Notorious D.J.T. on Trial ~ NYT


Fidget spinners and spinning Republicans make the best of a bad case for Donald John Trump.


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times


Republicans know very well who they are.

That’s why it was such a juicy moment when Hakeem Jeffries, the congressman from Brooklyn and Democratic impeachment manager, quoted a lyric by fellow B-town native son Biggie Smalls to rebut Jay Sekulow when the president’s lawyer disingenuously wondered, “Why are we here?”

Referring to the Democrats’ crystal-clear case that Donald Trump abused his power and corrupted the highest office in the land, Jeffries proclaimed, “And if you don’t know, now you know.”

I went to the press gallery one afternoon to check out the tableau vivant. The visitors’ gallery was only half full, and there was none of the passion and titillation that infused the Clinton impeachment, which also, oddly enough, revolved around a power disparity between two people.

One Democratic Senate staffer mourned the apathy. “Our phones aren’t ringing,” he told me. “Nobody cares. It’s the saddest thing ever.”

One side of the room seemed to be smirking.

Mitch McConnell is resorting to his Merrick Garland playbook. He’ll let the Democrats make all their noble points, but it’s Kabuki. Republicans have perfected the dark art of “There’s nothing to see here, just keep moving.” McConnell long ago choreographed the end, with Democrats losing the argument and the acquitted scoundrel triumphantly sweeping into the Capitol to make his State of the Union address.

At night, tipsy Republican staffers treated Senate office buildings as a pub crawl, roaming the halls with celebratory bottles of wine.

Some Republicans were paying attention at the trial — or wanted to be seen paying attention. Susan Collins was glued to the proceedings, as was the senator to her left in a magma-colored shawl, Lisa Murkowski. Republicans like Collins who are vulnerable in 2020 have to be alert and figure out how to find their way out of the hearings without doing more political harm. A Trump confidant told CBS News that Republican senators were warned, “Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.”

Seated at the back of the class, Mitt Romney looked dutiful, and the thought must have crossed his mind that’s he’s in a position to inflict payback on Trump for calling him “a pompous ass” and tricking him into an interview for secretary of state only to humiliate him. (Revenge is a dish best served with milk.)

But more senators on the Republican side were telegraphing boredom.

Lindsey Graham yawned and rearranged his yellow pencil and went on walkabouts, later telling reporters, “About the fourth time you tell me the same thing is twice too much.” He cleaved to his lap-dog role, saying preposterously of Trump: “What he wants to do is get to the truth.”

Tom Cotton played with the fidget spinner Richard Burr had handed out to all the Republicans. Marsha Blackburn and others left to trash the proceedings on Fox News.

The senators in the Democratic presidential race could not have been happy to be stuck there, either. Bernie Sanders, accustomed to making like Leonard Bernstein at big rallies and upset he’s not in Iowa to relish his surge, had a hard time keeping his hands still, moving them restlessly, silently clapping, and finally holding them together on his chest over his blue sweater.

But heads on both sides did snap to attention whenever that unholy, jangly, self-impeaching peal, so inescapable in the last three years, rang out in the hallowed chamber. Trump’s voice was impossible to ignore when the House impeachment managers played incriminating video clips of the human fidget spinner himself, sometimes howling over the blades of his chopper on the South Lawn.

So many people in this very room had tried and failed, or are now trying, to vanquish the guy. Romney, Cruz, Rubio, Graham, Klobuchar, Sanders, Bennet, Booker, Gillibrand, Warren, Harris. Trump had savaged all his fellow Republicans and yet here they were listening to an unending recitation of his crimes and coming out to be his Praetorian guard.

Adam Schiff tried to warn the former nemeses turned defenders of Trump that if the president is not removed, he could turn on them the way he had turned on Marie Yovanovitch and Joe Biden, using the power of the presidency to cheat, lie and smear. (Now Rudy’s buddy Lev Parnas says he has forked over to congressional Democrats a 2018 recording of Trump personally ordering Yovanovitch to be fired.)

“The next time, it just may be you,” Schiff told the Republican senators. “Do you think he wouldn’t ask you to be investigated? Do you think for a moment that he wouldn’t?”

Schiff also reminded Republicans that Trump had inverted their dogma, embracing the Evil Empire and authoritarianism and trusting Crazy Rudy’s conspiracy theories over his own intelligence services.

“You don’t realize how important character is in the highest office in the land until you don’t have it,” Schiff said.

But the more impressive the Democrats’ case is, the more depressing the reality becomes. They want to convince themselves that character matters. But many Americans knew they were voting for a thug. They wanted a thug who would bust up Washington, and they got one.

The Democrats are relying on facts, but the Republicans are relying on Fox.

And if you don’t know, now you know.

The Democrats Best Choices For President ~ NYT Editorial board

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American voters must choose between three sharply divergent visions of the future.

The incumbent president, Donald Trump, is clear about where he is guiding the Republican Party — white nativism at home and America First unilateralism abroad, brazen corruption, escalating culture wars, a judiciary stacked with ideologues and the veneration of a mythological past where the hierarchy in American society was defined and unchallenged.

On the Democratic side, an essential debate is underway between two visions that may define the future of the party and perhaps the nation. Some in the party view President Trump as an aberration and believe that a return to a more sensible America is possible.

Then there are those who believe that President Trump was the product of political and economic systems so rotten that they must be replaced.

[Watch the endorsement process on “The Weekly,” streaming on Hulu.]

The Democratic primary contest is often portrayed as a tussle between moderates and progressives. To some extent that’s true. But when we spent significant time with the leading candidates, the similarity of their platforms on fundamental issues became striking.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Cooper roasts GOP lawmaker for ‘liberal hack’ jab at reporter

~~~  WATCH  ~~~

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Anderson Cooper chastised Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) for calling CNN’s Manu Rajua “liberal hack” when asked about considering new evidence for President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.

Trump’s Evil Is Contagious ~ opinion .. Tim Egan, NYT

The president has shown us exactly what happens when good people do nothing.


Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times


It passed with the usual shrug by the usual handmaidens of hatred when the president of the world’s most powerful democracy threatened to commit war crimes by bombing Iranian cultural sites — the kind of barbarism practiced by the Taliban and rogue-state thugs.

After being told that he would be in violation of Geneva Convention rules that the United States had helped to create back when America was actually great, President Trump relented, but still wondered: Why not?

The warlord-in-chief had already gone out of his way to protect a Navy SEAL member who’d been accused of committing war crimes. And what kind of man did the president upend the military code of justice for?

The guy is freaking evil,” one fellow SEAL told investigators, referring to Special Operations chief Edward Gallagher, who was convicted of posing with the corpse of a teenage boy who’d been killed in his custody. After the presidential intervention, the formerly shamed serviceman was posing at Mar-a-Lago.


On any given day, Trump is vindictive, ignorant, narcissistic, a fraud — well, his pathologies are well known. But it’s time to apply the same word to him as the brave Navy man did to the renegade in his unit. Under Trump, the United States is a confederacy of corruption, driven by a thousand points of evil. And that evil is contagious.

We all grew up hearing an ageless warning about public morality: that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

The presumed outcome is reassuring, a story we tell ourselves. But in the last three years, that homily has been proven right, in the country where it was not supposed to happen. The Trump presidency has shown just how many ostensibly good people will do nothing, and how evil, when given a free rein at the top, trickles down.

When Trump retweeted a Photoshopped image of the two most important Democratic leaders of Congress dressed in Islamic garb in front of the Iranian flag, there was no chorus of condemnation from his side. Here was a graphic lie, a cheap defamation, the kind of dirty little trick that politicians usually give to the felon operating under the radar. For Trump, it was just another Monday.

Was it politics, or evil, when candidate Trump smeared a Gold Star family in 2016? Was it a mere shift in public policy, or evil, when Trump allowed people acting in our name to put children in cages and separate them from their mothers?

Was it mere theatrics to revel in a chant of “Lock her up,” about Hillary Clinton, who has now been exonerated, twice, by federal investigators? Was it normal for the 44th successor of a president who could not tell a lie, to lie more than 15,000 times?

Trump has so desensitized us that a day without a round of blunt force cruelty from the White House is newsworthy. And now it all comes to a boil in the impeachment trial. The facts are not in dispute: Trump tried to force a struggling democracy into doing his political dirty work for him. He tried to squeeze a foreign power into meddling in our election. What is very much in doubt is whether enough good people will do something.

In the process of this high crime, Trump broke the law, as a nonpartisan congressional watchdog reported Thursday. The greater evil is the violation of the lofty purpose written into this country’s founding documents. The smaller evils are the Republican senators who know the president violated his oath and deserves to be impeached, but don’t have the guts to say so.

“Do not, as my party did, underestimate the evil, desperate nature of evil, desperate people,” writes Rick Wilson, the Republican operative and witty Never-Trumper, in “Running Against the Devil,” his new book. “There is no bottom. There is no shame. There are no limits.”

As for the contagion of evil, you need not look far. In Texas this month, Gov. Greg Abbott said his state would become the first to refuse to take in even a small number of legal, fully vetted refugees. These are people who’ve been approved by the federal government for asylum, after being displaced by war, famine or persecution. In the past, people from Vietnam, Cuba and Africa have been welcomed, and have gone on to become some of our finest citizens.

A handful of citizens, the Catholic Church, some members of Congress, objected. “Accepting refugees with open arms — giving without keeping score — is who we are as Americans,” tweeted Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, herself an immigrant.

Sorry, that’s not who we are as Americans in the Trump era. When the hate flag is flying, most of Trump’s followers have stood up and saluted.

Here’s the two-step that all good people must take now: First, realize the level of depravity that has taken over the White House, and second, fight accordingly.

“Do not come to this fight believing that the Trump team views any action, including outright criminality, as off limits,” writes Wilson. This doesn’t mean you have to cheat, lie, or coerce. But it means you do have to fight, or be counted among the do-nothings who allowed evil to flourish.

Timothy Egan (@nytegan) is a contributing opinion writer who covers the environment, the American West and politics. He is a winner of the National Book Award and author, most recently, of “A Pilgrimage to Eternity.”


Ann Telnaes: All roads lead to Giuliani

Text messages and documents provided to Congress by Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas show Giuliani’s efforts to get material in Ukraine he could use to attack President Trump’s Democratic opponents

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Witnesses!! … are we going to let the republicans get away with continued dishonesty?

Republicans for the Rule of Law has been running a pair of ads:

The Lincoln Project, a Republican-founded group, whose list of advisers include Steve Schmidt and George Conway, has been running this hard-hitting ad against Gardner:

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