parties, and jail members of the opposition. During the Bush years, he was an active participant in the CIA rendition program, allowing American intelligence officers to set up “black sites” in his country for the torture of detainees. Because of this, Mubarak was thoroughly rewarded with military aid to further use against his own population. He used his control over the Egyptian economy to personally enrich himself while the poverty rate in Egypt kept on going up. While he might be unpopular with some today, he can count Hillary Clinton as a friend.
We look forward to President Mubarak coming as soon as his schedule would permit. I had a wonderful time with him this morning. I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.
And she wasn’t just being nice. During the Arab Spring protests, Clinton’s National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross was shocked by her loyalty to the Mubaraks. “Her feeling was that Mubarak has been a friend for thirty years,” Ross said, “and if you walk away from your friends, every other ally in the region is going to doubt your word.”
Benjamin Netanyahu’s hatred for Palestinians is so deep that it’s led him to embrace Holocaust revisionism. Most recently, Netanyahu praised killing three hundred protesters in Gaza, saying of the massacre, “We have used force wisely and powerfully.”
During his long rule as the prime minister of Israel, he forced a blockade on Gaza. Human Rights Observers call it an “open-air prison.”
He filled his cabinet with genocidal demagogues like Ayelet Shaked, who served as his minister of justice from 2015–19. She wrote a Facebook post in 2014 which advocated killing innocent children and mothers: “What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy?”
Despite Netanyahu annexing Palestinian territories and moving more and more settlers into the West Bank, Hillary Clinton repeatedly praised Netanyahu as a voice for peace: “What [Mr Netanyahu] has offered in specifics, of restraint on the policy of settlements, of no new starts, for example, is unprecedented.”
In her book, Hard Choices, she said, “I learned that Bibi would fight if he felt he was being cornered, but if you connected with him as a friend, there was a chance you could get something done together.”
At the 2016 AIPAC convention, Hillary Clinton made that friendship absolutely clear: “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite Israeli prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] to visit the White House.”
Harvey Weinstein and the Clintons have been very good friends for a long time. Weinstein was not only a prolific fundraiser for the Clintons, but he was also a campaign surrogate. In 2016, he sent messages to campaign manager Robby Mook encouraging him to silence Bernie Sanders’s message on #BlackLivesMatter by pivoting to Sanders’s supposedly weak history on gun control. Perhaps the most ridiculous moment from 2016 is when Harvey Weinstein, as a Clinton surrogate, went on to MSNBC to smear Bernie Sanders as sexist. And while to this day we still hear quite a bit from the media about the dreaded Bernie Bros, it’s an altogether very different Harvey Weinstein who still haunts the airwaves.
Hillary Clinton is clearly a loyal friend, but with Weinstein perhaps we’ve finally seen the limits of that loyalty.
The impeachment trial has ended for Saturday after roughly two hours of arguments by President Donald Trump’s defense team. It will resume at 1 p.m. EST on Monday.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump weighed in with his thoughts on the Senate impeachment trial..
Shortly after his defense team wrapped up its presentation on Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to once again complain that he has been mistreated and that impeachment is a hoax.
“Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is,” he wrote. “This should never be allowed to happen again!”
– Michael Collins
White House lawyer: removing Trump would be ‘irresponsible’
White House counsel Patrick Cipollone wrapped up Saturday’s presentation after about two hours – 60 minutes shorter than lawmakers had anticipated.
“I have good news. Just a few more minutes from us today,” he said.
He told senators it would be “a completely irresponsible abuse of power” to convict and remove Trump from power based on the Ukraine allegations, suggesting again that they were trying to prevent him from being re-elected in 2020.
“Let the people decide for themselves,” he said. “That’s what the founders wanted.”
President Donald Trump’s defense team will resume its arguments Monday at 1 p.m. EST.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued the president’s defense team inadvertently made the case to call witnesses and documents during the trial, something Democrats have been pushing for since before the trial began.
“They kept saying there were no eyewitness accounts, but there are people who have eyewitness accounts,” Schumer said, referring to acting White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, two people Democrats want to testify.
Senate Republicans have rejected Democratic efforts to release documents and call witnesses so far.
“The president’s counsels are criticizing the case against the president for lack of sources close to the president while at the same time blocking testimony from witnesses close to the president.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House impeachment manager prosecuting the case, argued again that Trump led a scheme to have Ukraine do his political bidding.
“They don’t contest the basic architecture of the scheme,” he said. “They do not contest that the president solicited a foreign nation to interfere in our election, to help him cheat. I think they acknowledge, by not even contesting this, that the facts are overwhelming.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen and Sean Rossman
Trump lawyer: Trump did not get ‘due process’
Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to President Donald Trump, tried to counter the charge of obstruction of Congress, saying the White House did not comply with House Democrats’ subpoenas because they were not legally valid.
He argued that the House did not follow correct rules in authorizing the impeachment inquiry – thus making the subpoenas void.
In fact, Philbin suggested the entire impeachment inquiry was illegitimate because the full House never voted to open a probe.
“There was no vote to authorize the committee to exercise the power of impeachment,” he said. So Schiff’s committee didn’t have the authority to issue subpoenas.
He said Trump was not allowed to have counsel in the initial closed-door interviews with key witnesses, and was only invited to participate at the end of the probe.
“The entire proceedings in the House … lasted 78 days. It’s the fastest investigatory process for a presidential impeachment in history,” he said. And for all but 7 days of that, “the president was completely locked out.”
“That’s not due process,” Philbin said.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Attorneys counter Dem. claim Trump did not care about corruption
President Donald Trump’s private attorney Jay Sekulow tried to counter Democrats’ assertions that Trump was not concerned about corruption in Ukraine – except in the case of the allegations about former Vice President Joe Biden his son, because that would help him politically.
Sekulow noted that several witnesses testified before the House impeachment panel about rampant corruption in Ukraine, and it was widely accepted the former Soviet state has struggled to curb the influence of politically connected oligarchs.
Sekulow also portrayed the Trump administration’s freeze on U.S. security assistance for Ukraine as part of a broader Trump administration policy to review all U.S. foreign security assistance.
He also listed other times Trump froze aid to countries over the years, including $300 million to Pakistan due to concerns the country was not meeting its counter-terrorism obligations.
“You didn’t hear about any of that,” he said looking over to the House managers, Democrats who are prosecuting Trump. “None of that was discussed.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen and Christal Hayes
Trump’s defense team seeks to use Democrats’ evidence against them
One of President Donald Trump’s lawyers played clips from testimony offered during the House’s impeachment inquiry, seeking to both discredit the case that $400 million in military aid was tied to investigations politically helpful to the president and suggesting that senators had been deceived by House managers.
Mike Purpura, deputy counsel to the president, played a series of combined clips from European Ambassador Gordon Sondland, where he repeatedly said he “presumed” accounts and that he had no first-hand knowledge of some events. The series of clips focused on witnesses who said they did not know whether Ukraine was aware of the hold on the military aid, a key portion of the Democrats’ case against the president.
“The House managers never told you any of this. Why not? Why didn’t they show you this testimony? Why didn’t they tell you about this testimony?” Mike Purpura said after playing the clips. “Because none of this fits their narrative. And it wouldn’t lead to their predetermined outcome.”
– Christal Hayes
Trump attorney accuses Dems of trying to interfere in 2020
White House counsel Pat Cipollone emphasized the gravity of the Senate impeachment trial proceedings and accused Democrats of trying to undo the 2016 presidential election – and interfere with the 2020 contest.
“They’re asking you to do something very, very consequential and … very, very dangerous,” Cipollone said. “They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election but … asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months. They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country” and “take that decision away from the American people.”
Mike Purpura, deputy counsel to President Donald Trump, began by trying to undermine the credibility of Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry.
He played a clip of Schiff reading the supposed transcript of Trump’s now infamous July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In the clip, Schiff appears to exaggerate the substance of the call – in what he later said was a “parody” – and suggested Trump had directly asked his Ukrainian counterpart for “dirt” on a political opponent.
Republicans have repeatedly attacked Schiff’s account of the call, and now it has become Exhibit A in the president’s defense.
As Purpura played the clip, Schiff sat motionless, his eyes glued to Purpura and a TV screen showing the video. He had his hands clasped in his lap and ignored a note passed over on a legal pad.
As Purpura continued to focus on the case outlined by House managers, the team of managers and attorneys jotted down notes on large legal pads, passing messages back and forth.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Graham floats idea of having special counsel look into Bidens
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Saturday he opposes calling witnesses in the impeachment trial, even as he says his GOP colleagues face “pressure” to “call” forward both Hunter and Joe Biden.
“Senator Schumer said he didn’t want to make a trade, I agree with that actually,” Graham stated. “I don’t want to call Hunter and Joe Biden…but somebody needs to look at the Biden connections in the Ukraine.”
He proceeded to clarify that he “doesn’t know how to do this” regarding investigating the Biden’s and hadn’t spoken to Trump specifically about a “special counsel”, but he wasn’t opposed to the idea.
The president claims that the former vice president and 2020 Democratic front-runner strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son.
“Somebody needs to think about this. Do you want me to do it? I’ll do it. I’d rather have somebody like Mueller do it because I think it’s important to look, but if my Democratic colleagues say, ‘looking at the Biden’s, it’s been done, there’s no reason to look’, I find that offensive.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Bidens, Burisma to be focus of Trump defense team
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, resumed the trial shortly after 10 a.m.
One of Trump’s private lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said the defense would shine a spotlight on the role that former Vice President Joe Biden played in Ukraine during the Trump team’s opening arguments.
“Believe me, you’ll hear about that issue,” Sekulow told reporters Friday in the Capitol, according to Politico.
Trump and his allies have alleged that Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government into firing its top prosecutor to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukraine gas company, Burisma Holdings.
In fact, Biden pushed for the Ukrainian prosecutor’s ouster because he wasn’t pursuing corruption cases, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe.
But Trump’s allies continue to push that debunked allegation.
“The House managers decided to not just open the door, but kick the door down on the Burisma-Biden matter,” Sekulow said, referring to the seven Democrats who presented the case for impeachment.
Sekulow refused to detail his defense strategy. But he said Trump’s team will raise a bevy of hot-button issues– including the Bidens, the dossier that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele collected on Trump before the 2016 campaign, and complaints about the FBI’s probe into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
“We have two goals – we’re going to refute the allegations that they’ve made and we’re going to put on an affirmative case as well,” Sekulow said.
Cipollone opened the defense’s case for Trump and began by delivering some news the senator-jurors were likely quietly cheering: Trump’s team does not plan on using all of the time they have – 24 hours over the next three days – to present the president’s case.
“We will be very efficient,” Cipollone said. “We will finish efficiently and quickly.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen
28,000 pages of trial documents delivered to Senate
Minutes before Trump’s team was scheduled to open their defense, the House managers delivered the trial record they assembled in the impeachment investigation – more than 28,000 pages of transcripts and documents.
The documents were rolled from the House to the Senate in oversized grocery carts and dollies.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Trump goes on attack before Saturday start
Trump weighed in to the fray on Saturday morning via his favorite medium.
“Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi … & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M.,” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s lawyers ‘going to attack’ in Saturday arguments
Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn.
After three marathon days of impeachment testimony from Democratic House managers on why the president should be convicted and removed from office, Trump’s legal team will have equal time to make its case to senators starting Saturday.
Trump’s lawyers are expected to press their argument that the president did nothing wrong in his relations with Ukraine and that he rightfully tried to ensure the proper use of taxpayer dollars when he delayed $391 million in military aid to the Eastern European ally so they would step up anti-corruption efforts.
They’ll also contest the first article of impeachment – abuse of power – has no validity because no specific crime is being alleged. That argument has been dismissed by more than a dozen legal scholars as a misreading of what the framers of the Constitution intended.
They’ll also take less time than the Democrats. At least to start.
While Democrats took nearly eight of their 24 hours on Wednesday, their first day of arguments, Trump’s lawyers will start at 10 a.m. EST Saturday and stop around 1 p.m., said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s private lawyers serving on his defense team.
Sekulow said the Senate asked for the “accommodation.” The president had also complained that his defense was forced to start on a day known among broadcasters as “Death Valley” because of traditionally low ratings.
Longer presentations are being planned for Monday and Tuesday, officials said.
“The evidence and the facts prove he has done nothing wrong,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Friday. “We are looking forward to the chance when we get to lay out our case. The attorneys are excited about that and they are going to attack.”
In pre-trial legal briefs, Trump’s attorneys have said the House impeachment investigation was unfair to Trump and also argued that, in any case, the allegations do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
On Friday, Sekulow said the team would make a compelling case, but that in three hours Saturday it would represent an overview of their arguments.
“We’re going to put on I believe without question a compelling case,” Sekulow said. “We have two goals – we’re going to refute the allegations that they’ve made and we’re going to put on an affirmative case as well.”
Sekulow refused to disclose what he would discuss. But suggested the defense team will raise a variety of contentious issues, such as the dossier that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele collected about Trump, complaints about the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court and the role that former Vice President Joe Biden played in Ukraine.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, might also become a subject of the arguments. Giuliani criticized Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and worked for her removal, which preceded Trump’s pressure for an investigation of Biden.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of eight House lawmakers who are part of Trump’s defense team, told reporters Friday that the team is “very confident” because all of the facts are on the president’s side.
“I think this case is open and shut for the president,” Jordan said.
Regarding the second article of impeachment – obstruction of Congress – Jordan and other GOP allies of the president agree with Trump’s legal team that argues Democrats should have pursued access to documents and witnesses through the courts, not the Senate.
In a filing from last week, Trump’s attorneys claim there is no merit to the impeachment article. The filing said the White House withheld witnesses and documents because the information is protected by executive privilege, and Congress is not entitled access to internal deliberations within the executive branch.
“Defending the separation of powers is not an impeachable offense,” it said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said she’s eager to hear Trump’s lawyers mount a vigorous defense rather than just call the case a witch hunt.
“I’d like to see an actual evidentiary argument,” Hirono said. “I’d like to see them produce some documents to say he didn’t do what he did. We see with our own eyes all of the evidence that has been presented, despite the fact that Trump has tried to stonewall everything.”
Democrats’ facts ‘extraordinarily powerful’
Impeachment experts don’t expect Trump’s defense team to counter the Democrats’ argument point by point but rather try to drive home the president’s contention that Democrats are engaged in a political hit job.
“The Democrats are trying to make a very specific argument and they’re speaking in concrete terms,” said William Howell, a political science professor at the University of Chicago. “I expect the Republicans to speak in generalities because their job isn’t so much to offer an alternative, equally clear counter claim. Rather their job is to simply derail the Democrats’ efforts.”
Howell said that knowing the Senate will not convict Trump, all his lawyers need to do is create reasonable doubt.
“These counter stories, when you get up close to them and you think them through, they lack merit,” he said. “But as long as they’re unexamined and there’s some base plausibility to them, they can do the work for the president that they need them to do, which is simply to say there is some plausible reason why the president was pursuing this line, it’s certainly within his right and therefore not impeachable.”
Trump’s lawyers “are certainly not going to provide a counter narrative because they haven’t got one,” Bowman said. “The Democrats’ facts are extraordinarily powerful.”
Neither Howell or Bowman believe the GOP will take up the entire 24 hours they’re allotted.
“They want to say this thing lacks any merit whatsoever and if the carry on for three straight days, that would suggest there’s something to contend with which runs counter to their argument,” Howell said. “The core of their argument is there’s not much to see here folks.”
Bowman said he’d be surprised if they do because the Republican strategy is to acquit the president in time for his State of the Union speech to Congress Feb. 4.
I want to realize my dream of supporting the family and being perfectly independent. Heavenly hope!
—the journals of Louisa May Alcott, January 1868
For a century and a half, it has been possible to ask nearly any American girl or woman, “Are you Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy?” and receive an unhesitating reply. If the joyful reactions of my 11- and 14-year-old daughters to Greta Gerwig’s new film of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women are any evidence, we will be able to ask the question for a good while longer.
Adapting such an intensely beloved book for the screen is a tricky business. When every moment of the story is someone’s favorite moment, someone is going to be disappointed.
Greta Gerwig cut my favorite moment from Little Women.
Before I complain about that, though, I want to point enthusiastically to some of the many other favorite moments she kept.
One of the strongest themes of Little Women, and of all of Alcott’s work for young people, is the importance of financial independence and responsibility. Alcott was a hard worker, and she was the primary support for her family for much of her life. She had no patience with those who were unwilling to try to support themselves, or with those who—lucky enough to be born wealthy—do not have a philanthropic spirit and the good sense to use their money wisely.
Gerwig’s film understands and conveys this theme. Aside from Beth, who is generally too ill to plan for much of a future, the March sisters are always working, always planning for their futures, and always trying to find a way to stretch their limited resources further.
Meg, who aspires to a traditional life as a wife and mother, managing her household and teaching her children, teaches other people’s children before she gets married. Gerwig shows that the extra money Meg brings home from teaching provides necessities as well as small treats—particularly for Amy, the youngest, that help her feel less like an outcast among her wealthier school friends.
Jo plans on a career as a writer, and Gerwig shows her constantly working on learning her craft by creating plays and stories for her sisters. Meanwhile, she brings in some spare money and invests in a possible future by reading to her wealthy Aunt March, who dangles promises of trips to Europe and inherited wealth in front of the sisters. Amy, who would like to be a great painter and become rich and famous as a result of her art, also has a strongly pragmatic side to her dreams for the future. As the beauty of the family, she is expected to marry well and support her family with her husband’s wealth.This has been made clear to her very early on. Her vanity, which her sisters find annoying (and which irritated me endlessly as a young reader) becomes understandable and even tolerable when one views it as an investment in her future and in her ability to care for her family. And her dedication to learning to be a charming and pleasant companion, fit for any gracious social setting, means that when Jo alienates Aunt March, Amy possesses the skills to maintain the family’s relationship with this potential patron.
Alcott’s little women have plans for their lives and work consistently to make those plans a reality.
It is no accident, then, that some of the most memorable moments in book and film touch on these plans and on the attitude of independence the March sisters bring to them.
Much has been made of a speech that Gerwig added into the film for Amy, justifying and explaining the rationality of her insistence on marrying well. Confronted by Laurie about her upcoming engagement to a perfectly pleasant, very wealthy non-entity of an English gentleman, Amy argues that Laurie has the luxury of judging her because he is rich, and even if he weren’t, he has a wide range of possibilities for employment. For her, however, “there’s no way for me to make my own money. Not enough to earn a living or to support my family, and if I had my own money, which I don’t, that money would belong to my husband the moment we got married. And if we had children, they would be his, not mine. They would be his property, so don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is. It may not be for you, but it most certainly is for me.”
Some critics have suggested this speech was anachronistically “woke” in the mouth of a character from the Civil War era. This is utter nonsense, as debates about the laws surrounding women’s property rights were of key legal and social importance in America from the 1840s on. Young woman raised by American radicals and Transcendentalists—as the March sisters were, and as the Alcott sisters were—would certainly have been well versed in those debates.
Gerwig’s speech makes explicit for modern viewers a few ideas that Alcott’s novel did not need to explain to the book’s original readers. In the novel, Amy mentions her possible engagement and simply notes, “One of us must marry well. Meg didn’t, Jo won’t, Beth can’t yet, so I shall, and make everything okay all round.” 21st century women are rightfully discomfited by the idea of so bluntly setting out to marry for money, and Amy’s desire to “make everything okay all around” by doing so requires some unpacking for a modern audience not to dismiss her as a mere gold digger.
Gerwig also makes sure that Meg, whose story often fades into a blissful watercolor domesticity, is allowed to share her key lesson of financial responsibility. Out shopping with a rich friend, she succumbs to a moment of vanity and spends an unthinkable $50 on the fabric for a silk dress. Her impulsive purchase means that her husband cannot afford to buy himself a winter coat, and Meg is brought face to face with the conflict between her love for pretty things and her love for her husband. She sells the silk to a friend, and her husband gets his coat. It’s a quiet moment, with nothing like the fireworks of Amy’s speech about women and property, but it’s a fine example of the kind of personal responsibility that the March sisters have practiced their whole lives—even when it takes them a few mistakes to get it right.
Gerwig also wisely keeps one of American literature’s three greatest moments of hairdressing drama. Mr. March, who has gone to serve in the Civil War as an army chaplain, has fallen seriously ill, and Mrs. March needs to travel to care for him and bring him home to convalesce. Gerwig’s film makes explicit what Alcott’s novel rightly assumes her readers would know: Such a trip was expensive, not merely because of the cost of travel, but because the state of military hospitals at the time was such that Mrs. March needed to bring clean bed linens, pillows, and food for her husband. For a family living on such a tight budget, the sudden expense was enormous.
To help provide for the costs of travel and medical care, Jo sells her hair to a wigmaker for $25. A few crucial things coincide in this moment. The first is that Jo has, as she and her sisters always do, found a way to use her limited resources to make money when her family most needs it. The second is that she has done so alone and unprompted, out of a desire to keep her family independent and out of debt. The third is that like Amy, who is prepared to trade herself—within reason—on the marriage market for security for her family, Jo finds that the only thing she has of value in this moment of crisis is her body. Perhaps because of that realization, Jo becomes the sister most determined to find a way to earn her own living.
And here is where Gerwig let me down.
For me, one of the greatest moments in Alcott’s novel is when Jo secretly submits a sensational adventure story to a magazine contest and wins. The prize is an unheard-of (for the Marches) $100. This is four times what Jo made a little earlier by literally selling a part of herself. Her family is very excited, but her father reads the story, disapproves of its lack of moral instruction, and tells her “You can do better than this, Jo. Aim at the highest, and never mind the money.”
I still remember my rage when I first read this passage. Jo had sold her hair to earn $25 to safeguard her father’s health. She has now presented him with $100 more that she has worked to earn, and she is chastised for it? I found it unbearable, particularly from a father who cannot and does not provide for his family on his own.
I think Alcott wasn’t pleased either, as she was careful to tell her readers that Jo uses the prize money to send Beth to convalesce at the seaside and that later stories provided similar necessities for the family: “So Jo was satisfied with the investment of her prize money, and fell to work with a cheery spirit, bent on earning more of those delightful checks. She did earn several that year, and began to feel herself a power in the house, for by the magic of a pen, her ‘rubbish’ turned into comforts for them all. The Duke’s Daughter paid the butcher’s bill, A Phantom Hand put down a new carpet, and The Curse of the Coventrys proved the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries and gowns.” The immoral stories have produced moral results.
Jo’s moment of resistance is brief. She soon gives in to her family’s moral arguments and gives up writing sensational stories, which means she also gives up making money that was vital to her family’s well-being: “Jo wrote no more sensational stories, [she] produced a tale which might have been more properly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moral was it. She had her doubts about it from the beginning, for her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the new style as she would have done masquerading in the stiff and cumbrous costume of the last century. She sent this didactic gem to several markets, but it found no purchaser, and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that morals didn’t sell.”
But no matter how brief it was, I wanted this moment for Jo. And I wanted it desperately. Instead, Gerwig retains the similar moral scolding Jo receives from Professor Bhaer when he discovers the trashy stories she has been writing, and Jo never stands up for the good that her income does for her family. She does bargain effectively with her publisher over advances, royalty rates, and retention of copyright, but her family is never brought to see that her “sensational stories” were, for many years, the only thing between them and debt or penury.
This is all the more galling because of the way that Gerwig fleshes out Amy’s character, and because of the obvious sensitivity with which her film shows the similarities and distinctions between Alcott’s real life and that her fictional analog, Jo March. We have, in Alcott’s journals, numerous examples of her pride in the money she can bring in from her writing. In March of 1856 she recounted that she “Got $10 for ‘Genevieve.’ Prices go up, as people like the tales and ask who wrote them.” That same month she also “Sewed a great deal, and got very tired; one job for Mr. G. of a dozen pillow-cases, one dozen sheets, six fine cambric neckties, and two dozen handkerchiefs, at which I had to work all one night to get them done, as they were a gift to him. I got only $4.” One needn’t be a financial genius to understand why Alcott, and Jo, might elect to write whatever sold rather than do piecework.
In August 1866, Alcott was still sewing for money at times, though her profits from writing increased. Like Jo, she found herself the breadwinner for her whole family, commenting on her return from a trip that “things were, as I expected, behindhand when the money-maker was away.” In other words, Alcott went out of town, her family went into debt, and she came back to pay their bills. She notes that she sent her banker $100 to invest and “could have sent $300, but it was needed, so I gave it up unwillingly, and must work away for the rest.”
It was with no small amount of satisfaction that I learned that Little Women was published and became a runaway bestseller in the same year that Alcott’s father published his justly forgotten book of transcendental philosophy, Tablets. Louisa May Alcott never gloats over her success in contrast to her father’s failure, but in 1870 she does write home cheerily to report: “No news except through N., who yesterday sent me a nice letter with July account of $6,212,—a neat little sum for ‘the Alcotts, who can’t make money!’ With $10,000 well invested, and more coming in all the time, I think we may venture to enjoy ourselves, after the hard times we have all had….That does soothe my rumpled soul.”
Gerwig closes her movie with shots of the first edition of Little Women coming off the press. I think it would have been greater justice, to the author and to her work, to have filmed just a moment longer, showing us the book’s great success and the pleasure and wealth produced by a novelist who cut her literary teeth by writing “rubbish” and ended by writing one of the great American novels.