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TBR News August 25, 2018

Aug 25 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. August 25, 2018: “1. Internet access can be controlled or its use directed according to the server configuration, thus creating an excellent disinformation weapon.  In previous times, a national media report that was deemed to be offensive or problematical to the government could be censored, or removed at governmental request. Now, however, the government cannot control the present Internet in the same manner in which it has previously controlled the public media.

2.The Internet permits uncensored and unfiltered versions of events, personalities and actions to be disseminated worldwide in seconds and the so-called “blogs,” chat rooms and websites are almost completely uncontrolled and uncontrollable. This unfortunate situation permits versions of events to find a far wider and far more instantaneous audience than the standard print and, to a lesser degree, the television mediums ever could.The Internet can be used to send coded messages that cannot be interdicted by any government or law-enforcement agency.

3.The Internet can be utilized to steal and disseminate highly damaging, sensitive government or business data.

4.The Internet permits anti-government groups or individuals with few resources to offset the efforts of far larger, and far better funded, government and its national media sources.

5.The Internet can be used to create serious disruptions of governmental agencies and the business communities.

  1. The Internet can serve as an excellent tool for organizing groups of anti-government individuals into action.
  2. The Internet can be used to expose government actions and military operations in advance of said actions.
  3. The Internet is capable of hiding the identities of those launching attacks on the actions and personnel of various government agencies.

9.The Internet can materially assist an underfunded, anti-government group to raise money for continued operations.

10. The Internet can be utilized to locate and publicize the personnel of government agencies.

  1. The Internet can be used as a tool to recruit new members for anti-government groups.
  2. The Internet is capable of limiting the risk of identification of the members of anti-government groups.
  3. The Internet, while impossible to control, is also an excellent recruiting ground for sympathetic or easily-convinced “bloggers” who will quickly disseminate official dissemination for pay or public acclaim.
  4. By using controlled sources, it is easily possible to defuse delicate situations and divert public attention away from unwelcome issues.

15. The Internet can be utilized to create an atmosphere of fear or of compliance in furtherance of official policy.

16. The Internet can be an outstanding command and control mechanism in the marshalling of public opinion in support of a government program.”

The Table of Contents

  • Fenced out: Los Angeles businesses find new way to keep away homeless
  • U.S. calls foreign mail system unfair in surprise win for Amazon
  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 8
  • Trump’s terrible week: stunning news and whispers of impeachment
  • Bolton calls on Al-Qaeda to stage more chemical attacks in Syria
  • Will the Fervor to Impeach Donald Trump Start a Democratic Civil War?

 

Fenced out: Los Angeles businesses find new way to keep away homeless

As homelessness rises in the city, business owners are blocking off sidewalks

August 24, 2018

by Carla Green in Los Angeles

The Guardian

The day the fence arrived, Gabe was sitting next to his tent, right at the heart of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. It was a chain link fence – about six feet tall – placed at the edge of the sidewalk, where it neatly enclosed Gabe, his neighbors, and the tented homes they have made for themselves on the streets of what is sometimes called the homeless capital of the country.

“They put the whole sidewalk inside the fence,” said Gabe, an older black man with kind eyes and a disarming demeanor who has lived on the streets of Skid Row for about five years. He was scaling a fish over a red plastic cooler as he talked. “I felt like we were in prison on the sidewalk. It felt like we were in prison and could get out, but still in prison, you know what I mean?”

Local activists and police officers were called. Eventually, the chain-link fence was moved to free Gabe and his neighbors. It wouldn’t be the last of the fences.

As street homelessness continues to spiral upwards in Los Angeles, with just over 25,000 people living in cars, tents, and other makeshift shelters across the county, a new phenomenon is prompting frustration among the city’s homeless population: business owners fencing in portions of the sidewalk, seemingly to keep homeless people off them.

The day the fence arrived, Gabe was sitting next to his tent, right at the heart of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. It was a chain link fence – about six feet tall – placed at the edge of the sidewalk, where it neatly enclosed Gabe, his neighbors, and the tented homes they have made for themselves on the streets of what is sometimes called the homeless capital of the country.

“They put the whole sidewalk inside the fence,” said Gabe, an older black man with kind eyes and a disarming demeanor who has lived on the streets of Skid Row for about five years. He was scaling a fish over a red plastic cooler as he talked. “I felt like we were in prison on the sidewalk. It felt like we were in prison and could get out, but still in prison, you know what I mean?”

Local activists and police officers were called. Eventually, the chain-link fence was moved to free Gabe and his neighbors. It wouldn’t be the last of the fences.

As street homelessness continues to spiral upwards in Los Angeles, with just over 25,000 people living in cars, tents, and other makeshift shelters across the county, a new phenomenon is prompting frustration among the city’s homeless population: business owners fencing in portions of the sidewalk, seemingly to keep homeless people off them.

Back in Skid Row, another new development has succeeded in forcing homeless residents out: a gardening project occupying about half the width of the sidewalk.It’s part of an attempt to rebrand the neighborhood as the North Sea district. According to a website for the “North Sea”, the development is part of “a self-funded, beautification program involving thematic murals, sidewalk landscaping, a variety of sculptural interventions, and lots and lots of elbow grease. Our mission is to restore a sense of place and community pride.”

Google Maps images show that the streets that were part of the new gardening “beautification program” used to be occupied by the tents of people who have now had to move elsewhere. Local homeless people said they welcomed care being lavished on the area. But not at the expense of the people who used to live there.

The city is now investigating the “North Sea” gardening project. Miguel Nelson, a business owner who was partially responsible for it and who has recently opened an event space nearby, declined to comment.

In response to inquiries from the Guardian about a dozen fences and other space-grabbing developments in Skid Row and South Central, a department of public works spokeswoman, Elena Stern, said: “A number of the locations you brought to our attention did not have permits, and Notices of Violation are being prepared.”

For some other locations, Stern said, building owners had deployed fences under a permit that allows them to block the public way – temporarily – to do work on their private property. The permits typically last a maximum of 90 days. “If those permits have expired, one of our investigative enforcement teams will be in contact with the property owner to insure compliance.”

On a busy street lined with industrial buildings and homeless encampments,Wesley Willis lives in a small tent across the street from one of these new fences. Earlier this week he stood looking out at the row of tents pitched alongside the fence, which was making much of the sidewalk inaccessible. His concern was not for himself.

“People have gotta walk in the street, with their kids,” he said. “That’s what I don’t like.”

 

U.S. calls foreign mail system unfair in surprise win for Amazon

August 24, 2018

by Jeffrey Dastin

Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Friday said it would push for foreign postal carriers to pay the U.S. Postal Service more to deliver small parcels within the United States, taking up a longtime complaint by Amazon.com (AMZN.O), UPS (UPS.N) and others who have alleged the current system is unfair.

The State Department also said it would push foreign postal services to furnish data that would help customs officials detect opioids and other illegal shipments entering the United States. That task could also add to their costs.

If successful, the effort would benefit U.S. merchants and shippers who say they are undercut by foreign postal services’ access to low rates. U.S. shoppers could see higher bills for foreign goods ordered online.

The move may face pushback during meetings next month of the United Nation’s Universal Postal Union, from countries like China and Brazil, which already face price hikes for mail to Europe and the United States.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a memorandum on “terminal dues,” or rates one country’s postal service pays another for finishing an international delivery.

“The current system of terminal dues distorts the flow of small packages around the world by incentivizing the shipping of goods from foreign countries that benefit from artificially low reimbursement rates,” the memo said.

It added that the U.S. Secretary of State “shall include recommendations for future action, including the possibility of adopting self-declared rates,” if insufficient progress is made with the Universal Postal Union.

The policy makes Trump a surprise ally of Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, which he has accused of turning the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) into its “delivery boy.”

Amazon did not return a request for comment. UPS called the administration’s actions “a positive step” toward addressing “longstanding imbalances in the global postal market.”

Those companies and industry groups have sought White House meetings since last year to attack arcane postal agreements they say make it cheaper to air-mail goods to Los Angeles from Beijing than from New York.

Others say the issue is not so simple. USPS claims to save money on outbound shipments thanks to the Universal Postal Union’s exchange system, and rates for countries such as China have already been negotiated to rise by 2021 to a significant percentage of USPS’s costs, the same rate USPS pays other countries.

Mighty Mug CEO Jayme Smaldone, who has found merchants in China cheaply shipping knock-offs of his products directly to U.S. consumers, said, “This isn’t something that should be phased out over years. This is something that’s gone on for long enough.”

It was not clear if the memorandum followed recommendations, not yet made public, of the postal task force Trump set up this year to examine USPS’s business.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by David Gregorio

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 8

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

 

  • Feb 28, 2017

“We’ve defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross.”

Source: Speech to joint session of Congress

in fact: The U.S., of course, does not have an undefended or open border, though people manage to sneak past the defences. The Border Patrol, which has a budget of $14 billion, apprehended 415,816 people in 2016.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

 

“I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”

Source: Speech to joint session of Congress

in fact: His proposed increase, of about 10 per cent, is not one of the largest in history, experts say. “Trump’s historical increase is actually quite average,” Laicie Heeley, a defense budget analyst at the Stimson Center think tank, told PolitiFact.

Trump has repeated this claim 10 times

 

“Just a few years ago, the EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land or anyplace else that they decide. Right? It was a massive power grab.”

Source: Speech while signing executive order on Waters of the United States

in fact: This claim about puddles has been a common Republican talking point, but it is not accurate. The Environmental Protection Agency has specifically excluded puddles from this regulation; a fact sheet on its website says, “THE CLEAN WATER RULE DOES NOT REGULATE PUDDLES.” While critics of the regulation argue that the law can still be read to cover puddles, it is just not true that the EPA decided that nearly every puddle is included.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

 

Speaking about EPA water-protection rules: “The EPA’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands.”

Source: Speech while signing executive order on Waters of the United States

in fact: There is no evidence for this claim.

 

“In one case in Wyoming, a rancher was fined $37,000 a day by the EPA for digging a small watering hole for his cattle. His land.”

Source: Speech while signing executive order on Waters of the United States

in fact: The rancher did more than dig a small hole, FactCheck.org found: without a permit, he “constructed a dam on Six Mile Creek, a waterway deemed by the EPA to be a tributary of the Blacks Fork River, which in turn is a tributary of the Green River.”

 

“We saved $700-million-plus on a F-35 after I got involved.”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Fox and Friends

in fact: These savings did not come after Trump got involved: Lockheed Martin had been moving to cut the price well before Trump was elected, multiple aviation and defence experts say. Just a week after Trump’s election, the head of the F-35 program announced a reduction of 6 to 7 per cent — in the $600 million to $700 million range. “Trump’s claimed $600 million cut is right in the ballpark of what the price reduction was going to be all along,” wrote Popular Mechanics. “Bottom line: Trump appears to be taking credit for years of work by the Pentagon and Lockheed,” Aviation Week reported, per the Washington Post.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

 

“You look at the kind of numbers we’re doing. We were probably GDP of a little more than 1 per cent.”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Fox and Friends

in fact: This is an exaggeration. U.S. gross domestic product grew by 1.6 per cent in 2016; no economic analyst would round this to 1 per cent or call it “a little more than 1 per cent.” GDP grew by 2.6 per cent the year prior

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

 

“You see what I’ve done. Ford has announced, General Motors, Fiat has announced. They’re all building big plants, they’re all coming back into the United States. They were fleeing. They were fleeing our country.”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Fox and Friends

in fact: Trump is taking credit for investments he was not responsible for. GM did not offer any indication that it made its new investment of $1 billion because of Trump, and independent automotive analysts said it was unlikely Trump was a major factor; GM invested $2.9 billion last year, before Trump was elected. The parent company of Chrysler said Trump had no influence on its newly announced $1 billion investment in Michigan and Ohio, telling ThinkProgress, “This plan was in the works back in 2015.” Further, all of these companies were maintaining a major presence in the U.S. before Trump was elected.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

 

“Look just at the money I’ve saved. I’ve saved billions and billions of dollars.”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Fox and Friends

in fact: There is no evidence of this

 

  • Mar 2, 2017

“I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”

Source: Remarks aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford

in fact: His proposed increase, of about 10 per cent, is not one of the largest in history, experts say. “Trump’s historical increase is actually quite average,” Laicie Heeley, a defense budget analyst at the Stimson Center think tank, told PolitiFact.

Trump has repeated this claim 10 times.

 

  • Mar 3, 2017

“It is so pathetic that the Dems have still not approved my full Cabinet.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The Democrats are not responsible for the holdup here: Trump is. At the time, he had two open cabinet slots: labour secretary and agriculture secretary. One delay was the result of his controversial choice for labour secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrawing from consideration. The other delay, in confirming Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture, was the result of the administration not actually submitting the Perdue nomination to the Senate.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

 

  • Mar 4, 2017

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” And: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The leaders of the FBI and NSA, as well as Republican leaders in Congress with access to intelligence, said there is no evidence that this occurred. In September, the Justice Department said in a court filing that it had no evidence to support the claim.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

 

  • Mar 6, 2017

“I’m very pleased to announce the great company ExxonMobil is going to be investing $20 billion in the Gulf Coast and the Gulf Coast region. It’ll be 45,000 Jobs, and they’re great Jobs; $100,000 average. And this is something that was done to a large extent because of our policies and the policies of this new administration having to do with regulation and so many other things.”

Source: Facebook

in fact: Trump’s policies may have had some impact on Exxon’s decisions, but he is taking far too much credit for this particular investment: even the official White House statement acknowledges that it “began in 2013.”

 

Trump’s terrible week: stunning news and whispers of impeachment

At around 4.30pm, in courtrooms 200 miles apart, a pair of Trump associates delivered a one-two punch – and that was just Tuesday

August 25, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s presidency, it has been widely observed, bends the laws of time. Scandals that would have dogged other presidents for years tend to be here today, gone tomorrow. Fifteen minutes of fame is now likely to count for no more than 15 seconds.

But even by the standards of the Trump universe, this week has been a blur. And at its heart was a single, devastating hour on Tuesday 21 August that effectively turned the president of the United States into an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal crime.

But first, there was Rudy Giuliani. Trump’s lawyer, the former New York mayor, set the tone last Sunday with an Orwellian comment on the NBC network’s Meet the Press. Asked whether the president would give his version of events in testimony to Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Giuliani warned of a perjury trap and said: “Truth isn’t truth.”

Interviewer Chuck Todd put his hand on his forehead and said: “This is going to become a bad meme!” And it did.

At the White House on Monday, Trump hosted an event to highlight success stories of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He said that a border patrol agent, who is Latino, “speaks perfect English” as he beckoned him to the stage. He also misstated the acronym for US Customs and Border Protection at least eight times, referring to it as “CBC”, as in Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

So far, so Trumpian – fairly typical of this extraordinary presidency. But then came, to use primary election parlance, Super Tuesday. At around 4.30pm, in courtrooms 200 miles apart, a pair of Trump associates delivered a one-two punch that stunned the White House and revived whispers of impeachment.

In New York, Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen implicated the president in a crime to influence the 2016 presidential election. Pleading guilty to dodging taxes and campaign finance violations, he alleged that Trump directed him to pay hush money to prevent two women – a Playboy model and pornographic actor – speaking out about extramarital affairs.

In Alexandria, Virginia, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight tax and bank fraud charges and could now spend the rest of his life behind bars – unless Trump chooses to pardon him.

Fittingly for the reality TV presidency, the courtroom dramas unfolded just minutes apart, and continued cable news channels’ love-hate relationship with the president. At 4.48pm, CNN host Jake Tapper told viewers: “I apologise. We have more breaking news. It’s like a Saturday Night Live skit.”

“No day during President Trump’s 19 months in office could prove as dangerous or debilitating as Tuesday,” wrote Dan Balz in the Washington Post. “Everything that happened in a pair of courtrooms hundreds of miles apart strengthened the hand of special counsel Robert S Mueller III and weakened that of the president of the United States.”

Cohen’s plea bargain statement could be exhibit A if Democrats win the House of Representatives in November and launch a campaign to impeach the president, though the party continues to play down such talk. And Cohen’s lawyer embarked on a media tour saying his client was eager to sing like a canary for Mueller.

But the day from hell was far from done. The Republican congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted on corruption charges, namely converting more than $250,000 in campaign money to pay for personal expenses, including dental work, fast food, golf outings and holidays and trips for their family and nearly a dozen relatives.

In 2016, Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse Trump for president. Earlier this month the first, Chris Collins of New York was indicted for insider trading. The third? Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s out-of-favour attorney general.

Set against all this, Trump would not have been pleased to find his latest campaign rally something of an anticlimax. Somewhat subdued in Charleston, West Virginia, he made no mention of Cohen, Manafort or Hunter, but he did taunt the media: “Where is the collusion? You know they’re still looking for collusion. Where is the collusion? Find some collusion. We want to find the collusion.”

And with irony clearly dead, Trump’s supporters chanted “Lock her up!” – an old refrain about his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton.

By 8.53pm, the TV news veteran Dan Rather, who has seen it all, was tweeting: “I’ve been saying ‘Wow’ since about 4 o’clock this afternoon, and have yet to stop.”

And then, in one more dose of humiliation, the candidate Trump endorsed for governor of Wyoming, Foster Friess, lost the Republican primary to the state treasurer, Mark Gordon.

The day was a vivid illustration of a news cycle operating at hyperspeed. Bob Shrum, a political science professor at the University of Southern California, drew comparisons with Watergate – particularly the “Saturday Night Massacre”, when Richard Nixon fired the special prosecutor and accepted the resignations of the attorney general and his deputy – and the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001.

Shrum added: “But we now just go from one stunning story to another. Instead of Alpha to Omega, it’s Cohen to Omarosa,” – a reference to the reality TV star turned White House aide whose gossipy memoir already feels like an aeon ago.

Then there was Wednesday. At 8.44am, Trump tweeted: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” He described Manafort as “a brave man” who took the rap and suggested that the fact 10 of his charges were undecided was proof of a “witch hunt”.

Later, the president gave an interview to Fox News which, as always, had sought to play down the firestorm. He denied instructing to Cohen to commit a crime. “They weren’t taken out of campaign finance, that’s the big thing,” Trump said. “That’s a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn’t come from the campaign. They came from me.”

He also claimed that he did not find out about the payments until “later”, contradicting earlier statements. For the first time, the Washington Post’s factchecker said the president was lying rather than merely misleading or false. “The president’s statement was a lie – and the people speaking for him repeated it,” the Post commented.

Even Trump, the irrepressible force of nature who fights every crisis by punching back harder, “seemed subdued”, the New York Times reported. “He appeared to realize the serious nature of what had just taken place, and yet his relative calm – contrasted with his more typical lashing out when he is anxious – unnerved some of his aides.”

Not for the first time, perhaps seeking affirmation, on Wednesday night he turned to Fox News. There he saw a spurious Tucker Carlson report pushing a white nationalist conspiracy theory that white farmers in South Africa are being persecuted and murdered in Zimbabwe-style land grabs. Trump tweeted his outrage and promised to consult the state department, whose own human rights report on South Africa had made no mention of the issue.

It was one more white grievance dog whistle to add to all the rest. The South African government issued a swift rebuke and summoned US officials. Patrick Gaspard, the former US ambassador to South Africa, described the intervention as “astounding and deeply disturbing”. He said: “I can draw a line from the irresponsible statements he made in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and him lifting up tropes from white nationalists in South Africa.”

On Thursday there was no let-up. It emerged that David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc, which owns the pro-Trump National Enquirer, had been granted immunity to provide information about Cohen and Trump’s involvement with payments to the two women who allege sexual affairs. The Associated Press added fuel to the fire by reporting that the Enquirer kept such secrets locked in a safe, lending it extraordinary power.

That night, the New York Times reported that the Manhattan district attorney’s office was considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with one of the hush money payments.

Meanwhile Trump traded verbal blows with Sessions, whom he said he had only appointed because of his campaign support. On Friday morning he kept going with tweets, urging the attorney general to investigate Hillary Clinton and Democrats in the interests of balance. “Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!” Speculation that Sessions will be fired intensified – again, a public feud that in any other era would have dominated headlines.

But instead attention turned back to Trump’s legal crisis as the Wall Street Journal reported that Allen Weisselberg, his longtime financial gatekeeper, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Cohen. There was an ominous sense that the walls are finally closing in on the president.

But as ever during Trump’s wild weeks, there were things being missed or not receiving sufficient information. Buried under the news avalanche: the White House released a greenhouse gas emissions plan that could boost output from coal-fired power plants rather than push them towards closure. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, moved closer to confirmation as he appeared to get the nod of approval from the Republican senator Susan Collins.

Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted: “i understand the focus on politics here at home, but 1) NK is not denuclearizing; 2) Venezuela is on the precipice; 3) a crisis with/over Iran is brewing; 4) climate change is worse sooner than predicted; 5) US relations w China and Russia are at post-Cold War nadir. just sayin’”.

The worst week yet of the Trump presidency? It faces stiff competition from his responses to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki. Indeed, with this man in the White House, every week feels like a lifetime.

 

Bolton calls on Al-Qaeda to stage more chemical attacks in Syria

August 24, 2018

by Eva Bartlett

RT

In a move that was entirely predictable, the US administration is once again threatening to bomb Syria if there is a “chemical weapons attack”.

This was entirely predictable because that chemical attack script has been read out, with salty crocodile tears, fake concern, and mocked indignation by US talking heads over the years – since 2012, in fact, when former US President Obama himself drew his red line on Syria.

The latest script-reader to toe the chemical hoax line is President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, who on August 22, stated: “…if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

Beyond the tattered veil of moral superiority that is US war propaganda, Bolton’s words were clearly a very public command to Al-Qaeda and co-extremists to stage yet another fake chemical attack.

Bolton’s statement was preceded by an August 21 France-UK-US (FUKUS) joint statement, likewise threatening further illegal bombing of Syria if a chemical attack in Syria occurred (based on evidence the US never has nor needs to reveal).

Recall that the last time they acted on such a threat, in April 2018, the US and its interventionist allies didn’t even wait for the Douma lie to be exposed, let alone for any mythical evidence to materialize, before they illegally bombed Syria with 103 missiles. The bombings occurred before the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had a chance to visit the Douma sites in question.

It seems that FUKUS’ appetite for destroying Syria wasn’t satiated in April 2018, nor in the April 2017 bombings of Syria following unsubstantiated allegations around Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib.

Bolton’s assertions are backed by the usual suspects of the corporate media, fake human rights groups, “media activists”, and individuals linked to NATO’s Atlantic Council war propaganda think tank.

The over two decades-long dictator of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Ken Roth – who couldn’t even discern whether a video was Gaza’s Israeli-flattened Shuja’iyya or Syria when he tweeted about it being Aleppo in 2015 – is re-beating the Ghouta 2013 dead horse to scare would-be humanitarians around the world. The Western narrative of events in Ghouta been widely-discredited by journalists, and by the so-called “rebels” themselves.

However, many people are rightly skeptical and disbelieving of the alarm cries, having seen this sort of song and dance before. The war propaganda heightened dramatically just prior to and during the liberation of eastern Aleppo and of eastern Ghouta, to name but two examples.

Indeed, the AFP’s Twitter thread on Bolton’s threat is filled with almost-exclusively mocking comments about replaying the false flag chemical attack scenario, and other overused, unbelievable war propaganda. Likewise on NBCNews’ video of Bolton making the threats.

Doing the job of corporate media, others continue to pose valuable questions about this latest outbreak of propaganda on chemical weapons attacks.

NATO war propagandists, not even slightly original

Chemical weapons accusations are among the most overused war propaganda tactics during the war on Syria. From late 2012 to April 2018, NATO’s mouthpieces have screamed bloody chlorine or sarin. But time and again, they’ve been revealed as intellectually-challenged, supremely-unoriginal liars, to put it politely. Less shrill voices have pointed out the many occasions where so-called “rebels” had access to sarin, control over a chlorine factory, and motives for an attack to occur, among other prudent points.

Some of the more loudly blasted claims were: March 2013, in Khan al-Assal, Aleppo; August 2013, in eastern Ghouta areas; April 2017, in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib; and April 2018, in Douma, eastern Ghouta.

Of the Khan al-Assal allegations, Carla Del Ponte, a lead member of the UNHRC commission of Inquiry, stated that it was “rebels” which used sarin, saying: “I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got… they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition.”

A Mint Press News journalist who went to the areas in question wrote of speaking to “rebels” and their family members who blamed Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar for sending them weapons they didn’t know were chemical weapons and didn’t know how to use.

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote and spoke on the sarin allegations, noting (among many things) that, “the sarin that the Syria army has, has a different chemical component than the sarin that would be made by al-Nusra.”

Among the many questions journalists should have posed around the April 2017 Khan Sheikhoun allegations is the question of how we can trust any of the samples by the OPCW when clearly there was no chain of custody: the area is controlled by Al-Qaeda or groups affiliated, groups which have a vested interest in fudging results.

As noted in an article by Moon of Alabama, there is also a distinct lack of certainty around the Khan Sheikhoun accusations. The article further notes that in the OPCW report on Khan Sheikhoun, there are what they mildly dub as irregularities: the 57 cases of patients being admitted to hospitals before the alleged incident occurred, and the contradictory results of blood vs urine samples in “sarin victims”.

Following the April 2018 White House accusation that the Syrian government used sarin in Douma, and in spite of Damascus’ insistence on an OPCW investigation, FUKUS bombed Syria, including Damascus’ densely-inhabited Barzeh district, destroying a site which was involved in production of cancer treatment components, but not chemical weapons.

In Douma, medical staff said that patients had not shown symptoms of a chemical attack. Douma citizens likewise said there hadn’t been a chemical attack. Seventeen Douma civilians and medical staff testified this at the Hague. Corporate media snidely dismissed these testimonies.

The OPCW’s July 2018 interim report on Douma noted that in samples taken from alleged sites, no chemicals that are prohibited in the Chemical Weapons Convention were detected. The OPCW found traces of “chlorinated organic chemicals”, but not Sarin, as alleged by supposed expert Eliot Higgins and the White House, among others.

Who benefits from these repeated allegations? Would the Syrian government truly have benefited had it perpetrated any of these alleged attacks? No. Would it have been logical for the Syrian president to have ordered such a chemical attack, knowing it would bring forward the wrath of Obama, Trump, and their allies? Do these allegations benefit the regime-change coalition? Yes.

In their recent briefing report on the Douma allegations, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media analyzed the facts around the Douma allegations (and previous ones), the discrepancies around the official narratives, and the murky details behind experts bringing us “evidence”, including one expert with potential ties to the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Factors which just might influence the official outcome of investigations.

Regarding the latest concerns by FUKUS about a chemical attack, I agree on one point: we should be concerned that there will be a new attack or staging thereof, but not by the Syrian government. As has happened so many times prior, a staged attack would be done by NATO’s tools in Syria.

In fact, Syrian media recently noted the likelihood that members of the White Helmets and Al-Qaeda in Syria recently transported shipments of barrels from a chlorine recycling factory near the Turkish border to terrorist-occupied areas of Idlib.

If true, indeed strange activities for a “neutral rescue” group, and a worrisome setting of the stage for a new round of accusations.

Obfuscating the legitimate fight against Al-Qaeda in Idlib

What Bolton, CNN, or any other mouthpieces of illegal intervention attempts in Syria are avoiding mentioning is the Al-Qaeda elephant in the room: the designated terrorist group, which now goes by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), dominates Idlib. HTS supposedly “cut” ties with Al-Qaeda but still maintains the same ideology.

Envoy for the US-led coalition (pretending to defeat ISIS), Brett McGurk, even deemed Idlib “the largest Al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri (current #Al-Qaeda leader) & is a HUGE problem.”

Yet, CNN was just back in Idlib (having illegally entered, again), glossing over the Al-Qaeda factor, as predicted, and beginning, what will become, a nonstop stream of war propaganda focused on the city.

In fact, many on social media are predicting the recycled war propaganda memes we’ll be seeing more of soon from the regime-change coalition, including “last hospitals”, Bana al-Abed 3.0 child twitter accounts (Bana 2.0 accounts were created during the liberation of eastern Ghouta), and the latest emotive hashtag #EyesOnIdlib.

Days ago, HTS’ Abu Mohammed al-Golani spoke against the surrender of armed groups in Idlib. Another “Syrian rebel” in Idlib, an Egyptian Al-Qaeda commander, threatened Syrians, who might be considering reconciliation, with crucifixion.

It’s not only terrorists who oppose reconciliation. Western governments find that concept a thorn in the side of their intervention project. Reconciliation has brought peace and stability to areas across Syria, most recently Daraa governorate. When I went to Daraa in May 2018, terrorist shells rained down. Now, after a combination of military operations and reconciliations throughout Daraa, calm reigns, as in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo prior.

Yet, every time the process is beginning in a new area, terrorists shell humanitarian corridors, and Western talking heads squeal about unverified “atrocities”, turning wilfully blind eyes to Al-Qaeda and affiliates in Syria, and demonizing the Syrian and Russian governments for fighting terrorism in Syria.

The FUKUS August 21 statement also read: “We implore those countries to recognize that the unchecked use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states.”

I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in demanding the US and its allies be held accountable for their documented, unchecked and criminal use of chemical weapons on civilians around the world.

 

Will the Fervor to Impeach Donald Trump Start a Democratic Civil War?

A push to remove the President from office may lead to disaster in the midterms.

by Jeffrey Toobin

The New Yorker

Al Green cuts a distinctive figure around the Capitol. He is, for starters, the only male member of the House of Representatives with a ponytail. He expresses himself with a kind of baroque humility; to the question “How are you?” he invariably responds, “Better than I deserve.” (Elaborating, if asked, he says that he is a “recovering sinner.”) He is unusual, too, because, while most politicians call attention to their triumphs and hide their failures, Green reserves a place of honor in his congressional office for two reminders of crushing, if perhaps temporary, legislative defeats. Last year, Green—who, since 2005, has represented a district centered on Houston—sponsored the first vote in the House of Representatives on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. On December 6th, the House rejected Green’s initiative to bring impeachment up for debate by a vote of 364–58. The following month, the House rejected a similar attempt by Green, this time by a vote of 355–66.

Notwithstanding the lopsided results, Green has placed copies of each of the resolutions in portfolios embossed with the gold seal of the House. The December resolution is paired with a list of the members who voted for it—they are called “THE FIRST 58.” The January resolution faces a page containing the names of its supporters, who are called “THE HISTORIC 66.” Green sent identical copies of the portfolios to all the congressmen who voted with him.

Green, a Democrat, never supported Trump, although he also never imagined that he would be advocating his forced removal from office. “I didn’t come to Congress to impeach a President,” he told me. “I came to Congress to negotiate the issues that I grew up with—poverty, housing—for the least, the last, and the lost.” But Green began contemplating Trump’s removal when the President fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director, in May, 2017. Three months later, when Trump equated white-supremacist protesters in Charlottesville with those who had rallied against them, Green decided to take formal action: “That’s when I realized he was unfit to be President. He was converting his bigotry into American policy.” When the resolution came up for a vote, he said, “I did not lobby anyone, because, quite frankly, it’s a question of conscience.” He pressed for the second vote after Trump referred to Haiti and other predominantly black nations as “shithole countries.” Green understood that his call for impeachment was symbolic, but he expressed satisfaction with the number of votes he received—nearly a third of the Democratic members of the House. “I concluded if but one person voted for this article, this would be the right thing,” he said. “And we are not finished.”

Today, the impeachment of Donald Trump exists on the brink of plausibility. The sine qua non of an impeachment investigation, to say nothing of actual votes to charge and remove the President, is a Democratic takeover of the House in the November elections. Such a change now looks better than possible, maybe even probable. At the same time, the President appears to be in ever-greater legal peril from dual investigations, one led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and the other by federal prosecutors in New York. In April, F.B.I. agents raided the offices of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, and removed telephones and business records. Cohen has not been charged with a crime, but the prospect of a case against him, with the chance that he might plead guilty and reveal everything he knows, represents a substantial risk for the President. In Washington, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, and Rick Gates, who worked on Trump’s campaign and in his White House, have both already pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller and agreed to coöperate with his investigation. The full extent of Mueller’s findings is not known, raising the possibility that more legal and political damage to the President is yet to come. While Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, may or may not be correct that Mueller believes he lacks the legal authority to indict the President, the possibility of impeachment clearly exists—if Congress has the evidence, and the will, to proceed.

Trump supporters seem to welcome a fight over the issue. “If the Democrats move for impeachment, I think they are playing right into the hands of the President,” Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former White House communications director, told me. “He doesn’t have Richard Nixon’s attention span or his O.C.D. about record-keeping. There are no e-mails or tapes. He didn’t do anything wrong on Russia, so he’ll be exonerated.” Scaramucci added, “You are dealing with a human Pac-Man. He’s the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life.” Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of the Newsmax Web site, who sees the President regularly at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, told me, “The guy loves a fight and will see this one as easily winnable.” Republicans believe a push for impeachment would likely be a disaster for the Democrats in the midterms. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former top strategist, told me, “Anger and fear drive off-year elections, and we are going to talk about how the Democrats want to shut us up by impeaching Trump when they couldn’t beat him in 2016. People are talking about the Republicans losing forty seats in the House, but if we make the election a referendum on impeachment we could break even or pick up a few.”

Opposition to impeachment seems to be a rare point of agreement between Trump’s followers and the leadership of the Democratic Party. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, told me, “I don’t like to talk about impeachment.” She explained, “Impeachment is not a political tool. It has to be based on just the law and the facts. When I was Speaker, people wanted me to impeach George Bush for the war in Iraq because it was based on false information, but you can’t just go from one impeachment to the next. When we are in the majority, we are going to try to be unifying, and there is no way to do impeachment in a bipartisan way right now.” The numbers back up Pelosi’s wariness. According to a Quinnipiac University poll taken in April, fifty-two per cent of American voters oppose impeachment. Another poll from around the same time reported that forty-seven per cent would definitely vote against a candidate who wanted to remove Trump from office. (In a sign of how divided the country is, forty-two per cent would definitely vote for a candidate who made such a promise.)

Still, a powerful grassroots movement has formed in support of impeachment, a political cousin of sorts to the recent pushes for women’s rights and gun control. According to Quinnipiac, seventy-one per cent of Democrats already favor impeachment. To proponents, a nearly fifty-fifty split among the voting public at this early date, before Mueller has reported his findings, is significant. In primaries for the 2018 elections, some prominent Democrats, such as Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, who is running for governor, made support for impeachment a major part of their platforms. Tom Steyer, a San Francisco billionaire, has since last year been running television advertisements supporting impeachment, and has generated a mailing list of more than 5.2 million people. Steyer is now on a thirty-city speaking tour. For the moment, he and his followers are outcasts from the Washington consensus. But their passion, and the mounting evidence against the President, raises the question of whether the drive for impeachment is more likely to result in Trump’s removal from office or in a Democratic civil war.

For roughly the first two centuries of the American republic, there was an informal taboo on advocating for impeachment, even among a President’s most outspoken critics. Only one Presidential impeachment proceeding occurred during this period: in 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House but remained in office after being acquitted in the Senate by a single vote. The nominal ground for impeachment involved his dismissal of a member of his Cabinet, but impeachment cases are always about the politics of the moment as much as the evidence before Congress. Johnson’s case represented a final act of the Civil War. Though he was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice-President and successor, Johnson was a Democrat, and he resisted the Republican Reconstruction in the South. Republicans used impeachment as a form of revenge, which only reinforced the taboo.

Today, that taboo has faded. An investigation of Trump would follow Richard Nixon’s forced resignation, on the brink of impeachment, in 1974, and Bill Clinton’s impeachment and acquittal, in 1998-99. “The reason we are seeing more demands for impeachment is the rise in partisanship. Our partisan divisions now are not just sharp but among the sharpest in American history,” Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and the author of “The Federal Impeachment Process,” the leading treatise on the subject, said. “These divisions are then taken out on the President with calls for impeachment, which is an extreme measure and appeals to people who have extreme positions.”

In Congress, there’s a surprisingly vigorous impeachment lobby expanding on the work that Al Green began. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee and the ranking member of the Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, has fleshed Green’s bare-bones proposal out into a full impeachment resolution. Cohen’s indictment has five counts. The first charges Trump with obstruction of justice, based largely on Comey’s account of how the President tried to restrain the Russia investigation and then fired Comey when he would not oblige. The second count, referring to Trump’s business interests, including his hotels, asserts that he violated the foreign-emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officeholders from receiving payments from foreign governments. In a similar vein, the third count asserts that Trump directed federal money to his businesses and hotels domestically. The fourth count charges him with abuse of power for his criticisms of federal judges and for his pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, in Arizona. The final count claims that Trump undermined the First Amendment by repeatedly attacking the news media. Like Green, Cohen is aware that there is not yet a consensus in favor of impeachment, even among Democrats, but he is determined to plow ahead. “It’s a moral decision to do the right thing, regardless of the politics,” he told me. “Sometimes going on the record against evil may not make you effective at first in stopping evil, but it can still contribute in ways you don’t know.”

Jamie Raskin, a first-term Democrat from Maryland who was recently named vice-ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, told me, “It’s hard to think of a more impeachable President in American history.” As the only constitutional-law professor who is a voting member of Congress—he teaches at the law school of American University—Raskin has been adding intellectual heft to the impeachment effort. “By firing Comey and waging war on the special counsel, Trump has become the master of obstructing justice,” he told me. “I have a thick notebook of obstruction-of-justice episodes.” He listed, among other things, Trump’s threats against Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Rod Rosenstein, Sessions’s deputy; and Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I. Raskin said, “It’s only because we’re waist-deep in the Trump era that we forget how completely radical and beyond the pale it is to have the President directly threatening the people who are involved in a criminal investigation of him.”

Raskin told me that the foreign-emoluments clause “doesn’t get enough play, because it’s unfamiliar, and it’s unfamiliar because no other President ever came close to violating it before. But Trump has turned the federal government into a money-making operation, which is just what the Framers feared.” Raskin cited the many foreign guests with business interests before the Administration who have stayed at the Trump International Hotel, in Washington, as well as the business deals conducted by the President’s sons overseas. He also pointed to a prohibition in the domestic-emoluments clause against government payments to Presidents beyond their salaries. “We’ve had the Secret Service and other agencies spend millions of dollars at Trump hotels and resorts already,” he said. But Raskin also injected a note of caution. “Most of my constituents regard impeachment in a very practical way,” he told me. “They all see Trump as eminently deserving of impeachment, but they don’t want it to become a fetish if it’s not going anywhere.”

Any initial investigation of impeachment would fall to the House Judiciary Committee, and its chairman, in a Democratic Congress, would be Jerrold Nadler, from New York. Donald Trump and Jerry Nadler represent contrasting New York archetypes—the rapacious developer and the woolly-headed liberal. Not surprisingly, the two men have a history. They first clashed more than three decades ago, when Trump proposed a vast development on an old rail yard on Manhattan’s West Side.

Nadler was born in Brooklyn in 1947 and educated at Stuyvesant, the selective public high school, where his campaign for student-council president was managed by Dick Morris, the future Clinton-era political Svengali. After graduating from Columbia, Nadler thrived in the political hothouse that was the West Side in those days. In his twenties, he was elected to the New York State Assembly, and he attended Fordham’s law school at night. Nadler’s district included the site of a Trump project, which was originally called Television City because the centerpiece would be a hundred-and-fifty-story building that would serve as a new headquarters for NBC. As a courtesy, Trump invited Nadler to his office in Trump Tower to show him the plans. “I thought it was grotesque,” Nadler recalled recently. Trump told Nadler that the tower would be residential above the first forty floors, and mentioned the Hancock Center, in Chicago, which is a hundred stories tall. “He says, ‘Do you know that the people on the top floors of the Hancock Center, before they go out in the morning, they call the concierge desk to ask what the weather is, because they’re above the clouds, they can’t really see it?’ I’m thinking, What a drag, but he’s getting excited about this,” Nadler said. Nadler asked whether Trump intended to live on the hundred-and-fiftieth floor of the new building, and Trump replied that he did. “And I realized what this was all about,” Nadler said. “He wanted to be the highest man in the world.”

The battle over Television City— later renamed Trump City and finally known as Riverside South—became a multi-decade epic, even after the hundred-and-fifty-story building was scrapped. (NBC decided to keep its headquarters at Rockefeller Center.) Nadler helped lead the opposition, and continued to do so after he was elected to Congress, in 1992. He made sure that Trump did not receive federal mortgage guarantees for the project, costing the developer millions, and he also stopped the removal of an elevated highway, which would have increased the value of Trump’s condominiums. Riverside South is now mostly completed, on a much diminished scale. Trump’s interest was sold in 2005. But the dynamic of Trump and Nadler’s relationship was set. In his book “The America We Deserve,” published in 2000, Trump called Nadler “one of the most egregious hacks in contemporary politics.”

Nadler turned seventy last June, and his political views, while emphatically liberal, now hew closer to Pelosi’s than to Al Green’s. This is particularly true on the question of an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi told me that Nadler is “a champion for civil liberties and civil rights. He will have a long agenda as chairman, and impeachment is the least of it—despite what his constituents, and my constituents, probably want.” Nadler voted against both of Green’s impeachment resolutions. “If you’re going to remove the President from office, you are in effect in one sense nullifying the last election,” he told me. “What you don’t want are recriminations for the next twenty years—‘We won the election,’ ‘You stole it.’ And to do that you have to have a situation where some appreciable fraction—not a majority, but an appreciable fraction—of the people on the other side will grudgingly admit by the end of the proceedings that ‘Yeah, they really had to do it.’ ” As Nadler acknowledges, there is not only an absence of an appreciable fraction of Republicans in the House supporting impeachment, there isn’t a single Republican who does. He believes that any chance of bipartisan impeachment is extremely remote in the current political environment, at least barring the discovery of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing. “The fact that someone has committed an impeachable offense doesn’t always mean that you should impeach him,” he said. I asked Nadler if he meant that the House should impeach only if two-thirds of the Senate was going to vote to remove the President. Not necessarily, he said: “An impeachment, even if it’s not successful in the sense of removing the President from office, may in fact be necessary and successful at saying, in effect, ‘You have violated the constitutional order, you are threatening the constitutional order, you will stop threatening the constitutional order. You will stop threatening the rule of law.’ ”

Nadler was a member of the Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment hearings, in 1998. He emerged as an outspoken opponent of impeachment, and several of the arguments he deployed are eerily similar to those which Trump’s defenders have used. Nadler was a strident critic of Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, and he demanded audits of what he regarded as Starr’s excessive spending in the course of the investigation. Nadler described the case against Clinton as based on the Republicans’ general distaste for the President rather than on any specific acts of wrongdoing. “It showed that a determined majority in the House could impeach a President without legitimate reason,” Nadler said. The experience also taught him that the public can exact a cost on the party that brings a failed or unjustified impeachment. The Judiciary Committee held its impeachment hearings in the weeks just before the 1998 midterms, and on Election Day the Democrats reversed the usual fate of a party in its sixth year of control of the Presidency by gaining five seats. Nadler said that the Republicans “lost seats with the impeachment pending, and they lost seats because people disapproved of it and they went ahead with it anyway.”

The purported lessons of the Clinton impeachment haunt the Trump investigation, even though the cast of characters in Congress has almost completely turned over in the two intervening decades. Of the thirty-seven members of the Judiciary Committee in 1998, just seven remain—four Republicans (Bob Goodlatte, the current chairman, Jim Sensenbrenner, Lamar Smith, and Steve Chabot) and three Democrats (Nadler, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Zoe Lofgren). Goodlatte and Smith are retiring at the end of their current terms. (Abbe Lowell, who was the lead lawyer for Judiciary Committee Democrats in the Clinton inquiry, is now in private practice and represents Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law.)

The Clinton impeachment also played a role in Nadler’s campaign, last year, to become the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Democrats generally choose their committee leaders based on seniority. Even though Nadler was the longest-tenured Democrat, he was challenged for the leadership by Zoe Lofgren, who represents a district in Silicon Valley. Part of Lofgren’s pitch was her experience on the impeachment question. Not only did Lofgren, like Nadler, serve on the committee in 1998; she was also a young staffer for Representative Don Edwards in 1974, when she worked on the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon.

For Lofgren, the Nixon example looms large. “The American people at some kind of gut level understand the constitutional system,” she told me. “When a President lied about having an affair with a young woman, that was gross behavior, and the lie was arguably unlawful, but it had nothing to do with government. With Nixon, having an enemies list and using the elements of the federal government to destroy your enemies was about the abuse of government power. People got that. By the time the committee voted to impeach, in 1974, the country was on board.” In the nineteen-seventies there was also a core of moderate Republicans open to considering the evidence against Nixon. Seven of the seventeen Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted for at least one article of impeachment. Not a single Democrat on the committee voted in favor of Clinton’s impeachment.

Even Republicans who voted for Clinton’s impeachment now regard it as, at best, a mixed success. Steve Chabot, who represents a district in Cincinnati, said, “If the Democrats go in that direction, they are likely to learn a lesson that we learned in 1998. Even if the country starts out with you, they get sick of the process pretty quickly.” Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who was a member of the Judiciary Committee in 1998, has an even more negative view. “It blew up in our faces and helped President Clinton,” he said. “If Democrats keep up what they’re doing, the whole thing will just be shirts and skins—Democrats versus Republicans—and that’s a no-win when it comes to impeachment. It has to be bipartisan, or it’s going to be a failure.”

Indeed, the fervor for impeachment among some on the left is nearly matched by the passion against it on the right—an ardor that conservatives are more than happy to exploit, especially leading up to the midterm elections. Trump has taken up the cause, telling a rally in Michigan, in April, “We have to keep the House, because if we listen to Maxine Waters she’s going around saying, ‘We will impeach him.’ ” (Waters, a California congresswoman and a favorite target of Trump’s, voted in favor of Al Green’s resolutions.) Republicans in competitive races are also raising the alarm. “There is no doubt that impeachment will be a critical issue in November for Democrats and for Republicans,” Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, who is facing an unexpectedly serious challenge from Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman, told me. “There is right now enormous energy on the far left. They hate the President. They are consumed with Trump derangement syndrome.” He continued, “For many on the right, and many in the middle, not having the country consumed by impeachment proceedings and not seeing us lose the progress the country has made under President Trump is also a powerful motivator.” Cruz doesn’t believe Pelosi’s statements that she does not currently support impeachment. “If the Democrats take over the House, on the day Nancy Pelosi is sworn in to office, that’s the day impeachment proceedings begin,” he said. “The passion on the left is too great.”

The Democratic leadership continues to insist otherwise. Nadler eventually defeated Lofgren in a vote by the full Democratic caucus in the House, 118–72. Their differences haven’t proven especially divisive, and they are by and large in accord on the issue of impeachment. As Lofgren put it, “We have a sense of history and obligation, though that might not be exciting to the liberal base.”

On a pleasant Tuesday night in May, the liberal base in Des Moines showed up early at an event space near downtown. An hour before Tom Steyer was to conduct what he called a town meeting in support of Trump’s impeachment, more than a hundred people had lined up outside, waiting to be admitted. “This President has failed his most important responsibility—protecting our country,” Steyer says in one of his cable-news commercials. “The first question is Why? What is in his and his family’s business dealings with Russia that he is so determined to hide that he would betray our country? And the second question is Why is he still President?” Thanks to the advertisements, as well as appeals on Facebook, Steyer’s self-funded operation, called NeedToImpeach.com, has drawn millions of supporters. In Des Moines, more than four hundred people turned up, filling the room to overflowing. “I go to political events in Iowa all the time,” Pat Rynard, who runs a Web site on local politics called Iowa Starting Line, said as he watched the crowd stream in. “The people here are not the people who usually go to political events in Iowa. This is more people than the Democratic candidates for governor draw for their rallies. He’s mobilizing a whole new group.”

Through sheer force of personality—and about forty million dollars of his own money—Steyer has become the public face of the movement to impeach Trump. He has forty full-time staffers, and on his national tour he conducts town meetings, talks to local news media, and raises his own profile. (By political standards, the town halls are lavish affairs, with top-notch production values. The Des Moines event featured what caterers call “heavy” hors d’œuvres for everyone.) Steyer’s town halls, which last about an hour, begin with a presentation of one of the latest impeachment commercials, after which Steyer gives brief remarks—lasting about ten minutes—and then takes questions from the audience. The curious thing about his event in Des Moines was that it didn’t have much to do with impeachment. In his opening comments, he mentioned that he had eight grounds for impeachment, though he didn’t identify them. (They are spelled out on his Web site, and are basically an expanded version of the five counts in Representative Cohen’s resolution.) He also mentioned, but didn’t name, a group of legal scholars who support his campaign, and he did the same for a group of psychiatrists who asserted, in a panel discussion he hosted, that Trump is unfit for the Presidency, as well as a “dangerous, unstable, and deteriorating person.”

Steyer, who is sixty, made his name in politics raising money for John Kerry and Barack Obama, and then became a climate-change activist. He has now positioned himself outside traditional political categories. It’s a strategy, albeit with very different goals, that Trump pursued in his political career. Bannon, expressing admiration for Steyer’s tactics, told me, “Steyer is a little bit the Steve Bannon of the left. The Democratic Party has not yet had its civil war. The populist movement on the left has not happened yet, but Steyer sees it coming, sees the anger behind it.” In Steyer’s remarks in Des Moines, he attacked both parties. “The political establishment does not like what we have to say here,” he told the crowd. “They say we are normalizing impeachment. We are not normalizing impeachment. If we ignore what Donald Trump has done, what we’re doing is normalizing his behavior.” Asked at one point about the last election, Steyer said, “Two people won the 2016 election: Bernie Sanders, who is not a Democrat, and Donald Trump, who is not a Republican.” Steyer also funds, to the tune of thirty-two million dollars, a voter-registration project aimed at young people, called NextGen America, that is ostensibly nonpartisan. Steyer is using impeachment much the same way Trump used issues like immigration: to show that he’s with the Party’s base, not with its elders.

In our conversations, Steyer showed that he had mastered the politician’s art of ducking the question of whether he’s running for President. “I believe that we are on a disastrous path,” he replied when I asked. “There is an absolute void of explaining to Americans what the real stakes are.” A question from the audience in Des Moines about Steyer’s Presidential ambitions drew a loud cheer from the attendees and a non-denial denial from Steyer. The only state where Steyer’s tour has conducted three events is Iowa, the site of the nation’s first caucuses.

Steyer professes to understand the difference between political opposition to a President and support for a President’s removal from office. “We are not impeaching him because we don’t like his tax policy,” Steyer told me. “He is reckless, dangerous, and lawless.” But people at the town hall didn’t worry too much about the fine distinctions, and neither, for the most part, does Steyer. Attendees told me that they wanted Trump removed because he’s racist, because he’s surrounded by unsavory characters, because he doesn’t care about the poor. Jennifer Spradling, a retired preschool teacher, had travelled two hundred and forty miles, from the town of Alton, to hear Steyer speak. Trump “doesn’t seem to have the moral principles and ideals that Presidents have,” she said. “He’s done nothing on health care, on infrastructure.” Several audience members mentioned, as a ground for impeachment, the Washington Post’s running tally of more than three thousand falsehoods that Trump has told since the Inauguration. The one phrase I never heard during the evening in Des Moines was “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Ultimately, every consideration of impeachment returns to the standard established in the Constitution. The words are among the most familiar in the nation’s founding document, even if their meaning has been the subject of two hundred years of debate. Article II states, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” As in the nineteen-seventies and the nineteen-nineties, the prospect of a Presidential impeachment has spurred renewed academic interest in the subject, resulting in two recent volumes by well-known Harvard law professors. Last year, Cass Sunstein, who served in the Obama Administration, released “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide,” and Laurence Tribe, the noted liberal academic and litigator, has just published “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” written with Joshua Matz. Michael Gerhardt is also producing a third edition of his treatise “The Federal Impeachment Process.”

The historical record on impeachment, including at the framing of the Constitution, is meagre. There were a few references to it at the Constitutional Convention, and in the debates in the states over ratification the subject came up in a limited way. The Framers recognized that the power to impeach was as much a political issue as a legal one. As Alexander Hamilton put it, in Federalist No. 65, impeachment should apply to “the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Hamilton said that high crimes and misdemeanors “are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” (This quotation was a favorite of Clinton’s defenders in 1998 because it suggested that purely personal misconduct, like lying about an extramarital affair, should not be the basis for impeachment.) Hamilton also anticipated the partisan divisions that impeachment would engender, writing that the process “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”

In modern terms, one pole in the debate over impeachment was defined by Gerald Ford, during his days as a congressman, when he led a failed attempt to impeach the Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, in 1970, for purportedly improper financial dealings. “An impeachable offense,” Ford said, “is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” At the other extreme from Ford’s almost tautological approach is the claim that only proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a President committed criminal offenses can justify an impeachment.

To some, the best distillation of the standard is a report produced by the Judiciary Committee in 1974, on the eve of its debate about the Nixon impeachment. (One of the committee’s staffers was a young lawyer named Hillary Rodham.) The report states clearly that impeachable offenses do not necessarily have to be crimes. Instead, it argues, impeachment should be “a remedy for usurpation or abuse of power or serious breach of trust,” such as “offenses against the government, and especially abuses of constitutional duties.” The emphasis, the authors wrote, “has been on the significant effects of the conduct—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.”

The challenge is to apply these abstract standards to Trump’s alleged misconduct. Any attempt to do so requires an accurate determination of exactly what Trump did, and many are hoping that Mueller will provide that accounting. As Pelosi told me, “Impeachment doesn’t fit into the equation until we hear what Robert Mueller says.” But even some impeachment skeptics are willing to establish markers for Trump’s behavior that would not require findings from Mueller. The most common of these appears to be the firing of Mueller or of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who supervises Mueller’s work. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, told me that he opposes impeachment at this point, but that if the President deposes either man, it would be grounds for starting proceedings: “That would be encroaching on the independence of the Justice Department.” Barney Frank, the former congressman from Massachusetts who was a key figure in the Clinton debate in 1998, said that he can imagine a scenario in which he would support impeachment. “The President has the power to issue pardons,” Frank told me. “But if it could be proved that Trump promised people pardons in order to persuade them not to coöperate with Mueller, that offer would be an obstruction of justice, and it would be impeachable.” Laurence Tribe told me that he would regard some forms of misbehavior as impeachable, such as “a pattern of abusing the bully pulpit of the Presidency, one of its most potent if informal powers—especially when amplified by social media—to stir division within the electorate to the point of violence, to give permission to white supremacists to weaponize their hatred, and otherwise to undermine the foundations of our republic.”

As it happens, in recent years Congress has embraced broad definitions of what constitutes impeachable conduct, albeit in low-profile cases. Applying the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors, the House of Representatives has impeached two federal judges. President George H. W. Bush appointed Samuel Kent to the federal bench in Galveston, Texas, in 1990. There, female court employees complained that Kent groped and harassed them. In 2008, a federal grand jury indicted the judge for abusive sexual contact, and he was convicted the following year. The House moved to impeach Kent, and added charges in addition to those for which he had been convicted, including lying about sexual harassment he had committed before he became a judge. The House voted unanimously in favor of three articles of impeachment, and Kent resigned his judgeship before his trial in the Senate. Michael Gerhardt told me, “To the extent that there’s a question about whether Trump actually engaged in sexual assault or has lied about it during the campaign, Kent arguably provides a precedent supporting a congressional judgment that sexual assault may constitute a legitimate basis for impeachment.”

The following year, Congress impeached Thomas Porteous, whom Bill Clinton had appointed to the federal bench in Louisiana, in 1994. Porteous had declared personal bankruptcy in 2001, and during that process revealed that he had close ties to a local bail bondsman who was caught up in a federal corruption investigation. Porteous was never charged with a crime, but the disclosures about his situation led to an investigation by the federal judicial administrative office, which determined that Porteous had lied on the financial-disclosure forms he had filed in connection with his nomination. The House voted unanimously to impeach him for “engaging in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him as a federal judge,” and the Senate removed him from office. As Gerhardt observes, “The gist of the case against Porteous was that he lied about his background in order to get the job. The idea was that he defrauded the Senate, by providing false information, in order to get confirmed for his judgeship.” Although Congress is under no obligation to apply the same definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” in every impeachment, Gerhardt told me that “the collusion charge against Trump is based on the same idea of a direct connection—that he engaged in misconduct in order to get the job he holds.”

Nadler, for his part, declines to set markers for what might trigger an impeachment investigation if he assumes the House Judiciary Committee chairmanship in 2019, although he continues to express indignation at each new disclosure about Trump. He denounced the President’s threats against Mueller and introduced legislation to protect the investigation by the special counsel. He criticized the firing of Andrew McCabe. He sought an investigation of Cambridge Analytica for violating U.S. election regulations. He called for a formal resolution of censure against Trump for his remarks about Charlottesville. None of these proposals went anywhere in the Republican-controlled House.

Instead of planning for impeachment, Nadler is thinking about the kinds of oversight investigations he might conduct if he is in control of the committee. “We would want oversight on what the Administration is doing to civil liberties, to institutions, to discredit the courts, to discredit the special prosecutor, to attack the press, all of these things,” he told me. “What are you doing about staffing levels of different places? What are you doing about the things that affect the ability of agencies to do their jobs independent of the political direction of the current Administration?”

Still, the chance for Nadler to define his legacy can never be far from his thoughts. For decades, he and his family have been regulars at a diner a few blocks from their apartment on the Upper West Side. When he is in New York, Nadler stops in a few times a week. Each time he does, the owner greets him with the admonition “You gotta impeach the bastard

 

 

 

 

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