Sunday, October 27, 2019

GOPlins should be careful what they ask for. Imagine the national gasp when witnesses like Ambassador Taylor take the public stand

Clouds Darken over the Trump White House writes The New Yorker columnist John Cassidy in a weekly email summary.

Donald Trump and his family are at Camp David for the weekend, celebrating the tenth wedding anniversary of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. (A White House official assured CNN that the couple is paying for the event out of their own pockets. On Saturday morning, the President tweeted that he’s paying for it.) After another brutal week for the President, the Trumps and their guests have plenty to talk about, between popping the champagne corks. On Saturday, another witness was testifying on Capitol Hill to the House’s impeachment inquiry, which is now overshadowing the forty-fifth Presidency: Philip Reeker, the acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. Two more officials are expected to testify on Monday and Tuesday.

This week, it became clear to any remaining doubters that the impeachment inquiry is now a serious threat to the Trump Presidency. On Tuesday, William B. Taylor, Jr., the chief diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, testified that one of the President’s associates told him that Trump demanded two politically motivated investigations from the leader of Ukraine as the price for resuming military aid to the embattled country. (Taylor’s opening statement was leaked and published online.) As I noted in a post on Wednesday, this confirmed the version of events that was laid out in the complaint by an anonymous intelligence-community whistle-blower, and it directly contradicted the claim by Trump that there had been no quid pro quo.

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Thanks, Whistle-Blower, Your Work Is Done By The Times Editorial Board.

[On “Human Scum” and Trump in the Danger Zone][glasser] by Susan B. Glasser at the New Yorker. After Ambassador William Taylor’s testimony, the President is freaking out about impeachment.

Then, on Friday, a federal judge in Washington ruled that the impeachment inquiry is legal, despite the lack of a floor vote to authorize it in the House of Representatives. This ruling demolished the White House’s argument that the investigation was constitutionally invalid, and that the Administration was therefore within its rights to refuse to coƶperate. “No governing law requires this test—not the Constitution, not House Rules, and not [the grand-jury-secrecy rule], and so imposing this test would be an impermissible intrusion on the House’s constitutional authority,” Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, wrote. The ruling also found that the Justice Department must turn over to the House Judiciary Committee secret grand-jury testimony that was gathered by Robert Mueller, the former special counsel.

Taken together, these developments confirmed that Trump’s efforts to dismiss the inquiry as a meaningless charade have failed—a fact that the White House is acknowledging in actions, if not words. …

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Mick Mulvaney (the acting White House chief of staff), Steve Bannon, and Jason Miller were all worried about the WH defense (or lack of it). The strongest suggestion was to keep Rudy Giuliani “out of sight.”

In fact, Giuliani did disappear from television for the past week, as his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman pleaded not guilty in a federal court in New York to charges of making illegal campaign donations, and were each released on a million-dollar bail bond. But the former mayor hasn’t managed to stay out of the news. On Friday, NBC News’s Rich Schapiro reported that Giuliani had pocket-dialled him twice and inadvertently left a pair of lengthy voice mails. In one of them, which was left at the end of September, Giuliani was heard railing to somebody about Joe and Hunter Biden. In the second message, which was left on October 16th, he seemed to be talking to an unnamed associate about Bahrain and Turkey, two countries where he and his security-consulting firm have done business. At one point, according to a story that Schapiro published on Friday, Giuliani says, “We need a few hundred thousand.” Even if there was nothing untoward in these messages, the fact that Giuliani left them will further convince many of Trump’s allies that he should be kept as far away from the President as possible.

But silencing Giuliani will only take the White House so far. Arguably, he’s already done too much damage. And, in any case, Trump himself represents another barrier—the largest one—to his aides putting together a coherent defense strategy or an effective messaging team. Even now, facing the biggest challenge of his already very challenged Presidency, Trump appears to be resisting efforts to manage him, or even assist him. “Here’s the thing. I don’t have teams,” he told reporters at the White House on Friday. “Everyone’s talking about teams. I’m the team. I did nothing wrong.”

That may be just bravado, of course. (With Trump, you can never be quite sure.) On Friday, Politico reported that the White House was looking to hire a “communications guru” as early as next week, and it confirmed that two people were being seriously considered: Pam Bondi, a Trump loyalist who served two terms as Florida’s attorney general, and Tony Sayegh, a former senior official at the Treasury Department, who led communications in the Administration’s ultimately successful effort to pass the Republican tax bill, in 2017. But the Politico story also indicated that there was still some uncertainty about the White House’s plan. It quoted a Republican close to the Administration, who said, “They are trying to figure out how to set up a war room, without it being a war room and without it devolving into a civil war inside the White House. There are different conceptions of what a war room would look like, and the president has not deputized anyone to do it.”

The key question, of course, is whether any of this is undermining support for Trump among Republican senators, who will almost certainly decide the President’s fate. At the start of the week, Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” caused a stir by saying that a “very well-connected Republican” told him that there was a twenty-per-cent chance of the President being removed from office. Mulvaney, who was interviewed by Wallace, dismissed this as “absurd,” and added, “the President is extraordinarily popular back home, more popular in the swing districts now that impeachment has started.” It wasn’t immediately clear which survey Mulvaney was referring to, but public polls taken this week show that Trump’s nationwide approval rating among Republicans has held up, even as his approval rating among all voters has dropped by several points. For example, an Economist/YouGov survey showed that eighty-four per cent of self-identified Republicans think that the House shouldn’t impeach Trump. As the impeachment inquiry continues, elected Republicans and Democrats alike will be closely monitoring numbers like these. If they remain steady, it is hard to see twenty Republican senators voting to convict Trump. If the numbers start to fall significantly, all bets are off.

The Trumpublicans, notably those GOPlins invading the SCIF room this last Wednesday, should be careful what they ask for. We already know that Taylor’s testimony elicited “gasps” from those in attendance at an earlier closed door session. The invaders were carping about “secret” hearings and wanted open meetings. Well, guess what. The House Dems already have committed to open testimony at some not too far away point in the investigation. Are the Rethugs prepared for a national gasp when the witnesses take a public stand?

(Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for tips.)

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