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TBR News October 2, 2019

Oct 02 2019

 

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. October 1, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Commentary for October 2:”Trump cannot stand anyone to dare to stand up to him but now with the impeachment business in progress, he has come completely unglued and is ramping around the offices here, bellowing like a castrat bull. He would call out the Army to defend him but in his heart, he knows they would laugh at him. Trump has brought all of his trouble on himself and if the truth about his dealings with Russian drug money ever gets into the public view, he will dragged out of the White House in handcuffs.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Impeach Donald Trump
  • Trump impeachment probe gains steam with briefing, depositions
  • Impeachment inquiry: Pompeo defies Congress as battle lines drawn
  • Seven days of Fox News impeachment coverage proves divisive – for its host
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Impeach Donald Trump

Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.

by Yoni Appelbaum

March 2019 Issue

The Atlantic

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain lamented last summer. “The president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” the GOP’s other recent nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney, wrote in January.

The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America’s constitutional democracy

The electorate passes judgment on its presidents and their shortcomings every four years. But the Framers were concerned that a president could abuse his authority in ways that would undermine the democratic process and that could not wait to be addressed. So they created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare—in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment.

Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger this fail-safe. But the United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to the constitutional order.

That is precisely backwards. It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed. Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses. And, crucially, many of its benefits—to the political health of the country, to the stability of the constitutional system—accrue irrespective of its ultimate result. Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence, formulating charges, and deciding whether to continue on to trial.

The fight over whether Trump should be removed from office is already raging, and distorting everything it touches. Activists are radicalizing in opposition to a president they regard as dangerous. Within the government, unelected bureaucrats who believe the president is acting unlawfully are disregarding his orders, or working to subvert his agenda. By denying the debate its proper outlet, Congress has succeeded only in intensifying its pressures. And by declining to tackle the question head-on, it has deprived itself of its primary means of reining in the chief executive.

With a newly seated Democratic majority, the House of Representatives can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs.

Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections. Despite this clear rebuke of Trump—and despite all that is publicly known about his offenses—party elders remain reluctant to impeach him. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has argued that it’s too early to talk about impeachment. Many Democrats avoided discussing the idea on the campaign trail, preferring to focus on health care. When, on the first day of the 116th Congress, a freshman representative declared her intent to impeach Trump and punctuated her comments with an obscenity, she was chastised by members of the old guard—not just for how she raised the issue, but for raising it at all.

In no small part, this trepidation is due to the fact that the last effort to remove an American president from office ended in political fiasco. When the House impeached Bill Clinton, in 1998, his popularity soared; in the Senate, even some Republicans voted against convicting him of the charges.

Pelosi and her antediluvian leadership team served in Congress during those fights two decades ago, and they seem determined not to repeat their rivals’ mistakes. Polling has shown significant support for impeachment over the course of Trump’s tenure, but the most favorable polls still indicate that it lacks majority support. To move against Trump now, Democrats seem to believe, would only strengthen the president’s hand. Better to wait for public opinion to turn decisively against him and then use impeachment to ratify that view. This is the received wisdom on impeachment, the overlearned lesson of the Clinton years: House Republicans got out ahead of public opinion, and turned a president beset by scandal into a sympathetic figure.

Instead, Democrats intend to be a thorn in Trump’s side. House committees will conduct hearings into a wide range of issues, calling administration officials to testify under oath. They will issue subpoenas and demand documents, emails, and other information. The chair of the Ways and Means Committee has the power to request Trump’s elusive tax returns from the IRS and, with the House’s approval, make them public.

Other institutions are already acting as brakes on the Trump presidency. To the president’s vocal frustration, federal judges have repeatedly enjoined his executive orders. Robert Mueller’s investigation has brought convictions of, or plea deals from, key figures in his campaign as well as his administration. Some Democrats are clearly hoping that if they stall for long enough, Mueller will deliver them from Trump, obviating the need to act themselves.

But Congress can’t outsource its responsibilities to federal prosecutors. No one knows when Mueller’s report will arrive, what form it will take, or what it will say. Even if Mueller alleges criminal misconduct on the part of the president, under Justice Department guidelines, a sitting president cannot be indicted. Nor will the host of congressional hearings fulfill that branch’s obligations. The view they will offer of his conduct will be both limited and scattershot, focused on discrete acts. Only by authorizing a dedicated impeachment inquiry can the House begin to assemble disparate allegations into a coherent picture, forcing lawmakers to consider both whether specific charges are true and whether the president’s abuses of his power justify his removal.

Trump’s bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has dishonored the presidency. The most serious charge is that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy.

Waiting also presents dangers. With every passing day, Trump further undermines our national commitment to America’s ideals. And impeachment is a long process. Typically, the House first votes to open an investigation—the hearings would likely take months—then votes again to present charges to the Senate. By delaying the start of the process, in the hope that even clearer evidence will be produced by Mueller or some other source, lawmakers are delaying its eventual conclusion. Better to forge ahead, weighing what is already known and incorporating additional material as it becomes available.

Critics of impeachment insist that it would diminish the presidency, creating an executive who serves at the sufferance of Congress. But defenders of executive prerogatives should be the first to recognize that the presidency has more to gain than to lose from Trump’s impeachment. After a century in which the office accumulated awesome power, Trump has done more to weaken executive authority than any recent president. The judiciary now regards Trump’s orders with a jaundiced eye, creating precedents that will constrain his successors. His own political appointees boast to reporters, or brag in anonymous op-eds, that they routinely work to counter his policies. Congress is contemplating actions on trade and defense that will hem in the president. His opponents repeatedly aim at the man but hit the office.

Democrats’ fear—that impeachment will backfire on them—is likewise unfounded. The mistake Republicans made in impeaching Bill Clinton wasn’t a matter of timing. They identified real and troubling misconduct—then applied the wrong remedy to fix it. Clinton’s acts disgraced the presidency, and his lies under oath and efforts to obstruct the investigation may well have been crimes. The question that determines whether an act is impeachable, though, is whether it endangers American democracy. As a House Judiciary Committee staff report put it in 1974, in the midst of the Watergate investigation: “The purpose of impeachment is not personal punishment; its function is primarily to maintain constitutional government.” Impeachable offenses, it found, included “undermining the integrity of office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process, adverse impact on the system of government.”

Trump’s bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has lied or dishonored the presidency. The most serious allegations against him ultimately rest on the charge that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy. That is the situation impeachment was devised to address.

After the House impeaches a president, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove him from office. Opponents of impeachment point out that, despite the greater severity of the prospective charges against Trump, there is little reason to believe the Senate is more likely to remove him than it was to remove Clinton. Indeed, the Senate’s Republican majority has shown little will to break with the president—though that may change. The process of impeachment itself is likely to shift public opinion, both by highlighting what’s already known and by bringing new evidence to light. If Trump’s support among Republican voters erodes, his support in the Senate may do the same. One lesson of Richard Nixon’s impeachment is that when legislators conclude a presidency is doomed, they can switch allegiances in the blink of an eye.

But this sort of vote-counting, in any case, misunderstands the point of impeachment. The question of whether impeachment is justified should not be confused with the question of whether it is likely to succeed in removing a president from office. The country will benefit greatly regardless of how the Senate ultimately votes. Even if the impeachment of Donald Trump fails to produce a conviction in the Senate, it can safeguard the constitutional order from a president who seeks to undermine it. The protections of the process alone are formidable. They come in five distinct forms.

The first is that once an impeachment inquiry begins, the president loses control of the public conversation. Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton each discovered this, much to their chagrin. Johnson, the irascible Tennessee Democrat who succeeded to the presidency in 1865 upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, quickly found himself at odds with the Republican Congress. He shattered precedents by delivering a series of inflammatory addresses that dominated the headlines and forced his opponents into a reactive posture. The launching of impeachment inquiries changed that. Day after day, Congress held hearings. Day after day, newspapers splashed the proceedings across their front pages. Instead of focusing on Johnson’s fearmongering, the press turned its attention to the president’s missteps, to the infighting within his administration, and to all the things that congressional investigators believed he had done wrong.

It isn’t just the coverage that changes. When presidents face the prospect of impeachment, they tend to discover a previously unsuspected capacity for restraint and compromise, at least in public. They know that their words can be used against them, so they fume in private. Johnson’s calls for the hanging of his political opponents yielded quickly to promises to defer to their judgment on the key questions of the day. Nixon raged to his aides, but tried to show a different face to the country. “Dignity, command, faith, head high, no fear, build a new spirit,” he told himself. Clinton sent bare-knuckled proxies to the television-news shows, but he and his staff chose their own words carefully.

Trump is easily the most pugilistic president since Johnson; he’s never going to behave with decorous restraint. But if impeachment proceedings begin, his staff will surely redouble its efforts to curtail his tweeting, his lawyers will counsel silence, and his allies on Capitol Hill will beg for whatever civility he can muster. His ability to sidestep scandal by changing the subject—perhaps his greatest political skill—will diminish

As Trump fights for his political survival, that struggle will overwhelm other concerns. This is the second benefit of impeachment: It paralyzes a wayward president’s ability to advance the undemocratic elements of his agenda. Some of Trump’s policies are popular, and others are widely reviled. Some of his challenges to settled orthodoxies were long overdue, and others have proved ill-advised. These are ordinary features of our politics and are best dealt with through ordinary electoral processes. It is, rather, the extraordinary elements of Trump’s presidency that merit the use of impeachment to forestall their success: his subversion of the rule of law, attacks on constitutional liberties, and advancement of his own interests at the public’s expense.

The Mueller probe as well as hearings convened by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have already hobbled the Trump administration to some degree. It will face even more scrutiny from a Democratic House. White House aides will have to hire personal lawyers; senior officials will spend their afternoons preparing testimony. But impeachment would raise the scrutiny to an entirely different level.

In part, this is because of the enormous amount of attention impeachment proceedings garner. But mostly, the scrutiny stems from the stakes of the process. The most a president generally has to fear from congressional hearings is embarrassment; there is always an aide to take the fall. Impeachment puts his own job on the line, and demands every hour of his day. The rarest commodity in any White House is time, that of the president and his top advisers. When it’s spent watching live hearings or meeting with lawyers, the administration’s agenda suffers. This is the irony of congressional leaders’ counseling patience, urging members to simply wait Trump out and use the levers of legislative power instead of moving ahead with impeachment. There may be no more effective way to run out the clock on an administration than to tie it up with impeachment hearings

But the advantages of impeachment are not merely tactical. The third benefit is its utility as a tool of discovery and discernment. At the moment, it is often hard to tell the difference between wild-eyed conspiracy theories and straight narrations of the day’s news. Some of what is alleged about Trump is plainly false; much of it might be true, but lacks supporting evidence; and many of the best-documented claims are quickly forgotten, lost in the din of fresh allegations. This is what passes for due process in the court of public opinion.

The problem is not new. When Congress first opened the Johnson impeachment hearings, for instance, the committee spent two months chasing rumor and innuendo. It heard allegations that Johnson had sent a secret letter to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis; that he had associated with a “disreputable woman” and, through her, sold pardons; that he had transferred ownership of confiscated railroads as political favors; even that he had conspired with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. The congressman who made that last claim was forced to admit to the committee pursuing impeachment that what he possessed “was not that kind of evidence which would satisfy the great mass of men”—he had simply based the accusation on his belief that every vice president who succeeds to the highest office murders his predecessor.

There was public value, though, in these investigations. The charges had already been leveled; they were circulating and shaping public opinion. Spread by a highly polarized, partisan press, they could not be dispelled or disproved. But once Congress initiated the process of impeachment, the charges had to be substantiated. And that meant taking them from the realm of rhetoric into the province of fact. Many of the claims against Johnson failed to survive the journey. Those that did eventually helped form the basis for his impeachment. Separating them out was crucial.

The process of impeachment can also surface evidence. The House Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings against Nixon in October 1973, well before the president’s complicity in the Watergate cover-up was clear. In April 1974, as part of those hearings, the Judiciary Committee subpoenaed 42 White House tapes. In response, Nixon released transcripts of the tapes that were so obviously expurgated that a district judge approved a subpoena from the special prosecutor for the tapes themselves. That demand, in turn, eventually produced the so-called smoking-gun tape, a recording of Nixon authorizing the CIA to shut down the FBI’s investigation into Watergate. The evidence that drove Nixon from office thus emerged as a consequence of the impeachment hearings; it did not spark them. The only way for the House to find out what Trump has actually done, and whether his conduct warrants removal, is to start asking.

That is not to say that impeachment hearings against Trump would be sober and orderly. The Clinton hearings were something of a circus, and the past two years on Capitol Hill suggest that any Trump hearings will be far worse. The president’s stalwart defenders are already attacking the integrity of potential witnesses and airing their own conspiracy theories; an attempt to smear Mueller with sexual-misconduct claims collapsed spectacularly in October. His accusers, meanwhile, hurl epithets and invective. In Congress, Trump’s most committed detractors might be tempted to follow the bad example of the Clinton impeachment, when, instead of conducting extensive hearings to weigh potential charges, House Republicans short-circuited the process—taking the independent counsel’s conclusions, rushing them to the floor, and voting to impeach in a lame-duck session. Trump’s opponents need to put their faith in the process, empowering a committee to consider specific charges, weigh the available evidence, and decide whether to proceed.

Hosting that debate in Congress yields a fourth benefit: defusing the potential for an explosion of political violence. This is a rationale for impeachment first offered at the Constitutional Convention, in 1787. “What was the practice before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious?” Benjamin Franklin asked his fellow delegates. “Why, recourse was had to assassination in wch. he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.” A system without a mechanism for removing the chief executive, he argued, offered an invitation to violence. Just as the courts took the impulse toward vigilante justice and safely channeled it into the protections of the legal system, impeachment took the impulse toward political violence and safely channeled it into Congress.

Nixon’s presidency was marked by an upsurge in political terrorism. In just its first 16 months, 4,330 bombings claimed 43 lives. As the Vietnam War wound down and the militant left began to lose its salience, it made opposition to the president its new rallying cry. “Impeach Nixon and jail him for his major crimes,” the Weather Underground demanded in its manifesto, Prairie Fire, in July 1974. “Nixon merits the people’s justice.” But that seemingly radical demand, intended to expose the inadequacy of the regular constitutional order, ironically proved the opposite point. By the end of the month, the House Judiciary Committee had approved three articles of impeachment; in early August, Nixon resigned. The ship of state, it turned out, had the capacity to right itself. The Weather Underground continued its slide into irrelevance, and political violence eventually receded.

The current moment is different, of course. Today, the left is again radicalizing, but the overwhelming majority of political violence is committed by the far right, albeit on a considerably smaller scale than in the Nixon era. Trump himself has warned that “the people would revolt” if he were impeached, a warning that echoes earlier eras. When Congress debated impeachment in 1868, some likewise predicted that it would provoke Andrew Johnson’s most ardent supporters to violence. “We are evidently on the eve of a revolution that may, should an appeal be taken to arms, be more bloody than that inaugurated by the firing on Fort Sumter,” warned The Boston Post.

The predictions were wrong then, as Trump’s are likely wrong now. The public understood that once the impeachment process began, the real action would take place in Congress, and not in the streets. Johnson knew that inciting his supporters to violence would erode congressional support just when he needed it most. That seems the most probable outcome today as well. If impeached, Trump would lose the luxury of venting his resentments before friendly crowds, stirring their anger. His audience, by political necessity, would become a few dozen senators in Washington.

And what if the Senate does not convict Trump? The fifth benefit of impeachment is that, even when it fails to remove a president, it severely damages his political prospects. Johnson, abandoned by Republicans and rejected by Democrats, did not run for a second term. Nixon resigned, and Gerald Ford, his successor, lost his bid for reelection. Clinton weathered the process and finished out his second term, but despite his personal popularity, he left an electorate hungering for change. “Many, including Al Gore, think that the impeachment cost Gore the election,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior member of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s team, told me. “So it has consequences and resonates outside the narrow four corners of impeachment.” If Congress were to impeach Trump, whatever short-term surge he might enjoy as supporters rallied to his defense, his long-term political fate would likely be sealed.

In these five ways—shifting the public’s attention to the president’s debilities, tipping the balance of power away from him, skimming off the froth of conspiratorial thinking, moving the fight to a rule-bound forum, and dealing lasting damage to his political prospects—the impeachment process has succeeded in the past. In fact, it’s the very efficacy of these past efforts that should give Congress pause; it’s a process that should be triggered only when a president’s betrayal of his basic duties requires it. But Trump’s conduct clearly meets that threshold. The only question is whether Congress will act.

Here is how impeachment would work in practice. The Constitution lays out the process clearly, and two centuries of precedent will guide Congress in its work. The House possesses the sole power of impeachment—a procedure analogous to an indictment. Traditionally, this has meant tapping a committee to summon witnesses, subpoena documents, hold hearings, and consider the evidence. The committee can then propose specific articles of impeachment to the full House. If a simple majority approves the charges, they are forwarded to the Senate. The chief justice of the United States presides over the trial; members of the House are designated to act as “managers,” or prosecuting attorneys. If two-thirds of the senators who are present vote to convict, the president is removed from office; if the vote falls short, he is not.

Although the process is fairly clear, the Founders left us only vague instructions about when to implement it. The Constitution offers a short, cryptic list of the offenses that merit the impeachment and removal of federal officials: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The first two items are comparatively straightforward. The Constitution elsewhere specifies that treason against the United States consists “only in levying War” against the country or in giving the country’s enemies “Aid and Comfort.” As proof, it requires either the testimony of two witnesses or confession in open court. Despite the appalling looseness with which the charge of treason has been bandied about by members of Congress past and present, no federal official—much less a president—has ever been impeached for it. (Even the darkest theories of Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia seem unlikely to meet the Constitution’s strict definition of that crime.) Bribery, similarly, has been alleged only once, and against a judge, not a president.

It is the third item on the list—“high crimes and misdemeanors”—on which all presidential impeachments have hinged. If the House begins impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, the charges will depend on this clause, but Congress will first need to decide what it means.

At the Constitutional Convention, an early draft included “treason, bribery, and corruption,” but it was shorn of that last item by the time it arrived on the floor. George Mason, of Virginia, spoke up. “Why is the provision restrained to Treason & bribery only?” he asked, according to James Madison’s notes. “Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offences … Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined.” Mason moved to add “or maladministration.”

Madison, though, objected that “so vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” Gouverneur Morris further argued that “an election of every four years will prevent maladministration.” Mere incompetence or policy disputes were best dealt with by voters. But that still left Mason’s original concern, for the “many great and dangerous offences” not covered by treason or bribery. Instead of “maladministration,” he suggested, why not substitute “other high crimes & misdemeanors (agst. the State)”? The motion carried.

Constitutional lawyers have been arguing about what counts as a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” ever since. The phrase itself was borrowed from English common law, although there is no reason to suppose Mason and his colleagues were deeply familiar with its uses in that context. The Nixon impeachment spurred Charles L. Black, a Yale law professor, to write Impeachment: A Handbook, a slender volume that remains a defining work on the question.

Black makes two key points. First, he notes that as a matter of logic as well as context and precedent, not every violation of a criminal statute amounts to a “high crime” or “misdemeanor.” To apply his reasoning, some crimes—say, violating 40 U.S.C. §8103(b)(2) by willfully injuring a shrub on federal property in Washington, D.C.—cannot possibly be impeachable offenses. Conversely, a president may violate his oath of office without violating the letter of the law. A president could, for example, harness the enforcement powers of the federal government to systematically persecute his political opponents, or he could grossly neglect the duties of his office. That sort of conduct, in Black’s view, is impeachable even when it is not actually criminal.

His second point rests upon the principle of eiusdem generis—literally, “of the same kind.” As the last item in a list of three impeachable offenses, surely “high crimes and misdemeanors” shares some essential features with the first two. Black suggests that treason and bribery have in common three essential features: They are extremely serious, they stand to corrupt and subvert government and the political process, and they are self-evidently wrong to any person with a shred of honor. These, he argues, are features that a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” ought to share.

Black’s views on these points are not uncontested. Nixon’s attorneys argued that impeachment did require a crime. In 1974, before Black published his book, a report from the Justice Department split the difference, concluding that “there are persuasive grounds for arguing both the narrow view that a violation of criminal law is required and the broader view that certain non-criminal ‘political offenses’ may justify impeachment.”

John Doar, the attorney hired by the House Judiciary Committee to oversee the Nixon investigation, handed off the question of what constituted an impeachable offense to two young staffers: Bill Weld and Hillary Rodham. They determined that the answers they were seeking were to be found not in old case law, but in the public debates that raged around past impeachment efforts. The memo Weld and Rodham helped produce drew on that context and sided with Black: “High crimes and misdemeanors” need not be crimes. In the end, Weld came to believe that impeachment is a political process, aimed at determining whether a president has fallen short of the duties of his office. But that doesn’t mean it’s arbitrary. In fact, the Nixon impeachment left Weld with a renewed faith in the American system of government: “The wheels may grind slowly,” he later reflected, “but they grind pretty well.”

Some Democrats have already seen enough from the Trump administration to conclude that it has met the criteria for impeachment. In July 2017, Representative Brad Sherman of California put forward an impeachment resolution; it garnered a single co-sponsor. The next month, though, brought the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s defense of the “very fine people on both sides.” The billionaire activist Tom Steyer launched a petition drive calling for impeachment. A second resolution was introduced in the House that November, this time by Tennessee’s Steve Cohen, who found 17 co-sponsors. By December 2017, when Representative Al Green of Texas forced consideration of a third resolution, 58 Democrats voted in favor of continuing debate, including Jim Clyburn, the House’s third-ranking Democrat. On the first day of the new Congress in January, Sherman reintroduced his resolution.

These efforts are exercises in political messaging, not serious attempts to tackle the question of impeachment. They invert the process, offering lists of charges for the House to consider, rather than asking the House to consider what charges may be justified. The House should instead approve a resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry and allocating the staff, funding, and other resources necessary to pursue it, as the resolution that initiated the proceedings against Richard Nixon did.

Still, the resolutions proposed so far offer a valuable glimpse at the issues House Democrats are likely to pursue in such an inquiry. Some have made a general case that Trump has done violence to American values—Green’s stated that Trump “has betrayed his trust as President … to the manifest injury of the people of the United States”—but others have claimed specific violations of statutes or constitutional provisions. Both types of allegations may turn out to be important.

Despite the consensus of constitutional scholars that impeachable offenses need not be crimes, Congress has generally preferred to vote on articles that allege criminal acts. More than a third of representatives, and an outright majority of senators, hold law degrees; they think like lawyers. Democrats are thus focused on campaign-finance regulations, obstruction of justice, tax laws, money-laundering rules, proscriptions on bribing foreign officials, and the Constitution’s two emoluments clauses, which bar the president from accepting gifts from state or foreign governments.

They have studiously avoided, however, the primary area of public fascination when it comes to Trump’s alleged misdeeds: whether the president or his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. Lawmakers are clearly wary of bringing charges that could bear on Robert Mueller’s report, lest they interfere with an ongoing investigation that they hope will somehow force Trump from office. “It all depends on what we learn from hearings and from the Mueller investigation,” Representative Cohen told me. But the highly anticipated Mueller report is unlikely to provide the denouement lawmakers are seeking. Whether a president can be impeached for acts committed prior to assuming office is an unsettled question. As Trump himself never tires of pointing out, collusion with Russia is not itself a crime. And even if Mueller produces a singularly damning report, one presenting evidence that the president himself has committed criminal acts, he cannot indict the president—at least according to current Justice Department guidelines. Congress will have to decide what to do about it.

Once the House authorizes an impeachment inquiry, the committee must distill the evidence of Trump’s alleged crimes into articles capable of garnering a majority vote in that chamber. But that’s just the first challenge. To remove Trump from office, the House managers will then have to persuade the Senate to vote to convict the president. When the articles of impeachment are filed with the Senate, where the president will be tried, each article will be considered and voted on individually.

And then, suddenly, the members of the United States Senate will be forced to answer a question that many have long evaded: Is the president fit to continue in office? There will be no press aides to hide behind, no elevators into which they can duck. Some Democrats have already made their opinions clear. Others will have to decide whether to vote to remove a president backed by a majority of their constituents. For Republicans, the choice will be even harder.

This is where the dual nature of impeachment as both a legal and a political process comes into sharpest focus. The Founders worried about electing a president who lacked character or a sense of honor, but Americans have long since lost the moral vocabulary to articulate such concerns explicitly, preferring to look instead for demonstrable violations of rules that illuminate underlying character flaws. It is Trump’s unfitness for office that necessitates impeachment; his attacks on American democracy are plainly evident, and should be sufficient. But some Republican senators may continue to dismiss the more sweeping claims against the president, particularly where no statutory crimes attach. And so the strength of the evidence supporting narrower charges such as obstruction of justice and campaign-finance violations may ultimately determine his fate. If the committee can substantiate these charges, it will place even the most reluctant senators in a bind. When the moment finally comes to cast their vote, and the world is watching, how many will acquit the president of things he has clearly done?

The closest the Senate has ever come to removing a president was in 1868, after Andrew Johnson was impeached on 11 counts. Remembered today as a lamentable exercise in hyper-partisanship, in fact Johnson’s impeachment functioned as the Founders had intended, sparing the country from the further depredations of a president who had betrayed his most basic responsibilities. We need to recover the real story of Johnson’s impeachment, because it offers the best evidence that the current president, too, must be impeached.

The case before the United States in 1868 bears striking similarities to the case before the country now—and no president in history more resembles the 45th than the 17th. “The president of the United States,” E. P. Whipple wrote in this magazine in 1866, “has so singular a combination of defects for the office of a constitutional magistrate, that he could have obtained the opportunity to misrule the nation only by a visitation of Providence. Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat.” Johnson, he continued, was “egotistic to the point of mental disease” and had become “the prey of intriguers and sycophants.”

Whipple was among Johnson’s more verbose critics, but hardly the most scathing. A remarkable number of Americans looked at the president and saw a man grossly unfit for office. Johnson, a Democrat from a Civil War border state, had been tapped by Lincoln in 1864 to join him on a national-unity ticket. A fierce opponent of the slaveholding elite and a self-styled champion of the white yeomanry, Johnson spoke to voters skeptical of the Republican Party’s progressive agenda. He horrified much of the East Coast establishment, but his raw, even profane style appealed to many voters. The National Union Party, seeking the destruction of slavery and the Confederacy, swept to victory.

No one ever thought Johnson would be president. Then, in 1865, Booth’s bullet put him in office. The end of the war exposed how different Johnson’s own agenda was from the policies favored by Lincoln. Johnson wanted to reintegrate the South into the Union as swiftly as possible, devoid of slavery but otherwise little changed. Most congressional Republicans, by contrast, wanted to seize the moment to build a new social order in the South, enshrining equality and protecting civil rights. Johnson sought to restore America as it had been, while the Republicans hoped to make it more perfect.

The two visions were irreconcilable. As the feud deepened, each side pushed its commitments to their logical extremes. Congressional Republicans approved the Fourteenth Amendment, voted to enlarge the role of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and passed the Civil Rights Act. Taken together, these measures established the equality of Americans before the law and, for the first time, made its preservation a federal concern. They amounted to nothing less than a social revolution, a promise of an America that belonged to all Americans, not just to white men.

Johnson and his supporters found this intolerable. In federal efforts to establish racial equality, they saw antiwhite discrimination. Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act, insisting that “the distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored and against the white race.” For the first time in American history, Congress overrode a veto to pass a major piece of legislation. Three months later, he vetoed the renewal of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, complaining that its plan to distribute land to former slaves constituted “discrimination” that would establish a “favored class of citizens.” Congress again overrode his veto. That set up an unprecedented situation, as the president was asked to administer laws he had tried to block. Instead of the promised peace, the nation found itself gripped by an accelerating crisis.

The question facing Congress, and the public, was this: What do you do with a president whose every utterance and act seems to undermine the Constitution he is sworn to uphold? At first, Republicans pursued the standard mix of legislative remedies—holding hearings and passing bills designed to strip the president of certain powers. Many members of Johnson’s Cabinet worked with their congressional counterparts to constrain the president. Johnson began to see conspiracies around every corner. He moved to purge the bureaucracy of his opponents, denouncing the “blood-suckers and cormorants” who frustrated his desires.

It was the campaign of white-nationalist terror that raged through the spring and summer of 1866 that persuaded many Republicans they could not allow Johnson to remain in office. In Tennessee, where Johnson had until the year before served as military governor, a white mob opposed to black equality rampaged through the streets of Memphis in May, slaughtering dozens of people as it went. July brought a second massacre, this one in New Orleans, where efforts to enfranchise black voters sparked a riot. A mob filled with police, firemen, armed youths, and Confederate veterans shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, and mutilated dozens, many of them black veterans of the Union Army. Johnson chose not to suppress the violence, using fear of disorder to build a constituency more loyal to him than to either party.

Congress opened impeachment hearings. The process unfolded in fits and starts over the next year and a half, as Johnson’s congressional opponents searched vainly for some charge that could gain the support of a majority of the House. Then Johnson handed it to them by firing his secretary of war, defying a law passed, in part, to stop him from undermining Reconstruction. The House passed 11 articles of impeachment, forcing Johnson to stand trial before the Senate. But the effort fell short by a single vote.

When Johnson’s supporters learned that he had been spared, they were ecstatic. In Milwaukee, they careened down the street in a wagon, shouting for Johnson and liberty, sharing a keg of beer. In Boston and in Hartford, Connecticut, they fired 100‑gun salutes; in Dearborn, Michigan, they settled for 19 guns and bonfires. “We have stood for the last few months upon the verge of a precipice, a dark abyss of anarchy yawning at our feet,” the Maryland Democrat Stevenson Archer said, sketching an alternative result whereby “dark-skinned fiends and white-faced, white-livered vampires might rule and riot on the little blood they could still suck out by fastening on helpless throats.”

But the euphoria proved short-lived. The New York Times urged Johnson’s supporters to look at the bigger picture: “Congress has assumed control of the whole matter of reconstruction, and will assert and exercise it.” Any effort to wrest control back from the House and Senate was held in check by the specter of another impeachment, which haunted Johnson’s remaining months in office. The Democrats took up Johnson’s political cause; their convention theme in 1868 was “This Is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.” But when the politically damaged Johnson made a bid for the Democratic nomination—“Why should they not take me up?”—he was refused. Ulysses S. Grant won on the Republican ticket, and threw the full force of the Army behind the project of Reconstruction. Johnson went home to Tennessee.

Congress must decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself.

If the goal of impeachment was to frustrate Johnson’s efforts to make America a white man’s country again, it was an unqualified success. Instead of being remembered as a triumph, however, in the years that followed, it was memorialized as a failure. Defending the impeachment on substantive grounds required believing that all people born in the United States—white and black alike—deserved the same civil liberties. And a decade later, America changed its mind about that, abandoning the project of Reconstruction and reneging on its promise of civil rights for African Americans. Johnson had said he was fighting to preserve a “white man’s government,” and for the next century, that’s what the country largely had. Robbed of its animating force, the bill of particulars against Johnson began to seem hollow, petty, and misguided. How could it have been proper to impeach a president for undermining the Constitution’s guarantee of equality, when the nation as a whole had subsequently done the same?

The chorus of experts who now present Johnson’s impeachment as an exercise in raw partisanship are not learning from history but, rather, erasing it. Johnson used his office to deny the millions freed from bondage the equality that God had given them and that the Constitution guaranteed. To deny the justice of Johnson’s impeachment is to affirm the justice of his acts. If his impeachment was partisan, it was because one party had been formed to defend the freedom of man, and the other had not yet reconciled itself to that proposition.

The senators who voted against convicting Johnson insisted that they were standing on principle and upholding the Constitution. Yet some of the same lawmakers who expended so much effort defending the prerogatives of the presidency simultaneously turned a blind eye to the gross civil-rights violations that pervaded the South; their deep concern for constitutional niceties with respect to the president gave way to willful indifference when blacks were the ones who were systematically and violently deprived of their rights. It was a bitter irony: The impeachment proceedings were greeted with alarm by those who feared they would destroy the Constitution. In the end, though, it was the regular process of government that eventually ratified Jim Crow, the most outrageous abrogation of constitutional protections in the nation’s history. Impeachment drew the United States closer to living up to its ideals, if only fleetingly, by rallying the public against Johnson’s assault on the Constitution.

Today, the United States once more confronts a president who seems to care for only some of the people he represents, who promises his supporters that he can roll back the tide of diversity, who challenges the rule of law, and who regards constitutional rights and liberties as disposable. Congress must again decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution as it was written, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself. The gravest danger facing the country is not a Congress that seeks to measure the president against his oath—it is a president who fails to measure up to that solemn promise.

 

 

 

Trump impeachment probe gains steam with briefing, depositions

October 2, 2019

by Patricia Zengerle

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two former officials who were engaged in the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine will meet with U.S. congressional committees starting this week, as the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump gains steam.

Congressional staff was also due to attend a briefing at the Capitol on Wednesday by the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Staff members from the Senate and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Oversight and Appropriations committees were invited to the briefing. The session was expected to address Ukraine-related documents that have been subpoenaed by House committees.

Following a whistleblower complaint last week, Democrats are looking into Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a July 25 phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender in the Democratic race to run against Republican Trump in the 2020 election.

The unidentified whistleblower is said to be an intelligence agent who accused Trump of soliciting foreign interference for his personal political benefit.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and assailed the probe.

Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as Trump’s special representative for Ukraine, was to go to Capitol Hill to give a deposition to House staff on Thursday, the day he had been asked to appear.

Marie Yovanovitch, who was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until she was abruptly recalled in May, has agreed to appear on Oct. 11, not on Wednesday as originally requested.

With their deep knowledge of Ukraine, testimony by Yovanovitch and Volker could be especially important to the impeachment probe formally launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week.

The inquiry could lead to approval of articles of impeachment – or formal charges – against Trump in the House. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to remove him from office. But the president’s fellow Republicans control that chamber and have shown little appetite for removing him.

Yovanovitch was ordered back to Washington two months before the end of her three-year tour in Kiev. The career diplomat, who had served during both Republican and Democratic administrations, had been the subject of attacks in right-leaning  media and Democrats had suggested her recall was politically motivated.

MORE SUBPOENAS EXPECTED

Over the past few days, the Democratic chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees have issued subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and scheduled depositions with a series of other current and former officials, as well as associates of Giuliani, as they seek to unearth more evidence of potential wrongdoing by Trump.

Trump asked Zelenskiy during the July call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter in coordination with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani.

Announcements of more subpoenas and requests for depositions are expected.

The impeachment investigation has cast a pall over Trump’s re-election effort.

On Twitter on Tuesday, Trump repeated his assertion that his call with Zelenskiy was “perfect,” and attacked Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chairman.

“This is just another Fake News Media, together with their partner, the Democrat Party, HOAX!” the president tweeted.

On Tuesday, Pompeo took to Twitter to address the investigation. He posted a letter accusing Representative Eliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs chairman, of requesting depositions as “an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly” State Department employees.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney

 

 

 

Impeachment inquiry: Pompeo defies Congress as battle lines drawn

Secretary of state signals he will not comply with demands to hear depositions but witness are still set to give evidence, House says

October 1, 2019

by Julian Borger and David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s administration has sought to defy congressional demands to hear depositions from senior officials, in the first major battle of a rapidly growing impeachment inquiry.

On Tuesday, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, dismissed summonses from Democratic committee chairmen in the House of Representatives for five current and former state department officials to testify on the president’s attempts to push Ukraine to dig up dirt on his leading political rival.

Pompeo wrote to the House foreign affairs committee, accusing Democrats of “an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly” the officials. The requested dates were “not feasible”, he said.

The speed of the investigation raises “significant legal and procedural concerns”, Pompeo wrote. “I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals.”

However, it soon became clear that Pompeo had only limited power to stop the congressional committees from gathering evidence for an impeachment inquiry. One of the five witnesses deposed, Kurt Volker, former special envoy for Ukraine who resigned last week, confirmed he would speak to the committees in closed session on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

House sources were quoted as saying that a second witness, Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Kyiv, would appear on 11 October, nine days later than originally scheduled.

And perhaps most damaging of all, the state department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, who acts as an independent watchdog, informed the House committees that he wanted to brief them on Wednesday on documents concerning relations with Ukraine that had been obtained from the department’s legal adviser.

It was unclear whether Pompeo had been warned of Linick’s move.

Since Democrats announced the impeachment inquiry last week, the foreign affairs, intelligence and oversight committees have wasted little time in seeking documents and testimonies.

The committee chairs, Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff, and Elijah Cummings, dismissed Pompeo’s criticisms.

“Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress – including state department employees – is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry,” they said in a joint statement.

“In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint.”

Pompeo was assailed on Tuesday by former officials who saw hypocrisy in his expressions of concern over intimidation of foreign service officers. As a congressman, Pompeo regularly cross-examined diplomats over the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in an attempt to show that Hillary Clinton had been negligent as secretary of state.

State department employees are currently being subjected to questioning over emails they sent to Clinton’s private server when she was in office. According to the Washington Post, the employees have been informed that the emails have been classified retroactively and therefore could represent security violations.

Jeffrey Prescott, a former special White House assistant to Barack Obama, said on Twitter: “This is the same Pompeo who removed a career ambassador from her post in Ukraine, and stood by as she was subject to smears.”

The White House has stonewalled numerous congressional investigations. Last month it ordered Rob Porter, the ex-White House staff secretary, and Rick Dearborn, who was deputy chief of staff, to defy subpoenas regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Analysts suggest Trump sees little downside in brazen displays of impunity.

The president and his allies have attacked the House impeachment inquiry relentlessly, while ramping up spending on ads for Trump’s re-election campaign. In a series of tweets late Tuesday evening, Trump said efforts by Democrats amounted to “a COUP”.

In issuing a separate subpoena last week as part of the impeachment inquiry, the chairmen of three committees made it clear stonewalling would be considered obstruction of Congress.

The expanding Ukraine scandal is threatening to engulf one of the president’s most loyal enforcers. Pompeo received a subpoena from the committees to turn over documents related to the Ukraine investigation. He said he would respond by the deadline of 4 October.

It also emerged this week that Pompeo participated in the July phone call in which Trump, having frozen military aid, pressed the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate baseless allegations against the former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The three committee chairs said on Tuesday that if the report of Pompeo being on the call were true, he “is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry. He should immediately cease intimidating department witnesses in order to protect himself and the president.”

The secretary of state began a four-nation tour of Europe on Tuesday in Italy. He was accompanied by the former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, who has a radio show and is travelling as a member of the press. Gorka is a hardline nationalist and former editor for the far-right Breitbart News. He has vehemently denounced the impeachment inquiry.

Trump is also defying political norms by accusing opponents of treason and making threats to the intelligence community whistleblower who raised concerns about the Zelenskiy call.

In an earlier round of volatile tweets on Tuesday, Trump had wondered why he was not “entitled to interview [and] learn everything about” the whistleblower, whose identity is protected by law.

The president also repeated his claim that the July call was “PERFECT”, adding: “This is just another Fake News Media, together with their partner, the Democrat Party, HOAX!”

But the Republican senator Chuck Grassley told reporters the whistleblower “ought to be heard out and protected” and requests for confidentiality should be respected.

The crisis has also cast a harsh spotlight on the attorney general, William Barr. The Washington Post revealed that he held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials, seeking their help in a justice department investigation Trump hopes will undermine his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The countries concerned were Britain, Australia and Italy.

The Republican senator Lindsey Graham defended the strategy.

“Barr should be talking to Australia,” he told the Fox News host Sean Hannity. “He should be talking to Italy. He should be talking to the UK to find out if their intelligence services worked with our intelligence services improperly to open up a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump’s campaign.

“If he’s not doing that, he’s not doing his job. So I’m going to write a letter to all three countries … asking them to cooperate with Barr.”

Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics lawyer under George W Bush, tweeted: “Impeach Barr and Pompeo after impeaching ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩.”

 

 

Seven days of Fox News impeachment coverage proves divisive – for its hosts

The channel’s unified front appears to be crumbling as its personalities squabble on air about Trump’s predicament

October 2, 2019

by Luke O’Neil

The Guardian

The strength of Fox News, and much of its appeal to its viewers, is in its monolithic presentation of the news, particularly when it is favorable to Donald Trump.

But as the president faces the looming shadow of an impeachment inquiry, the channel’s unified front appears to be crumbling.

Some of the news anchors are reporting that there does appear to be something to the Ukraine scandal, while Fox News’ more colorful personalities have been squabbling back and forth on air. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that management may be considering the possibilities of a post-Trump future.

Here’s a look at how things have progressed over the last week.

Tuesday: impeachment inquiry splits Fox News

Almost immediately upon news of the impeachment inquiry, tension among the ranks at Fox News began to emerge, pitting Shepard Smith, one of the more reliable journalists at the station – relatively speaking – against conspiracy-theory-loving Tucker Carlson.

Tuesday afternoon, Smith invited contributor and Trump critic Judge Andrew Napolitano on to his program. Napolitano called the president’s actions a clear crime, likening it to the same behavior he had been under investigation for in the Mueller investigation.

Later that night Carlson, being a reliable Trump attack dog, had his own judicial analyst Joseph diGenova on, who called Napolitano a “fool” and denied any of it was a crime whatsoever.

Wednesday: Tucker Carlson’s colleague calls him ‘repugnant’

The next day Smith denounced diGenova, and Carlson by extension, calling him a “partisan”.

“Attacking our colleague, who is here to offer legal assessments, on our air in our work home is repugnant,” he said.

Carlson fired back on his program, mocking Smith’s use of the word “repugnant” and saying “unlike maybe some dayside hosts, I’m not very partisan”.

Meanwhile, another round of friendly fire was being exchanged on The Five when co-host Juan Williams accused his counterparts of reading directly from talking points released by the White House.

Greg Gutfeld was among his co-hosts to take particular umbrage, accusing Williams in turn of getting his own ideas from Media Matters, a leftwing group that monitors conservative media. They had just laid out a point-by-point case highlighting the similarities between the messaging of the Trump administration and pundits on the network.

Later that night Sean Hannity called the whistleblower a “a partisan hack whose claims are politically motivated”, despite the identity of the whistleblower still being unknown.

Thursday: threatening to take people off the air

After two days of internecine conflict, the Fox News CEO, Suzanne Scott, and president, Jay Wallace reportedly stepped in, appearing to favor Carlson, and saying that if Smith went after him again he would be taken off the air.

When the whistleblower complaint was released, the hosts of Fox & Friends had to be corrected by their own correspondent over whether the whistleblower was biased or politically motivated.

“What is the bias there?” Ainsley Earhardt asked Catherine Herridge, who had read the complaint.

“We’ve heard the attorneys he hired were possibly interns for Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Is there more political bias?”

“I’m just not seeing that in this document,” replied Herridge.

Appearing on Hannity’s program that night, diGenova re-emerged to accuse the whistleblower of being connected to George Soros. Not only is there is no evidence for this, but it also echoes many antisemitic conspiracy theories from the far right that center on Soros, painting him a leftwing puppetmaster.

Friday: Chris Wallace calls his colleagues ‘deeply misleading’

As Trump continued his tweet storm proclaiming his innocence and calling this another witch-hunt by the crooked media, Fox News commentators rejoined the effort to assign a political bias to the whistleblower.

On The Five, Geraldo Rivera echoed Gutfeld in accusing (while also “not accusing”) Media Matters of complicity. “I bet it can be traced ultimately, and I’m not accusing them, but a group like Media Matters is in here, with their dirty hands,” he said.

But on the afternoon side of the programming, doubts about Trump’s innocence remained. Chris Wallace, another of the relatively neutral on-air personalities who also broke the rare bit of original reporting on Trump from the network, called the spinning from the president’s defenders “not surprising, but it is astonishing and deeply misleading”.

But by Friday evening, Giuliani was on Hannity roping Hillary Clinton into a conspiracy theory, saying she colluded with Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump.

Saturday: ‘What’s the crime?’

To kick off the weekend Jesse Watters took a taunting tone towards Democrats. “Impeachment? Go for it, libs,” he said. “It’s just going to die in the Senate. Trump’s still gonna get re-elected. Then what are you going to do?”

“What’s the crime? Democrats can’t explain it,” he asked, before scoffing at the idea that the president shouldn’t be able to ask other countries to investigate his political rivals.

Jeanine Pirro said the presidency has been under siege, saying Trump has been subjected to “unprecedented maligning” by “the mainstream media, high level Obama administration officials, and disappointed, disgruntled, and deranged Democrats”.

Meanwhile, Greg Gutfeld aired a piece on a sexy Mr Rogers costume.

Sunday: and now we’re talking about civil war

Fox & Friends on Sunday morning host Ed Henry asked conservative radio host Mark Levin if he was OK with the president asking Ukraine for dirt on Biden.

The mere question sent the president, likely watching at home, spiraling into a raging tweet storm, including retweeting a parody account that automatically inserts the word “shark” into Trump tweets.

For his part, Henry, a reliable Trump supporter, seemed to be confused by the sudden attack from the president.

On Fox & Friends weekend, contributor Robert Jeffries suggested if Trump were to be removed from office it would lead to a “Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal”.

The president himself promptly shared that sentiment on Twitter.

Monday: coup

By Monday the civil war theme had spread far and wide among the Fox universe. Newt Gingrich said on Hannity’s radio program that this was not an impeachment attempt, it was a coup d’etat.

Former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik went on Fox & Friends echoing that idea. Others, including Carlson, Tom Fitton, and Mark Levin have called the lawful impeachment inquiry a coup as well.

Tuesday: it’s all getting a bit too much

If all the back and forth sounds a bit hard to follow, that may be part of the point.

On Tuesday morning the Fox & Friends hosts introduced another series of bizarre conspiracies, including one featuring Australian ambassadors, Maltese professors, and an Italian spy school. Ultimately, they concluded, there was no “there there”, and even if there were, who could even follow it all?

“I think it gets too much in the weeds. First they’re going after the president with impeachment,” Ainsley Earhardt said. “Then it’s Rudy Giuliani. Now it’s Bill Barr. America is saying, What? How are they all connected. Connect the dots for us. It’s just so much information.”

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

October 2, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

 

Conversation No. 64

Date: Monday, February 10, 1997

Commenced: 11:02 AM CST

Concluded: 11:35 AM CST

GD: Good morning, Robert. What’s going on back there on a nice cold Monday?

RTC: Not very much, Gregory, and after a lifetime of excitement, I rather like it that way.

GD: Are you still in touch over there?

RTC: Sometimes, Gregory, sometimes. A casual conversation here, a visit there. You know how it is. Gone and soon forgotten.

GD: And no memoirs, either.

RTC: No, the code of omerta is with all of us retirees.

GD: But never having worked for your people, I have no such caveat, do I?

RTC: No, you do not.

GD: But Corson never worked for you, did he?

RTC: No, not actually. He wanted to, but he never did. He has been involved in various things but only on the periphery.

GD: People love to dream and eventually, they begin to fantasize and after those take hold, begin to lie in public and later, in print.

RTC: Cruel, Gregory, but close to the truth.

GD: Do you know what really disturbs me, Robert? I mean the CIA people who do not like me writing that the head of the Gestapo worked for them. What I find bad is their utter stupidity. I can appreciate intelligence, even if it is directed towards or against me, but when your people drag up dismal failures like Wolfe who calls himself Doctor when he isn’t, and Landreth who calls himself a television producer when he isn’t. And all the pathetic and utterly predictable kindergarten games they play, trying to lure me into some kind of a trap or to find out what documents I have from a man they claim did not exist….pathetic, Robert, really pathetic. Wolfe is a second-level librarian with delusions of literary grandeur and Landreth claims to run a television company and actually runs a wino soup kitchen in Los Angeles. Can’t Langley find someone with an IQ higher than their belt size?

RTC: Now, Gregory, you are getting loquacious again. I don’t think it’s because these people are stupid, but that you are too intelligent for your own good. Certainly for theirs. You annoy Kimmel, whose middle-class morality is offended by your callous treatment of his station in life, and Bill is terrified of you. I don’t mean he thinks you are going to lure him outside on garbage can night and split his skull with an axe, but Bill is like so many other creative liars; he’s afraid someone like you will come on the scene and expose him.

GD: I don’t do this on purpose, you know.

RTC: Oh, I think there is some malice in what you do, Gregory. I don’t find you either stupid or unkind, but you have a very active streak of destruction in your nature. Why, Gregory, bother to shoot butterflies with a rifle?

GD: Point, but then I don’t put up with these morons gladly. Now, an intelligent and creative approach might get some positive reaction from me, but all of this transparent bleating just annoys me. And after I have dispatched one with withering words or, better, making a fool out of them, why here comes another one down the path, wearing the top half of a clown suit and waving a fan. Jesus wept. You know, their reaction time is marvelous, Robert. I did the first Mueller book in ’95 and just now they are starting to leak negative stories about me. Do they sleep in refrigerators at night? Slow on the draw, Robert. In the Old West of blessed fiction, they would be full of holes. I wonder what sort of attack they will try next? There never was a Heinrich Mueller? I am really a practicing vampire? I misspelled a name once so I can’t be right about anything? Do you think some broken-down academic who teaches animal husbandry at an Arkansas community college will come forward and produce a book showing that Mueller was eaten by Stalin? They did a story like that once about Mueller living in Panama but it turned out to be a huge joke. Then some senile Czech intelligence person’s son claimed his father said Mueller was shot in Moscow. Of course, when the press tried to talk to the father, he was too far gone to do anything but wet himself.

RTC: I don’t think a book, Gregory. And after what you did to that Hungarian Jewess in London, I doubt if any reporter will dare to attack you again.

GD: Fear is a wonderful deterrent, Robert. Pick the loudest of the pack, stick a knife in them and gut them in front of everybody and the rest of the piebald apes run back to the security of the deep forest.

RTC: Well, you don’t fit the mold, Gregory. You were supposed to turn all of Mueller’s highly incriminating material over to that jerk from Time magazine and then they would be done with you. I don’t think the boobery understands that hiring General Mueller, bringing him over here and putting him to work was a very, very sensitive business. After all, FDR’s propaganda machine depicted Mueller’s Gestapo as pure evil…

GD: Which they were not…

RTC: No, just professionals. But necessary targets. And in light of the propaganda, how could we dare to hire the man who personally shoved millions of Jews into the enormous gas chambers that could have been seen from the moon? No, a very private matter indeed. That’s why Jim Critchfield is terrified of you and wants to kill you. If it ever got into the Jewish and far left community…

GD: The same thing…

RTC: Yes, and if it did, Jim would be toast. Therefore, you lie like a rug and no one should ever listen to you. Of course, given your volatile and creative personality, such jabber only gets you angrier and that results in more very ugly mischief. Not to be impudent, Gregory, but how much money have you skinned these people out of?

GD: About a hundred and ten thousand, give or take a few cents. Book advance fees, television rights, outright bribes and so on.

RTC: And what did they ever get for all the taxpayer’s money?

GD: A number ten shoe in their scrotum, Robert.

RTC: It seems that way. Well, I don’t know what their next move will be, but I have seen this all before. The usual method of dealing with people like you, aside from the convenient heart attack or car accident, is to hire worthless but hungry scribblers to submit articles to obedient newspapers, marginalizing you, misspelling your name and, in general, treating you like someone on ticket of leave from a nut house. And then on to other, more important, matters. You know, we have an entire department that invents news stories to feed to our toadies in the press in order to disguise something very bad we just pulled off. We kill the head of the UN and then start a story going about the Yeti being seen in downtown Detroit.

GD: That’s a familiar pattern. How controlled is it?

RTC: Gregory, the US government owns the press, the newspapers, the magazines and the television. They print what we tell them to and they ignore that which we wish them to ignore. We wanted to get rid of Nixon, who was becoming a loose cannon, so the press obliged by daily attacks. We kill Kennedy and suddenly, legions of conspiracy nuts emerge from under their damp rocks with tens of thousands of books filled with more shit than a Christmas turkey.

GD: Are they on the payrolls?

RTC: God no, Gregory. Most of these slime merchants are on their own and we would never dare to pay them…at least not directly. But what we do accomplish is to get their cloaking nuttiness published and distributed through our friends in the media. You know, big New York publishing house does a book that Kennedy was only shot by Oswald, number one on The New York Times book list, even though they only sold three copies, talk show babbling on friendly TV networks and on and on. And the more the literary nut fringe sees and hears others braying like donkeys in public and, very important here, getting attention, they go at it again by proving some Secret Service agent was hiding in the trunk of Kennedy’s car and shot him through the trunk lid.

GD” (Laughter)

RTC: No, don’t laugh. They’re armies of the ignorant out there who believe such crap. You know that.

GD: Yes, I do. And since we’re on the topic, how much of all this insanity is planned?

RTC: Oh, we start it, that’s for certain, but there are many who carry on the good work quite for free. Actually for free. Most of them are pathetic losers and they lust after attention…for recognition…for something other than their bleak and unrewarding existence. They become keepers of great secrets, Gregory, and smug in their inner knowledge.

GD: They delude themselves.

RTC: Yes, but they also delude the public which is often very important.

GD: Why must the CIA, or the Pentagon, or the White House, use such garbage to advance their evil ends?

RTC: I never said we didn’t need rubber gloves and Lysol, dealing with our sources, Gregory. But these twits have produced so much silly garbage about the Kennedy business that our worries are over.

GD: I recall a cartoon in Playboy. A bunch of ancient Hebrews were standing around at the base of a mountain and down the path came a man with a long beard and a little bottle in his hand. One of those below had his head turned to his neighbor and the caption said, as I recall it, ‘Our headaches are over. Here comes Moses with the tablets!’ It said Aspirin on the little bottle.

RTC: (Laughter) Naughty boy, Gregory.

GD: Here, I never did see the cartoon. I’m just commenting on it. All of this reminds me of a scenario. A small child sees a stallion mounting a mare in a pasture and points to it. ‘Mommy, what’s the big horsy doing to the little one?’ ‘Oh,’ said the shocked mother, ‘just look over there, Jimmy! See the nice donkey?’ ‘Why,’ said the entranced child, ‘what’s the donkey doing to cousin Muriel?’ Ah well, Robert, in seeking to avoid Scylla, we fall upon Charybdis.

RTC: Pardon?

GD: A classical Greek nautical problem, Robert.

 

Concluded at 11:35 AM CST

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Jordan Maxwell  A.k.a. Russell Pine (real name)

Jordan Maxwell is a grand old man of American conspiracy theory, crackpottery and nonsense. His work is largely responsible for the nonsense peddled in the incoherent, made-for-the-Internet “documentary” Zeitgeist, and he has apparently been an important influence on David Icke: Maxwell has long claimed that the world is secretly run by lizards from another dimension. He was also, for a while, editor of the Truth Seeker Magazine, has produced “documentaries” for CBS, and – of course – hosted his own radio show. Maxwell considers himself the world’s leading expert in the occult, based on his powers of imagination and inability to comprehend the significance of aligning one’s belief with reality. He is accordingly notable for having pushed more or less any conspiracy theory or branch of pseudoscientific nonsense you could think of, from ancient aliens and the claim that there is a star-gate in Iraq that teleports people to a military base on Mars, to 9/11 conspiracies.

A main strain of Maxwell’s, uh, thought is astro-theology, an astrological reinterpretation of theology according to which religious doctrines are based on astronomical events. He is also notable for pushing the (rather popular) idea that Christianity is really a variant of the cult of Horus, a conclusion reached by focusing on some similarities and disregarding the vast number of dissimilarities. Maxwell is known to rant for hours about these issues, backed up with a couple of Bible quotes and perceived connections between various events and his presuppositions. Maxwell, however, has little actual knowledge of ancient cultures and belief systems, which is an advantage since it means that there will be fewer facts available to him that would constrain his interpretations

Much of his work is (in the grand tradition of the insane rantings unfettered by reality or accountability starting with Isidore of Seville) based on drawing ridiculous conclusions about the world based on often imagined etymological connections and similarities in names and expressions. Of course, Maxwell arguably knows even less, if possible, about linguistics than about history, and the technique he applies is the one commonly known as paleo-babble. Some examples of Maxwell’s paleobabble are discussed here. One example: According to Maxwell, “[m]agic wands were always made out of the wood of a Holly tree. It’s made out of Holly wood. Hollywood is a Druidic establishment and the symbols, the words, the terms, the stories, are designed. Think about it. Think about how Hollywood does what they do. I’m not saying they’re evil, I’m just explaining how Hollywood works.” Calling for readers to think for themselves is an effective trick given the critical reasoning abilities required to listen to Maxwell in the first place. Of course, druidic cultures using magic sticks didn’t in fact make these sticks of holly. Bah.

From his website you can currently purchase a set of 28 DVDs containing “the entire works of Jordan Maxwell” for the neat price of $ 570.

Of course, like so many conspiracy theorists of his ilk, Maxwell is himself the target of numerous deranged conspiracy theories (an example), and is often accused of being a tool for the New World Order.

Diagnosis: Utterly ridiculous, of course, yet Maxwell’s influence on contemporary conspiracy theories is significant – he’s been through them all, using techniques and assertions unconstrained by truth, evidence or rules for rational inference.

 Anthony R. Mawson

Some pseudoscientists have actual education and backgrounds in research, lending them a sheen of credibility in their pseudoscientific research endeavors. A striking thing about pseudoscientists’ attempts to do research, however, is how they systematically and deliberately avoid taking simple measures to validate their findings – they deliberately select biased samples, avoid blinding, neglect asking whether something works in favor of just looking at how it works (and consequently end up churning out garbage through strategies like p-hacking). It really is striking, insofar as it would often have been relatively easy to do it right – it’s almost as if they tacitly know that doing it right significantly lowers the chance of obtaining the results they want.

The research of Anthony R. Mawson is a striking example. Now, Mawson has a real education. He is also an anti-vaxxer and a fan of Andrew Wakefield who really, really want to deploy his skills in the service of anti-vaccine propaganda. Mawson is most famous for his “research” putatively showing differences in general health outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated kids, and that the unvaccinated ones are healthier (of course, even if it were true, which it isn’t, it would have been largely because those unvaccinated kids would not have died due to vaccine-preventable diseases because of herd immunity; Mawson’s fans are not able to comprehend this otherwise obvious point, however). To establish the results he wanted, Mawson conducted an internet survey among home-schooling parents, where the opportunity to participate was spread by word of mouth in anti-vaccine groups, and where the largely anti-vaccine parents would report their opinion and assessment of the general health of their children without consulting medical records. It doesn’t take much knowledge of scientific methodology to realize that such a survey is less than worthless (some further details here), and the really striking thing is: why would Mawson, for a study that apparently required substantial funding (seemingly from various anti-vaccine fundraising efforts) deliberately choose a sample like this, one that any elementary school kid would be able to tell you would make the results worthless, and – in addition – deliberately avoid taking into account measures (like medical records) that would provide any kind of control? How would you explain his choice of methodology if not by i) trying to make sure the data would end up “showing” what he wanted them to show and fearing that using a proper methodology apt to track reality would not yield the results he wanted; and/or ii) it matters less to pseudoscientists and denialists that the study is properly done and reflects reality, than that it exists and can be brought up in online debates and used to scare those who don’t know enough about the methodology (or don’t have time to look at it) to realize that it is complete shit? More details about why it is shit, in case you ever wondered, are her

As an aside, one has to wonder about the competence of the people at the Institutional Review Board at Jackson State University who approved said study. And it’s not like the anti-vaccine crowd hasn’t tried to obtain the results they want by (deliberately) incompetently done phone surveys and Internet surveys before.

Well, the fruit of Mawson’s efforts, “Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports,” was provisionally accepted by the bottom-feeding journal Frontiers in Public Health (which had previously published – before retracting – a study on chemtrails). Frontiers went on to pull it and eventually formally retract it, something that didn’t prevent antivaxxers from touting it. The peer-reviewers included Linda Mullin Elkins, a chiropractor at Life University – a “Holistic Health University” offering studies “within the fields of Chiropractic, Functional Kinesiology, Vitalistic Nutrition, Positive Psychology, Functional Neurology and Positive Business” – which suggests that Frontier uses a too-literal interpretation of “peer-review” for their reviews of garbage pseudoscience.

The study was then, without even attempting to correct for the glaring methodological shortcomings, published in Journal of Translational Science, a predatory pseudojournal published by Open Access Text, as “Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year old U.S. children”. Details (including further details about the utter worthlessness and painfully obvious biases of the study) here. They even published a second study, as bankrupt as the first, using the same data set, in the same predatory journal; that one, too, was eaten up and promoted with gusto by antivaccine conspiracy groups and antivaccine advocates like Bob Sears – InfoWars was all over it, for instance, with delusional comments by one Celeste McGovern, described as  a “vaccine expert”, of Claire Dwoskin’s Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, one of the antivaccine groups that funded Mawson’s “study

In 2011, Mawson filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi State Department of Health, alleging that the state health officer interfered with his position at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (his contract wsa not renewed) after promoting antivaccine talking points. The suit was dismissed in 2012.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist and conspiracy theorist. Yes, Mawson has a real education, but what he dabbles in is not science. Dangerous.

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