Monday, September 30, 2019

Trumplicans' preference for conspiracy theories over evidence triggered the impeachment process

But what a fool believes, he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be
Is always better than nothing
Than nothing at all

From the Doobie Brothers song by the same name.

If we have learned nothing else since January 20th, 2017, it is this.

  • Trump is immune to facts, preferring beliefs that are not grounded in reality or constrained by facts.
  • Trump is susceptible to contorted conspiracy theories, especially so if they are repeated often to him and by him.
  • Not only is Trump self-centered and self-dealing, he is so to the point of diagnoses of (suspected) narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Trump shows signs of an obsessive personality, ruminating publicly over imagined slights from former political rivals.

What a fool believes indeed.

All of that was exposed yesterday in the Sunday morning news/talk shows.

Trump has joined an army of conservative commentators in pushing a false story involving an obscure government form, a Trump official, and the whistleblower writes Kevin Poulsen, Daily Beast Sr. National Security Correspondent, in GOP Shows Russian Trolls How It’s Done With Whistleblower Smear.

From Donald Trump on down, prominent Republicans used part of their weekend to falsely accuse Trump’s hand-picked intelligence community inspector general (IC IG) of secretly changing the requirements for intelligence workers to submit whistleblower tips as part of a deep state plot to clear the way for the Aug. 12 complaint about Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine.

The smoking gun in the putative conspiracy is an obscure government form, IC IG ICWSP Form 401, also known as the Disclosure of Urgent Concern Form. The document is put out by the IC IG for intelligence workers who need to file urgent complaints that trigger special treatment under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.

According to the GOP and an army of conservative commentators, the old version of the form prohibited workers from submitting urgent complaints based on secondhand information; only misconduct witnessed personally could be reported. That changed in early August, the false claim goes, when ICIG Michael Atkinson snuck through a hasty revision to the complaint form that reversed long-standing policy. …

Et cetera, et cetera … You get the idea.

Predictably, "WOW, they got caught,” tweeted Trump. “End the Witch Hunt now!”

The Atkinson smear comes amid a broad GOP campaign seemingly calculated to discredit the whistleblower report as unreliable, partisan hearsay, despite it having already been corroborated by an IC IG review and confirmed by the White House’s own transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. …

"It seems like they are jumping to a lot of conclusions based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, the regulatory framework, and the language on one form,” said Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Scriber disagrees. Sanchez is being too kind. These guys throw bullshit at the public wall to see if it sticks as well as it stinks. Onward.

“There’s never been a requirement that a whistleblower have firsthand knowledge of what they’re reporting,” said Irvin McCullough, an investigator at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project (and the son of a former IC IG). “They need to have a reasonable belief. The firsthand information is usually gathered by the inspector general, as I believe did occur here.”

When the IC IG receives an urgent report, it has 14 days to conduct a preliminary review under the law. If that investigation produces enough direct evidence, the IC IG can rule it “credible,” which triggers the legal requirement to forward the report to the director of central intelligence (DCI), and from there to Congress.

"It’s an explanation of the IG’s standard for assessing credibility,” said Sanchez in an interview with The Daily Beast. “The IG isn’t going to forward it to the DNI if it can’t corroborate secondhand or indirect information. The whistleblower’s job is not to investigate. That is the job of the IG.”

In other words, Trump’s whistleblower didn’t go through some shady deep state backdoor. He or she followed the process, and government investigators found the firsthand evidence themselves.

“Complainant was not a direct witness to President’s telephone call with the Ukrainian President on July 25, 2019,” the IC IG wrote on August 26. “Other information obtained during the preliminary review, however, supports the Complainant’s allegation that, among other things, during the call the President ‘sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.’”

Another person making the Sunday rounds was Trump’s first (and now former) homeland security advisor.

Trump Was Repeatedly Warned That Ukraine Conspiracy Theory Was ‘Completely Debunked’ writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker of the NY Times. Thomas P. Bossert, President Trump’s first homeland security adviser, said he was “deeply disturbed” that Mr. Trump had urged Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

With respect to the allegations in the whistleblower complaint, Former Homeland Security advisor Thomas P. Bossert called it “a bad day and a bad week for this president and for this country if he is asking for political dirt on an opponent.”

President Trump was repeatedly warned by his own staff that the Ukraine conspiracy theory that he and his lawyer were pursuing was “completely debunked” long before the president pressed Ukraine this summer to investigate his Democratic rivals, a former top adviser said on Sunday.

Thomas P. Bossert, who served as Mr. Trump’s first homeland security adviser, said he told the president there was no basis to the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 election and did so on behalf of the Democrats. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Bossert said he was “deeply disturbed” that Mr. Trump nonetheless tried to get Ukraine’s president to produce damaging information about Democrats.

… former aides to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that he refused to accept reassurances about Ukraine no matter how many times it was explained to him, instead subscribing to an unsubstantiated narrative that has now brought him to the brink of impeachment.

Other former aides said separately on Sunday that the president had a particular weakness for conspiracy theories involving Ukraine, which in the past three years has become the focus of far-right media outlets and political figures. Mr. Trump was more willing to listen to outside advisers like Mr. Giuliani than his own national security team.

"It is completely debunked,” Mr. Bossert said of the Ukraine theory on ABC. Speaking with George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Bossert blamed Mr. Giuliani for filling the president’s head with misinformation. “I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity.”

(Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for this one.)

For evidence of that, see the AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s distortions on Ukraine, whistleblower by Hope Yen and Calvin Woodward. Following are snippets.

It’s a big stretch for Trump to say he placed no pressure on President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in that phone call — a conversation marked by Trump’s blunt remark: “I would like for you to do us a favor,” according to a White House account of the call.

Trump repeatedly prodded Zelenskiy to help investigate Biden and son Hunter, as well as to look into a cybersecurity firm that investigated the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and concluded it was carried out by Russia.

The call followed a monthslong campaign by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, conducted on Trump’s behalf to get Ukrainians to scrutinize Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine when Joe Biden was vice president. It also followed Trump’s abrupt suspension of military aid for Ukraine that Congress had approved. The aid was recently released.

When Zelenskiy thanked Trump for past U.S. aid and suggested his country might need more, Trump switched the topic to the investigation he wanted Ukraine to do. He asked Zelenskiy to work with Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani on the matter.

As for the call being “perfect,” it was actually worrisome enough so that White House attorneys moved a rough transcript of it to a highly secure system where fewer officials would have access to it than is normally the case for conversations between Trump and world leaders.

The call and the broader effort to win a foreign government’s help on a matter that could benefit Trump’s reelection are what sparked the impeachment inquiry.

The whistleblower’s accusations have not been shown to be incorrect. Several key details have actually been corroborated. For example, the White House account of the July 25 phone call showed that the whistleblower had accurately summarized the conversation, as relayed by unidentified U.S. officials, in the complaint sent to the acting director of national intelligence.

Despite what Trump says, demonstrating his destructive obsession with our allis’ support for the Ukraine:

It isn’t only the U.S. putting up money. It’s false to say “nobody else is there.”

Since 2014, the EU and European financial institutions have mobilized more than $16 billion to help Ukraine’s economy, counter corruption, build institutions and strengthen its sovereignty against further incursions by Russia after its annexation of Crimea.

The U.S. is a heavy source of military assistance. The aid package held back by Trump, and recently released, amounted to nearly $400 million in such aid. But NATO also contributes a variety of military-assistance programs and trust funds for Ukraine. In most such cases, the programs are modest and NATO countries other than the U.S. take the lead.

(Thanks to Phil Nicolay for the tip.)

The nation needs to keep our collective eye on the ball as the impeachment inquiry unfolds. The Trumplicans will deny, deflect, and disinform. That is all they can do.

No comments:

Post a Comment