Monday, January 27, 2020

Andy Borowitz

TRUMP SAYS HE HAS NO INTENTION OF HAVING BOLTON'S BOOK READ ALOUD TO HIM

John Bolton speaks to Donald Trump.
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WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump has "no intention whatsoever" of having John Bolton's book read aloud to him, Trump confirmed on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said that his daughter, Ivanka Trump, had obtained a draft manuscript of the Bolton book and had offered to read it aloud to him "like she does with all of the other books," Trump said.

"She reads the books to me slowly and stops when there's a long word to tell me what it means," Trump said. "But I told her that the Bolton book was the last book in the world that I wanted to hear."

Trump acknowledged that Ivanka had previously read aloud to him other books that he had not enjoyed, such as "A Warning," by Anonymous.

"That Anonymous guy has to be the worst writer," he said. "After Ivanka read ten pages of that crap to me, I told her to throw the book across the room, and she did."

Trump said that he hears "many books" a week, and that sometimes his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, takes turns with Ivanka reading them aloud to him.

"I've enjoyed hearing Sean Hannity's books and Laura Ingraham's books," Trump said. "But John Bolton's? Please. That's the last book I want to hear when Ivanka and Jared tuck me in at night."-
****
Juan

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Friday, January 24, 2020

Something to Know - 24 January

Of all the excuses for hiding a big lie that he promised not to mess with, using his Impeachment Trial to distract from the fact that he is now putting Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlements on the chopping block, after his huge tax cut to the rich and corporate folks, well this is Trump at his cold-hearted lying worst:


Trump opens the door to Social Security cuts
President Trump speaks with CNBC's Joe Kernen

PRESIDENT TRUMP, speaking with CNBC's Joe Kernen at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, signaled he was open to cutting back Social Security, Medicare and other social safety net programs. 
MICHAEL HILTZIK
With his penchant for saying the quiet parts out loud and assuming no one is paying attention, President Trump on Wednesday opened the door to cutting Social Security and Medicare later this year.
The word came at the very end of an interview conducted by Joe Kernen of CNBC, in connection with Trump's appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Here's how it unfolded, according to the tape and transcript from CNBC:

"KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?
"PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We're going to have tremendous growth. This next year I — it'll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that's actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it's such a —"
Trump then wandered off into a string of false and incoherent claims about the economy. "We've never had growth like this," he said, even though economic growth during Trump's term is nowhere near a record pace.

What's important is that Trump appears to be falling into lockstep with the more general Republican position that closing the federal deficit requires cutting back on Social Security, Medicare and other social safety net programs. Never mind that the deficit was opened into a gaping maw by the tax cut Trump signed in December 2017, which went mostly to corporations and the wealthy, the effect of which goosed economic growth for a short period but has faded.

Other commentators have underscored the conflict between Trump's appearing open to tampering with Social Security and Medicare, and his promise during the last presidential campaign to leave those programs alone.
"Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security," he said in one appearance. "They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."

Just before election day 2016, he claimed: "Hillary Clinton is going to destroy your Social Security and Medicare. … I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare."
Cutting benefits has been part of Republican orthodoxy for decades, but the drumbeat has gotten louder. In September, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) talked about the need to go "behind closed doors" to reform Social Security, because it's clear that the American public won't stand for it being done in the open. A year earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) labeled Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — so-called entitlements — "the real drivers of the debt" and called for them to be adjusted "to the demographics of the future."

It's worth noting that proposals to cut social insurance benefits are certain to be dead on arrival as long as Democrats control at least one chamber of Congress, as they do currently. Indeed, the Democratic Party, through its representatives in Congress and its candidates for president, has shown itself to be strongly in favor of expanding and increasing Social Security benefits, not cutting them back.
Trump still can do a lot of damage to these programs by starving their administrative budgets or tinkering with administrative rules, as he's proposed to do with Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance.

As I've reported before, Trump's cavalier approach to these programs isn't really a secret.
His proposed 2020 budget would have pared as much as $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, partially by repealing the Medicaid expansion enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and partially by converting the program to a block grant to states — a system that destroys the program's ability to match funding with costs and results in a massive shortfall over time.
Trump's budget would gut the nation's disability programs by $84 billion. At least $10 billion of that would come from Social Security disability through changes in eligibility rules. An additional $400 million would come out of the Social Security Administration's administrative budget, which is already strapped for cash, in the next year alone. Beneficiaries could expect more busy signals on the phone lines and longer waits at Social Security offices.

In October, Trump signed an executive order bristling with stealth attacks on Medicare. Buried within the order was a provision that would destroy Medicare by driving its costs to an unsustainable level. He also proposed to turn more of the program over to commercial insurers. As I wrote then, "Put simply, he's proposing to privatize Medicare."
Again, all this has been hiding in plain sight. Trump's latest remarks have gotten a lot of attention, because they appear to be so blunt. But the danger the Trump administration poses to programs that protect America's most vulnerable populations has been evident almost from the first.
Keep up to date with Michael Hiltzik. Follow @hiltzikm on Twitter, see his Facebook page or email michael.hiltzik @latimes.com.

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****
Juan

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Friday, January 17, 2020

Something to Know - 17 January

This is NUMBER THREE for today.   No introduction is necessary.  Just read it' it's all there. My thanks to Andy Gordon who brought this to my attention. I have not made any attempt to remove the ads or other distractions:


'You're a bunch of dopes and babies': Inside Trump's stunning tirade against generals

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President Trump speaks to reporters Monday as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)President Trump speaks to reporters Monday as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Jan. 17, 2020 at 3:00 a.m. PST

This article is adapted from "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America," which will be published on Jan. 21 by Penguin Press.

There is no more sacred room for military officers than 2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly to wrestle with classified matters. Its more common name is "the Tank." The Tank resembles a small corporate boardroom, with a gleaming golden oak table, leather swivel armchairs and other mid-century stylings. Inside its walls, flag officers observe a reverence and decorum for the wrenching decisions that have been made there.

Hanging prominently on one of the walls is The Peacemakers, a painting that depicts an 1865 Civil War strategy session with President Abraham Lincoln and his three service chiefs — Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, and Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter. One hundred fifty-­two years after Lincoln hatched plans to preserve the Union, President Trump's advisers staged an intervention inside the Tank to try to preserve the world order.

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By that point, six months into his administration, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump's knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike.

Trump organized his unorthodox worldview under the simplistic banner of "America First," but Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America's superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump's impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located. To have a useful discussion with him, the trio agreed, they had to create a basic knowledge, a shared language.

Trump on Mattis: 'President Obama fired him and... so did I'
President Trump spoke about his former defense secretary at a Cabinet meeting Jan. 2, saying he was not "too happy" with how Jim Mattis handled Afghanistan. (The Washington Post)

So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial. What happened inside the Tank that day crystallized the commander in chief's berating, derisive and dismissive manner, foreshadowing decisions such as the one earlier this month that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran. The Tank meeting was a turning point in Trump's presidency. Rather than getting him to appreciate America's traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses.

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The episode has been documented numerous times, but subsequent reporting reveals a more complete picture of the moment and the chilling effect Trump's comments and hostility had on the nation's military and national security leadership.

Just before 10 a.m. on a scorching summer Thursday, Trump arrived at the Pentagon. He stepped out of his motorcade, walked along a corridor with portraits honoring former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, and stepped inside the Tank. The uniformed officers greeted their commander in chief. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. sat in the seat of honor midway down the table, because this was his room, and Trump sat at the head of the table facing a projection screen. Mattis and the newly confirmed deputy defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, sat to the president's left, with Vice President Pence and Tillerson to his right. Down the table sat the leaders of the military branches, along with Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon was in the outer ring of chairs with other staff, taking his seat just behind Mattis and directly in Trump's line of sight.

Mattis, Cohn, and Tillerson and their aides decided to use maps, graphics, and charts to tutor the president, figuring they would help keep him from getting bored. Mattis opened with a slide show punctuated by lots of dollar signs. Mattis devised a strategy to use terms the impatient president, schooled in real estate, would appreciate to impress upon him the value of U.S. investments abroad. He sought to explain why U.S. troops were deployed in so many regions and why America's safety hinged on a complex web of trade deals, alliances, and bases across the globe.

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An opening line flashed on the screen, setting the tone: "The post-war international rules-based order is the greatest gift of the greatest generation." Mattis then gave a 20-minute briefing on the power of the NATO alliance to stabilize Europe and keep the United States safe. Bannon thought to himself, "Not good. Trump is not going to like that one bit." The internationalist language Mattis was using was a trigger for Trump.

"Oh, baby, this is going to be f---ing wild," Bannon thought. "If you stood up and threatened to shoot [Trump], he couldn't say 'postwar rules-based international order.' It's just not the way he thinks."

For the next 90 minutes, Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn took turns trying to emphasize their points, pointing to their charts and diagrams. They showed where U.S. personnel were positioned, at military bases, CIA stations, and embassies, and how U.S. deployments fended off the threats of terror cells, nuclear blasts, and destabilizing enemies in places including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Korea Peninsula, and Syria. Cohn spoke for about 20 minutes about the value of free trade with America's allies, emphasizing how he saw each trade agreement working together as part of an overall structure to solidify U.S. economic and national security.

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Trump appeared peeved by the schoolhouse vibe but also allergic to the dynamic of his advisers talking at him. His ricocheting attention span led him to repeatedly interrupt the lesson. He heard an adviser say a word or phrase and then seized on that to interject with his take. For instance, the word "base" prompted him to launch in to say how "crazy" and "stupid" it was to pay for bases in some countries.

Trump's first complaint was to repeat what he had vented about to his national security adviser months earlier: South Korea should pay for a $10 billion missile defense system that the United States built for it. The system was designed to shoot down any short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from North Korea to protect South Korea and American troops stationed there. But Trump argued that the South Koreans should pay for it, proposing that the administration pull U.S. troops out of the region or bill the South Koreans for their protection.

"We should charge them rent," Trump said of South Korea. "We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything."

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Trump proceeded to explain that NATO, too, was worthless. U.S. generals were letting the allied member countries get away with murder, he said, and they owed the United States a lot of money after not living up to their promise of paying their dues.

"They're in arrears," Trump said, reverting to the language of real estate. He lifted both his arms at his sides in frustration. Then he scolded top officials for the untold millions of dollars he believed they had let slip through their fingers by allowing allies to avoid their obligations.

"We are owed money you haven't been collecting!" Trump told them. "You would totally go bankrupt if you had to run your own business."

(Penguin Press)(Penguin Press)

Mattis wasn't trying to convince the president of anything, only to explain and provide facts. Now things were devolving quickly. The general tried to calmly explain to the president that he was not quite right. The NATO allies didn't owe the United States back rent, he said. The truth was more complicated. NATO had a nonbinding goal that members should pay at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their defenses. Only five of the countries currently met that goal, but it wasn't as if they were shorting the United States on the bill.

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More broadly, Mattis argued, the NATO alliance was not serving only to protect western Europe. It protected America, too. "This is what keeps us safe," Mattis said. Cohn tried to explain to Trump that he needed to see the value of the trade deals. "These are commitments that help keep us safe," Cohn said.

Bannon interjected. "Stop, stop, stop," he said. "All you guys talk about all these great things, they're all our partners, I want you to name me now one country and one company that's going to have his back."

Trump then repeated a threat he'd made countless times before. He wanted out of the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama had struck in 2015, which called for Iran to reduce its uranium stockpile and cut its nuclear program.

"It's the worst deal in history!" Trump declared.

"Well, actually . . .," Tillerson interjected.

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"I don't want to hear it," Trump said, cutting off the secretary of state before he could explain some of the benefits of the agreement. "They're cheating. They're building. We're getting out of it. I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it."

Before they could debate the Iran deal, Trump erupted to revive another frequent complaint: the war in Afghanistan, which was now America's longest war. He demanded an explanation for why the United States hadn't won in Afghanistan yet, now 16 years after the nation began fighting there in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump unleashed his disdain, calling Afghanistan a "loser war." That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall behind their principals. They all were sworn to obey their commander in chief's commands, and here he was calling the war they had been fighting a loser war.

"You're all losers," Trump said. "You don't know how to win anymore."

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Trump questioned why the United States couldn't get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. "We spent $7 trillion; they're ripping us off," Trump boomed. "Where is the f---ing oil?"

Trump seemed to be speaking up for the voters who elected him, and several attendees thought they heard Bannon in Trump's words. Bannon had been trying to persuade Trump to withdraw forces by telling him, "The American people are saying we can't spend a trillion dollars a year on this. We just can't. It's going to bankrupt us."

"And not just that, the deplorables don't want their kids in the South China Sea at the 38th parallel or in Syria, in Afghanistan, in perpetuity," Bannon would add, invoking Hillary Clinton's infamous "basket of deplorables" reference to Trump supporters.

Trump mused about removing General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in charge of troops in Afghanistan. "I don't think he knows how to win," the president said, impugning Nicholson, who was not present at the meeting.

Dunford tried to come to Nicholson's defense, but the mild-mannered general struggled to convey his points to the irascible president.

"Mr. President, that's just not . . .," Dunford started. "We've been under different orders."

Dunford sought to explain that he hadn't been charged with annihilating the enemy in Afghanistan but was instead following a strategy started by the Obama administration to gradually reduce the military presence in the country in hopes of training locals to maintain a stable government so that eventually the United States could pull out. Trump shot back in more plain language.

"I want to win," he said. "We don't win any wars anymore . . . We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we're not winning anymore."

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn't taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

"I wouldn't go to war with you people," Trump told the assembled brass.

Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, "You're a bunch of dopes and babies."

For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called "locker room talk," this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room. A few considered walking out. They tried not to reveal their revulsion on their faces, but questions raced through their minds. "How does the commander in chief say that?" one thought. "What would our worst adversaries think if they knew he said this?"

This was a president who had been labeled a "draft dodger" for avoiding service in the Vietnam War under questionable circumstances. Trump was a young man born of privilege and in seemingly perfect health: six feet two inches with a muscular build and a flawless medical record. He played several sports, including football. Then, in 1968 at age 22, he obtained a diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that exempted him from military service just as the United States was drafting men his age to fulfill massive troop deployments to Vietnam.

Tillerson in particular was stunned by Trump's diatribe and began visibly seething. For too many minutes, others in the room noticed, he had been staring straight, dumbfounded, at Mattis, who was speechless, his head bowed down toward the table. Tillerson thought to himself, "Gosh darn it, Jim, say something. Why aren't you saying something?"

But, as he would later tell close aides, Tillerson realized in that moment that Mattis was genetically a Marine, unable to talk back to his commander in chief, no matter what nonsense came out of his mouth.

The more perplexing silence was from Pence, a leader who should have been able to stand up to Trump. Instead, one attendee thought, "He's sitting there frozen like a statue. Why doesn't he stop the president?" Another recalled the vice president was "a wax museum guy." From the start of the meeting, Pence looked as if he wanted to escape and put an end to the president's torrent. Surely, he disagreed with Trump's characterization of military leaders as "dopes and babies," considering his son, Michael, was a Marine first lieutenant then training for his naval aviator wings. But some surmised Pence feared getting crosswise with Trump. "A total deer in the headlights," recalled a third attendee.

Others at the table noticed Trump's stream of venom had taken an emotional toll. So many people in that room had gone to war and risked their lives for their country, and now they were being dressed down by a president who had not. They felt sick to their stomachs. Tillerson told others he thought he saw a woman in the room silently crying. He was furious and decided he couldn't stand it another minute. His voice broke into Trump's tirade, this one about trying to make money off U.S. troops.

"No, that's just wrong," the secretary of state said. "Mr. President, you're totally wrong. None of that is true."

Tillerson's father and uncle had both been combat veterans, and he was deeply proud of their service.

"The men and women who put on a uniform don't do it to become soldiers of fortune," Tillerson said. "That's not why they put on a uniform and go out and die . . . They do it to protect our freedom."

There was silence in the Tank. Several military officers in the room were grateful to the secretary of state for defending them when no one else would. The meeting soon ended and Trump walked out, saying goodbye to a group of servicemen lining the corridor as he made his way to his motorcade waiting outside. Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn were deflated. Standing in the hall with a small cluster of people he trusted, Tillerson finally let down his guard.

"He's a f---ing moron," the secretary of state said of the president.

The plan by Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn to train the president to appreciate the internationalist view had clearly backfired.

"We were starting to get out on the wrong path, and we really needed to have a course correction and needed to educate, to teach, to help him understand the reason and basis for a lot of these things," said one senior official involved in the planning. "We needed to change how he thinks about this, to course correct. Everybody was on board, 100 percent agreed with that sentiment. [But] they were dismayed and in shock when not only did it not have the intended effect, but he dug in his heels and pushed it even further on the spectrum, further solidifying his views."

A few days later, Pence's national security adviser, Andrea Thompson, a retired Army colonel who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, reached out to thank Tillerson for speaking up on behalf of the military and the public servants who had been in the Tank. By September 2017, she would leave the White House and join Tillerson at Foggy Bottom as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.

The Tank meeting had so thoroughly shocked the conscience of military leaders that they tried to keep it a secret. At the Aspen Security Forum two days later, longtime NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell asked Dunford how Trump had interacted during the Tank meeting. The Joint Chiefs chairman misleadingly described the meeting, skipping over the fireworks.

"He asked a lot of hard questions, and the one thing he does is question some fundamental assumptions that we make as military leaders — and he will come in and question those," Dunford told Mitchell on July 22. "It's a pretty energetic and an interactive dialogue."

One victim of the Tank meeting was Trump's relationship with Tillerson, which forever after was strained. The secretary of state came to see it as the beginning of the end. It would only worsen when news that Tillerson had called Trump a "moron" was first reported in October 2017 by NBC News.

President Trump walks from the Oval Office to board Marine One on Jan. 9. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)President Trump walks from the Oval Office to board Marine One on Jan. 9. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

*****

Trump once again gathered his generals and top diplomats in December 2017 for a meeting as part of the administration's ongoing strategy talks about troop deployments in Afghanistan in the Situation Room, a secure meeting room on the ground floor of the West Wing. Trump didn't like the Situation Room as much as the Pentagon's Tank, because he didn't think it had enough gravitas. It just wasn't impressive.

But there Trump was, struggling to come up with a new Afghanistan policy and frustrated that so many U.S. forces were deployed in so many places around the world. The conversation began to tilt in the same direction as it had in the Tank back in July.

"All these countries need to start paying us for the troops we are sending to their countries. We need to be making a profit," Trump said. "We could turn a profit on this."

Dunford tried to explain to the president once again, gently, that troops deployed in these regions provided stability there, which helped make America safer. Another officer chimed in that charging other countries for U.S. soldiers would be against the law.

"But it just wasn't working," one former Trump aide recalled. "Nothing worked."

Following the Tank meeting, Tillerson had told his aides that he would never silently tolerate such demeaning talk from Trump about making money off the deployments of U.S. soldiers. Tillerson's father, at the age of 17, had committed to enlist in the Navy on his next birthday, wanting so much to serve his country in World War II. His great-uncle was a career officer in the Navy as well. Both men had been on his mind, Tillerson told aides, when Trump unleashed his tirade in the Tank and again when he repeated those points in the Situation Room in December.

"We need to get our money back," Trump told his assembled advisers.

That was it. Tillerson stood up. But when he did so, he turned his back to the president and faced the flag officers and the rest of the aides in the room. He didn't want a repeat of the scene in the Tank.

"I've never put on a uniform, but I know this," Tillerson said. "Every person who has put on a uniform, the people in this room, they don't do it to make a buck. They did it for their country, to protect us. I want everyone to be clear about how much we as a country value their service."

Tillerson's rebuke made Trump angry. He got a little red in the face. But the president decided not to engage Tillerson at that moment. He would wait to take him on another day.

Later that evening, after 8:00, Tillerson was working in his office at the State Department's Foggy Bottom headquarters, preparing for the next day. The phone rang. It was Dunford. The Joint Chiefs chairman's voice was unsteady with emotion. Dunford had much earlier joked with Tillerson that in past administrations the secretaries of state and Defense Department leaders wouldn't be caught dead walking on the same side of the street, for their rivalry was that fierce. But now, as both men served Trump, they were brothers joined against what they saw as disrespect for service members. Dunford thanked Tillerson for standing up for them in the Situation Room.

"You took the body blows for us," Dunford said. "Punch after punch. Thank you. I will never forget it."

President Trump delivers remarks on environmental regulations in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 9. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)President Trump delivers remarks on environmental regulations in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 9. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Tillerson, Dunford, and Mattis would not take those body blows for much longer. They failed to rein in Trump's impulses or to break through what they regarded as the president's stubborn, even dangerous insistence that he knew best. Piece by piece, the guardrails that had hemmed in the chaos of Trump's presidency crumpled.

In March 2018, Trump abruptly fired Tillerson while the secretary of state was halfway across the globe on a sensitive diplomatic mission to Africa to ease tensions caused by Trump's demeaning insults about African countries. Trump gave Tillerson no rationale for his firing, and afterward acted as if they were buddies, inviting him to come by the Oval Office to take a picture and have the president sign it. Tillerson never went.

Mattis continued serving as the defense secretary, but the president's sudden decision in December 2018 to withdraw troops from Syria and abandon America's Kurdish allies there — one the president soon reversed, only to remake 10 months later — inspired him to resign. Mattis saw Trump's desired withdrawal as an assault on a soldier's code. "He began to feel like he was becoming complicit," recalled one of the secretary's confidants.

The media interpretation of Mattis' resignation letter as a scathing rebuke of Trump's worldview brought the president's anger to a boiling point. Trump decided to remove Mattis two months ahead of the secretary's chosen departure date. His treatment of Mattis upset the secretary's staff. They decided to arrange the biggest clap out they could. The event was a tradition for all departing secretaries. They wanted a line of Pentagon personnel that stretched for a mile applauding Mattis as he left for the last time. It was going to be "yuge," staffers joked, borrowing from Trump's glossary.

But Mattis would not allow it.

"No, we are not doing that," he told his aides. "You don't understand the president. I work with him. You don't know him like I do. He will take it out on Shanahan and Dunford."

Dunford stayed on until September 2019, retiring at the conclusion of his four-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One of Dunford's first public acts after leaving office was to defend a military officer attacked by Trump, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who testified in the House impeachment inquiry about his worries over Trump's conduct with Ukraine. Trump dismissed Vindman as a "Never Trumper," but Dunford stepped forward to praise the Purple Heart recipient as "a professional, competent, patriotic, and loyal officer. He has made an extraordinary contribution to the security of our nation."

By then, however, Trump had become a president entirely unrestrained. He had replaced his raft of seasoned advisers with a cast of enablers who executed his orders and engaged his obsessions. They saw their mission as telling the president yes







--
****
Juan

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Something to Know - 17 January

For a news aggregator, like myself, who has been kind of laying low as of late, sending out TWO in one day is special.  The lead editorial in today's LA Times is worth reading.   This underscores the need for close scrutiny by the Senate Impeachment trial.   Trump, contrary to his bellowing of hoax and witch hunt, DID break the law, and should be held accountable:

Yes, Trump did break the law
P resident Trump and his defenders have argued ad infinitum that the move to impeach him is a baseless, unconstitutional witch hunt because, they say, he broke no law in his handling of Ukraine.
That's never been a terribly persuasive argument, given that the Founders' understanding of "high crimes and misdemeanors" extended to corrupt and improper actions that did not technically violate the law. But in case that argument gave you pause, you may now relax; it turns out the law was broken after all. On Thursday, a General Accounting Office report concluded that the administration violated federal law when it put a hold on congressionally approved aid to Ukraine for no legally valid reason.

Although the resolutely nonpartisan GAO did not put it in these terms, the message of the report was unmistakable: Trump abused the power of his office by usurping authority that the Constitution gives exclusively to lawmakers.

When Congress approved $250 million in military aid to Ukraine in September 2018, it placed only one condition on its spending: that the Defense Department could not use more than 50% of the money without certifying that Ukraine had taken "substantial actions" on "defense institutional reforms." The department provided that certification on May 23, 2019.
Evidence gathered by the House shows conclusively that Trump ordered the aid to be put on hold not long after the certification was sent. The hold was not lifted until September, after the White House learned that a whistleblower had complained that Trump was trying to pressure Ukraine to conduct an investigation into one of his top Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, and after the House announced it would investigate.

Trump, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and congressional Republicans have offered a shifting range of rationalizations for delaying the aid, including Trump's distaste for foreign aid, his belief that Ukraine was rife with corruption and his desire to see Europe contribute more to Ukraine's defense.

We think all of those reasons are pretexts. But even if they were true, the GAO's report explains why none of them are valid. Under the Impoundment Control Act, the report says, Congress set out rules for when and how a president may delay spending an appropriated amount; he cannot slam the brakes on an appropriation simply because he thinks the policy is wrong. Instead, the statute allows funds to be held only "to provide for contingencies; to achieve savings made possible by or through changes in requirements or greater efficiency of operations; or as specifically provided by law." And he must notify Congress.

"The ICA does not permit deferrals for policy reasons," the GAO notes, and the White House Office of Management and Budget's rationale for putting the Ukraine aid on hold "falls squarely within the scope of an impermissible policy deferral." Put another way, Trump's purported beliefs that Ukraine was corrupt and European nations weren't paying their share were, under federal law, immaterial once Congress made the decision to provide the aid.

"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," the GAO report states, again underlining what should be obvious. "In fact, Congress was concerned about exactly these types of withholdings when it enacted and later amended the ICA."
The delay in delivering the aid had real-world consequences. As of last month, the Los Angeles Times reported, Ukraine still hadn't received more than $20 million of the military aid it desperately needs.

The report adds to the pressure on the Senate to subpoena Mulvaney and other top administration officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump's decision to freeze the aid, including former national security advisor John Bolton, whose testimony has been blocked by Trump. So too do the new revelations from Lev Parnas, the Ukrainian American who was part of the efforts by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to dig up dirt on Biden. Parnas told MSNBC on Wednesday that, acting on behalf of Giuliani and Trump, he informed top Ukrainian officials that all U.S. aid would be cut off if they didn't announce the investigations Trump sought.

The White House responded that Parnas, who is awaiting trial on federal campaign-finance charges, isn't credible. But Parnas' comments are just part of the mass of evidence that the House and others have gathered to buttress the case that Trump abused the power of his office. And as the GAO has now made clear, it's an abuse that violated the law.

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Juan

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Something to Know - 17 January

There had been many observers who opined that Nancy Pelosi had lost the battle with Moscow Mitch by delaying the transmittal of the articles of impeachment from the House to the Senate.   However, thanks to the revelations by Lev Parnas and other pieces of continuing investigation, it is apparent that the delay of 28 days afforded a much better presentation of a case into the impeachment of "#1", than a month ago.  Speaker Pelosi has proven that she has the talent and leadership to be guiding the ship of state.  Now as we watch to see if there are enough Republicans who are truly interested in leaving the "cult of Trump" of the GeeOpie, and seeking a true impeachment trial, out democracy is in better shape of reformation than we were a month ago.

What America Learned in 28 Days

Nancy Pelosi's decision to delay transmitting the impeachment articles allowed significant new information to come to light.

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

  • Jan. 16, 2020

As soon as the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, made the decision to hold back the two articles of impeachment against President Trump, Republicans complained about the apparent hypocrisy. If impeaching Mr. Trump had been so urgent, why was it suddenly O.K. to delay the process indefinitely?

"From the beginning, it's been unclear what the goal of this hurry-up-and-wait tactic was or what the country stood to gain," said Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Now that the Senate has the articles, it's clear what was to gain. Ms. Pelosi may not have won any concessions from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, but the delay did provide time for additional evidence of Mr. Trump's Ukraine scheme to come to light.

As the impeachment trial gets underway in the Senate, here's a recap of a number of those disclosures.


A United States ambassador was surveilled and possibly targeted for harm by people directly connected to Trump aides.

"They are willing to help if we/you would like a price." "Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money." "They will let me know when she's on the move."

These are a few of the text messages sent last spring between Robert Hyde, a Republican lobbyist from Connecticut, and Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman who says Mr. Trump put him at the center of the pressure campaign in Ukraine. The men were discussing the movements and electronic devices of Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine, whom Mr. Trump and his team saw as an obstacle to their efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Mr. Parnas claims he never believed Ms. Yovanovitch was in danger, and Mr. Hyde says he was just "joking around." But one month after the texts were sent, the State Department called Ms. Yovanovitch in Kyiv in the middle of the night, told her "there were great concerns" about her security and urged her to get on the next flight back home.

In early May, President Trump ousted Ms. Yovanovitch, whom he called "bad news." He has continued to attack her in tweets.




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The targeting of Ms. Yovanovitch is under investigation — by Ukrainian authorities, at least. Neither the Justice Department nor the State Department has announced an official inquiry into the matter, although on Thursday the F.B.I. visited Mr. Hyde's home and business.

Russians hacked the Ukrainian gas company central to the impeachment inquiry.

President Trump wanted Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce an investigation of Burisma, the gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat, as a way of enhancing his re-election prospects. The Times this week reported that Russian military hackers had bored into the email accounts of a number of Burisma subsidiaries, perhaps searching for material embarrassing to the Bidens. The tactics used were similar to those of Russian hackers in the 2016 campaign, when they breached the servers of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Ukraine has asked the F.B.I. to investigate.

President Trump personally directed the scheme to gather Ukrainian dirt on Joe Biden.

Mr. Trump and his allies have insisted that he was pursuing investigations of Joe and Hunter Biden, as well as of Ukraine's alleged interference in the 2016 election, not for any personal political reason but as part of the American government's longstanding efforts to address corruption in that country.

This claim was never believable, but now we know the president's own top aides debunked it. In a May letter, Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump's personal attorney, requested a meeting with Mr. Zelensky, then Ukraine's president-elect, "in my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent." Mr. Giuliani has been leading the charge to drum up charges of corruption by the Bidens, even visiting Ukraine to do more digging while the inquiry was underway. If Mr. Trump truly cared about rooting out systemic corruption, why was he sending his personal lawyer to do the job?

The answer is that the requested investigations were "a domestic political errand," as Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who worked for the Trump administration, testified before Congress during the impeachment hearings.

Nor were people like Mr. Parnas rogue actors. On Wednesday, Mr. Parnas told The Times, "I am betting my whole life that Trump knew exactly everything that was going on that Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine."

President Trump personally ordered the hold on the Ukraine aid, even though top White House officials disagreed over the wisdom and legality of that move.


Mr. Trump ordered the suspension of aid to Ukraine about 90 minutes after the July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky that provided the basis for the whistle-blower's complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry. The hold was put in place quietly because of the "sensitive nature of the request," according to a top budget official, and the president continued it despite significant debate among White House officials.

In a face-to-face meeting in August, John Bolton, the former national security adviser, urged the president to release the funds. "This is in America's interest," he said, according to The Times. It didn't work. "Clear direction from POTUS to hold," a budget official informed the Pentagon in late August.

The president broke the law by withholding the aid.

In a report released Thursday, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency, determined that Mr. Trump's decision to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine — spending that Congress had authorized — was illegal. "Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," the agency wrote.

At least one top Trump aide is willing to testify.

Mr. Bolton, whom Mr. Trump pushed out in September as the Ukraine scandal was unfurling, said that he would be willing to testify in a Senate trial. Mr. Bolton was a central figure in the administration last year and was reportedly disgusted by the Ukraine scheme, which he referred to as a "drug deal." He has firsthand knowledge of Mr. Trump's actions and motivations during that time. Curiously, while many Republicans complained that the House impeachment hearings consisted largely of "hearsay," almost none have expressed any interest in hearing from Mr. Bolton now.

All of this has come to light in barely four weeks. Imagine how much more the nation will learn in the next four.



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Juan

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson