February 2020 News



Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative February 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.

Feb. 2

Impeachment Headlines

djt impeachment graphic

World News Headlines

2020 Election Headlines

#MeToo Media Scandals


Impeachment Trial Excerpts

washington post logous senate logoWashington Post, Trump’s impending acquittal could have profound ramifications for future presidents, Philip Rucker, Feb. 2, 2020.  Historians and legal experts say the Senate is poised to lower the bar for permissible conduct on the part of the nation’s leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans defend vote to bar new evidence as Trump acquittal vote nears, Felicia Sonmez and Rachael Bade​, Feb. 2, 2020. In interviews, several key Republicans — including Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) — argued that while Trump’s behavior was problematic, it was not impeachable.

Senate Republicans on Sunday acknowledged President Trump was wrong to pressure Ukraine for his own political benefit, even as they defended their decision to prohibit new evidence in the impeachment trial while pressing ahead with the president’s all-but-certain acquittal.

The remarks from key Republicans — including Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) — came after the Trump administration revealed the existence of emails that could shed light on the president’s reasons for withholding military aid to Ukraine.

“I’m going to vote to acquit,” Alexander said in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m very concerned about any action that we could take that would establish a perpetual impeachment in the House of Representatives whenever the House was a different party than the president. That would immobilize the Senate.”

washington post logomitch mcconnell2Washington Post, Inside the Senate trial: How McConnell and enough Republicans blocked witnesses, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade, Feb. 2, 2020.  Sen. Mitt Romney, a near-lone GOP voice in seeking witnesses for the trial, was an outlier in a party bound to President Trump and unwilling to challenge him. That political reality helped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hold his conference together.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Senate impeachment trial was rigged! Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). In the end, they didn’t dana milbank Customeven pretend to take their oaths seriously.

Senators were instructed “to be in attendance at all times” during President Trump’s impeachment trial. But as the Democratic House managers made their last, fruitless appeals Friday for the Senate to bring witnesses and documents, several of the body’s 53 Republican senators didn’t even bother to show up.

“A trial is supposed to be a quest for the truth,” lead manager Adam Schiff pleaded.

joni ernst oThirteen GOP senators were missing as he said this. Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), left, and Ron Johnson (Wis.) chewed gum.

Manager Val Demings (Fla.) reminded them that this would be the “only time in history” that an impeachment trial was held without witnesses or relevant documents.

us senate logoTwelve Republican senators were missing. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) joined in the chewing.

This was an ugly end to an ugly trial. It began with bold promises by the president’s lawyers to prove there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine. When former national security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript, with firsthand evidence of the quid pro quo, made that impossible, key Republicans fell back to a new position: Trump’s guilt doesn’t matter.

Now that the Senate has accepted the White House argument that Trump’s cheating in the election is “perfectly permissible,” why wouldn’t Trump continue to cheat? Why would anybody have faith that the 2020 election will be on the level?

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Pummels Wuhan, a City Short of Supplies and Overwhelmed, Staff report, Feb. 2, 2020. Hospitals are running out of test kits and sending people home with fevers, our China correspondent writes from the epicenter of the outbreak. And the long lines for testing and treatment suggest the outbreak is spreading far beyond the official count of cases.

washington post logoWashington Post, China infections could grow exponentially; fatality reported in Philippines, Anna Fifield​, Feb. 2, 2020. The number of infections in china flag SmallChina now stands at nearly 14,400, and 304 people have died.

The Philippines and New Zealand have both joined the list of countries that have sharply restricted entry to people traveling from or through China, as the number of cases confirmed outside the mainland continues to grow. Meanwhile, inside China, the number of reported cases has grown rapidly, and scientists predict that exponentially more have been infected. Here is what we know:

● There are almost 14,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China, including 10 on the self-governing island of Taiwan, with more than 300 dead. A new study says that as many as 75,815 people in Wuhan may have been infected.

● The World Health Organization reports roughly 130 confirmed cases of the virus in more than 20 countries outside of China and Taiwan. The Philippines reported the first death attributable to the virus outside of China. New cases confirmed in South Korea and India.

webster tarpley 2007World Crisis Radio, Opinion: New Russian Premier Mishastin Closes 4,000 km Land Border with China to Prevent Proliferation of Wuhan Coronavirus, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 2, 2020. World Health Organization Declares China Outbreak a Public Health Epidemic of International Concern, Its Highest Level of Emergency; Italy Halts All Flight Traffic from China; In Chicago, First U.S. Human to Human Transfer Confirmed; Almost a Score of Countries Are Now Infected.

WHO Secretary General Dr. Tedros of Ethiopia Kow-Tows to Xi on Real Issues of Chinese Coverup and Bungling of Response to Epidemic; Call It the “Belt and Road Pandemic”; China’s Infamous “Wet Markets” Stocked with Exotic Live Animals Including Bats and Civet Cats Are a Menace to Humanity and Must Be Banned at Once!

American Airlines Pilots’ Union Demands Halt of China Flights to U.S.; Trump Must Stop Appeasing Xi and Protect Americans; British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and Other Carriers Stop China Service; Starbucks Closes 2,000 Coffee Shops

washington post logoWashington Post, Kenya’s blood banks are running dry after the U.S. ended aid — and a baby’s life is in danger, Max Bearak and Rael Ombuor, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, New U.S. Travel Ban Shuts Door on Africa’s Biggest Economy, Nigeria, Staff report, Feb. 2, 2020. The visa rules will affect nearly a quarter of the people on the African continent, including many hoping to join loved ones already in the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why the land mine, a persistent killer of civilians, is coming back under Trump, Alex Horton, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Land mines are designed to kill and injure enemy forces. But if they remain where they were placed, they often kill, maim and blind civilians years or even decades later.

In the last hours of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.S. forces encountered a problem of the Pentagon’s making: They had surged toward Iraqi positions so quickly that they were encountering their own land mines dropped from friendly aircraft.

“Coalition aircraft and enemy [antiaircraft artillery] have littered the Corps area of operations with dangerous unexploded ammunition,” read an Army advisory on Feb. 28, 1991. “Extreme caution must be exercised in moving/maneuvering through areas where air strikes have been conducted.”

Since then, most of the world — the United States being an exception — has banned the production and use of land mines because of their threat to civilians long after wars end.

So the Trump administration’s decision this week to expand the use of land mines has baffled and angered humans rights and arms control groups, which say the decision further imperils anyone who may encounter the weapons.

In 2018, nearly 20 civilians were killed or injured every day by land mines and other unexploded ordnance remnants, such as cluster munitions, according to the International Coalition to Ban Landmines. That is almost certainly a conservative number. Children represented 40 percent of the casualties, the group reported.

Land mine use and production are banned by 164 countries. The United States is not one of them, but Obama-era restrictions only allowed anti-personnel land mines to be used in defense of the Korean Peninsula and called for destroying stockpiles that were not meant for that defense. The new Trump policy reverses those regulations.

South Front, Syrian Army Repels Al-Julani-Initiated Attack On Aleppo City (Photos), Staff and wire reports, Feb. 2, 2020. Late on February 1, the Syrian syrian flag wavingArab Army (SAA) repelled al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) large-scale attack on the northern city of Aleppo. The army held onto its positions in the district of al-Zahraa, the main target of the attack, after more than six hours of heavy clashes. HTS and its allies failed to capture any position in the district, that’s located in Aleppo’s northwestern entrance.

Hundreds of HTS’ elite militants participated in the offensive, which witnessed the use of three suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) against army troops.

HTS’ leader Abu Mohamad al-Julani was present along the frontline in northwest Aleppo to lead the attack in person. The terrorist appeared in a propaganda video released by the group’s news network, Iba’a. The failure of the attack is a major blow to HTS and its leadership, especially al-Julani. The attack was likely nothing more than a propaganda stunt to amass public support for the terrorist, who has been leading Greater Idlib militants from a defeat to another for more than three years.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Iowa Caucuses Work, Staff report, Feb. 2, 2020. On Monday, Democrats will pick their Democratic presidential nominees at more than 1,600 precincts across Iowa. Here is how that will play out in one middle school gym.

  • New York Times, Iowa will have 4 sets of results. Here’s how The Times will declare a winner.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: More Money, More Problems for Democracy, Editorial Board, Feb. 2, 2020. Countering private campaign funding with public campaign funding is the most viable way to limit the political influence of the wealthy. There is a straight line from the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case to a dinner party the president attended at the Trump International Hotel in Washington in April 2018.

The dinner has attracted attention because Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani — took the opportunity to press Mr. Trump to remove Marie Yovanovitch as the American ambassador to Ukraine as part of a plan to make money from natural gas. That, in turn, is part of the larger saga that has resulted in Mr. Trump’s impeachment for his later efforts to compel Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

But the dinner also provides a clear view of the ways in which the wealthy seek to influence politicians and politicians gather donations, particularly in the wake of Citizens United. That ruling, handed down almost exactly 10 years ago, allows corporations to spend freely on electioneering, provided the money is not given directly to a candidate or a political party. It is the most famous in a set of recent Supreme Court rulings that have made it far easier for wealthy individuals and corporations to translate their economic power into political power.

The economic inequalities of modern America increasingly are manifest in our politics, too.

At the dinner, donors willing to spend lavishly in support of Mr. Trump’s re-election had the chance to seek the president’s help in placing their own interests above the public interest.

A billionaire whose steel-making company donated $1.75 million to secure his place urged the president to tighten restrictions on steel imports and to let truck drivers work longer hours.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: For Better or Worse, Trump Will Get His Favorite Things on Super Bowl Sunday, Will Leitch, His pregame interview with Sean Hannity offers unfettered airtime in front of a huge national audience. This Sunday afternoon, before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, President Trump will speak with Sean Hannity on Fox, the network airing the Super Bowl. As you might suspect, this interview will be a much more insular enterprise. Mr. Trump speaks regularly with Mr. Hannity, who is seen as an informal but influential adviser, and Mr. Hannity has been in return a staunch, unyielding defender of the president.

It will mark the third time Mr. Trump will do the traditional interview before America’s annual television holiday; he spoke to Mr. O’Reilly in 2017, took 2018 off because the game was aired on NBC, and famously told Margaret Brennan of CBS that he wouldn’t allow his son Barron to play football because it’s “really tough” and “a dangerous sport.”

This year’s Super Bowl comes at an amazing moment, a confluence of political circumstances and events that give this particular bully pulpit a power and a spotlight it hasn’t had in years. With impeachment, the Iowa caucuses and the State of the Union all on deck, Mr. Trump will have a stage, and a famously pliant interviewer, that is unparalleled in American culture. He couldn’t ask for a more ideal year for it to be Fox’s turn to air the game.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘S.N.L.’ Imagines the Impeachment Trial That Could Have Been, Dave Itzkoff, Feb. 2, 2020. On Super Bowl weekend, Alec Baldwin returned to play President Trump in an episode that also featured several football-themed sketches. If you ended the week hoping that President Trump’s impeachment trial would go on longer, this weekend’s opening “Saturday Night Live” sketch imagined just such a scenario: a parade of self-serving witnesses that wasn’t necessarily an improvement.

This week’s episode, hosted by J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and featuring the musical guest Luke Combs, began with a voice-over lamenting that the president’s trial “wound up consisting of two weeks of dry debate and posturing, and will conclude without any witness testimony or new evidence.” Instead, the sketch promised “the trial you wish had happened.”

#MeToo Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Katherine Rosman, Sapna Maheshwari and James B. Stewart, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Victoria’s Secret defined femininity for millions of women. Its catalog and fashion shows were popular touchstones. For models, landing a spot as an “Angel” all but guaranteed international stardom.

But inside the company, two powerful men presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.

edward razekEd Razek, right, for decades one of the top executives at L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, was the subject of repeated complaints about inappropriate conduct. He tried to kiss models. He asked them to sit on his lap. He touched one’s crotch ahead of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Executives said they had alerted Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands, about his deputy’s pattern of behavior. Some women who complained faced retaliation. One model, Andi Muise, said Victoria’s Secret had stopped hiring her victorias secret logofor its fashion shows after she rebuffed Mr. Razek’s advances.

A number of the brand’s models agreed to pose nude, often without being paid, for a prominent Victoria’s Secret photographer who later used some pictures in an expensive coffee-table book — an arrangement that made L Brands executives uncomfortable about women feeling pressured to take their clothes off.

The atmosphere was set at the top. Mr. Razek, the chief marketing officer, was perceived as Mr. Wexner’s proxy, leaving many employees with the impression he was invincible, according to current and former employees. On multiple occasions, Mr. Wexner himself was heard demeaning women.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: An indictment of education reformers, and a call to fight back, Melanie McCabe, Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Diane Ravitch offers disturbing and inspiring tales from the battle over public schools.

In the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, a young man confronts a Philistine giant who has terrorized the people of Israel. No one thinks there is any hope of taking on Goliath until David steps forward. Rejecting the offer of heavy body armor because it weighs him down, David instead faces the outsize enemy armed with just his trusty slingshot and five smooth stones. With one well-aimed shot and against all odds, he takes Goliath down.

This is the tale Diane Ravitch alludes to with her title, “Slaying Goliath,” and the choice is apt. She has written a thought-provoking, painstakingly researched account of those who have sought to privatize and monetize America’s schools. She calls them the “Disrupters,” and they are indeed a foe with all the intimidating strength of Goliath. Confronting this opponent is the “Resistance”: the ordinary teachers, parents and citizens who are fighting back and winning.

Ravitch exposes the self-serving motivations of the Disrupters — many of them among the richest people in America, such as the Walton family, Bill Gates, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers and Mark Zuckerberg. Their belief that schools should be operated as businesses, with private ownership and data-driven decision-making, has resulted in dismal standardized test scores, the closure of public schools and the demonizing of teachers. The charter schools they have championed and have been enriched by have not resulted in promised improvements, but instead have drained much-needed funds from struggling public schools. The Disrupters are not supporters of education, Ravitch argues; rather, they pursue the money to be made not only by running charter schools but also through involvement in such lucrative industries as student testing, educational hardware and software, curriculum development, and consulting services.

Melanie McCabe is an English teacher at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., and the author of “His Other Life: Searching for My Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Five myths about the U.S. Senate, Kathy Kiely (chair in free press studies at the Missouri School of Journalism), Feb. 2, 2020 (print ed.). No, it is not the world’s “greatest deliberative body” — and it’s not stuck in the past.

President Trump’s impeachment trial has put international focus on the U.S. Senate, an institution that ordinarily attracts far less attention than the one it’s meant to keep in check at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. During the many lulls in the constitutional drama, the media has drawn on the Senate’s storied history and quirky customs as filler chatter in their commentary. That creates a reassuring sense of continuity — a picture of Congress’s upper chamber as a steady, if eccentric, guardian of the people’s freedoms. But the Senate has changed. Understanding just how much requires cutting though a fog of nostalgic mythology.

Myth No. 1: The Senate is the world’s ‘greatest deliberative body.’ Often attributed to President James Buchanan, this description has been parroted by senators in speeches and editorials, and made it onto the chamber’s official website. No less an authority than Chief Justice John Roberts rolled out this hoary cliche when he recently admonished House managers and the president’s lawyers to “remember where they are.”

Never mind that members of the British Parliament might take exception to this self-serving characterization. The real problem is that debate is a participatory sport, and most senators simply aren’t engaging: C-SPAN daily reveals the embarrassing sight of Congress’s nearly empty upper chamber. One of the most remarkable aspects of the impeachment spectacle is that it has brought all the members of the Senate into the chamber at the same time; normally, you’d be lucky to find three. And their well-documented fidgetiness demonstrates that senators have lost the habit of sitting in their well-appointed chamber and listening.

The Senate’s reputation as a great debating society has largely been based on the rules that give its 100 members unlimited time to discuss whatever topic they choose, as longtime congressional historian Ray Smock has noted. But the only way you’re likely to see one of the Senate’s fabled talkathons these days is by rewatching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” thanks to recent attacks on the filibuster by majority leaders of both parties, who have been frustrated by the use of the parliamentary move to block votes on legislation and nominees.

The Hill, Montana state GOP lawmaker says Constitution calls for socialists to be jailed, shot, Aris Folley, Feb. 2, 2020. A Republican state representative from Montana is coming under fire from his own party after he reportedly claimed earlier this weekend that the Constitution calls for socialists to be jailed or shot.

According to the Billings Gazette, state Rep. Rodney Garcia (R-Mont.) first made the remark after expressing concerns about socialists he said were “entering our government” and their presence in his district at an event on Friday.

republican elephant logoHe reportedly reiterated his remarks when pressed about his previous comments in an interview with a reporter for the local publication on Saturday.

“So actually in the Constitution of the United States (if) they are found guilty of being a socialist member you either go to prison or are shot,” the Montana Republican said.

Though he was reportedly unable to show what portion of the Constitution he was citing to back his claim, he continued to double down on his comments in the interview, saying, “They’re enemies of the free state.”

“What do we do with our enemies in war? In Vietnam, (Afghanistan), all those. What did we do?” he continued.

“I agree with my Constitution. That’s what makes us free. We’re not a democracy, we’re a Republic Constitution,” he also said.

The Montana Republican Party criticized Garcia in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday.

“Under no circumstance is violence against someone with opposing political views acceptable,” Spenser Merwin, executive director of the group, told the news agency.

“It’s disappointing that this isolated incident took away from the weekend’s events which showcased the strength of our statewide candidates and the importance of the upcoming election,” he added.

The Montana Democratic Party also took aim at the Republican lawmaker, who reportedly has a history of local controversies, according to the Billings Gazette.

“Rodney Garcia has brazenly flaunted his conviction for a domestic dispute, called single moms deadbeats, and was only elected because he created an illegal campaign cash scam,” Robyn Driscoll, who chairs the party, told the Billings Gazette. “Now he’s publicly calling for people to be shot.”

Feb. 1

Impeachment Headlines

djt impeachment graphic

World News Headlines

2020 U.S. Elections

#MeToo Media Scandals


Impeachment Trial Excerpts mitch mcConnell impeachment cspan Custom

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Block Impeachment Witnesses, Clearing Path for Trump Acquittal, Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats Fail in Push to Bolster Case; Final Vote Is Expected Wednesday; The motion to consider more witnesses and documents failed, 49 to 51. Only Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney joined Democrats in favor. Senators said they had settled on a schedule that would end President Trump’s trial on Wednesday, after closing arguments early next week.

us senate logoThe Senate brought President Trump to the brink of acquittal on Friday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress, as Republicans voted to block consideration of new witnesses and documents in his impeachment trial and shut down a final push by Democrats to bolster their case for the president’s removal.

In a nearly party-line vote after a bitter debate, Democrats failed to win support from the four Republicans they needed. With Mr. Trump’s acquittal virtually certain, the president’s allies rallied to his defense, though some conceded he was guilty of the central allegations against him.

The Democrats’ push for more witnesses and documents failed 49 to 51, with only two Republicans, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, joining Democrats in favor. A vote on the verdict is planned for Wednesday.

As they approached the final stage of the third presidential impeachment proceeding in United States history, Democrats condemned the witness vote and said it would render Mr. Trump’s trial illegitimate and his acquittal meaningless.

“America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, when the Senate turned away from truth and went along with a sham trial,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “If the president is acquitted, with no witnesses, no documents, the acquittal will have no value because Americans will know that this trial was not a real trial.”

Even as they prepared to vote against removing him, several Republicans challenged Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions that he had done nothing wrong, saying they believed he had committed the main offense of which he was accused: withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

Still, those Republicans said, they were unwilling to remove a president fewer than 10 months before he is to face voters.

“If you are persuaded that he did it, why do you need more witnesses?” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, a critical swing vote on the issue whose late decision to oppose considering new evidence all but sealed Mr. Trump’s swift acquittal. “The country is not going to accept being told that they can’t elect the president they want to elect in the week the election starts by a majority for a merely inappropriate telephone call or action.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate set to acquit Trump next week after bid for witnesses is defeated, Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Feb. republican elephant logo1, 2020 (print ed.). Final vote on articles of impeachment planned for Wednesday. Soon the questions surrounding Trump’s actions toward Ukraine will move from the Senate floor to the campaign trail, where voters instead will weigh the evidence in the heat of the 2020 presidential election.

The Senate voted to bar new evidence in the impeachment trial Friday, paving the way for President Trump’s acquittal even as several top Republicans acknowledged that his actions toward Ukraine were not appropriate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The day that sealed things for Trump’s impeachment, Amber Phillips, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate won’t hear from witnesses, so now it’s the beginning of the end of President Trump’s trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Endangered Republicans go all-in on Trump, rallying to his side in the final days of impeachment fight, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans are calculating that a strong economy and an energized pro-Trump base are their only credible path to victory in November.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Republicans agree it was no ‘perfect call’ — but will vote to acquit Trump anyway
  • Washington Post, Analysis: ‘A permanent asterisk’: Acquittal at hand, Democrats sow doubt about Trump trial, Mike DeBonis, Feb. 1, 2020. Top Democratic leaders are arguing that a trial without witnesses should not allow Trump to claim vindication.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: A Dishonorable Senate, Editorial Board, Feb. 1, 2020. Republican legislators have emboldened the president to cheat in the 2020 election.

us senate logoOn Friday evening, Republican senators voted in near lock step to block testimony from any new witnesses or the production of any new documents, a vote that was tantamount to an acquittal of the impeachment charges against President Trump. The move can only embolden the president to cheat in the 2020 election.

The vote also brings the nation face to face with the reality that the Senate has become nothing more than an arena for the most base and brutal — and stupid — power politics. Faced with credible evidence that a president was abusing his powers, it would not muster the institutional self-respect to even investigate.

The week began with such promise, or at least with the possibility the Senate might not abdicate its constitutional duty. Leaks from John Bolton’s forthcoming book about his time in the White House appeared to confirm the core of the impeachment case against Mr. Trump: his extortion of Ukraine by explicitly conditioning hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid on the announcement of investigations into his political rival.

For a moment, it seemed that enough Senate Republicans would come to their senses, listen to the overwhelming majority of Americans, and demand to hear testimony under oath from Mr. Bolton and maybe even other key witnesses to Mr. Trump’s Ukraine scheme.

How could senators cast such a consequential vote — how could they call what they were doing a trial — without hearing from the people with the most direct knowledge of the actions that led to impeachment? Every impeachment trial in American history had included witnesses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Bolton faces potential legal battles in standoff with White House over his book, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Derek Hawkins, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). John Bolton could face legal challenges as he pushes ahead with a book describing conversations he claims to have had with President Trump while serving as his national security adviser, experts said, setting the conservative icon on a potential collision course with the administration he once served.

john bolton surrender is not an optionBolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is still scheduled to be released in March, even after the National Security Council warned his attorney last week that it will have to be revised because it contained “significant amounts” of classified material. Bolton’s lawyer has disputed that.

Amid the standoff, details about the contents of his manuscript are continuing to leak out, with the New York Times reporting Friday that Trump directed Bolton in May to call the Ukrainian president and urge him to meet with Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Trump denied Bolton’s account. “I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, to meet with President Zelensky,” the president said in a statement.

As Trump and his GOP allies have lambasted Bolton, the former national security adviser has sounded a defiant note. During a private appearance in Austin on Thursday, he defended administration officials who testified during the impeachment proceedings.

“The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have — I think, is very nearly the reverse — the exact reverse of the truth,” Bolton said, according to Austin’s KXAN television station.

Palmer Report, Prediction: John Bolton will testify to the House, Bill Palmer, Feb. 1, 2020. Back when the Republican Senate was still deliberating witnesses, Palmer Report pointed out that there were only three possible outcomes. 1) John Bolton would testify to the Senate during the impeachment trial. 2) Bolton would testify to the House after the trial. 3) Bolton would pick a respected TV talk show and “testify” that way.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat did we base this on? John Bolton has a new book to promote, and no book author ever turns down a chance to appear on television to promote their new book. Whatever you think of how Bolton has handled himself up to this point, and whatever you think of him in general, he’s going to end up talking about Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal on television.

On Friday evening, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell took things a step further. He flatly stated that John Bolton will end up testifying under oath to the House. He’s right of course. It’s impossible to imagine a scenario in which Nancy Pelosi and the House don’t call Bolton to testify in televised public hearings. And again, whatever you think of Bolton’s other motivations, he’s not going to turn down the opportunity to promote his book by testifying.

Republican Senators know darn well that one way or the other, John Bolton will end up spilling his guts about Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal in front of the television cameras. The GOP Senators made the calculation that they’ll be better off if Bolton doesn’t do it to their faces. So be it. They’ve placed their bets. Now we get to help make sure it all goes horribly wrong for them heading into 2020.

john bolton light suit Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The president asked his national security adviser last spring in front of other senior advisers to pave the way for a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine’s new leader.

More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.

john bolton surrender is not an optionMr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.

The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine, as he later did on the July call with Mr. Zelensky that triggered a whistle-blower complaint and impeachment proceedings. House Democrats have accused him of abusing his authority and are arguing their case before senators in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

The account in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from. And disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.

In a brief interview, Mr. Giuliani, below left, denied that the conversation took place and said those discussions with the president were always kept separate. He was adamant that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Mulvaney were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine.

rudy giuliani recent“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he said.

Mr. Bolton described the roughly 10-minute conversation in drafts of his book, a memoir of his time as national security adviser that is to go on sale in March. Over several pages, Mr. Bolton laid out Mr. Trump’s fixation on Ukraine and the president’s belief, based on a mix of scattershot events, assertions and outright conspiracy theories, that Ukraine tried to undermine his chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

As he began to realize the extent and aims of the pressure campaign, Mr. Bolton began to object, he wrote in the book, affirming the testimony of a former National Security Council aide, Fiona Hill, who had said that Mr. Bolton warned that Mr. Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Trump also repeatedly made national security decisions contrary to American interests, Mr. Bolton wrote, describing a pervasive sense of alarm among top advisers about the president’s choices. Mr. Bolton expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, right, and Xi Jinping of China.

recep erdogan with flagThe New York Times reported this week on another revelation from Mr. Bolton’s book draft: that Mr. Trump told him in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter. That account undercuts a key element of the White House impeachment defense — that the aid holdup was joe biden oseparate from his requests for inquiries. Mr. Trump has denied the conversation took place.

Since that Times article, people who have reviewed the draft have further described its contents, including details of the May meeting. Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was sent to the White House for a standard review process in late December.

Its revelations galvanized the debate over whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, but late on Thursday, Republicans appeared to have secured enough votes to keep any new testimony out of Mr. Trump’s trial and to move toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The White House has sought to block the release of the book, contending that it contains classified information. The government reviews books by former officials who had access to secrets so they can excise the manuscripts of any classified information. Officials including Mr. Trump have described Mr. Bolton, who was often at odds with Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney, as a disgruntled former official with an ax to grind.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Senate Votes to Prevent Testimony by Bolton and Mulvaney by Vote of 51 to 49, with Democrats Sticking Together, webster tarpley 2007Webster G. Tarpley, right, Feb. 1, 2020. Worse Than Kafka: GOP Fanatics Admit Trump’s Ukraine Caper Was Impeachable, but Refuse to Seek Witnesses or Documentary Evidence; Bolton Memo Tells of Early May 2019 Meeting of Trump with Giuliani, Mulvaney, and Cipollone Where Tenant of Oval Ordered NSC Director to Ask Ukraine’s President-Elect Zelensky for Meeting with Rudy; Bolton Claims He Never Complied; Cipollone Could Face Professional Sanctions

No Place for Republicans in America’s Future; Extinction on Model of Federalists, Whigs, and Know-Nothings Looms; With Trump, the Smoking Gun Is Only as Far as the Next Witnesses, Says Schiff.


lev parnas joseph bondi msnbc

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Parnas lawyer offers McConnell info ‘directly relevant’ to trial, Steve Benen, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). The lawyer for Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani associate who helped execute Donald Trump’s Ukraine scheme, reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this afternoon, sending him a letter signaling what Parnas would say if he’s allowed to testify in the trial as a witness under oath. From the letter (pdf):

“If Lev Parnas was called as a witness, he would provide testimony based upon personal knowledge, corroborated by physical evidence including text messages, phone records, documentary evidence, and travel records, which is directly relevant to the president’s impeachment inquiry. This would include, but is not limited to, the genesis of his relationship with President Trump and the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his actions in Ukraine on behalf of the president, as directed by Mr. Giuliani.

“Mr. Parnas would testify to the efforts he and a handful of Republican operatives engaged in over a period of months, to remove Ambassador mike pence oMarie Yovanovitch and gather ‘dirt’ on Joe and Hunter Biden. Mr. Parnas would testify that those holding various roles in this plot included GOP super PAC America First, President Trump, Vice President Pence [right], former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes, Nunes’ Staffer Derrick Harvey, Journalist John Soloman, Attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, Mr. Giuliani, and others. He is prepared to review and explain relevant phone records, text messages, and other evidence in connection with these activities.”

Joseph Bondy’s letter, which was also directed to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), went on to say Parnas would be able to detail “the thousands of micro-steps he took in connection with this plan” to gather information on the Bidens. This would include, according to today’s correspondence, “the times and places where he had overheard [Trump] speaking Mr. Giuliani, and the occasions on which he interacted directly with the president.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. acknowledges 24 emails reveal Trump’s thinking on Ukraine, Colby Itkowitz​, Feb. 1, 2020. The Department of Justice argued in a court filing that unredacted copies of those emails are protected by “presidential privilege” and should not be released.

Naples Daily News, Ahead of Naples visit, ex-Trump chief of staff John Kelly reiterates call for witness testimony at impeachment trial, Dave john kelly o dhsOsborn, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Witnesses should be allowed to testify in the impeachment trial of President Trump, former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly said Friday.

Kelly, right, said he agrees with three-fourths of Americans in a recent poll who say witnesses should be allowed at the trial held this week in the U.S. Senate.

“I do think it’s a mistake not to have key witnesses, on both sides,” Kelly said in a telephone interview ahead of his March appearance in Naples at a conference. “As a private citizen, I would love to see some witnesses.

“If you don’t have witnesses, one side of the aisle will forever say the whole thing was a sham, that the process never allowed witnesses to come in on both sides of the issue and state their opinions in their cases.”

The Senate is expected to vote Friday on whether to subpoena witnesses. Kelly has said he believes John Bolton, a former Trump national security adviser.

Bolton, in the book titled The Room Where It Happened, reportedly writes in it that Trump told him he would withhold military aid from Ukraine until the country launched investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Kelly said the country remains split, as polls have shown, on whether Trump should’ve been impeached at all.

“The good news is, right, wrong or indifferent, the impeachment process is almost over,” he said.

Kelly joined the Marines in 1970. He served as Trump’s chief of staff from July 31, 2017, to Jan. 2, 2019. Other positions he’s held in government in recent years include six months in 2017 as Homeland Security director; head of U.S. Southern Command — based in Doral, Florida — under President Obama from 2012 to 2016.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just threw the book at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 31, 2020. The Republican Senate decided last night that it wasn’t willing to call any witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, and made it official with a vote this evening. The GOP has made its choice to marry itself to Trump’s crimes heading into 2020, and so be it. The danger for the GOP is that Trump’s scandals are going to get much worse before the election.

bill palmer report logo headerUkraine scandal figure Lev Parnas, who offered to testify during the Senate impeachment trial but was rebuffed, appeared on MSBC tonight with host Ari Melber. Parnas expanded on yesterday’s revelation that nearly everyone in the upper ranks of the Trump regime was in on Donald Trump’s extortion scheme. Parnas also added that he thinks Bill Barr initially thought John Bolton was willing to go along with the scheme, before finding out the hard way that Bolton wanted nothing to do with it.

Lev Parnas stressed that he can’t wait for John Bolton’s book to become public, because Bolton saw a lot of the things that Lev saw, and Lev fully expects Bolton’s book to be devastating to Donald Trump. If Bolton and Parnas end up corroborating each other’s claims about Trump, that’ll count for a lot, as the two men were not allies, and were not even interacting with each other during the scandal. They each simply happened to see the same thing.

Despite all his current foot stomping, Donald Trump can’t magically block John Bolton’s book from being released. Instead, thanks partly to Trump’s whining about the book, it’s already become a #1 bestseller on Amazon while still in the preorder stage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Will Emerge From Impeachment Trial Unshackled, Peter Baker, Feb. 1, 2020. With acquittal all but assured, President Trump will take his victory and grievance to the campaign trail, no longer worried about congressional constraint. Mr. Trump, whose trial is expected to end Wednesday, will be the first president in U.S. history to face voters after an impeachment.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)The president’s Democratic adversaries rolled out the biggest constitutional weapon they had and failed to defeat him, or even to force a full trial with witnesses testifying to the allegations against him. Now Mr. Trump, who has said that the Constitution “allows me to do whatever I want” and pushed so many boundaries that curtailed past presidents, has little reason to fear the legislative branch nor any inclination to reach out in conciliation.

“I don’t think in any way Trump is willing to move on,” said Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman who teaches at Princeton University. “I think he will just have been given a green light and he will claim not just acquittal but vindication and he can do those things and they can’t impeach him again. I think this is going to empower him to be much bolder. I would expect to see him even more let loose.”

Impeachment will always be a stain on Mr. Trump’s historical record, a reality that has stung him in private, according to some close to him. But he will be the first president in American history to face voters after an impeachment trial and that will give him the chance to argue for the next nine months that his enemies have spent his entire presidency plotting against him to undo the 2016 election.

  • New York Times, In the lobby of the president’s Washington hotel, unwavering supporters are relishing the trial’s final stretch.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Updates: Death Toll Passes 250, and Apple Shuts China Stores, Staff and wire reports, Feb. 1, 2020. Australia has china flag Smalljoined the United States in temporarily barring foreigners who have recently visited China.Australia joined the United States in temporarily barring foreigners who have recently visited China. And North Korea’s leader sent a letter of condolence to his Chinese counterpart.

• Japan said it would bar foreigners who had visited Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak, in the past 14 days.
• A Chinese doctor who called the virus ‘controllable’ regrets his words.
• Hong Kong medical workers vote to strike.

washington post logoWashington Post, From Patient Zero to nearly 12,000 cases: The spread of coronavirus, Gerry Shih, Emily Rauhala and Lena H. Sun, Feb. 1, 2020. China’s leaders prioritize political stability over all else. That likely allowed the virus to spread in the critical weeks after the first cases appeared in Wuhan.

Pan was one of millions of Chinese who mingled, traveled and carried on with daily life during the critical period from mid-December to mid-January.

It was a time when Chinese officials were beginning to grasp the threat of a contagious new disease in Wuhan but did little to inform the public — even with the approach of the Lunar New Year holiday for which hundreds of millions of Chinese travel.

An analysis of those early weeks — from official statements, leaked accounts from Chinese medical professionals, newly released scientific data and interviews with public health officials and infectious disease experts — reveals potential missteps by China’s overburdened public health officials.

It also underscores how a bureaucratic culture that prioritized political stability over all else probably allowed the virus to spread farther and faster.

“It’s clear that a much stronger public health system could save China lives and money,” said Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Washington Post, Border restrictions intensify as number of confirmed cases grows

washington post logoWashington Post, Reality check: The flu is a much bigger threat than coronavirus, for now, Lenny Bernstein, Feb. 1, 2020. Seasonal influenza has infected as many as 26 million people in the United States in just four months, killing up to 25,000 so far, according to the CDC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expands longstanding immigration ban to include six more countries, most from Africa, citing national security nigerian flag wavingconcerns, Staff report, Feb. 1, 2020 (print ed.). Six new countries were added to his administration’s travel ban Friday — including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country — in a widely anticipated expansion of the policy that Democrats blasted as “clearly discriminatory” against people from predominantly black and Muslim nations.

People from Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar will be banned from immigrating to the United States without a visa waiver as of Feb. 22, joining currently banned countries Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela.

mohammed tawfiq allawi

Al Jazeera, Iraq president appoints Mohammed Allawi as new prime minister, Staff and wire reports, Feb. 1, 2020. Former communications minister named as Iraq prime minister, amid continuing protests.

Iraqi President Barham Salih has appointed Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, shown above in a file photo, as the country’s new prime minister, ending more than two months of political deadlock. Saturday’s announcement comes as Iraqis continue anti-government protests for a fourth consecutive month, and two months after former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, below at left, resigned under pressure from the streets.

abdul mahdi Custom 2Allawi must form a new government within a month and would run the country until new elections could be held. President Salih had told Iraq’s divided parliament (shown at right in a file photo last month) that he would name his own candidate unless it nominated someone by February 1.

iraq parliament jan 5 2020 government photoIn a video posted on Twitter on Saturday, 65-year-old Allawi said Salih had named him and that he would form a new government in line with protesters’ demands. “I decided the first to do was to speak to you [Iraqi people] directly, before I address anyone else because my authority comes from you,” he said.

“This is your country, this is your right … all we have to do is execute your demands. We have to protect you instead of repressing you,” he added. In his address, Allawi also pledged to restore the country’s battered economy and fight corruption.

Allawi’s selection was the product of months of private talks between rival parties. Three Iraqi officials told The Associated Press news agency Allawi’s selection had been agreed by rival Iraqi factions earlier on Saturday.

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Bernie Sanders supporter says she regrets booing Hillary Clinton, Sean Sullivan, Feb. 1, 2020. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a prominent surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, said Saturday that she regretted booing Hillary Clinton onstage at a Sanders campaign event the night before, as tensions between supporters of Sanders and Clinton rise just days before the Iowa caucuses.

rashinda tlaib smile“In this instance, I allowed my disappointment with Secretary Clinton’s latest comments about Senator Sanders and his supporters get the best of me. You all, my sisters-in-service on stage, and our movement deserve better,” Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, wrote on Twitter.

She added: “I will continue to strive to come from a place of love and not react in the same way of those who are against what we are building in this country. This is about building a just and equitable future for my two boys, children across the country, and future generations.”

Michael Bloomberg (Gage Skidmore photo)

Michael Bloomberg (Gage Skidmore photo)

OpEdNews, Opinion: DNC Stabs Sanders and the Other Presidential Candidates in the back With Bloomberg-Favoring Debate Policy Change, Rob Kall, Feb. 1, 2020. Politico reports: “The Democratic National Committee is drastically revising its criteria to participate in primary debates after New Hampshire, doubling the polling threshold and eliminating the individual donor requirement, which could pave the way for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to make the stage beginning in mid-February.”

Clearly, this gives Bloomberg a massive advantage the existing rules did not give him. My guess is he pulled a Hillary and bought the DNC — not literally — but he probably gave an eight figure donation.

The problem with this duplicitous DNC move is that it also screws all the other candidates who were in the race — particularly the ones who were kept out of one or more debates because they did not meet the criteria.

michael moore hand up Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Shut up, Michael Moore, Bill Palmer, Feb. 1, 2020. With the nation trying to figure out how to react to the Republican Senate’s predictable yet cringeworthy sham acquittal of Donald Trump, this weekend MSNBC decided that what we all needed was a divisive dose of Michael Moore. Most of us would rather be kicked in the head, but for some reason Moore has been on MSNBC multiple times in the past couple days, trying to do as much harm as possible.

Decades ago, Michael Moore was a tireless crusader for liberal causes. But then during the Obama era, when things were finally going well for America, Moore became less relevant. So in 2015 he decided to reinvent himself as a guy who frequently, histrionically, and often dishonestly, attacks the Democratic Party. This scored him some progressive street cred at a time when phony conspiracy theories about the DNC were trendy (many of them manufactured by Trump, the GOP, and Russian puppet WikiLeaks). But his absurd exaggerations and lies about Hillary Clinton – at a time when she was ahead of Bernie by millions of votes and he knew she was going to be the nominee – are one of the big reasons Donald Trump is in office.

bill palmer report logo headerNow that we’re heading into a weird stretch where Bernie Sanders might win the overly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire before ultimately getting blown out on Super Tuesday, MSNBC has decided that February is “Bernie month.” And why not? MSNBC scores easy ratings by pretending that Bernie is the frontrunner. His fans stay tuned in because they love to hear it. The majority of people on the left, who think Bernie’s a divisive idiot, stay tuned in because they’re afraid he just might actually be the nominee – and they know he’d almost certainly lose to Trump.

msnbc logo CustomSo it wasn’t surprising that MSNBC allowed Michael Moore to give a histrionic, childlike performance on the air today, in which Moore promoted his latest phony narrative about how the Democratic National Committee is conspiring against Bernie Sanders. The thing is, most liberals are sick of this crap. They’re sick of Bernie’s lies about Warren and Biden. They’re sick of Bernie’s toxic surrogates acting like unhinged children. And they’re particularly sick of opportunists like Moore pushing nonsensical anti-DNC conspiracy theories. Moore’s name spent much of the day trending atop Twitter, as everyone piled on about how shameful his antics are.

Mainstream Americans increasingly want a Democratic nominee who’s competent, broadly popular, and isn’t trying to divide the left against itself. Warren is a leftist who fits this description. Biden is a moderate who fits this description. Bernie is just a sore loser who’s running again for his own ego. Americans are tired of this incessant nonsense about the DNC rigging anything against anyone. They’re tired of Bernie Sanders fans insisting that he was somehow the rightful winner of the 2016 primary, when he lost by four million votes. Whatever anyone thinks of Hillary Clinton, Bernie lost to her in a massive blowout. Bernie would have lost the 2016 general election in humiliating fashion, and he’d lose the 2020 general election in similar fashion.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Cancer Patient Stole Groceries Worth $109.63. She Was Sentenced to 10 Months, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Feb. 1, 2020. As lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman is a very busy man. But he was prepared to drop everything on Friday and drive to a Weis Markets in Lebanon, Pa., to hand deliver a personal check for $109.63, the exact sum of groceries that a woman with advanced cancer was recently convicted of stealing.

ashley menser.jpgLast week, a judge sentenced the woman, Ashley Menser, right, to at least 10 months in prison [and up to seven years] — a punishment that Mr. Fetterman called overly harsh and emblematic of a flawed criminal justice system.

“In what universe do you deserve to be sent to prison for 10 months for stealing $110 worth of groceries?” he said in an interview on Friday.

Mr. Fetterman, a Democrat who was elected in 2018, said he was shocked when he read a local news article about the case on Friday morning. “I could scarcely believe what I was reading,” he added. “This is just insane.”

Ms. Menser’s mother, Stephanie Bashore, said that her 36-year-old daughter has advanced uterine cancer, as well as cervical cancer, and needs surgery to remove her uterus and the tissue around it. On the day Ms. Menser was sentenced, her mother said, she had been scheduled to meet with her oncologist to discuss a last-ditch effort to treat the disease.

Ms. Bashore said that a doctor recently told her daughter, “If you don’t get this done, you will die. It is eating you up inside.”

Ms. Bashore said that her daughter had been working at a fast-food restaurant and had put many problems behind her. Her lawyer, Scot Feeman, asked Judge Samuel A. Kline to allow her to serve any sentence through home confinement so that she could continue to be treated at the Penn State Cancer Institute in nearby Hershey, Pa. Through an assistant, the judge declined to comment.

Mr. Feeman said that Ms. Menser had a history of minor drug and theft crimes, and that both the 2018 shoplifting charge she pleaded guilty to — a third-degree felony — and the sentence handed down were in line for someone with her criminal history.

He said Ms. Menser had a history of opioid use but had been drug-free for some time. He said she had also been on powerful psychiatric medication to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, partly brought on by the death of her child.

“With the psychiatric medicine, she has trouble discerning what’s real and what’s not,” Mr. Feeman said. He said Ms. Menser was distraught after the sentencing, and that he intends to ask the judge to reconsider.

“She is in a lot of pain, and very ill,” he said, “and she’s very concerned about her health prospects going forward.”

A copy of Ms. Menser’s sentencing order states that “in light of the defendant’s apparent possible physical conditions,” she should be moved as promptly as possible to a state facility “that has adequate medical treatment for her issues.”

On Friday, after Mr. Fetterman tweeted about his shock, Weis Markets sought to put some distance between the company and Ms. Menser’s prosecution.

Without naming Ms. Menser, the grocery chain said that a woman had left a Weis Markets store near Lebanon two years ago without paying for items in her cart.

“After she left our store, we alerted local law enforcement, who subsequently arrested her,” the statement said. “Since then, we have not participated in the judicial or sentencing process.”

To Mr. Fetterman, the case epitomizes many of his frustrations about the criminal justice system and how it treats people with addictions or mental health issues, especially those charged with minor drug or theft crimes.

As chairman of the state Board of Pardons, he has tried encouraging some inmates to seek commutations and pardons, promising them that they will get a fair hearing. And he has backed more clemency and commutations for offenders who have taken real steps to put their past behind them.

“There are a lot of people who get clean and try to move on with their lives, and pardons can free them from the baggage of past convictions,” he said.

In the end, Mr. Fetterman said he decided not to visit the Weis Markets store on Friday. Instead, he said he hopes that he can persuade company executives to publicly back a reconsideration of Ms. Menser’s sentence that would allow her to receive the necessary medical treatment.

“I know they don’t want this. Nobody wants this,” he said. “My hope is to get them on board and say, ‘This has gone far enough.’”

#MeToo Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Top NRA official placed on leave, Virginia court filing states, Beth Reinhard, Jan. 31, 2020. A top National Rifle Association official has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the nonprofit group’s lawyer, according to a recent court filing, in a sign of ongoing turmoil surrounding the nation’s largest gun group.

nra logo CustomThe removal of Joshua L. Powell, the NRA’s chief of staff, was referenced in a Jan. 23 filing in Alexandria Circuit Court by the NRA’s former public relations agency, Ackerman McQueen. “Mr. Powell has now been placed ‘on leave’ by the NRA pending an investigation by NRA counsel,” the filing in Virginia says.

The NRA and Ackerman are engaged in a sprawling legal battle with multiple lawsuits and countersuits that encompass accusations of reckless spending and leaks to the media.

The NRA did not respond to repeated requests for comment about Powell, whose compensation rose 18 percent last year to $919,969, according to the group’s tax returns. He also received $57,168 in “taxable personal expenses.” The recent court filing does not state whether Powell is being paid while on leave or give the reason.

Trump ‘Anti-Trafficking?’

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signs executive order to combat human trafficking as some advocacy groups boycott summit, Jessica Contrera, Jan. 31, 2020. President Trump signed an executive order Friday creating a position within his domestic policy team dedicated solely to fighting human trafficking. The order, signed during a White House summit on the issue, also proposes an additional $42 million in funding for service programs and prosecutions.

“Human trafficking is worse than ever before because of the Internet,” Trump said. “The Internet has caused lots of good things to happen and lots of really bad things, and this is probably the worst of the bad things.”

Trump was joined by Vice President Pence and first daughter Ivanka Trump, whom he credited for championing the issue.

“I would say that this issue may be closest to her heart because of the level of evil that you would never believe is even possible in a modern age,” Trump said.

Ivanka Trump’s office organized the summit to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which established trafficking as a federal crime. While some anti-trafficking organizations were grateful for the spotlight on the issue, others boycotted the event, citing the administration’s treatment of trafficking victims who are immigrants. Among them was Polaris, the organization that runs the national human-trafficking hotline.

He praised Attorney General William P. Barr for going after traffickers.

“My administration is fighting these monsters, persecuting and prosecuting them, locking them away for a very, very long time,” Trump said. “We have had a tremendous track record, the best track record in a long time.”

Statistics from the Justice Department show otherwise. Prosecutions of sex and labor traffickers, which fluctuated during the Obama years, are down from 531 in fiscal 2016 to 343 in fiscal 2019.

  • Washington Post, Anti-human-trafficking groups refuse to attend Ivanka Trump’s White House summit, Jessica Contrera, Jan. 30, 2020.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter bans Zero Hedge account after it doxxed a Chinese researcher over coronavirus, Derek Hawkins, Feb. 1, 2020. Twitter on Friday permanently suspended the right-leaning finance blog Zero Hedge after it published a conspiracy theory suggesting that a Chinese scientist might be responsible for the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

twitter bird CustomA Twitter spokesperson did not comment on what specifically prompted the suspension, saying only that Zero Hedge was removed for violating the social media giant’s platform manipulation policy. Twitter defines platform manipulation as “using Twitter to engage in bulk, aggressive, or deceptive activity that misleads others and/or disrupts their experience.”

But Zero Hedge’s founder, who uses the pseudonym Tyler Durden, wrote in a Friday afternoon post that he received a notice from Twitter saying he violated the platform’s rules against abuse and targeted harassment.

“It is news to us that this website has (ever) ‘engaged in the targeted harassment of someone,’ ” Durden wrote.

Law, Courts alan dershowitz senate hands out Custom

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump’s stooge Alan Dershowitz crashes and burns, Ron Leshnower, Feb. 1, 2020. In 1770, John Adams defended the rule of law when he made the unpopular choice to represent Captain Thomas Preston and his British soldiers for their role in the Boston Massacre. His skillful advocacy proved successful and drew praise from both sides. By contrast, Alan Dershowitz’s defense of Trump was as messy as it was shameful, amounting to nothing more than a series of recklessly bizarre utterances.

As the trial began, Dershowitz (shown above in a screenshot at the Senate) attempted to explain why he believes a crime is necessary for impeachment after insisting the opposite during President Clinton’s impeachment trial. Dershowitz baffled CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Jeffrey Toobin by insisting he wasn’t wrong then but that “I’m much more correct right now, having done all the research.” Does this mean that Dershowitz could adopt yet another position in a few years after doing even more research and still be right all three times?

bill palmer report logo headerThings got even worse for Dershowitz this week when Harvard Law School Assistant Professor Nikolas Bowie publicly scolded him for misconstruing his work, in a development that evoked a famous scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Early in that movie, Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, grows frustrated as he is forced to listen to a professor pontificating to his date about the philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Suddenly, McLuhan appears and shuts down the man, telling him, “You know nothing of my work… How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” Singer then remarks to the camera, “Boy, if life were only like this.”

Life was actually like this when Bowie wrote a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday calling out Dershowitz for misinterpreting his law review article and inaccurately claiming on CNN that he is “completely” on Dershowitz’s side. Bowie pointed out that while his article reflects his view that a crime is required for impeachment, common-law crimes, such as the ones that Trump has been accused of committing, also count.

All of the above was eclipsed at trial on Wednesday when Dershowitz outdid himself by offering the chilling suggestion that “if a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” Dershowitz then rushed out his own op-ed, published Thursday by The Hill, claiming he “said nothing like that” while accusing the media of “deliberately distorting” his argument.

Dershowitz ended his disgraceful week on a runaway train off the rails, declaring to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Friday night that if Trump wins, “nobody should regard him as having been impeached.” He accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “pulled a real sharp one” by saying that Trump will remain impeached. According to Dershowitz, Trump should not be considered impeached because “he didn’t have a fair trial.” Indeed, a trial devoid of witnesses and with “total coordination,” as Mitch McConnell put it, between defendant and jury is anything but fair. Finally, Dershowitz managed to get something right.



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